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CNN TONIGHT

President's Must-See News Conference. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired February 17, 2017 - 00:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:01:32] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Well, the breaking news is you have to see it or hear it to believe it. This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

President Donald Trump in a wild hour-and-15-minute news conference today, one he reportedly sprung on as fast just this morning.

It was supposed to be about his new pick for Labor secretary but it turned into a tirade on intelligence leaks, his claims of fake news and his campaign aides' contacts with Russia.

And on a day when the President took control of his own message, we have breaking news. Two administration officials say veteran Republican operative Mike Dubke is expected to be named as the White House Communications director as soon as tomorrow.

Now if you missed the news conference, here's your chance to hear all the big moments for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've ordered the Department of Homeland Security and Justice to coordinate on a plan to destroy criminal cartels coming into the United States with drugs. We're becoming a drug-infested nation. Drugs are becoming cheaper than candy bars. We're not going to let it happen any longer.

We've undertaken the most substantial border security measures in a generation to keep our nation and our tax dollars safe and are now in the process of beginning to build a promised wall on the southern border. Met with General, now-Secretary Kelly yesterday, and we're starting that process.

And the wall is going to be a great wall, and it's going to be a wall negotiated by me. The price is going to come down, just like it has on everything else I've negotiated for the government. And we're going to have a wall that works. We're not going to have a wall like they have which is either nonexistent or a joke.

We've ordered a crackdown on sanctuary cities that refuse to comply with federal law and that harbor criminal aliens. And we've ordered an end to the policy of catch-and-release on the border. No more release, no matter who you are, release.

We've begun a nationwide effort to remove criminal aliens, gang members, drug dealers, and others who pose a threat to public safety. We are saving American lives every single day. The court system has not made it easy for us.

And we even create a new office in Homeland Security dedicated to the forgotten American victims of illegal immigrant violence, which there are many.

We've taken decisive action to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of our country though parts of our necessary and constitutional actions were blocked by judges -- in my opinion, incorrect, an unsafe ruling -- our administration is working night and day to keep you safe -- including reporters safe -- and is vigorously defending this lawful order.

I will not back down from defending our country. I got elected on defense of our country. I keep my campaign promises. And our citizens will be very happy when they see the result. They already are, I can tell you that.

[00:04:52] Extreme vetting will be put in place, and it already is in place in many places. In fact, we had to go quicker than we thought because of the bad decision we received from a circuit that has been overturned at a record number. I've heard 80 percent, I find that hard believe. That's just a number I heard, that they are overturned 80 percent of the time.

I think that circuit is -- that circuit is in chaos and that circuit is frankly in turmoil. But we are appealing that and we are going further.

We're issuing a new executive action next week that will comprehensively protect our country. So we'll be going along the one path and hopefully winning that. At the same time we will be issuing a new and very comprehensive order to protect our people. And that'll be done some time next week toward the beginning or middle at the latest part.

We've also taken steps to begin construction of the Keystone Pipeline and Dakota Access pipelines -- thousands and thousands of jobs. And put new buy American measures in place to require American steel for American pipelines.

In other words, they build a pipeline in this country and we use the powers of the government to make that pipeline happen, we want them to use American steel. And they are willing to do that, but nobody ever asked before I came along.

Even this order was drawn, and they didn't say that and I'm reading the order and I say why aren't we using American steel? They said that's a good idea. We put it in.

To drain the swamp of corruption in Washington D.C., I've started by imposing a five-year lobbying ban on White House officials, and a lifetime ban on lobbying for a foreign government.

We've begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It's a disaster. You can say, oh, Obamacare. They fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there, but they're not the Republican people that our representatives are representing.

So, we've begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare and are deep in the midst of negotiations on a very historic tax reform to bring our jobs back. We'll bring our jobs back to this country, big league. It's already happening, big league.

I've also worked to install a cabinet over the delays and obstruction of Senate Democrats. You've seen what they've done over the last long number of years. That will be one of the great cabinets ever assembled in American history.

