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FBI Fires Peter Strzok; Prosecution Rests In Manafort Trial; Avenatti Considers Running For President; Are White Nationalist Ideas Gaining Traction?; The Shocking Truth About White Nationalists; The Queen Of Soul. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired August 13, 2018 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. It is 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. Live with all the new developments for you. The FBI fired Peter Strzok today after he was removed from the Mueller investigation a year ago over a series of anti-Trump texts to an attorney he was having an affair with.

The bureau's office of professional responsibility had recommended that Strzok should be suspended for 60 days and demoted. But President Trump is taking a victory lap over Strzok's firing. And it probably won't be surprise you to learn that the President is ignoring some key facts on the case. He claims that there was what he calls a long list of bad players in the FBI and DOJ. Well, that is absurd.

First of all, we're talking about his own FBI and Justice Department. OK? The Director of FBI, Christopher Wray a registered Republican handpicked for his post by President Trump. the deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, a lifelong Republican and handpicked by Trump, and Special Counsel, Robert Mueller is another Republican who was first appointed head of the FBI by President George W. Bush.

And as far as the President's claim that the Russia investigation is a witch hunt and/or a total hoax, the numbers prove that is false. Robert Mueller has brought a total of 191 criminal charges against 35 defendants. There have been five guilty pleas, and former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort is on trial right now in the first of two criminal cases brought by Mueller. If he is convicted on all accounts he could face-up to 300 years in prison.

The prosecution resting its case today in a Virginia courtroom. Now, the big unanswered question will Manafort take the stand in his own defense? So let's discuss now.

I want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst, Renato Mariotti, also Jack Quinn, a former White House to President Clinton -- a former spokesperson to White House President Clinton, and CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, James Gagliano.

Good evening, gentlemen. Thank you all for coming on. So, President Trump wasted no time in gloating right? About firing of Strzok. And he tweeted, you can put it up on the screen. You say that Strzok's firing made you feel empty and numb, why is that? JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Don, I think my initial

reaction, I thought that I would have expected in normal circumstances anytime something happens to a fellow law enforcement colleague, whether it's by normal devises or not I feel empathy. And I certainly feel empathy for Peter Strzok's family. I just think this was the step that had to happen, that we were just waiting in slow motion for this to occur.

The inspector general had found no material acts that Peter Strzok had done in further in the 2016 election in two highly, highly consequential cases that he sat as the senior executive over. But adjust because there were no material acts found, we know the discredit that Peter Strzok brought on the FBI.

What discredit? Well, the text messaging and e-mails that were exchanged, I mean, they were not of sound judgment for an FBI senior executive, somebody that was in that position. So we all expected that this was coming. I was numb to it because I expected right afterwards as you pointed out the President was going to be tweet about it. And I knew that we would pivot and look at the potential haze was there any undue influence?

This was entirely by the design of the professional of responsibility and then it was stamped by the FBI director's office -- the Deputy Director David Boudy was the one who made the decision and I think it was an appropriate one.

LEMON: So Jack, the firing of Strzok, the FBI deputy director overruled the recommendation -- recommended discipline, which was a demotion, 60 days suspension. Do you think the President's feelings about Strzok had an impact on this decision?

JACK QUINN, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I doubt it. Admittedly there was a difference between what the O.P. recommended and what the final action was, but as Mr. Gagliano just laid out, there were very serious issues involved here. And to put a fine point on it, Peter Strzok provided the principle cannon fodder for a relentless attack on the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the special counsel's investigation.

Additionally, you know, he had have this difficulty involving his having transferred sensitive search warrant from his office e-mail account to his personal e-mail account. That was concerning. Look, I think that on top of all of that I think that the bureau felt that it had to send a message that there was going to be a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of behavior and let down in the quorum in the bureau. I feel badly for him and his family, too, but I think this was probably the right decision.

[23:05:17] LEMON: Yes. So, Renato, I want to get to the President's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who is contradicting himself on whether Trump asked the former FBI Director, James Comey, if he could drop the Flynn investigation. And this is what he said. This is the ABC, this is last month, watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is saying that the President was asking him,

directing him in his words to let the Michael Flynn investigation go.

RUDY GIULIANI, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: He didn't direct him to do that. What he said to him was, --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Comey said he took it as direction.

GIULIANI: Well, that is OK. Taking it that way by that time he had been fired.


