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Ohio 12 Special Election Has Republican Leading, Also Key Races in Missouri, Michigan and Kansas; Tonight's Election Results Offering Hints for Midterms?; Rick Gates Faces Tough Cross-Examination from Manafort's Team; Graham Said He Warned Trump Not To End Mueller Probe. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired August 8, 2018 - 00:00   ET



[00:01:28] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

A little past midnight here on the East Coast live with all the breaking news coverage of tonight's election results. And the big story, the special election in Ohio. The Republican candidate has a narrow lead but the race still too close to call tonight.

There you see the results that are available up on your screen, 99 percent of the precincts reporting tonight. And that is Ohio's 12th congressional district.

My political team is here with me. Mr. David Swerdlick joins us, Ryan Lizza, Alice Stewart joins us now as well, Tara Setmayer, Mike Shields, Hilary Rosen.

Thank you all for joining us. Good evening or morning or however you want to say it.

So, David, let's bring you in.


LEMON: Big night. Ohio, Michigan, Kansas. What's your big takeaway?

SWERDLICK: Don, my takeaway is that like the generic congressional ballot, Democrats made up about 6 percent, 7 percent with the Ohio House race. But if Balderson holds on, I don't think they can take a moral victory away from this, Don. What's at stake for the Democrats is subpoena power. If they win the House they get subpoena power. Whether or not that leads to impeachment is another question.

But this isn't one of those times in America where you can say, we got close, we can cut some deals with Republicans. No legislation is going to get done. You're either winning seats and taking over the committees and you're changing Chairman Nunes to Chairman Schiff or you're not.

LEMON: But at this point, though, because I hear it from every side, well, this is a moral victory and someone as close -- a win is a win, and don't you think that gives Republicans a certain confidence that even though they are behind that they can get their act or you know what together come November? There's still a long time to go.

SWERDLICK: Yes, that's right. Look, Democrats I think are going to pick up seats. They might win the House, but the onus is on them to prove --


SWERDLICK: -- that they can get their voters out in November. They lost the House in 2010, they did poorly in the 2014 midterms, they did poorly in 2016 even though it was a presidential election year. They've got to -- the onus is on them to show that their voters will come back.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And a moral victory isn't going to cast a vote here in Washington when the House is --

LEMON: And that was my point. Right.

STEWART: And that's the point. That being said, a win is a win. And we'll take it even though it's weaker, but to -- Mike made this point earlier, this is a wakeup call to Republicans.

LEMON: The concern, right?

STEWART: This should have been a slam dunk.

LEMON: Right.

STEWART: This should have been runaway, this should have been called five minutes after the polls were closed. I think it is a tremendous wakeup call to Republicans that we need to work on our ground game, we need to work on getting out the vote, knocking on doors, and I think this -- Republicans understand, OK, we understand, we need to organize more, we need to make sure that when we get to November we're not going to have districts that should have been slam dunks be close like this.

LEMON: So for whatever reason, are these districts so safe because of gerrymandering or whatever that they can withstand a blue wave come November?



ROSEN: That are closer than this district. So, you know, what we learned tonight was that if you can take a district that was an 11- point spread and turn it into less than a one-point spread think of what you can do in those districts that were, you know, one, two, three or four-point spreads before?


SETMAYER: Which there a lot of.

ROSEN: That's really -- what it does is it puts a huge number of new seats in play for Democratic enthusiasm. Now that's going to result in a lot more Republican spending than maybe we had before, maybe both sides get motivated on the money, but the Republicans will have more money. So that's a big concern for Democrats.

LEMON: Yes. Go ahead, Mike.

[00:05:02] MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, look, first of all, on the ground game the RNC did over a million- voter contest in this race. I think the ground game and the -- in a close election like this matters. That infrastructure is there, and we have the money for that. It's more speaking to the voters. And I think what was said before yes, Nancy Pelosi could be the speaker, they could have subpoena power, they could essentially grind to a halt. And I think a lot of Republicans see the economy is doing is well, we have the House and the Senate, things are going well.

They need to wake up and understand, they can't be -- this is a -- this was a campaign of complacency on our side. The Democrats are motivated. If we can motivate our base I believe that will happen in November. They all know there's an election coming in November and we tend to turn out in higher numbers in midterms. So I believe that will happen but yes, the complacency thing is something -- is a wakeup call for Republicans when they see it.

LEMON: Hilary, I want to ask you this because in Michigan Abdul El- Sayed lost the Democratic race for governor. He is a progressive. He had the backing of Bernie Sanders, also Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. What message does this send to the party in November?

ROSEN: You know, I've long felt like this phenomena that happened in the Ocasio-Cortez race against Joe Crowley was sort of overplayed as a bellwether. You know, that was --

LEMON: Nancy Pelosi said as much as well. Right?

