Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

President Trump's Pick For National Security Adviser Turns Down The Job; President Trump Holding A Most Contentious News Conference Today And Having Some Head-Scratching Moments. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired February 16, 2017 - 23:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:00:10] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, President Trump's pick for national security adviser turns down the job. That in the wake of a news conference like we have never seen before.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

It was an unprecedented hour and 15 minutes of must-see TV. President Trump obsessed with leaks and repeating his unsubstantiated charge of fake news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Insisting that everything is fine in his house. Nothing to see here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And advancing his own conspiracy theory on Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You can talk all you want about Russia which is all like, you know, fake news fabricated deal to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats and plus the press plays right into it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Let's start with CNN's White House correspondent Sara Murray first.

Good evening, Sara. Before we get to the president's press conference you have new details tonight about Trump's replacement for national security adviser turning down the job. Bring us up to speed on that.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, that's right. Of course, as you know, he fired Michael Flynn earlier this week. And they have reached out to retired vice admiral Bob Harward to offer him the job. And today, he is taking a pass on that as well.

Now, some has said that it is because this is the chaotic White House and he didn't want to get involved in it, but he is citing family reasons for turning it down.

I want to read you a portion of the statement he provided to CNN in which he said like all service members understand and live, this job requires 24 hours a day, seven days a week focus and commitment to do it right. I currently couldn't make that commitment.

Now, regardless of whether this is his explanation or just the explanation he gave because he didn't want to cite a chaotic White House. It's currently a setback for the Trump administration at the time, same day the president is insisting there's no turmoil here, everything is going according to plan.

LEMON: OK. So Sara now, today's news conference. Why exactly did he decide to do this in what was a surprise move.

MURRAY: It was a surprise move. He walked into the oval office this morning and basically told his aides I want to do a press conference. And I think what we saw today is a president who has been very frustrated by the amount of criticism he has faced in his first couple of weeks in office. Obviously, he fired his national security adviser, lost his pick for labor secretary because Republicans couldn't get on board and he had some grievances he wanted to air today. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I inherited a mess. It's a mess. At home and abroad, a mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country. You see what's going on with all of the companies leaving our country, going to Mexico and other places. Low pay, low wages, mass instability overseas no matter where you look, the Middle East, a disaster. North Korea. We will take care of it folks. We are going to take care of it all. I just want to let you know I inherited a mess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Now, there are plenty who say when you inherit an economy with unemployment rate below five percent, maybe it's not such a huge mess. But obviously, the president feeling differently today, Don.

LEMON: And Sara, give us some of the headlines. What came out of today's press con?

MURRAY: Well, I think what we saw in addition to another of different headlines on Russia. We saw the president come out and say essentially to his knowledge nobody on his campaign team. None of his senior advisers were in touch with Russian intelligence officials. We also saw him begin to lay out a time line for his healthcare law. We also saw him talk about DACA. You know, this is what was protecting people, children brought to the U.S. illegally when they were younger by parents. Essentially saying, he wants to deal with it in heartfelt way, unclear exactly what that means. And we saw him really hammer home this idea of leaks. This is something that is really irking his administration. There was discuss that there might be someone from private equity coming in from the outside to sort of do a top down review of intelligence agencies to look for leaks today. Donald Trump said he is having the justice department look into that already and that when he has all the cabinet secretaries confirmed he is essentially going to go to them and tell them that should be their priority -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Sara, thank you very much. I appreciate your reporting.

I want to bring in now CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, April Ryan, the White House correspondent for American Urban radio networks and the author of "at Mama's knee" and CNN political commentators Kevin Madden and David Swerdlick.

Good evening. So glad to have all of you. What an amazing day.

So let's talk about the highs and the lows of the day.

David, I'm going to start with you. Vice admiral Harward saying no thanks to President Trump. How big of a blow is this for the president?

[23:05:04] DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it is just one more cut in what is starting to accumulate into sort a death by 1,000 cuts. First month for President Trump. Sara just reported the statement from admiral Harward. And it seems very plausible that he really does want to spend time with his family. But it also seems likely that the last three weeks of the news from the Trump administration has to have been ringing in his ears when he considered the job at hand. It's not anymore a speculation about what it would be like to work in the first hundred days of the Trump administration. We have all seen it. And you know, even the most capable person would have a lot on their plate. I think that it is just back to the drawing board again on a variety of fronts for the White House.

