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CNN TONIGHT

Trump Takes "Thank You" Tour To Wisconsin; Trump "Appreciates" Paul Ryan; Trump Picks Tillerson For Secretary Of State; Trump Builds His Cabinet; Least Diverse Cabinet In Years; Russia: Syrian Government Controls East Aleppo; Donald Trump Meets With Kanye West; NFL's Jim Brown And Ray Lewis Meet With Trump. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired December 13, 2016 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:00:11] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: From Russia with love. This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. The president-elect chooses his secretary of state with ties to Vladimir Putin. He calls U.S. intelligence on Russian hacking of the election ridiculous, but is it part of Donald Trump's plan?

Plus talking about your "Celebrity Apprentice." Trump says he and Kanye West have been friends for a long time. But will Kanye's star power help him with black America?

Let's get right to CNN's Jim Acosta in Wisconsin, the latest stop on Donald Trump's "Thank You Tour" -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Don, Donald Trump took another victory lap tonight at a rally here in Wisconsin. Trump defended his choice of Rex Tillerson for secretary of state. Trump praised Tillerson's contacts around the world but did not mention his past ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump also turned back to the election thanking some of his biggest supporters in Wisconsin including House Speaker Paul Ryan. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: Speaker Paul Ryan, I've really come -- no, I've come to appreciate him, Speaker Paul Ryan. Where is the speaker? Where is he? He has been terrific and you know, honestly, he's like a fine wine. Every day goes by, I get to appreciate his genius more and more.

If he ever goes against me, I'm not going to say that. He's a great guy and we have some amazing things in store and we're going to work on taxes. We're going to work on Obamacare. We're going to work on things, and he's going to lead the way so thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Even though it's been more than a month since he was elected president, Trump could not resist taking one more swipe at Hillary Clinton asking this crowd here in Wisconsin if anybody remembers her name -- Don.

LEMON: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Now I want to bring in CNN political analyst, John Avlon, and political commentator, Margaret Hoover. But first I want to play a clip of Donald Trump tonight from his rally in Wisconsin. He was having some fun at the expense of Hillary Clinton and the media ridiculing Clinton campaign for having fireworks ready on election night. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: In the history of elections, if you lose, you don't set off fireworks, right? So they canceled their beautiful fireworks and I wanted to be a wise guy so I offered them five cents on the dollar for their fireworks. I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He spent about 20 minutes -- I know it's fun, he's revved up by the crowd, crowing about his election victory. Should he be looking ahead now? He won.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, there's a lot to focus on that's reality based. He's a charming guy. Some folks would say he can slide into insult comic mode, but there's real governing to do. You know, Wisconsin, he should thank Wisconsin. That strategy got him over the top.

But there's the picking of the cabinet. There's the picking of policy and the reality that this is not a guy who has a background in governing and policy and politics. He pulled off an amazing election victory, but yes, he should be looking forward and bearing down to the seriousness of the moment.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That kind of jockeying, to be clear, I mean, a lot of the energy and the crowd and the feedback, he plays on it, but it gives him energy and he hasn't had that since the campaign was over. So I do think there is something to getting back in front of the folks.

LEMON: It's been almost two weeks he's been getting his fix of that and he's been going around --

HOOVER: A little here and there in between very busy and important meetings with people like Kanye West.

AVLON: I think he enjoys this more than a policy briefing.

LEMON: Touche. Thank you very much. Can I get your take on Rex Tillerson as secretary of state? Right man for the job, Margaret?

HOOVER: I think there's a lot of questions we need to be able to see him answer and understand how he thinks about Russia. It's very easy for people to say he's too close to Russia. My husband is laughing. He is one of those people -- incidentally, we're married, this person who I'm disagreeing with on most of these points here.

He deserves a fair hearing. He is a global -- a CEO of a global multinational company that does bilateral deals essentially with many heads of state. He actually -- you can make a very strong argument that he is somebody who understands diplomacy even if it had been from the point of a businessman with the interest of his shareholders at stake.

His shareholders are the American people so you just need to have the confidence that he's going to slide into a position where he's looking out for the American people's interests now rather than his shareholders.

LEMON: So do you have concerns about his ties --

AVLON: I have no problem with him being a businessman.

LEMON: Fareed Zakaria said that doesn't preclude him from being --

[23:05:04]AVLON: Not at all. Especially in an area where there's international business and he's done admirable things like copped to global warming being a real thing which the candidate, president-elect hasn't done even as head of Exxon.

What I think demands answers is the fact that this appointment comes days after a reescalation of serious, serious questions about Russian influence on the election. And the fact that this individual has been given the highest civilian award by Vladimir Putin cannot be dismissed as incidental or curio or sideshow.