ROSEN: And it's not because I don't think that there is a huge swath of the Republican Party -- of the Democratic Party that would like to see, you know, better health care, more government paid for health care and corporations held to a higher standard. It's just that I don't think that the Democratic Party is as divided as the story tells it. And I think that what you see here is a much more united, we want to elect the person who has the best chance of winning in November in almost every one of these races.

SETMAYER: It's about district. You know, that what happened with the Joe Crowley-Ocasio-Cortez race, that district, it works for there. That's not going to work in the Conor-Lamb type districts in Pennsylvania 18th, for example, which, by the way, Trump won by 20 and a Democrat won that seat. So I think for Democrats this internal fight is very interesting. I mean, what's going on with them is being overshadowed obviously by what's happening with Republicans and Trump. But that is something to watch because there is certainly a tension there within the Democrats -- LEMON: Hold on, Mike. Let me ask you this.

ROSEN: I do. That's what I think. I think that tension is overplayed actually.

LEMON: So, but let me -- -Mike, I'll let you get in after this. But Mike said earlier, you said, there are -- the Trump supporters, the Republican Party has enough room for Trump supporters, and also the Never-Trumpers as well. There's enough room in the party for everyone.

SETMAYER: Is there?


LEMON: I don't know about that. But --

SETMAYER: Because we're considered (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Did you not make that --

SHIELDS: Yes, look, the Republican coalition, there's traditional Republicans and there's new Republicans that are more Trump but --

LEMON: OK. Hold on that thought. So why is it different? Is it different for Democrats to have like an Ocasio-Cortez or a Bernie Sanders which a little bit more progressive than the rest of --

SETMAYER: I think -- I think you're going to see the Nancy Pelosi part of the Democrats, the establishment welcome them in where it works but then shun them where it doesn't, you know.


SETMAYER: Where it's not beneficial to them. It's a different dynamic, though.


SETMAYER: They're not looking at the progressive -- the left-wing progressive part of the Democratic Party the way that the Republicans and the Trumpers are looking at those of us who have questioned what happened to the party based on the way they've sold out a lot of their principles to support Trump. It's a different dynamics.

SHIELDS: Quick point about what Hilary is saying. Some of the left wing, you know, the sort of radical left versus the progressive wings of the party, the radical left hasn't won as much, but they have pulled all the other candidates to the left. So you have many of the Democrats that are winning these primaries that are for abolishing ICE, that are for government-run health care, they're for overturning the tax cuts, which is massive tax increase.


SHIELDS: That -- when you get to the general election is going to help Republicans because it pushes them out of the mainstream of those suburban voters that should be very gettable that we've been talking about all night.

ROSEN: Well, but I can argue the same thing happened to Republicans.

LEMON: I can't believe -- I can't believe you didn't jump in on the radical left.

ROSEN: Well, because, you know, here's the point. It's like you make the argument that Mike is making and can say the exact same thing about the Trump coalition.

What we do know, though, is that the Trump coalition as it stands is actually decreasing its numbers.

SETMAYER: That's true.

ROSEN: What we saw tonight in Ohio 12 --

LEMON: Self-identified Republicans are also --

ROSEN: Was a reduction in the Trump vote.

SETMAYER: That's right.

ROSEN: And, you know, normally you have a president who works to expand their base. And what we are not seeing with this president, what we are not seeing with the Republicans is an effort to expand the base.


LEMON: I do have to say --


LEMON: Just in my limited -- in my, you know, I'm not one of you political experts. You know, I observe. Republicans always come home. Republicans always come home regardless of who the candidate is. Pretty much they come home.

STEWART: And I think the big distinction in what we're seeing with the Republican Party and the Democrats, the Democrats are split a lot on policy. We have the Cortez wing, the Sanders wing, those more socialist and more further to the left on policy issues.

[00:10:01] Republicans overall I feel we're still united on policy. We want limited government, we want -- most of us are pro-life, most of us want immigration reform that is reasonable. But it's the tone and tactic. Trump has pulled some of them into the Trump --

LEMON: In the fear of losing the moral high ground --

STEWART: But we're still --

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: Of losing that moral high ground. Ryan, you've been awfully quiet tonight. Can I -- can we talk about -- I want to take this Republican primary race of governor in Kansas tonight, really close. President Trump threw his support behind Kris Kobach, who was running neck and neck now with the incumbent Jeff Colyer. That was a risky move for the president.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It was a risky move. Kansas exactly, despite its reputation, is not one of the sort of super Trump states. He did not -- relative to Romney, say in 2012, Trump did not do phenomenally better in Kansas. Governor Brownback left as a very unpopular governor. And so this is not necessarily a state where Trump, you know, has an enormous amount of juice compared to some of the other states, but if he pulls it out tonight, if Kobach pulls it out tonight I think there's no doubt you have to give the president -- the president's endorsement --


LEMON: Do we have a sound bite of the guy who's on the commission with Kobach for election voter -- if we have that, can we bring it down? Because I want the time -- want to discuss that. Go on.

LIZZA: Most Republicans, and correct me if I'm wrong. Most Republicans think Kobach is the weaker of the two main candidates in the general election.

