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The Presidency And Morality; President Trump Attacks Don Lemon And Lebron James In Tweet; Paul Manafort; Donald Trump Jr. on a radio talk show today; Trump Tower meeting; Collusion with Russia. Aired 10- 11p ET

Aired August 6, 2018 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: I'm not a psychologist, but I know what projection is, and I think we all know what that is. And we know it's true, because time and time again it's come to be true after the President says so.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Riddle me this smart guy, what was he projecting when he decided to tweet that that meeting in Trump tower with Russian operative was about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton? Why would he tweet something that completely contradicts the statement that they wrote saying it wasn't about that and that they lied to us saying he had nothing to do with it. Why did he tweet that?

LEMON: I rest my case. Good evening everyone, have a great night. I mean, come on, he is saying exactly what is happening and he is saying exactly what is true about him. He cannot help himself. Listen, you know, Chris, we do not take this lightly. When this president, when this man was on the campaign trail we tried every -- but every bone of our being to be objective and to report on him in a fair equitable manner.

And then when we became President of the United States, the same thing. It always gets me when people say, there is 90 percent of the study shows that 90 percent of the reports about this President are negative, but they don't talk about the things that comes out of his mouth and the policies that he proposes and what he does and says to people. How are we as media to report positively on something that is negative?

The President called countries s-hole countries. Oh, well, that is great. He should be calling, we don't do that. You don't call countries s-hole countries. You do not do things like that. You don't talk about people in the way that this President does at least if you're a President of the United States, you're not supposed to. So that whole thing about the media is biased and that 90 percent of what we report about Donald Trump is negative, if that is indeed true then you need to counter balance that and weigh it against what comes out of this President's mouth and what he is doing.

CUOMO: My concern is more what we're almost forced to let go by the flood of activity that I believe, again, is one of Trump's signature traits. He knows he floods the zone some of it's going to make it through. I am worried about what we ignore, what we empower. I remember all the way back at the convention, with Paul Manafort, with that silly speech that Ivanka gave very competently that wound up being plagiarized from Michelle Obama and Manafort --

LEMON: Melania.

CUOMO: I am sorry. Melania came on -- Melania gave a speech and did a great job. Michelle Obama though had that speech written and it was her speech. Manafort come on and says, can we move on, this is not a big deal, you keep saying to yourself, Melania gave a good speech, but I said I know, but I can't move on, because you keep lying about the plagiarism.


CUOMO: And he was so taken back, but it does not matter as much as other things. It does matter if you ignore it, you empower it and there is more and here we are.

LEMON: We should have known. Remember, Spicer said it was my sparkle phony, he blame in something like that, that was said and my sparkle phony -- whatever the saying was. We should have known from then. I'm fired up, and by the way before I let you go, I saw a screening last night of Black Klansman.

CUOMO: Oh, did you?

LEMON: You got to see it.

CUOMO: I will.

LEMON: It brings everything into perspective. Everything into perspective, what's going on now as opposed to what happened back in the '60s and '70s. Make sure you, everyone watch it.

CUOMO: I will and we will be watching you right now, CNN Tonight. Take it away.

LEMON: Thank you, sir. This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Don Lemon. I just want to start by saying that I wouldn't normally address this. As a journalist, I don't really like being the story here, but because of how important it is for each of us to stand up for what is right and what is decent, I'm going to tell you exactly how I feel starting right now.

So President Trump is on vacation this week at his golf resort in New Jersey, but he is not taking any time off from Twitter and apparently from watching me on CNN, which he denies, by the way. I know this, because he has tweeted a nasty hateful swipe at me and LeBron James that we've been discussing here. You've probably read about it or saw it somewhere. I sat down with an NBA great for a primetime exclusive, that was last week. After LeBron just opened his I Promised School for 240 at risk third and fourth graders. And during our conversation LeBron said this.


LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: You know, we are in a position right now in America more importantly where this whole -- this race thing has taken over, you know, and because -- one because I believe our President is kind of trying to divide us, but for him to like I said use sports to kind of divide us is something that I can't -- I can't sit back and not say nothing.

LEMON: What would you say to the President if he were sitting right here?

