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President Trump Upset with Don McGahn's Interview; Trump Boasted that He Could Run Mueller's Probe; President Trump Compliments Border Patrol Agent, Overshadowed by a Racist Comment; Just How Worried Should President Trump Be? Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 20, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] (JOINED IN PROGRESS)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: I don't try to control the narrative. And if you deny what we know happened you may be lying. And if you don't agree with it you may be materially misrepresenting.
That's tough to handle especially for someone like Trump, and that's what his folks are worried about. Not what will be done to Trump but what will he do to himself when he's confronted by smarter people who are motivated to show that he has lied and falsely disparage the special counsel.
That's my closing argument. Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: You're probably younger if you remember this. Do you remember the show, well, I don't tell you the name, but it was just the facts. Just the facts. Dragnet.
LEMON: Dragnet show Friday, right? Played by Jack Webb who created the show.
CUOMO: Well, look, when you're in these settings it's not just the facts. It's going to be how they present them to you in the form of a question and how you answer and how they feel about your answer and what it goes to your state of mind. It can get complicated.
CUOMO: But what I'm saying is, Don, you and I have heard this man before he was president and as president so many times, if you've got nothing to hide, sit and talk. Don't plead the fifth. Don't duck it. That means you're lying.
LEMON: If you plead the fifth you're guilty. The fifth. Remember he said if you plead the fifth you're guilty. So.
CUOMO: Time to man up then if that's what he thinks.
LEMON: Time to man up. Just the facts. See you soon. Thank you, Chris.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
President Trump admitting tonight that he is worried if he talks to Robert Mueller under oath what he says could be used to bring perjury charges against him.
Here's what Reuters is reporting. They're saying the president fears Mueller's team could compare his statements with those of former FBI Director James Comey and any discrepancies could be a perjury trap. That's what it says.
Well, the president is saying, quote, "even if I am telling the truth that makes me a liar. That's no good." Sounds an awful like what the president's attorney Rudy Giuliani said as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he's going to tell the truth, that he shouldn't worry, well, that's so silly because it's somebody's version of the truth, not the truth. He didn't have a conversation about--
CHUCK TODD, HOST, MSNBC: Truth is truth.
GIULIANI: No, it isn't truth. Truth isn't truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But then Giuliani later tried and failed to clean up the mess of his own making claiming that sometimes further inquiry can reveal the truth. Other times it doesn't. But his is far from the first time the president's attorney has tried to claim that truth isn't truth and facts aren't facts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: If fact counting is anything we've never had anybody with the level of mendacity hat he has. Not even closer. But we'll leave it there--
GIULIANI: It's in the eye of the beholder.
CUOMO: No, facts are not in the eye of the beholder.
GIULIANI: Yes, it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Chris is exactly right. Facts are not in the eye of the
beholder. Facts are not in the eye of the beholder. For example, there is the fact that Donald Trump, Jr. agreed to meet with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump tower in June of 2016 after he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Here's what Giuliani says about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: She didn't represent the Russian government. She was a private citizen. I don't even know if they knew she was Russian at that time. All they had was her name.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So, you didn't know if she was Russian. Veselnitskaya? Really? Come on, man. That is simply not true what he said, and here's the proof. The e-mail released by the president's own son from the publish for -- publicists for the Russian pop singer Emin Agalarov who set up the meeting.
And this is the quote, "The crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning, and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of the Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump. Helped along by Aras and Emin."
Well, then minutes later, Donald Trump, Jr. replied, quote, "If it's what you say, I love it."
So it's clear from the very beginning that the information offered to the Trump campaign was coming from Russia. And it was clear that the information being offered was dirt on Clinton. It's the first thing that he said.
Despite Trump junior's initial claim that the meeting was about the adoption of Russian children. That statement coming in a statement we've later learned was dictated by President Trump himself. After White House press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed that he didn't.
How did we learned about the president's statement? Well, his own attorneys acknowledged it in a letter to Robert Mueller in January. It's all right there in front of your face. It's all in writing.