LEMON: The general election, yes.

SETMAYER: And this is a four-way primary race, too. And I believe that the other two lesser candidates for the Republican candidate side pulled at least double-digits, 15 percent, 12 percent, away from, you know, the top two guys. So where are those people going? Those are anti-Kobach votes. So where are those --

SHIELDS: No. Those are anti-incumbent votes. When you have an incumbent who's running and you have other people that vote against the incumbent, then those are all a coalition of anti-incumbent voters and they will then support the -- they will be more likely to support the person who's not the incumbent.

SETMAYER: Perhaps.

LEMON: But Kobach was -- he was part of the commission that was set up to investigate election fraud, and members of the committee who were on there said nothing really came out of that and that they were pushing really to confirm what the president thought was happening when it comes to election fraud and none of that was true. Someone who actually sued and got the information that was on the committee I spoke to him the other night, watch this.


MATTHEW DUNLAP, FORMER MEMBER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP'S VOTING COMMISSION: We didn't find anything. In fact, this is one of the things, when we got the documents this past week, and we went thru them and we published them, there was actually a draft report. Now we never even discussed the report, what it was going to look like, what it was going to include, but there was a draft report included with sections for demonstrated cases of voter fraud and those were left very tellingly blank. So there's nothing at all.

LEMON: What do you think was the ultimate goal of this commission? Was it to just prove that this crazy explanation the president came up with is why he lost the popular vote to his rival?

DUNLAP: Extensively it's to investigate those claims. And I said at the time that if you would have found a fraction of that number that he was talking about we'd have had a real problem on our hands that we want to work on. But it seemed to be very evident that the purpose of the commission was to validate his statement, whether there's any evidence to back it up or not.


LEMON: Is that what this endorsement was all about?

SETMAYER: Absolutely.

SWERDLICK: Yes. Yes. Republicans have this two-part strategy of they win elections when there are fewer voters in the election and then you have the president coming over the top claiming that the fix was in for Democrats in 2016, and that these things were -- this committee was meant to reinforce that idea.

LEMON: Everybody, stay with me. Much more ahead on our breaking news coverage of tonight's elections. What do the results tell us about the midterms in November.


[00:17:56] LEMON: We're back now with our breaking news, the special election in Ohio's 12th congressional district, too close to call, although the GOP candidate has a narrow lead right now. One of the key races fought on Tuesday.

So let's bring in now CNN Politics senior writer and analyst, Mr. Harry Enten.

Harry, welcome back to the program. This was a tight race in Ohio. The president is bragging about it now, tweeting about it. Was is it really -- is this really good for Republicans?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: I mean, sure, you win at race, you win at race, and therefore you have an extra incumbent running in the fall. But in terms of extrapolating this result out to other congressional districts, keep in mind there are about 70 other congressional districts that Republicans currently hold that are more Democratic-leaning than this one. And Democrats only need a neck gain of 23 to take back the House in November. So to me it's not necessarily a good result for Republicans when you look at congressional races overall.

LEMON: How important, Harry, is support for the president in places like Ohio 12? And how important will it be going into the midterms?

ENTEN: I mean, in a midterm election, midterms are referendums on the incumbent. And if you look at where the president's approval rating was in this district, it was about even with his disapproval rating, and that's basically where we ended up about a 50-50 race, right? So if we're looking forward towards the fall and you look at the polling towards the fall you see that voters who say they approve of the president's job are overwhelmingly voting for Republicans, those who disapprove are overwhelmingly voting for Democrats.

But unlike this district where the disapproval rating is about equal with the disapproval rating, nationally the disapproval rating for the president of the United States is far above his approval rating and that's why Democrats are favored to take back the House come November.

LEMON: Well, it has been said that Democrats are doing better in suburban areas. These races are all about the suburban area but you typically do better in urban areas. Republicans do better in rural areas, sometimes suburbs. How important is the divide here moving forward?

ENTEN: I mean, you saw it tonight where in Franklin County which is the urban part of the district Danny O'Connor did very, very well and then the other six counties which are much more rural he did quite poorly. But here's the key.

[00:20:01] If you look at the nation overall the nation overall is much more urban than this particular district is, which is just yet another sign of why this race is being so close. If you will extrapolate it out to the nation as a whole, Democrats will be fighting on much more favorable ground in November.

LEMON: We've been talking about Ohio, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, but there are important races going on in Washington state. Talk to me about that.

ENTEN: Yes. So Washington state has a system -- if you remember California back in June right ahead that top two primaries where all the Democrats run on the same ballot, all the Republicans in the primary, it turns out that if you look at the primary vote in past years it's very predictive of the November result. And there was one congressional district that I was really looking at which is the Washington 8th District. It's been held by a Republican for a while now, Republicans want to hold it in the fall, but if you look at the cumulative Democratic vote it is right now outpacing the cumulative Republican vote, and that could be a good sign for Democrats as they help to flip that district in November.

