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Trump Lashing Out at the FBI on Christmas Break; Strong Republican Base for 2018 Midterms. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired December 26, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[22:00:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
President Trump spending a big part of his day on the golf course in Florida where he is on holiday vacation. But also using Twitter to slam the Russia investigation, labeling the FBI as tainted and calling the Russia dossier which was compiled by a former British spy, a bogus pile of garbage used by Hillary Clinton to go after his campaign.
We are less than a week before the start of the new year, can we expect anything new from the president in 2018 as the Russia investigation heats up, and as we head towards the mid-term elections in November?
That's where we begin tonight with CNN political analyst David Gergen, political analyst April Ryan, and political commentator David Swerdlick. And the gangs all here. Hello, everyone. Hope you had a great holiday.
David, we're at the end of the 2017 and despite the Russia investigation inside the White House, despite the indictments, despite many of the controversies like Charlottesville, is President Trump marching into 2018 living up to his name, Teflon Trump?
DAVID SWERDLICK, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: So, I don't think Trump is Teflon, Don -- as a Teflon, Don, but I think he's managed to get through this year that's been a difficult for him and still have some political resilience, right. Even though in today's Gallup poll he's at 36 percent overall approval rating.
If you look into that poll if you look into some polls about his tax plan about some of his other specific policies, they were named popular among republicans. And his White House and his political shop and republicans in general are working from the base out, inward out, right. They know that they still have a reservoir support among republicans and that's what they're going to pivot off of in 2018.
Even though Trump has proved himself to be unpopular with democrats and a lot of swing voters, he has given establishment republicans what they want in the form of the tax cut bill. And he's giving his hard core base what they want in terms of having the right enemies.
He has put his finger in the eye of the establishment, put his finger in the eye of what they perceive as political correctness. He has, you know, made good on the idea of being a sort of a champion or a spokesman or a tribune for a base that wanted to quote, unquote, "make America great again," i.e., "bring America back to a different pastime."
And people have like that and have stuck with him even though his base of support remains in that mid-30s to maybe 40 percent. He's carrying that, he has had that from the beginning and he's carrying that into 2018.
LEMON: Mr. Gergen, President Trump is tweeting attacks on the FBI, tweeting on the dossier today. And also he tweeted this tonight. He said, "All signs of that businesses are looking really good for next year, only to be helped further by the tax cut bill, will be a great year for companies and jobs. Stock market is poised for another year of success."
So David Gergen, the president signed a major piece of legislation and didn't matter that republicans occasionally spoke out against the president, didn't matter that there is a Russia investigation. The division, that didn't matter as well. So, what has -- what's his incentive to do anything differently next year?
DAVID GERGEN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: His incentive? Well, listen, at the moment if you look at the intentions of voters in November of '18, the CNN polls finds a wide biggest gap since 1938 with democrats, far more people saying they're going to vote for democrats than for the republicans on the ticket.
And if people are sensing there's a wave out there, and if so it would -- it could sweep the republicans out of a majority in the House, and that would -- that would put a stop, an absolute dead stop to much of Trump's legislative agenda in the second half of his first term and then turn put a cloud over his re-election.
So he's got a lot at stake to think about this much more carefully than he has. I think one of questions, Don, we've been sponsor -- we've been focusing for a long time on how firm his base is, and it's held pretty firm. The bigger question now is how firm is the opposition to him? Can he win people back? Can he stop this wave in the coming year?
LEMON: Yes. April, do democrats and republican critics of the president who are waiting for one of these controversies to blow up or take down the president, do they need to find a new strategy?
APRIL RYAN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, they're always reinventing themselves as each issue comes, be it a Twitter issue with the president basically opening up a hole and jumping in himself or when it comes to this issue with Russia. There are controversies that will continue if this first year is indicative of that, we see that controversy follows this president.
[22:05:02] But what's going to have to happen is that there's going to have to be right now, while republicans are in the majority on the hill, that republicans are going to have to sing together and chorus to go against this president. And right now that's the key. And until things change, until elections
happen and things change, if and when it does, right now it's all really up to the republicans. The democrats can keep screaming, impeachment. They can keep screaming this is not fair, this is not right. But as long as the republicans are in majority, as David Gergen said, there within lies the problem.
LEMON: Yes. David Swerdlick, I want to read part of this. This is from an op-ed from the Washington Post. And it says "Sheer outrage at the president's scandals is pointless." But worse still is directing your anger at the supporters then you're doing the same thing, that Trump is. Believing your side is all right and the opposite side is all wrong, rejecting your common humanity and sense of country, you're playing into the polarization game instead of defeating it."
