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Mueller Probe is 'Illegal;' A.G. Sessions' Days Numbered; Trump Wants to Buy Access to Pandora's Box; Don McGahn Leaving The White House; A Possible Blue Wave Coming This November; Donald Trump Denying Allegations For Removal Of White House Counsel; Kanye West Praising President Trump. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 30, 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: Thank you for watching "CNN TONIGHT." Don Lemon is going to take the show right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I think Nike should call you to write their next ad.
CUOMO: It's a long ad.
LEMON: You're right.
CUOMO: We grind, baby, we grind.
LEMON: I tell you every day how positive you are. You actually help me, because I can be a bit of a curmudgeon, sometimes.
CUOMO: But you're a worker, too.
CUOMO: You work for everything you got.
LEMON: Absolutely. And so do you.
CUOMO: Including that gut.
LEMON: Yes. Including the times we go fishing and you catch nothing. I don't see you like--
CUOMO: Had bad luck on the boat.
LEMON: Thank you, Chris.
CUOMO: You are the man. I'll see you this weekend.
LEMON: I'll see you this weekend. Have a good one. We'll have a good one together. I'll see you, my friend. Thank you very much.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. President Trump today doing what he does best. If you can use that word, the word, I mean, is best. Be best, right? Lashing out at anybody he perceives as an enemy, including his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
Trump telling Bloomberg News that Sessions' job is safe until the midterms, but declining to comment really beyond that. Which is not exactly a ringing endorsement, right? But it's par for the course for a president who's been slamming his attorney general ever since Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very disappointed with the attorney general.
The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country.
I put in an attorney general that never took control of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions. Never took control of the Justice Department. And it's a -- it's sort of an incredible thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So in that same interview, the president, who's supposed to be defending the rule of law, said he considers the Mueller investigation to be, quote -- this is a quote -- "an illegal investigation." Illegal? OK, so, listen, I just -- we showed this to you, but I need you to take a look at it again.
At the document, officially appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel. There it is on your screen right there. Mueller authorized to investigate, quote, "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump."
And this, quote, "If the special counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the special counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters." That document signed by Trump's hand-picked acting attorney general. You can't get any clearer than that.
So the fact is, Mueller's investigation is 100, as we say, 100 percent legit. And then -- and legal. And then there is the Twitter tirade this morning. Did you see that? It's just getting worse.
The president of the United States slamming CNN and then turning his anger on NBC, implying with absolutely no evidence -- there's no evidence -- that the comments he made to Lester Holt about why he fired James Comey, those comments were on tape, by the way -- that they were somehow not real. Even though you can hear every word with your own ears. Play it!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I was going to fire regardless of recommendations.
LESTER HOLT, HOST, NBC NEWS: So there was really--
TRUMP: He made a recommendation. He's highly respected. Very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him. The Republicans like him. He made a recommendation.
But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. Knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He said it, but he -- I said that, but I didn't say it. You didn't hear me say that. That was widely reported on more than a year ago. Wouldn't you think this, OK -- wouldn't you think the president, if he thought that tape was inaccurate in some way, that he would have cried foul sooner than now? Hasn't said anything. Like, right away, right? He didn't, though.
And he is offering zero evidence to support his vague accusation. It's all part of a pattern when President Trump is confronted with facts that he doesn't like. He denies the evidence or outright tries to bury it.
We learned today that Trump and his former attorney, Michael Cohen, tried to buy decades' worth of dirt on him collected by the National Enquirer. That is according to the New York Times, which reports that the plan was never finalized. And let's face it. None of this is a surprise. After all, President Trump is the man who said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Just remember, what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So contrast that with a true American hero. John McCain, who will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda before his funeral at the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday.
[22:05:04] President Trump in that Bloomberg interview defended his response to McCain's death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We had our disagreements, and they were very strong disagreements. I disagreed with many of the things that I assume he believed in. But with that being said, I respect his service to the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So -- but I want you to listen to this. I want you to listen to the former Vice President Joe Biden paying tribute today to the late senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THEUNITED STATES: It wasn't about politics with John. He could disagree on substance, but it was the underlying values that animated everything John did. Everything he was.
