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President Trump Calls Russian Investigation a Witch Hunt; Deputy AG Briefing in Senate on Comey's Dismissal; Controversial Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clark Has Accepted A Job with DHS. Aired 11p-12mn ET
Aired May 18, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:13] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, President Trump calling the Russian investigation a witch hunt.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
And that's not all, the President insisting to reporters there is no collusion with Russia. But, this is interesting, going on to say he was speaking for himself. I wonder what his staff thinks about that.
Meanwhile, we are learning tonight that fired FBI director James Comey was so unnerve by his interactions with President Trump, he tried to blend in with the curtains during a White House event in the blue room. That is according to "the New York Times." We will discuss all of that.
Now, I want to get right to CNN senior political analyst Mr. Mark Preston, John Flannery, the former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York and CNN political analyst David Drucker and legal analyst Page Pate.
Welcome to the program all of you.
Mark, I'm going to start with you. I want to talk about this reporting from Michael Schmidt in the "New York Times" about a phone call between President Trump and James Comey. And it says in part quote "President Trump called the FBI director James Comey, James B. Comey, weeks after he too office an asked him when federal authorities were going to put out word that Mr. Trump was not personally under investigation according to two people briefed on the call. Mr. Comey told the president that if he wanted to know details about the bureau's investigations, he should not contact him directly, but instead follow the proper procedures and have the White House council sent any inquiries to the justice department according to those people. So Schmidt says that it was after a series of encounters with the President that the White House officials felt, you know, Comey felt jeopardized by those calls by the FBI's - jeopardize the FBI's independence. So how inappropriate was this?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: It is wholly inappropriate, you know. And there's a lot of discussion and debate about whether Donald Trump understands the job, knows the job, to the point of does he really care. And I really think that even if you believe that he doesn't know the job and he is still trying to understand the job is he doesn't care. And he doesn't seem to want to understand the job or know the job or to be careful or to show any respect for any part of the institution at all.
LEMON: You don't think he cares now that there's a special prosecutor.
PRESTON: I think he cares that there's a special prosecutor that is looking in to him. I don't think he cares for how things should be done or conducted in government.
LEMON: And understand the weight of his words and his actions as president of the United States.
PRESTON: Well, that was what I am saying.
LEMON: All right. David, everyone has seen the video, and this is the video of Comey at the White House. It was in January. A friend of Comey tells the "New York Times' that he didn't want to go to the event and he tried to blend in with the blue curtains in the back of the room. There he is standing there next to the curtains, but then this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And there's James. He has become more famous than me. Director Comey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Comey's friend says he didn't want to hug so he preemptively reached out for a hand shake as you could see in that video and then Trump pulled him in anyway right there we go for the pull in. Your reaction.
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well it's interesting that we started there and ended up here. I think the most crucial thing that has happened over the past week that I don't think has got enough attention, Don, is that the President didn't just fire James Comey which he had every right to do under the law if he wanted to. It's the way that he handled it and has since been dragging Comey's name through the mud. It's what he did again in his news conference today when he talked about his opinion that James Comey was unfit, had to go, and nobody liked him.
Now look. The FBI is a big place. There are 37,000 employees there and agents. Undoubtedly some people didn't like him but I'm sure a lot of people did. And when you have spent your life in public service it's just not customary to fire someone unceremoniously to the point of humiliating them without thanking them for the service they have given to the country. And when you go about it that way you are in a much better position if you're the person doing the firing. Contrast that in a way he has treated James Comey with how he was treated Michael Flynn who he will not say a bad word about even though everything about Flynn notwithstanding the help he gave Donald Trump on the campaign has been nothing but trouble for the President, just about every problem the President has right now including this investigation in my view has to do with the fact that Michael Flynn was tainted and the way things in which he was flawed. He held things back from the transition from the administration. And it would only be worse if the President hadn't found out what he did sooner and wasn't forced to fire him.
LEMON: But can't you see - I mean, it didn't take rocket scientist to figure that out. I mean, I don't think I will have to do a back ground check on Michael Flynn to figure out what his character was. All you have to do is look at his actions leading up to the election.