So what do you think about that, and is the president playing the polarization game better than his opponents.
SWERDLICK: So it's a good piece by Andres Miguel Rondon, edited actually by one of my senior editors, full disclosure. I think that he makes a good point, Don, that democrats coming into 2018 and then more specifically into 2020 need to play the populous game better than President Trump. President Trump has sort of captured the moment of populism and democrats are not...
LEMON: What do you mean by that? How do they do that?
SWERDLICK: ... not seen as a populist. Not seen as the party of the average, you know, work a day American. Even though, in fact, democrats have championed issues in recent years that have favored working class or middle class Americans, they are not perceived that way by many voters. And they need to do a better job of messaging. And I think that is the take away from that piece to a certain extent.
But I think that to a certain extent in 2018 this is going to be about building blocks for democrats. David Gergen knows more about White House positioning than anybody out there, and I agree with him that republicans do have to take stock of the fact that polls are turning against them, that they're going to face an uphill climb in many districts in 2018.
But I'm not sure if I see a wave completely in 2018, I'm not sure if I see democrats taking back the House or something like that, even though they will gain seats. Democrats need to make some intermediate gains in 2018 and then have their eye toward 2020.
This is -- there's not going to be one thing here. It's not going to be a big stack of Jenga blocks where one thing collapses the Republican Party and then democrats just take back over in a wave. It's going to be a steady movement back by having good candidates, good issues, being anti-Trump and also having their own positive agenda and building their party back to where it was a few years ago.
LEMON: David, for democrats at least somewhat it looks like the, you know, the anti or resist Trump thing is working. But as David Swerdlick said they need to build on that. Where do you see this going in 2018?
GERGEN: On which side? Listen, I think that Donald Trump does have this economy working for him in a very positive way. It hasn't totally lifted in yet, but you have another six, seven, eight, nine months, this tax cut really does bring you the kind of jump start to the economy, it kicks it up to an even higher gear. It's already doing well.
He inherited a good economy from Barack Obama, but if he can get it up higher, that would make a major difference. I also think that if he could find a resolution on issues like the DREAMers, that he could work with democrats on, if he could now shore up the health care system working with Senator Collins, for example, or working with Alexander, Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray on their health care bills, you know, you could, he could begin to change the conversation. Always, always worried about that dark cloud called Mueller and just how close it's still coming.
LEMON: Yes. Do you think, April, that democrats are, you know, counting their chickens too quickly here? They're excited about Virginia, they're excited about Alabama, and it seems to be on a roll, at least what those or maybe a couple more, but do you think it's too fast?
RYAN: I think it's too fast. Democrats cannot take anything for granted because there's always that unknown variable. But at the same time, they do have a momentum where we keep focusing on the base of the president as 37 percent. The vast majority of people disapprove, and that's the big piece.
Not only that. When you talk about tax reform, the pay force, that is the big issue. It's not a perfect plan, it's not a perfect bill, but there are the pay for issues. And when that happens, when the budget x comes and swings, who's going to be hurt? The least of these.
[22:09:57] And then they are going to deal with entitlement reform from what I'm hearing from Cedric Richmond, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus. That's next. And when you deal with that you deal with Medicaid and you deal with other issues that affect the least of these.
And a lot of the president's base is the least of these. And you know, we talk about the least of these, we talk about race a lot, but let's talk about the poor, let's talk about poverty.
You've got a large population of Appalachia who loves this president, the poorest of the poor and they're white. So these people could be affected by entitlement reform by this tax plan when they're cut. So right now we have to wait to see how these things pan out.
The democrats can use the momentum is they use it wisely. I mean, there's a lot that could be said about not just their base but the president's base and how they could be hurt by some of these issues that are getting ready to come up in 2018. LEMON: April, David, David, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Just ahead, President Trump upset for not getting enough credit for his accomplishments. At least that's what he believes. But are his distractions all just for the reaction, just for reaction and is it on purpose? New York Times columnist Frank Bruni is going to join me with his thoughts on that next.
LEMON: The president may be on vacation, but he did not take a day off from trying to undermine the Russia investigation. He's taking a swipe at the FBI calling it tainted.
Are democrats and republicans -- republicans -- or democrats, the president's opponents reacting to his outrage the way he wants them to?
