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Trump Delivers Angry, Divisive Speech In Phoenix; Trump Defends Charlottesville Remarks, Omits Many Side Lines; Trump Attacks Media, GOP Senators; Clapper Calls Trump Speech "Downright Scary and Disturbing." Aired 1-2a ET
Aired August 23, 2017 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It is breaking news, and we are live this hour from New York, and we are live in the 1:00 a.m. Eastern hour here on the East Coast. President Trump delivers a speech, unlike anything we have heard from a President of the United States. This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
The President, angry, divisive, unhinged after one of the worst weeks of his chaotic presidency surrounding himself with his supporters. Blasting what he calls the fake media again, and again, and again, while defending his shocking Charlottesville comments last week but failing to mention his reference to many sides, and failing to mention many other things. There were many omissions in his speech earlier tonight.
Here to discuss all of this: CNN Senior Media Correspondent, Brian Stelter; CNN Political Commentator, Peter Beinart, Ben Ferguson, David Swerdlick, Symone Sanders, and Mike Shields; and former Breitbart Spokesman, Kurt Bardella. So, thank you all for joining us. So, I've got to get your reaction first. What do you think about the President's performance tonight and what he said, Brian Stelter?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: First, many Trump supporters, maybe including Ben here in the table, enjoyed and appreciated the President's performance. That doesn't mean his words weren't poisonous. And think his anti-media rhetoric, and his rhetoric against institutions have -- are like a slow acting poison, Don. The words, they seep into people's --
LEMON: Hang on one second. I can still hear -- thank you very much. Go ahead, go ahead.
STELTER: So, that kind of poison we've heard before. A lot of what Trump was doing tonight was a repeat. He was using some of his best lines from the campaign trail, and his best lines from past Presidential rallies. This is his eighth rally, I believe, as President of the United States. We should know of itself it's unusual. But I think, Don, the reason you and many others are asking questions about fitness tonight it's because he steps it up every single time goes even further every single time. And I recognize that his fans, some of his fans, love it, but it gives other people reasons to doubt his very fitness.
LEMON: Ben Ferguson, go ahead. BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. As a friend, what I'd
love to do tonight is I would love to help take all you guys down to rehab, and literally check you in for the most ridiculous overreaction that I have seen by people saying things like, he's hinged. At what point do you just sit there, and you look at the President say, I may disagree with him -- no one's a doctor tonight that I've seen. Then, everybody's trying to diagnose him with, oh, well, the President of the United States of America is unfit to be the President of United States of American, unfit to be the commander in chief.
LEMON: Busting his fitness.
FERGUSON: No, no. But you're -- but by implying at what you're saying is you're trying to undermine the President of the United States of America, and somehow say because you don't like what he said tonight in his speech that he's somehow unfit to be commander in chief. That is the most ridiculous over reaction --
LEMON: Everybody, stop, stop. There are many things we disagree with politicians tonight. You're asking people to pretend to see and hear something that did not happen. Did you watch the speech?
FERGUSON: I watched the speech, and this is the point I go back to you a second ago. There are people that I think love looking at what Donald Trump says, and they immediately come and, oh, my goodness, the President's unhinged. The President tonight was very much like the President was at almost every one of his rallies --
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Unhinged.
FERGUSON: You make not like it, it doesn't mean -- it does not mean that he's unfit to be commander in chief. I mean, you want to talk about overreacting, but the fact that you're saying the President of the United States of America is somehow --
LEMON: So, what do you say to the former director of national intelligence --
FERGUSON: I disagree with them. And I'm not going to say that I think he's unhinged, I'm not going to say that he's unfit to be the former man in charge of the CIA. I'm not going to say that because you can disagree with someone politically. I'm not going to say that Clapper is crazy, or Clapper needs to go to the hospital, or Clapper is somehow not fit to be on national T.V. because he's obviously crazy. I disagree with him politically.
LEMON: Nobody said that about the President. Nobody said that about that President.
FERGUSON: There have been so many people, as I've been watching tonight, who have implying somehow because they don't like what the President says. And I think it's incredibly irresponsible to imply that the President is somehow unfit, or we're going to bring up this article of this, or maybe he's -- LEMON: Do you think Bob Corker is --
FERGUSON: I think Bob Corker -- I know Bob Corker a long time.
LEMON: Do you think --
FERGUSON: Bob Corker is (INAUDIBLE) for a long time. I think Bob Corker --
LEMON: Do you think Republicans who whispers off camera and behind the scenes, the same concerns or get caught on audio tape with the same concerns. Do you think that's inappropriate? You don't have the guts and the backbone to come on television or to say it publicly --
[01:05:01] FERGUSON: Look, I will say this about Bob Corker. I think Bob Corker and many of these established right-wing Republicans don't have the guts to come out and say it publicly -- let me at least finish -- if you're scared then grow up, you're a United States Senator. Don't be a true knight. Don't be a child. Don't be a child and undermine the President.
LEMON: One at a time.
FERGUSON: Let me finish.
LEMON: Quickly, make your point, please.
FERGUSON: No, I'm not going to go -- I don't need a blanket tonight. I don't need someone to put me to bed tonight. I'm a grown adult. Brian, Brian, you're sitting here saying aren't scared?
STELTER: Because many Americans are.
FERGUSON: I'm not scared and the majority of Americans are not scared. You're trying to make this into something it's not. Let me say this about Bob Corker. Bob Corker's never like Donald Trump. Bob Corker's always hated, Donald Trump. There's a lot of Republicans who cannot stand the fact that, but the establishment -- this is an important point -- but he establishment.