[23:05:09] DRUCKER: Right. And -- but Donald Trump was differently. And I'm just kind of juxtaposing here how he has treated two different people that he has fired. He will not say a bad word about Flynn and apparently still reaches out to him and just told him to hang in there. And Comey understand he did have a relationship with (INAUDIBLE). He has been dragging him through the mud. And the reason that matters is I think a lot of the leaks and a lot of the news that we are learning about is happening because I think there are a lot of people and probably at the FBI that are not happy with the way James Comey was treated and it rubs people the wrong way. And had the President handled this differently, had he met with Comey in person, asked for his resignation, had even methodical about this, I think that this whole thing might have played out just a bit differently even though a lot of people would have asked questions about the implications for the investigations into Russian meddling.
LEMON: John who is a former U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York fired - he was fired by President Trump. He tweeted tonight that this story about the President calls James Comey sounds familiar. Are there consequences for a President inappropriately contacting justice department officials -- John.
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I'm sorry, the way you said it, I wasn't sure you were talking to me excuse me. I think that analysis was very helpful to outline two things. One is the preference by Mr. Trump for Flynn and the other was to try to discourage the investigation from going to Flynn.
And at the press conference this morning he said I haven't had any association with any Russians. And it makes you think that there is a cut out and is suggested by his conduct about Flynn. At least this is the hypothesis you would test that Flynn can put him in the hot seat. And when you consider how it's now clear that his motivation to kill the investigation was the primary reason after these conversations about Flynn and it had nothing to do with protecting a process involving Hillary Clinton. I think there you have something.
Now you have to go back to Watergate to answer the first question, which is the massacre at the justice department ending up with Bourque agreeing to do what Nixon wanted to do. And that was basically the maybe the fatal thing combined with the tapes that took that whole thing down.
Firing U.S. attorneys did happen in the Bush administration. And the question was, were they selected in such a fashion to have ongoing investigation? So it has happened but it hasn't happen in a way that you can praise.
LEMON: So you don't know if there are consequences for doing that?
FLANNERY: Well, I think there are consequences. We have Bob Mueller in this case. And Bob Mueller is authorized to investigate criminality and not only the original links between campaign and Russians but also any obstruction to impede the investigation. This fits squarely in connection with that authorization. And the only question will be given Bob Mueller's extraordinary capability that will the justice department despite what just happened try to interfere in anyway because the deputy attorney general in fact put himself in the hot seat by admitting that he knew when he wrote that memo that the President and the attorney general who supposedly recused from this were agreeing with him to help him fire Comey. And then he made this false statement for Comey's firing. In a way he is the subject of an obstruction investigation himself since he was involved in this.
LEMON: Page, I want to get you in here because why Rosenstein of all people who is said to be friendly or friends with Comey, he could have picked anybody else why do you think he picked Rosenstein? I mean, why do you think he picked Mueller?
PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Because he is the perfect guy for this job. I mean, he has impeccable credentials, very experienced, very well-respected. He has everything that Comey has plus a lot of additional experience within the FBI. And what I think was really a huge mistake on Trump's part was to fire here was to fire Comey thinking that was going to get him out of this investigation or end the investigation early. What he is ending up with now he has got a special council who is dedicated to one job and that is investigating this Russia thing.
So now the President and everyone in the Trump administration, they don't know just have Comey who also has to run the FBI looking at this investigation, they have one prosecutor dedicated to this job with almost an unlimited staff and resources. And so, I think by trying to get rid of Comey to end the investigation it's going to back fire and be much worse.
LEMON: If someone on the Trump campaign was colluding with Russians and the President didn't know about it because is he said as far as I'm concern today, right, he didn't mention the staff. If he didn't know about it at the time, could he still be guilty of breaking the law, Page?
[23:10:13] PATE: No, no. If he had no idea what was going on, he is not guilty of breaking the law at the time. Now, he could be guilty of obstruction after he realized he know there is an investigation, he wants it to go away either to protect himself or to protect other people in the White House. But to commit a crime in a situation like this, you have to have an unlawful agreement to do something that the law prohibits. And you have to know about it.
Now, Trump himself doesn't have to do actually anything but he has to be part of that unlawful agreement. So if he didn't know he is not guilty.
LEMON: Mark, were you surprised at the President's reaction today?
PRESTON: No. Is anybody surprised anymore? You now, I think that, I mean, look, we saw the President go up to Rode Island yesterday to give a commencement address to cadets who are going to put their lives on the line.