This is central and if Vladimir Putin keeps having good days with appointments and victories, that's usually not a good sign for the United States. It's not dispositive but there are a lot of questions that need to be answered.

Because the happiest person with this kind of an appointment, this is not a Russia hawk, this is someone who has a personal relationship over decades with Vladimir Putin who is not an ally of the United States.

HOOVER: You know why? Because he has brought enormous amounts of resources, who have leverage --

AVLON: Private bank accounts held by Vladimir Putin. Maybe, but -- I'm joking but I'm not joking.

HOOVER: But you understand the point I was trying to make, right? Which is that who had leverage in that deal? Exxon had leverage over Putin. Putin wanted Exxon's investment in their country because why? That helps his electoral prospects (inaudible) brings to investment to his country.

LEMON: Margaret, even John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, said they're not on board. Do you think that's going to --

HOOVER: What they say is there are serious questions that he has to answer. None of them said they are going to stand and they are going to laid it out in front of that nomination, but they all say there are serious questions that he has to answer, which any discerning person I think could agree with.

AVLON: But again part of the topsy-turvy nature of this entire cycle is that if a Democratic president-elect had been accused of having Russia influence election on its behalf, and then nominated a secretary of state who got a civilian award from - Vladimir Putin, people would be screaming bloody murder for good reason.

HOOVER: Well, you know what --

LEMON: This is my question to her.

HOOVER: This is our dinner table at night. That is -- that is true. I mean, what you have to do though is, the president-elect has a certain amount of grace period going into this nomination and the left will have to focus their fire on one of them if they want a scalp. They can't broadly say "We're against everyone that he's for."

AVLON: Look, the real question is, are they going to accompany appointment like this with pulling down sanctions, which have been in place in Russia since the invasion of Crimea? If they do that in coordination with this then there's something wrong.

LEMON: Not everyone because I think Democrats are on board with Mattis.

AVLON: Mattis is a great pick across the board.

HOOVER: Mattis is a very popular --

AVLON: Mattis is a great pick across the board, absolutely.

LEMON: It's not just -- do you think by picking people like this and others that this is draining the swamp what he ran on?

HOOVER: What's interesting, I see sort of two kinds of --

LEMON: When you hear "what's interesting" instead of yes.

AVLON: Yes, that's good. Picking up on that tell there.

HOOVER: To answer that question, is this draining the swamp? Rex Tillerson absolutely fits the sort of -- the thesis I think Donald Trump laid out to his supporters that he was going to bring people from outside who had never been part of government, who will have a fresh view of things and won't pay lobbyists, this fits the profile of draining the swamp. Then he has another profile, right, that --

AVLON: He's stocking it with a different kind of alligator.

HOOVER: You're laughing at everything I say.

LEMON: Someone said he's replacing a shark with an alligator or vice versa. AVLON: Sure. This is not draining the swamp. Look, Goldman Sachs is back in pole position in a lot of major economic positions despite a lot of anti-Wall Street rhetoric. It's not like Wall Street is being punished. We'll see what happens with policy.

I think there is a -- look, there's always been a core irony at the prospect of a billionaire populist running for president, but for white working class folks who voted for him thinking they were going to stick it to the man. They got a whole bunch of more people who are politicrats in office.

Some may be reformers and we'll see what they can do. Betsy Devos has a record on school choice. You can disagree or agree with that policy, I happen to agree with it. But it's a much more monochrome cabinet of a high net worth background with a couple of exceptions.

LEMON: And other things as well. By the way, don't send me anything on social media. I know sharks aren't in swamps, I'm from Louisiana. One is fresh water, one is salt water.

AVLON: Even I didn't know that.

LEMON: Listen, This is the first time since 1989 the four most influential people, posts in this cabinet, have been all white males. He's promising to make America great again. What does that greatness look like?

HOOVER: OK. Here's one observation as a Republican who would prefer and would like for the Republican Party to really reflect America better ethnically and that cabinet looks like the Republican Party. That cabinet is a lot of white men, a couple women and one or two minorities, and sadly that's what the Republican Party looks like.

[23:10:05]LEMON: But people at home would say that cabinet also looks like a lot of corporate America too because these are a lot of corporate folks in there.

AVLON: But W made conscious great strides, I think, to diversify his cabinet.

LEMON: Condoleezza Rice.

AVLON: Right, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and many others.

HOOVER: Elaine Chao.

AVLON: And the fact that, you know, Ben Carson is put in HUD, you know, sort of echoes the Samuel Pierce in the Reagan administration, you know, doesn't reflect the diversity of America and I think Margaret is copping to an important point.

