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White House Drafts, Documents Demanded By Trump To Silence Critics, Could Be Released As Distraction From Unfavorable News; Ex- Intel Chief, Trump Trying To Stifle Free Speech; Is Manafort's Judge Influencing Jurors; Who Is The Real Melania Trump?; President Trump Denies Using The N-Word; President Trump's Tribute to Aretha Franklin; CNN Heroes: Poetic Justice. Aired 11p-12m ET

Aired August 17, 2018 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: This is "CNN Tonight." I'm Don Lemon. It is just a little past 11:00 here on the East Coast. Live with all the breaking news for you.

The White House has multiple documents ready and waiting for the President's signature. Documents revoking the security clearance of more critics President Trump wants to punish. In effect, his enemy's list. That is according to the "Washington Post," which reports Trump wants to sign most if not all of those documents, but his communication staff, well, they want to time the release of the documents to distract from news that is unfavorable to this President.

So, here we go again. Distract and deflect. It is no coincidence that this news comes as 60 former CIA officials are warning the President that the country will be weakened if he continues his efforts to silence his critics. I am going to talk to one of those officials coming up.

So, I want to bring in now, CNN global affairs analyst, David Rhode and Kimberly Dozier, and also David Priess, former CIA intelligence officer who signed the letter rebuking the President. He is also the author of the "President's book of secrets." Good evening to all of you. Thank you for coming on.

David, I'll start with you. I want to talk about the 15 former intelligence chiefs. They came out against this President, his decision to revoke John Brennan's security clearances. And now, you're one of 60 former CIA officers who have done the same thing. And the letter reads, in part, our signatures below do not necessarily mean that we concur with the opinions express by former Director Brennan or the way in which he expressed them.

What they do represent, however, is our firm belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views. Why is it so important for you, David, and your fellow CIA officers, to send this message to President Trump?

DAVID PRIESS, FORMER CIA INTELLIGENCE OFFICER, AUTHOR, PRESIDENT'S BOOK OF SECRETS: Well, it is not sending a message to President Trump as much as it is sending a message to the American people and, frankly, to the current officers in the intelligence community, law enforcement, the military, diplomatic officers. People who are still serving the country. That we understand the tension that is going on now. It is not about the security clearance of John Brennan. He doesn't need it. He doesn't particularly want it.

It is not about what he said or the way he said it. Some of the signatories on that list, diametrically opposed to some of the ways that John Brennan has been out talking publicly. But that doesn't matter. It is irrelevant. The point is, he was giving political speech. The first amendment kind of covers that. And a national security tool, the security clearance, which has never been politicized before, is suddenly being used as a tool to either stifle dissent, because that is really what John Brennan was doing. He wasn't violating any security regulation. He was simply speaking out against the President.

And, possibly, to silence others. Possibly even including people inside the intelligence community and the government now, from speaking out. Those are dangerous precedents. And those are things that, yes, are bad for the country. We're worried about that. But, frankly, it is not good for the President himself. He should stop doing this and stop inflicting damage on his own interests.

LEMON: Kim, do you think President Trump is setting up the intelligence community as the enemies?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, CNN: Well, the officials that I've spoken to, current and former, what they're worried about is that this sends a message to anyone who is currently in government, be careful what you say on your Facebook page, what you tweet, if you oppose the President. You may find yourself out of a job. You may find your security clearance, which normally you'd only lose for something like abusing classified information, sharing it with a reporter and getting caught, or alcoholism, something like that. But now, there is this brand-new reason that could jeopardize your job. And that is a chilling message for everyone doing the job.

[23:05:05] LEMON: David Rohde, you know all these officials are standing up for freedom of speech, but I'm wondering if, by doing so, they're inadvertently giving Trump the ammunition to say, look, all these people -- these are all the people who are against me. I told you so.

DAVID ROHDE, GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, CNN: This plays into his narrative, that this is a deep state that is out to get him. I just -- I had a personal interaction with John Brennan, you know. One of the narratives the White House is pushing, that Brennan was spreading the dossier, selling the president before the election, a month or so before the election. I interviewed John Brennan and asked him -- I had a dossier, many news organizations did, and I said, will you ALLEN: about this stuff, will you confirm any element of it? And John Brennan refused to do that. He actually warned me to be very careful in the last months before the election to not print sort of wild allegations against Donald Trump or against Hillary Clinton. He was not spreading the dossier. That is a false narrative.

