Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Tweets Well Into The Wee Hours As Fallout Continues After Michael Cohen Guilty Plea; National Enquirer Publisher, David Pecker, Granted Immunity; New York Tax Investigators Subpoenaed Michael Cohen In Trump Foundation Probe; The Tipping Point Of Trump Presidency; Time: Trump Is In Trouble; Trump Tweets False Conspiracy Theory Of South African White Genocide; Beinart: Why Trump Supporters Believe He Is Not Corrupt. Aired 11-12a ET
Aired August 23, 2018 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon, 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast, live with all the new developments for you this evening.
President Trump under mounting pressure as former allies abandon him. A fallout coming fast and furious as his former attorney pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and implicated his boss in paying hush money to a porn actress and playboy model who alleged affairs with Trump.
The President was awake in the wee hours this morning tweeting his favorite refrains about witch hunts and collusions. Well, today began with what appeared to be a counterpunching interview with his favorite network. While the questions weren't particularly challenging, the President potentially dug a deeper hole for himself legally. Contradictory statements, differing accounts of when he knew what, not to mention giving himself an A-plus as President.
Then things took a turn for the worst. Long suffering and frequently attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided he has had enough of the insults from his boss. He fired back. Saying the Department of Justice would not be influenced by politics. And then the President, well, his day got even worse with the news at longtime Trump ally David Pecker whose company publishes the "National Enquirer" has flipped.
Pecker reportedly kept, get this, a safe containing documents detailing hush money payments and damaging stories he killed due to his friendship with Donald Trump. Trump tellingly said this, that this morning he is seen flipping many times and he thinks it ought to be outlawed. The President is a man who, though, not exactly loyal, himself, demands absolute loyalty from his subordinates. He may not be able to count on that anymore. It appears to be bearing out right now.
Let's bring in Michael Avenatti. Michael is the attorney for Stormy Daniels. Good evening to you, Michael.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIEL'S ATTORNEY: Hi, Don, how are you?
LEMON: I'm doing well. Listen, let's talk about what the A.P. is reporting tonight that the "National Enquirer" kept a safe with documents on hush money payments and other kill stories that were damaging to Trump. Are you surprised by this?
AVENATTI: I'm not surprised, Don. You know, it's going to be fascinating when those documents come to light and we know it's only a matter of time before they do come to light. I think what we're witnessing over the last few days especially is that the criminal enterprise that Donald Trump managed for so many years and was at center of is quickly unraveling. And I anticipate it's going to pick up considerable momentum in the coming days and weeks ahead. I think we've already seen that just in the last 48 hours.
LEMON: What does it say to you that the government was willing to grant immunity to David Pecker?
AVENATTI: It's very interesting, Don, and I'll tell you the most interesting question is when that immunity was granted. Now why do I say that? Because if the immunity was granted before the government concluded that they had the goods on Michael Cohen. That is one thing. Meaning they would have granted the immunity so they could get to Michael Cohen.
If, however, the government granted immunity after they already had the goods on Michael Cohen, that is an entirely different story and it's fascinating if that is the case, because that would tell us that they're looking beyond Michael Cohen and the only person that I know they could be looking at beyond Michael Cohen would be Donald Trump.
LEMON: Interesting. So at one point, you said that you have been approached by other women, Michael, who claim to have affairs, have had affairs with Trump. So I got to ask you, would Pecker know if any other women had been paid off or other potentially damaging information about President Trump?
AVENATTI: Well, I think he does and I think he would. And I think that he would know certainly of any payments that were made to any such women by AMI or at his direction. This is not a positive development by any stretch of the imagination for Donald Trump. It's obvious to me that these documents that are being referenced would already be in the hands of government prosecutors and investigators, and, again it is --
LEMON: You think --
AVENATTI: -- only a matter of time.
[23:05:10] LEMON: There's a concern that, well, they're been moved and they may never be heard from or seen again. You think they already have?