[22:14:59] I want to bring in now CNN contributor Frank Bruni Frank, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times. Frank, hello to you.
FRANK BRUNI, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Hi, Don.
LEMON: Good to see you.
BRUNI: Good to see you.
LEMON: Listen, I just, I thought about this when I -- before we get to the strategy and you talk about that in your column. I woke this morning and then I watch news so I want to be tuned in for work and start, you know, everybody start tweeting what the president said, apparently the president had seen some Fox News -- I'm sorry, Fox and Friends segment and they started tweeting about it.
What if people just didn't report on it. Because the president is reporting from Fox and Friends. Fox and Friends is part of the entertainment division of Fox. They're not a news program. Is it even consequential? Why with we even reporting on the president's tweets, because he's just going to tweet something else as this is going to be just as outrageous and nonsensical.
BRUNI: Well, you're right. I mean, you're asking the question why do we let him with us into a constant frenzy? And why do we stay in that constant frenzy?
BRUNI: And as I wrote in my most recent column, there's a real danger to that. Because when everything he says and does provokes an unmitigated outrage and fury. How do we then get voters, get Americans to focus on the stuff that Trump is doing that really, really warrants sustained attention, stuff that really is damaging the country?
Things get lost in this weltering world, and I think that's what exactly what Trump wants. When we answer his melodrama with our own melodrama we're playing his game by his rules, and I think he wins. LEMON: Very well said. So let's talk about your column in the Times,
it's called the end of Trump and the end of days. And it speaks on democratic (Inaudible) are responding to this president. You're right. "When Trump's opponents react to so much of what he says and does with such unfettered outrage, how does this how not become background noise, and how do we make sure that his unequivocally foul manner stands out from the debatably foolish ones? When we constantly conjure the duress scenario don't we risk looking like ignorable hysterics and bolstering his grandiose claims of martyrdom if events unfold in less damnable fashion?"
That's very well put. It's similar what you -- the answer that you just said. So what's the answer for democrats? How do they react to so much outrage and one outrage after another? Because he, I mean, it's just one in a row -- one after another.
BRUNI: I think those of us who find Trump to be a dangerous president and don't want him stand the presidency any longer than we have to have him there, I think we need to a couple of things. We need to pick and choose from fights wisely. We need to focus on issues that really matter and we need to patrol our language.
As you said the column is called the end of Trump and the end of days. That's a reference to Nancy Pelosi echoing many other democrats when she called the tax bill, the tax overhaul legislation Armageddon.
Now, that's a really dangerous term to use because a lot of Americans are going to look up next year and they're going to notice smaller withholdings from their paychecks, they're going to notice more money in their pockets. And they're not going to say, hey, wait a second, the rich are getting much better than I am, or hey, wait a second, we're really ballooning the deficit in what's going to happen the next couple of years.
Some of them are going to think this isn't so bad so why were Trump's critics calling it Armageddon. I think we need to watch our language much more carefully so we don't set ourselves up to look, as I said, like hysterics who are always, always denouncing Trump no matter what.
LEMON: He's always saying, this president is always saying he doesn't get any credit for his accomplishments. But he is the one -- he creates the distractions. I mean, if he wanted to talk about his accomplishments, he could have tweeted the tax bill and just kept, you know, talking about the tax bill all day.
Is that part of the plan, though? Play the outrage game, get his opponents to react and then claim they're against him?
BRUNI: I think he does want to create an atmosphere in which everybody is screeching at each other, in which those of us who oppose him are screeching so loudly that he can say to his supporters and more importantly can say to all those Americans in the squishy middle seat, I can't catch a break, this is just all partisan warfare, I'm no worse than they are and we're all the same. I think he wants to say that. But it's always a big question with Trump. Is he turning the page constantly tweeting something today that's different from yesterday, stirring up a new fight because he's trying to distract us and keep us in a state of imbalance or is that his nature? Is that just the way he operates? I think in this case it's both of the same time.
LEMON: Well, the silliest thing though, is this so-called war on Christmas which I'm not sure as a shiny object or if he's just doing it for fun because I don't think people are that stupid, that they believe that there's a war on Christmas. He's been tweeting and talking about it for some time now.
On Christmas Eve he tweeted this and said, "People are proud to be saying merry Christmas again. I'm proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase, merry Christmas."
I mean, to me this a joke, and it's not a funny joke because there's no war on Christmas. It's like what is he talking about? Are people that stupid to think that there's a war on Christmas? Does he actually believe that.