[22:04:58] This is an administration that has tried to distract and deflect from the facts literally from day one when then press secretary Sean Spicer, remember, tried to claim that President Trump's inauguration crowd was the largest ever. And Kellyanne Conway doubled down on this classic alternative facts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: You're saying it's a falsehood and they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary gave alternative facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: You can't make this -- you can't make this stuff up. I almost -- almost said it. Then there's this from one of President Trump's attorneys, Jay Sekulow, claiming that facts develop.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: So I think it's very important to point out that in a situation like this you have over time facts develop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Excuse me. And President Trump himself, trying to tell you not to believe what you see with your own eyes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Just remember what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: All of this coming from a president who lies on a daily basis. According of our friends at the Washington Post President Trump has made well over 4,200 false or misleading claims in his presidency so far. An average of 706 per day.
And for anybody who's wondering why this White House, this president is so truth challenged, well the answer is pretty simple, President Trump wants you to believe that facts are fungible. He wants you to believe that truth is a choose your own adventure kind of thing because he can't explain away the following facts. OK?
So listen, write down if you have a pen, all right, if you have your phone on record it. OK. So the White House counsel Don McGahn sat down for 30 hours of interviews with Robert Mueller's team and the White House doesn't know exactly what he said.
The fact that in a matter of days the president's former attorney and so-called fixer Michael Cohen could face criminal charges related to possible fraud and campaign finance violations.
The fact that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is on trial on charges that could land him behind bars for the rest of his life if convicted, and the fact that so far the special counsel Robert Mueller has brought a total of 191 criminal charges against 35 defendants. There have been five guilty pleas.
Those are the facts. That is truth. And the president cannot distract and deflect from that. Facts matter.
Now I want to bring in a man who knows exactly what can happen when a president doesn't want you to tell the truth. CNN Contributor, John Dean was Nixon White House counsel. He joins us now. John, thank you so much. Good evening to you.
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: So the president called you a rat in a tweet today. If the president is watching--
DEAN: The current president.
LEMON: Yes, yes, the current president. So if he is watching right now and we know he likes to watch, how would you like to respond to him?
DEAN: I tweeted back to him that first I didn't think he really understood what McGahn had done or had not done. That became even more evident 48 hours after his initial tweet, he didn't have a clue what McGahn had done and he began worrying about it.
I'd also tell him I did not go to the prosecutors and testify without telling Nixon I was doing so. In fact, I listened to a tape yesterday where I'm talking -- John Ehrlichman, my predecessor of White House counsel, who was Nixon's top advisor told the president that I was visiting with the prosecutors and he was suggesting it was the smartest thing in the world for me to do and give an appearance of cooperation. Well, I didn't just give an appearance. I cooperated.
LEMON: Just so we get the facts right he tweeted you yesterday. I think I may have said it today, but it was yesterday. He tweeted that about you. And here's what he said. "The failing New York Times wrote a fake piece today implying that because White House counsel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to special counsel, he must be a John Dean-type rat." Rat in all caps.
"But I allowed him and all others to testify. I didn't have to. I have nothing to hide."
So, John, he's calling -- the president of the United States is calling you a rat. You're the guy -- by the way on the same day his wife is saying you know, you shouldn't be a bully on social media on the Internet -- who told the -- you're the guy who told the truth about the tapes and, you know, if they ever come out. What does that say about the president's frame of mind?
[22:09:57] DEAN: Well, it's more like a mob boss talking than a president of the United States. And that seems to be where his head is and the way he thinks and the kind of loyalty he demands is not what a president typically demands but what a mob boss demands.
He's complained about the way he's being handled with the Russia investigation. But I think the investigators have figured out they may be dealing with the mobster type president.
LEMON: You know, sources are telling CNN, John, the president is unnerved by McGahn's 30 hours with the special counsel and that he didn't realize the full extent of their talks. He should be unsettled, shouldn't he?
DEAN: He should be. And that was one of my lines in my tweet back to him. But the reason he should be concerned even though apparently McGahn's lawyer has assured them that McGahn did not incriminate the president, who knows what incriminates him.
And I'm sure they didn't put out a hard line on purpose so the man can keep his job and do the work he wants to do. But, yes, he's a very important witness. His testimony is almost contemporaneous with the events, and 30 hours is a lot of time to spend with prosecutors.