AVENATTI: Well, I think they absolutely already have them unless they were destroyed before Mr. Pecker was granted immunity, but when the government grants immunity to someone, that is a big deal. The government just doesn't hand out immunity that easily and they would have required any such documents at that time to be turned over.
LEMON: Yes. So, I want to play something for you, this is what President Trump told Fox News about the crimes Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to. Listen to this, Michael.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What he did and they weren't taken out of campaign finance. That is a big thing. That is a much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign? They didn't come out of the campaign. They came from me. I tweeted about it. I don't know if you know, but I tweeted about the payments, but they didn't come out of campaign. Almost everybody that runs for office has campaign violations, but what Michael Cohen pled to weren't even campaign related. They weren't crimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: All right. So, sound like he is kind of admitting the cheating there, but, I mean, he says there weren't even crimes. What's your response?
AVENATTI: Well, he doesn't know what he is talking about. It is like almost everything else that comes out of his mouth. He is just flat- out wrong. The fact of the matter is, you cannot have the Trump organization entering into effectively a conspiracy with Michael Cohen, which also involved Donald Trump, to funnel this money in such a way where it hid from the American public as to where it went and what it was for.
The Trump organization could not make this payment or reimburse Michael Cohen for this payment without disclosing it. So that is first of all. Second of all, for them to pay over $400,000 to Michael Cohen for $130,000 payment, it seems very likely to me that the Trump organization probably deducted that on their tax returns as a legal expense, which opens up an additional can of worms and problems for the Trump organization.
But clearly, the President has no clue as to what the law or regulations around campaign finance are.
LEMON: I want to talk to you about "The New York Times" reporting, Mike, because I think this is very important, and "The New York Times" is reporting that the Manhattan D.A.'s office is considering criminal charges against the Trump organization. In connection with the Cohen case and here's what they're saying.
They're saying that two officials are also wrapped up in this hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. In a state investigation would center on how The Trump Organization accounted for its reimbursement to Michael Cohen for $100,000 that he paid to Stormy which you were alluding to about the taxes, right? So what's your reaction to this news?
AVENATTI: Well, again, I mean, here's what's going to happen. And it's no different than any other white-collar case. So the rats have already started leaving the ship. We know that. And this is only going to accelerate. The other individuals that touched these payments that face potential criminal liability, they, too, are going to be looking for immunity. They do too, are going to be looking for deals and they are going to continue to roll over on Donald Trump.
This situation is going to get a lot, lot worse for the President and it may never get better. I don't think it's ever going to get better. The President is in a lot of trouble. And we're going to seek a deposition of him as quickly as possible. We want to get his answers under oath and at this rate, Don, it would not surprise me if he took the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination in a deposition by me.
And imagine that. I think it would be the first time in history that a sitting President will have pled the Fifth Amendment in response to questions about his potential criminal conduct.
LEMON: Here's what you said, you said that you will be able in part because of what has unfolded over the last couple days you will be able to depose both Trump and Cohen in the Stormy Daniels case. I am wondering what information do you exactly want from them and why would you think that? Because, this is what our legal analysts are saying to me, Michael, they're say it's not clear yet, but a stay will be lifted in the civil case or that you will have the right to depose Trump. A court would have to weigh it, the burden to a sitting President. So why do you think you'll be able to depose them, what information do you think you'll be able to get from them?
AVENATTI: Well, first of all, I think the stay going to be lifted on September 10th or shortly thereafter, because the entire purpose of the stay as argued by Michael Cohen's attorneys to see what happened in the government investigation, the investigations basically over as it relates to Michael Cohen, because he just pled out two days ago. So that is why the stay is going to be lifted. As it relates to the depositions, we filed a motion and we've laid out our rationale. I think we're even on better footing now in light of Michael Cohen's admissions as to why we're seeking depositions first of Michael Cohen, and Donald Trump.