LEMON: Well-oiled machine he says.

Kevin, this is what the president said earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I turn on the TV, open the newspapers and see stories of chaos, chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine despite the fact that I can't get my cabinet approved.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Kevin. Fine-tuned machine. Now, here is a quality man who sources told my colleague Jake Tapper thought this offer was -- sandwich according to him, turning down a big job.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think that's one of the big risks that the White House faces is that folks that are, you know, that kind of message becomes emblematic of what people think of when they look at just his first 28 days. I think one of the big frustrations again that Sara alluded to this in her earlier report, is that the president feels like he came to Washington to shake up the status quo. He came here to send a message that the way of doing things in the past is now gone. And the new way, a new regime has come in. And that the American people want to see change. And that change doesn't always look -- it's not always easy. And that's what he wants to impress upon folks. And all the folks in this administration tasked with making the case for this president, his agenda On the Record. I think that's the message that they are trying to send.

One of the big problems is though is that this White House, there are many of folks that are talking on background or they are talking off the record or they are grumbling behind the scenes. And so much of that is also ending up in the newspapers. And you can tell as the president expressed his frustration about that level of grumbling that is taking place about the pace of this administration.

LEMON: Now, I want to get to Nia-Malika Henderson. Today was the first day the president answered questions about CNN's reporting that is campaign aides were in constant contact with Russian officials. He was also asked about his national security adviser. But again the president says the real story here, that's the leaks. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: What happens when I'm dealing with problems in the Middle East? Are you folks going to be reporting all of that very, very confidential information, very important - you know, I mean at highest level, you are going to reporting about that too? So I don't want classified information getting out to the public. And in a way that was almost a test.

Well, the leaks are real. You are the one that wrote about them and reported them. I mean, the leaks are real. You know what they said, you saw it. And the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That caught me when he said the news is fake because the news is fake. That's very interesting explanation about why the news is fake. But just because we don't know for sure if it's classified information. He is saying that there is no proof of that. Obviously, he is trying to change the subject here. What do you make of the president saying he is going to have the justice department look into this? NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: It really is a break

with precedent for a sitting president to order the justice department to look into their perceived enemies. You know, usually there is a separation between the White House and the justice department. So this idea that he is ordering up the justice department and to go after people is startling, I think. And so, we will see where this goes.

I mean, I think it's clearly meant to sort of chill the leaks and the leakers. To kind of put the fear of investigation into them. I doubt that will work. And certainly won't work in terms of the press publishing leaked information. I mean, he should go back and look at Pentagon papers. That case in the 1970s, the Hugo black's opinion on that and this idea that free press and informed public outweighs any government claim to secrecy or need for secrecy, even when it comes to matters of war and peace and national security. So I think that's what is going on here in terms of him doing his homework.

The other thing I think also is that it's not going to stop. This is going to continue. And he is also trying to change the subject on this.

[23:10:04] LEMON: Yes, exactly.

HENDERSON: And I don't think it's going to work. I mean, he is trying to sort of kick the Russia can down the road right? But listen. There is an investigation into what is going on with Russia or what went on with his campaign aides and Russia. I think we'll start hearing more about that.

LEMON: Yes. And again, as you said, kick the can. And he was for the leaks remember during the campaign before he was against them now that he is in office.

April, let's listen to something else the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia. Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven't made a phone call to Russia in years. Don't speak to people from Russia. Not that I wouldn't, I just have nobody to speak to. I spoke to Putin twice. He called me on the election. I told you this. And he called me on the inauguration a few days ago. We had a very good talk especially the second one. Lasted for a pretty long period of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. So he hasn't made a phone call to Russia in years. But then he goes on to say he spoke with Putin twice. What is your reaction, April?

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: There is a lot of questions -- there are a lot of questions still remaining when it comes to this relationship with President Trump and president Putin.

You know, the president was going on and on also talking about the fact that he didn't have any kind of business dealings with Russia. Again, people have made calls about the fact that he needs to be more transparent. Particularly with his taxes so we can find out really if that is the case. And I think a lot still remains to be seen because there's ever evolving door when it comes to Russia and what is going and this president and Russia. He even said, you know, wouldn't we like to have better relationship with Russia. He may not even want to be my friend after all this negative news.