JAMES: I would never sit across from him.

LEMON: You would never? You wouldn't want to talk to him?

JAMES: No. I would sit across with Barack, though.


LEMON: I am sure that got him. So, as we know, President Trump does not like anyone to disagree with him or to criticize him. So he tweeted this late on Friday night, he said, LeBron James was just interviews by the dumbest man in television, Don Lemon. He made LeBron look smart, which isn't easy to do, I like Mike.

[22:05:02] Well, unlike this President who lashes out wildly at anyone who criticizes him, I have pretty thick skin and LeBron James in addition to being a brilliant black man, a superstar in his sport and a hero to his community is taking the high road, which is exactly where he belongs.

So, since this President has used so many insults so often, the President has called a lot of people stupid, some of those people are white, but I would just like to note that referring to African- Americans as dumb -- remember this is America. Referring to African- Americans as dumb is one of the oldest (inaudible) of America's races past and present that black people are of inferior intelligence.

And pretty much anyone and everyone in this country reacted. Here's what Dan Rather tweeted. He said, I'd much rather live in a world reflecting the values, philanthropy and yes intelligence of LeBron James and Don Lemon's intelligent commitment to truth and journalism than the divisive peevish lies and narrow self-interest displayed by the President of the United States.

This tweet -- thank you, Mr. Rather, by the way. This tweet is from Barbara Streisand. Why is Trump more concerned with the wildfires wreaking havoc across the country or the many critical decision facing the president of the United States, instead of insulting LeBron James on Twitter. Why is he constantly projecting onto others what he knows about himself?

Or how Governor John Kasich, a Republican who is no fan of the president writing, rather than criticizing @King James, we should be celebrating him for his charity work and efforts to help kids. By the way, all around, he is better than Michael Jordan. That is a fact. Even Michael Jordan is weighing in congratulating LeBron for his --

for the work he is doing for his local community, but maybe CNN commentator Keith Boykin -- listen to this -- summed it up the best with this tweet. In Trump's world, Obama, Kenyan. Lebron James, dumb. Don Lemon, dumb. Maxine Waters, low I.Q. Black countries, shit holes. Black athletes, SOB's. Black tenants, unwelcome. Black workers, lazy. Central park five, guilty. Mexicans, rapists. Muslims, terrorists. Indians, fake. Nazis -- wait for it -- very fine people. Notice a pattern? This President constantly denigrates people of color and women too. Congress woman, Maxine Waters his new favorite target.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Maxine Waters, is a very low I.Q. individual. Maxine Waters. A low I.Q. individual. She is a low I.Q. individual, Maxine Waters. I said it the other day. I mean honestly she is somewhere in the mid-60s. Maxine Waters. Very low I.Q. Low I.Q.


LEMON: But then again this is the same man who for years tried to deny the legitimacy of America's first black President by questioning over and over and over and over whether Barack Obama was born in this country.


TRUMP: I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. There's something on that birth certificate that he doesn't like. I brought it up just routinely and all of a sudden a lot of facts are emerging and I'm starting to wonder myself whether or not he was born in this country. I would like to have him show his birth certificate. And can I be honest with you, I hope he can. Because if he can't -- if he can't and if he wasn't born in this country, which is real possibility, if he doesn't it's one of the greatest scams in the history of politics.


LEMON: And black athletes who kneel during the national anthem as a former protest against racism and police brutality, well, they get this disrespect.


TRUMP: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a (BEEP) off the field right now? Out! He is fired. He is fired!


LEMON: This week marks the one year anniversary of that violent and deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. The one where angry white racists carried torches and shouted anti-Semitic slogans including Jews will not replace us. The one where Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old young lady was killed by a bigot who intentionally drove his car through a crowd, a crowd that was there to fight against the hate, but this is how this President famously characterized that.


[22:10:04] TRUMP: You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group -- excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did.


LEMON: Cross burnings are tiki torches, the white hoods replaced by no hoods and khaki pants, these are the very fine people in the President's eyes. And yes, let us not -- let me not mince words here. This President traffics in racism and is fueled by bullying from keeping children at the border in cages? To bullying journalist that everyone in his rallies and every chance he gets.