[23:10:00] I mean, these issues are at the center of our case. What the President knew, what the communications were between him and Michael Cohen, what they did to cover up the existence of the NDA and the payment? The flow of the money. There's a host of questions and issues that go to the heart of our case. And I'm highly confident that we're going to get a deposition of Michael Cohen. I think that is almost a certainty. 100 percent. I also believe there's a significant likelihood that we're going to follow that up with a deposition of the President.
LEMON: Michael Avenatti, appreciate your time. Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back, another big legal issue for the President, one that also involves three of his children.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: New potential legal trouble tonight for President Trump and
the Trump organization. Let's discuss now. CNN Legal Analyst, Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor and Areva Martin, author of "Make It Rain." Good evening to both of you.
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Don.
[23:15:00] LEMON: Renato, listen, I want to start with the breaking news about "The New York Times," tonight, reporting on the Manhattan D.A. Office is considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump organization and two senior company officials in connection with Cohen's hush money payments to Stormy Daniels. According to Times, a state investigation was center on how the company accounted for its reimbursement to Mr. Cohen, for the $130,000 he paid to the actress. How significant is this?
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: We, it is very significant, Don. Because, state crimes cannot be pardoned by the President. They can only be pardon by the New York governor. And I don't think Andrew Cuomo is going to go out of his way to pardon Trump's friends. So, very significant. These are not in their low -- they're lower-level crimes.
They are, I think one step above a misdemeanor, but it gives -- they have the power to subpoena documents, they have the power to subpoena witnesses. So we could see some very interesting testimony and documents coming out and it also just means that it -- this whole illegal mess has become even harder for Trump to control. Yet another power center that he has no control over and can't really do anything about.
LEMON: So, considering what he just said, because, Areva, talking state charges, President does have pardon power. Could that have any impact on what the Trump organization officials tell investigators, what they say to him?
MARTIN: Oh, absolutely, Don. We should expect that the Trump organization, they've got to answer to how is it that these phony invoices that we now learned about that Michael Cohen, you know, talked about, when he stepped into that federal court on Tuesday, these phony invoices that he sent to the Trump organization which we now know were actually the way that he was being reimbursed for that $130,000 payment. He didn't just get repaid the $130,000. He got paid over $400,000 because Trump in their effort to hide this, you know, settlement to Stormy Daniels actually paid him the taxes that he would have had to pay on $130,000 plus a bonus.
So this $130,000 becomes like $420,000 via these phony invoices. And I have to tell you, Don, you need more than a law degree to keep up with the legal woes and troubles of Donald Trump. I'm a Harvard trained lawyer and think I'm pretty smart.
LEMON: Areva, I'm going to let you finish. I was just sitting here thinking, like, I feel like the days when I would report on the mafia, trying to keep all of this straight. The language that is surrounding it, which court it goes to, which person is going to flip, who's going to become, you know, flip for the prosecution or defense and on and on. It is like, am I talking about the President of the United States, the person who promised to hire all the best people. The people who are leading this country. Go on. I digress. Sorry.
MARTIN: No, I'm just -- my sentiments exactly. This criminal enterprise is so massive and every day, there's a new inquiry that is open either by state prosecutors or federal prosecutors. So we're talking about the Trump organization. But we shouldn't leave out that the Trump Foundation, there's also an investigation into how the Trump Foundation has been run by Donald Trump in an actual lawsuit against Donald Trump.
The Foundation and his three children. Are on allegations are that he used that as private piggybank and money paid to the 5013c donations made to this non-profit organization were used to pay settlements against Trump golf, you know, courses and other private businesses. And, you know, purchases of a $10,000 painting that is hanging in a Trump, you know, golf, you know, organization. So the laundry list of, you know, criminal activity by Trump, his organizations, his charity, and now allegations against his children. The list just continues to grow each and every day.
LEMON: You know, Renato, the state tax department has subpoenaed Cohen to ask about the Trump Foundation. In announcing the investigation, the New York A.G.'s complaint said this, OK? The Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments to non-for- profits for, from Mr. Trump and entities controlled -- he controlled. The President and his three oldest children are all named in this suit. What information do you think Cohen could provide here? I mean, this is getting close to home. Really close to home for this President.