[22:19:59] BRUNI: I mean, apart from his fervent base, I don't think people are that stupid. I mean, all you have to do is comb your memory. I comb my memory. And I do not remember the over the eight Obama years feeling scared to say merry Christmas. I don't remember hearing fewer people say merry Christmas.
And I remember Barack Obama saying merry Christmas plenty although Donald Trump says that wasn't the case. He says whatever he wants. I mean, if you go back, I mean, we talk, you talked early in your show that Trump being again at one of his properties and again playing golf. You go back and he was constantly harping about Obama playing too much golf, Obama being outside of Washington sea...
LEMON: He plays way more golf.
BRUNI: Yes, I mean, the Wall Street Journal run something fast saying in the last 24 or 36 hours more than 100 days during this year President Trump was at one of his Trump branded properties, and many of those days he was playing golf. That's almost one in three days of the presidency. So, you know, Donald Trump doesn't live up to his own supposed standards.
LEMON: Yes. Well, I mean, it also considering how much he's away, it would be great if he got an activity that involved some cardio consider -- no, serious, I'm being serious, considering his diet. You can look at him there. He is...
BRUNI: Do you remember all those McDonald's meals.
LEMON: Put the video back up, the video speaks for itself. I mean, this president could have used -- the last two presidents before him did lots of cardio. Barack Obama worked out at the gym, George Bush did a bicycle. This president plays golf as not a cardio activity. Obviously, he could use it, so I'm just being honest it.
But I'm just wondering is this, is he doing this -- is it on purpose? I have no idea what's going on. Should we ignore that he lies about, you know, the other president plays more golf than the other president, criticizes the other president, or he's away from Washington more than the other president. Should we just ignore the obvious?
BRUNI: He's doing what he feels like doing and then spinning it whichever way he pleases. And I was laughing as you were talking about the cardio because I was remembering back when he was in Sicily for that meeting of world leaders and he was the one toddling around on a golf cart while everybody else walk.
I predict that on this show you and I next year, probably next month, will be talking about where is Trump's latest -- where are the results to Trump's physical. That's already come up. I believe Sarah Huckabee- Sanders has said that those results will be shared with us. I have a wait-and-see attitude about that.
LEMON: We shall see. Thank you, sir. Happy holidays.
BRUNI: You, too.
LEMON: When we come back, the president is back to business lashing out on Twitter. How are his attacks on Russia, on the Russia investigation and against the FBI landing? I'm going to talk to a former assistant director of the FBI and the chief of Russian operations for the CIA.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: A growing list of republican lawmakers said there's an orchestrated movement against Donald Trump in the FBI. But democrats say it is not true, and that's the president's allies -- and that the president's allies are all trying to undermine Robert Mueller's investigation. So what's the real story?
Joining me now, CNN national security analyst, Steve Hall who was chief of Russian operations at the CIA, CNN national security legal analyst Susan Hennessey, and Chris Swecker, a former assistant director of the FBI.
Hello to all of you. Thank you so much for joining me here. Susan, President Trump was up bright and early this morning attacking Hillary the now infamous dossier, calling it a crooked pile of garbage. Here's when what he tweeted out this morning. He said. "Wow, lots of prints dossiers is bogus. Clinton campaign DNC funded the dossier. FBI cannot after all of this time verified claims and dossier of Russia-Trump. FBI tainted and they use this crooked Hillary pile of garbage as the basis for going after the Trump campaign."
Well, that wasn't main basis of going after the Trump campaign. There's so many fact checks that can be done with that particular tweet. But the president implies that the dossier is the basis for Mueller's investigation. But that's not exactly it, is it?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: No. In fact, sort of Obama era intelligence officials have gone on record again and again from ODNI General Counsel Bob Litt has written about the fact that the dossier actually was not the basis of the intelligence community assessment, was not the basis of this investigation in the first place.
So even though you actually could sort of fact check some of the other assertions that Trump makes, including that it does appear like the FBI has corroborated some elements or not all elements of this dossier and they have disproven others. You know, clearly, it was not a part of sort the basis of this investigation in the first place.
You know, the warrant, the process of going to obtain warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, the notion that sort of what it amounts to essentially, unsubstantiated rumors, right, this private intelligence document that that's the kind of thing that a judge would actually issue the warrants that we've seen reported in the media, you know, that's not just how this process works.