He goes up and makes it all about himself, OK. Today, he comes out, knows a question is going to be asked of him and he can't say it fast enough to say, no, no, no, right. He comes out very quick. His communication strategy is absolutely flawed.
LEMON: And then saying no collusion when it comes to me. Imagine all those staffers who are now having - may have this huge legal fees now.
PRESTON: Themselves and for our viewers to know this, when you bring in special council if you are lower level staff the government doesn't pay for your lawyers. You pay for your own lawyer.
LEMON: Thank you all. I appreciate it.
When we come back the deputy attorney general briefing in Senate on Comey's dismissal today. I will speak to a senator who was there.
[23:15:48] LEMON: Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein briefing a full Senate on the Russian investigation one day after appointing former FBI director Robert Mueller as special council.
Here is what Senator Lindsey Graham said after the meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The take away I have is that everything he said was that you need to treat this investigation as if it may be a criminal investigation. So I think the biggest legal change seems to be that Mr. Mueller is going to proceed forward with the idea of a criminal investigation versus the counter intelligence investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Joining me now is Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia, Democrat, who is a member of the intelligence committee.
Senator, it's so good to have you here. Welcome. The deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein briefed the Senate on FBI director James Comey's firing. What can you tell us about what the deputy attorney general said? SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Well, first of all, it's good to
be with you, Don. And we did get a good briefing today. He come across very direct, very straight. He said what he could say and he said what he couldn't say. He said this was his decision. He made this decision. He didn't give any explanation who he talked to or if he talked to anybody or how he came to the conclusion, but he picked the best person he thought he could. That's Bob Mueller. And he feels very confident. He has given him untethered, if you will, range to do what he thinks is needed to take this investigation to a conclusion and making sure he has the resources to do so.
LEMON: Senator Lindsey Graham said after the briefing that he thinks the public will lose out now because there will be fewer open hearings. Do you agree with that sentiment?
MANCHIN: Well, I have been around long enough, Don. If they want to have hearings they are going to have hearings and that's not going to stop. Let me just say, it will not prevent us from doing our job on the Senate intelligence. We are continuing on. If we can collaborate we can work together and get some things. We can share information. We can see in cooperation if these are matching up, but we will do our job. He is going to do his job and there is nothing tied where the Senate is going to be imped whatsoever. And also anything from the Senate we can basically redirect his direction of how he handles his investigation.
LEMON: So you will work with him, you're saying, if need be?
MANCHIN: Well, I'm thinking that we will, anyway that we are asked to. But we are going to do ours independently of this.
LEMON: I want to read this to you. As you know last night the President issued a statement regarding the appointment of Robert Mueller and saying that, you know, in part as I have stated many time, a thorough investigation will confirm that we - what we already know, There was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most of the country - most to the future of our country.
Then this morning, much more strident center. He said this is a single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history with all of the illegal acts that took place in Clinton campaign. In Obama administration there was never a special council appointed.
This afternoon the President told network anchors at quote "I believe it hurts our country terribly because it shows we are divided, mixed up, not unified and not unified country. And we have very important things to be doing right now whether it is trade, trade deals, whether it's military, whether it is stopping nuclear, all of the things that we have discuss. And I think this shows a very divided country."
What is your reaction to all of that? I mean, that's a lot within less than 24 hours.
MANCHIN: Well let me say, Don, that I respectfully disagree with the President. This is not a witch hunt. I have not partaken in one discussion, not one dialogue anywhere I have been, not one meeting I have attended where I thought people were going after the jugular and just creating, you know, complete chaos. That's not what I have seen. I have seen Democrats and Republicans going about a professional job they have to do especially on the Intel committee on the Senate and trying to find the facts. And we always say this, we respect our Intel community. There are 17 different agencies that we work with. They have -- we have allies around the world. We rely on the most professional people I have ever met. And I trust and I basically respect the work they do. I trust the information they give me. The Intel will give you the facts. The facts should take you to the truth. And the truth should allow you to make a decision you need to make.
[23:20:21] LEMON: Yes.
MANCHIN: With all the chaos going on, everybody is to blame, including the White House for contributing and feeding the chaos.