MARIOTTI: Well, for sure. And Cohen really seems very eager to cooperate and to provide information against Donald Trump. You know, he went out of his way at that plea hearing to say that the President directed him to commit a crime. He did not have to do that. And since then, his lawyers have been on TV saying here's all the things we can tell Robert Mueller. So, I think he is going to go out of his way to be cooperative.
And some of the things he can talk about is, you know, what -- he heard Donald Trump say about some of these charitable payments and how he used -- how he wanted that money used. He can show Donald Trump's knowledge, because despite the President talking to Fox News and saying he didn't really spend much time with Michael Cohen, that is just -- that is a lie. He actually was with Michael Cohen every day. Is what Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" reported.
[23:20:09] And above and beyond that, he also can help them understand the way the Trump organization worked. Where the books and records are. Who are the right people to subpoena? He can really be a guide post to a prosecutor who is looking to build a case.
LEMON: So, Areva, I want to switch gears now, because I want to talk about another lawsuit and this one is involving, you know some information about this, one of Trump's sexual harassment accusers. Former Apprentice contestant, Summer Zervos. According to court documents, Zervos wants evidence from other women who have reported similar account of sexual misconduct. I mean, she says that there are relevant improving, that Trump made his defamatory statements with common law malice, she says. So how do you see this case playing out?
MARTIN: This is a very significant case, Don, because a judge has already ruled that this case can go forward. We should step back and remember that Donald Trump and his team tried to get this case dismissed. They argued that a sitting President shouldn't be bothered with a civil lawsuit and that this case should be stayed for all central purposes until he was out of office, but a state court judge in New York rejected that argument and said, no, this case can move forward and that discovery can actually commence in this case.
So not only should we expect to see Summer Zervos and her attorney, Gloria Allred, seek to get information from other women who said that they were actually involved in sexual affairs with Donald Trump, but we should see, again, just like Michael Avenatti wants to depose Donald Trump, we should expect Summer Zervos and her legal team are also going to want to depose Donald Trump since they're alleging that he defamed her when he called her a liar when she made allegations that he groped her and kissed her.
So the President, again, I just can't stress enough the kind of legal jeopardy that he is in. This is criminal enterprise that he is running. You know, he and his -- people in his orbit seem to think that they are above the law. That they don't have to play by the same set of rules that you and I and the rest of the American people have to play by and I think people even in his orbit are starting to realize that he is so toxic that this is the time now to cut bait with him, to come forward and tell what they know and I think we're going to see more and more people coming forward, telling their stories, of kind of sordid and criminal activity that Donald Trump has been involved in.
LEMON: Areva, Renato, thank you, I really appreciate your time.
When we come back, the new cover of "Time" magazine in deep. I wonder what the President who has bragged that he has the all-time record of "Time" magazine covers, I wonder what he thinks about this one?
[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: In deep. That is the title of the new issue of "Time" magazine and it might be a pretty good summation of the situation President Trump now finds himself in. Including our breaking news tonight on possible criminal charges against the Trump organization.
Joining me now is Brian Bennett, the senior White House correspondent for "Time" magazine and CNN Senior Contributor, I should say, he is Michael D'Antonio, the author of "The Truth about Trump."
Good evening to both of you. Michael, I'm going to start with you, because before we get to Brian's new article for "Time" magazine, I need to get your reaction to "The New York Times," their reporting tonight, the Manhattan D.A.'s office considering pursuing criminal charges against the Trump organization. This is a significant development. What's your reaction?
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it really is a significant development, and I think it -- we should remember that this is an organization that has 500 different entities and throughout his life, businessman Donald Trump, before he was President, really specialized in clever engineering. Clever financial dealings in order to fund these enterprises, shift profit around, and now for the first time, it's all potentially going to be opened up for examination. This is why he didn't release his tax returns. He never wanted people to actually have access to the numbers and we may soon get access to the numbers.