LEMON: Steve, the president seems to be referring to a Fox and Friends segment when he called the dossier bogus, but the U.S. intelligence has corroborated. Susan has just said some of the contents of the dossier and found Russia was trying to interfere with 2016 election from their own sources.
Two things here. I don't why he's listening to Fox and Friends. Again, I keep saying Fox and Friends is an entertainment program, it's not a news program. It's not part of the news division at Fox. It's part of the entertainment division. And also why the attacks? What is the president trying to do here?
STEVE HALL, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: You know, Don, at any given time especially on this particular topic, it's really hard to try to figure out what the president is doing.
But one of the things that really concerns me about these tweets and these patterns that we see from the president where he calls these things garbage and then says not only is the evidence in the dossier or the allegations in the dossier garbage, he then turns around and basically calls the FBI in tatters and essentially garbage.
If you recall he said the same thing or similar detrimental comments, you know, about the CIA when at the beginning of his tenure when he compared it to some Nazis and talked about that these are people who brought us the WMD.
[22:29:54] I served most of my career, a vast majority of my career overseas in developing countries where democracies were extremely young, volatile, and where politicians had not figured out the idea of loyal opposition, loyalty to their country over loyalty to themselves personally or to their party.
And I saw these same patterns. Reaching out and attacking and just not being statesman-like and not putting the country first. These are the things you would expect in a young developing democracy. It's not something that I would expect in the most developed democracy, I would argue, in the world. So it concerns me, the pattern does.
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: The president using the weekend to go after the FBI, the deputy FBI director, Andrew McCabe, as well, Chris. And here's what he said. He said, "How can the FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, the man in charge along with leaking James Comey of the phony Hillary Clinton investigation include her 33,000 illegally deleted e- mails be given $700,000 for his wife's campaign by Clinton puppets during the investigation. FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is racing the clock -- racing the clock to retire with full benefits, 90 days to go."
Is that even high school? I mean, when I read this, I'm like, are these tweets actually coming from the president of the United States? Two senior officials told CNN that McCabe made the decision to retire months ago. But if he does leave, will it embolden the president and others?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, it might. I mean, FBI agents can retire at 50. They are mandatory at 57. It may well be that McCabe is going to retire anyway. The truth is, though, he should have recused himself from any part of that investigation. It's legal. The Hatch Act allows the FBI agents to make contributions, political contributions. It restricts other activities, but it just doesn't look good.
LEMON: The idea, Steve, of there being a deep state that is actively working to bring down President Trump is something that the president's allies have seized upon. Representative Francis Rooney, a republican from Florida was asked about supposed enemies of the DOJ earlier today. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANCIS ROONEY (R) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: I don't want to discredit him. I would like to see the directors at those agency purge it. And say, look, we've got a lot of great agents, a lot of great lawyers here. Those are the people that I want the American people to see and know the good work is being done, not these people who are kind of a deep state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Hurting the law enforcement agencies and the Department of Justice. I mean, that's the kind of language we heard in the old Soviet Union.
HALL: Yes, just to get back to my regular point, when you talk about purging a major institution, the premier law enforcement organization in this country, the FBI, when you talk about purging really anything, quite frankly, you know, unless it's corruption or something like that, again, you're getting back to -- you're getting back to sort of, you know, developing brand new democracy kind of stuff, that I just think has, you know, really has no place if you're in the United States. And it's just -- you know, the whole thing -- the whole ting is
concerning. And it just really -- it just really rubs me the wrong way to see our democracy, and I think it was, I think it might have been Jim Clapper who said a while back, you know, democracy is something that you really have to work at to maintain that sort of level, the high level of a truly independent democracy with rule of law. And it feels like that is slipping when you see comments like this coming out of the chief executive.
The idea of a deep state, by the way, anybody who's worked in the federal government for more than a couple of months, you know, knows that oftentimes we struggle to figure out who's using what conference room.
The idea that we would be able to -- you know, that some senior or even mid-level people in the federal government can somehow figure out, you know, an internal secret opposition, I mean, it's ridiculous. And it should be that -- claims like that should be treated as such.
LEMON: Susan, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, President Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow is quoted as saying, "I know, we, collectively, the lawyers are looking forward to an expeditious wrapping up of this matter." Have you heard anything that would be giving the president's legal team this optimism?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: No, apparently they've sort of been pushing this end of the year deadline. It does appear as though that sort of the majority and the hypsie, the hypsie republicans are looking to wrap up their investigation. That's over the objections of the vice-chairman Adam Schiff, who says, look, we're not done.
