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New Developments On Russia Investigation; White House Defends Border Wall; House To Vote tomorrow On Obamacare Repeal Bill; Comey Defends Handling Of Clinton Probe. Aired 10:00-10:30 pm ET
Aired May 3, 2017 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:12] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Thanks for watching. We'll be in D.C. Tomorrow night for the vote on that health care. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. "CNN tonight" starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT NEWS SHOW HOST: The breaking news, is it the end of Obamacare? The house says they have the votes to do it tomorrow. Will they or won't they? This is "CNN tonight." I'm Don Lemon. A big day in the Russian investigation as well, what the FBI director said and what the former Obama official Susan Rice won't. We have the latest on that. Plus, when is a wall not a wall? When it's a fence?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That is when it's actually called. That is the name of it. It is called --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fencing.
SPICER: No, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I guess you can say it's an alternative wall. We'll explain. Let's get right to our breaking news on health care, though, with CNN's justice correspondence Pamela Brown and Congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly, good evening to both of you. Phil, you know we are discussing this, I've seen your reporting and I thought they didn't had the votes and now they say they are going to repeal and replace Obamacare tomorrow, fill us in. Do they have those votes?
PHIL MATTINGLY, NEW YORK BASED CNN CORRESPONDENT: They claim they do. House Republican leaders say very clearly they have the votes and they made it crystal clear over and over again over the last couple of weeks. They would never bring anything to the floor if they didn't have the votes. Here's the reality. I'm told that they are right on the edge. They have been working really the last 12 hours. President Trump, Vice President Pence, house leaders, member after member pulling them into private meetings one on one making promises trying to get them right to the point where they can actually pass this to get themselves there. I'm told they're close enough to go. They feel like they can get enough members when they get there on the floor. It doesn't take a lot of memory to go back and recognize that they've tried this before and haven't quite got there. They say this time will be different. We should find out probably around noon tomorrow.
LEMON: And does this bill have the same exceptions for pre-existing conditions, because that is the sticking point of Obamacare has.
MATTINGLY: It is different. It's structured differently than what Obamacare is. That is the real problem. The regulations are extremely popular in the Obamacare. The fact that this bill would give states the opportunity to opt out of the price protections related to pre-existing conditions is what has made Republican members so uncomfortable up to this point. There was a change today. They are adding $8 billion more into this fund to specifically address those who might have their coverage's dropped because of price increases in states that opt out. Is that going to make all of the difference in the world?
The reality is, probably not. What I'm told from house Republican leaders is it's enough to get their members on board for this vote for this vote. To get this off their plate so they can move on to other items and send this over to the senate to make sure this gets going. I will tell you this, though. You talk to Democrats and anybody who is involved in campaigns, who is watching this play out, recognize how important and how popular the pre-existing provisions are, this is a political attack ad into making Democrats are kind of licking their chops knowing that they are going to address this issue specifically. It will be interesting to see how the members stick with this vote going forward after the cast tomorrow.
LEMON: Everyone is watching. Pamela Brown, as if there's not enough happening on Capitol Hill already. Let's have the FBI Director James Comey defending how he handled the Clinton probe and his decision that he reopened the investigation back in October just days before the election. Here's how he described it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Look, this is terrible. It makes me mildly nauseous to think we might have had some impact on the election. But honestly, it wouldn't change the decision. Everybody who disagrees with me has to come back to October 28th with me and stare at this and tell me what you would do. Would you speak or would you conceal? And I could be wrong, but we honestly made a decision between those two choices that even in hindsight and this has been one of the world's most painful experiences, I would make the same decision. I would not conceal that on October 28th from the congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So he is insisting Pamela, that he made the right choice. How do you explain not speaking publicly on the Trump campaign investigation at the same time?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN NEWSROOM SHOW HOST: that is the big question and he said, he claimed today during the testimony that he handled both of these high-profile probes consistently under the same principle that you don't acknowledge the existence of an investigation involving U.S. person and he said particularly with the Russia investigation, he described it as a classified counterintelligence investigation that opened up last July that was in its very early stages and he felt like he shouldn't talk about it publicly before the election. Of course, that is in contrast to how he handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe and he explained that by saying it was already public from the beginning with the candidate herself talking about her private e-mail server with a referral of this FBI investigation becoming public. Of course, he eventually, Don, did acknowledge the Trump campaign associates and Russia's possible connection that the FBI has been looking at this past March, nine months later after the FBI opened up its investigation. So his answer was a little bit muddled in trying to understand what that same principle was, Don.
[22:05:24] LEMON: It was an interesting justification, a lot of people sort of boggled by that. Listen, CNN's also learning that President Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice is declining a request to testify on Capitol Hill in the Russian hacking next week. What do you know?
BROWN: So we've learned that through a letter that was obtained by CNN through her attorney that she has rejected this request for her to testify in front of senators next week on Capitol Hill, the same hearing that the former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and James Clapper will be testifying and basically she said that she learned from Senator Whitehouse, the Democratic Senator that he disagreed with Senator Graham's request for her to testify, that he didn't think it was pertinent to the topic at hand and she felt like it wasn't appropriate for her to testify so she rejected that request.