But one of the benefits that President-elect Donald Trump could have is that he's not as encumbered by the party apparatus but he's defaulting to folks that don't really reflect the full diversity of America. And that's going to feel like a step back for a lot of folks for good reason. LEMON: The interesting thing is -- and I wanted to get the names correct -- a lot of the people who he's chosen to lead these agencies have spoken out against the very agencies that they've been chosen to lead.

Rick Perry has said that the Energy Department should be eliminated. Ben Carson has spoken out against public housing initiatives at housing and urban development. His pick for EPA fought against their regulations as well. Are these agencies going to be gutted?

HOOVER: Look, the kind of individuals that have spoken out against agencies, but then say that yes they would be happy to go run one and by the way, what comes to my mind as a veteran of the Bush administration is John Bolton who had been a very strong opponent of the U.N. but went to be U.N. ambassador.

AVLON: He found he couldn't actually take floors off the building.

HOOVER: Could I please finish my point.

LEMON: Just say yes, dear.

HOOVER: What you do is you get reform-minded individuals in place who actually end up to the less happiness codifying the necessity of that institution but then reforming how it does its business and that is the very high hope that I have for Betsy Devos, I have that for Tom Price, I have that for Ben Carson, I have that for Rick Perry.

AVLON: But I think what, look reform is great, outsider perspective can be enormously helpful. Sometimes bureaucracy by definition resist change, but when you get people in place especially for something like EPA, who have a demonstrated agenda that is hostile to the mission, right, a nominee who has sued the EPA 13 times, who is a climate change denier.

That not only sends a chilling message in terms of policies that there is no mandate to reverse, that is actually about more hostility to ideas that are largely scientific consensus. That is dangerous, it sends a chilling message. It's not about reform.

It's about a -- something very different than reform. Politics are often divided between radicals, reactionaries and reformers, those are reactionary policies in those cases.

LEMON: Thank you, I know you have a lot to say. Next time. Thank you, Margaret. Thank you, John. Appreciate it.

When we come right back, all roads lead to Russia. Is Donald Trump hitting the reset button on our relationship with Russia again?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:16:09]

LEMON: Donald Trump is using ExxonMobil's CEO Rex Tillerson to be his secretary of state. Tillerson's ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin expected to be a big part of his confirmation hearings.

Let's discuss now with CNN contributor, Michael Weiss, a senior editor at "The Daily Beast," Jill Dougherty, a researcher at the International Center for Defense and Security, who is a former CNN Moscow bureau chief, and Jonathan Sanders, associate professor at Stony Brook University School of Journalism. He is a former CBS News Moscow correspondent.

So they know a lot. Michael, you first, all roads leading to Russia again. What's your take on this Tillerson pick?

MICHAEL WEISS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's a kind of geopolitical sign posting to Moscow that the United States' relationship with Russia is going to be unprecedented in the nature of a -- completely transactional relationship.

No more focus on human rights, democracy promotion, let's not pick up too much of a fuss about the invasion and annexation of sovereign European territory or what many are calling a near genocidal campaign in Aleppo.

This is a man who as you mentioned in the earlier segment was awarded the Order of Friendship, which is one of the highest civilian honors you could get by the Russian federation. He was awarded it by Vladimir Putin.

Another person who was awarded that particularly decoration is (inaudible), the president of Chechnya, who unlike many other Russian officials likes to torture his victims personally.

I think this is -- bodes very ill for anybody who thinks that the United States is going to pick a fight or try to contain or deter Russian revenge chasm in Europe. I've gone to Europe over the last two years and repeated instances and talked to a lot of European officials who are worried about exactly this kind of thing.

That America would return to a purely -- or actually adopt a more transactional relationship with the Russian federation than even it had under Obama. They would always fault Obama with being perhaps too naive, too indifferent to America's relationship with Russia which led to the so-called reset.

I think what you're going to see is a reset 2.0 that will make the first reset look like an act of aggression.

LEMON: So Jonathan I saw you disagreeing with the first part of what Michael said and then agreeing with the second part about Obama. What was that?

JONATHAN SANDERS, STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM: Well, first of all, we've elected a president in the United States who doesn't care about human rights, doesn't care about spreading freedom of speech, and doesn't care about rights for gay people, and in that he's with Vladimir Putin.

But let's not get this cold war anti-Russian hysteria ramped up in the man who's been nominated to be the secretary of state. If you think of the man who is most successful ever in the 20th Century in dealing with Russia and the kremlin, it was Averell Harraman (ph).