You could come to a different conclusion, but where he'd part company with you if you lacked the basic values of decency, respect. Knowing that this project is bigger than yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Statesman. Statesmanship. Decency. Respect. Bigger than yourself. Not a lot of that happening these days.
Let's bring in now CNN's Chris Cillizza. He is our politics reporter and editor at large. And April Ryan, CNN political analyst, and the author of "Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House."
We have a lot to get to tonight, including a new report, a new attack on the Justice Department. But the contrast today, Chris, and quickly, because I need to get to this breaking news.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Sure.
LEMON: The contrast today between what we see and hear coming from the leader of the free world is just completely blaring, glaringly obvious that we have -- we're in a period of degradation.
CILLIZZA: Yes, I mean, I feel like I say this every time I'm on with you, Don, but I do think that Donald Trump does not conceive of the presidency as a seat of moral leadership. A place to take the high road, to think of the we over the me.
I think that is brought into very stark relief when you see Joe Biden talking about John McCain. This idea that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. That partisanship is not a value. Honor, decency, respect are values. Being partisan, even if it might work politically, is not a value.
LEMON: What do you think, April?
APRIL RYAN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, this is a president who some would say has put this nation in a crisis, a political crisis. And we're working through it, trying to figure out where we will land.
When I look at how Donald Trump handles things, Joe Biden was absolutely right. There was a relationship with John McCain and Joe Biden. And there are so many on Capitol Hill who have had that kind of relationship. It's not about party. They can still talk about an issue.
Whereas, this president has clearly made a dividing line that, you know, Democrats are evil, we don't want to talk -- it's not about unity, it's not about the good of the country, it's about a knee-jerk reaction, in a lot of ways, it all centers around what he thinks or how it affects him.
Even from his Supreme Court nominee down to a promise he wants to keep about a wall that Mexico probably won't pay for. And also, you know, just how he thinks of this Russia investigation and what he says about the press.
RYAN: It's all about him. We've gone into a totally different day, Don.
LEMON: We're going to talk more about that, but I want to get to this new reporting tonight. OK, a new attack, I should say, on the Justice Department. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Our Justice Department and our FBI have to start doing their job and doing it right and doing it now. Because people are angry. People are angry. What's happening is a disgrace.
And at some point, I wanted to stay out, but at some point, if it doesn't straighten out properly, I want them to do their job, I will get involved and I'll get in there, if I have to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, what is he talking about, Chris? What does he think he's going to do?
CILLIZZA: I don't think he knows, to be totally honest, Don. Look, this is all in keeping with the deep state conspiracy that Donald Trump, frankly, bias into. He plays it out more when he's talking at campaign rallies, without question, but he believes it.
You see it in his tweets, which is an accurate reflection of what he's talking about, and you see it in these speeches. He uses that line over and over again. I'll remind people, he's talking about the Trump Justice Department.
[22:09:56] When he calls the Mueller probe a witch hunt, he's talking about a probe that began under the FBI. It was created, a special counsel, by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee, and is being run by Robert Mueller, a Republican in his private life and a former director of the FBI who was appointed to that post by Republican President George W. Bush.
Now, those facts will not get in the way of people clapping when he says this and believing that somehow the Justice Department is out to get Donald Trump. It should, because those are the facts. But it won't.
LEMON: The president, April, telling Bloomberg News that he views this Mueller probe as an illegal investigation. I mean, pair this with the Twitter tirade. Is this a president who's on edge right now? What's going on at the White House?
RYAN: Yes, he's on edge. He's been on edge for a while, particularly after Cohen, you know, did this -- he pleaded guilty.
Here's the bottom line. This president understands the severity of this. And he is very clear minded as to what's going on. What he's trying to do is create the conspiracy that it's a witch-hunt.
He's trying to create this, this silver ball for his base who supports him on Russia, to believe him and not the truth. When the -- his own Justice Department is not conjuring up something to go against him, even though he and Sessions have this hate relationship.
This is real. This is about rule of law. This is not about a witch hunt. And this is something that the president clearly understands. But once again, he's trying to create a conspiracy theory, just like he did with birtherism and had to go back and say, that's not true.
LEMON: Interesting. Because, you know, Chris, the president is saying again and again, he's saying again now that Democrats can't impeach him because he is doing a great job. Is he forgetting that Bill Clinton had a booming economy, too?