LEMON: I want to follow up on that. Because 75 former top intelligence officials who sign these letters, they served under Democratic and Republican administrations. Do they strike you as particularly partisan, people with agendas?

ROHDE: They don't. There were problems, I think, pre-Watergate, was something with the CIA did and some things the FBI, but there were massive reforms there. Congressional oversight. And the system is professional. What I hear from intelligence officials, that the problem is politicians. Politician's sort of exaggerating intelligence. Politicians, you know, spreading conspiracy theories. They say now Donald Trump is the source of this.

LEMON: And these former intelligence officials, and David, you can follow up here, but they're not sharing national secrets on television when they come on as commentators. They're simply giving analysis. And so, this whole idea that they, because they have a security clearance, that they're somehow sharing security secrets with the world is just false.

PRIESS: No, the security clearance that most of these officials have, at least the former Directors and Deputy Directors, and I don't know all of them still do, but to the extent they do, it is to ease the conversations that they may have with current officers. If they're brought in to review a case or review a file, to help the current leadership think through something. One of the really hard problems. It makes it easier for them to come in and do that.

Instead of the current Director having to use discretionary authority to allow them to seek classified information without a clearance, which is harder. I want to go back to something David said, which I think has been left underexplored in this in the last couple of days.

People don't understand just how a political the intelligence community is. I worked side-by-side with many of the authors and signatories of yesterday's letter, of the leaders, and today's letter of a wide array of people from across the CIA, from every Directorate. And I got to tell you, I never knew the Party affiliations of the people that sat next to me when I was working with them. We simply didn't talk politics. It wasn't part of the job. We checked our politics at the door. We left the politics to the politicians, and we did our job.

Now, I found out later that some of them were die hard Republicans, die hard Democrats, die hard socialists, die hard libertarians. OK. They were all just doing their job as intelligence officers. It is a different world than the political world that most of the people talking about this on Capitol Hill and in the administration are talking about.

There's some level of misunderstanding about that. That is part of what we were doing by writing this letter and signing it today, is to say, let's keep national security objective and apolitical and stop playing political games with things like security clearances that have never been politicized before. LEMON: It is a deep dive, a deep emersion into this administration,

if you watch, into crisis management. Because it is one crisis after another. And then they figure out how to spin that crisis. Oh, this works great for the base. And then they spin that. It is a good lesson for anyone who wants to go into crisis management. Study this administration.

OK. Let's talk about the "Washington Post" report that Trump has drafted, documents revoking the security clearances of current and former officials who he has deemed to be punished for criticizing him. One White House official is telling the "Post" that Trump wants to sign most, if not all, and he has even discussed optimum times to release them as a distraction during unfavorable news cycles. How concerning is this?

DOZIER: Well, some of the officials who were on that initial list, like General Hayden the other night told a public crowd that, you better tell me secrets now, because I'm about to not be able to listen to them. What he could be doing, the President, by widening the aperture and stripping clearances for more people, is setting himself up for a possible challenge in court.

National security lawyers I've spoken to are divided on this. Some say he is safe under his article II powers, but others say his powers under the constitution are governed by the whole constitution. So he is setting himself up to be challenged in court. Is he guilty of overreach, and is he trying to deny people their first amendment rights?

[23:10:08] Now, if that goes to the Supreme Court, and you've had Kavanaugh appointment by then and you have a mostly conservative court, he will probably win, but there is a possibility that the court could rule against him and check his powers.

LEMON: Interesting. David, retired Admiral William McRaven who led the Bin Laden raid, he came out and he defended Brennan in an open letter, telling Trump to revoke his security clearance, too. I just want to play this powerful part of Admiral McRaven's 2014 commencement speech from the University of Texas. Watch this.