So again, I mean, it's back and forth. We still have to see where it settles. We are not even a month into this presidency and it is still very confusing. And we still don't know everything on the table when it comes to the relationship with this president and Russia and Putin.

LEMON: And we have been talking about this possible relationship since, you know, before the election, during in the campaign.

Kevin, despite all these provocations, the president is still painting a barely positive picture when it comes to Russia. And he says this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along. And don't forget, we are very powerful nuclear country and so are they. There is no upside. We are very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about the briefing that we are allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it. Nuclear holocaust would be like no other. They are very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that's a good thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Kevin, I think we can all agree that it is a good thing that the president briefing that, you know, he is convincing people that nuclear holocaust is a great threat.

MADDEN: Yes. I think, though, there is a lot of people were worried about the hot rhetoric about nuclear powers posting up against each other. I think the other thing, too, here Don, is Republicans have spent the last eight years trying to make the case that Russia is important geopolitical foe. So, this is probably an issue. This is the issue that probably makes his allies off on Capitol Hill that are Republicans. Probably most uneasy about the president's policy agenda and some of his current rhetoric in the early part of this administration.

LEMON: All right, David, we will get to you on the other side. Everybody, stick around.

When we come right back, I want to talk to you, April, right, about your head scratching exchange with the president today. So stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:17:35] LEMON: President Trump holding a most contentious news conference today and having some head-scratching moments.

Back me Nia-Malika Henderson, April Ryan, Kevin Madden, and David Swerdlick.

So April, I was watching this, oh, my God. I tuned in actually after someone said he is talking about you and then I saw your thing. You had opportunity to ask the president a couple of questions. Here is part of your exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: Are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your urban agenda, your inner city agenda as well as --?

TRUMP: Who?

RYAN: Are you going to include the congressional black caucus and the congressional --.

TRUMP: Well, I would. I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting?

RYAN: No, no, no.

TRUMP: Are they friends of yours?

RYAN: I know some of them.

TRUMP: Set up a meeting. Let's go set up the meeting. I would love to meet with the black caucus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Oh, my God. So - before -- what did you think about that answer?

RYAN: What do you mean, what did I think?

LEMON: Come on April. Call your black friends and let's set up that meeting, girl.

RYAN: That's not what he said. He said call the members of the caucus.

But look. So here is the deal. When he said it I was kind of shocked because I'm like wait a minute. I'm a journalist. You are not supposed to ask us. And I'm thinking maybe because he is a novice to governance and protocol. No, that's my thought. About him saying for me to call them and set

up the meeting. Now when it comes to the other piece, I just had to go and deal with the issue at hand, I mean, because again it's bigger issues than me at the time. But it was interesting.

LEMON: You're good. And you realize you have to work there tomorrow. I, unlike you, I don't have to face the press corp.

RYAN: Well, the next four years, two to four years.

LEMON: I don't have to feel that. So I can say that was my immediate reaction and most of the millions of other people who saw it as well. And that's fair assessment.

RYAN: Twitter blew up.

LEMON: Yes. Because that is exactly what he was saying, why doesn't he know -- you think he even knew because you had to repeat CBC. You said, will you meet with the CBC? Do you think he knew what the CBC was or was he just having trouble hearing you?

RYAN: Again he is new. You know, I wondered if it was the newness of being in Washington, but I will say this. He is president. He is new. And maybe he didn't hear, maybe he did. But he is new and I'm going to give him that. He is in a learning curve. He has got to learn these acronyms but the congressional black caucus is CBC, the congressional Hispanic caucus is CHC. So, yes. I want to give him the fact that maybe he didn't know because here is new to town.

[23:20:28] LEMON: OK. Nia, what do you think?

HENDERSON: Yes. I think in some ways, it's right. The thing about this press conferences is usually a president has a list of names and reporters that he is going to call on. He knows the outlets they are from and he might even have a sense of what their area is, what they cover, what they might ask and be interested in. And in this press conference, April was obviously there. It was just -- everybody was standing up and raising their hands. So it was much more kind of free-flowing and chaotic I think than most of those press conference usual are and under a different White House. But good for him taking so many questions.

Very odd though that he wanted to send our friend April out to set up a meeting as if she was a secretary working for him.

LEMON: So April, Congresswoman Gwen Moore tweeted this. Hey, reaDonaldTrump, April Ryan is an honest and professional reporter. She is not your secretary. Reince knows Rep. Richmond's number, use it. And then we went on to found out that there was a letter. But go on. What did you do?