How did Harraman start out in Russia? He was a businessman. He had a manganese concession in the caucuses. Who did he deal with? Trotsky and Stalin. Trotsky and Stalin, compared to those two, Vladimir Putin is a nice guy like Don Lemon or Derek Jeter. You know, the sad part is that --

LEMON: This is the first time I've ever been compared to either of these two, but go on.

SANDERS: Well, you deserve it. I mean, look, it's sad that we're having someone who's going to run the State Department, who's entire goal in life has been to pump oil and make money, who doesn't care for people who are suffering, who isn't going to support independent organizations, who's not going to come out and say women's rights are human rights, none of that stuff.

But just because he's friends with Putin and maybe he's not friends, maybe he's friends with Putin's best friend, Igor Sechin (ph), who's much more dangerous than Putin. That doesn't disqualify him.

LEMON: Let's get Jill in here. Jill, we've spoken of Trotsky, Stalin. In 2016, who would have thunk?

[23:20:05]JILL DOUGHERTY, RESEARCHER, INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR DEFENSE AND SECURITY: Who would have thunk? I think there's exaggeration on a lot of sides here, but I think what Michael was getting into, which is this transactional nature is really important because this new administration is all about that.

It's all about the deal and I feel, my personalized idea is that so much of that region is not about the deal, it's about Russia's place in the world, protecting its borders and, granted, there's a big economic component, but there are things that go beyond economic deals.

And I think probably Tillerson is a smart guy and I'm sure he understands that. It's just that when he walks into this position right from the get-go, his actions can be interpreted as being good for the old company, ExxonMobil, as opposed to good for the country.

So he kind of has to switch his head and start thinking with issues like geopolitical things and human rights. Everything that we've been talking about. He has to switch thinking.

When you have a president who is that way, let's get a deal and then he's that way. But it could be this preponderance of ideas about economics and deals.

LEMON: I want to read this. This is what Republican Senator Chuck Grassley tweeted today, "Both Trump and Tillerson need to know Putin is Machiavellian and gets rid of people who expose him as such. Both Bush and Obama were hoodwinked." I think you spoke a little bit about that, Michael, is the senator right? WEISS: I think it's a historical form that every president gets elected hoping to have a kind of rapprochement with Moscow. I mean, George W. Bush famously looked into Vladimir Putin's soul and left office as Russia was invading Georgia. Obama is leaving office again having inaugurated this reset policy in his first term with a campaign of extermination being perpetrated in Aleppo that Russia is not just a party to but is actually the vanguard actor in overseeing.

So Trump -- here's where I'm a little bit cautious to say that Trump will be absolutely a kind of Putin verstehier (ph), as the Germans like to say. He is so unpredictable and so irascible and is so easily offended, the Russians love to taunt and to provoke whoever is in power in the United States government.

This is a guy who gets pissed off by a tweet that's directed at him. Can you imagine a former KGB colonel like Vladimir Putin doing something to cross a guy like Donald Trump? How will Donald Trump react to that?

I can see the pendulum swinging complete back in the other direction. You broadcast him in the last segment or two segments ago saying all of a sudden he's chums with Paul Ryan, but if Paul Ryan does anything to cross him, that's going to come to an end, too. That's exactly it. If Putin doesn't play to Donald Trump's sense of narcissism, I think all bets are off.

LEMON: All right, everyone, please stay with me. We've got more to talk about. I'll let you speak on the other side, Jonathan.

When we come back, we're going to discuss -- Michael Weiss just referred to Russia's role in Syria's brutal civil war. How will Donald Trump change our policy there and what it will mean for a country being torn apart?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:26:51]

LEMON: Tonight there's word that the Syrian government has taken control of the eastern part of Aleppo, the besieged city at the center of Syria's long civil war. That news is actually coming from Russian officials who are backing the Assad government in its battle with rebels.

Sources inside East Aleppo tells CNN that a ceasefire has been reached allowing civilians to leave that part of the city. This follows days of intense fighting, which has wounded or killed an unknown number of residents.

So let's discuss now, back with me, Michael Weiss, Jill Dougherty, and Jonathan Sanders. Michael, I'm going to start with you. There's a crisis right now in Aleppo that has really escalated over the last couple of days. Explain to us what's going on there tonight and what the tie is to Russia?

WEISS: So the Syrian regime has retaken pretty much all of Eastern Aleppo. There might be pockets of resistance still left. I was on the phone this morning with the head of the Consultative Council of the Levant Front, who told me there were about six neighborhoods, all of them very tight quarter that are still being held by various opposition groups.

The problem is that all of the standing buildings in East Aleppo, most of them have been destroyed by constant bombardment by the Syrian Air Force and Russian Air Force. So it's like cramming people like sardines into cans.