CILLIZZA: Yes. I mean, yes, I never know sort of, you know, how much strategy is behind these things. He said this before he said it again with Bloomberg--
LEMON: Or even if he knows the process. Maybe he just doesn't understand the process.
CILLIZZA: I don't know. I mean, again, impeachment is a political maneuver. It's not a legal maneuver, it's a political maneuver. But simply because things are going well by your definition doesn't mean you haven't potentially committed crimes that would warrant it.
Not saying we have any proof Donald Trump has done that. But the economy doing well is neither here nor there in that discussion. I don't know if he knows that. I do think it is worth noting, Don.
He does mention impeachment, it's the second time in about the last 10 days he's used that line. How can you impeachment me when everything's going so great. I think he's thinking about it more. You said, is he on edge?
I do think he is more and more and more focused on it, particularly as the midterm elections get closer and predictions and history suggest Democrats are likely to take over the House majority and that would bring him much closer to impeachment.
Make it a little bit more of a reality for him, though I would say, still very unlikely, 67 senators, but we'll see what Mueller finds. Sixty seven senators would need to vote for his impeachment for it to actually happen. But the process of impeachment is much closer if Democrats control the House. And I do think he understands that.
LEMON: April, you heard what Trump told Bloomberg about Sessions. Here's more right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I just like to have Jeff Sessions do his job. And if he did, I would be very happy. But the job entails two sides. Not one side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Trump confirming that he'll keep Sessions on until at least November. Do you think that that's a relief to Republicans on Capitol Hill?
RYAN: I don't know if it's relief or they're just trying to figure out what to do. One, Don, you have to look at this. The midterms are very important. They play into this. It's about, if he does this, it could be a fractured party.
Also, there would be hell to pay with confirmation hearings if he does try to do this. And it's about politics. It's about the midterms. This president is keenly aware that he's got a lot of senators who are very upset with him about Jeff Sessions.
So he's got to play this the right way. And he's trying to use his wiggle room by pressuring them to do it, to get him out, to get Sessions to leave versus him doing it, where it could be obstruction of justice.
But it just, the optics of this are just totally off. For this president to be wanting to do this, when Jeff Sessions is the head of the Justice Department, that is overseeing or in charge of this Mueller investigation, this is just, it's just the optics are terrible for this president.
LEMON: April, I've got to ask you about your new book. I haven't had a chance to talk to you about it on the air.
LEMON: It's called "Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House." What can readers expect?
RYAN: Yes. The truth, the other side of the story about stories that affect people that this White House wants to change the narrative on.
[22:15:03] And when you report the truth, they go after you. And how there is a lingering effect that lingers, not just on me, but on others. If they could do what they're doing to me, they can do to others and they have done it to others.
They've tried to discredit me. They have lied on me. They've even said that I have taken money from Hillary Clinton, which is a total falsehood and a lie. You know, this book, it reads like a novel, but it's the truth. But it's about the First Amendment.
And what people need to understand and the takeaway is, is if they do diminish the press, specifically, someone who's been there, and considered a dean for 21 years. If they diminish us -- this is something John McCain said, if you suppress the press, it begins a dictatorship.
But not only that, but if you suppress the press and stop us from asking questions or that piece of accountability, the American public, tax-paying public does not find out what's going on in the House that the person that they elected to be in the seat of power is doing.
RYAN: So it's important that with the founding fathers put in place is still in place.
LEMON: "Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House," April Ryan's new book. Pick it up. Thank you, April. Thank you, Chris. I appreciate it.
CILLIZZA: Thank you, sir.
LEMON: When we come back, the president falsely calls the Mueller investigation, quote, "illegal." I'm going to ask former director of national intelligence James Clapper to weigh in on that, on that charge.
[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Breaking news. President Trump ramping up his attacks tonight on the Justice Department and the FBI.
I want to bring in now CNN National Security Analyst, James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence. Good evening, director. I appreciate you coming on.
Before we get to the business of the day, I know that you felt very strongly about John McCain, by the way, who is lying in state now in the Capitol Rotunda until his funeral at the national cathedral on Saturday. What would you like to say?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, just to say that, like so many other people, you know, he -- he touched my life, as well. That's not to say that all of our exchanges were pleasant. They weren't.