WILLIAM MCRAVEN, RET. ADMIRAL, LED BIN LADEN RAID: If a shark begins to circle your position, stand your ground. Do not swim away. Do not act afraid. And if the shark, hungry for a midnight snack, darts toward you, then summons up all your strength, and punch him in the snout, and he will turn and swim away. There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim, you will have to deal with them. So if you want to change the world, don't back down from the sharks.


LEMON: Smart man. Basically, he is saying, what you do with a bully is, you stop him and punch him right in the nose. He walks the walks the walk and talks the talk, doesn't he? ROHDE: He does, and that is amazing. This is the man that led the

raid that killed Osama bin Laden. And he is being denigrated by the President of the United States. It is extraordinary. It is -- again, the intelligence agencies aren't perfect, but my experience matches what David was saying. These are mostly apolitical people who are trying to do their jobs, whether FBI agents or CIA officers. And they're frustrated, again, at the political class, which is sort of hyping intelligence, underplaying intelligence, and spreading the conspiracy theories for sort of a quick political gain. It is insulting to them. I've heard this privately, and now it is coming out publicly.

LEMON: It is insulting to most of America, as well. Thank you, all, I appreciate it.

When we come back, jurors in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort wrap their second day of deliberations today without reaching a verdict. But are the usual actions of the judge, unusual actions of the judge influencing the jurors? The unusual actions. I'm going to ask a former federal judge next.


LEMON: Jurors in the trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, the chairman, Paul Manafort, wrapped their second day of deliberations today without a verdict. They'll be back on Monday. There are concerns that the unusual behavior of Judge T.S. Ellis may influence jurors. I want to bring in now Michael Moore, a former U.S. Attorney, also Nancy Gertner, a former Judge and Harvard law professor. Good evening to both of you.

We will get to the Manafort stuff, Michael, but I want to ask you about the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller's recommending six months in jail for former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. They say he made false statements to them about a man, wanted in their investigation which allowed him to leave the country. So, what do you make of this?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR GEORGIA: You know, it's been interesting to see what kind of plea recommendations the Special Counsel's office would make. I'm not surprised at all, certainly in an investigation like this, that they're sending a message they will not tolerate somebody obstructing the investigation. That is essentially what they're saying.

LEMON: Is this standard?

MOORE: Well, for lying to an officer or a federal agent, sure. It would be normal at some point for them to ask that there be some jail time. It sends a message to the court, but also send a message to each person that is down the road that has yet to be interviewed by the officer.

LEMON: All right. So, Nancy, let's turn now to the Manafort trial. In your piece for the "Washington Post," you write this about Judge T.S. Ellis, and you said, during the trial, Ellis intervened regularly, and mainly against one side, the prosecution. The Judge's interruptions occurred in the presence of the jury and on matters of substance, not courtroom conduct. He disparaged the prosecution's evidence, misstated the legal theories, and even implied to prosecutors had disobeyed his orders when they had not. How unusual is this kind of behavior in court? And is the prosecution saying anything about it, complaining about it? Do they have any repercussions?

NANCY GERTNER, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: Well, it is very, very unusual. I mean, most of the time, we're all admonished to be fair, to be impartial. If you have something to say to one side or the other, you excuse the jury. You know, most of what you have to say during the course of a trial is, move the case along. You know, this is -- you're repetitive. You're not saying, I don't believe in your legal theories. You're not saying, you're asking the wrong questions. You're not saying, you disobeyed orders of the court, when they didn't.

The problem here is that the prosecutor really has no recourse during the trial. If Manafort is acquitted, then the prosecutor -- there is no appeal. Double jeopardy stops any further proceeding. If Manafort is convicted, what -- the judge's tilting against the prosecutor would have made no difference. Because the defense can't possibly argue that hurt them, when it clearly helped them. So the government has no recourse, which is what was troubling to me.

LEMON: Interesting. And Michael, no one can say to this Judge, listen, Judge, act like a Judge and not like an activist?

MOORE: You would hope that when he took the bench, that that was his intention. I mean, you know, every lawyer just wants to try his or her case.


MOORE: You have great respect for the judge to be able to move the case along. It is fine. I have no qualms with that. What I do have, and I agree with my judge friend here, you know, you don't need a judge comment on things about the merits of the case in the presence of the jury.