LEMON: Pamela Brown, thank you very much. Phil Mattingly from Capitol Hill, we will get back to both of them. I want to bring in CNN Chris Cillizza and also Gloria Borger, good evening to both of you. Where do we start in we'll start with health care. I'll start with Chris since he is right here with me. Republicans say they are going to vote tomorrow. They can repeal and replace Obamacare. What turned this around for the president?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First of all, important to understand this is sort of repeal and replace. They are not repealing the whole thing but for the most part --
LEMON: It's similar to Obamacare, isn't it?
CILLIZZA: There's a lot in there that remains with Obamacare. They are not gutting this and putting their own bill in. How did Donald Trump or Paul Ryan get the vote? You know, when you say here's $8 billion to fund these high-risk pools, which was the concern, had been the concern, $8 billion solved some problems. I think also what they thought was, we're two, three votes one way or the other on this. It's going to be close. The only way that we're going to make a decision is to say there's going to be a vote. Because you put it off, put it off, you put it off.
LEMON: But, again, $8 billion. And wasn't the question the problem money at the end of the day? CILLIZZA: To your point, Don, the whole question here is the way in
which they got the freedom caucus to be on board with this. They weren't on board in the first place. The way they got them on board was to say, ok, Obamacare mandated insurance companies cover pre- existing conditions. We're going to say that states can waive that. The issue if you do that is now, how do people with pre-existing conditions get covered? They go into these high-risk pools. You take $8 billion and help minimize those cost that is how you build that patch work that they think it would get them to 216.
LEMON: We had this discussion with Austin Goolsbee and Stephen Moore and he said, yeah, they should be put in that separate category and Austin Goolsbee said that is a really expensive category to be in and once you're in that category, you're always in that category. Gloria, let's take a step back here, did President Trump make this happen with these calls and visits to members who had once said no?
GLORIA BORGER, AMERICAN POLITICAL PUNDIT JOURNALIST AND COLUMNIST: Look, I think the president wants a win and I think he deserves credit here for trying to get one and so did the vice president. You saw the vice president up on the hill today. And, you know, the president is not ideological the way lots of members of the freedom caucus are. That means he is not as conservative as a lot of them are. He was looking for a way to kind of bridge the gap between the moderates and the conservatives. And I think one of the reasons that this could get done tomorrow -- and by the way, I reached out to the White House chief of staff Reince Priebus tonight who told me they are optimistic about getting this done. But not to be too cynical about it, one of the reasons that they might get this done is because there's no congressional budget office score on this. We do not know how much it's going to cost. And we don't know how many people will be uninsured or will lose insurance as a result of this. You remember, last time we went around, you know, the track on this --
LEMON: 4 million or something?
BORGER: 24 million people losing insurance and that were one of the reasons a lot of Republicans backed away from it because that was really bad news for them.
BORGER: And at this point, you know, you have the major health care lobbying groups, like American cancer society, the American medical association, not to mention the AARP against this. So if they get this done quickly before members go home from recess, before everybody's had a chance to even read the bill --
LEMON: I was going to say, this is like Nancy Pelosi. We have to pass the bill before we know what's in it.
LEMON: And essentially they could pass this bill before knowing what's in it.
BORGER: Right. And the reason is that speed is in their own self- interests.
[22:10:05] LEMON: Got it.
BORGER: It's not a great way to run a railroad, obviously. But that is the way they'll get this done.
LEMON: Let's move on, because we have so many topics. Gloria, I want you to weigh in on this. This is part of the Russia investigation. I spoke with Pamela just moments ago about this. One of the key figures in Comey's current investigation is former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
LEMON: You have new reporting on him. What can you tell us?
BORGER: Well, I wrote a column today about the vetting process of Michael Flynn. And I will tell you what I learned. One is that at a meeting General Flynn had with members of the transition committee as well as Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, he was asked which three jobs he would like and he said Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and National Security Adviser. The problem with that, Don, is that he wasn't on the transition's list for any of those jobs, including National Security Adviser. But then the transition got fired, if you'll recall, Chris Christie and the rest of the transition got fired and who becomes the first big presidential appointment? General Flynn to become National Security Adviser and I was told that by people who were involved in the transition, that he had never even had a cursory vet beyond a public vet and we've heard what the administration has said is that the Obama administration vetted him. These people said of course that is not enough when you're appointing somebody to be a national security adviser.
BORGER: So it was woefully inadequate.
LEMON: All right now there is a lot talk about Chris, the wall.
LEMON: Something we saw today at the White House briefing room, which is very interesting, it's similar to what we saw yesterday but this one was even --
CILLIZZA: Spicier, if you will. I've been working on that for an hour.
LEMON: Good. Getting grilled by a Breitbart reporter over building the border wall, take a look, whether it's a fence or not. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is the government focused so much on existing border security measured rather than fighting for the wall that he promised that he would build?