LEMON: President Trump's justice department that named the special council, so it begs the question how is this a result of a divided nation. And also, you know, he is saying the situation is the Democrats fault. It seems to be the President's own fault.
MANCHIN: Let me say that what you just said is accurate. Very true. There were Democrat senators that we are saying we are going to filibuster if a special prosecutors is not chosen before an FBI director isn't appointed. You heard that. I said when that was told to me, I said listen. You give me right person for the right job and the right place and right time, I'm going to vote for him. I'm not going to pick back and forth and say this in the sequence things have to happen. So you are right. It wasn't that senate Democrats forcing this to happen. They sure they want to happen. But the American public wants a special prosecutor. And I would think that for the sake of the White House and the President, a special prosecutor does not tethered to either side, Democrat or Republican, not playing any political games can clear this up and we can move on with the business of our country.
LEMON: President Trump said he is quote "very close to choosing an FBI director. And Senator Joe Lieberman is a leading contender. He is an independent now, but was on the Democratic ticket in 2000. Would he be a good choice, do you think?
MANCHIN: Well, Don, Joe Lieberman is a dear friend of mine. I have served with Joe Lieberman. There's not a finer human beings that I have met than Joe Lieberman. But I do agree with Lindsey Graham's evaluation going to times we are in right today that it should probably somebody who is nonpolitically affiliated. Somebody who has a professional background coming out (INAUDIBLE) of the profession. That might be the best serving us at this challenging time. But with that, I would say it's not my choice to make. If Joe Lieberman is put before me for confirmation, he can be sure that Joe Manchin will vote for him. I just think that they should, as Lindsey Graham has said, nonpartisan, nonpolitical professional links.
LEMON: Senator Joe Manchin, always appreciate your time. Thank you.
MANCHIN: Thanks, Don. Nice being with you.
LEMON: When we come back how conservative media spends the Trump presidency.
[23:27:17] LEMON: President not holding back today saying the appointment of the special counsel hurts the country and calling the Russian investigation the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history, which is not true.
Here to discuss, Tara Setmayer is a former communications director for Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, also national syndicated talk radio host Mr. Dennis Prager is here. CNN contributor Salena Zito, a "New York Post" columnist.
So let's chat now.
Tara, let's talk about how the people on the right, including conservative media, how they see this story. I want you to listen to this Republican Lee Zeldin. He told my colleague Jim Sciutto earlier today. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: When we have a meeting on tax reform and health care and strengthening our military and we walk out of the room and we have dozens of cameras only wanting to ask us, you know, about Comey or a tweet that's an unfortunate distraction. So where that takes away from the President's agenda where the headlines are about, you know, that investigation and not the most important substantive issues related to tax reforms and securing out country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So who is distracting from the President's agenda, the President or --?
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Fought is that. Look. The problem is that Republicans have decided that they are going to ride the Trump train until the wheels fall off which it is starting to happen now and we are starting to see people turn - twist themselves into knots to get back on track, right. Get back on track.
I mean, there are so many conservatives who thought, well, maybe he is better than Hillary. Maybe we can get some of our agenda through and we will just put up with it. But they have compromised to so many other things, particularly principles. So when you have Donald Trump who goes out there and has this self-inflicted wounds, it is self- inflicted. And then you have these enablers that hold them accountable for it and they try to deflect blame and blame everyone else. It is the media. It is the, you know, it is Hillary. It is Obama. I mean, everybody but Donald Trump. I think that people get to the point where they are just sick and
tired of Donald Trump not taking responsibility for his own actions and he needs to do that because he is doing this himself. What are we supposed to do?
LEMON: What are they supposed to talk about when he tweets things.
SETMAYER: Our job to hold him accountable. And as members of Congress don't like, then they need to stand up and tell him stop it. Act like a commander in-chief, and stop causing these distraction. And let's focus on our agenda.
Dennis Prager, this is a headline from Breitbart last night. I read it on the air. We actually talked about this conversation and thought we would just expand it tonight.
This is Breitbart last night. President Trump reaffirms no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity, appoints special council to lead the investigation.
Is that a fair port rail of what's happen?
[23:30:02] DENNIS PRAGER, NATIONAL SYNDICATED TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I don't know exactly what you are leaning to. I just - maybe let me react to you as--.