LEMON: Especially having to apologize. Because he had to apologize at one point, that he berated prosecutors and he had the wrong information. He was wrong. The question is, is that going to stick with the jury?

MOORE: Well, it is like trying to un-blow the foghorn.

LEMON: Right.


MOSBY: It is out there. They've heard that. It is a lot like telling somebody, the defendant doesn't have to take the stand. That is great to tell them that. That may be the law, but guess what? When they don't take the stand in the back of the jury's mind, they're thinking, why didn't they get on the stand and testify? It is just a fact. It is out there, and they can't pull it back in.

[23:20:11] LEMON: How much influence Nancy, do judges have on jurors? Go on.

GERTNER: They have enormous amount of influence on jurors. I mean, most of the studies, it is very -- I mean, I knew the influence I had on jurors. Because they would come afterwards and thank me for, you know, guiding them, giving them instructions, you know, helping them out, making sure people ended the trial when they were supposed to.

But in studies that were done on judges' subtle cues, the kinds of subtle cues that judges did, usually anti-defendant, it made a difference. So, one can only imagine what less than subtle cues, the kinds of overt statements that this guy is making, can do to the jury. It could have -- it certainly could backfire. But more often than not, it actually affects the jury. Because it legitimizes one side rather than the other.

MOORE: That is right.

LEMON: President Trump is weighing in on the trial today. I want you guys to listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't talk about that man. I don't talk about that man. I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad. When you look at what's going on, I think it is a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time. But you know what? He happens to be a very good person. And I think it is very sad, what they've done to Paul Manafort.


LEMON: So, he says he doesn't want to talk about the pardon for Manafort, but is he laying the groundwork for one of his -- the groundwork with his comments, Nancy?

GERTNER: Well, I mean, he could be laying the groundwork for a pardon. A pardon is actually quite complicated. Because a pardon would relieve Manafort of any legal jeopardy and would therefore make him oblige to testify. So pardon is actually really rather complicated in this situation. The worst situation is even though the jurors are not supposed to be watching television, watching this program, if it gets back to them what the President said, it is unbelievably -- I mean, it is outrageous that he would have commented on a pending case in this way. That is flat out wrong.

LEMON: I mean, do you actually think the jurors don't do that? They're told not to, but I'm just saying. I don't know. It's hard to avoid sometimes.

GERTNER: Right. I was a defense lawyer for many years and then a judge. You'd be surprise how seriously they do take.

LEMON: Not saying they don't take it seriously. But sometimes it is hard to avoid. I mean, if you're in the Walmart and there is a TV section, sometimes it's on the news. If you're riding in the car with someone, or even if you are just listening to the radio at the top of the hour, they're like, oh, here's the news at the top of the hour. I'm just saying it is hard to avoid sometimes.

GERTNER: Well, it is hard. And they turn on their computer, and they wind up with a news feed.

LEMON: Right.

GERTNER: Certainly it is. But what I found, that there is a lot of times, jurors would come to you and say, by accident, I read the headlines.

LEMON: Right.

GERTNER: That said something about what they were trying to do. Surely, it's become harder and harder to be able to do it.

LEMON: So, Michael, Monday will be day three of jury deliberations.

MOORE: Right.

LEMON: What does it mean for the prosecution, if they deliberate for several days?

MOSBY: You know, this was a complex case. Paper cases are. There were about 18 counts they were charged with. And I think the jury is probably taking its time to look at the indictment and try to match what evidence they heard in the trial with the charges laid out before them in the indictment. I don't think a three-day delay is any particularly long period of deliberation, especially in a case like this. It is rather complex.

I mean, you don't have jurors who are tax accountants or tax lawyers on there who are familiar with things like shale companies, reporting requirements and that type of thing. And so, I don't think there is a great, great bit of emphasis we ought to place on the fact they've been out three days. There was an enormous amount of evidence in this case to prove Paul Manafort guilty.