But as far as the special counsel Mueller's probe, there is no indication whatsoever. We've actually seen reports just this evening that he's potentially considering issuing a super seeding indictment, so another set of charges against Paul Manafort.
So by every sort of indication, you know, this is a complex investigation, we're looking at months if not potentially sort of beyond the next year in terms of what the time frame might look like.
[22:34:56] LEMON: Steve, are you comfortable that enough has been done to prevent meddling in the 2018 midterms?
HALL: No, not at all. First of all, to be fir, it's a very, very difficult thing to figure out how to keep a nation state like Russia or perhaps China or others who might be understood in probably disrupting democracy in the United States, it's a really hard chore.
I mean, you have to do some good defense work and try to strengthen resistance which is hard enough itself, but that requires a lot of money, a lot of concentration and perhaps most importantly political will.
So I don't think that we can in any way, shape or form sit back and say, yes, we're comfortable that the midterm elections in 2018 or the ones in the future, quite frankly, are immune or going to be entirely safe or really even meaningfully safe against, you know, some other type of hack or intrusion or attempt to manipulate the system either electronically or, you know, otherwise the propaganda and other means.
LEMON: Thank you, all. I appreciate it. When we come back, the staggering number of days the president have spent it one of his properties instead of working in the White House.
[22:39:58] LEMON: Today, President Trump went golfing at Trump international golf club in Palm Beach County, then headed back to his Mar-a-Lago club where he is staying through the New Year's.
Overall, President Trump has visited a Trump branded property in almost a third of his days in office. I want to talk about this with CNN political commentators Alice Stewart, and Symone Sanders and Bill Kristol, editor-at-large at the Weekly Standard. Hello, hope you guys had a great Christmas and still more holidays to come.
SYMONE SANDERS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Merry Christmas and happy holidays.
MACDONALD: And happy holidays. Yes, and happy Kwanzaa.
SANDERS: Yes, Habari Gani.
LEMON: Why you got to be extra, Symone, every time?
SANDERS: I'm just saying, it's Kwanzaa.
LEMON: Alice, President Trump tweeted that he is back to work. The very next thing we see is the president golfing at another Trump property. He spent 110 days as president at one of his properties.
Is it surprising given he once claim that he wouldn't have time to golf if elected?
ALICE STEWART, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Is it surprising that he says one thing and does something different, no.
STEWART: Look, we knew he was going to be this way. We knew that he was going to frequently play golf. And look, I for one think that he can get a lot done out on the golf course. Oftentimes he's out there talking with members of Congress and others. He did Purdue from Georgia was out there today and they have some immigration issues.
LEMON: Alice, come on.
STEWART: Look, I'm just saying he does things a lot differently than any other people with regard to business. I have never ever...
LEMON: You don't think it's a bit hypocritical though that he criticized the former presidents so much than he spends way more time on the golf course than the former president. That's all he did as Barack Obama is on the golf course so much, he's never in Washington, he's out of Washington and on the golf course way more than the former president ever was.
STEWART: It is extremely critical. But this is the president and these were the days that we live in. This is not out of the ordinary. I for one I never criticized President Obama, I've never criticized any of the other presidents for golfing or horseback riding or mountain climbing or whatever they did on their time off. They work extremely hard and 24/7, 365 days a year they're available for whatever is need.
And look, while the president was on the golf course today he was briefed earlier on a suicide bombing in Afghanistan, which is certainly important today. But look, I think that no one should be surprised in the least that President Trump is off playing golf as much as he is. This is how he live his life before and it's no surprise he's doing it as president.
LEMON: Symone, you don't want to say...
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think...
LEMON: I know you want to go in, but go ahead, Bill.
KRISTOL: No. Well, since I don't play golf I'm happy to criticize both President Barack Obama and President Trump for wasting so much time walking along a big manicured set of lawns, you know, taking a stick and hitting a little trying to get it into the a hole. Well, you know, but anyway.
LEMON: Well, the former president did more walking. This president doesn't do much walking. He's always in the golf course.
KRISTOL: That's true. He's more of golf guy. Anyway, I just did that so that 100,000 CNN viewers can go nuts and e-mail me about how terrible it is that I appreciate sort of golf and...
SANDERS: I -- look, I golf.
KRISTOL: Well, I like watching it sometimes. Anyway, never President Trump did what he had to do today, honestly. It was a tweet you referenced earlier attacking the FBI early this morning. His main occupation, honestly, the one thing he wants to do with more than anything else I believe and I say this seriously is discredit the Mueller investigation, discredit the FBI. And later, (Inaudible) either ignoring whatever report Mueller comes up.