LEMON: OK, now Giuliani is telling CNN, the President never said that to Comey. Watch.


GIULIANI: The President didn't say to him go easy on Flynn or anything about Flynn. He is saying that.


LEMON: Do you think there's a strategy behind this complete 180, Renato?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don't. I have to tell you I was in the studio a couple weeks ago when Mr. Giuliani was interviewed on New Day and I have to say I thought he was just winging it there. I think he was winging it on "State of the union." I think he is winging it on ABC in that earlier clip. Rudy Giuliani is not acting like an attorney who is representing a client in an important case. If one of my law partners was representing a client in a case like this much less the President of the United States, they would prepare for hours for an appearance on CNN or ABC news.

They would be very careful and thoughtful and precise about their words. That is how any competent lawyer would act. Giuliani in my opinion is not acting as a lawyer, he is acting as somebody providing a distraction who's probably not even fully briefed by the legal team, who's just going out there and spouting words. And I think he is really doing damage to his client, because we're all taking this seriously and dissecting what he says, but there's really no strategy that comes from contradicting yourself using imprecise language and making news yourself. He shouldn't be the news. His client and their legal strategy should be the news and they should be very careful on how they advance forward.

LEMON: Is it possible Jack. Is it possible, that Giuliani is giving Mueller a reason to demand that the President testify in order to clarify this?

QUINN: Excuse me, yes. Well, he is not intentionally giving Mueller a reason, of course, but Donald Trump can clear this up by testifying under oath. There's no doubt about that. I suppose one could also say that the Giuliani strategy here is to sew confusion. Although it's hard for me to see how that makes a great deal of sense here. You know, I can't disagree with Renato. I think he is kind of winging it and he forgot what he said previously.

LEMON: So, James, I mean, we now have Giuliani's word against Comey's word. Who is more credible?

GAGLIANO: Well, I have to have my criticism, I had been very vocal in my criticism of Director Comey and his leadership. I have no reason not to take him on his word. I think what troubles me with the former mayor, with Rudy Giuliani, he was an outstanding United States attorney for Southern District of New York. He was an outstanding by all accounts. Mayor of the City of New York especially during 9/11. Where he has turned it to now these new political service he roll. To my two colleague's points there, I mean I don't understand it. It's incoherent. It's rambling. And if he is trying to be crazy like a Fox, he is got a lot of us befuddled this out, this could possibly be making the president's case better for a while.

LEMON: James, thank you very much. I appreciate your time. Everybody else, stick around. When we come back Paul Manafort could face life behind bars if he is found guilty of all the charges against him. So will the former Trump campaign chairman take the stand in his own defense?


LEMON: Prosecution resting its case in the Paul Manafort trial. Today special counsel's Mueller team wrapping up 10 days of testimony from 27 witnesses. The big question tonight, how will Manafort's team respond?

Well, Renato Mariotti, Jack Quin are back. And joining us now, CNN National Security Analyst, Juliette Kayyem.

Welcome to the program, Juliette, good evening to you. So I am going to start with you. Prosecution is now done presenting its case, 18 tax and banking crimes. What's your take on this? Did Mueller lay out a strong case?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: They did lay out I think a very strong case of sort of essentially fraud across the board or criminal enterprise that Manafort had created and had a number of witnesses who basically were willing to say, yes, we assisted him in this effort. I thought the other was interesting thing was at the beginning of this trial, Trump was barely mentioned and the judge did not wanted that to be the case.

Remember this is part of the overall, you know, Mueller investigation into contacts between the Trump administration and Russian influence. By the end of these last couple of days Trump and the Trump White House have been mentioned much more in particular sort of wheeling and dealings that were going on between in one particular case a bank official who allowed a loan whose boss wanted a job of secretary of the army or even Secretary of Defense at one stage.

So, I think they've made a strong case. I think the likelihood of Manafort testifying is as great as the likelihood that Trump is going to talk to Mueller in the first place, which I always put at zero percent at this stage.

LEMON: So, Renato, well, what do you think? What can we expect from the defense? Is there any chance that they're going to put Manafort on the stand?

MARIOTTI: There's a chance just because they are in a tough spot and there's a school of thought amongst defense attorneys that if you're going down you might as well throw a Hail Mary. That is basically the only strategy by which this would make sense.

[23:15:05] He has way too much to explain away. And the problem is when you put a defendant on the stand like that, it turns the trial from a focus on whether the prosecution can prove its case to the question of whether or not you believe that guy. And it's just hard because he is got a lot of evidence to explain away.