LEMON: OK. That's filibustering.
FERGUSON: I'm not filibustering. This is one person against about nine that have disagreed the President.
LEMON: You have to be respectful. There are other people on the panel.
FERGUSON: But my point is just about Bob Corker. Of course, Bob Corker is going to rip on the President. He's never like the President. Bob Corker's complete against something --
LEMON: You've said all that already.
FERGUSON: More than even some Democrats.
LEMON: You've already said that before. It doesn't mean that Bob Corker doesn't have a brain just because he --
FERGUSON: I'm not saying he doesn't. But I'm saying be man enough to walk up and say what you say what you're going to say behind closed doors. It's cowardly. It's cowardly.
PETER BEINART, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is why it's not just about disagreements about policies, right? I disagree vehemently with George Bush's policies, and with Ronald Reagan's policy. But we have standards from Presidents which are based on what Presidents did. It is inconceivable that George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan would've gone up in a rally and call, and said that the journalists don't love America, and called them sick people, as Donald Trump did. It is inconceivable that Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush -- sorry, let me finish. Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush would've said that Amazon -- that Washington Post is simply a tool for Amazon. It is inconceivable, they would've talked about liberating --
FERGUSON: Let me say this.
LEMON: Let him finish.
BEINART: (INAUDIBLE) in the United States. What Donald Trump is doing is complete an anathema to the standards that Republican Presidents have said that. And there's not a Republican senator personally understands it --
FERGUSON: It's, it's --
BEINART: Sorry, let me finish -- who would have said the things about journalists that Donald Trump did. That's why it's different.
FERGUSON: It's inconceivable that we would have had journalists back then that come out here and trying to act like they're somehow a doctor --
LEMON: Hold on, hold on. Do you think people should've --
BEINART: I am responding.
LEMON: Hold on. Do you think the media and people should have pretended that Ronald Reagan wasn't in the early stages of Alzheimer's in the last part of his presidency? Which he was.
FERGUSON: Hold on. What does this have to do with anything --
LEMON: Because we saw it. But no, no, no --
FERGUSON: There's no other to say.
LEMON: I'm saying that people have the right, and they're smart enough to be able to assess someone's behavior without you saying that it's partisan. This is not partisan. We're assessing the behavior of the President. He's in the highest office in the land.
FERGUSON: Don, why didn't you say this -- why didn't you say this when he was the same exact type rallies as he was having tonight four months and we carried -- four months.
LEMON: People did say that.
BEINART: Actually, many of us did try to --
FERGUSON: You thought he was -- you thought he was unfit to me (INAUDIBLE) because of his rally?
BEINART: I thought he was (INAUDIBLE) for President. He saw exactly the same, absolute unfitness, no other Republican candidate came anywhere near saying, the bigoted lies that he said day after day. He was in a different category. He always has been.
LEMON: Simone Sanders, go ahead.
SANDERS: I have reportedly said from the beginning that Donald Trump is unhinged and unfit to be President, because of the rhetoric that he has used throughout his entire candidacy, about his entire presidency. I'm sorry, but words do matter. You cannot sit here and literally tell America and the world right now that this is normal. This is not normal. And I refuse to participate in you trying to normalizing this craziness that has currently occupied the White House. It was not normal for the President of the United States to stand up there and say they are trying to take away our culture.
Who is the they, and what is the culture? It is not normal for the current President of the United States to stand up there on a podium and literally back a known racist, who has been convicted of being a damn racist when White Supremacist literally killed someone in this country last week. So, let's just stop pretending that this is partisan rhetoric. What this is us calling Donald Trump on the carpet, is calling Republican on the carpet, and saying now is the time to either put up or shut up. It's either the Republic --
FERGUSON: What does that mean?
SANDERS: That means either you care more about -- I'm telling you what it means. That means you either care more about the Republic and de-feathered our Democracy in this country or you care more about having a political majority in Congress and the White House. No, that is exactly what this is about.
LEMON: David Swerdlick. David Swerdlick does it mean that what -- it doesn't necessarily mean impeach or driving someone on office, it means restraining him, getting him to -- go ahead, David.
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, WASHINGTON POST: A couple of thoughts, Don. Just to your point about restraining. Congress is a co-equal branch of government currently controlled by the President's party. Their credibility is what is at issue here in terms of how they're going to act with this President of their own party moving forward, and they will obviously be judged on that. Let me back up though and say two impressions about tonight's speech in addition to what everybody else is saying.
[01:10:15] One, and I just feel it's important to get this in here, the President is the commander in chief and passed on the opportunity to say something about the sailors of the USS McCain, who either are missing or died at this point. He is their commander. Their lives are directly in his hands. And he passed on the opportunity to speak about that right at the top of his speech. Also, glazed over the death of Heather Heyer, and troopers Bates and Cullen from the Virginia State Police.
One more point if I could get that in, and that would be this. Look, even if, as Ben is saying, he thinks it's going a bridge too far to diagnose the President or even hint that the President is --
FERGUSON: Because it is.
SWERDLICK: Let me finish, Ben. Even if it's a bridge too far to talk about the President's mental state, I will say this. What we did see tonight was someone who is turning a campaign rally, and at least for the first six months of his campaign -- excuse me -- of his presidency, his campaign it's hard to tell the difference into this sort of erring of grievances. I don't want to make a joke out of it, but it's like the festivest erring of grievances presidency, and it's making think back -- I think about this over and over again to an article written by Emily Nussbaum, the T.V. critic for The New Yorker, who wrote in January, she said, this election was about who controls the microphone. And as we get --
FERGUSON: Month after month --
LEMON: Let him finish. Let him finish, Ben. Go ahead.