You look at Rex Tillerson. He's out there negotiating right now. General Mattis I mentioned before. General Kelly. We have great, great people, makers with us now. We have great people.

Among their responsibilities will be ending the bleeding of jobs from our country and negotiating fair trade deals for our citizens.

Now look, fair trade -- not free, fair. If a country is taking advantage of us, we're not going to let that happen anymore. You know, every country takes advantage of us, almost. I may be able to find a couple that don't, but for the most part, that would be a tough job for me to do.

Intel just announced that it will move ahead with a new plant in Arizona that probably was never going to move ahead with. And that will result in at least 10,000 American. Wal-Mart announced it will create 10,000 jobs in the United States just this year because of our various plans and initiatives.

They'll be many, many more, many more. These are a few that we're naming.

Other countries have been taking advantage of us for decades -- decades and decades and decades, folks. And we're not going to let that happen anymore. Not going to let it happen.

And one more thing, I have kept my promise to the American people by nominating a justice of the United States Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, from my list of 20 and who will be a true defender of our laws and our constitution. Highly respected, should get the votes from the Democrats.

You may not see that, but he'll get there one way or another. But he should get there the old fashioned way, and he should get those votes.

This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country. Again, I say it, there's never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time. And we haven't even started the big work yet. That starts early next week. Some very big things are going to be announced next week.

0010

[00:10:10] So we're just getting started. We will be giving a speech, as I said, in Melbourne, Florida at 5:00 p.m. I hope to see you there. And with that, I just say God bless America. And let's take some questions.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: And when we come back, what President Trump said about Michael Flynn and why he fired him as national security adviser.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump holding a must-see contentious news conference and defending the former national security adviser he fired.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: Mike Flynn is a fine person, and I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it. He is a man who there was a certain amount of information given to Vice President Pence, who's with us today. And I was not happy with the way that information was given.

He didn't have to do that because what he did wasn't wrong; what he did in terms of the information he saw. What was wrong was the way that other people, including yourselves in this room, were given that information because that was classified information that was given illegally. That's the real problem.

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

In fact, I saw a couple of the people that was supposedly involved with all of this. They know nothing about it. They weren't in Russia. They never made a phone call to Russia. They never received a phone call. It's all fake news. It's all fake news.

Yes -- go ahead.

(inaudible)

[00:14:57] TRUMP: Because when I looked at the information, I said, I don't think he did anything wrong. If anything, he did something right. He was coming into office. He looked at the information. He said, "Huh, that's fine."

That's what they are supposed to do. They are supposed to be - he didn't just call Russia, he called and spoke to both ways, I think, there were 30-some odd countries -- just doing his job. You know, he was just doing his job.

The thing is he didn't tell our Vice President properly. And then he said he didn't remember, so either way, it wasn't very satisfactory to me.

And I have somebody that I think will be outstanding for the position. And that also helps, I think, in the making of my decision. But he didn't tell the Vice President of the United States the facts, and then he didn't remember, and that just wasn't acceptable to me.

Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since you brought up Russia, I'm looking for some clarification here. During your campaign, did anyone from your team communicate with members of the Russian government or Russian intelligence; and if so, what was the nature of the conversations?

TRUMP: Well, the failing "New York Times" wrote a big, long front page story yesterday. And it was very much discredited, as you know. It was -- it's a joke. And the people mentioned in the story, I noticed they were on television today saying they never even spoke to Russia.

They weren't even a part, really, I mean, it was such a minor part. I had not spoken to them -- I think the one person, I don't think I've ever spoken to him. I don't think I've ever met him. And he actually said he was a very low level member of, I think, a committee for a short period of time.

I don't think I ever met him. Now it's possible that I walked into a room and he was sitting there, but I don't think I ever met him. I didn't talk to him ever. And he thought it was a joke.

The other person said he never spoke to Russia, never received a call, looked at his phone records, et cetera, et cetera. And the other person, people knew that he represented various countries, but I don't think he represented Russia, but knew that he represented various countries. That's what he does. I mean people know that.