I still expect that he'll be found guilty. You may have somebody in there hanging up, you know, with one of the questions about reasonable doubt. Makes me think that there could be somebody in the jury room saying, I don't think they proved or disproved all possible scenarios. Sometimes, they'll ask for a recharge on something like reasonable doubt. So, you know, we'll see after Monday. If I were Paul Manafort, I wouldn't be packing up my bunk in the federal pen right now, ready to head home.

LEMON: Thank you, both. And Michael, you didn't mention Little Loisy (ph) this time.

MOORE: Well, I would say that I am not sure that the Judge would be good traffic court judge, in Little Loisy (ph) Georgia. Even with the kind of conduct that he has had on the bench there, so. LEMON: You got it there, Mike. Nancy, it was a pleasure, thank you.

You both have a great weekend.

GERTNER: Nice to meet you.

MOORE: Good to see you, Don.

LEMON: When we come back. Who is the real Melania Trump? We are going to dig into all the times the first lady stood by her husband and all the times she definitely did not, next.


LEMON: The first lady is rarely seen in public these days. Even when we do see her, she almost never says anything. So, I want to bring in now CNN political contributor, Maria Cardona, political commentator, Alice Stewart and contributor, Kate Anderson Brower, who is the author of "First Women, The Grace And Power Of America's Modern First Ladies." Good evening to all of you.

So, let us talk about these piece. A piece in the "New York Times," Kate, it is called "Melania Trump, a mysterious first lady weathers a chaotic White House." And she talks about -- she is kind of (inaudible) because we don't really hear that much from her. What do you think?

KATE ANDERSON BROWER, AUTHOR: I thought some of the key points in that story, that I loved, was that, you know, she picked out furniture for the residence, and that is always the purview of the first lady to do so. And Donald Trump decided that he didn't like what she had picked out. He wanted something much more ostentatious, you know, gold and you know, over the top.

And then, it looks how she kind of stakes her ground and holds firm. I mean, there were times when, for instance, when she said, CNN was on Air Force One, and President Trump was upset by that. Her spokeswoman said she'll watch whatever she wants. So, I think she picks and chooses her battles.

LEMON: That is what I wondered. There was that, there was the Air Force One thing, Alice, when she said she'll watch whatever she wants. There was the jacket thing. There was the time were she praised LeBron, and her husband had not. I am just wondering, is she standing up to what -- things she really disagrees with?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. I think the key point is that, look, she walked into this marriage with eyes wide open. She knew exactly what she was getting into. And it is weathered the 13 years of the scandal plague marriage, but she did not run for president.

[23:30:04] But I commend her for the job she's doing as first lady and speaking out, being an independent voice and standing her ground, mostly for children, whether it is going to visit the children at the border that are victims of the family separation policy or speaking up for Lebron James and, in turn, you, and the work that Lebron is doing for children, and also the "Be Best Movement" that she's doing to help anti-bullying on the internet. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with her husband.

LEMON: With her husband, yeah.

STEWART: But she is really standing up and being an independent voice, fighting for children.

LEMON: Do you think she stands up enough, Maria?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't. And while I want to think the best intentions that she may have, for example, going to the border and wearing a jacket that says "I don't really care, do you," while I think that that was her trolling her husband, how childish?

LEMON: Childish.

CARDONA: Exactly. How childish do you have to be? And how much of a prisoner do you have to feel in your own house, that that's the only way to send a message to your husband, when you are going to the border to visit mothers and fathers who have been separated from their children?

I have a word for Melania Trump, and I just think she has been completely and will continue to be inconsequential, which is I think sad because to Kate's book's title, she could have a lot of power.

LEMON: Yeah.

CARDONA: But I think she chooses not to use it. But at the same time, she is somewhat of a victim because Donald Trump, he over -- you know, he overruled her on the furniture. I mean, come on.

LEMON: Here's the thing. I want to get to the other women in the White House real quick. But Kate, I heard someone say this, you know what, wow, you know what, maybe you're right. They said, she would be become the most powerful, modern first lady if she actually left this president.

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, AUTHOR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, it would be transformative for the world because it absolutely never happened. And I think people would feel it was empowering, you know --

LEMON: Almost a Princess Di kind of thing. You know, when she got the divorce and everyone fell in love with her because, you know, the rumors of cheating with Camilla and all of that stuff.