SWERDLICK: If we get -- as we get month after month into his presidency, and we've got three years to go, possibly more than seven years to go, but as we get month after month into his presidency, the President's response and the response of the people who support him suggests to me that this really was less about health care or jobs and more about who controlled the microphone, and who can stick it to the media and stick it to Washington.
LEMON: And Mike Shields, people are not -- we're not sitting here, and you said that earlier, diagnosing the President. We're just analyzing a speech. No one is giving a medical diagnosis of this President.
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I beg to differ that there was a conversation at the beginning. There was about 10 or 15 minutes long where people were literally saying, he's insane, we've got to get him out of office.
SHIELDS: Rick Wilson and Maria were of saying that, I mean, they were going so far. And look, here's kind of -- here's kind of my point, bear with me on this. I believe that -- we're having a national conversation about race, right? And as a Republican, I believe that we have to look inward quite often. We get accused of being things that I don't think Republicans are. But we have to first ask ourselves: why would anyone believe that about us? What have we done or not done as a party to make sure that we're reaching out to people of all colors in this country that they may even think that for a minute, that being accountable?
What I ask the media is if the President of the United States is going to lambast the media, what has the media been doing for the last 10 to 15 years, so that anyone would believe what he's saying? Why don't they look inwards? Why when this President was elected, did the media not stop and ask themselves, you know what, we've been coming from a left-hand sight. And let me caveat this -- Don, lets me come on his show and say this and criticize the media in the media with Don. So, I give you full credit for this. We always have a robust conversation about it, but the -- that's how you get to this place. So, to blame the President for attacking the media, which is I think many people believe is why the media then calls him insane, because they feel personally attacked, right? For the President to be able to do that, why would anybody believe him?
STELTER: The media doesn't call him insane. There is no such thing as (INAUDIBLE). Individual commentators -- Rick Wilson hates Trump, he has for two years. They may say things like that about the President, it doesn't mean the media says it, it doesn't mean CNN says it, it doesn't mean a news organization is saying it. But the President did tonight call the press liars, sick people, and crooked. He said, I really don't think they like our country. That's not Presidential. It just isn't. And Mike, you know that.
SHIELDS: But Brian, can I ask you a question on that?
STELTER: You know George W. Bush wouldn't have done that.
SHIELDS: I agree with you, but let me ask you a question. So, there is polling out that shows that a huge number, huge number of Republicans, 80 percent distrust the media.
SHIELDS: Over half of Democrats distrust the media. That didn't happen when Donald Trump got inaugurated on January 20.
STELTER: I agree with you. We need to do more soul searching about that. But polls also show that more Americans, when forced to choose --
SHIELDS: But I don't see that, Brian. I don't see that soul searching anywhere. What I see is --
STELTER: That's a fair point, but when Americans are forced to choose between the press and the President, which is a false choice, it shouldn't be offered. But when pollsters offer it, more Americans say they trust the media over President Trump. He has a fantastically, problematic low approval rating. And I won't kind of worry -- SHIELDS: Then you shouldn't worry when he criticizes you, Ben, you just say that I don't believe in him.
LEMON: So, Mike, to your point then. So, answer for me then, because Brian answered your question. So, answer for me, you said that Republicans needed to do some soul-searching, why would people think that they may have racist -- done some racist things or have racist policies. And the same thing, why would people think that of the President, that he's fit for office, and that maybe his actions point to how you may not feel about him being racist. Talk to me about Republicans first and then the President.
[01:15:23] SHIELDS: No. I mean, look, and I was on with you the other night and said I disagree with his Tuesday infrastructure speech where he did this sort of equivocating. I agree with Paul Ryan, I think it was a mistake. I don't think that's what's in his heart. I didn't hear a lot that the President said tonight, I realize that people don't like that he out, conveniently left out parts he didn't want to talk about. But he was still talking to a Republican-based rally about race and saying the right things. He was re-reading the parts of his speech that were really important things for the President to say. And I don't think there are any alt-right people that were listening to that speech that heard something they didn't want to hear.
LEMON: OK. But he wasn't doing it. Listen, here's the difference: he wasn't doing it for the betterment of the country and to bring people together. He was doing it to defend himself. And in defending himself, he left out a lot of it. And there's lying by omission, you know that. So, I ask you again, why would people think that the Trump supporters or that Republicans or that the President may have some racist tendencies? Because you said, well, why is he criticizing the media? Why don't people believe the media that we have soul- searching? What's the soul-searching on that side?
SHIELDS: Well, look, like I said, I will say again, I criticized the President for the things that he said during the Charlottesville --
LEMON: Not just you. We're talking about the President, Republicans, and supporters.
SHIELDS: Yes. Look, we need to be better as a party. We need to look inward. This is exactly what the speaker said last night when many Republican senators have said, I said it as well. I was the chief of the staff for the RNC when we took the growth and opportunity report. And we hired staffers across the country to actually start going out into the neighborhoods as a part of our field staff to make them carry a Republican message in the communities that were for far too long we have not campaigned to.
I think the Republican Party still has a lot of work. I think we're making tremendous progress, and we have a lot of work to do there. I think the President has a lot of work to do. I think he damaged himself. I think that he wants to do the right thing, and damaged himself with his words and he's trying to continually -- he's mentioned in the speech last night on Afghanistan, he mentioned it again tonight.
LEMON: So, what should he do?
SHIELDS: I expect he'll keep --
LEMON: What should he do?