And a lot of people end up out on the street and when the Syrian regime or the Russians drop bombs on the street in these urban terrain, it ends up cooking human beings alive. People have been burned alive in East Aleppo.

I've heard, credibly, from numerous sources, that women in East Aleppo are so fearful of being raped by Assad's death squads -- not just Assad's death squads, mind you, Don, Iranian-built Shi'a militias, Iraqi Shi'a militias that are now technically part of the Iraqi government -- they're so fearful of being raped that they're committing suicide. So you talk to Syria --

SANDERS: But that's a lot of loose talk coming out of there. We don't know that. Part of the Twitter revolution is we get all kinds of rumors. That's not been confirmed. Maybe there --

WEISS: The United Nations has confirmed that 80 people were killed, including women and children who as the United Nations put it was shot where they stood.

SANDERS: Michael -- there's also --

WEISS: That's not loose talk, my friend. That is the United Nations.

LEMON: Jonathan, before you respond --

SANDERS: There's no United Nations talk about women committing suicide.

LEMON: Jonathan, I want you to respond, but let me say this and I will give you time to respond. The U.N. high commissioner for Human Rights reported today that civilians, including women and children are being shot in their homes and in the streets.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power points a finger at Syria but also Russia and Iran for propping up the Assad government. Russia says it's tired of the U.S.'s constant wailing.

So again respond to that, but I just wanted to get what the U.N. is saying and other officials are saying.

SANDERS: Right. I watched the whole Security Council meeting and it was amazing and Samantha power was quite righteous in her indignation saying there was no shame on the Syrian side and the Russian side. As far as we know, since the resumption of the campaign in Eastern Aleppo, it's Russian munitions but not the Russian Air Force. [23:30:00] It's the Syrians using barrel bombs, but there's a lot of confusion there. There is a fog of confusion at the end of a long horrible war that looks like the end of Stalingrad.

The U.N. proved virtually like a eunuch, unable to do anything to stop this war. But it is going to stop now in Aleppo and the troops are going to be coming out of the city. We're very worried about the separation of men from women because people are fearful of a Srebrenica situation.

But the news was delivered today by Vitaly Churkin (ph) that fighting had stopped and reporters on the scene said that the bombing had stopped, the shelling had stopped and we're moving on to another scenario.

When President Obama said that he thought that the Russians when they started entering the war in 2015 were entering a quagmire, it turns out he was wrong. What they've entered so far is called a military victory. A brutalitarian victory, but that's their way. Brutalitarianism has replaced totalitarianism.

(CROSSTALK)

WEISS: Vitaly Churkin also came out today and said the men and women and children that you're seeing being broadcast on international media including on CNN are actors who are being put up as sort of stage craft by the Syrian opposition.

I don't take anything Vitaly Churkin says as credible whatsoever. Everything I've heard that the other guest has said comes directly from kremlin talking points about this conflict. The idea that Russia has not been bombarding Aleppo around the clock is a pure and utter lie.

SANDERS: I got the memo from the kremlin talking points --

LEMON: One at a time please.

WEISS: Quite correct at laying the blame at the Russian government, which has done everything it can do not just to wage this campaign of extermination in East Aleppo but then to also defame the victims by claiming that they're lying about it. That they are not in fact --

SANDERS: So Michael, did you get the Pentagon talking points before you came on to if I got the kremlin talking points? I mean, that's like yesterday Gorbachev said to the BBC correspondent, Steve Rosenberg that there is -- orders have been going out to the western media, BBC, CNN and the "New York Times" to destroy the reputation of Vladimir Putin. That's simply foolishness, neither side is pure or good here.

LEMON: Jump in here, Jill, and give us your assessment.

DOUGHERTY: I think the Russians had an objective and that was to rescue Assad and the way the Russians do that is by taking any action that they feel they are justified in taking or maybe not even justified that's necessary to take in order to get that objective.

That's the way Vladimir Putin carried out the war in Chechnya. It's a very brutal approach. It's a very kind of black and white, there's not a lot of grays in this so that's what they've been doing. I mean, primarily, you know, a Chechnya scenario.

And I think to bring it back to our incoming president, Donald Trump has made it clear that he supports a fight against terrorists and that's exactly what Vladimir Putin says. So you've already got the incoming American president on the side that Vladimir Putin that that is the big challenge, get rid of the terrorists, kill them.

WEISS: That's right, Jill.

DOUGHERTY: And then he's also said he supports -- he could consider supporting Assad. So I think if you boil it down to what could happen, I think President Trump, my opinion, will probably say look it was terrible, people died but the terrorists are defeated and that's what had to happen. So, again, you're going to have a pretty straight ahead transaction.