LEMON: Are you seeing big warning signs for the Republicans in some of the races in Washington? Like big warning signs or more warning signs.

ENTEN: I'm not just seeing it in Washington tonight. If you look at some other races as well what you see are a number of Republican incumbents that are below 50 percent. And if you look at the cumulative Democratic vote, it's very, very close to a cumulative Republican vote. Even in districts where you might not necessarily expect it.

You know, if you look for instance at Congresswoman Rogers, that race is very, very close. She is obviously a high-ranking member of the House on the Republican side and she is below 50 percent. If she went down to defeat come the fall, that could be very, very bad news for Republicans because that's a seat that should be safe if Republicans are going to hold onto the House.

LEMON: I say that the president has been bragging and tweeting about the win in -- or at least the perceived win that they think is happening in Ohio. But did his endorsement you think help Kris Kobach in Kansas?

ENTEN: Well, if you look at the Kansas result right now you have a very, very tight race. It's on the screen right now. Kobach is just barely ahead there. And if you look at the polls before the endorsement Kobach was probably just barely ahead. So it just doesn't seems to me that the president's endorsement had really much of an affect at all and if anything the fact that Bob Dole, General Bob Dole who's still going, said, you know, I'm not behind Kris Kobach. I'm in fact behind Colyer. That may have in fact held back any positive advancement for Kobach based upon the Trump endorsement.

LEMON: Harry Enten, appreciate your time.

We have much more on our election night coverage straight ahead. But up next Rick Gates, the special counsel's witness in Paul Manafort's trial cross-examined on the witness stand. We're going to see what kinds of questions he faced from Manafort's defense lawyers.


[00:26:43] LEMON: So we have more now on our breaking news. CNN projects that John James wins the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Michigan. James is an African-American Iraq war veteran who was endorsed by President Trump. He's going to face Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow.

Now we want to get to some other news, and we'll get back to our election coverage in just a moment. My dream team is standing by. But I want to get to some other news here. Paul Manafort's longtime deputy Rick Gates facing tough cross-examination on Tuesday.

Let's talk about this now with CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. Juliette is a former Department of Homeland Security official. And Michael Moore, a former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.

Hello, both of you. Thank you for coming on.

So, Juliette, the defense got their first crack at cross-examining Rick Gates. How did he hold up?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, obviously we're all interpreting this from the outside, but it appears a couple of things happened that are worth repeating here. One is that he was contrite. He addresses the jury, apologizes, says he's trying to make things right. And I think the second thing which is key here is that at no stage during this cross-examination was the defense able to separate Gates from Manafort.

In other words, the defense strategy has got to be Gates acted by himself, right? That he was doing this all on his own. And I think that just from the testimony that we've seen so far the defense failed in that regard. Manafort is clearly pushing Gates or conspiring with Gates to do all of these illegalities. In fact there's a line in one of the documents where Manafort says to Gates, you told me you were on top of this.

That's the statement of the leader to the worker bee, you know, fix this. And so I think that in that sense the defense did fail to do the one thing they needed to do, which is basically Gates was doing all this illegal stuff on his own.

LEMON: But he was forced to admit an affair and that he had embezzled money from Paul Manafort. Do you think the defense succeeded in painting Gates as a flawed witness? Juliette?

KAYYEM: So -- yes, so I think that, you know, obviously the corruption and the sort of icky-ness of all these characters is rampant. And so it's for the jury to decide whether the guy who's trying to come clean now is better or more, you know, trustworthy than the guy who's not speaking. So -- and I think that the prosecution sort of, you know, prepared the jury for the bad news about Gates. But what we have to remember about Gates, and this is true in all these national security cases, is it's not like Gates is just saying something and there's no corroborating evidence.

What Gates is doing is that he's essentially validating the documentation the prosecution already has, the e-mails, the tax forms, the faulty financial dealings. And then remember the five witnesses who have already testified, the bookkeeper and others, in the office saying, yes, this was all illegal. So I'm not saying Gates is irrelevant, but he's not -- he's just simply validating the documents, the electronic information and the other witnesses. So -- so in that sense he's more valid.

LEMON: So, Michael, Rick Gates claimed that Manafort tried to secure jobs for associates in the Trump administration. This trial is really about bank and tax fraud. Is this testimony something you expect the prosecution to pursue further?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF CONGRESS: I don't know how far they'll go into it. I mean, at this point it's really about showing that Manafort was trying to use his position. He used it to manipulate to get money. He used it to have influence with overseas money.


And so I don't know how far they'll dig into it. Let me say this, i think (INAUDIBLE) is right in the sense that -- it was not a good day for the Manafort team. Essentially, Rick Gates comes in, he gives his -- he gives his statement. He owns up to what he's done.

I mean, we can talk about an affair and secret money, and I don't know if we're talking about the White House or the Manafort trial that we're talking about.

LEMON: But his attorney said he had a great day, Michael.