LEMON: And just to be clear about what you said, and just, John, sources telling CNN that McGahn did not provide incriminating information to the special counsel. Again, that's according to the Washington Post.
It's only this past weekend that McGahn's attorneys told the president's attorneys that he doesn't think he implicated the president. But isn't a major failure on the part of the president's attorneys that they weren't fully debriefed about the extent of these interviews?
DEAN: Well, it's kind of typical of the Trump White House operation, where they seem to botch and mess up everything. Normally that would have been the case. They would have said what do you have to say before he went over and heard his story, and then they would have debriefed him when he came back. That didn't happen.
LEMON: Yes. You know what you said, you know, since this has all been going really since he took office, that this president thinks that the White House counsel works for him personally, and that's not so, right?
Do you think it's finally clicking to the president that Don McGahn doesn't represent Donald Trump the individual but instead represents the office of the president?
DEAN: It might be starting to click if that's the case. This is one of the positive post-Watergate developments where the American Bar Association looked at all these situations particularly those that arose during Watergate and sorted it out and came up with rules on representation of organizations. It's rule 1.13, and that makes it very clear that McGahn's client is not Donald Trump. It's the office of the president.
LEMON: Yes. You know, I've asked you about this before, is history repeating itself. You said history didn't repeat itself but it often rhymes. So, John, I want you to stick around. We're going to talk about that.
Because when we come back, I want to talk about why John Dean says that unlike Nixon, President Trump won't leave willingly or graciously.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: John Dean is back with me. He knows about this. He has a little experience, a little experience with these kinds of issues. So John, there's also this eye-catching headline coming out of President Trump's interview with Reuters. He says speaking to Mueller's team could be a perjury trap. What's your take?
DEAN: Well, they are redefining a perjury trap by just being two differing witnesses and who are you going to believe? Really a perjury trap is a situation is where a prosecutor has no other charge to make against the person and brings them in and just keeps drilling them until they can find an error in their testimony and then use that. This is not that situation at all.
LEMON: I want to play something. This is from your Senate testimony 1973. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: What I had hoped to do in this conversation was to have the president tell me we had to end the matter now. Accordingly, I gave considerable thought to how I would present this situation to the president and try to make as dramatic a presentation as I could to tell him how serious I thought the situation was that the cover-up continue.
I began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency and if the cancer was not removed the president himself would be killed by it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So a lot of people, John, are looking back on your role in history. What parallels do you see now?
DEAN: Well, we certainly have many echoes. We have parallels in the Russia investigation, starts with a break in or a hack at the Democratic National Committee. Watergate got its name from a break in at the Democratic National Committee when it was located in the Watergate office complex.
And then if we go through what happened in the aftermath and what Watergate uncovered, the abuses of power and we're seeing similar kinds of abuses of power. Trump has only been there a short while and is as not as experienced as Nixon. I fear when he gets more experience it may get worse.
LEMON: Do you look back on that does that seem like someone else when you look at the tape, do you remember it, remember it vividly?
DEAN: Don, I remember the testimony, I remember the conversation. I didn't start meeting with the president until eight months after the arrest. And after he's been reelected, before that I had one meeting with Halderman on this subject with the president in September. But then he starts calling on me in late February of '73 and we have a number of meetings. And when I think I have his confidence I try to convince him that we've got to end the cover-up. That's the day I really met Richard Nixon. He didn't want the cover-up to end because he knew it implicated not only his top aides but implicated him as well.
LEMON: You know, Lanny Davis, you know, Lanny is the attorney for President Trump's former and long time attorney Michael Cohen, he's telling Politico that he's been reaching out to you regularly. Can you tell us anything about those conversations?
[22:19:57] DEAN: Yes, I can. I met Lanny during the Clinton-Lewinsky proceedings. We work for another network and we would spend a lot of time on the set or in the green room and got to know each other pretty well.
He has a son out here and he's check in over the years from time to time. And when he took on as a client, Michael Cohen, he had a number of questions to refresh his recollection he wanted to ask me about. And I was willing to share that with him.