SHIELDS: He'll talk about it. He should keep talking about it. He should never say, I've moved past this, I shouldn't talk about it anymore. In fact, I think he would be doing himself a huge favor if Charlottesville became something that defined his presidency because he then talked about for the rest of the time he was in office and said, you know, we need to keep working on racial healing, and I want to keep denouncing White Supremacists. That would certainly bring a lot of people together and will bring a lot of Republicans from a better place.
LEMON: So, the fact that he didn't do that tonight --
SANDERS: But he's not authentic. He's not saying any of these things.
LEMON: Symone, let me finish because I'm trying to get some sort of consensus here with Mike. So, he didn't do that tonight, Mike. When will he start?
SHIELDS: Well, look, he re-read.
LEMON: He's had four opportunities to do that.
SHIELDS: If you were --
LEMON: He's had more than that, he's had four tries. He's had more than -- he's ample opportunity. If he wants to come on at 5:00 in the morning, you know, everybody would take him, but he has not done that.
SHIELDS: Yes. Look, he reread the very valuable, important words for the President of the United States to say. Is this the way that I would've done it, no. If I work for the President and I was writing his speech for tonight, it would not have come across the way that it did. I'm not condoning and saying that was perfect communications, and that that's the way that he should've done it.
But I am also acknowledging, and I think it's worth acknowledging, that the President of the United States stood in front of his own base supporters tonight at a rally and re-read the very important good things that he had said about racial healing, about denouncing the KKK. There is nothing he said tonight that would make anyone who's a White Supremacist happy with his words -- they are against that.
BEINART: But Mike, there was so much to make a White Supremacists happy there. First of all, Franklin Graham, right, most viciously bigoted comments about Islam again, and again delivers the prayer. Then, all the Joe Arpaio stuff, right? Why is Joe Arpaio being sued? The man has had racial discrimination claim after racial discrimination claim. Then, that line about they're trying to take away our culture and history.
Come on, you're not that naive. You know people in the audience of who's they in that and who, and what ours? There were lots and lots of stuff there that was at absolute, at least, a dog whistle. To folks, actually, who liked Donald Trump and voted for Donald Trump because (INAUDIBLE). A majority of Republicans think that White people are the group in America who have most discriminated against.
LEMON: And Richard Spencer's -- hang on -- tweeting tonight, put the tweet up saying that the President will -- he says, "Trump has never denounced the alt-right nor will he." Go on, respond to him, Mike.
SHIELDS: Well, look, I denounce the alt-right. I denounce Richard Spencer. I encourage the President to say, I denounce the alt-right. I do believe he has said something negative about the alt-right before, but I hope he will. I hope he will continue down that path.
Look, don't put me in a place of saying that I'm defending everything the President said because I'm trying to have a conversation about the way that he gave his speech, and trying to actually say balance that we should focus on at least a little bit on some of the positive things that he did tonight. That's my point. That's a far cry from calling the man absolutely insane and saying that he's unfit for office. Because now we're having a balanced conversation about some of the good and bad he had in his speech, which I think is the Americans should talk about some --
[01:20:23] LEMON: But you can understand why when you keep saying, well, he should continue to do it and he should do this and that, but how many chances do you give him?
SWERDLICK: Don, can I push back on something Mike said for just one second? Mike, I understand what you're saying, but here's the thing: we all just watched that speech. The President read the transcript of what he said several days ago with more gusto than he said it in the first place. We can all go back and look at the video.
SHIELDS: It's called self-correction.
FERGUSON: That's what we want him to do. Don't we want a President when he gets it wrong and people, many criticized him and saying he got it wrong? I was one of those who said he had to do it better moving forward. But when the President starts to do it.
SWERDLICK: He got it wrong on Saturday. Then he got it wrong on Saturday, then Monday, he came out and gave a very half-hearted statement, then Tuesday he had that epic blow up in front of the media --
FERGUSON: He does do better moving forward. You can't admit that because you don't like the President --
SANDERS: He's not better.
SWERDLICK: Symone, can I just say one more thing? What I was saying is that a President that comes in and with that much low -- with that low credibility on issues of race and gender has to if he wants people to change their presumption of him, has to rely on lean-in right away two Saturdays ago, and make it plain how he speaks. He has --
FERGUSON: Let me make this clear, I did not defend the President on what he said when he said the first time. And I'm saying that the President of America has to always get it right when it comes to issues of race, and he has to always get it right, you cannot get a redo on certain issues like that. With that being said, when the President goes out there in a rally, that's an easy rally --
LEMON: Wait, wait, wait. You're talking about the first speech the President gave on Saturday?
FERGUSON: I'm talking about when he came out and gave the speech this first time. And I even said --
LEMON: I asked you on television, re-reading his speech saying that you thought that he had hit the right mark and made this right tone.
FERGUSON: No. Don, what I said was, very clearly, is that when you have a conversation about race in general, and that there's something that happens that deals with this, you have to make it very clear that you denounce it clearly. You have to make it clear you denounce it every time.
FERGUSON: Right, exactly. But my -- this is what I'm saying about the President. The President came forward tonight, read some of the parts on that many people say he should've been clearer on. So, he used those words to his core audience tonight, who people said he would not be able to do this too, and they said that he would not be able to learn from his mistakes --
LEMON: And in that, he said, they never play these parts. He read the speech. And he said you hear that in the media. When, in fact, we ran it live and he said they're cutting the cameras off, and we were still running it live as he was talking trash about CNN. He's -- Ben, you're making excuses for something that's not there.