LEMON: President Trump reaffirms no collusion between my campaign and a foreign entity. That is what has been investigated. We don't know the answer to that. Appoints a special counsel to lead investigation. He didn't appoint a special counsel he found out 30 minutes before it was announced.
PRAGER: Agree with you. So the issue was Breitbart, not the President. That's why I didn't understand what you were raising. So I don't want to discuss Breitbart. I like to discuss the media.
LEMON: The issue is media doing a fair job of keeping people informed or framing this story.
PRAGER: All right. The question - the larger question since there are so few conservative media compared to the main stream media which is on the left is that doing a fair job. And I see this as simply another of the series of hysterias that the left has created. I don't know, Don, how much you covered it, but I recall you did cover it. I just don't know how much. And that is for example the massive amount of anti-Semitism and racism that the Trump election unleashed. That was all a lie, pure lie, 100 percent lie.
SETMAYER: No, it wasn't.
LEMON: That's not true.
SETMAYER: I'm sorry. I cannot let you get away with that. As someone who are on the receiving end of those horrible insults, I can tell you that it was not a lie. And I'm a conservative.
PRAGER: This is not a university you have to let people speak.
SETMAYER: I will not but I will not let you speak falsehoods as someone who lived it, but go ahead.
PRAGER: Excuse me. I completely, I have a 35 year record in the media and never been once attacked for saying a falsehood. So just - I don't know what your record is, that's mine. So let me repeat. It was 100 percent lie that his election unleashed anti-Semitism and I will stop with that. Hundreds of Jewish community centers have bombed threats called in. To the best our knowledge to this day, 90 percent of them were called in by a Jewish kid living in American Jewish kid living in Israel and the other 10 percent were black radical who is trying to impress his girlfriend.
LEMON: You're talking about two --
PRAGER: No, not two, hundreds. Don, not two. Full the hundreds.
LEMON: You're talking about two instances. And that is, I have to say, that you are not right about that.
PRAGER: Tell me where it's wrong.
SETMAYER: The other Jewish conservatives that got savagely attacked on social media during this whole thing.
PRAGER: Social media. Please, everybody is savagely attacked on social media.
SETMAYER: Not like that. Go (INAUDIBLE). You can ask all of them.
SETMAYER: For me, on the racism side of it, I receive that too. So I mean, this -- I'm sorry, Don. But you know what? This conversation when you bring people like this on, they are not helping the cause. You are deflecting in trying to diminish what is going on here. And you are not re-facing the reality of what actually happened during Trump's election.
You know, you may be supportive of him. There may be things that you agree with him. There's some things, I agree that Donald Trump has said. But you can't deny what actually took place. You cannot deny ugliness that was unleashed during that campaign. Apparently, I don't know, did you not pay attention to what happen in Chicago? Did you not pay attention to what happened at when people getting punched at his rallies? I mean, to deny that is --.
LEMON: Dennis, this is a reality of what people feel and by you coming on and offering really no little if no evidence about the reality not only that Tara faces but that I face as well.
SETMAYER: And many others. LEMON: Many friends of colors, many of my Jewish friends, many of my
women friends, many of my Muslim friends, all have testimony, you know, to the contrary of what you say.
PRAGER: OK. I understand that. I can never deny individual cases. I believe you, Don. I believe your friends. I'm only telling you on a national level. I gave you one huge example of anti-Semitism. I'm a Jew. I have written a major book on anti-Semitism.
LEMON: The man you referenced made half dozen threats out of hundreds.
PRAGER: No, no, no. The Jewish kid in Israel made about 150 of them. That's not true.
LEMON: You are talking about a Jewish kid in Israel.
PRAGER: Yes, he did about 150 Jewish community centers. It's all over now. The press doesn't talk any more about anti-Semitism in America does it? Because there's nothing to talk about.
LEMON: That's not true.
Dennis, here's the thing that's bothersome to you. Selena I'm sorry. Please pardon me. I know -- we love having you on.
Here's the thing the. You seem to -- people in the conservative media seem to want to brand everyone who is in the main stream media as a liberal. Everything that is other than ultra-right is branded as left leaning media. And that's just not so.
PRAGER: Is there a Trump supporter on the editorial page of "The New York Times?" Is there one Trump supporter?