That's Mr. Manafort, who is by the way, who's by the way a respected man. He's a respected man, but I think he represented the Ukraine or Ukraine government or somebody, but everybody -- people knew that. Everybody knew that.

So these people -- and he said that he has absolutely nothing to do and never has with Russia. He said that very forcefully. I saw his statement. He said it very forcefully. Most of the papers do not print it because that's not good for their stories.

So the three people that they talked about all totally deny it. 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.

President Putin called me up very nicely to congratulate me on the win of the election. He then called me up extremely nicely to congratulate me on the inauguration, which was terrific. But so did many other leaders -- almost all other leaders from almost all other countries. So -- that's the extent.

Go ahead. Are you ok?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) You said today that you have biggest electoral margins since Ronald Reagan with 350 electoral votes. In fact, President Obama got 365 --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George H.W. Bush 426 when won as President. So why should Americans trust you --

(CROSSTALK)

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess my question is why should Americans trust you when you have (inaudible) the information that you receive as being fake when you're providing information that's --

TRUMP: Well, I don't know. I was given that information. Actually, I've seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory, do you agree with that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're the President.

TRUMP: Ok. Thank you.

Yes -- John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President. I just want to get you to clarify, because it's a very important point. Can you say definitively that nobody on your campaign had any contacts with the Russians during the campaign? And on the leaks, is it fake news or are these real leaks?

TRUMP: Well, the leaks are real. You're 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; so one thing that I felt it was very important to do. And I hope we can correct it, because there's nobody I have more respect for- well, maybe a little bit, but than reporters, than good reporters. It's very important to me especially in this position. It's very important.

I don't mind bad stories. I can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it's true. And, you know, over the course of time, I'll make mistakes, and you'll write badly and I'm ok with it. But I'm not ok when it is fake.

[00:19:58] I mean I watch CNN -- it's so much anger and hatred. And just the hatred, I don't watch it anymore because it's very good -- he's saying no. It's ok, Jim. It's ok, Jim -- you'll have your chance. JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If I may follow up on some of the questions that have taken place so far here, sir -- I don't know which microphone to hold here. I've got three microphones here.

TRUMP: Your ratings aren't as good as some of the other people.

ACOSTA: They are pretty good right now, actually, Mr. President but --

TRUMP: Go ahead -- Jim.

ACOSTA: -- if I may ask, sir. You said earlier that WikiLeaks was revealing information about the Hillary Clinton campaign during the election cycle. You welcomed that. At one campaign rally, you said you loved WikiLeaks. At another campaign press conference you called on the Russians to find the missing 30,000 e-mails. I'm wondering, sir if you --

TRUMP: She was missing 33 and then that got extended with the whole --

ACOSTA: Maybe my numbers are off a little bit, too.

TRUMP: No, no. I did say 30 but it was actually higher.

ACOSTA: If I may ask your sir, it sounds as though you do not have much credibility here when it comes to leaking if that is something that you encouraged during the campaign. If I may ask you that --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: No, no -- let me do one at a time. Do you mind?

ACOSTA: Yes, sir.

TRUMP: So in one case you're talking about highly classified information. In the other case you're talking about John Podesta saying bad things about the boss.

I will say this, if John Podesta said that about me and he was working for me, I would have fired him so fast your head would have spun. He said terrible things about her.

But it wasn't classified information.

But in one case you're talking about classified -- regardless, if you look at the RNC, we had a very strong -- at my suggestion and I gave Reince great credit for this. At my suggestion, because I know something about this world, I said I want a very strong defensive mechanism. I don't want to be hacked. And we did that. And you have seen that they tried to hack us and they failed.

The DNC did not do that. And if they did it, they could not have been hacked. But they were hacked and terrible things came in.

And you know, the only thing that I do think is unfair is some of the things were so -- when I heard some of those things, I picked up the papers next morning, and said, "Oh, this is going to be front page"; it was not even in the papers.