MOORE: Well, you know, that's fake news, I mean -- I guess, that's what his attorney is saying out there because, you know, they didn't have a good day. It's never a good day when you have to come out and say it's a good day in court like that.

And so, really, Gates came in. He stuck to his deal. He's told -- he was contrite in some things. We knew he was going to have to talk about that. But he was prepped and there was nothing new that the Mueller team did not know, going in.

And so, all this information was, you know, would came out. I mean, the bottom line is that, he is piecing together and corroborating evidence that's already in the case. And they had to bring him in because if they didn't bring him in, the juror is sitting there thinking, well, why didn't they bring this guy in? You know, and the Manafort team is going to argue it is all Gates.

Well, now Gates is here, and Gates has come in and said, look, I did some stuff wrong too. But I'm here to tell you that I did wrong, and now, you know, Paul should have done the same thing.

LEMON: But, Michael, it's tough because Gates worked for Manafort for 20 years.

MOORE: Sure.

LEMON: And so, you know, do you think it's potentially a mistake for the defense to paint Gates as a corrupt liar without even painting Manafort with the same brush?

MOORE: Well, I think they've probably splattered paint all over Manafort through their cross-examination today. I mean, I -- and really, what do they have? I mean, at the end of the day, you've got these e-mails, you've got these statements, you've got the bookkeepers and accountants saying that Manafort told them what to do.

So, what other choice does the defense have? I don't think it's a winning strategy for them. I've said this, I think, I have every expectation that Manafort's going to be convicted. But they really don't have great facts on their side. So, the only thing knew is kind of


MOORE: So, the only thing they can do is, kind of, come and throw darts at Gates and hope that, you know, they can deflate him somehow. But, you know, it's hard to change some of the things that Manafort puts in e-mails and directives. LEMON: Well, Juliette, I heard you say yes when he said that he's going to be convicted. This case is Special Counsel Robert Mueller's first real chance to show what he's got. How is he doing?

KAYYEM: I mean, it appears to be a very strong case, and I think you'd want to lead with a very strong case and just to remind everyone, this is camp -- this is Trump's campaign chairman and deputy campaign chairman. This is not the case. It's not about Trump, but obviously, that's the atmospherics.

And what I want to remind people that while we're talking about the legalities or the illegalities of this basically corrupt enterprise that they had established that put Manafort in debt, sort of, then drew him to Trump as, sort of, the money train.

The Trump campaign is a money train. He was so in debt that he was willing to work for free because he knew on the other side of this, he might make money. But I just -- from the National Security perspective, take a step back. Think of how corruptible Manafort and Gates are through this whole process because they're getting foreign money to support this lifestyle.

They are doing all sorts of illegal things that are pretty well-known to probably their clients. And so from the perspective of the National Security perspective, these guys are so easily corrupted by a foreign entity, and I think that's where the Trump aura and the -- and the Mueller stuff, all is in play here.

These guys were, you know -- I mean, they were just, you know, ripe for a foreign entity to take advantage of them.

LEMON: All right. Listen, thank you both. I appreciate that. Listen, if you want to stick around, you can, just a moment. But I want to bring Alice Stewart in because, Alice, you went to the courtroom. You visited this morning. Give me an impression. What were your impressions?

STEWART: It was clear Gates was being forthright. He was putting it out on the table. Manafort sat there, and he seemed pissed, you know, that he was -- everything was being laid out there on the table.

And while we spent so much time talking about Manafort spending money on the ostrich jacket and now we know Gates spent money on a love shack in London, those were the juicy details.

But a lot of what there was today, was document after document after document, which clearly outlines what they were doing to hide money, to set up shell corporations, to claim income as loans, and it was all very dirty and underhanded.

And I think so far, they've made a very good argument that they broke the law. And I don't see how they can -- jury can come to any other conclusion.

LEMON: You think Manafort is guilty? STEWART: Clearly he's guilty. But the key is, what we didn't hear a lot of -- I tell you, we didn't hear anything about Trump. We didn't hear a lot about key things that really directly connect them with the Trump organization.

[00:35:11] LEMON: They can't really bring that up.

STEWART: They cannot bring that up. And the judge was very clear. And the one time that Gates had the opportunity, he said, a presidential campaign and talking about some other people that were sitting in there, they have done a good job of separating.

This looks like two crooks who capitalized on their ability to get clients overseas, and they are two dirty guys, one is coming clean, and the other is not.

SETMAYER: But what they did bring up today was the Bank of Cypress.


SETMAYER: And that is significant because of the role of who owned the Bank of Cypress, was one of the Russian oligarchs who bought that mansion from Trump in Palm Beach for $98 million, where Trump got that $50 million, whatever, $48 million profit on, which was questionable because the property was overinflated in price.

And also, our current commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, took over that bank. And the Bank of Cypress is notorious for Russian money laundering.