And I think more likely pardoning people and maybe trying to still, I think trying to fire Mueller. I think Trump is dead serious about this. People are treating him as if, you know, he's annoyed, he's irritable, you know, isn't it funny that he tweets these things. He and his allies systematically at least for a month since Flynn pled guilty and it was announced that he was cooperating, since people like Hope Hicks spent time testifying before Mueller.
He is systematic. He is very worried about this investigation, and he's doing his best to discredit it, and that's what he did this morning before going out to play golf.
LEMON: Yes. Symone, listen, we're off topic a little bit. But you know, I was sitting here as I was thinking, if there is something that I'm not worried about if someone says something about me that's not true, or I just go, hey, look, go look into it, here's my phone and you can look, I didn't do it or what have you, and I wouldn't be, you know, talking and calling them fake and phony, I wouldn't care. It would just, it would not be in my orbit.
He's got to be worried about something. Listen, I'm not saying there's collusion there, but he's got to be worried about something or otherwise he wouldn't be crawling so much about it.
SANDERS: Yes, I think the president is worried. I also think that this cloud of an investigation of something going awry has been over his entire presidency. And he's probably frustrated, but, look, he brought this upon himself. I have no sympathy for President Trump in the Mueller investigation because had he not fired James Comey, the former FBI director we wouldn't have James Mueller -- or special counsel.
So again, these are unforced errors that he brought upon himself and he's going to continue to inject himself in the middle of this conversation. Because somehow I think Donald Trump thinks he's smarter than all of us. But he's not. He's just making it worse, and his hard time he start listening to the people around him.
[22:44:57] LEMON: Well, let's get back -- let's get back -- let's get back to where we were talking about, though. Because spending so much time do you -- do you take umbrage of him being on the golf so much. Because yesterday he said, look, this is great holiday or whatever, but back to work and making America great again and the first thing he does is play golf for most of the day.
SANDERS: I absolutely take umbrage with it. One, because he criticize President Obama so much, and Donald Trump has spent more taxpayer dollars and more time on the golf course than President Obama's entire eight years in the White House.
And so there's one standard yet again for President Obama and there's another standard for Donald Trump. One president is the first black president of the United State, the other one is, you know, the president that pioneer the birther movement.
I also think it's a problem that Trump is not just spending time on any property. These are Trump properties. He is literally using his position as the President of the United State to publicize and profit on his own like personal companies. And I think that's something that folks talked about a lot in the beginning but have not talked about as much.
We were calling the Mar-a-Lago the winter White House, that's branding. We're doing the work of the Trump organization for them. So I definitely think it's not normal for a president to, you know, be profiting off his properties while...
LEMON: We have lots more to talk about. Everybody, stick around. Alice, I'll get to you on this. Everybody, stay with me.
When we come right back, the New York Times out with a new report revealing what President Trump is saying about immigrants behind closed doors, including saying that Nigerian immigrants would never go back to their huts after seeing America.
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LEMON: As a presidential candidate Donald Trump told me I am the least racist person you have ever met, well, as president do his policies support that claim?
Back with me now, Alice Stewart, Symone Sanders, and Bill Kristol. OK. So Symone, there is a startling report it's in the New York Times in the times it's over the weekend, according to two unnamed officials President Trump said in a meeting in June that people coming from Haiti, this is a quote, "all have aids and recent Nigerian immigrants would never go back to their huts if Africa -- in Africa and that Afghanistan is a terrorist haven."
When you think about his past comments about African-American, about Mexicans, what do you think of this?
SANDERS: I think I stand by the comments I made earlier this year and stating that I believe Donald Trump was not only a racist but he sympathized and identifies with white supremacists because he does in fact hold white supremacy view.
I also think this is just really ignoring. But what troubles me is that there are -- there's a sub set of the American people that believe what Donald Trump believes in this moment. And that's dangerous.
And so, he strikes me as someone that just doesn't read and hasn't been anywhere in these comments. And I do have to say that there are folks whom I know that I've also, that I ask about this, people that are affiliated with the White House said they noted that they have heard before. This is not the first time they've heard this story in the Washington Post, pardon me, in the New York Times. LEMON: So, Alice, the White House denies the report, writing in a
statement that General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Nielson and other senior staff actually in the meeting deny these allegations, these outrageous claims and it is both sad and telling that New York Times would print the lies of their anonymous sources anyway.