WEISS: The problem with that assessment is the CIA says the fall of East Aleppo will continue and pose a terrorism threat to the United States.

LEMON: Thank you, Michael. Thank you, Jonathan. Thank you, Jill. I appreciate it.

When we come right back, a big surprise at Trump Tower this morning when a surprise visitor stops by, guess who it is, Yeezus.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:37:58]

LEMON: Now this is a picture you probably thought you had -- you'd never see, right? Maybe, who knows, Kanye West meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower. Here to discuss, CNN political commentator, Tara Setmayer, media executive, Kierna Mayo, and CNN political commentator, Marc Lamont Hill. Hi -- and scene. We'll be right back.

Everyone was surprised this morning, I guess, when Kanye West arrived at Trump Tower for a meeting with Donald Trump. Kanye didn't take questions from reporters and the purpose of the meeting isn't clear. So what do you make of it?

KIERNA MAYO, SVP, CONTENT AND BRANDS, INTERACTIVE ONE: So I think that black people, particularly young black people, have a love/hate thing with Kanye. He seems to have devolved from the Kanye who stood before us and said George Bush doesn't care about black people. Remember that Kanye?

And that was Kanye that really connected with us for lots of very clear reasons. Today's Kanye seems like a troubled soul quite frankly and I think for a lot of us, we were less concerned about these optics and what they don't mean. And more like, what are you doing, Kanye? Have a seat. Get yourself together. He is just getting out of a mental institution. He is in crisis.

LEMON: He was in the hospital for issues, yes.

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Doesn't that say more about Donald Trump. The fact that he took the meeting in the first place? We expect Kanye West to behave and act out like that. He's notorious for it. I mean, even President Obama called him a jackass in 2009.

We all know that Kanye West is a publicity hound and pulls these antics all the time, but what the hell is the president-elect doing taking this meeting with Kanye West when he has a lot of other things to do.

This is the same guy who just said that he doesn't need to do his presidential daily briefings because he's, like, a smart person, but he has time to meet with Kanye West?

[23:40:05]So the amount of time -- can you imagine if President Obama had done something similar when he was president-elect? And met with Jay-Z -- amongst reports that said he was not taking his daily briefings because he's like a smart person.

My fellow GOP'ers would have had a conniption fit, they would have called dereliction of duty, right? And yet there is -- you know, this seems to be OK when it comes to Donald Trump. I can't take the hypocrisy.

MAYO: And I can't take that Kanye took the meeting.

LEMON: When I saw this I thought are we really going to cover this but go on, Marc.

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The meeting itself I don't think is a problem. First of all, President Obama did meet with Jay-Z.

SETMAYOR: It was a hypothetical.

MAYO: But he did.

HILL: I know but the point is --

LEMON: She also said if he had mental issues and had just come out of -- but go on.

HILL: Well, let's be careful not to stigmatize people who go to mental health facilities for treatment because a lot of us either have been --

(CROSSTALK)

MAYO: That's precisely the point, right. HILL: So there's absolutely nothing wrong with being in a mental institution and meeting somebody. And I understand that it was a hypothetical, Tara, but what I'm saying is your hypothetical was counterfactual.

You were saying that if Barack Obama had done this, it would have been a problem. He did do it and it wasn't a problem. Jay-Z rapped about it. So there's a way we stigmatize certain people and not others.

If somebody meets with Bono, nobody is tripping. Now look, I'm not a big Kanye West person. I don't like Kanye's politics and I don't like the fact that said he didn't vote and if he had, he would have voted for Donald Trump.

I understand all the reason to be critical of Kanye West, but I don't think it's unreasonable for a president to spend 15 minutes to meeting with somebody. Do I think it's also unreasonable he's --

SETMAYER: Sorry, I completely disagree with you, Marc, on that.

MAYO: So do I.

SETMAYER: I'm sorry. I completely disagree on that. I mean, Donald Trump is -- he has zero experience in government. He's in over his head and he's trying to figure it all out because he didn't even expect to win the presidency.

And every minute that he's wasting on these photo-ops and this celebrity culture that he just can't let go of, it's time that he's not dedicating to things that matter to the American people.

MAYO: I disagree for a different reason.

LEMON: Hold on, Marc, hold on. Listen, I agree with you. I think he can meet with whomever he wants and no one is stigmatizing that. It's just saying maybe that's not the right place for him to be when he's in recovery. That's a legitimate concern.

HILL: That's a different issue.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Because being in the spotlight and that has been part of the issue here.