Again, if I had that happen to me, it would be the biggest story in the history of publishing or newspapers. I would have been the headline in every newspaper.

I mean, think of it.

ACOSTA: And if I may follow up on that. Just something that Jonathan Karl was asking you about, you said that the leaks are real but the news is fake. I guess, I don't understand. It seems that there is a disconnect there if the information coming from those leaks is real then how can the stories be fake?

TRUMP: The reporting is fake.

And if I may ask -- I just want to ask --

TRUMP: Look, look. Jim -- you know what it is. Here's the thing, the public is -- they read newspapers, they see television. They watch. They don't know if it's true or false because they're not involved.

I'm involved. I've been involved with this stuff all my life. But I'm involved. So I know when you're telling the truth or when you're not. I just see many, many untruthful things. And I'll tell you what else see, I see tone. You know the word -- tone. The tone is such hatred. I'm really not a bad person, by the way. But the tone is such -- I do get good ratings, you have to admit that. The tone is such hatred.

Now, they'll take this news conference -- I'm actually having a very good time, ok. But they'll take this news conference -- don't forget, that's the way I won. Remember I used to give you a news conference every time I made a speech which was like every day.

No, that's how I won. I won with news conference and probably speeches. I certainly didn't win by listening to you people. That's for sure.

But I'm having a good time. Tomorrow they will say, Donald Trump rants and raves at the press. I'm not ranting and raving. I'm just telling. You know, you're dishonest people. But I'm not ranting and raving. I love this. I'm having a good time doing it.

But tomorrow the headlines are going to be "Donald Trump rants and raves". I'm not ranting and raving.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: When we come back, more of President Trump's news conference and what he says about whether he will make a deal with Russia.

[00:24:07] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump covering a lot of issues in his news conference including the latest provocations by Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a ballistic missile test that many interpreted as --

TRUMP: Not good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- a violation of an agreement between the two countries and a Russian plane buzzed a U.S. destroyer.

TRUMP: Not good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I listen to you.

TRUMP: Excuse me -- when did it happen? It happened when, if you were Putin right now, you would say, hey, we're back to the old games with the United States. There's no way Trump can ever do a deal with us because the public -- you have to understand, if I was just brutal on Russia right now, just brutal, people would say -- you would say, oh isn't wonderful. But I know you well enough, then you would say, oh, he was too tough, he shouldn't have done that.

Look --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just trying to find out your orientation to those.

TRUMP: Wait a minute. Please, please. Excuse me just one second.

REPORTER: I'm just trying to find out what you'll do about it, Mr. President.

TRUMP: All of those things that you mentioned are very recent because probably Putin assumes that he's not going to be able to make a deal with me because it's politically not popular for me to make a deal.

So Hillary Clinton tries to reset. It failed. They all tried. But I'm different than those people. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you interpreting those moves and what do you intend to do about them?

TRUMP: Just the way I said it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Might you give Rex Tillerson any advice or counsel on how to deal?

TRUMP: I have. I have and I'm so beautifully represented. I'm so honored that the Senate approved him. He's going to be fantastic.

Yes, I think that I've already --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Putin testing you, do you believe, sir?

TRUMP: No, I don't think so. I think Putin probably assumes that he can't make a deal with me anymore because politically it would unpopular for a politician to make a deal. I can't believe I'm saying I'm a politician, but I guess that's what I am now.

Because look, it would be much easier for me to be tough on Russia but then we're not going to make a deal. Now, I don't know that we're going to make a deal. I don't know. We might. We might not.

But it would be much easier for me to be so tough, the tougher I am on Russia, the better, but you know what? I want to do the right thing for the American people. And to be honest, secondarily, I want to do the right thing for the world.

[00:29:55] If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along -- and don't forget, we're a very powerful nuclear country and so are they -- there's no upside.

[00:30:05] We're a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we're allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other.