President Trump is trying to divide and conquer strategy here and here's how it goes. He divides by race and tries to conquer decency by smearing and besmirching the truth and the people who fight to uphold it. I've wondered sometimes, you've seen Chris and I, I have wonder if he is -- if he will succeed. If President Trump who has his finger on his -- he is the one who has his finger on the pulse of this country. Is he revealing who we really are? Think about that. Is this who we really are?

The overwhelmingly negative response though, to his unfair and unkind attack on a good man, LeBron James, shows that America rejects what he is pedaling, most of America anyway, not all of America, but what about the impact his policies have on those without a platform through sports like LeBron or through media like me? What about those who don't have a voice? What is his presidency doing to them?

The kids separated from their parents at the border, the kids who don't have the chance to attend LeBron's school or any halfway decent school, the parents who can't honestly -- you can't honestly tell their children to be proud of a President of the United States. The people of color who are attacked by their fellow citizens who feel emboldened to be publicly racist, because the President is.

Will the country stand up for them? We, the decent and truly patriotic people who really love America and believe in its greatness have to, because clearly Donald Trump won't.

I want to bring in now CNN political commentator, Charles Blow, an op- ed columnist for the New York Times. Political commentator, Steve Cortez, former Trump campaign advisor and Annie Karni, White House reporter for Politico. We'll discuss all of this right after the break.


LEMON: We're back. President Trump mapping out a larger strategy when he takes to Twitter and goes on the attack, particularly when going after people of color like me and LeBron James. So let's bring in now, CNN political commentator, Charles Blow, an op-ed columnist for "The New York Times," Political commentator Steve Cortez, a former Trump campaign adviser and Annie Karni, the White House reporter for Politico. Good evening, I am so glad that you all could joins us this evening.

Steve, we are going to start with you, because you sent me a note, thank you very much for that. You told me that the White House -- you said that the President's tweet was wrong and you told the White House.

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do. And I do believe that. I think it was a mistake to go after LeBron James. Look, I'd love to be as dumb as LeBron James if that is dumb, because he is not only the greatest athlete in the world in my opinion, he also is an incredible businessman and he has a great heart. And he is doing terrific things for at risk children in Eastern Ohio and not just writing a check, that would be enough, but also being deeply involved in the curriculum. Whenever I hear him interviewed, whenever I read about him, the last thing I think of is dumb. My advice to the President who as you know I have great respect for, my advice to him is that he should follow his wife's lead.

I thought she made a wonderful statement, the first lady did about LeBron. We can praise the great work he is doing there. We can ignore the fact that he personally doesn't care for the President. And I encourage the President like Melania did to reach out to him, I think that would prove a lot to the country, and say that we care about the great things you're doing, who cares if we have political differences, you are not a political person, by the way you are a private citizen and how can we learn from each other in that regard? I hope the President will do that. I'm very glad the first lady did.

LEMON: I am a private citizen, and I didn't run for office, but I am a public figure here, but I take the criticism -- I just -- the President of the United States should be better and should do better and should not be tweeting bad things about NBA stars or cable news anchors. It's just beneath the office of the presidency and he should learn that.

So I want to bring in Charles in. Charles, this is from one of your latest columns. Good column, by the way. Thank you so much for writing it. Donald Trump has a pension for labeling particular people. It might spike some -- strike some -- excuse me -- as just another insult from a petulant urchin of a man who insults everyone with whom he takes issue, but I believe that the nature of his insults to specific kinds of people say something more about the character and the nature of the man, something of which he may or may not be aware. I believe that the fact that he so often attacks the intellectual capacity of women and minorities exposes a racial and gender bias. One that has a long history and a wide acceptance. You know, he disses everybody, but you think there's a pattern when it comes to --

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. "The New York Times" does a great job of keeping track of literally every insult that he issued. I went through that database and just tried to see what patterns emerged from that. There are political opponents and so they have could have a lot of agree and he would say a lot of things about them. And people who would disagree with him on specific policies and he would attack that person because of that, but only with minorities and women did he use them as tools of division, right?