MAYO: Let me submit this, though --

LEMON: Let me say this. Donald Trump, it's not that he doesn't have time for security briefings, he's said he's not interested in having them. Those are two different issues.

MAYO: And my issue inverts to where you guys are coming from entirely. Why would Kanye West allow Donald Trump to utilize him? If he is, in fact, supposed to be an extension of the black community, an extension of the youth community, an extension of those of us who stand in opposition to what Donald Trump fundamentally represents, why, particularly at a time that one would assume you're vulnerable yourself.

LEMON: He said he would have voted for Donald Trump.

MAYO: If he had voted at all. But this is my point about the larger issue about Kanye himself. I'm more concerned about Kanye West than I will ever be about Donald Trump. I'm concerned about what will happen under a Donald Trump presidency with regard to policies.

But as a human being, I am concerned that Kanye West found the time in his schedule to meet with Donald Trump for whatever reason. Whatever they talked about behind closed doors it seems to me that Kanye himself is at such a place that the healing should be the primary piece for him.

HILL: I agree with that point and that's where I agree with Kierna. I ain't got a problem with --

LEMON: Did you just say I ain't got a problem live on CNN, Marc?

SETMAYER: Yes, he did.

HLLL: Don't act surprised, Don. My point is I agree. I think we're watching a certain kind of meltdown and I think there's a certain kind of celebrity culture that we have now where we kind of enjoy watching people melt down.

And like Kierna, I am very concerned for Kanye West and watching him get used by Donald Trump to say "This is my black friend, this is my cool friend, this is my celebrity friend," I think that's an issue.

But I do think going behind closed doors without the photo-op and saying, look, I want to make a set of demands from you is something a lot of folks do. Maybe not Kanye West, but a whole bunch of --

LEMON: I think everyone if they had a chance to meet with the president-elect, I think you should take the opportunity to meet and talk with him.

SETMAYER: Let's stop acting like this was, like, some kind of innocent I just want to meet with the president-elect because I'm such a giving person and I want to see how I can gave back to the country now. It was clearly a publicity stunt for both of them. Yes, for Donald Trump to say --

MAYO: Who do you think orchestrated it?

SETMAYER: Either one of them, to be honest with you.

MAYO: Who do we think orchestrated that?

SETMAYER: It could have been either one of them.

HILL: Kanye made the call from what I hear.

[23:45:06]SETMAYOR: OK, then that doesn't surprise me because he needed some positive publicity after the fact that he just got checked into a mental hospital. Let's not act like there are nefarious --

HILL: You think meeting with Donald Trump is positive publicity?

SETMAYER: We're talking about him now. He's such a narcissist he doesn't care.

HILL: It ain't positive.

LEMON: How about he just needed publicity because when he was up there someone asked him and he said "I just want to take a picture." But then this is what he tweeted about telling us why he requested this meeting.

He said "I wanted to meet with Trump today to discuss multicultural issues." He said, "These issues included bullying, supporting teachers, modernizing curriculums and violence in Chicago. I feel it is important to have a direct line of communication with our future president if we truly want change."

SETMAYER: That's nice somebody wrote that for him after the fact. He could have said that when he was standing in front of the camera.

MAYO: I don't know that somebody wrote that for him.

SETMAYER: Come on.

MAYO: That does slightly read --

HILL: Kanye can't write his own tweet?

SETMAYER: Why didn't he say that at the time then if it was really an honest --

MAYO: At what time? You mean before --

SETMAYER: Now since it was public and he just said "I want to take a photo-op or to take a photo." Why didn't he just say "I came here because I want to speak about multicultural issues, I'm concerned about Chicago, blah, blah, blah." Why didn't he do it then?

HILL: Maybe he didn't do a presser.

MAYO: One thing we can say consistently about Kanye in fairness is that he has always had political interest. It's been something about politics unto themselves that have intrigued him. He's threatened to do what Donald Trump did.

We couldn't imagine that Donald Trump would become the president when he was playing around saying "I bet you I'll do that." But, you know, Kanye has literally said I'm going to run for president.

So it's not as though there's a complete disconnect between Kanye the man and how he fancies himself. So this kind of all --

LEMON: Your mother always said you can grow up and being anything you want including the president. Anyone can run. MAYO: That's right.

SETMAYER: Apparently.

LEMON: We'll continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:50:47]

LEMON: And we're back. Donald Trump made a lot of promises to black voters during the campaign. What happens now? So back with me, Tara Setmayer, Kierna Mayo, and Marc Lamont Hill.