LEMON: I don't work for "The New York Times."
PRAGER: You don't have to work. I don't work for the "New York Times." And I can tell you, there's not one.
[23:35:01] LEMON: You have to ask "The New York Times." I work for CNN and we have plenty of Trump supporters on the air, all the time. You are one of them and you are on the air now.
PRAGER: Right. Fine. I think that is terrific. I didn't talk about you. But I think the ratio, somebody - Larry Elder, a colleague of mine who happens to be black. I think it is only relevant because we are talking about racism here and doesn't think Trump has unleashed racism. Didn't see an NML --.
LEMON: Just because he's black doesn't mean he's aware and it doesn't mean that he is smart.
PRAGER: He's very aware. He is one of the brightest guys I know.
LEMON: And it also doesn't also mean that he is not coopted by certain things and doesn't reap benefits of certain things. SETMAYER: This is such a cop out.
LEMON: Selena, I want you -- here's what President Trump said yesterday. Go ahead, Salena.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Look at the way I've been treated lately especially by the media. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can't let them get you down. You can't let the critics and the naysayer it's get in the way of your dreams. I guess that's why I won, thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Here's what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, I respect the move but the entire thing has been a witch hunt and there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign but I can always speak for myself and the Russians, zero. I think it divides the country. I think we have a very divided country because of that and many other things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Salena we talked about this a lot during the campaign. Is the President saying this as a tactic to rally his base and lay the foundation to undermine the findings of the investigation if they don't fall his way?
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the President fall -- first of all, I think he genuinely feels and believes that this is a witch hunt and he genuinely feels and believes that he is under attack. Having said that, you know, this is a tactic that he used during the campaign and it was very effective. But I think, you know, one of the core principles that Republicans talk about being important to them is to not cry victim but to just go out and do. And I don't think this is very helpful for him as President to present everything as a victim. If you feel that way that's fine. But you're better served to just show yourself out there doing things.
I can remember Hillary Clinton with Lanny Davis when he was under, you know, the impeachment process. He was out every day, sleeves were rolled up, he was at different events, and you know, the message was, the President's just working for the people. He is getting things done. And I think he - and the people that support him and for the healing of the country that's a much better way to combat feeling as though you're under attack.
SETMAYER: But this is who Donald Trump is. He exhibited this. This is a personality. Any time he feels adversity, he will claim the victim. He is the whiner in chief. He did this during campaign. He is always a greed constantly. I thought quite frankly that it was despicable that he made it about him during the coast guard commencement speech, these are men and women who are going to out and putting their lives on the line to serve this country. And here you have someone who dodge the draft and who was brag about, you know, his sexual exploits to his own personal Vietnam standing there in front of these brave men and women about the give their lives, complaining about he is the most aggrieved person in history, you know. That is just emblematic of everything that is wrong with Donald Trump and his character. And why his temperament is so unfit for being president of the United States. And someone who supposedly so strong and a big bad billionaire from New York, he is awfully thin skinned and here we see it again on display.
LEMON: Go ahead, Dennis. Quickly because I got to run.
PRAGER: I just got to say. I don't know if the last -- the last speaker identified herself as a conservative.
SETMAYER: That's right.
PRAGER: I have a question for you. Do you think the country would have been better off in light of your hatred of Trump if Hillary Clinton won? Would the country be better off?
SETMAYER: First of all, I don't hate Trump. I call Trump out for the hypocrite that he is. No, I don't hate Trump. You ask me a question and I'm answering is. I don't hate Trump. I think that Trump is not fit to be President. I have been concerned. I think he is not a conservative as before.
PRAGER: Please, would the country have been better off -- I asked you a simple question for the record. I would like to --
[23:40:01] LEMON: Listen, Dennis. I think the answer is if Hillary Clinton had been President we might not be dealing with all this chaos and all of this craziness every single day. And that you can let the American people weigh whether that's good or bad for the country who would have been better. But the reality is right now is that Donald Trump is President of the United States. So he is going to take the heat. He is going to get the criticism. And it's about time that he live up to that and understood that rather than calling media-ism like racism or whatever other "ism." He should figure out that he is the one, it's all of his own doing. And you can look back over everything that's happened, it's all his own doing.