ANDERSEN BROWER: Yeah. That's when she became her own person.

LEMON: That's when she became her own person. Go on. Sorry.

ANDERSEN BROWER: Right. A lot of people thought Hillary Clinton should have done that, too, right? I mean, there would be something liberating about seeing a woman do that, especially in this case. But, I think going to Maria's point, she doesn't have people around her advising. She doesn't have enough people advising her. She has the smallest staff. And so like that jacket incident, it completely -- it overrode what she was trying to do and it was a really bad move and --

LEMON: She had lots of public sentiments but that -- she lost a lot of support.


LEMON: It undermine her -- it undermine her credibility. Go ahead, Alice. I got 20 seconds, Alice. Sorry.

STEWART: I think one of her priorities is being a good mom and creating a good, safe environment for their son, Barron. I think she's doing a tremendous job at that. And part of that is being present with him and keeping things stable. That includes staying married to her husband and providing a good, safe environment for him. And you can't ask for anything more than that.

LEMON: All right. I wanted to talk about Kellyanne and Omarosa but because I never get much air time and people don't discuss them a lot --


LEMON: -- they're not getting it tonight. We'll have to do it another time. Thank you, all. We'll be right back.


LEMON: Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman claims the tape exists of President Trump using the N-word during filming of "The Apprentice." The president denies it and slams Omarosa as what -- these are his words, wacky and deranged.

But incredibly, the press secretary Sarah Sanders said this week, she cannot guarantee that there isn't a tape of Trump uttering that word. I want to talk about that with John McWhorter, a professor of linguistics at Columbia University, who is the author of "Words on the Move." The professor.


LEMON: Thank you, sir.


LEMON: Let's talk about this. President Trump claims that the N-word is not in his vocabulary, but you say when he is calling people the N- word, he is doing it by implication.

You write in The Atlantic, you said, "With the case for Trump's bigotry so clear, what sense would it somehow be a key revelation, that he has used the N-word? In what sense is his using that slur proof of anything but what we've know all along? Given what his views clearly are, wouldn't it be a little odd if he primly refrained from using that word in his private moments?

So, talk about it. You said, why shouldn't it be an ah-ha moment for us?

MCWHORTER: Well, it is very simple. With all of the things that he said and all the things that he has implied, what would be a surprise? Is it that person didn't also use the word? So everybody has to understand. I'm not saying he said all of these things that implied it, and now ha-ha, he used the word. It's that I've always just assumed it is kind of like, dah, dah, dah, what's next?

LEMON: Yeah.

MCWHORTER: Why would there not be the dah? And so to say, oh, we got a tape of something surprising is rather ridiculous because all of the things that he's done are -- especially if you're thinking about somebody of his demographic, of his times and of his attitude, the sort of things where if you've gone through a life as a person of any color who has experienced people of various colors and the words people use when the cameras are off, of course he's used the N-word.

LEMON: And you don't have to say the word to treat people that way?

MCWHORTER: No, I mean, really, frankly, he's used it roughly once a week ever since he's been in the public eye as supposed a president.

LEMON: Let's induce some of the language he's used towards minorities. Watch this.



[23:40:01] They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

We have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her "Pocahontas."

Look at my African-American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest?

I would like to have him show his birth certificate. If he can't, and if he wasn't born in this country, which is a real possibility -- I'm not saying it happened. I'm saying it's a real possibility.

His wife -- if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably believe maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.

You had some very bad people in the group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you racist?

TRUMP: I am the least racist person that you have ever met.


LEMON: OK, so, you listen to that language, right? You know he kicked off the week by calling Omarosa a crazed lowlife and a dog. It is one thing to, you know, to use these insults against African-Americans, but to call a black woman a dog. But if you look at that, is it ignorance? Is he ignorant of the fact, clueless? He's unapologetic.

MCWHORTER: Well, he doesn't understand how repulsive that kind of objectifying language is in general. And once again, smoking guns are difficult in our times when we have learned to be polite about certain things. For example, it is interesting, he calls somebody a dirty name almost every day. But if you look at the sorts of names that he uses, it is a little suspicious who is dumb.