They're a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that's a good thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Thank you very much, Mr. President. The trouble --

TRUMP: Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: BBC.

TRUMP: OK. Here's another beauty.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: That's a good line -- impartial, free and fair.

TRUMP: Yes. Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Mr. President --

TRUMP: Just like CNN right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: On the travel ban -- we could banter back and forth. On the travel ban would you accept that that was a good example of the smooth running of government --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Yes, I do. I do. Let me tell you about this government --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Were there any mistakes --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Wait. Wait. I know who you are. Just wait. Let me tell you about the travel ban. We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban. But we had a bad court. Got a bad decision. We had a court that's been overturned. Again, may be wrong. But I think it's 80 percent of the time, a lot.

We had a bad decision. We're going to keep going with that decision. We're going to put in a new executive order next week some time. But we had a bad decision.

That's the other thing that was wrong with the travel ban. You had Delta with a massive problem with their computer system at the airports. You had some people that were put out there, brought by very nice busses, and they were put out at various locations.

Despite that the only problem that we had is we had a bad court. We had 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.

TRUMP: Wait. Let's see. Who's -- I want to find a friendly reporter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Mr. --

TRUMP: Are you a friendly reporter? Watch how friendly he is. Wait. Wait. Watch how friendly he is. Go ahead.

JAKE TURX, AMI MAGAZINE: I've been good to you (INAUDIBLE), Mr. President.

TRUMP: Go ahead.

TURX: So, first of all, my name is Jake Turx from "Ami Magazine." And I -- despite of the tone my colleagues may have in reporting, I haven't seen anybody in my community accuse including yourself or any of the -- anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic.

We understand you have Jewish grandchildren (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: Thank you.

TURX: However, what we are concerned about and what we haven't really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it. There's been reports out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks.

There are people who are committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to.

TRUMP: You see he said he was going to ask a very simple, easy question. And it's not. Its not, not -- not a simple question, not a fair question. OK sit down, I understand the rest of your question.

So here's the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican -- quiet, quiet, quiet.

See, he lied about he was going to get up and ask a very straight, simple question, so you know, welcome to the world of the media. But let me just tell you something, that I hate the charge, I find it repulsive.

I hate even the question because people that know me and you heard the prime minister, you heard Netanyahu yesterday, did you hear him, Bibi? He said, I've known Donald Trump for a long time and then he said, forget it.

So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Yes, go ahead. Go ahead.

LISA DESJARDINS, PBS NEWSHOUR: Thank you. Lisa from the PBS --

TRUMP: See it shows you about the press, but that's the way the press is.

DESJARDINS: Thank you, Mr. President.

Lisa Desjardins from the "PBS Newshour."

TRUMP: Go.

DESJARDINS: On national security and immigration, can you give us more details on the executive order you plan for next week? Even its broad outlines?

TRUMP: Yes.

DESJARDINS: Will it be focused on specific...

TRUMP: It's a very fair question.

DESJARDINS: ...countries? And in addition, on the DACA program for immigration.

TRUMP: Right.

DESJARDINS: What is your plan, do you plan to continue that program or to end it?

TRUMP: We're going to show great heart. DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it's one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids. In many cases, not in all cases.

And some of the cases, having DACA and they're gang members and they're drug dealers, too. But you have some absolutely, incredible kids, I would say mostly. They were brought here in such a way -- it's a very -- it's a very, very tough subject.

We're going to deal with DACA with heart. I have to deal with a lot of politicians, don't forget and I have to convince them that what I'm saying is -- is right. And I appreciate your understanding on that.

[00:35:00] But the DACA situation is a very, very -- it's a very difficult thing for me because you know, I love these kids. I love kids. I have kids and grandkids. And I find it very, very hard doing what the law says exactly to do and you know, the law is rough.

I'm not talking about new laws. I'm talking the existing law is very rough. It's very, very rough. As far as the new order, the new order is going to be very much tailored to the what I consider to be a very bad decision. But we can tailor the order to that decision and get just about everything, in some ways, more. But we're tailoring it now to the decision. We have some of the best lawyers in the country working on it. And the new executive order, is being tailored to the decision we got down from the court.