FERGUSON: I'm not making excuses. I'm saying that when -- there's a certain point when you have to look at this and say, OK, there are people that are just criticizing the President because they literally just cannot stand him. And even when he uses the line that they've been saying, he needed to use the lines more often --
SANDERS: No, no. But I think the problem here --
SWERDLICK: He gave a 20-minute sermon about the how media had misportrayed his comments. Sorry, Symone, go ahead.
SANDERS: No. You're good, David. I think the problem here is the President's credibility and consistency on the issues of race in this country. Remember, Donald Trump just didn't pop-up on the scene yesterday. This is the man that literally led the charge against the Birthed Movement, that literally suggested, not even suggest, that said the first African-American President.
FERGUSON: Which I denounced itself. I agree with.
SANDERS: But I'm telling you this is who Donald Trump is. And so, please don't act as though that the same man that took out a full-page ad in The New York Times, suggesting, actually saying that the Central Park Five did it, and suggesting that they be thrown in jail when there was no clear evidence, and now that they've been exonerated. Let's not pretend as though, Donald Trump does not have issues with consistency and credibility when it comes to race.
SANDERS: So, understanding that -- wait.
LEMON: Go ahead. Go ahead.
SANDERS: So, understanding that you cannot say he read a statement, he got it wrong the first time, he came out with a new statement that was better. Today, you know, he could've emphasized some other points. No, folks need consistency, and clarity, and honesty, and credibility from the President on this issue because people are literally dying.
LEMON: Kurt Bardella, to Symone's point -- and that's where I was going to go with this. How many chances, how many excuses can you make for someone, especially if you go back -- and as she said consistency -- and look at his history on this subject from decades ago? It just didn't start two Saturdays ago.
KURT BARDELLA, FORMER SPOKESPERSON FOR BREITBART: Well, I mean, how hard it to be unambiguously against racist, Nazis, White Supremacist, racial profiling? I mean, these should be the most simple rhetorical things that any leader or President should be able to do. And yet, we're (INAUDIBLE) have to have the question about, whoa, what did the President mean by this? Why did he not say this? Maybe he meant something about this?
And it's worth noting that after that he regurgitated his previous statements today about Charlottesville, he then meagerly pivots to suggesting he may pardon Sheriff Joe, who profiles Hispanic. So, he believes that police operating procedure should be to round up next of kin because they are Mexican, and therefore they must be here illegally. Donald Trump wants to give this guy a pardon, does any wonder why? People might believe that Republicans are racist because I don't a whole bunch of Republicans going out there saying, hey, we shouldn't give Sheriff Joe a pardon. That is wrong to racially discriminate and profile against people. Where's Speaker Ryan? Where's Mitch McConnel? Where are all the 435 representatives in Congress?
[01:25:43] LEMON: The President on Joe Arpaio tonight. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?
(CROWD SHOUTING YES)
TRUMP: So, was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?
TRUMP: He should've had a jury, but you know what, I'll make a prediction. I think he's going to be just fine, OK?
TRUMP: But I won't do it tonight, because I don't want to cause any controversy. Is that OK? All right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Does this help, Peter Beinart?
BEINART: No. And then, again, this is -- I think makes the point that I was trying to make earlier. But the differences between a principled conservative -- you can imagine Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, someone who's very, very conservative. They could've gotten up there and say, you know what, immigration is too high, we need tougher enforcement, we need a merit-based system. There are all kinds of debates about immigration that are totally legitimate you can have, right? But Joe Arpaio is considered among Latinos in Arizona to be today's, Bull Connor.
That is the reputation he has among Latino folks across the country, and especially in Arizona. And for a lot of good reason which is part of the reason that the guy is actually under in legal jeopardy here. And to go out and talk about him like that, let's not be naive here, Donald Trump knows exactly what he's doing, and he knows that he can get a huge roar out of that crowd because there are very few Latinos in that crowd. That's completely different than, say, taking a conservative position on immigration which lots of other Republicans could to.
LEMON: We're live right now. A break, we'll be right back.
[01:30:00] LEMON: We're back now live on CNN. Yes, we are live for those of you who are wondering on social media and we're dissecting the president's speech tonight that he gave in Phoenix, Arizona, a president who seemed very angry, backed in the corner, if you will, and really hitting the press and who he believes his enemies and his enemies as well, Republicans mostly, he -- didn't he hit Republicans more than he hit Democrats tonight?
Because I just want to play this, this is him talking about Senator John McCain, who is suffering from brain cancer, and also the other senator there in Arizona, Jeff Flake. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We were just one vote away from victory after seven years of everybody proclaiming repeal and replace, one vote away. One, one, one vote away.
We were one vote away. Think of it, seven years, the Republicans -- and again you have some great senators -- but we had one vote away from repealing.
But you know, they all said, Mr. President, your speech was so good last night, please, please, Mr. President, don't mention any names.
So I won't. I won't. No, I won't -- vote -- one vote away, I will not mention any names.
Very presidential, isn't it?
The very president.
And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who's weak on borders, weak on crime, so I won't talk about him. Nobody wants me to talk about him. Nobody knows who the hell he is.
And now, see, I haven't mentioned any names, so now everybody's happy.
But we are going to get rid of ObamaCare, I will never stop. One vote. I will never stop. We're going to get rid of ObamaCare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: All right. A lot to unpack there, David Swerdlick. He's -- everybody should be happy. I'm sure all of his advisors said do not mention anyone by name, specifically John McCain, but everyone knew who he was talking about and one vote, he's -- that really stuck in his craw.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It really stuck in his craw. Look, it's almost like throwing string to a kitten, right, that if someone tells him not to talk about them, it's perfect tip-off for him to start talking about them without mentioning their names.