He didn't indicate to me any of the testimony of his client or where he was going or what his plans were, but I was more than willing to share that history. I'm hopeful somebody like Michael Cohen can do what I did and explain not only any wrongdoing that was done by Trump but the atmosphere in which it happened.
And Nixon later said that was most damning testimony was when I put it in context.
LEMON: Interesting. Do you see Michael Cohen as a 2018 version of John Dean? Because you know, I'll put it up. This is what he told Politico basically saying he doesn't want to implicate that, you know, that Michael Cohen is involved n level as deeply as you are. You know, and it just goes on to say there are similarities. But do you see him as a 2018 version of John Dean?
DEAN: I don't know.
LEMON: Or Don McGahn maybe?
DEAN: Either -- for either one. Anyone that's going to follow what I did has to decide in their own mind that they're not going to try to hide their guilt and they're going to explain what they did and why they did it and testify honestly and be prepared to take the punishment.
That was the frame of mind I was in when I broke rank. And I also told my bosses exactly what I was going to do and that I would lie for no one.
LEMON: So, Lanny is, Lanny Davis, Cohen's attorney is speaking to you. Has Don McGahn ever reached out to you--
DEAN: No, he hasn't. LEMON: Or anyone affiliated with him?
DEAN: You know so he's the only White House counsel who's followed me I believe I have not met. I've never had a conversation with him, but as reported by "The New York Times" in the original piece he didn't want to have the same faith as my tenure as White House counsel was all to them.
And he must -- he must think -- you know he said he didn't in any way implicate or cause any problems for the president in his testimony. That raised a real question in my mind, why was he worried that he was going to be charged or scapegoat as the cause of obstruction of justice, if he wasn't worried there was some criminal activity.
LEMON: That he would end up being a figure like you. So, anybody else involved in this reach out to you that I failed to mention?
DEAN: No, they haven't. And Lanny is the only person I really know representing any of these people at all. I have not talked to anybody other than Lanny.
LEMON: John, we're going to keep you around because you have expertise and experience with these situations.
And when we come back, President Trump without irony says he could run Mueller's investigation, an investigation of his own campaign. What that says about the president's views of his powers next.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We have some breaking news now. A stunning statement from President Trump on special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Trump telling Reuters tonight "I decided to stay out of the Mueller investigation. Now I don't have to stay out. I can do, I can go in and I could do whatever. I could run it if I want."
John Dean is back with me, also CNN Global Affairs Analyst, Susan Glasser, staff writer for "New Yorker," and CNN Contributor, Frank Bruni of "The New York Times."
Good evening to all of you. So, Frank, the president of the United States suggesting that he could run an investigation into his own campaign. And it's only Monday. Welcome to Monday. What's he talking about?
FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, welcome to another week. Well, I mean, what I think -- I mean, you're asking me to decode Donald Trump again, and that's always a difficult thing. What I think he kind of means is that he through a series of events, through a chain of events he could make Mueller go away.
And I think he means is in a kind of Uber sense he has authority over the whole thing. But if he thinks he could and should run any mistakes the whole nature of an investigation. LEMON: Yes.
BRUNI: And I think basically we have Trump just spouting off some more words in frustration and anger and impatience for this all to be over.
LEMON: Susan, the president -- a president does have broad powers, but do you think he understands the -- how much power the -- how much executive powers, he has his own executive powers?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Look, I think that he is threatening the Mueller investigation with increasing intensity. You have him for the first time in his tweets in recent days personally attacking Special Counsel Mueller and calling him disgusting not just the rigged witch hunt investigation that's actually personally going after him.
He is still by the way going after his own Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He put, quote, "mark, around his so-called Justice Department in the recent tweet. And I think all of it is a piece where in recent days you really see the president's obsession growing so much with the Mueller investigation. Perhaps it's his own escalating sense of personal jeopardy.
You now have not only the White House counsel we talked about extensively cooperating with the Mueller investigation. We don't know what that means, but of course you have his own former personal attorney Michael Cohen in what appears to be increasing legal jeopardy.