So I don't think they'll do it. I think we'll have a very short defense case, where they put on two or three witnesses and call it a day, you will see them to try to put on surrogates from Manafort to tell a story, put in some exhibits of -- put in what they can and that is it.

LEMON: Jack. Why do you think Manafort seeing? You say you believe that Manafort's team is playing for a pardon. Why is that?

QUINN: Because the evidence here is really of two kinds. One, the papers. I mean he is accused of bank fraud and lying to the banks in connection with all these loans and tax fraud. So the evidence there are his tax returns. Those papers don't themselves lie. They lied to the people who received them, of course. And then the other set of witnesses are the people who are eyewitnesses to the preparation of those documents and their fraudulent nature.

He can't, I don't think, offer up witnesses to rebut what the prosecution has put forward here. I honestly -- I can only explain their carrying out their defense in this case by one strategy, and that is to ultimately get a pardon. And I think that, by the way, his taking the stand now would damage that strategy not enhance it. And I totally agree that what's going to happen now is a very, very short, if any, defense.

LEMON: Julia, I want to get now to the former Trump senior aide, Omarosa Manigault Newman. Recorded a conversation in the White House, in the situation room the Chief of Staff John Kelly's firing of her last January. From a security perspective, how is that even possible?

KAYYEM: Well, because security in most of these instances is based on trust and it's self-executing. In other words, you are a senior official to the President of the United States. Not to Donald Trump, but to -- and you represent our interests, yours and mine. The safety and security of this nation. And so there is embedded in that apparatus a sense that the person who passes security clearances is self-correcting, knows that the vulnerabilities of bringing in an unsecure phone into a secure room creates a vulnerability for not just John Kelly and Omarosa, but others who may be in the room or wherever her phone may go.

So on the security side, you know, there's no patting down. You just assume senior members of the White House are invested in our safety and security. So that is the specific piece. The larger piece is what, you know, in the corporate world we call, you know, having a security culture. In other words, that comes from the top down. And what we've seen since the day Donald Trump has become President whether it's the unsecure phone that he is tweeting from or the briefing that he does in the Oval Office. with Russians, there's no security culture in this White House. And so what she did may be shocking, but it's -- it's consistent with sort of a lack of interest in protecting America's secrets.

LEMON: I want to read this tweet from the President. He says whacky Omarosa already has a fully signed nondisclosure agreement. So, Jack, the White House in the past has denied that they made people sign nondisclosure agreements, but Kellyanne Conway yesterday said everybody in the White House signed one, and now the President has confirmed it on Twitter. Is this common?

QUINN: No, it's not at all common. I think I'd dare say it's unprecedented at least to my knowledge. And I'd also say those nondisclosure agreements for the most part are not worth the paper they're written on. You know, the government can restrain somebody from revealing information in very narrow circumstances, obviously classified information, certain other really --

LEMON: Got it.

QUINN: Information that deserves to be protected, but as a general rule you cannot -- you cannot prevent government employees from talking freely particularly after they leave government employment.

LEMON: Renato, listen, I have to go now, I have to give you a short trip. Do you think it's enforceable, an NDA like this?

MARIOTTI: Not at all. There's a lot of court cases that determine that.

LEMON: Thank you all. I appreciate your time. When we come back Stormy Daniels' attorney says he is thinking about running for President in 2020. Michael Avenatti is here next. I'm going to ask him what he thinks makes him a qualified candidate. 2


LEMON: Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels says he is thinking about running for President in 2020. Listen to what he said this weekend in Iowa.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIEL'S ATTORNEY: What I fear for this Democratic Party that I love so much is that we have a tendency to bring nail clippers to a gunfight. Tonight, however, I want to suggest a different course. I believe that our party, the Democratic Party, must be a party that fights fire with fire. When they go low I say we hit harder.


LEMON: Michael Avenatti joins me now. Michael, good evening to you. Thank you for joining us. I mean, that was you in Iowa this weekend. So let's get right to it. You're a brawler. Everyone knows that, but what makes you qualified? What makes you a qualified candidate for President of the United States?

[23:25:12] AVENATTI: Well, Don, I think there's a number of things that make me qualified. Number one I'm smart enough to know that there's a reason why god gave me two ears and one mouth, and that is to actually listen to people. And I think that that is a problem this President has. He doesn't surround himself with the best people, because they don't want to work with him because he doesn't listen to people. He doesn't listen to the experts as it relates to defense or policy in the Middle East or economic policy. He just runs off half- cocked.