He could be very irascible when you're a witness and he's running a hearing. But I grew to develop a great deal of respect and admiration for Senator McCain and the nation has lost an icon, in my view. And I thought this week, the tremendous outpouring, and by the way,
the superb coverage by CNN of this week's events related to Senator McCain has been great. And so I appreciate the opportunity to say a couple of words about Senator McCain, whom I just had great admiration and respect for.
I went to Vietnam myself, 1965 and '66 and it was 47 years before I went back. And I spoke with Senator McCain before I went. And he -- and I was going to Hanoi and he suggested I go by the lake where he was shot down and there's a very crude monument to him. And I had a picture taken, standing next to that monument in Hanoi, which he autographed, which is something I will treasure for the rest of my life.
LEMON: And again, he will be lying in state at the capitol until his funeral at the national cathedral on Saturday. His body arrives there tomorrow. Thank for saying those kind words.
So let's talk about the president. When you hear the president tonight renew his attacks on the Department of Justice and the FBI and say people are angry and if they don't do their jobs, that he's going to get involved. What does that sound like to you? Is he implying that they should be acting as a personal investigation force?
CLAPPER: Well, exactly. That's -- I think he'd much prefer that the attorney general acted kind of like Michael Cohen, you know? Have the Department of Justice be an institutional fixer for him. And to do his bidding in terms of who to investigate.
And the disgrace in all of this, a word he likes to use a lot to describe DOJ and the FBI, regrettably applies more to him than to the DOJ or the FBI.
LEMON: It's interesting, because he continues to talk about, you know, Hillary Clinton should be investigated, Hillary Clinton should be investigated. Does he not remember all of the investigations into Hillary Clinton that went on over the last few years?
CLAPPER: Well, yes, it's obviously a convenient memory. You know, Don, what all of this means to me, frankly is these tweets and these tweet storms and these outbursts of his, which increasingly are irrational, is emblematic of somebody who's under a lot of pressure and who doesn't have control anymore, as he once did, in Trump world in New York.
And I think it's -- I think it's really starting to get to him. And this absurd allegation about NBC, somehow fudging on the tape, which you've pretty much skewered in your opening monologue is, to me, signifies what's going on here.
And I think all of that, all of these revelations about him and his past, against the counterpoint of the adulation and praise for Senator McCain, I think this has made for another tough week in the White House.
LEMON: You know, the president is now saying it was his decision to get rid of the White House counsel, Don McGahn. Do you think that's going to impact the Mueller investigation, director?
CLAPPER: Well, you know, I've been thinking about that. I think from the president's point of view, I guess, McGahn has done all the damage he's going to do. And what's key, crucial here, and you know, there was a teaser from the president about who the successor to McGahn might be.
And I don't know, but it just appears to me that McGahn did understand that he was a counsel to the Office of the Presidency, not the president himself, which is not a distinction I think -- I'm not sure the president understood that.
LEMON: Yes. Well, what about him hinting that he might fire the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, after election day? I mean, the president blames him for there being a special counsel. So if he fires him, what does that tell you?
[22:25:00] CLAPPER: Well -- well, first of all, putting it off until the midterms just kicks the can down the road. Clearly, given the relationship there, and I think that then, if he does fire the attorney general, either now or after the midterms, it doesn't make a lot of difference.
It's still going to be, I think, very complicated and very difficult for him to get anybody confirmed, unless it's someone who will pledge publicly that he, too, or she -- he or she would continue to protect the Mueller investigation.
LEMON: Director Clapper, thank you for your time, sir. I appreciate it.
CLAPPER: Thank you.
LEMON: And thank you for the kind words about John McCain, as well. A real American hero there.
CLAPPER: Thanks for the opportunity.
When we come back, decades of dirt. How President Trump reportedly tried to buy back all the scandalous stories the National Enquirer reportedly had on him.
LEMON: President Trump and his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, reportedly sought to buy up all the dirt about Trump that the National Enquirer spent years collecting. That is according to the New York Times.
So let's discuss. CNN Contributor, Frank Bruni, a columnist for "The Times" is here now. Thank you so much. So what do you think about that? This is -- let's put up the Times report here.