At the same time his former campaign chairman is on trial on multiple charges, both this Alexandria case and there's an upcoming court case in Washington, D.C. So you have this sense of encirclement of Trump that maybe leading to this escalating tweets and threats against the investigation. That's the context that I look at it in.
LEMON: They certainly seem to be coming on a little bit faster and more furious. So John, I want to get to the president's tweet yesterday where he compared the special counsel investigation to McCarthyism.
And here's what he wrote. He said, "Study the late Joseph McCarthy because we are now in a period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby, rigged witch hunt." So many of the history lesson does it sound like?
DEAN: I don't think Donald Trump knows his history very well. This is real draw to find any comparisons between Joseph McCarthy and Bob Mueller. It just doesn't fit at all. He does, and his entire defense team -- I just talked to non-sequiturs, the business he could run the investigation, that's not true.
[22:30:07] I think he, the president does not control a grand jury. A grand jury is an independent body and that grand jury would toss him out if he tried to get in and tell them what to do. LEMON: Yes. Does the President really want the American people study
McCarthy? Frank had to ask you because I mean Joseph McCarthy was a demagogue. He relied on baseless allegations and I mean it was just...
BRUNI: That's a great question, Don, because the problem is if the American people studied McCarthy they'd say, wow. He bears a lot of resemblance to Donald Trump. No, I mean McCarthy and Mueller are antonyms. McCarthy's whole signature was to hurl accusations before he asked any questions, to do it without any facts. He was a showman who was always trying to pull the spotlight to him.
BRUNI: I mean if anything he's going on forever to make sure that he is getting all the facts. The accusations come after the research, not before. That's the antonym of John McCarthy.
LEMON: Yes. Susan, what do you think? Susan, let me ask you about because McCarthy's is lawyer is Roy Cohn, right? Eventually moved to New York, represented Donald Trump more than a decade, Trump praised him in the Art of the Deal in his book. Here's what he wrote. He said tough as he was, Roy always had a lot of friends, and I am not embarrassed to say I was one of them. So if the President McCarthy- ism is so terrible, why did he hire his lawyer?
GLASSER: Well, my guess is that Donald Trump learned a lot about McCarthy-ism from Roy Cohn, and he learned the techniques of McCarthy- ism. In some ways, you could argue that Trump is the most successful demagogue in American politics since Senator McCarthy. I think that, you know, he was once reported to be as close to Roy Cohn as if Roy Cohn was a second father to him.
And, you know, we see again and again interestingly right with Trump that this quality of projecting onto others, qualities that he himself has. Just last week remember when he withdrew John Brennan's security clearance. The stated reason by the White House was reckless behavior and essentially indiscriminate public commentary.
It really was a great example of this habit of projectionism, and to have Trump saying well we should study McCarthy-ism, it seems like actually that's what he himself has been doing in these exercises. It's a very elaborate, you know, sort of like sense inside once again, Donald Trump's mind. This Twitter feed is going to be studied.
I am convinced from generations by historians for who say we've just never had this unbelievable real time insight into this complicated, and at times, even bizarre rantings of the most powerful man in the world.
LEMON: I think if you -- you should probably do like a Trump -- what did you master in, what's your major, Trumpism?
LEMON: What does that say, projection? (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: I was writing that and Susan said it because he projects everything.
BRUNI: You can go through every single person. I mean, you know, Lying Ted, well, who lies more than Ted Cruz, Donald Trump. Crooked Hillary, who's more crooked than Hillary.
LEMON: Donald Trump.
BRUNI: It's almost like he's seeing versions of himself and attacking them, you know?
LEMON: What about that, John. I think Susan brings up a good point that I never though about that. His Twitter feed will be studied, especially as it relates to this case.
DEAN: I think it will be. And in fact, I understand that it's been considered as part of his Presidential record. And they'll be considered Presidential documents, no less. This may be the core of his Presidential library, which will be on the top floor of a casino, a library of tweets.
LEMON: Wow, John that was good.
GLASSER: More seriously --
LEMON: Go on, Susan.