LEMON: Interesting. So how will the President react? I mean, this is now the family business. Remember, he talked about that red line, Michael.
D'ANTONIO: Well, he talked about the red line. He also presented those piles of manila folders that we all suspected were full of blank paper. And this is really his nightmare. You know, here's operated as a family business for all these years to avoid scrutiny. I think he wanted to give this whole enterprise off to his children and his children spoke to me about how they would run it as a normal business, and not be so flagrant in their publicity seeking, they may not get the chance.
LEMON: Brian, I want to bring you in now. Because I want it read a portion of the new cover story, new cover story for "Time" magazine. You said the courtroom drama brought all the President's legal and political problems together in a single supernova. It highlighted Trump's sordid history with women. His willingness to blur the lines between business and politics and growing fallout from the investigation led by Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.
Worse, the explosion came minutes after Trump's one-time campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was convicted on eight counts of tax evasion and bank fraud in a case prosecuted by Mueller's deputies. And if followed, revelations that White House Counsel, Don McGahn, has cooperated extensively with Mueller's probe, sitting for more than 30 hours of detailed and candid interviews. So you say things can get worse, much worse, for the President, legally, politically, or both, what are you saying?
BRIAN BENNETT, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, TIME MAGAZINE: This is just the beginning. I mean, you we're going to see over the next few months even more revelations come out. Michael Cohen on December 12th, he faces a sentencing hearing. That means over the next few months every prosecutor who has any case that Michael Cohen may know something about will be reaching out to Michael Cohen and saying how can you help us? We'll write you a letter for your sentencing hearing, so that it can go before the judge and maybe the judge will take down for consideration and reduce your sentence.
So that is going to play out, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Manhattan D.A.'s office contacts Michael Cohen and says, hey, what can you do to help us better understand the Trump Organization? And we will write a favorable letter to the judge. Paul Manafort, he's going into a second trial in September. And he's going to feel even more pressure to cooperate with prosecutors, which he hasn't done so far.
LEMON: Yeah. Listen, I almost interrupted you there because I just want to show the cover while you're talking. Here's a cover of the issue, and this is the animated version of it. Do you think Trump keeping his head above water is -- do you think that's what's happening in real life?
BENNETT: I think, yes, I think he's -- he's just barely keeping his head above water right now. He's trying to wrap his head around what's happening and fight back even harder as we've seen over the last couple of days.
And this was -- this cover was the third in a series. There was a cover in February that showed Trump at the resolute desk with the wind blowing through and him saying, nothing to see here. Then the scandals mounted.
And in April, the week that Michael Cohen's office was raided which really upset Donald Trump because he knows how much Michael Cohen knows about his personal dealings, then we decided to show on the cover the water rising.
And this week, it seems like the waters have broken through and Trump really finds himself in deep, deep trouble. And we're going to have to see what the ramifications are and how they play out over the next several months.
LEMON: Michael D'Antonio, Trump has always been obsessed with media coverage, particularly Time magazine for years. This is the day after the inauguration. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Saw a reporter for Time magazine, and I have been on their cover, like, 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So why is the cover of "Time" magazine so important to him and how do you think he's going to react to this one?
D'ANTONIO: Well, I think the cover this week is really precisely on point. He must feel like he's drowning. These problems are rising around him. Michael Cohen knows more about Donald Trump's business, I think, than Donald Trump even knows.
So this is a very appropriate image for what he must be experiencing. He's obsessed with magazine covers in the same way that he's obsessed with all of media attention. His reference points are a little bit dated. You know, no knock on Time magazine, but, you know, the world has moved on to vast numbers of media outlets in addition to Time magazine. But it's precious, it's still precious real estate, and the president as we all know believes in the best locations. The Time magazine cover, I think, is one of the best locations in journalistic real estate.
BENNETT: That's right.
LEMON: Go on. I was going to ask you, Brian, as he said that, when you look back on this week, do you think that we're going to see this is a tipping point for the Trump administration? Go on.