It says, "Michael Cohen devised a plan to try to buy three decades' worth of dirt the National Enquirer had collected from him." I mean, Trump trying to buy back his own secrets. It doesn't get more Trumpier or actually more New York than that. I'm going to buy those secrets.
FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. It's a perfect metaphor for the amount of control he wants to exert and tries to exert over his media coverage.
[22:29:59] I mean, this is extraordinary, though. First off, three decades of secrets. What are those three decades of secrets? You know, secondly, the reporters, Jim Rutenberg and Maggie Haberman, make a great point on the story, which is that David Pecker, Trump's friend, the Chairman of American Media. He kind of sits over the largest gossip empire, you know, in American news.
And for American Media, for the National Enquirer, to stand down on a candidate for the duration of his Presidential campaign is quite a boon. It's quite an advantage. And here, you know, Trump is so obsessed with who is at a disadvantage, who is at an advantage. You had a news entity that normally would have been all over a candidate like Donald Trump, but was standing down because of this very strange and apparently deep, as these things go in Trump world, friendship between Donald Trump and David Pecker.
LEMON: Talk about fake news. It's always projection with him. Now, that is fake news.
BRUNI: Yes. It is always projection. That is not fake news.
LEMON: Yeah. That's not fake but it's always, you know, him buying back the secrets or whatever, and controlling the news narrative in that way. That's the terrible part of the news, something that the mainstream media doesn't do. But he always says that, you know, he always projects that on to us. But getting to that, speaking of mainstream media and CNN, this corroborates those tapes. Remember those tapes we had on last month?
LEMON: Cohen apparently secretly recorded discussing buying back -- watch this and then we'll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, you know, so that -- I am going to do that right away. I have actually come up...
TRUMP: Leave it to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I have spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with...
TRUMP: So what are we going to do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Funding -- yes. And it's all the stuff, all the stuff. Because, you know, you never know where that company, you never know where he's going to be...
TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Correct. So I am all over that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Hmm. So I mean it seems like they're really concerned about what the Enquirer had. I mean it's -- I am wondering, what is there?
BRUNI: And we've read there has been some reporting that it was actually -- some of it was in a safe. It was kept in a safe, where they put the sensitive stuff. That tape, when we heard it, you know, some of it was immediately clear what we were hearing. Some of it was sort of free floating. All of that info regarding our friend, David, well, this sort of made it very clear. They're talking about three decades worth of reporting clip, secrets, etcetera that David Pecker and American Media was sitting on.
And that's what Michael Cohen is talking about getting back and sealing away for all eternity.
LEMON: Yeah. In case he gets hit by a bus.
BRUNI: In case David Pecker gets hit by a bus, yeah, a lovely thought.
LEMON: The Times reports that in 2016, Pecker kept his staff from going back through the old Trump tip and story files that dated to before Mr. Pecker became company chairman in 1999. So clearly, the publication and Pecker were incredibly loyal and protective of Trump, while at the same time, in full attack mode of the other candidates.
BRUNI: That's right.
LEMON: And look at those covers. There's a lot of Hillary Clinton up there, but I don't really see -- do you see any Trump?
BRUNI: I don't -- you know, Don, I don't think this is the last we're going to read about this, because the question that all of this begs is what cements this friendship between Donald Trump and David Pecker? Why does David Pecker feel this sort of allegiance to, you know, this fidelity to Donald Trump? I have not read anything that explains that fully, and I think that is a story that's going to come along at some point in the coming months.
LEMON: I just wonder because we have, you know, we've said that the deal has never completed, right? But I just wonder if Trump supporters would care, because they didn't seem to care about the Access Hollywood tape. So why would they care about more dirt out there? They just seem to sort of forgive everything, overlook, oh, this is OK. That's OK. This is OK.
BRUNI: This particular bit of news that Trump is trying to buy back, suppress, whatever, I don't think this is about what his supporters would care about. I think this is just about his vanity. I mean he was so uneasy and so freaked out before the Stormy Daniels interview, when she was going to go out there. And the idea that a woman who had -- by her account, and it's a convincing one, slept with him, was going to go out and talk about it. That unnerved him to no end.
LEMON: Well, he denied it.
BRUNI: Right. Well, he denies sleeping with her, still, right? He no longer denies the hush money, the hush money that was paid for a handshake, right? I mean that's what you're supposed to believe.