TRUMP: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Mr. President --

TRUMP: Yes, I know this is going to be a bad question, but that's OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: It don't have to be a bad question.

TRUMP: Because I enjoy watching you on television. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Well, thank you so much. Mr. President, I need to find out from you, you said something as it relates to inner cities. That was one of your platforms during your campaign. Now you're --

TRUMP: Fix the inner cities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Fixing the inner cities.

TRUMP: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: What will be that fix and your urban agenda as well as your HBCU Executive Order that's coming out this afternoon? See, it wasn't bad, was it?

TRUMP: That was very professional and very good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: I'm very professional.

TRUMP: We'll be announcing the order in a little while and I'd rather let the order speak for itself. But it could be something that I think that will be very good for everybody concerned. But we'll talk to you about that after we do the announcement.

As far as the inner cities, as you know, I was very strong on the inner cities during the campaign. I think it's probably what got me a much higher percentage of the African American vote than a lot of people thought I was going to get. We did, you know, much higher than people thought I was going to get. And I was honored by that, including the Hispanic vote, which was also much higher.

And by the way, if I might add, including the women's vote, which was much higher than people thought I was going to get.

So, we are going to be working very hard on the inner cities, having to do with education, having to do with crime. We're going to try and fix as quickly as possible -- you know, it takes a long time.

It's taken more a hundred years and more for some of these places to evolve and they evolved, many of them, very badly. But we're going to be working very hard on health and healthcare, very, very hard on education, and also we're going to be working in a stringent way, in a very good way, on crime.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: When you say the inner cities, are you going -- are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your -- your urban agenda, your inner city agenda, as well as --

TRUMP: Am I going to include who?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: 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?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: No -- no -- no.

TRUMP: Are they friends of yours?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: I'm just a reporter.

TRUMP: Well, set up the meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: I know some of them, but I'm sure they're watching right now.

TRUMP: Let's go set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the Black Caucus. I think it's great, the Congressional Black Caucus. I think it's great.

I actually thought I had a meeting with Congressman Cummings and he was all excited. And then he said, well, I can't move, it might be bad for me politically. I can't have that meeting.

I was all set to have the meeting. You know, we called him and called him. And he was all set. I spoke to him on the phone, very nice guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: I hear he wanted that meeting with you as well.

TRUMP: He wanted it, but we called, called, called, called. They can't make a meeting with him. Every day I walk and say I would like to meet with him because I do want to solve the problem. But he probably was told by Schumer or somebody like that, some other lightweight. He was probably told - he was probably told "don't meet with Trump. It's bad politics."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: When we come back, how a news conference to announce the president's pick for labor secretary turned into must-see TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump's news conference today was an hour and 15 minutes of must-see TV.

Here to discuss, CNN political commentator Kayleigh McEnany, Sally Kohn and Symone Sanders, as well as Leon Wolf, the managing editor of "The Blaze" news.

It's so good to have you on. All of you. And welcome to the panel, Mr. Wolf. I hope you enjoy it here.

So sally, and I'm going to say nobody touch me, OK?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Too soon, Don. Too soon.

(LAUGHTER)

SALLY KOHN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know all the other black people so you could check with them.

LEMON: Oh, come on, guys.

SANDERS: At the black people meeting, apparently, because we have one. That's why Ryan could just call the CBC.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I have to say, my first interaction before we get to it, my first reaction afterward was like that was fascinating. And I did give him some credit for -- he may not have liked his answers, but I thought it was good.

KOHN: By far one of the most entertaining things I have ever seen in politics. And I would find it downright funny if it wasn't so terrifying.

I actually, I didn't realize a dumpster fire could set itself on fire, but it was like he poured gasoline on the dumpster fire then threw some fireworks on. It was unbelievable.