RYAN: But no, no, no. Actually after that question and everyone twitter breaking and going viral with this, the White House did indeed call Cedric Richmond, the head of the congressional black caucus, and they are trying to pin down a time to meet. Now, the way we understand, the 49 members, all are not going to attend because some just don't want to meet with this president.

HENDERSON: Maxine Waters not going to be there.

RYAN: Exactly. She has said it. She proclaimed it. She has declared it. She has made her own executive order about it.

But the bottom line is that this president is talking about an urban agenda, education, criminal justice, you know, all sorts of things, economics. And then you also have him at end of the month talking about historically black colleges and universities making an executive order on that. And these are the people who have basically been carrying the ball on these issues for decades and they want in. They want to talk about this and find out what he is doing and to help.

So it's very important that they meet. And it's also important for any president to meet with groups, whether it is governmental groups or private groups who have a stake in certain communities. He is president of all America. Even with the rhetoric, he is still president of all America.

LEMON: Well, I think here is the thing that I will say watching it. As I sat there and watched it I said I was fascinated by it. And even though, you know, he said some things that, you know, about this show, what have you, it's fine. He is a big boy. I'm a big boy.

RYAN: He beat you up.

LEMON: That's all right. No. It's not a big deal. I expect that because the administration before him beat us up as well. It is not the first time. And that's - We were supposed to get that. So I can take that. But actually, I have to give him his due. He stood there. He answered questions. It was unscripted. You may not have liked the answers to those question, but that's exactly what he should be doing. And we should have more of that. So I do have to give him his due with that. I didn't think her was accurate on some of the things that he said because he never gave examples of what exactly fake news is. He just said fake news. He doesn't say specifically what he thinks is a fake news.

RYAN: No. Very fake news, too.

LEMON: And very fake news. And then he said that he inherited a mess. And he kept saying that. And I kept saying, well, the unemployment rate is low. The economy is gaining. There is not -- we don't have troops overseas in big numbers and on - the stock market is growing. And I just kept saying where is the mess he inherited.

So Kevin, what did you think of this press conference as he was saying those things?

MADDEN: Well, look, I think that's -- every politician tries to draw a contrast with the previous eight years. And I think to this whole discussion I think about how the America people watch this, I think there are people who are watching this with a rooting interest, that are big Trump supporters. And they loved every single minute of this press conference. LEMON: I'm sure they did.

MADDEN: Right. And then the critics with the rooting interest, they believe it was emblematic of why Trump is, you know, not fit for the office. Most Americans, I know we all probably watched the reaction to the exchange that he had with April blow up on twitter. But, you know, most Americans are not, you know, sitting there watching press conferences live and monitoring it on twitter. And I think they don't have the same reactions that we do.

They saw the president talking about big issues that they cared about. I think they largely agree with a lot of -- particularly his supporters about, you know, the media coverage. And he tries to use that. I mean, that's the thing he used press conference so well.

First of all, I think he believes he's his own best spokesperson and that's why he did that for -- how long was it today?

[23:25:25] RYAN: Twenty-four minutes or something.

LEMON: But I got to say, I got to think, though. I understand what you're saying. And people often say that I'm going to go a little bit long for this, I'm sorry. People often say people that the people who live on the coast and some people, it is liberals, I would say live in a bubble. But I actually think, Kevin, that you are describing a group of people who live in a bubble as well. Because that's kind of a low bar that you are setting for people. If the president is going to say that the news is fake, then he should be clear about it, he should give specific examples about what exactly is fake. Because then he is misleading the American people and he shouldn't do that as president. If the president is going to say he inherited a mess, he should give specific examples about the mess he inherited and exactly what he is talking about because it's just then a talking point with no proof and that in fact is fake news.

MADDEN: Yes. And here is where - here is where he loses on this. Here is actually where I think the challenge is. The more mobile part of the electorate, the people that may have voted for Trump but they were not big ardent supporters or the folks who said I'm going to vote for Trump because I'm not voting for Hillary. Right now, that's the group that he needs most that he is going to marshal a greater degree of public support behind his agenda. And they don't care about whether or not it is fake news or it is real news. And they care about process. They care more about the issue arguments.