GLASSER: Well, I was just going to say they've actually said that these are going to be evidence that the Mueller prosecution team is looking at, and, you know, we think of it as insight into his mind. But it's also, you know, potentially evidence in a criminal obstruction proceeding.
LEMON: Yes. Susan, I want to ask you about this again, because you're saying seriously and I wanted to get to this. The President also told Reuters tonight he would consider lifting sanctions on Russia if Moscow cooperates with the U.S. on Ukraine, on Syria. Is there any scenario where you would consider lifting sanctions on Russia is a good idea?
GLASSER: Well, Don, thank you so much for bringing that up, because I did think that was a very interesting argument. Once again, you have this head-snapping confusion in what exactly is the Trump administration's policy. On the one hand, they're bragging about the tough series of sanctions and the fact that the administration has enacted a series of tough measures.
[22:34:47] On the other hand, you have Trump who doesn't seem to be onboard with it. Still, in the immediate aftermath of the Helsinki meeting to suggest vague notions of what cooperation onto Syria would be. Again, the sanctions were imposed because of Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, the first illegal takeover of territory in Europe since World War II.
Russia is not backing away from that, and Trump appears to be de facto accepting the Russian takeover of Crimea anytime he's using sanctions as a bargaining chip, right? If he says well, you can do something else and get the sanctions lifted, so that would be basically exactly opposite to the policy that the entire rest of American government is following right now, so I thought it was a very significant statement (Inaudible).
LEMON: Yes. Hey, quickly, Frank, before I let you go. He also said -- the President also said that he would consider meeting again with Kim Jong-Un, because he said some great things are coming out of North Korea. Is he getting played here?
BRUNI: Which great things are coming out? Ever since that meeting, we keep hearing --
LEMON: The quote is a lot of good things are happening with North Korea.
BRUNI: Well, that's not what the reporting has been. That's not what people in his own administration have been telling journalists.
LEMON: Thank you, all. I appreciate it. When we come back, this is awkward. The President compliments a border patrol agent who saved 78 lives just last week for speaking English, perfect English, really?
[22:40:00] LEMON: President Trump honoring agents of ICE and Customs Border Protection today, but the ceremony was overshadowed by this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Adrian, come here. I want to ask you a question. So how did you -- come here. You're not nervous, are you -- speaks perfect English. Come here. I want to ask you about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Oh my, gosh. Here to discuss, two CNN Political Commentators, former Trump campaign advisor Steve Cortes, and Amanda Carpenter, Former Communications Director for Ted Cruz. She's the Author of "Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us." They speak English perfectly. Amanda, why does President Trump even need to say that this man speaks English?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean for one, we couldn't pronounce the guy's last name, which he has a Spanish surname. And I think it's obvious. He made an assumption based on the way the guy looks and the last name he couldn't pronounce. And said oh, what a surprise, he speaks English. And so this is just kind of like some drive-by casual racism.
LEMON: Steve, you don't agree obviously. Go on. You said it's not racist.
STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I certainly don't. You know what you're -- I think revealing both of you quite frankly on a lot of people on mainstream media who are such critics of the President, is that you are as humorless as you are biased against this President. You see racism there because you want see racism.
You come up with the conclusion first that he's a racist, and now you'll search fore evidence. It was very obvious to me that that was actually an endearing and whimsical moment. Of course, the President knows he speaks English. He is a federal U.S. agent. Of course, he speaks English.
LEMON: Why would he say that?
CORTES: Because he's also making a joke to put the man at ease, because he didn't know he was going to be coming to the podium --
LEMON: -- never have said that about anybody else, and to say that we call someone a racist and look for evidence, Steve. I mean come on, you know that's not true.
CORTES: Show some humor.
CORTES: I do know it's true. It would be funny if he said it to me. It's funny when he said it. It was an endearing comment.
CARPENTER: -- for a special moment, that kind of ruins it, don't you think?
LEMON: Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Let's hear about the moment and we'll talk about it. Hold on. Here's the moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went out there and ran the dog, conducted (Inaudible) search of the vehicle (Inaudible). And once again, the K9 alerted. And subsequently, I opened the latch of the back of the tractor trailer and heard a lot of subjects. I quickly asked for backup, and backup got there. And the subjects were transported back to the checkpoint and all of them were in good health.