The problem is, is it's working, because, look, let's pay attention. 24 hours ago, I know it's hard to remember. But 24 hours, we were all transfixed by reports that several -- according to the intelligence community, several members of the Trump campaign had carried on -- what the intelligence community said were constant, constant contact with Russian intelligence. And now 24 hours later, we're no longer talking about that because Mr. Trump went on air and committed this act of buffoonery --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK. All right.

KOHN: And distract us all.

LEMON: Let the other get in.

KOHN: Job well done.

LEMON: Stop hugging the panels. Stop touching me.

(LAUGHTER)

So, listen, Kayleigh, even you have to admit, though, that it was confusing at times and actually raised even more questions about what it is that he has to hide even "Fox News" Shepard Smith commented on this.

Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It's absolutely crazy. He keeps repeating ridiculous throw away lines that are not true at all and sort of avoiding this issue of Russia as if we are some kind of fools for asking the question. Really?

[00:45:00] No, sir. We are not fools for asking these questions and we demand to know the answer to this question. You owe this to the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, there was a lot -- there was a lot of deflecting in there. You applaud. What do you think?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It's just funny. I feel like, you know, it's a tale of two viewers, because it reminded me of the election, where the media, and you know, some on the left saw one thing and you had people like me and people who voted for Trump seeing something entirely different. It was actually fascinating that Sally walked away from this thinking it was a disaster. But a lot of Trump supporters saw that and said this is a president who has done something no president has done before, which is take an hour and half --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK. And I said the same thing.

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN: And not actually tell the truth for most of it.

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: What did he lie about? What did he lie about?

KOHN: Are you actually kidding? He said that the leaks were true and then said reporting about the leaks was fake news. That is impossible.

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: We don't know if the --

KOHN: That's actually impossible. He said the leaks were true, which means that the things --

MCENANY: That's not true.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK. I'm going to get to the other panel. Symone, I'm going to get to you, guys. But why would he fire the man? Why would he ask for his resignation if it wasn't true? And we are getting off topic, because what Shepard Smith was saying is that this is a deflection from the Russia thing, which he's right.

I mean, it was brilliant for him to come out and say I'm going to come out and do this and then they won't ask me, the media will be talking about something else. But why fire the man if it's not true?

MCENANY: Because he misled the vice president of the United States.

LEMON: How about he misled the American people and say -- that's why you fire him for the -- I don't --

MCENANY: He misled the vice president of the United States. If he had not misled him and he had owned up to the fact, yes, I talked about sanctions. President Trump would have said, OK, no problem, you stay.

LEMON: All right. But then he said he didn't. Leon, he said he didn't know about sanctions, right? Didn't he say that?

LEON WOLF, THE BLAZE: Yes. And what's fascinating to me is that we know now that he was told that Flynn lied to Pence a month ago. And so it seems to clear to me that what he actually fired Flynn for was that the media reported on the fact that he lied to Pence. Not that he actually lied to Pence.

That's the best sense I could make out of that series of questions, which is kind of a bizarre way for a guy who pride himself on running his ship, but you know, with loyalty and all those things to run an operation.

If it's fake news and Mike Flynn has been treated so unfairly by everybody, which is something he said five or six times, why not stand by the guy. Why not say, you people in the media have treated him very unfairly. I don't think he did anything wrong. I'm going to stand by him.

LEMON: Yes.

WOLF: That would be, I think, a Trump thing to do for somebody who is trying to portray this image of strength and loyalty.

LEMON: Symone Sanders, go ahead.

SANDERS: Well, because I think Donald Trump cares more about what the media is saying about him and his ratings than he actually does about loyalty. And to place some point, the media got on his case about Flynn so badly, his ratings were bad, sad, in my Donald Trump voice that he had to let Flynn go. So it is unfortunate, but I want to reiterate that Flynn is not the totality of the issue here.

The real issue is these connections to Russia, the things we don't know. We need a select committee to investigate this. And we really need to know how deep the rabbit hole goes.