That's a rhetorical device the president has used over and over again. He clearly enjoys it. He's used it to great effect with his supporters.
In terms of health care, look, the president should just reflect on the last few months and I think everybody, Republican, Democrat, Independent, could agree that part of what caused him this problem and this loss on health care is that you have senators now who are not afraid to vote against him.
The president on Inauguration Day had a 45 percent approval rating. Now his approval rating is somewhere in the mid-30s. That says to senators, I can afford to disagree with President Trump when I need to -- Republicans, that is. They will not abandon him; they're not saying impeach him.
But that says to a John McCain, if I don't want to vote for this bill, I don't have to vote for this bill. And that's what the president is dealing with. And it's mostly a problem of his own creation.
LEMON: Mike, what about -- you know, I could have -- maybe I could have worked harder when it comes to health care and I'm going to work harder as it comes to health care and I'm not going to let it slip through the cracks. We're still going to work. I'm fighting a lot of people in Washington. I came there to do stuff differently. Maybe it's my fault that it didn't work. But just give me a chance and I'm going to do it.
Wouldn't humility go a long way here rather than it's John McCain's fault?
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I'll be honest with you, in addition to, I think it's inappropriate to criticize John McCain, considering his health condition, but more importantly in some ways it's not effective --
SHIELDS: -- because not only do I think it's inappropriate all of his colleagues in the Senate do as well, even the ones that don't agree with John McCain are going to that's inappropriate. It's a very emotional issue for his colleagues in the Senate, who are all looking at him -- he was like a hero when he came back to the Senate floor to vote. And these are personal friends of his, even other Republicans and Democrats, who may or may not agree with him.
So in addition to not being appropriate, I don't think it's effective. I don't think it's effective to talk about Arpaio when you want to get an immigration bill done through the Congress, either. I don't actually think that helps his cause. I would rather see the president fly in and do a rally in one of the challenged Democrat Senate states and bash the Democrat senator for not helping and try to get a bigger Senate in the second half of his term to get all of his agenda passed.
LEMON: David, can I ask you about this Mitch McConnell reporting, apparently the two had an angry phone call a couple of weeks ago. They've not spoken and Mitch McConnell now saying he's concerned that the president may not even be able -- again, I'm paraphrasing here, he's saying the president -- he's not sure if he can -- Trump can save his presidency now.
SWERDLICK: Yes, so, Don, look, Mitch McConnell is someone who has a secure Senate seat. He won his last election by something like 15 points over Alison Lundergan Grimes. He delivered for President Trump his only clear major win. He left that Supreme Court vacancy open so that President Trump could nominate Justice Gorsuch.
And he is looking now at the president, openly criticizing him, not behind the scenes, not, you know, sources on background, but saying in press conferences, Mitch, get it together. But by his first name, not Senator McConnell, not majority leader McConnell, Mitch. And he's got to be thinking, look, he still has to lead the Republican Party.
But why would he go the extra mile now for President Trump on anything, when doesn't agree with his specific agenda?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think Mitch McConnell is ever going to go the extra mile for Donald Trump, period, because he never liked him from the very
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- took away a nomination from President Obama just so he could --
FERGUSON: OK. That's different because that was more about who will be in the White House, Republican or Democrat. Obviously that makes sense and that's a smart game plan for Mitch McConnell. You wouldn't light it up for a Democrat. That's completely irrelevant to this conversation.
Many Americans, and the reason why Donald Trump got elected is because there are people that cannot stand Mitch McConnell.
And look, I don't -- you know, there was something that you said a moment ago --
SANDERS: This is a new talking point. I thought it was Nancy Pelosi.
FERGUSON: Let me finish. Let me finish. This is an important point. You said a moment ago --
FERGUSON: -- that you actually -- it's not crazy if you actually listen to what I'm saying and then you can say it's crazy because I'm a conservative and you don't like me, that's fine. But let me at least finish before you --
SANDERS: No, no, I'm sorry, first of all, that is an inaccurate characterization of why I think what you're saying is crazy.
FERGUSON: Don said on the show a moment ago maybe the President of the United States of America should have come out and said maybe it was my fault or maybe I should have done more.
Donald Trump doesn't have a vote in the Senate. Every Republican that was up for reelection said they would repeal and replace ObamaCare. If senators made it personal and they chose not to fight hard because Donald Trump's the President of the United States, it's America, then you need to look at your voters and they say --
LEMON: Did he engage in the process, Ben?
Did he engage in the process?
LEMON: Did he understand what was at stake?
Did he understand health care?
FERGUSON: I think he understood health care pretty well. I think it got him to the White House, for goodness sake. ObamaCare was one of the core thing that's got him there.
LEMON: What he's said about health care, repeal and replace, that's what got him to the White House. That has not happened.
FERGUSON: Because Republicans literally put their own personal feelings towards the president and the ones that don't like him --
SANDERS: No, that's not what happened.
FERGUSON: -- again the voters that voted for these Republicans wanted to repeal and replace ObamaCare --
FERGUSON: -- and they let down the voters.
LEMON: Symone, hold on. Hold on.
Members of the Senate were asked to vote on a bill that they said they didn't want to pass. By their own admission, it was a bad bill and some senators said why am I going to do this when they weren't even sure that they weren't going to put this bill into law.