LEMON: Wow, well, he seems like he did a really good there of explaining what happened, didn't seem that nervous to me. So this man saved 78 lives. And that story is getting lost because the President made assumptions about how he looks. And listen, I hear what you're saying, Steve. A lot of people go to the White House.
He's called people up. People have spoken. Do you remember ever hearing say oh, this person speaks English perfectly?
CORTES: No, I don't think he said that before. But look, I am glad too, that you got to meat of why this man was there, this hero was there. These people and the majority of border patrol agents are Hispanics. So our mainstream media tries to push this narrative that they're a bunch of racist people harassing brown people...
LEMON: That is not true. Come on, Steve.
CARPENTER: Let me go on record. This was a great event for the President.
CARPENTER: Steve, let me just get this in. Do the man the honor who serves our country in terrible, rough conditions to learn his name and maybe give him a heads up if you're going to have him speak. No one should be put in that position to be called up to the podium on the fly. I mean come on.
CORTES: The President does this all the time. He's not trying to be mean to anybody. He regularly calls people who don't think they're going to be. But Don, it is true by the way that people vilify border patrol and vilify ICE...
LEMON: You said the mainstream media vilify border patrol. That is just simply not true.
CORTES: Yes. OK, really, how about Michael Hayden tweeting out a picture of Auschwitz and comparing our border patrol and ICE agents to the Nazi SS.
(CROSSTALK) LEMON: What the context of that? What was the context of it? What was the context of it?
CORTES: The context of it was illegal border crossings by people with children.
LEMON: That was the families that were being put in cages and being separated at the border. No one has said that and no one talked about the ethnicity of the border patrol agents. No one said they were awful because they're Hispanic or simply because they were white.
[22:45:10] CORTES: Really? Actually yes they have, Don.
LEMON: And you're talking about one person. You're talking about one person who was -- I have not seen the mainstream media writ large do what you said. You just made that up.
CORTES: Well, I have. No, I didn't make it up, Don. Listen. You do on your show almost every night. You call the President a racist. So don't tell me this doesn't happen, all right. Any viewer knows it does. And speaking ICE, specifically, I wrote an article about this...
LEMON: I am not going to let you get away with that, because what you said is just not true.
CORTES: Don, you call him a racist every night.
LEMON: True. Well, would you like me to go through the evidence about his racism that you seem -- you can't see because you have these Trump blinders on, because you have Trump derangement blinders on? You can't see? Would you like me to start back from the 70s with the housing discrimination? You want me to start with the Central Park Five?
You want me to start with what he said about me, what he said about Lebron James, what he said about Maxine Waters, what he said about black people -- talk about his policies, how he's kicking people off from certain programs that have to do with healthcare, and that affects blacks and poor people. You want to talk about how he has no African-Americans, no black people who work for him in the west wing.
He has no black advisers. Would you like me to continue and go on about his racism?
CORTES: No, because by the way, none of that is proof that he is a racist. And I have told you that I think the west wing should have more diverse representation. I agree with you on that. So I'm not (Inaudible) who always defends the President, I'm not.
LEMON: When you say something, Steve -- I understand that. But when you say something completely wrong and you have no evidence to back it up. I've got to say so on the air. You have no evidence to back up that the mainstream media is somehow vilifying border patrol agents and people who work on the border. That is simply not true.
CORTES: You don't consider Hayden part of mainstream media?
LEMON: I don't know the context of his tweet, but that's one person. To say all of mainstream media is vilifying people who work on border is just completely false. It's something you would hear on the Trump News Network, not on this network. I haven't heard it on any other network.
CORTES: I don't agree. But also we can also go to elected officials if you don't want to talk media.
LEMON: That's not what you said. OK, and that's not what we're talking about.
CORTES: We don't want to debate that point all night. No, and I am not conceding that point at all, because I do think mainstream media absolutely demonizes ICE continually. For example, let me give you an example from just yesterday or...
LEMON: Let's not, please. Because we were supposed to be talking about Adrian (Inaudible) by the way, which is his last name.