SETMAYER: And he's not a conservative.
LEMON: By the way Dennis, you are is conflating two different things. Conflating people who are not Trump supporters with necessarily being anti-right and that's not necessarily so.
PRAGER: No I'm conflating this, we have one (INAUDIBLE).
LEMON: I got to go. The producers are mad at me. When we come back, why my next guest warns America is not on fascist
[23:45:39] LEMON: President Trump says he respects and move to a point of special council. But he also calls the whole thing a witch hunt.
Let's discuss now. CNN presidential historian Timothy Naftali and Tim Snyder, the author of "On Tyranny, 20 lessons from the 20th century."
Good evening both of you.
Tim Snyder, you first. Is it helpful for the President to keep portraying himself as a victim-in-chief?
TIM SNYDER, AUTHOR, ON TYRANNY: I would say not if you think about this historically, it is always the leaders of authoritarian regimes or fascist regimes who describe event as being all about themselves and resort to thinking of any event is just a connection between themselves as individuals and their self-reign and the people who are supposed to understand their suffering. So it doesn't help us to understand what's happening for another reason which is there's a clear factual trail.
I think the real political stakes in this question are not so much Russian and Trump which is important but fact versus fiction. The President chose to run a campaign that was largely based on fiction. He had the help of a Russian fictional machine in his propaganda and to his internet campaign. And now, we are going to try find out what the facts are. We already know quite a lot of them. But I think that the President would do best to allow the factual procedure to go forward. Any event, that will the best thing for the country.
LEMON: Tim, do you think that is possible for this President. Tim Naftali.
TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: There's two Tims tonight.
NAFTALI: Do I think it's possible? What I'm looking for is to see if this White House can operate.
LEMON: Your reaction says no.
NAFTALI: My sense is that this President is having to learn on the job and is not doing a very good job of learning on the job. He has made so many mistakes. Regardless, you know, let's remember though he is innocent until proven guilty but he has acted as if he is guilty.
He did things he should never have done. He should never have talked to Comey one on one. He should never have fired Comey the way in which he did. So, will the President do this? I suspect it's not in his nature. But could people actually compel him do that? That's an interesting question.
LEMON: Yes. I think it is fascinating, Tim, your book and I have seen you in other programs and I found your interviews fascinating. You specifically you don't name President Trump in the book but there are a lot of comparisons that I find fascinating. You look at how authoritarian regimes have emerged in the past and you used it as a lesson for today.
And in fact, you write do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want and then start to do it without being ask. You already done this, haven't you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom. Explain that to us.
SNYDER: Yes, that's the anticipatory obedience that (INAUDIBLE) is the great lesson of the major authoritarian regime changes of the 20th century specifically in Nazi Germany. What we know about human political behavior is that we tend to adjust to circumstances which most of the time is perfectly appropriate. But there come moments like for example, Germany in 1933, although it is not the only example, where that kind of consent just adjusting, just go along, just drifting is what the regime needs in order to finalize the change to something else. So what we need to be able to do psychologically is to take a stand and say no, this is not normal and define for ourselves what matters. And it is very important that this comes at the beginning. Because if you are not able to do which is lesson one in the book, you are not going to be able to resist other ways as well.
LEMON: Tim Naftali, President Trump was a successful businessman. He did spend his career essentially telling people not really having any check and balance, is telling people hey, go fix this. Go do this. Not having checks and balances. But you can't do that when you are the President of the United States. Four months into the Trump presidency, and again, another question is that, you know, the other Tim, Tim Snyder mentioned through then I said do you think that he can, on reality, he can do that. But do you think that he can get used to living or operating in a position where he has checks and balances?
NAFTALI: Well, two things. One this is a very expensive experiment in whether you can run the U.S. government like a small business. And so far, the answer is no.
Second thing is I'm not sure to the extent to which Donald Trump was actually running his businesses in the last decade. I mean, he has focused on his television show. His children seem to have been playing an important role.
[23:50:20] LEMON: The TV shows are business.
NAFTALI: It is a business. But was he actually - is he signing - well, maybe he was signing documents, but was he actually reading things? Does he actually absorbing details? He doesn't seem capable at the moment of actually absorbing information. I mean, the whole business about him sharing information that apparently was from Israel, with the Russians without really knowing where it came from or even being curious suggest that he hasn't really been focused on making business-like decisions for some time.