So, these were not his political enemies. They had no impact on policy. These were just people who disagreed with him, and he would in many cases -- some people had difference in some policies so, you know, Elizabeth Warren, he uses her as a tool, right? She is not involved with him on a policy issue, he just wants to say the word Pocahontas. He just wants to use Maxine -- you know a lot of Democratic congressmen who vehemently disagree with this President are on television all the time saying how much they disagree with him, Senators, too. He does not use them.

[22:20:00] He chose the black women and says this is their new hero, which is a lie, you know, she is probably the person, but nobody is saying that Mexicans are the face of the party, but he wants to make her that, because it is useful to him. Because it is a weapon and a tool.

LEMON: Just say it because --

BLOW: Because it's race and misogyny as well though, because he likes the idea of using her. And that happens over and over in his insulting. He will pick someone -- he'll pick, Kaepernick, he will pick, you know, athletes like LeBron, pick you, but he wants to find a face. And he likes the fact that that face is female or minority. And it's easy to beat up on them in his mind.

LEMON: Annie, the timing of this tweet from the President comes just about a year after Charlottesville. And you in your latest piece for Politico you write about the real lesson President Trump learned from that episode and ultimately with his loyal voters and Republicans at large, he came out unscathed, right?

ANNIE KARNI, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: In the short-term, absolutely. We saw a year ago Republicans on The Hill distancing themselves from him. We saw corporate executives quitting his business councils. We saw a lot of hemming and hawing among White House staffers about whether or not they would leave the administration and people like Gary Cohen, his former top economic adviser privately expressing consternation. A year later everyone sort of has crawled back on one way or another.

The Republican, they hail and behind him for the confirmation of Bret Kavanaugh on tax reform. The corporate CEO's are having dinners privately at Ivanka and Jared's house or the White House is just not on the business council and no one quit. So, I think in the short- term lesson and I am talking one year is a short term is that nothing matters. The fifth avenue principle, his poll numbers are at an all- time high of his presidency, his Fox News crew is still behind him. The questions is, did this things add up and aggravate and from a historical perspective will this put him on the wrong side of history, that is a question that we will find out later, but a year later he is doing just fine. LEMON: Steve, I wanted to make sure everyone got in. I know you want

to respond, go on.

CORTES: Right. You know, Charles to your point, I think that is patchily unfair and the facts don't bear out. Look, I don't like -- LeBron James,


OK. I don't believe it's at all racial, and here's why -- no, here's why. I'm about to give you facts, Don. Here are facts.

LEMON: That is not me. That was Charles.

CORTES: Sorry, Charles. Here, are some of the facts, people he is called dumb, people like Mitt Romney. It doesn't get much white and establishment.

BLOW: Political opponent. Like I said, political opponents. Go ahead, keep going.

CORTES: How about the way he criticizes people like Chuck Todd and Joe Scarborough, if you want to go into media. Why men, are very frequently the targets of ally serious barbs of this president. He does not seem to hold back regardless of gender or ethnicity at all.

And in all those cases, by the way, I'll also defend him on this again, I don't think he should go after LeBron, because he is not in politics. In all of the other cases, these are people White House comment him first. If you first call the president a racist which is totally unfounded, he is going to counter punch and probably punch back harder than you gave it to him in the first place. He is the Floyd Mayweather of politics. It has serve him well. He counter punches against media, against political opponents. I don't want him to do it against people who aren't in the arena, but he does it incredibly well, and he doesn't without discrimination as regards to gender and race.

LEMON: OK, listen, hold on, Charles. I will let you respond. I just want to say, you're going to get in, but I didn't attack him. I was interviewing LeBron James. He chose to attack me. That was not a counter punch.

BLOW: Exactly.

CORTES: You didn't that night, but, Don, you have called him a racist --

LEMON: That is the evidence.

CORTES: You've called him a racist. It is a punch to the throat of the President and he counter punches back at you and that is totally fair.

LEMON: The fact is not an attack. Really, I just gave you, how much more evidence do you need? How much more evidence do you need? Being a racist does not mean walking down the street calling people the n- word. It is what you do, your practice. It is what you say, it is how you treat people. It is who you hang out with. It is what comes out of your mouth. It's not active like, oh, my gosh, you catch someone in the act being racist. You judge people on their lies, on their action. And that is what I've judged from his action. And know this administration is fact challenged, but all you have to do is look at the facts.