BENNETT: Well, this is one thing that we try to do at Time magazine is mark historic moments and illustrate that and write about them and talk about it. And this is definitely an important inflection point in this story. And that's why we put that image on the cover.
I think certainly we're going to be looking back at this week as a real significant week in a series of significant weeks in this presidency. When I was in Singapore covering the Trump-Kim summit, I asked the president a question and the first thing he asked me was, am I going to be on the cover this week? It turned out he was on the cover that week standing next to Kim Jong-un.
BENNETT: But he reads Time magazine, he grew up with it, just like he reads "The New York Times" because he grew up with it. It's something that he turns to every week. And the fact is we look back at the covers that presidents have been on and Richard Nixon still has the record for the most Time magazine covers. Donald Trump hasn't caught up with him yet.
LEMON: Don't tell him that.
LEMON: I think -- listen, I think you're right, he is obsessed with --
D'ANTONIO: I think one reason that he --
LEMON: He's obsessed with iconic brands. He's obsessed with the brand. He grew up watching CNN, right? Or watch CNN for a long time. Respect it, actually. Same thing he has with Time magazine, The New York Times, and also The New York Post.
Those are -- those are entities that he really respects and he finds them iconic and that's why he gets so upset when everything in those different companies or different organizations when it's not glowing for him. Go on, Michael D'Antonio.
[23:35:00] D'ANTONIO: Well, you know, if Time magazine is one example of a media outlet he can't control, so he used to control what was on the cover of The National Enquirer and as a result, I think he didn't respect them at all.
And this relationship he had with David Pecker was certainly mutual exploitation and it wasn't about journalism or respect. Time magazine, CNN, he can't push either one of those institutions around and as a result, he respects them.
LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, both. Appreciate your time. When we come back, a dog whistle coming straight from Fox News to the president's Twitter. We're going to tell you what he tweeted and why it's wrong and how it's part of a disturbing pattern of distracting and deflecting from headlines he doesn't like.
[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So a late-night tweet by President Trump setting off a diplomatic uproar with South Africa while likely appealing to some in his base.
So let's discuss now with Republican Strategist, Joseph Pinion, CNN Political Commentators, Peter Beinart and Alice Stewart. Good evening to all of you.
Last night, in a seemingly obvious attempt to distract from the Cohen- Manafort news, the president saw a segment, it was on Tucker Carlson's show on Fox News, about supposed white genocide in South Africa. He responded with this. I have asked the secretary of state, Secretary Pompeo, to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. South African government is now seizing land from white farmers.
And then he put the names of the news and the anchor there. So I want to first say that there is no evidence of any white genocide. This is a conspiracy theory that is popular. A popular talking point among white nationalists and neo-Nazis. Joseph, what do you say?
JOSEPH PINION, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I mean, look, I think the hard truth is that I've often said that I don't get to tell you what to care about, but I do get to demand that you be consistent. And the reality is if you're somebody who believes that 43 farmers being killed in South Africa is a problem, then that's great. If it deserves an overwhelming response, then be that person who has that belief.
But then you should also be the person who believes everyone deserves an overwhelming response. If you're a person who believes that one individual losing their lives to somebody who was here undocumented deserves a disproportionate response, then that is fine to have that belief.
But then you should also believe that NFL players who have been driven to their knees by what Lincoln calls the overwhelming conviction they have nowhere else to go, maybe you should be tweeting about their pain, the root of those issues.
And so I think that we come to this fundamental disconnect where there is a clear angle where individuals are responding to things that may not be real. And I think that, you know, almost what happened in the earlier interview with Chris Cuomo, people are living in two alternate universes half the time.
LEMON: Yeah. Alice Stewart, listen, the president has an entire --he has an entire intelligence agency at his disposal that is dedicated to providing him with the best intelligence possible about every foreign policy issue. Why not check with them before tweeting out these incorrect facts and from -- and white nationalist conspiracy theories?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because he was told by a Fox News host to jump and he said how high. And he tweeted exactly what they wanted. It was almost simultaneous where this host said what is the president going to do about it. And he immediately tweeted that he's going to have Pompeo look into it.