LEMON: Tim Snyder, I got to run, but give us a quick last word here. What is our takeaway?
SNYDER: Look. I mean, history isn't just about parallels. History is also about the moments and the opportunities. When I think this season of all the young people who are graduating from universities and going out in the world, I think we ought to be offering them something better than just a comparisons to the past, the doctor suits, the pop psychology that they hearing now in their commencement speeches. What they definitely don't need is the president talking to them as if he is the victim. What is think they do need to understand is that this is a historical moment for what they do matters. They can go to Cancun or they can march for truth on the 3rd of June. This is going to matter a lot. History is also unfolds before us. It is also the choices that we make right now.
LEMON: Time Snyder and Timothy Naftali, thank you. The book is called "on Tyranny, 20 lessons from the 20th century." I appreciate you joining us.
When we come right back, one of President Trump's most controversial says he is taking a job at the department of homeland security. My next guest fell that decision and says she says he is not qualified.
[23:56:12] LEMON: Controversial Milwaukee county sheriff David Clark says he has accepted a job with department of homeland security. But is he qualified?
Here is some of what he has said in the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CLARK, MILWAUKEE COUNTY SHERIFF: So many of the actions of the occupy movement and black lives matter transcends peaceful protests and violates the code of conduct we rely on. I call it anarchy.
The social order in Milwaukee totally collapsed on Saturday night. When a social order collapsed tribal behavior takes over. When tribal behavior takes over, the law of the jungle replaces the rule of law.
Don, I wish you had that message of civility towards this hateful ideology.
LEMON: You don't know what my message is.
CLARK: That's what they do. These people --
LEMON: Are you going let me get a word in? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I forgot about that.
Joining me now is CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem who held that job in the Obama administration.
Anyway, it is --.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good times.
LEMON: Good times.
So Sheriff Clark is one of President Trump's most controversial defenders. You say much like Flynn, he is a loyalist and not equipped for the job. Explain.
KAYYEM: Look, I have to say, this is not easy for me. You know, the President won and he gets to pick his team. I support secretary of homeland security Kelly. I was very optimistic about him. But this one is sort of shocking not only because it had been my job, but you know, obviously, Sheriff Clark has a lot of sort of accusations against him regarding how he runs his facilities, a man died of dehydration in one of his prisons. There was an investigation going on like that.
But put that aside, right. The job of the assistant secretary of homeland security for stakeholder engagement is the one he alleges he has. It was the one I held which is essentially to integrate a very diverse, complicated homeland, right, where people have diverse viewpoints. They have different needs depending on the jury. Montana is compared to New York City. And it's basically stakeholder engagement job and it is essential when something bad happens. Because I have done enough disasters when the bad thing happens no one cares whether, you know, whether you are a Democrat or Republican. He will serve the administration poorly and will serve, you know, the people poorly.
LEMON: DHS responded to news by tweeting. It said senior positions are announcement made official by the secretary. No such announcement with regards to the office of public engagement has been made. How bizarre is it?
KAYYEM: I mean, I hope what happened to Sheriff Clark was told by some 22-year-old in the White House. Yes, you have this job and a much more sophisticated secretary Kelly who, let me tell you, I don't agree with all of his policies but he knows how to run a department, realizes he doesn't want a guy like this in the office.
So my hope is this push back by the department is essentially saying not here. I don't know where someone like this ends up but certainly not here. So we will see how this unfolds but not good that he was willing to go on radio and say he was coming into the administration. I mean, this administration is having troubles, but I mean, this is like beyond bottom of the barrel at this stage. I mean, it real will is. LEMON: I have to get to another subject. Joe Biden asked tonight,
this news is coming out. Would he run in 202? He said could I? Guess would I? Probably not. What is your response?
KAYYEM: 2020 is a long way away. I am so trying to get to Saturday.
Like literally, I just want to get to my spin class. 2020 is, you know, that's a long way away. And we will see what happens. What's more important is that we make sure that the institutions of governments are solid and strong tomorrow.
LEMON: And I'm trying to get to the end of the show and I have five seconds and that's it.
Thank you for watching. Good night everyone.
KAYYEM: Thank you.