FERGUSON: Which is exactly why Republicans, many of them cannot stand people like Mitch McConnell because they had plenty of time to do this. And then they're criticizing their own bill, going, well, our bill is a bad bill. Well, then, go do your job. You can't blame Donald Trump for that. You got to blame the Republican leadership --
LEMON: -- President of the United States should understand how difficult it is to do this -- go on.
BEINART: Donald Trump repeatedly contradicted himself, demanded that the Republicans in Congress do completely different things at different moments. Right? And finally got behind a bill that had like less than 20 percent support in the country as a whole.
These Republicans were actually representing people.
SANDERS: And before he even did that, he set an artificial timeline.
FERGUSON: -- if the didn't do their job. You cannot blame the president --
FERGUSON: -- for Republicans like Mitch McConnell and even John McCain and others, who literally sit around and go, it's a bad bill. Well, you're in Congress, do your job and get a better bill. You can't criticize Donald Trump. Donald Trump didn't write the bill.
SANDERS: Clearly I am not here to defend Donald Trump or any of the Republicans currently today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trust me, we all know.
SANDERS: I just want to be clear. But if what I'm saying is crazy is that the fact that Donald Trump, the President of the United States, not understanding that health care was as complicated as it could be -- these are words from his own mouth -- put an artificial timeline on Republicans in Congress to pass a really, really hard bill.
When the Democrats decided to take up health care, there were hearings, there were more than 18 months of debate. President Obama went around the country --
SANDERS: Donald Trump did not do that.
SANDERS: But I want to be clear that what I'm saying is crazy is the fact Donald Trump set these artificial timelines, these artificial goalposts for the Republicans.
FERGUSON: He only did that one time and it backfired --
SANDERS: -- Trump literally said we're going to get health care done X.
FERGUSON: -- and agreed on that.
LEMON: Where is the humility with this president? And as any other president will tell you, as Ronald Reagan said, as George W. Bush, as George H.W. Bush, as Bill Clinton, as President Obama have all said, the buck stops with them.
With Donald Trump, the buck stops everywhere else but the highest office in the land. But I tell you what, if he had gotten ObamaCare repealed and replaced, he would be taking credit for it.
Kurt, go on.
BARDELLA: Absolutely he would have been. And again, I think at some point, remember, this is a person that campaigned on the idea that he was "The Art of the Deal," that he was going to be the best negotiator we'd ever seen. He was going to work with everyone, get so much done. We'd be so tired of winning, there would be so many legislative successes.
And he has got nothing to show for it right now. And it's interesting that instead of owning up to that and trying a new strategy, he doubles down and he's going to spend more time now attacking Republicans than even Democrats rather than maybe working, trying to either grow his congressional majority so that he has more votes to play to get something done.
He would rather go to home state of two U.S. senators, one who is battling brain cancer, and attack them.
How is that a recipe for success?
How's that going to get tax reform done?
How's that going to get ObamaCare done?
How is that going to get any of that done?
LEMON: Hold that thought because I got to get to a break.
Can we put Kurt back up in the box, Kurt by him?
Kurt Bardella, I got to say -- can we get Kurt by himself?
I like your St. Jude's pin.
BARDELLA: Oh, thank you very much.
LEMON: We are talking about brain cancer and health care and St. Jude does that, so, again, thanks. I just wanted to point that out.
BARDELLA: I appreciate that. So does St. Jude, I can tell you that very much.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
(MUSIC PLAYING) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Back now tonight we're analyzing and dissecting the president's speech in Phoenix, Arizona. The president talked about the media tonight, the media not playing his words, taking him out of context.
He's very -- I think he's media-savvy but does he realize that everything he says is on camera?
So here's what he said tonight about -- but he left out some things. Here's what he said tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Here's what I said on Saturday. "We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia." This is me speaking. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred bigotry and violence." That's me on Saturday right after the event.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So here's what he actually said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: "On many sides," he didn't mention that at all. That was omitted.
Then he talked about the statement that the White House released, not specifically from the president, but the statement the White House released the next day.
And then after that the president said this about Tuesday. He didn't say anything about Tuesday by the way. But this is what he came back and said on Tuesday, he didn't really mention that in his speech tonight. Here he is, doubling down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group -- excuse me, excuse me; I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So he did -- so take it out of order. Let's play what he said. He did talk about Tuesday. Let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The last one, on Tuesday. Tuesday, I did another one.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Can we play -- and then let's just play it again. I know we did it out of order but what he didn't mention was the "very fine people" part. And here's what he actually said, again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: People that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group -- excuse me, excuse me; I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and then renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Brian Stelter.
STELTER: And he continued this with the "both sides" talk. He didn't say both sides explicitly. What he did, Don, was talked about Antifa, a far right -- excuse me, not far-right, far left-wing folks, who go out there, some of them provoking violence, at these sorts of protests and counter protests.
STELTER: So he brought up Antifa by name, which those far leftists are going to be thrilled about. And he talked about the anarchists with black masks that he sees at those protests that he definitely calls chaos, just like some of those white supremacists caused chaos in Charlottesville.
So by bringing up Antifa, the president was continuing the "both sides" rhetoric and FOX News is going to love that.
But what's he really doing, Don?
He's attacking the media and attacking Republicans and attacking Democrats, attacking lots of folks because his presidency is in grave condition, because he knows Mueller's research continues, because he knows he's losing even some Republicans who voted for him. This is a president in survival mode.
STELTER: -- what happened through the lens of survival mode.
FERGUSON: How many times are we going to say survival mode?
Are you going to say that a year, two years, three years?
STELTER: You're being optimistic. Mitch McConnell is saying.