Do you think President Trump's past comments about race and immigrants makes this report more believable for some people?
STEWART: I think it makes it a little more credible in some regards given his history. Look, he is not a politically correct person. He has never been and he never will be. But there is a sense when it comes to, let's take, for example, the immigration issue.
He, for lack of better phrase, in his view the ends just justify the means. He is for immigration reform. He wants to secure the border. He wants to end chain migration. He wants to have a more secure vetting process for getting immigrants into this country. That is what he strongly stands for when it comes to immigration. The language he uses in the way he goes about doing it is not...
LEMON: But Alive, there's a difference -- there's a difference between political correctness and decency.
SANDERS: And ignorance.
STEWART: Now, look in his mind he's never been one to mince words. He says exactly what's in his mind. And I think in his mind this is about policy. I've never agree in many -- with everything he says and the tone that he uses in his demeanor, I support his policy.
SANDERS: But Alice, is it...
STEWART: Look, I think...
SANDERS: You know, I love you, I got to push back though. Like he said folks from Haiti have AIDS. That people in Nigeria live in huts and they don't want to go back to their huts. Like I don't think that I don't think that's policy. I just really think these are his ignorant views.
STEWART: I think it's really...
SANDERS: I don't think there's a policy reference for that.
STEWART: Look, I hear you, Symone, but look, these two reporters that wrote this piece are phenomenal journalists, I commend their work. But when we're having people that were actually in this meeting, saying look, that language was not used. I think we also have to take that into consideration too.
LEMON: They often deny reports though, that come out and then give this very same people who reported on them and interviews...
SANDERS: Well, I don't believe anything that the White House says.
KRISTOL: Look, there's plenty of stuff that he said publicly that's deplorable I think and (Inaudible) course into our public discourse and one can believe whatever one wants about this reports about things he said in private, things he says in public matter more.
People who let off steam and I 'm not defensing at all, but the people let off steam in private that's one thing, but he has said thing publicly and then stood by them that, you know, the Mexican judge, or other things obviously about immigrants, Charlottesville that really do, it did damage I think to the public discourse in this country.
LEMON: Hey, Bill.
KRISTOL: So I think there's plenty of evidence...
LEMON: Can I ask you this? Let's remember, and I think you're referring he said very fine people on both sides when he's talking about white supremacist in the Charlottesville protest. So what does it tell you about how this presidency's race.
KRISTOL: Well, I think he's not a -- I don't think he's impartial or color blind or an ego opportunity person necessarily when it comes to race. But again, I don't think one has to depend on a contested private report, that's the point I'm making. I think there's enough on the record there.
And I come again if I can just since I'm sort of obsessed of the fact that everyone is interested in psycho analyzing him instead of looking at the facts. I mean, it's unbelievable that less than a month ago his national -- former national security advisor pled guilty to lying to the FBI, is now cooperating with the investigation.
[22:54:57] There's real -- earlier some were saying, you know, I think his staff, you know, he's created these problems for himself, there's some truth to that I think in terms of firing Comey but this is a factual question here about integrity of this administration about his attacking law enforcement agencies and other parts of the U.S. government in ways that diminish public confidence in our government.
There's plenty that he's done in public as president that I think is really deplorable, if I can use the term, that's was used I supposed since Hillary Clinton used it. That you don't need to depend on contested report to things he said in private.
SANDERS: Well, Don, there's one other point that I want to make, is that, you know, Donald Trump while he was on the campaign trail went to the little Haiti cultural center in Florida and told the Haitian people at the cultural center that he wanted to be their ally if he got to the White House that he wanted to fight for him. And these reports coming out in private do not end what he actually said on the record about people of color don't stand the smell test to what he told the people at the Haiti cultural center. He just doesn't.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, others in the party in the Republican Party and including Jeff Flake he's speaking about diversity not only in the party but also as it comes to this president. Is there a wakeup call for republicans coming, especially 2018? Alice, and quickly, I only have a few seconds left.
STEWART: I think the wakeup call is to continue doing what they're doing working together as a party and continue furthering the policies. Look, I think what they have to do is tune out what the president says and the divisive language that he uses and some of the rhetoric that he uses...
LEMON: I've got to go, Alice.
STEWART: ... do what they've done with tax reform, work together to get things done.
LEMON: Sorry to call you Alisyn, I'm quick but I have to get off the air. Thank you, all. I appreciate it. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.
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