Look, this isn't the first time that he has done this, where he takes other news hosts at their word instead of checking with his authorities. But this is an issue that is big with white nationalist groups and this is something that he heard that was of interest to the other network and he acted on it.
That being said, the information should have been corroborated first. There is a situation where some of the land has been expropriated inappropriately but not to a large degree that that report indicated and something that should be factually correct before you jump the gun and order your officials to look into the matter.
LEMON: Peter, you're shaking your head.
PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Actually the expropriation (ph) haven't started at all. It's just the African National Congress has said they're willing to go forward with unoccupied land that won't be paid for. Whether that's a good idea or not is, I think. not the question for tonight. But one of the things I think --
LEMON: It's also at a rate that is seen as fair to whoever it is.
BEINART: Right. Look, South Africa is dealing with brutal inequities from apartheid that have not really been reconciled with even decades afterwards. I think what's important, though, in looking at Donald Trump's tweet is remembering this. The Republican Party was basically pro-apartheid in the 1980s.
Donald Trump didn't take this from nowhere. Ronald Reagan called Nelson Mandela terrorist, put him on the terrorist watch list. Dick Cheney voted against a resolution calling for releasing him from prison.
Down the line, William F. Buckley, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, they all basically said, we prefer the apartheid government to Mandela and the African National Congress. Trump didn't come out with this from nowhere.
This was a longstanding position of the American right and the Republican Party going back to the time that America was supposedly great back before Barack Obama. That's where Trump gets this from.
LEMON: But Peter, whenever the president is backed into a corner, he, you know, picks up some sort of racist thing. He turns to race, right? Tweeting out something like this, something racially charged that he knows his base will eat up. And again, which is inaccurate.
BEINART: Right. And the larger story is the United States --
[23:45:01] LEMON: The tweet meaning which is inaccurate --
BEINART: The United States is undergoing a massive demographic shift, right? And so rather than actually helping people to figure out how we use that to strengthen the country, people like hosts on other networks and Donald Trump continually flame the notion that because white people are losing their position, potentially, a little bit, at the top of the power structure, it means they're at risk of genocide. That's a recipe for tremendous, tremendous problems in this country.
LEMON: Yeah. Why Trump supporters believe he is not corrupt, it's in The Atlantic, it's Peter's piece, we'll talk about -- and other people are corrupt, but he's not corrupt. We'll talk about that right after the break.
[23:50:02] LEMON: Back know with Joseph Pinion, Peter Beinart, and Alice Stewart. Peter, I got to give you credit for The Atlantic. I found it fascinating, what you wrote, your latest piece. It's titled "Why Trump Supporters Believe He Is Not Corrupt."
You cover everything from Mollie Tibbetts to Michael Cohen. Why do you believe Trump supporters have outrage over Tibbetts' death but not about Michael Cohen's confession and how it involved this president?
BEINART: My argument is that I think what really bothers Trump supporters is not the corruption of law, but the corruption of the traditional hierarchies that existed in America. White over black, male over female, et cetera.
And so Trump is not threatening those hierarchies. He may be violating the law but he is not threatening. He is reaffirming the old hierarchies. But the case of Mollie Tibbetts, what really about that is the idea.
I mean, this is a country very, very deep in our history. The notion that white women should be protected from nonwhite men is a very, very old, very deep idea in America.
And so when you -- when you suggest the idea that a Latino man has threatened a white woman, you were talking about a threat to the traditional order, the traditional hierarchy, and that is what really, really frightens people. That's the corruption that they are afraid of, not the corruption of law.
LEMON: So, Alice, ultimately do the president's most ardent supporters -- I'm going to let you get in here -- do they see wrongdoing by people close to the president? Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, reflecting badly in him or they just don't care? STEWART: Right now, his base doesn't really care. Peter makes a great point in his piece where he talks about, as he indicated, corruption is now being defined against purity. The erosion of corruption of purity and not the law.