CORTES: No, I'm not --

BLOW: Yes, you are.

CORTES: On his actions.


BLOW: This is again a whole bunch of things that are not related to each other and tries to get around the actual facts that we put on the table, right.

[22:25:02] It is a fact and you try to get around and saying it is not true, it that is what you do. I've seen you on television a million times and you do this thing it's kind of clever, but it's not clever with me, right? The idea that he uses particular people as -- as weapons, as clubs when he goes to his rallies that he constantly comes back, and this has been reported out, that he thought that him, attacking those NFL players played well politically for him. So he used them. They weren't constantly coming at him, which is the lie you just told.

LEMON: They never mentioned him, by the way.

BLOW: But you all let him come in here and lie, --

CORTES: Who was coming at them?

BLOW: Does he keeps coming back at them because it works for him, because those people and those audiences look at them and their brown faces on those men who are kneeling to protect and defend the lives of other black and brown boys and men who have been shot by the police and doing so quite frankly in one of the most peaceful ways you could possibly do it, not even saying a word, just going down on a knee, it is literally one of the most peaceful ways of protest you could ever think of, but he knows that people in those audiences don't see that. They see black men being disobedient, and that is what he is using. So you can --

CORTES: Charles, this is brown face --

BLOW: He can tell another lie on TV, which is what he does.

COHEN: OK. Can you stop calling me a liar? Stop calling me a liar.

BLOW: You lie all the time and this -- it's very apparent to anybody who's watching.

LEMON: Let him say his piece.

CORTES: This is brown face, by the way, who appreciates very much what this President is doing for my community and for communities of color in this country who are more prosperous and more secure they have been. And by the way, a brown face that is sick of being taken for granted by liberals who want to keep minorities in a political plantation where they are dependent on government and where their views are only respected at election time. And that I believe is real racism.

BLOW: that is also a racial dog whistle. Right? They constantly --

CORTES: No, it's not a dog whistle. I'm saying the Democrats want that mentality.

BLOW: Why people -- why Republicans never used the plantation, only black and brown Republican use the plantation metaphor because they can get away with doing it, right. And it's the dog whistle to white people that saying I would like to say that, but they would call me racist so thank you black and brown person for doing it for me, keep going, because this is very instructional.

CORTES: No. My point is --


LEMON: Why don't we take a break here? Steve, I'm going to let you talk on the other side. There is a difference between, a huge difference that America needs to understand about people who perceive themselves to be forgotten, because of political strategy or because of politics or because someone is trying to use them in their vote. There's a difference between that and people who have been historically forgotten about and discriminated against. There's a huge difference in that. One is a perception, the other a reality. We'll talk about that when we come back.

[22:30:00] DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT, ANCHOR: So I am back now with Charles Blow, Steve Cortes, and Annie Karni. So thank you, guys, for staying over another block. Annie, do you see similarities between how the President uses racism to divide the country and his demonization of the news media? He uses both to prop himself up.

ANNIE KARNI, White House REPORTER, POLITICO: He does. I mean they're both definitely tools. They're tools that Democrats should be scared of in 2018 and 2020. I think that one of the most effective outcomes of his rhetoric is that it determines what his opponents, whether they'd be political opponents, or as he branded us, the opposition party.

What we talk about, Democrats -- I have talked to senior Democratic operatives who say their fear in 2020 is that this conversation we have been tonight will define the race and Trump will actually define what Democrats in their own primacy are discussing, and forcing them to maybe you know out-left each other in an attempt to win the primary and then come out too bruised and too far to the left to win a general election.

And the news -- you know you started out your show here tonight saying you don't like to be the story. We shouldn't be the story, but then Trump says certain things that demand a response. So both of these tools are productive for him, and that he is shaping what his opponents are discussing at all.

LEMON: Steve, as of last week, The Washington Post tallied up 4,229 false or misleading claims from the President in 558 days. They also point out how the President often repeats the same false statements. He's trying to get his narrative out there on the economy, on trade, and on jobs. And when we call him out for getting something wrong, we're fake news?