So, you know, that aspect of it and Paul Manafort and Rick Gates' involvement in using the Bank of Cypress to launder money, and the connection to our commerce secretary and Russian oligarchs and Trump, is of significance and shouldn't be ignored.

LEMON: Interesting. Thank you very much. And again, our thanks to Michael and Juliette, appreciate it.

When we come back, how Robert Mueller's investigation could be playing with voters. Will it affect any of the candidates at the polls? What Lindsey Graham warned the President about? That's next.


[00:40:00] LEMON: So a prominent Republican senator saying that he gave a big warning to President Trump about the Russia investigation. Let's discuss now. My political -- I could say, dream team. So this is my dream team.

Ryan, Lindsey Graham, South Carolina, said he golfed with the President. He warned him that if, you know, try to shut down the Mueller investigation, that the GOP would pay the price in the midterms. Good advice?

LIZZA: Well, no doubt it's good advice. I mean, I think, Lindsey Graham has -- he's gone from like, you know, the most intense Trump critic during the primaries. They had a bit of a detente, and now, in office, he's become close to the President.

This is not the first time he's golfed with him. You know, I think, Graham -- I interviewed him recently. I think he, kind of, sees himself as this, sort of, translator between the hard core pro-Trump world and the never-Trump world. Although, I think, he's lost a lot of his cred among the never-Trumpers. Tara can speak for that faction.

I do think he tried -- you know, he's tried to be this, kind of -- kind of bridge, even though he's gotten awfully close to the President. And I think he used to say that the President's presidency would be over if, for instance --

LEMON: He did?

LIZZA: he fired Mueller or Rosenstein. He's softened that over time, I think, partly because he's seen that Republican voters will tolerate just about anything from the President. I think he's made a political analysis that maybe's Trump presidency wouldn't be over anymore. But he's found new ways to warn the President not to do it. And that's what this is about.

LEMON: David, do you think he's trying to protect Mueller or trying to protect the President from political disaster? Both?

SWERDLICK: I think he's trying to keep Republicans writ large on an even keel. I agree with Ryan that his advice is right, if you're risk averse and if you're a normal Republican, which Senator Graham is. If you're somewhat of a riverboat gambler like the President is, who knows what he's going to do if he feels too much heat coming around the corner on him.

You know, the thing is, President Trump, yes, will face a political problem if he upends the Mueller investigation. He will look guilty. But, if you look at his poll numbers, he's at 43.3 percent in the real clear politics average. That's like less than a percent below where he was on inauguration day.

His base is consolidated. Republicans are behind him, and, you know, at this point, who is undecided on where they stand on Trump at this point? He knows that much. He's not a deep policy thinker, but he can read a poll and understand the shifting winds.

LEMON: Lindsey Graham said that the President asked him about ending the Mueller probe about 20 times. He tweets about it a lot, relentlessly. He knows it will hurt him. He's been told not to tweet about it, right? But he can't help himself.

SETMAYER: Right. I mean, he is like a child, where you tell them, you know, don't touch the stove. I'm going to touch it anyway because I can, you know. But it's -- for Donald Trump, the biggest thorn in his side has been this Russia investigation and Mueller.

And, I think, in the beginning, to David's point about Lindsey Graham's position shifting somewhat, or that was Ryan, it's because, the Trump tack has been let's discredit Mueller -- discredit Mueller, discredit the investigation because the facts of the investigation are not on Trump's side per se, especially with the Trump Tower meeting and what we're finding out.

They haven't been forthcoming, but it doesn't matter because they're going for a political solution here, not a criminal one, and it's about surviving impeachment. And I -- so far, it's working because Republicans are either tuning it out, they don't care, and that political calculus is working so far for the President.

So he's just champing at the bit. He wants to fire -- he wants to fire Mueller, he wants to fire Rosenstein, he wants to fire Jeff Sessions, for goodness sakes, but he doesn't necessarily pull the trigger because there's something -- I don't think it's Lindsey Graham -- I don't think he really cares what Lindsey Graham thinks. Something is holding him back from doing it.


HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He wants also value for the President in keeping the story out there the way it is. It consolidates Republican support.


ROSEN: What we know about what Lindsey Graham said to the President, is really only from Lindsey Graham's mouth and who knows what he actually said to the President.

But, you know, where Democrats have to be, and where Democrats are on the campaign trail, which is why Danny O'Connor in Ohio today, got as close as he did, is because they're actually talking about the administration taking away health care.

They're talking about, you know, children being put in cages at the borders. They're talking about a tax cut going exclusively to wealthy corporations. That actually is working on the campaign trail. I think you'll see that continuing. The more that Donald Trump screams about Mueller and the Russian hoax, I think that, you know, he is actually trying to drown out the fact what they're actually --

[00:45:00] MOORE: You know you don't hear a lot about anymore? You don't hear draining the swamp.

LEMON: That's a whole idea about swamp. It's on his doorstep. That's the reason -- let me read this.

ROSEN: He's living in the swamp.