LEMON: Kevin, I got to go. I'm just - David, put a button on it. I'm just - all I'm doing is advocating for and informed electorate and for people not to be misled by talking points or from an agenda that may not be visible at the moment or clearly visible to some.

SWERDLICK: Yes, Don. That's right. The President seemed energized for first time in a week or two. He liked being his own spokesperson as Kevin said. On the other hand, you're right. It was light on specifics about policy. He didn't clarify what he meant by fake news. He didn't clarify what he meant by the mess he inherited because he didn't inherit a mess. That's it. LEMON: Thank you, all. I appreciate it. April, hang in there.

But I have to set some meetings up at White House. I'll call you.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Just ahead, the congressman from Maryland who says the president made up a story about him at today's news conference.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:31:23] LEMON: You heard what April Ryan had to say about that exchange today with President Trump's news conference.

Here to discuss it now, CNN political commentators Charles Blow, op-ed columnist for the "New York Times" and Paris Dennard who was director of black outreach for President George W. Bush.

Good evening, gentlemen. Thank you so much for joining me tonight.

Let's listen again to the exchange between April Ryan and the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN: Are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your urban agenda, your inner city agenda as well as --?

TRUMP: Who?

RYAN: Are you going to include the congressional black caucus and the congressional --.

TRUMP: Well, I would. I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting?

RYAN: No, no, no. I'm just a reporter.

TRUMP: Are they friends of yours?

RYAN: I know some of them.

TRUMP: Set up a meeting. Let's go set up the meeting. I would love to meet with the black caucus. I think it is great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK, Charles. So you heard what April had to say. What did you think?

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I wasn't sure either whether or not he was hearing the question or whether or not he simply didn't know the acronym and he know it is CBC whereas when he say CBC. And as April said like maybe he is new. But, you know, you are the president. I'm sorry, you don't get a

break. There is no on-the-job training for the president of the United States. You make a mistake and you are the president, you are going to get criticized for it. You are going to have to take that.

Well, number two, though is, there is an impulse in the man that wants to be defensive and to diminish people as they speak. So he watch that she was trying to have the question and she couldn't get it out because he wanted to be defensive and to interrupt. And when he is doing that, the natural person comes out. And it is, it really does talk down to you. And he was talking down to her and assuming that she must be -- she's black, and she must know the other black people. Then go set up the meeting. If you want me to do it, go set - I mean, it's really, really dismissive. And that is part of what was happening throughout the entire press conference. And I think that character flaw is something that Americans should be worried about.

LEMON: Paris, why on earth for the president ask April Ryan if she was friends with the CBC and wanted to set up a meeting for him? That's not her job.

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the president knows who April Ryan is. He know what her background is and he know how many relationships that she has on the hill. He knows, I know, you know, April Ryan knows personally every single member of the CBC.

And so, I think back to the earlier point, the president might have not heard her correctly. She said CBC, he might have heard CDC. That's why she clarified exactly what she meant by CBC, which was Congressional Black Caucus.

But the thing I want to point out to your viewers, Don, is that the CBC letter that they tweeted out to the president was addressed to president-elect sent on January 19th, the day before the inauguration sent to the transition office.

Point two, is in that letter, they never asked for a meeting with the president.

And point three, the tone and diction used in the letter was not very inviting to me. And so, if they wanted a meeting, they should have asked for a meeting and did not do that.

LEMON: But to my question, I said why ask her to set up meeting with the CBC? Because if you are president of the United States you call in and say Kellyanne, Mr. Bannon, Mr. whoever, or Miss whoever, this is the president. B, get me on the phone with such and such. Get me a meeting with such and such. Why would you have to do that with the black reporter and not a member of your own staff or whoever it is black outreach or whomever at the White House. Why can't they go - why couldn't he go through them instead of reporter at an impromptu press conference?

[23:35:04] DENNARD: Well, I think it is because the president knew that April was sort of giving him an on the spot treatment. April knows that the president reached out to Congressman Cummings. She know that during the listening session that I attended that he mentioned that he wanted to set up a meeting and turned to his aides.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Isn't a press conference on the spot treatment by every single reporter?

DENNARD: Sure. And if you want to make this into a racial thing, Don, I don't think it is.

LEMON: I just am asking. I didn't say that. I'm just asking you.