So number one I think I'm a good listener, number two, I think, I have the intelligence to do the job, number three, I think, I'm a good communicator, and number four I've been battling goliaths on behalf of David's in my entire legal career, and I've tried cases all across this country involving very complicated issues, arguing constitutional issues, immigration issues as you know, economic issues. I'm a student of the Supreme Court and a student of the law.

LEMON: OK. Let me ask you, because you were known, you came to fame, right, recently because you are Stormy Daniels' attorney, but what else in your background of you pointing to when people ask what makes you think that you could be President?

AVENATTI: Well, I've been practicing law for 18 years and I've got over a billion dollars in verdicts and settlements representing again, David versus goliaths, Don, across this country. I've dealt with a lot of complicated issues, a lot of legal issues that have touch on issues that are facing our society today.

You know, one of the things that people really need to understand is what's at stake in 2020. If Donald Trump is re-elected our Supreme Court is going to go to 7 to 2. And that is going to usher in profound change in the United States not for five years or ten years, but 30 years or more. It's a really big deal. And whoever is elected in 2020 needs to understand those decisions relating to the Supreme Court and the decisions that come down each year from that court and the profound impact they have on America.

LEMON: OK, I understand that, but like the President you also you've never run for political office. Haven't we learned from the current President that you actually do need some political expertise to be a good President?

AVENATTI: No, I don't think that is what we've learned. I think we've learned that we elected a man that did not have the intelligence, the values, the backbone, the listening skills to be President of the United States. That is what we've learned. And none of that has to do with political experience, Don. Had we actually elected a man that had the necessary attributes, it wouldn't have mattered whether he had celebrity status or whether he was a reality TV star.

LEMON: Yes. Well, you probably not going to like these comparison, but I mean, this weekend in my conversations with people they asked about you, because they saw you on CNN this week, and they were asking what do you think, what do you think, that is what they were asking each other. And some were saying, well, it's the same, he is Trump on the Democratic side. What do you say to that?

AVENATTI: Well, I'm not Trump on the Democratic side. I mean, I think that, you know, obviously the President and me, have an ability to work with the media and use the media from time to time to get our message out. I don't necessarily think that is a bad thing. But we may have some foreign similarities, Don, but I'm a man of substance. I am man of law, I am a student of the law. If you look at the speech that I gave on Friday, you know, I'd love to see the President give a speech like that with that depth.

I think I'm far more intelligent than the President. I don't think there's a lot of comparisons, frankly, between the two of us. And I'll tell you I've got a lot more heart and a lot more compassion than this President. I'd never separate children from mothers at the border. I want to engage in a number of things that this president has done. He has brought embarrassment to the United States of America and it's time that we restore respect to the office.

LEMON: Well, he ran on immigration, OK, and it seemed to work for him. So what's your signature issue? Do you have one?

AVENATTI: Well, I was asked that the other day and I'm going to repeat my answer. My signature issue, Don, above all else is the truth, period. I mean, we need to get back to the truth in government, disclosing honestly what has happened. This President has avoided accountability for too long. My signature issue is the truth, whether it's foreign policy, domestic issues. I'm going to be releasing in the next two to three days a position paper that is going to outline my position on a number of issues. And look, at the end of the day, we are going to have a process in the event that I decide to run there'll be a process where voters will decide whether they agree with me on the issues, whether they believe I am confident or not and all ultimately it will be up to them.

LEMON: you want -- you say -- you and I over the weekend, you wanted to see and hear what was on voters' minds. What did you see and hear and were they receptive to you?

AVENATTI: I was very humbled Don, by the out pointed support that I got in Iowa. It far surpassed my expectations. It was one of the most humbling experiences frankly of my life. I think that people in the Democratic Party are hungry for a fighter. They understand what's at stake in 2020.

I don't know yet whether I'm that man or woman, but it's clear to me the Democrats are going to need a fighter in 2020. You can't put a normal politician up against this guy and expect the result to be any different than it has been before.

LEMON: Stranger things have happened to me. People underestimated Trump in 2016 and 2015, and then now you. You say don't underestimate you.

AVENATTI: Well, people have underestimated me before in my lifetime and that really hasn't worked out too well for them. But, look, I'm still in the process of deciding what I'm going to do. This is a very complicated decision. It's not a decision that I make lightly.