LEMON: Only the best people, right? Remember, only the best people. But I want to take a look at some of the folks in Trump's orbit with serious legal or ethical troubles. OK, Alice, this is for you. Michael Flynn, is a former national security adviser, pled guilty to lying to the FBI.

Manafort's former campaign chairman, on trial for bank and wire fraud, among other charges. Rick Gates, deputy campaign chairman, pled guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators. You have other folk who's have left the White House after scandals, like Rob Porter, who resigned after his ex-wives alleged physical abuse, Scott Pruitt, who quit after months of ethics issues. So --


LEMON: And Price, and on and on. So she said, Republicans, Trump supporters who don't care. I'm sure traditional establishment Republicans do care, maybe, maybe not. What happened? This doesn't matter?

STEWART: Clearly, based on the approval numbers amongst his base, it doesn't matter. But here's the thing. I think --

LEMON: Are you surprised by the world that we're in where you have all of this? I just want you to imagine. I know we do this what about. But can you imagine if this were the Clinton administration and all of this was happening? What do you think you'd be saying here sitting as a Republican?

STEWART: I don't think we'd be talking about this if this was happening under the Obama administration. We'd be talking something --

LEMON: Under the Clinton -- if all of these people were charged and pleaded guilty?

STEWARD: I think there's a lot of folks that would --

ROSEN: Oh, come on.

STEWARD: You know -- I'm talking about in the mainstream media.

SETMAYER: Yes, but we would be bringing it up. Republicans, we would never let this stand if this was going on.


SETMAYER: There's another channel that dedicates, like, hours of their prime time programming, still re-litigating Hillary Clinton, who lost, and what the Clintons have done since the 25 freaking years ago.

STEWART: So there's no way Republicans would ever allow this if a fraction of the people did what Trump's people have done.

SETMAYER: There's been a lot of swampy stuff going on.

STEWART: Here's the thing, we all knew what -- Donald -- kind of person Donald Trump was. We knew about his past with women. We knew about his past with business. We knew about a lot of the things he did in the past. At the end of the day --

LEMON: Even surrounding himself with sketchy people?

STEWART: That is a new revelation.

SETMAYER: No, it's not!

LEMON: Wait. Alice --

SETMAYER: He surrounds himself with sketchy people --

LEMON: Let her finish her thought and I'll let you fit in. Let her finish her thought.

STEWART: The reality is, people knew the kind of person he was, and the people that he surrounded himself with, and he still won. In my view, I voted for him because of his policies, not his tone and his tactics. And that's why Republicans voted for him, and they will vote for him again.

LEMON: Go ahead, David.

SWERDLICK: Yes. People did know the kind of person he was. They had a sense of that. But it's not who he said he was, what Don said. He said, I will hire the best people. I'm the best CEO in the world. We'll have the best people come in and make their decision. I can act more presidential than anybody.

He's proven he is incapable of acting presidential as it's traditionally been defined. He described himself one way, winked and nodded to voters, and he's acted and the people around him have been another way.

MOORE: Right, because if you have four percent economic growth, you have wages going up, you have Kavanaugh and Gorsuch on the court, you have tax cuts, especially the Republicans and the people that voted for President Trump think this is all noise.

He has politicians in D.C. do stuff, and then he fires them and he'll hire somebody else. He'll go through five staffers on that one job. He doesn't care.


SWERDLICK: It has to be a double standard. The stock market is up 150 percent under Obama.

STEWART: That's right.

SWERDLICK: It's up about 30 percent under Trump. Unemployment went down three percent under Obama. It's down about a point under -- it's down a point under Trump. So, it can't be economic results. It's that Republicans like their guy.

LEMON: You see no -- you see no hypocrisy and no double standard here?

MOORE: No. What I'm saying is, this comes back to that taking it literally thing. He said, I'm going to have the best people. I'm going to do things differently. I'm a businessman. Things are going to be different. The results for the party -- what they actually care about is not who

was the EPA director and who is the new EPA director, he cared about getting the results --

SETMAYER: You know what, though, Mike? Come on.


ROSEN: Wait, wait.


ROSEN: Who's winning --

MOORE: His voters don't care about it.

ROSEN: Who's winning and who's losing, right? That's what this is about. Who is winning and who is losing? The people who are winning are getting a big fat tax cut. The people who are losing are the ones getting their education benefits cut, people not being able to get health care. Everybody losing because the federal budget is all going to --


LEMON: Listen, I got to go.

SWERDLICK: When President Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for a year, that didn't stop Republicans from questioning whether he was an American citizen.

ROSEN: That's right.

SWERDLICK: This is a double standard.

[00:50:10] LEMON: All right. So, all that -- all that moral high ground stuff, all that economic anxiety stuff, that was all B.S. You can just throw that out the door because none of it was true.

ROSEN: We'll take it all --

LEMON: We'll take it.

ROSEN: If you give me my --

LEMON: It's total, complete hypocrisy and a double standard.