STEVE CORTES, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Yeah, Don. Listen, I have looked at that list, not every one of them because it's exhaustive. But I have looked at that list and the vast majority of those are either opinions or they're clearly hyperbole. They're not lies. So I take issue with that list as though it's somehow authoritative, particularly coming from the Washington Times, which has shown itself to be insanely biased against the President...


CORTES: Of mainstream media.


LEMON: If you want to say the Washington Times, then you'll have to deal with that.


CORTES: That's right.

LEMON: Yeah.

CORTES: No, I've written for them. I don't (Inaudible) about them. But look, I think regarding our last conversation. The racism now unfortunately in politics has become the Scarlett letter. It's an R instead of an A. It's a Scarlett letter of politics. Once we put it on somebody, because we disagree with them on policy, they are marginalized. They're castigated and they're relegated to spot where they can't even be part of the discussion anymore.

And that's ludicrous. And quite frankly, the policies we've been following in recent decades in this country before Donald Trump have been disastrous for people of color.


LEMON: So if you talk about race (Inaudible) how would you relegate it in (Inaudible) and why would you care if you're (Inaudible) people do it all the time.

(CROSSTALK) CORTES: I am a liar. I am a liar. I support a racist, why, because I believe in a different policy course, because I believe in better trade deals to protect workers, many of whom are minorities, because...


LEMON: You don't think certain policies can hurt certain people of a certain ethnic background, and therefore by default are racist? You don't think it's OK to criticize people for doing that? You don't think it's OK to criticize you if you come on here and you tell a truth when there's demonstrable proof that what you're saying is false.

[22:35:03] CORTES: Well, of course. But I haven't said anything false. And for example, is it racist, by the way to control our border, or is it actually racist to say we're going to allow a million plus illegal workers a year as we've done for a generation in this country so they can compete against legal Hispanic citizens, against African-Americans in the labor markets, particularly in the trades.


LEMON: I would say, sure, it is racist. The way you do it can be racist.


CHARLES BLOW, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Can we deconstruct the framing? Everything is just still problematic. So this idea of trying to pit minorities against each other, which is what that, does, right. So you don't want -- I am your best friend because I am not going to let the Hispanics come in to compete with the other Hispanics who are already here (Inaudible).


CORTES: Who are not citizens.

BLOW: I let you talk. Don't do that. Don't do it.


BLOW: Why do you?

LEMON: Just go on.

BLOW: That framing is already problematic and it already pits the minorities against each other. And what you need to ask yourself is why is it in America that the black and brown people in America would be the lowest rung on the ladder to be competed with, right? So what structures are creating the environment that make black and brown people competing at the lower end, and that white people are safe somehow at the higher end?

All of that framing is problematic. So when people try to say oh, this is not -- no, putting those black, those brown kids in those cages, that's a problem. Because I don't see anybody from Canada in a cage, and I don't see anybody who overstayed their visa in a cage -- there's a problem there. There's a race problem there.

LEMON: Well, to be continued.


LEMON: I appreciate your candor. Go ahead quickly, please, Steve.

CORTES: I agree with you by the way on the lack of opportunity. You're exactly right. And what I am saying is Donald Trump is creating that opportunity. The numbers show it.


BLOW: He's riding Barack Obama's wave.


LEMON: Because he did not screw up the economy that Barack Obama created.


LEMON: That he deserves all this -- I am just being honest. Imagine if he had inherited the economy that Barack Obama had inherited. Do you think that he would be -- do you think that he would be in this place that he is now? I don't think so.


LEMON: He should be happy that he inherited a good economy and just move on and take ownership of it and stop demonizing the former President and the former President's policies.


LEMON: And say I am glad I inherited a great economy that was on the up-swing, and we're going to keep it moving. That's the reality of it, but that doesn't play well to his base.

CORTES: Great. No, it was great for the upper, upper 1 percent of America. And unfortunately, there aren't many black and brown people in that group.


CORTES: The working class wages had stagnated.