You, Don, of course, are supposedly a dummy. Lebron James has always struck me as thoroughly bright. He is not smart. Maxine Waters, you know, she is definitely colorful. Is she dumb? You know, Omarosa, she doesn't strike me as unintelligent. But somehow again and again, with the black person, it ends up being about lack of smarts.

He thinks that black people in general are less intelligent. And you can deduce that from this tendency. And so it just what it comes down to his that he's easy -- very quick story. I was about 18 once and a very Trump-esque guy, somebody who could have played him on TV, I was working a summer job with them.

And when I was out of the earshot, he said to the other guys, all whom were white, well, it is OK, niggers can't read anyway. Now, he also said about a month later in a whole different conversation not knowing that I heard him say that, that he didn't have a, quote, unquote, racist bone in his body.

So a person who says that can be also be somebody who uses words like that in the background. I just think that Trump is similar because I'm a human being and I draw patterns. But the thing is, even if somehow he never used the N-word which he absolutely did, still, he uses it all the time. It is the thoughts that count, not some six-letter word.

LEMON: It is the experience of probably every person of color, having experienced someone to say, oh, I'm not racist. I'm the least racist person you know. And then they exhibit racist tendencies or say things in private that you may overhear. You go, well, that's obviously proof of racism right there.

Here's what you write as well. You said, "To claim that this man can penetrate my soul and self-esteem by doing something as effortless as uttering a single word also entails portraying myself as easily vulnerable to him. I don't want to be vulnerable to him. I'm not. And I would hope other black Americans would join me in that." Explain that.

MCWHORTER: Oh, yeah, that is another part of it. Let's say that we really do actually hear him on tape using it. The problem with the ah- ha is, that I, myself, am not hurt. The reason I'm not hurt is because if he does that, then he proves himself to be in that regard lesser than me in terms of his civic engagement and awareness.

And frankly, I don't want to portray myself as vulnerable to him. I'm going to make sure Donald Trump cannot hurt me, and I want every black person in the country to join me in that. Do not have it be that the utterance of some word makes you fall apart. If you're going to fall apart, fall apart about his general thoughts, about his general attitudes --

LEMON: Policy.

MCWHORTER: -- passing these things on to children and others. But with that one word, no, I am not vulnerable to him, and I want other people of color in America to join me and not be vulnerable. Who cares if he used the word? Nevertheless, he has disgusting thoughts. Those things should be engaged. We ought to watch how they spread to the rest of the country. Besides, he did use the N-word.

LEMON: Fascinating conversation. I want to keep this going, John, so stay with me. When we come back, I want to talk about how the president managed to find exactly the wrong way to pay tribute to Aretha Franklin.


TRUMP: I want to begin --



LEMON: President Trump outraged friends and fans of the late Arethan Franklin with the way he chose to pay tribute to the Queen of Soul. Back with me now, John McWhorter. So, John, I want you to listen how the president paid his respects to Aretha or tried to.


TRUMP: I want to begin today by expressing my condolences to the family of a person I knew well. She worked for me on numerous occasions. She was terrific. Aretha Franklin, on her passing. She's brought joy to millions of lives, and her extraordinary legacy will thrive and inspire many generations to come.

She was given a great gift from god, her voice. She used it well. People loved Arretha. She is a special woman. So I just want to pass on my warmest best wishes and sympathies to her family.


LEMON: What kind of -- she worked for me. What kind of mindset?

MCWHORTER: I mean, frankly, he made her into (INAUDIBLE). You get the feeling that wasn't on the little card in front of him. I mean, I don't know if we necessarily have to racialize it. I'm kind of guessing here.

[23:50:00] But right there, he put her under him.

LEMON: That's exactly --

MCWHORTER: She worked for him.

LEMON: Can I jump in? Because it's not -- even if someone does work for you, if they pass or something terrible happens to them, you don't say they work for me. It's not necessarily racialize but --

MCWHORTER: Basic human euphemism.