SETMAYER: Republicans have decided there could be double rights, hypocrites. As long as you give me what I want. That's a terrible standard, terrible for the country moving forward and terrible for Democratic norms, institutions and ideals.

LEMON: When we come back, I'm going to -- I'm going to get answers to this question. Will race be a factor in November's midterm?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: All right. So go with me on this one. Will race be a factor in this fall's election? And if so, could the issue work to President Trump's benefit? Back with me now, my political experts.

[00:55:01] So, I got to ask you, tonight, the President held a small dinner for CEOs of major corporations, what is noteworthy here is that five of those CEOs, publicly broke ranks with the President, nearly one year ago, this week, after that both sides comment about the Neo- Nazis in Charlottesville. Has everyone just moved on from that? And, David, so what's happening now?

SWERDLICK: I don't think everyone has moved on from Charlottesville. We're coming up on the anniversary. I think that we'll be talking about this a lot in the next week or two. I do think race is a factor, in the sense that you just have to look at the President's behavior.

If the President thought that his racist statements, his race-baiting was not working for him, I don't think he would do it. So when he comes after LeBron James and he comes after you, when he comes after Congresswoman Waters, when he comes after Colin Kaepernick and other professional athletes, I think he's making a calculation.

We'll see if it works or not, but I think he's clearly making a calculation that that's either -- his base is either indifferent to that or kind of likes it.

LEMON: Alice, did he learn after Charlottesville that it doesn't matter? You can say racist things with no consequence?

STEWART: Well, if you're Donald Trump, clearly, you can. And not only did he talk -- say the insulting things about LeBron James and you, he did it on the heels of Ohio, which is astounding that he would think that that was OK, but it appears to be OK, when you're Donald Trump. And you also have to look at seven of the eight special elections in this cycle, have been won by Republicans.

So it hasn't been a tremendous detriment for Republicans coming out to vote. I strongly believe it will be a factor for some people, but more people - I've talked to a lot of folks. I've talked to farmers about the tariffs, specifically, and they're still going to vote for Trump.

I've talked with a lot of people. Race is a factor for some people, but at the end of the day, they're going to come home to the Republican Party.

LIZZA: Your question at the beginning was, is race going to be a factor in this election, and of course, it is, because it will be a referendum on the President, and the President is a racist. And race will matter.

And one of the most disappointing things that Donald Trump has done in his year and a half as president is, he has ripped a lot of scabs off of racial wounds in this country, and he's removed the social taboo of being a racist, frankly. And he's given permission to a lot of people who wouldn't say certain things, to start saying them again.

SETMAYER: Absolutely, absolutely.

LIZZA: I think for a lot of us, you know, maybe underestimated how the politics of that actually could redound sadly to his benefit in some -- in some circumstances. But at the end of the day, history will show that you don't get away with that for too long.

ROSEN: And I think that the key point is, too many people during the campaign in '16, saw Donald Trump's behavior as an act. That when he becomes president, he's really not going to be this way. He doesn't really believe it.

But if you -- if you talk to people in New York who went through, you know, the Central Park Five and went through the history of Donald Trump, they tried to warn people. Actually, he has a long history of racist behavior.

And I think what people have learned over the course of the last year, is that this actually is much more ingrained. Not only will he be racist, but he has no problem associating with people who are --

LEMON: Go ahead.

ROSEN: And I think the one piece is that, the only place it could really matter more is turnout in urban areas, as Harry said before, and also, whether it turns off suburban voters.

LEMON: Yes. I have a short time. I want to get both of you. Go ahead, Mike.

MOORE: Look, race plays a role in every election, and when you talk to Democrats and the base that they're going to try and turn out, the Republicans, the base that they're going to - look at Ohio race that we looked at tonight. There are urban voters, there are suburban voters, and there are rural voters.

You always do a race breakdown of those things and line that up with party. Here's what I -- here's what I wish the President would do, just because a lot's already been said, I wish he would go to Chicago. His inaugural address talked about stopping the carnage.

There are young black men getting killed in Chicago at unbelievable rates, at 9/11 level rates. And the President wants to stop that, and he has policies to do it. And I think he should go to Chicago --

SETMAYER: The President doesn't -- listen, the President doesn't care about Chicago. He doesn't care about those issues --


LEMON: Alice, not Alice, Tara, the reason I want to hear from you is because you're a woman of color in the Republican Party. You still consider yourself a Republican, right?

SETMAYER: Yes, Conservative first. LEMON: Conservative first. So when you see what's happening now, is there an issue with your party and with the President?

SETMAYER: Yes, absolutely. And those people who ignore that the Republican president now is Donald Trump, has elevated these racial issues. I think that is a disservice because the Republican Party cannot continue this way. It will shrink. It will go the way of the wigs and we see evidence, empirical evidence of this, every single day.

Washington Post just did a story about the Aryan Nation in Potter County, Pennsylvania (INAUDIBLE) emboldened, thanks to Donald trump and what he has said in his behavior.