LEMON: Really, in all of this rigmarole, because of that.
BRUNI: My point is he gets very uncomfortable when he feels like his life between the sheets, his private life is about to be exposed. And so you're right. I don't think anybody who stuck with Trump through the Access Hollywood tapes is going to bolt because of something in a National Enquirer safe. But it doesn't mean that he doesn't want control over it, and it doesn't mean that he's not embarrassed about it at the thought of it becoming part of public discourse.
LEMON: Yeah. But don't you think people would feel a lot differently about it if the same people who are involved now in this thing, oh, it's not a big deal. It's not a big deal. That it was the exact opposite of what they said about Bill Clinton during the Kenneth Starr days.
BRUNI: I think we've seen a lot of that already. The hypocrisy has already run rampant, so I mean we've played that one out.
[22:34:57] LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, sir.
BRUNI: Thank you.
LEMON: I appreciate it. When we come back, Don McGahn is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to White House staff departures. So is the Trump administration prepped for a possible blue wave come November, and the onslaught of investigations it could bring.
LEMON: The President on Twitter, of course, denied reports that his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared, helped push out White House Counsel Don McGahn, and added that the media, in his words, love to portray chaos in the White House when they know that chaos doesn't exist, just a smooth-running machine, with changing parts.
Let's discuss now with CNN Political Commentator, Scott Jennings, Angela Rye, and Jen Psaki. Come on, I mean even the Trump supporter, Scott, really, smooth, chaos - good evening by the way, chaos-free, smooth-running machine?
[22:39:57] SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it is true. They are understaffed. I mean Jen can also speak to this. When you've got so much to do as President, you can't really afford to be understaffed on a normal day. And what they're facing possibly in January is having to run the government and try to process the President's agenda, while at the same time facing down maybe impeachment and certainly a whole bushel of investigations that are going to come at them if the Democrats take over the house.
JENNINGS: So, right now they've got to get their staffing levels up -- yes, sir.
LEMON: What's the concern level among Republicans honestly about that, because you know, some people seem to be blowing it off, like there's not going to be a blue wave? I don't know if there's going to be one, but is it a real concern?
JENNINGS: Well, with I don't know what the number threshold is for a wave, but I certainly think the probability exists that the Democrats are going to take the House. The possibility exists they won't, but the probability is they will take the House, which means you're going to get anyone who's ever been within a hundred foot of Donald Trump is going to get a subpoena.
And that's going to include government officials, non-government officials, White House people, so this has a real possibility of happening. You have to be staffed up for it. Now, fortunately, I read that Emmet Flood, a lawyer they hired some months ago, is possibly going to take over for Don McGahn when he leaves as White House Counsel. Emmet is one of the most experienced investigations lawyers in Washington.
So they've got the right quarterback, but he's going to have to hire an army of lawyers to fight all of this stuff off.
LEMON: All right. So let's talk more about this then, because, Angela, you know, some of the folks who have left the administration, look up on the screen, since this began - a lot of people in the first year, Trump Administration had the highest turnover in the Presidency since Reagan. That's according to the Wall Street Journal. Is it possible to have a well-run operation with this much turnover -- smooth, smooth.
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A well-run oiled machine, I think, is what the RNC Chair said. I think it's really difficult to have any type of -- whether it's well-oiled or well-running, either way. It's hard to have a machine, when everyone in the machine is departing. I think it's hard to have a machine when people are writing tell-all books who are part of your administration and doing what you do best, recording conversations.
It's hard to have a well-oiled machine when there's a dark cloud of not just chaos, but collusion, and investigations, and even potential impeachment hanging over the White House. The fact that there is someone at 1600 who's not trustworthy and has demonstrated that, by the fact that people who are nearest to him, in his closest circle, have recorded conversations with him.
I think the fact that he has been caught in a lie by Washington Post well over 1,500 times since he was inaugurated demonstrate that there is not only a credibility problem since, I think, C-word is what the Republican chairman said. There's chaos. There's collusion, and there's a credibility issue. And so there's nothing well-oiled about that particular machine.
LEMON: Oh, wow. OK, so listen.
RYE: A little alliteration for you.