CORTES: But you told me that I don't have evidence. I'm about to give you evidence.
LEMON: Because you don't have evidence.
LEMON: OK. Listen. I have got to go. We'll be right back.
[22:50:00] LEMON: All right. I am back now with Steve and Amanda Carpenter. I have to get to the break. I can't keep continue to go down rabbit holes, guys. Ok so listen. Amanda, we're going to let you talk this time. The President has tweeted about the Russia investigation 67 times this month alone. That's up 19 times from July. What does that say to you, if anything, about his mindset?
CARPENTER: I mean they're very worried and they're desperate to change the narrative and convince people that there is state coup (Inaudible). You can't trust anything the investigators find. And I think it's important that we remember what the focus of this investigation is, because it's really very clear.
Did the Trump campaign conspire with the Russians to use stolen information in the election? That's it. It's very clear. And from there, you ask very simple questions. How did the Trump Tower meeting happen? Why was Donald Trump talking, calling on the Russians to openly get into Hillary's emails during the Democratic convention?
Why did you lie about all these other meetings? And so I think as long as we keep things very simple and knowing what this is about, you can see how much President Trump is trying to muddy the waters.
LEMON: So Steve, the former Bush adviser Stuart Stevens points out that Al Gore's 2000 campaign received a stolen Bush debate book, but they turned it over to the FBI. And that information came from Texas, not a foreign adversary. So Rudy Giuliani going on saying that people do this all the time, he is wrong. This is not a normal practice in politics, is it?
CORTES: Right. Well, look. I don't know whether it was or not, but regardless, I think it was a mistake. And I said so many times that Trump Tower that Don Jr. and Jared had was clearly a mistake. Now thankfully, nothing nefarious came out of it, because there was no information exchanged, but they shouldn't have had that meeting in the first place.
I've been very clear about that. And at the same time, you know what else shouldn't have happened regarding collusion with foreign powers? Hillary and the DNC shouldn't have been paying Fusion GPS, British intelligence to use Russian intelligence to come up with a phony dossier, so that we also know happened (Inaudible).
LEMON: You know that was started by Republicans, right?
CORTES: In the beginning, yes.
CORTES: You're right, but that was very early on. And the vast majority of both the time and money was dedicated by the Democrats, not the Republicans.
LEMON: (Inaudible) it wasn't started by Hillary but it was started by the Republicans, right, and then continued on by Hillary Clinton, right, after Marco Rubio didn't get the nomination. OK, all right, Amanda?
CARPENTER: Well, it's just funny to watch Rudy Giuliani contort himself on the various Sunday shows and going to clean up mode to clean up his clean up, is really just mystifying. And really when you watch Rudy Giuliani, you have to ask yourself is he just blindly lying when he goes on TV, or does he actually know nothing about the case? He went on television and told Chuck Todd that there was no way, you
know, Don Jr. knew that he was meeting with Russians. That is baloney. You can go read the emails. Rob (Inaudible) told him twice specifically that he wanted to representatives in the Russian government. And you know what else? They had a Russian translator in the meeting.
[22:55:06] So if that didn't tell you were talking to the Russians, the translator sitting there maybe should have been a clue.
LEMON: I see (Inaudible) Steve didn't tell you. I mean come on.
CORTES: Listen. Again, I'm not defending the media, quite the opposite.
CORTES: Also, nothing came out of the meeting. And I believe the President when he tells me that he didn't know about it. So the fact that Don Jr. and Jared had a foolish meeting to me is really irrelevant to the President's culpability and certainly any legal jeopardy for the President in this whole mess.
LEMON: It's still illegal, though.
CORTES: Those are established facts.
CARPENTER: What Mueller's first indictment showed is that the Russians did commit crimes, the question what did the Trump campaign know about those crimes, did they sift with it, and...
CARPENTER: -- did they bring additional charges based on the crimes we know took place.
LEMON: I'm up against the clock. It's always fun with you guys. I appreciate it. When we come back, no doubt about it, the President is agitated, OK. So just how worried should he be that his own White House council spoke to Robert Mueller's team for 30 hours or more? That's on top of all the other legal issues swirling around him.