LEMON: OK. Hold that thought, please. Don't touch me. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

LEMON: Back now with Kayleigh McEnany, Sally Kohn, Symone Sanders and Leon Wolf. That came out wrong. It looked weird in the prompter. It does.

So, let's -- Jewish reporter asked about anti-Semitism at the press conference today and here was the president's response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He said he was going to ask a very simple, easy question. And it's not. Its not, not -- not a simple question, not a fair question.

So here's the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person.

See, he lied about he was going to get up and ask a very straight, simple question, so you know, welcome to the world of the media. But let me just tell you something, that I hate the charge, I find it repulsive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. So and then part of it he said, you know, he said, I know what you're going to ask, sit down and he said shut up once. I mean, Leon, what did you think of his response?

WOLF: Well, you know, I want to start off by saying that I don't really know what's in Donald Trump's mind and heart. And I don't think anybody does. So I don't know what he internally feels or thinks about Jewish people, or any other race of people.

I will say that he has done a tremendous job of signalling to people whether intentionally or unintentionally, signalling to people who do dislike Jews in particular that he is on their side. And these people are used to being disowned and treated by politicians with this sly wink and a nod, oh, I'm not really with you. They're used to being spoken to in code and not dealt with directly. They understand that.

And so whether it's intentional or not, he's done it. I mean, I see it myself all the time on Twitter. I'm not even Jewish but I have a name that I guess sounds kind of Jewish.

So every time I'm re-tweeted by, maybe, Jake Tapper from your network, I get millions of mentions from these people with the green frog avatars calling me every Jewish ethnic slur in the book and some I haven't even heard of. I have to look them up on urban dictionary to find out what they mean.

And I think that, you know, the way that he answered this guy's question, shut up, shut up, sit down, sadly, I think will be taken as a signal to those people, whether or not he meant it.

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN: And the problem is he didn't answer question. First of all, it was a question about systemic anti-Semitism and the dozens of attacks and threats of attacks that have happened and he didn't answer that. He did what Donald does. He took it personally, number one.

Number two, the Anti-Defamation League did a study last year and found that the rise in anti-Semitic trolling corresponded to Trump's nomination and the rise of his campaign. I ought to know. I was on the top ten lists. This is real people. We should deal with it. He should deal with it as president.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK. Why is it so hard for him to answer that question? Because he was asked in a press conference earlier in the week and he had trouble with that question as well. People were flummoxed by his answer.

[00:55:00] MCENANY: Well, I didn't think he had trouble with. And, look, yesterday, he just stood next to Bibi Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, who said this man is nothing of the sort. basically disowned his own reporter from Israel, who suggested that he was anti-Semitic --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But it wasn't -- hold on, hold on. The question wasn't about Donald Trump being anti-Semitic. It was about the rise of anti- Semitism. It wasn't about him personally.

MCENANY: The implication was that somehow --

KOHN: No, it wasn't.

MCENANY: What Leon said, the implication was that somehow Donald Trump has encouraged anti-Semitism, which is patently ridiculous. Did he encourage it when he had -- hold on, Sally, let me finish. Did he encourage it when he had a Jewish daughter or a Jewish son-in-law or when he stood next to the prime minister Israel or fought for Israel in a way we haven't had in the last eight years.

If anyone has encouraged it, it's President Obama with his weak stance on immigration.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Symone, before we have to go.

SANDERS: Donald Trump has a habit of making everything about him. So, again, this question around anti-Semitism was not about him. It's actually about reports that have been widely reported in the media about Jewish people who have been targeted.

So I think the problem is here we have a president who is so inwardly focused on himself that he can't see past the front door. That is what we saw in that press conference today.

And for the record, I was at the barbershop while the press conference is on. I get my haircut. And I sit at barbershop, and there were Trump supporters in there and they were floored, mouths open. I was like, pick all your mouths up, you all know you voted for Donald Trump.

LEMON: Thank you. Good night, everybody.

SANDERS: Good night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)