LEMON: It is. I'm just going to put up the quote from the Washington Post Jen, but I want to ask you the question, because you worked in the Obama White House. Is it difficult to prepare for what might be next if, you know, if they do have so much turnover there? Look. I mean the last line is -- it's like tumbleweeds rolling down the halls over there. Nobody's prepared for war, if there is a blue wave, though.
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, with I think understaffing is hardly the biggest of their problems. I mean this is a White House -- most Republicans I talk to say this is not a White House that has attracted the best and the brightest of the Republican Party, either. And you've seen how they've handled crises, how they've handled even day-to-day operations. They're just not up to the task.
So I think that's a basic problem. Turnover is a huge problem that often comes after two years. It is correct that there will likely be a bunch of investigations and subpoenas if the Democrats take over, but for good reason. We didn't deal with that when I was in the White House because there wasn't -- there were some absurd, ludicrous investigations like Benghazi.
But in this case, the EPA should be looked into. The Health and Human Services overseeing health care should be looked into. It's not just Russia. It's a number of the areas of this government that have been corrupt, that have not been operating aboveboard. And I think if Democrats take the House, they will justifiably conduct a number of investigations. I do not think this White House is prepared.
It's not just the legal office. It's everybody in the White House, and in agencies who will have to be prepared to deal with that.
LEMON: So the President is not offering some folks some raises. But he says the government can't support it, right? But he wanted that military parade. And also, we're going to talk about Kanye West. Yeah, we will.
RYE: Oh, boy!
LEMON: Yeah. We'll be right back.
[22:45:00] LEMON: The President scrapped pay raises for nearly two million federal government employees today, citing the need for fiscal sustainability, and just hours later, boasted of what he calls the best economy in the history of the country. So back now with me is Scott Jennings, Jen Psaki, and Angela Rye. OK, so Scott, the President says that it is the best economy ever, right? And yet his administration can't give public service a 2.1 percent raise?
JENNINGS: Well, it is true. We are running a massive debt in this country. And so I take the President at his word that he wants to reign in federal spending. I don't think most people are going to have a problem with a one-year freeze on giving federal workers a pay raise. I hope they get a raise some time...
LEMON: Unless you're a federal worker who's not getting the pay raise.
JENNINGS: What's that?
LEMON: Unless you're the federal worker who's not getting the pay raise.
[22:49:57] JENNINGS: I am not a federal worker, but I' will tell you this. I am a private worker. And I know a lot of people in the private sector, and they don't get guaranteed pay raises. They have to work for everything they get, unlike the federal government and state government workers who tend to get things on automatic pilot.
So I think out here in Middle America, where we're trying to fight for every opportunity and everything we can get. People appreciate it when the government workers get held to the same standards of people in the private sector.
LEMON: People in the private sector as a whole make more money than people who work for the government, Scott. I mean I don't think that's a fair comparison.
JENNINGS: Is it true? What is the median salary in Washington, D.C.? I mean I think...
PSAKI: Scott, government workers -- government workers are in -- government workers are in Kentucky. They're in every state in the country. They're middle class Americans. He's not giving a pay raise to. Also, he didn't wake up this morning and said I only care about the deficit. He showed no concern about running up the deficits for things like giving tax cuts to corporations and the highest income Americans.
JENNINGS: OK, Jen, you guys run on pay raise for federal workers. We'll run on more jobs for private sector people. We'll see who comes out on top.
PSAKI: Look. I think, Scott, if you're a person sitting in your house in Kentucky or Missouri, and you look at what Donald Trump cares about. He's cutting the pay. He's not increasing the pay for people who are keeping our airports running, who are doing basic jobs around the country every single day. Well, you know, people who are running companies are getting pay increases. That's -- people understand that. And that's not going to sit well.
LEMON: All right, Angela, go ahead.
RYE: Can I -- yeah, just really quick. I think it's important to understand that there are levels to this. And I think we should help people understand the levels to this. There actually are people who are guaranteed pay raises, Scott. They're called bonuses in the private sector. And the unfortunate part of that, again, there are levels to this. Let me explain this level.
There's a substantial gap in the private sector. When I am talking about the folks on that bottom level, that can't get the minimum wage or a livable wage, and so we're talking about people who can barely make ends meet, and those people, not only are they got guaranteed a raise, whether -- we're not talking about federal government workers, you know.