I'm going to go to New Hampshire, I'm going to travel around the country, I'm going to seek input from people, and then I'm going to make a determination as to what I'm going to do. And it's also going to have a lot to do with who else steps forward in the Democratic Party. We have got to nominate somebody that can beat this guy.

LEMON: When you come back, let's talk policy. When you have your -- when you put your policy position. Let's come back and then we'll talk policy. Thank you.

AVENATTI: I would enjoy that. Thank you.

LEMON: When we come back, white nationalist rallies this weekend were dwarfed by counter-protesters, but how many of their ideas are gaining traction in Donald Trump's America?


LEMON: So only about two dozen white nationalists gathered in Washington, D.C. Sunday for a rally that they billed as a sequel to the deadly clash in Charlottesville a year ago. They are outnumbered by counter-protesters. But if their movement is fading, some of their ideas may be gaining traction.

Let's discuss now. Adam Serwer, who writes about America after Charlottesville in The Atlantic. He is a senior editor, where he is a senior editor there. Good evening. Thank you so much.


LEMON: "The White Nationalists Are Winning." It's a very well-written article and everyone should read it.

SERWER: Thank you.

LEMON: Let's talk about this with this rally this weekend in D.C., passed without any major violence although there were some attacks by Antifa in Charlottesville. Has America changed since the events last year, you think?

SERWER: I would say that the white nationalists movement in the United States has suffered significant logistical setbacks in terms of there's a lot of infighting, a lot of the organizations that they set up aren't doing very well and obviously they weren't willing to unite behind Kessler and show up in D.C. in force this weekend and they almost never are because in their imaginations D.C. is still back in the '80s and they're scared to come here.

But as far as, you know, their ideas, they've very much helped inject this theory of sort of "demographic panic" into the Republican Party, where the mere presence of people of color in the country particularly due to immigration regardless of whether it's legal or illegal is somehow threatening to, you know, white Americans simply by their mere presence.

LEMON: Yeah. At the same time as this rise of the alt-right which is really white supremacists, we're hearing Fox News hosts strike the same tones of racial anxiety and white panic. I mean, this is just some of what we have seen on the air since Trump took office. Watch this.


LAURA INGRAHAM, TALK SHOW HOST, FOX NEWS: In some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love, doesn't exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people.

TUCKER CARLSON, CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FOX NEWS: Latin- American countries are changing election outcomes here by forcing demographic changes on this country at the rate that Americans voters consistently say they don't want. No nation, no society has ever changed this much this fast.

INGRAHAM: Now, the price they have to pay for multiculturalism is the risk that you're working on the sidewalk and a man will -- or a woman will purposely mow you down.


LEMON: So, is it a victory for white nationalists that this kind of rhetoric is beamed into millions of homes every day?

SERWER: Yes, and they'll tell you that. I mean, I think David Duke said that Laura Ingraham's monologue about demographic change was one of the most important things that's ever been in the mainstream media. I mean, when they're saying demographic change, that's code for brown people. They are saying there are too many brown people coming here, there's too much change, this is our country.

And when they say "our" and "we," they mean white people. They don't mean the rest of us who are just as American as everyone else who happen not to be white. So when they're echoing this kind of -- this rhetoric of "demographic change," they are saying in a more polite way exactly what the people in Charlottesville are saying when they're chanting things like "you will not replace us."

They also chanted "Jews will not replace us," which is anti-semitic for obvious reasons, but they all said "you will not replace us." That's important because what they're talking about is they're talking about the changing demographics in the country. And what you see when you turn on Fox is you see similar sentiments expressed in a much more polite way. But that's what they're saying. LEMON: I want to put up this poll. This is a new poll from CBS and it shows that 83 percent of Republicans approve of Trump's handling of racial issues. I mean, this is after Charlottesville, the NFL player protests, the S-hole countries. I mean, his base likes this rhetoric. What does this say about the Republican Party, though?

SERWER: Well, look, partisanship means that most of the time except under extremely bizarre circumstances, most people under a particular party are going to agree with the president from that party.

[23:40:05] But I think it does tell you something very important, which is that there is this argument that is sort of, you know, Americans kind of -- Republicans held their noses and voted for Trump despite, you know, his statements on race, not because of it, because they cared about judges or they cared about abortion or they cared about taxes.