DENNARD: And I think the tone of April's line of questioning was made him say, well, if it's such a big deal and you think it's something I should do, set it up. Then he said I would love to meet with them. Do you know them? Set it up. Because he knows that she knows them and he knows that type of why that was asked. Why wasn't the question asked Mr. President can you talk about the HBCU meeting that you are having at the White House with over 60 to 70 HBCU press coming to town? Mr. President -- why didn't April ask about the CBC being upset that congressman Mark Walker --

LEMON: I'm not April. But I did watch the exchange. And I thought it was a pretty cordial exchange. They laughed with each other. It didn't seemed like she was trying to, you know, it wasn't a gotcha question. There was back and forth. I don't think that she had any tone that was any different and any other reporters.

BLOW: Forget about the tone question. Literally, forget about it. You are the president of the United States. Leadership demands that you meet with people who may be critical of you. This president brought was the person brought up Frederick Douglass. Do you understand how Frederick Douglass treated Abraham Lincoln before they actually met and Lincoln still had him in the White House? Frederick Douglass called Abraham Lincoln an excellent slave hound.

When Frederick Douglass met with black leaders in Chicago, Frederick Douglass said about that meeting that this man seems to want to make himself look continuously make himself look silly. He was a blistering critic of Abraham Lincoln and Lincoln still invited him into the White House because he realized that Frederick Douglass had something that he needed. He needed to be able reach out to black people, particularly black soldiers during the civil war when Frederick Douglass was (INAUDIBLE).

DENNARD: Charles.

BLOW: So this idea is like, he hurt my feelings or letter tone wasn't right or April's tone not right when she was asking question. Get over that. You are the president.

DENNARD: Don.

BLOW: One more second.

LEMON: I have to go to break.

BLOW: Talking about his base. Your base as president is the whole country.

LEMON: Go ahead Paris. I got to go, though. Hurry please.

DENNARD: At end of the day the president understands who he is. He is the president of all people. He actually said I would love to meet with the CBC and he wants to meet with the CBC. The president is going to meet with HBCU college presidents. The president has already and had a phone call with Congressman Cummings, and said we have more alike than we disagree on, especially on jobs and infrastructure. He understands this and will meet with people of all backgrounds.

LEMON: Paris I have to --

DENNARD: The notion that he won't is inaccurate.

LEMON: It didn't happen until today though, until there was an uproar about it, but we will be back. Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:42:16] LEMON: And a news conference full of surprising moments, President Trump surprised a lot of people with what he said about the rollout of his travel ban.

Charles Blow is back with this discussion. And also joining us, CNN political commentators Kayleigh McEnany, Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York and CNN political commentator Peter Beinart.

Look at this group. I feel like it's September or October all over again and we are talking about - welcome back.

BETSY MCCAUGHEY, FORMER LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, NEW YORK: Thank you.

LEMON: I wonder where Betsy McCoy is. And here you are.

So let's talk about the ban. I want to start with the president's travel ban. Here's what he have to say about the rollout then we will discuss it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban, but we had a bad court. We have a court that gave us what I consider to be with great respect, a very bad decision. Very bad for the safety and security of our country. The rollout was perfect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, he used word perfect to describe the rollout. Do you agree with that?

MCCAUGHEY: Well, I agree that the law is perfect, perfectly on his side, whatever bumps in the road about the implementation. The fact is if you look at ninth circuit, on average, it gets overturned by the Supreme Court 80 percent of the time in 2014. LEMON: I know about -- hold on. Hold on. I have been discussing

this with so many people before. And that's if you look at the cases that are sent to them. Usually, the cases that are sent to them are cases who have a high possibility of being overturned. That's why sent to them because they are problem cases. If it is not a problem case, it doesn't go to that court.

MCCAUGHEY: Well, anything goes to that court is in their jurisdiction. And the fact is they have a very bad record ban (ph), extremely left wing.

LEMON: It's not a bad record. It's not a bad record. It's part of the function of that court. Those are the kinds of cases. That's like if you are in a place, if you are in law enforcement and get the bad eggs. The chance of recidivism are higher because you are getting the bad eggs. They are getting the cases that are tough to decide. So that is not exactly true.

MCCAUGHEY: I'm probably president of your fan club. But the fact is all the cases in that part of the country go to that court. It's geographical.

LEMON: Buy anyway, does not - but I asked about the rollout. My question was a rollout.