We're done with Kanye right? Marc, NFL legend, Jim Brown stopped by Trump Tower today for meeting pegged as discussion about issues facing the African-American community. Although, Brown voted for Hillary Clinton, he said this is about Trump to CNN Brooke Baldwin. He said this about Trump. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM BROWN, NFL LEGEND AND HALL OF FAMER: I fell in love with him because he really talks about helping African-American, black people. That's why I'm here. When he goes through what he went through to become the president, he got my admiration, because no one gave him a chance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Marc, what do you think?

HILL: I love Jim Brown, saw him earlier on CNN. I didn't know what he had said. I would have asked him. You know, I'm stunned to be honest. What Donald Trump went through to be president was to play on racial division, white supremacy and xenophobia.

For Donald Trump to have gone through -- to suggest that he's going through some admirable process is disturbing to me. So I don't have any admiration for Donald Trump or his process.

I don't have a problem with Jim Brown saying, look, we want to do urban development. We want housing. We want to make demands of you, but to say you fell in love with Donald Trump or his platform or his campaign to me is disturbing.

SETMAYER: Yes, I agree with that. I looked at that and I found it to be a little bit strange that he would speak like I fell in love with him. But when you think about Donald Trump is a very charismatic guy. He's a salesman. That's how he was able to win the presidency. That's what made him popular on "The Apprentice."

He has a certain charisma. People say that all the time when they walk in the room because he will praise you, compliment you, and tell you everything you need to know. He is a master at doing that. So you know, I'm sure Jim Brown and Ray Lewis went in there with great intentions because they have a great mentoring program and they really see an opportunity with now he's the president.

We'd like to maybe get funding for our program or try to get publicity for it, which would be a good thing if they're doing good stuff. But I think you need to be careful with this hero worship of Donald Trump. I mean, it's --

LEMON: Yes.

SETMAYER: Where was this philanthropy and all of these, you know, concerns for the black community before? I don't remember any Donald Trump --

LEMON: Kierna, he kept saying, what do you have to lose? So now he has to deliver on that promise. Does he have to do better things or what?

MAYO: Well, he has to do lots better, but to the earlier point, you know, I have covered celebrities for 25 years and watched a lot of journalists to be confronted what it means to actually be in the space with someone who you thought you had opposing ideas with, who you thought you didn't like.

And then come to find out there is banter, there's things you had in common. Things become very humanized in the room. To go from only knowing Donald Trump as the nasty politician that he's become to now knowing him as person you're going to potentially pop a bottle with.

Because let's talk about the celebrity cult thing that's going on here, I think it has unnerving -- it takes people unfortunately even the Jim Browns of our community clearly by storm.

LEMON: Former NFL great, Ray Lewis was also at the meeting with Donald Trump. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY LEWIS, FORMER NFL GREAT: We believe with the Trump administration is if we can combine these two powers of coming together, forget black or white, it's irrelevant, bottom line is job creation, economic development and these urban neighborhoods to change the whole scheme of what our kids see for --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So both Lewis and Brown said that they had a fantastic meeting with Trump. Trump seems to be able to charm skeptics in private. Why does he have such a problem convincing many with his public persona? That's for you, Kierna. Go ahead, Marc.

HILL: Because they hear what he says, they watch what he's done. They watch how he essentially attempted to railroad the media the Central Park Five. They've watched this lack of philanthropy over the last few decades. They've watched a career of essentially dangling black people around as almost puppets or trinkets.

[23:55:09]That's not to suggest that Donald Trump didn't have any real black friends. But when look at his political commitments and economic investments are, they don't suggest any kind of care for the black community.

And finally, when Ray Lewis says it's not about black or white, no, it is about black or white because the economic development that he's talking about, food and security, lack of housing, lack of access to shelter, lack of access to quality education.

When we talk about violence on the streets, all of these things are disproportionately happening to black folks. Social misery, black folks were at the top. Social prosperity, black folks were at the bottom. So no, it is absolutely about race.

SETMAYER: And also for Donald Trump, I mean, if you're really serious and could make a huge difference through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, you wouldn't have picked a complete novice like Ben Carson.

MAYO: Unbelievable.

SETMAYER: That's like had to find somebody black that was respectable enough to put in that position. There were so many other qualified people that have experience with these programs and with housing policy, with urban development, that could have really done a great job with that. But instead he puts in Ben Carson almost as a show piece in that position and I really hope that he doesn't screw it up. It's too important.

LEMON: Can I take it you're not on board with Donald Trump?

SETMAYER: Just being honest hold him accountable.

MAYO: You would think be more sophistication coming out of black spaces where folks have been dealing with the press and dealing with celebrity and understanding that so much is at stake and that the optics --

LEMON: Times are changing.

MAYO: They are.

LEMON: That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. See you tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)