And they really didn't like the race stuff but between him and Hillary, you know, they had to do it. And what these polls show you is that actually they do like this stuff. They like it when he attacks NFL players for protesting police brutality. They like it when he talks about how, you know, his Muslim ban should be stronger and should be "the real thing."

They like it when he talks about immigrants "infesting" the United States. They like that stuff. And this idea that they don't like that stuff and the only reason why they voted for Donald Trump is because he represented a chance to enact some of their policy priorities is simply incorrect or incomplete.

LEMON: With that said, there's a study published by the National Academy of Sciences earlier this year and it showed that it wasn't economic anxiety that turned voters to Trump in 2016 but fear of losing their place in America particularly among white Christian male voters. Is that the same feeling that brings these white nationalist ideas to the mainstream?

SERWER: I think it's part of it. I think it's important to say, you know, there are lots of people who struggling economically, but how you understand your economic struggles is really important. There are a lot of people who are struggling economically and they don't think that the problem is that there are too many brown people coming here or that, you know, this black person in their office got promoted ahead of them or whatever.

It depends on how you see you're suffering, the prism of ideology, how it tells you about your own story. And in this case, you know, these people who, you know, whether they're suffering economically or not, they heard that the solutions to their problems that Trump was offering that were often based on discriminating against religious and ethnic minorities, and they said, you know what, that will probably help me.

And, you know, that simply can't be, you know, waved away by saying that wages haven't risen in a long time. There's much more going on there than that. LEMON: I mentioned your article, "The White Nationalists Are Winning," and this is a part of the piece that you wrote. It had been a year since Charlottesville.

You said, "American history is replete with tragedies that are epic in scale, but few are comparable to what has happened to the party of Lincoln. There is no reason that this new generation of immigrants cannot become loyal Republican voters, much as a previous generation of despised foreign newcomers did."

So, do you think the GOP out on these new Americans forever?

SERWER: Well, I can't say that because, you know, you never know what is going to happen. I mean, if you look at the Democratic Party, mid- century, the Democratic Party had a lot of really hardcore racists in it, and they became the party of civil rights over time. So I think, you know, nothing is set in stone.

I mean, the Republican Party was the party that gave us the 14th Amendment that basically, you know, made it so that people who were born here who were not white to be American citizens. And, you know, now their representatives are sitting in the White House talking about how immigration is "infestation."

I mean, you know, parties change, people change, politics change. I don't know what's going to happen in the long term, but I do know that previous Republican presidents like Reagan, like George W. Bush, tried very hard to court the Latino vote often to, you know, to great political success.

What's happened now is that they're saying that, you know, their vision of citizenship simply doesn't include these people and that's why they're not going to work hard to earn their loyalty or earn their votes.

LEMON: Adam Serwer, thank you for your time. Appreciate it.

SERWER: Thank you. >

LEMON: Yeah. When we come back, the shocking truth about who white nationalists really are and why they may be closer to home than you think.


LEMON: So you may be shocked to learn who the white nationalists of the so-called alt-right really are. My next guest has spent the past year finding the people who marched in Charlottesville. Here is a clip from PBS Frontline "Documenting Hate: Charlottesville," streaming online now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Michael Miselis is a Ph.D candidate at UCLA and hold a government issued security clearance for his job (INAUDIBLE) defense contractor, Northrop Grumman. A.C. THOMPSON, CORRESPONDENT; PROPUBLICA AND FRONTLINE: Hey, Mike, how are you doing? ProPublica and Frontline. I want to talk to you about what you're doing in Charlottesville last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry, I don't know anything about that, man.

THOMPSON: But you were there, you are on camera, you are on photos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I think you got the wrong man.

THOMPSON: Hey, do Northrop and UCLA know you're involved with The Rise Above Movement?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): We identified Michael Miselis in a follow-up story. And the next day, Northrop Grumman announces its taken action and Miselis is no longer an employee.


LEMON: A.C. Thompson, a reporter at ProPublica and correspondent for Frontline, joins me now.

A.C., thanks for coming on. Powerful piece of work there. Some of the folks who were at Charlottesville had normal jobs. They come from all walks of life.


LEMON: What does your work reveal about the people who join or either start these hate groups?

THOMPSON: You know, I think there's a misconception among still a lot of people that the white supremacist movement is made up of rednecks, they are kind of long heads (ph) or not particularly intelligent or within the mainstream of society. I don't think that's right at all. The young men who are in the movement, though I detest their beliefs, I would say a lot of them are very bright.