I'm just talking about private sector workers. You guys don't want to pay them a $15 minimum wage. You all call that socialism, right? So I think just to be far, we should absolutely acknowledge that you're talking about the greedy.
LEMON: OK. Angela, I don't mean to cut you off. I want to get the other thing. But I just want to put this up, because one of the scrap raises was the one adjusting for a cost of living increase. It would have cost $25 billion, OK? So let me just put that in perspective. That was less than the $43 billion that Apple saved thanks to the tax bill.
It's just over twice the amount the Trump administration is proposing for farmers as relief from tariffs that they are imposing. And meanwhile, the tax cuts are expected to add $100 billion a year in debt over the next 10 years. So the pay raises seem like small potatoes, and maybe, maybe the priorities aren't in the right place.
Scott, I'll let you respond, quickly if you can, because I want to move on to different stuff.
JENNINGS: Yeah. This is not going to impact anybody's vote in November, and it certainly not going to be met...
JENNINGS: -- With the same outrage in Middle America as it is in Washington, D.C.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RYE: It's not outrage, though. It's just not compassion.
LEMON: So Angela, I need to change topics here. I want to play -- this is a bit of what Kanye West said on Chicago Radio. This was on Wednesday about the President. You recall, just a few weeks ago, Kanye West was asked about Jimmy Kimmel, why he thinks the President thinks cares about black people. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel that he cares about the way black people feel about him. And he would like for black people to like him like they did when he was cool in a rap song. He knows that he can't be the greatest President without the acceptance of the black community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Yeah. I want to get your reaction. But I just -- do you remember In Living Color, Oswald Bates?
RYE: I remember In Living Color.
LEMON: (Inaudible) relations --
LEMON: Interview that's what it sounds like. It's like a word salad, where you realize that Kanye West, entitled to his own opinion, but is not very bright and not very -- he -- when -- I am talking about this issue, not overall, but when it comes to these issues, he's not clued in. He needs to read about it before he speaks about it. I am not saying he's not a bright person. I take that back. It's not what I meant.
When it comes to this particular issue, he needs to, like, look at a book, read some history, and understand what he's talking about.
RYE: So, OK, here's what I think. I believe that Kanye West believes that Donald Trump cares about what black people think about him. That does not mean that Donald Trump cares about black people, right? There's an entire body of work or lack thereof. There are discriminatory things that he said. There are, you know, the moments when he (Inaudible) racism. There are the DOJ housing discrimination cases.
[22:54:57] There's the Central Park Five issues, blah, blah, blah. We've gone on and on about this since the campaign. What we know is what Donald Trump actually does. And so what I would encourage Kanye to do, Kanye, if you're listening. Please go back and read all of the things that exist. It doesn't even have to be a book, Don. It can be the articles. It can be the tweets. It can be the timelines that we've all put out since the campaign, showing that Donald Trump does not care about black people.
If we cares about what black people think about him, he should start doing right by black people. It's cool that he got Alex Johnson out. That's amazing. It sucks that he decided to take criminal justice reform off the table until after the midterms. What is shows is that Donald Trump cares about the victory, even if it means riling up his base and appealing to the ugliness of what America has become, thanks to Donald.
LEMON: We can respect his opinion but we don't have to respect his ignorance. Go ahead, Jen. Do you want to say something?
PSAKI: Look. I mean I think Angela said it quite well. I mean you can Google Donald Trump racism or racist comments, and I am sure there will be many, many things to look up and see. So it's not hard to find. You know as I have watched Kanye West, like his music, like many people, but there is a certain contrarian aspect of this that's a shame, because a lot of people look to him and what he has to say, and think of what he has to say as fact.
And what he was stating is not fact. And that's the power of pop culture and the power of famous people like him.
LEMON: Quick response from you, Scott, if you will please, Sir. Do you care to weigh in?
JENNINGS: You know I don't typically take my political advisings from Kanye West. In this particular case, I think he's entitled to his opinion. And clearly, it makes people on the left mad that he likes Donald Trump, and I guess that makes me happy. So thank you.
RYE: It makes me sad.
LEMON: Thanks, you all. We'll be right back.
PSAKI: Thanks, Don.
JENNINGS: See you.