BLOW: If you look at the graph of that, it is a continuous line for black unemployment falling.

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: I have got to go. We're over.

BLOW: Thank you, Steve.


LEMON: OK, thank you, guys. I appreciate your time. Thank you. We'll be right back. Annie, thank you so much.


[22:40:00] LEMON: Well, prosecutors in the trial of President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, bringing out their star witness today, long time Manafort business associate, Rick Gates, admitting to committing crimes, both alongside and at the direction of Paul Manafort. Joining me now is CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto, and former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman.

Gentlemen, good evening to you, Jim, we're going to start with you. You were inside the courtroom today. Rick Gates had some explosive and damning testimony. What did he tell the jury?

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: I'll tell you, Don. It was a remarkable standoff, really, because you have Rick Gates, the long time deputy to Paul Manafort, sitting about 10, 15 feet away from Manafort at the defendant's table staring at Rick Gates. Rick Gates avoiding the gaze of Manafort, staring at the prosecuting attorney, but Manafort staring at him with his arms crossed as Gates listed a series of alleged crimes that Gates said he performed along with Manafort at the direction of Manafort the direction of Manafort, including setting up 15 foreign bank accounts that they deliberately kept hidden from U.S. authorities to avoid taxes, filing fake tax returns, of course, to avoid taxes.

Also things we did not know about prior to his testimony today, including Gates admitting that he stole money from Manafort to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars by filing false expense claims, so a whole series of things there. And the key, Gates saying not only did Manafort know about it, not only did we do it together, but Gates saying that he did these things with Manafort or rather under Manafort's direction, Don.

LEMON: Yeah. All right, Harry Litman, listen, Rick Gates is expected to take the stand tomorrow and be cross examined by Manafort's attorneys. How do you think the defense will counter Gates' testimony?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: They'll come at him really hard, and this is the big shot they're taking. They said in opening that this is what they were going to try to show. I think this, rather than even in Manafort's testimony is where they'll roll all the dice. But he's been very well prepared as he showed on direct.

And the key here is for him to very straightforwardly without drama, admit to any kind of criminal conduct, give the jury reason to believe him now based on his motivation to reduce his sentence. So he's got to be calm and straightforward about it. I think you'll see a kind of dynamic battle in court, and Jim will hear if he's there, where you have a sort of sneering, sarcastic, aggressive questioning on the one hand by the defense attorney.

[22:45:11] And a very straightforward, flat, yup, that's right by Gates himself. So they'll only draw blood, I think, if they convince the jury he is lying now. You know (Inaudible) did a lot worse things than Rick Gates.


LEMON: That's what I want to ask you, Harry. Gates is an admitted liar, an admitted criminal and a liar who stole from Manafort.


LEMON: Does that hurt his credibility with the jury?

LITMAN: Sure. But that happens in case after case after case when you have a cooperating witness. And that's sort of part of the prosecutor's art is how to present those crimes in a sort of non- squirrely, straight up way and how to persuade the jury that he's telling the truth now.


LEMON: So Manafort's attorneys, it's important for them to undermine his credibility. As you were saying, they're going to go at that hard.

LITMAN: They want to get a rise out of him. They especially would love to catch him in a lie on the stand, but if he's well prepared, (Inaudible).

LEMON: Yeah. OK, so Jim, what was it like to seeing Manafort and Gates in the same room together?

SCIUTTO: It was remarkable. It provided maybe you know -- you mentioned Sammy the Bull Gravano and John Gotti, this is not a mob case, but where you have the capo as it were, the deputy testifying at length to numerous alleged crimes against his long time boss, someone he worked with for many, many years directly.

And in a way, and it's interesting as Harry mentions it, it struck me that he was a well prepared witness. He had the answers to the questions. He answered -- listen, some of this is performance art I imagine. You answer like a boy scout, right? I mean you have the details, you answer calmly. You're doing your best to be honest under the circumstances.

When he is recounting a whole series of alleged crimes here in great detail, right, which is not an easy thing to do. And particularly, as he had that something of a surprise, something we didn't know about entering into today, which was that he in addition to doing these crimes or alleged crimes, rather with Manafort that he committed a crime in effect against Manafort, the deputy stealing money from the boss.