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Even if you agree with him on that, he said it was a perfect rollout when they themselves had to switch on green card holders, right, because green card holders were initially prevented and then they said we may have a mistake. They had to switch on the fact that military and people who worked for U.S. military in Iraq were initially banned and they changed that. So even in their terms, I just don't see how you could possibly clean that. Right, those were some pretty big problems that were called because of those two issues alone.

LEMON: OK. Let's - we got a lot to talk about so let's move on. I want to talk about the president and he brought up his electoral victory today. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[23:45:03] PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS REPORTER: You said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan with 304, 306 electoral votes. In fact President Obama got 365 --.

TRUMP: Well, I was talking about --

ALEXANDER: President Obama, 330 and George W. Bush, 426 when he won as president. So why should Americans trust you?

TRUMP: Well, no. I was given that information. I don't know. I was just given. We had a very, very big margin.

ALEXANDER: Why should Americans trust you when you accuse information they are receiving of being fake when you are providing information that's -- TRUMP: Well, I don't know. I was given that information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That was peter Alexander from NBC asking that question. Charles, what did you think?

BLOW: Well, it's not true, right. So let's just -- he stated it as fact, is not a fact.

Now, you know, the president should be in the business of telling the truth, right? But he is habitually not doing that. And -- but you know, we are in the business of telling the truth. We have to hold the line on things like this and say, no, exactly what the reporter is saying. You are saying things to the American people that is patently provably not true. And what we would do -- if I cited something in my column that was factually incorrect, as soon as it comes to my attention, a correction is written because I generate it.

No, sorry. Let me finish. Because I generate it, because I want people to trust me. This president, even when presented with the idea that it's false, well, I just gave-- somebody gave it to me. I don't know. Just say it's not correct.

LEMON: But put up the graph up before you respond. Because again, if you look up those numbers, this is - you can do a Google search, the information that he has given is wrong. It is incorrect information. Does that concern you at all?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first, I want to disagree with Charles here. When he was confronted with the accurate numbers, he stopped that line of factual reasoning. He stopped it there. He did exactly what Charles would have done when he issued a retraction.

BLOW: That's absolutely not a retraction.

MCENANY: I let you finish. Let's talk about some facts. President Trump did have a historic victory. He was the first Republican president ever to win Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan since the 1980s.

LEMON: I give you that. But that's not what he said.

MCENANY: OK. But let's also - look. In his exchange with Jim Acosta, Jim Acosta said Hillary Clinton deleted 30,000 emails. President Trump corrected him. It was 33,000. We are not sitting here hounding reporters for that. People say things that are mistake. They are not lies, they're mistakes.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOW: That's not true. When Acosta said -- Acosta said I may have it wrong.

MCENANY: And President Trump did the same -- BLOW: Like you said, let me finish. He said I may have it wrong and

then President Trump said, you know, 30 -- 33. When Trump confronted with the exact same thing. Instead of him saying I may have it wrong. He said no, deflect to somebody else. I was given to it by somebody. Somebody gave me this and I don't know.

LEMON: Bu then he said it was --

MCENANY: Now we're playing semantics. I just ask that you apply the same standards --

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART: Jim Acosta is also not president of the United States. The important thing is that Trump doesn't say this again. If it were - if we had a record of Trump being corrected, innumerable times, and then (INAUDIBLE) making progress.

LEMON: OK. I got to go. I got to go. On the other side of the break. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:52:20] LEMON: The president railing against the media in today's news conference.

Back with me now Charles Blow, Kaleigh McEnany, Betsy McCaughey, and Peter Beinart. We are having a quiet conversation here.

So President Trump had comments about this show. Take a listen to what he said to CNN's Jim Acosta.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You look at your show that goes on at 10:00 in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit. The panel is almost always exclusive anti-Trump. The good news is he doesn't have good ratings. But the panel is almost exclusive anti-Trump. And the hatred and venom coming from his mouth. The hatred coming from other people on your network. Now, I will say this. I watch it. I see it. I'm amazed by it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, he said I was a hit so at least. Boom. Sorry. He said he doesn't watch CNN but then he watches the show. So I'm glad he is watching.

MCCAUGHEY: How can he resist?

LEMON: Exactly. You are a longtime Trump supporter. (INAUDIBLE).