MCWHORTER: You talk about what they did well, whether or not they were it in your service. You talk about what a good singer she is. You don't say that she was my subordinate. That's showing his world view where he is on top of everything else. It's almost as if politeness for him is to talk about somebody being lesser than him without being mean about it.

LEMON: I wonder if this is consistent with his language, his demeaning language about women and minorities. She never worked for Trump. She did perform at several of his hotels including the Trump Castle and the Trump Taj Mahal. But is that consistent with his demeaning language about minorities and women?

MCWHORTER: Very much so. And so he thinks of himself as above or likes to think of himself as above. What's it all about is whether or not he is in power, whether or not he is calling the shots, whether or not he has had the last word. And so that means that he is demeaning about everybody.

But that doesn't get him out of the well of whether or not he is racist, because the issue is that he has different kinds of slurs for different sorts of people. He might call a white man short, for example. Little Marco or something like that.

There is a difference between calling somebody short, I can think of three men he has called short, and calling somebody unintelligent or referring to someone's menstruation as he did with Megyn Kelly. These things are worse. They can be ranked. It's clear that he has a hierarchy. Man are on top and people of color are on the bottom.

LEMON: You know, his comments set him apart from other tributes, these comments that he made. President Obama called Franklin a glimpse of the divine. Bill and Hillary Clinton wrote, "She was elegant, graceful, and utterly uncompromising in her artistry."

Why can't he join other Americans in praising the singer that way and praising Aretha Franklin that way because she performed at the White House for different administrations. No one who sent out a tribute to her said, she worked for me at the White House, she worked for me at the Kennedy Center. You know what they are saying? MCWHORTER: Yeah, you know what, it brings out something else about Trump, which is that I have never seen him express any kind of artistic appreciation and I don't mean that he is supposed to be talking about Dega (ph) and reading Faulkner. I have never seen him express any kind of joy in pictures, any kind of joy in music.

I imagine he has mentioned movies but I imagine they would be, you know, ones like "Top Gun." He seems to be pretty numb to be artistic. And so I don't get the feeling he understood what was great about Aretha Franklin.

I think that he thinks that she's some woman who sang kind of loud and yes, I think he thinks she is a woman who sang kind of loud and is black and what's the big deal and here I have to say something. I imagine he heard "Respect" and would tap his foot, probably on one and three, but it's really not what he does. There is no art in the man.

LEMON: Listen, I would ask you a question. What would you like to see and hear from this president to reach out to the black community? I just -- I mean, I'm being honest. Do you think he is actually capable of that?

MCWHORTER: Well, you know, remember that he said, what do you have to lose? He's going to do something for the black community and what he did for the black community was Ben Carson who is frankly a nice man who is in over his head and I don't see any stick-to-itiveness (ph) on this. I expect nothing from him on the black agenda because he doesn't have the scope.

And frankly, I think he doesn't think very much of us. And I know all the hate mail I'm going to get from saying that, but frankly, I deduce that from the things that he says because that's what human beings do, we generalize. I don't think he likes black people very much. And so I'm just waiting for next president.

LEMON: He's got Ben Carson and (INAUDIBLE).

MCWHORTER: Yeah, he's got them. The African-Americans.

LEMON: The blacks.

MCWHORTER: We got to get to another president. That's what we got.

LEMON: Wow, OK. Thank you, John.

MCWHORTER: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: We'll be right back.


LEMON: The state of Oklahoma has the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate for women in the United States. And that has been true for more than 25 years. Well, this week's CNN hero is giving some of these women a voice and the power to heal themselves. Meet high school English teacher Ellen Stackable. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came here when I was 20. I have a 30-year sentence. After I hit the yard and I kind of got a taste of what prison was, it shocked me that I was here. There is a lot of feelings in prison. You don't get to feel them. You are not a person and your feelings are not valid.

ELLEN STACKABLE, CNN HERO: Many of the women incarcerated have been victims of some kind of abuse. We provide a safe place for them to overcome trauma and pain. So it is so much more than just writing. It becomes a therapeutic way for healing to occur.


LEMON: CNN was able to get extraordinary access for the story. You can go inside Mabel Bassett Correctional Center and hear more from these incredible voices at

Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.