LEMON: Yeah. It's interesting because Giuliani last week suggested that Gates attended that Trump Tower meeting with the Russians, right, and a meeting about that meeting, so I am just wondering how that is going to play into the overall Russia investigation, because they couldn't mention it in this trial, right, that's happening now.

So I just want to know how that's going to play, and I also want to know what trouble, what does this mean for Don Jr. We'll talk about that when we come back.


[22:50:00] LEMON: Back now with Jim Sciutto and Harry Litman. OK, gentlemen. So Jim, Rick Gates was part of the Trump campaign for longer than Manafort. And prosecutors have said Russia won't come up at this trial. But should Trump's attorneys worry what more Gates could tell Mueller.

SCIUTTO: Well, that's been a running question for a number of months here, right? I mean you have two ongoing trials, one in Alexandria, one here in Washington. Those are purely about their business practices, illegal business, or alleged illegal business dealings prior to their work for the Trump campaign. But as Paul Manafort, the President's former campaign chairman is facing conceivable many years in prison if he is convicted of these crimes.

The reasonable question is that pressure that the Special Counsel might use to extract information or is it incentive to extract information regarding the President if Paul Manafort is aware of any wrongdoing by the President. Of course, Rick Gates who was deputy to Paul Manafort arguably equally close or nearly as close as Manafort to many of these conversations, many of the campaign activities.

He is already a cooperating witness. You don't need to flip him. He's cooperating with federal investigators at least in the Manafort case. Has Special Counsel Mueller asked him questions about for instance his knowledge of whether the President knew in advance of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting? It's possible.

We know that there's been discussion of a meeting prior to that meeting. Was Rick Gates another of the very tight circle of campaign aides who was present for that?


LEMON: Where they supposedly discussed strategy for the meeting that's in question, right? I am wondering if that goes to intent, and if so, how much exposure does Don Jr. have, Jim. And then, Harry, I have a longer question for you. Jim, what do you think?

SCIUTTO: Well, this is the question. Again, we're always asking these questions based on what little if anything we know about what Robert Mueller has at this point, right, from private testimony, under oath, etcetera. But clearly, our own reporting at CNN has said that the President is concerned about Donald Trump Jr.'s legal status, what he faces here.

And the very obvious legal questions are, one, did he lie in his sworn testimony before the Senate about that Trump Tower meeting, what he told the President, etcetera. Did he lie in his testimony you know elsewhere? That's one question. And what does the Special Counsel have, if anything, to substantiate that Donald Trump Jr. knew or conspired in some way with Russians for information about Hillary Clinton, etcetera. Those are the open questions. We just don't know what Robert Mueller has.

[22:54:56] LEMON: Hey. In the short time we have left, Harry, and I want to read this. This is long. So sorry, I hate to rush you on this. But these are the shifting explanations for the Trump Tower meeting, OK? So first, we have July 8, Trump Jr. meeting was primarily about adoptions, July 9, the New York Times reports that the meeting about was about opposition research on Clinton.

July 11, and then Trump Jr. releases emails that show Clinton's dirt was discussed in there. So and then on and on and on, so first, when we're told by Donald Trump, Jr. that it was about adoption, and then the New York Times and then all the reports come out. And you see them up there on the screen. Well, it's about adoption or it's not about adoption.

It's about getting you know dirt Hillary Clinton. No, it's about adoption. No, it's about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. So what is it, Harry?

LITMAN: What is it? It's a world of hurt for Donald Trump Jr., because we know now from Trump's tweet that there was collusion. There was coordination with a foreign government to get dirt on an opponent. Trump actually adds at the end I didn't know about the meeting. That implicitly (Inaudible) Donald Trump Jr. because of course, he knows about it, and he's the guy who writes if that's what you say, I love it.

And in one second on Gates, Mueller already knows because the terms of the corporation are a total open book. He knows about that pre-June meeting to prepare. There's no hold backing on Gates' part.

LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate your time. When we come back, Donald Trump Jr. on the radio today, answering questions about that infamous Trump Tower meeting or not. Stick around. You'll hear what happened.