MCENANY: Look. I mean, you are always very kind to me. And I'm on here a lot. And you give a lot of time and are fair to me. I think some of my left-wing counterparts are very unfair to Trump. I think any time there is any sort of vagueness or gaps in the facts when there is leaks for instance. They insert sinister suspicion where it does not belong. I don't think it is you, but I do think some of my left wing commentators who I disagree with ideologically --.

BLOW: The fact that you tested me before you said that is wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOW: Don't do that. Don't touch me and then say that's your sinister motivations. That's not going to happen tonight, man.

MCENANY: I didn't realize there is one (INAUDIBLE) where I'm not allowed to get close. Now I know I will scoot over this way.

BLOW: You can scoot until you falloff that ledge.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: All right.

MCENANY: But Charles, this is the problem. This is the problem. What you just said to me is a lot like what Maxine Waters said today when she said look, don't ask me to meet with President Trump. I don't even want to meet with you. We are all Americans. Maybe you don't feel that way. We have one president. We should all want him to succeed and we should all be friends at the end of the day and hug it out. If you don't want to do that, you don't have to do that.

BLOW: You are about to turn this from a civil conversation into me telling you --

MCENANY: Because we are all Americans.

BLOW: No, no, man. That's a very personal attack to say I don't believe that I'm an American. And maybe I don't believe that I'm American. Don't do that.

MCENANY: You said I'm not even allowed to touch you.

BLOW: Now you're not.

LEMON: OK. Go ahead.

BLOW: I'm telling you don't do that.

LEMON: Go ahead, Betsy.

MCCAUGHEY: The president is taking a lot today for saying that his administration has been a well-oiled machine. And I just like to point out that over the last three weeks he has put together a White House staff nominated 12 cabinet members all of whom so far are getting through step, Adrew Pudzer, that's a far better record than Obama had at this point. And met with three major heads of state. Very successful meetings with Theresa May, with the head of Japan, with Benjamin Netanyahu. He has met with corporate executives and persuaded them to put more jobs in the U.S. instead of Mexico. [23:55:27] LEMON: Betsy, I understand what you are saying. I know

you are getting the president to know, which he did today in this press conference.

MCCAUGHEY: Amazing. It's an amazing record.

LEMON: But the thing is that you can't say it's a well-oiled machine when you look at the fallout from the travel ban. When you look at what is happening with Russian. You are looking at what happened with Flynn.

MCCAUGHEY: Those are all good points.

LEMON: OK. But that's not a well-oiled machine. A fine-tuned machine.

MCCAUGHEY: With the roll out of Obamacare. Three months of crashing websites. People very sick losing their healthcare.

LEMON: How long did that happen into the administration?

MCCAUGHEY: My God.

LEMON: Go ahead.

BEINART: First of all, he doesn't have a national security adviser. The national security -- that wasn't the Senate's problem, right. He didn't have to get that confirmed. He doesn't have enough -- we just learned today that the guy he wanted to replace as national security adviser won't take the job.

Barack Obama by this point had already passed a stimulus bill, right. Actually, whether you like it or not, a massive piece of legislation, right. What has Donald Trump does done that is equivalent to that. Many of his government meeting, right the one with the leaders from Australia, for instance, were international incidents because of the things that he reportedly said during those meetings.

So I think it's hard to suggest today there was a report from someone of national Security Council who told a reporter I don't know what's going on. No one here knows what is going on. That is not a well- oiled machine.

MCCAUGHEY: That are is the swamp trying to sink him. These are career diplomats, people who are hold overs from previous administrations trying to do damage to our countries in order --.

LEMON: To his point, I hear that. But what do you mean they are hold over? You don't think that those are career people who care about the country more than --?

MCCAUGHEY: Some of them are and some of them are people who probably will leave and be replaced. But at the moment they are still there and they are not serving us, the public.

BLOW: But some of the information that has been leaked has been things that you would probably only know if you were in his inner circle. Some of it may be coming from other places. It could be Congressmen, it could be people in the Intel community, some of that is coming from the White House. Because some of the details I have read, nobody else would even know them you if were not in the White House. So it is -- his extreme vetting is apparently not working.

MCENANY: That's not true.

BLOW: Somebody in the White House is also contributing.

LEMON: OK. I have to go. We are like two minutes over and I'm going to get in trouble.

Thank you all. We are all calm now.

Coming up, if you miss the president's extraordinary news conference today, you can hear all the big moments for yourself and that is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END