[23:50:01] They tend to come from middle class or upper class families, tend to be well-educated. In my research, we found many members of the movement who are current or former U.S. military.

LEMON: Yeah.

THOMPSON: As well as guys like Mike Miselis who is an engineer, a Ph.D.-level engineer working at Northrop.

LEMON: I want to play one of these things because you tracked down a white nationalist who was in Charlottesville, who was an active duty marine. You spoke to him over the phone. Listen to this.


THOMPSON: Hey. It's A.C. Is this Vasillios? UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Yeah.

THOMPSON: I know that you told me that you weren't in Charlottesville but I have found photos of you there and messages in different Discord chats when you're talking about assaulting people and assaulting Emily Gorcenski.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): None of this comes out. And a few years from now, I will help you with your career. I can answer other questions that you want to know.


LEMON: So, what happened to him after your conversation?

THOMPSON: So, he was eventually court-martialed by the U.S. Marine Corps and sentenced to 30 days in the brig, broken down in rank, and then ousted from the corps.

But I think what's concerning about Mr. Pistolis is what we learned in our reporting, is that the corps had been tipped off to his violent white supremacist activities six months before we ever published this story.

And so it's not clear that they thoroughly investigated him and they definitely didn't court-martial him immediately after getting that report.

LEMON: Why so many -- you said there were members who were active duty. What do you think -- what happened? How does that happen?

THOMPSON: You know, I mean, it's important to note that the vast bulk of U.S. Service members don't want anything to do with this ideology. But there seems to be a hardcore who are attracted to the sort of paramilitary outlook of some of these groups, the idea that they are soldiers, but they're soldiers against the government.

They're soldiers for a sort of race war. And I think that may be the attraction. You have soldiers who say, oh, I'm frustrated, I'm angry, I'm upset with the politics, I'm going to join up with this group that's doing the same thing that is working as basically a paramilitary and sort of live out my soldier fantasies with that.

LEMON: Because of your reporting, a number of these people have been outed, right, and they lost their jobs.


LEMON: Do you think that's the best way to fight this neo-Nazis, alt- right racism?

THOMPSON: For me, that's what I'm going to do as a journalist. But I think everyone, whether we are working in media or whether we are just private citizens, residents of this country, we need to figure out how we are going to struggle. For me, I think that we need to put a name to these folks and expose sort of the fact that they are deeply embedded in the fabric of our society.

LEMON: The Unite The Right rally in D.C. on Sunday was attended by only about two dozen people. Why do you think that rally fizzle out?

THOMPSON: The first thing is what Adam said earlier. People don't support Jason Kessler anymore within that movement. People are not fans of his. But more deeply, the movement has gone in three different ways in the last year. There are people that have left the movement because of stories like the ones that we've been doing.

There are people who say, hey, we're not going to have public rallies anymore because we just get resistance. We're going to do flash mobs, we're going to do guerrilla banner drops and posters.

And then the third group are some of the people I have been reporting on as well who say, we're going to do terrorism, we're going to go underground, and we're going to do terrorism.

LEMON: Yeah. On the one year anniversary of the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, the president tweeted that he condemns all types of racism, no outright denunciation of white nationalists or neo-Nazis. How are white nationalists reacting to that tweet and the president's response?

THOMPSON: I think it's important to note that over the last two and a half years, the white supremacist movement has embraced the president and it 2didn't embrace previous candidates and presidents. You know, major office candidates, Republicans and Democrats, they did not embrace those people.

Trump is a break from that. They have absolutely embraced him in many ways. They take his statements, they take his tweets, they take his antics and attitude as a sign of support for their movement. He says that he does not support their movement. But definitely within the ranks of the white supremacist scene, there is a sense that he is someone who is supporting what they do or believe in what they do to a certain extent.

LEMON: A.C. Thompson, thank you for coming on. I appreciate it. Good work.

THOMPSON: Thank you very much.

LEMON: So, before we leave you tonight, we have some sad news to report.

[23:54:59] Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, is in hospice care at her home tonight. The 76-year-old legend is an 18-time Grammy Award winner and was the first woman inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame. Aretha Franklin has performed at the inaugurations of three presidents, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush.

Aretha, we love you. We are thinking about you. We are praying for you and your family. So, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family tonight. [24:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)