FERGUSON: First of all, Mitch McConnell has never been a fan of the president, he doesn't like the president. I think he'll do anything he can to undermine the president. I think that's very clear --
LEMON: Does anybody like the president?
LEMON: No, but every time someone criticizes -- Ben, every time someone criticizes the president, you say, well, this person doesn't like -- you didn't like him.
FERGUSON: During the primary he was not -- obviously, very clearly on this show.
FERGUSON: I don't know why people are laughing --
SANDERS: I'm laughing because it's true.
FERGUSON: -- many different people. You don't give Bakari Sellers when he came out and goes for somebody maybe against the candidate that ends up getting the nomination --
LEMON: Bakari Sellers --
FERGUSON: You didn't give him credit.
SANDERS: He didn't vote for Hillary Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- didn't give him hell about it.
LEMON: You make no sense because those people did not reflexively support the person just because they were a Democrat. That's a big difference.
FERGUSON: Let me go back to the point that Brian just said a moment ago, he says he's in survival mode. STELTER: And that's true.
FERGUSON: He's the president -- no, it's not true. And this is absurd to even imply --
LEMON: Stop, stop, stop.
So then why make the speech?
Ben, why make the speech if he's not in survival mode, if he's not trying to --
FERGUSON: Because he went out to rally his base and went out there --
FERGUSON: Let me at least respond because I'm actually one of the people that would probably be a conservative on this panel compared to others that don't like the president. So I'll say it again.
The president is not in survival mode. You just don't like the president. I think you want him to be in survival mode. The President of the United States of America --
FERGUSON: -- have you ever said when another president's approval rating went low that they were in survival mode?
STELTER: We've never been here before, Ben.
FERGUSON: -- when Bill Clinton had a low approval rating, which he did.
STELTER: We weren't on CNN back then.
LEMON: The President of the United States right now is Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
LEMON: So let's not litigate Bill Clinton -- hold on. Listen.
I'm older than you, I remember when Bill Clinton, I remember Monica Lewinski, I remember all of that and there were times when people said that this president was in survival mode.
And what did he do? He didn't attack the media. He triangulated. He made friends with
Republicans, he got things done. He didn't go on television and say everybody who criticized him didn't like him.
FERGUSON: But he also lied to the American people then, too --
LEMON: Well, yes. Absolutely.
FERGUSON: And he was impeached.
LEMON: And he was impeached.
So what is wrong with saying that this president is lying to the American people and wondering if he's --
LEMON: Go ahead, Mike.
SHIELDS: I was going to try and -- bear with me -- I was going to try and attempt to get back to your actual question coming out of the break --
LEMON: Thank you.
SHIELDS: -- which was why he left those things out. Even though we all have seen the video and we all know what it said, he knows that, too, obviously, right. Let me state from the beginning, there are no nice people that are white supremacists. You can't equivocate those things. I completely disagree with his characterization there.
However, so tonight, he knows that he said, on Saturday, something he admitted tonight and then the subsequent Tuesday, something he admitted tonight. I think what he was trying to do was to say, everyone focused on those bad things I said and they didn't focus on all the other things that I said. So let me go and read all the things that they -- and he said the media didn't cover it and you pointed out it was covered live.
I think what he meant was the media didn't focus on all of these other really strong things that I said. Now I think they didn't focus on it because he made these mistakes and said these other things. It was his fault.
But just to answer your question, I believe that's why he did what he did tonight.
I think that's what he was trying to do.
LEMON: So we're supposed to say the president did not denounce Nazis let me tell you about the great things -- come on. Then people would be questioning our sanity.
SHIELDS: That's not what I'm saying though, Don. Hang on. Let me clarify because these are very -- this is like a dangerous topic and I want to make sure I clarify.
What I'm saying is he --
SHIELDS: -- was trying to explain, hey, I said all of these things, I said one bad thing, which we all think is not just a bad thing, it's a terrible thing and he shouldn't have said. And then the rest of his speech therefore got overshadowed and he sort of attempted tonight to leave out the bad part and try to get everyone to focus on the other part that he said.
Now I personally don't think that's an effective thing to do because you have to speak with moral clarity. And that's not the way he was doing it tonight. But to answer your question, I believe that's what he was sort of trying to do.
LEMON: But he also had Tuesday to explain himself clearly and he didn't. He doubled down.
Go ahead, Mike.
SHIELDS: No, you're right. I mean, look, I disagreed with how he handled it. We have so many days to talk about here. I disagreed with him on Saturday, I liked him on the Monday. I disagreed with him on the Tuesday and I liked him -- yesterday was another Monday. So I liked both Mondays and I wish he would stick to that.
But I was trying to answer your question: I think that's what he was trying to do. I don't think he was just flat-out saying I'm going to lie and you're not going to know that I said this thing. We all know he said it. He was saying, can we try to focus on the other good things that I said.
SWERDLICK: Real quick, Mike just did the best possible job I've ever heard of a President Trump cleanup almost ever. But it was that last little thing. The president -- one, the president knew actually what he was leaving out and why.
And the second thing is, for the second Monday of all these days, yes, he shoehorned in an apology/excuse for himself on top of a speech that was built as a nationwide address about Afghanistan, piggybacking on the racial diversity of the military. I'm not going to give him a whole lot of credit for that.
LEMON: Thank you all. It's been a very interesting night here. We came on; we thought we were going to be here three hours and we're here four hours and we still have lots to talk about. But certainly was an interesting moment for the country. Let's see where we are when we wake up tomorrow.
Thanks for joining us everyone. I'll see you right back here tomorrow. Our live coverage continues next with John Vause and Isha Sesay in Los Angeles.