Because what Trump is saying and the administration is saying, well, he did nothing wrong. He hasn't been charged with the crime. He has done nothing wrong. I'm sorry. In my book, it's wrong to cheat on your wife, it's wrong to pay off porn stars, and it's wrong to tell the American people that you didn't know about it and you sort of knew about it and knew about it later.
In my view, that's wrong, plain and simple. If more comes out from Cohen and in turn Pecker which I believe I had a lot of dealings with David Pecker, I expect that vault to be overflowing with many stories to come.
I think the base will -- their eyes will open up. But more importantly for the midterm elections, this will energize Democrats to get out and vote. So they can -- they can speak out if Republicans are going to close their eyes.
LEMON: Joseph, I want to bring you in, because during the presidential campaign, remember the favorite chant was lock her up, lock her up, referring to Hillary Clinton. Why were they so concerned with all of the alleged wrongdoings of the Clintons which many of them have been litigated and talked about forever?
And they don't acknowledge proven facts about President Trump and his wrongdoing and all of the investigations and not paying people and affairs that have been proven.
PINION: I think that we have a fundamental disconnect with covering politics today, particularly as it relates to whether you're talking about Hillary Clinton or you're talking about President Trump, because of the fact that there is such fixed characters in kind of American iconography.
And so I think that when you talk about it from that standpoint, we're not talking about people saying, oh, they're moved by facts. I don't think it was a move by facts lock her up chant.
It was more of a thing that, you know, whether you believe the stories about Vince Foster, whether you hated her hairdo back in the late '90s, whether you just simply couldn't stand whatever issue was about her, I think that was moving the movement of the people more so than anything that was factual.
And so I think when you look at it from that standpoint, to a person like Donald Trump, who again whether you like 70s Donald Trump, lifestyles of the rich and famous Donald Trump, whether you like 80s Donald Trump, we are now trying to sit here and look at it from a factual standpoint of saying these people around you have done wrong (ph) --
LEMON: My point is, let's say you put them on a scale of wrongdoing. Let's just say everything is wrong. I'm just -- I'm just generalizing here. There is the scale, like Donald Trump would weigh the scale down and it would be like a seesaw, and Hillary Clinton would go flying off. I'm just wondering, is this just pure misogyny, people just won't say it?
BEINART: People have hated Hillary Clinton and responded extremely viscerally negatively from the minute she arrived on the political scene in 1992, long before anyone was suggesting she was corrupt. Remember, back then it was the idea that she wouldn't bake cookies --
LEMON: She was standing by her man. Remember that?
BEINART: Right. She has been always as a potential woman president and as a feminist, a tremendous threat to the established order, and I think coming on the heels of Barack Obama who represented a --
LEMON: A tremendous threat.
BEINART: -- profound shift to that, that conversation, I remember going to the 2016 Republican convention and looking at the paraphernalia sold outside. I'm telling you it was near pornographic sexism about Hillary Clinton, one bumper sticker, one after another. That gave me an insight into what was really going on.
LEMON: How much time do we have, producer?
STEWART: Don --
LEMON: We got to go?
[23:55:00] We got to go. Quickly, Alice. I got to go. I'm over time. Go ahead.
STEWART: I'm a little (INAUDIBLE) all about Hillary Clinton. But let me just say this, everyone's going to blow up at this. Look, Hillary Clinton, people died in Benghazi and that is a result, in my view, in large part, based on inaction of Hillary Clinton, while I think lies and cheating and abuse in this Trump administration is rampant and awful, no one has died.
LEMON: I know what you're saying, Alice. That's all been litigated and how many hearings there were, what, eight hearings or eight investigations, millions of dollars, years, and there was zero conviction or there was -- nothing was found. So, I hear what you're saying, but, you know --
BEINART: I mean, how many American soldiers did we lose in Iraq?
LEMON: I've got to go. I've got to go. We've got to get out of here. We'll be right back.
[24:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)