SPICER: This is the kind of barrier that exists throughout the country. You see a place where cars can literally create little things and drive over. Places that can get burrowed under. That one they've cut through. And to replace this with 20-foot-high bollard wall will protect our country, something that the DHS has designated the most effective way to do this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are those fences or walls?
SPICER: That is called a bollard wall. That is called a levee wall. There are various types of walls that can be built. Under the legislation that was just passed, it allows us to do just that. That is called a levee wall on the left. That is called a bollard wall.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it's a levee wall?
SPICER: That is what it's actually called. That is the name of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's fencing. Not a wall.
SPICER: No. No. In this current bill, it allows us to do the following. What we've done is taken the tools that we have -- and if you look at that one in particular, you have a chain link fence which is at the southern border. That is down there now. We are able to go in there and instead of having a chain link fence replace it with that bollard wall.
Hold on. Jim, we're going to take turns. Just to be clear, because Charlie asked the same thing so I'll give you help on this one, this is the 2017 budget. The president -- this is a down payment on what the president is going to prioritize in the 2018 budget that starts October 1st.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I'm sorry.
CILLIZZA: Are you all right?
LEMON: It's -- this is better than "SNL." if you look it up, it's called a bollard fence and a levee fence. It is not a wall.
CILLIZZA: Two things. I guarantee you Sean Spicer didn't think he'd be getting into the technical aspects of walls versus fences. Number two, this is spin. President Trump asked for -- demanding $1.4 billion in funding for the wall. Not a wall. Not a bollard fence, a wall, a big, beautiful wall. He backed down from that because he knew that that would shut the government down. He smartly and his advisers said it's not smart to pick this fight now. They are trying to muddy the waters. We're going to put up these bigger steel fences or walls. So technically, we're winning. The truth of the matter is, in that funding bill, there is no money for the border wall. That is an indisputable fact. [22:15:05] LEMON: Gary Tuchman did a great job earlier of explaining
BORGER: He did.
LEMON: The fencing part was part of a construction site that had nothing to do with the border wall. The wall part is part of a repair, a normal repair of the border fence that George W. Bush allocated and was re-upped with the Obama administration and has nothing to do with the Trump administration. This is not the big, beautiful wall that the Trump administration or President Trump promised. This is spin.
BORGER: I want to know, where is Mexico in all of this?
LEMON: And they are not paying for it.
BORGER: Because it was Mexico originally that was going to pay for the big beautiful wall. And we haven't heard a lot about Mexico paying for this wall. In fact, you know, the administration is still saying, although they were smart, as Chris says, in taking the money out of this spending bill, because they didn't want to shut the government down, but we -- they're still going to have to ask for an awful lot of money for this. They are also -- how are they going to pay for tax reform? They've just added money into this health care replacement. There are a lot of things that eventually add up and you're talking real money here. And some Republicans that have been worshipping at the shrine of the deficit reduction are going to start complaining that they can't afford everything.
LEMON: Chris, Gloria, thank you.
LEMON: I enjoyed the conversation. When we come back, more on our breaking news, the White House is set to vote tomorrow to repeal and replace Obamacare. But to Republicans have the votes to pass their bill?
[22:20:00] LEMON: Here is the breaking news, the house is planning to vote tomorrow on the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. I should tell you there is no CBO score on this bill. So we don't know the cost or how many Americans will lose coverage with this. But they plan to vote tomorrow anyway. I want to bring in now two CNN political commentator who is are Capitol Hill veterans, Steve Israel and Jack Kingston, a former Republican congressman. Steven, I'm going to start with you. What do you think, Republicans seem to think they have the votes to repeal and replace after this blistering failure just weeks ago. Do you think they'll get it done?
STEVE ISRAEL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, Don, this is so familiar, I think I was on your show with Jack Kingston three weeks ago when they had a vote scheduled for the next day, they were confident and didn't have a good outcome. The outcome tomorrow could be different, but I'll tell you, what we know for sure, still a rocky road in the senate, if the senate passes it, a rocky road again in the house and if the president signs it, this will be Trumpcare and the Republicans will own this going into a very difficult midterm election.
LEMON: So the core issue here, pre-existing conditions under the affordable care act. Those people were covered at the same rate and they added an amendment that offered $8 billion to help people with pre-existing conditions with their premiums. You say this is an attempt from Trump to get them covered. Explain that.
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Are you talking to me?
LEMON: Yeah. Look, every -- virtually every single independent health or medical association has opposed this because they know it's a political big leaf, this $8 billion is nothing more than an amendment to try to lure moderate Republicans and it is going to increase costs for people with pre-existing conditions and a political stunt in order to pass this bill. I tell you what, remember when President Obama said if you like your doctor, you can keep him, he shouldn't have said that and I predict President Trump when he says I mandate pre-existing conditions be in the bill, when people realize that mandate is not protecting them, there's going to be political price to pay for that.
LEMON: You think it will come back to haunt him. Jack Kingston, here's the press secretary Sean Spicer today and then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A guarantee to the American people to have coverage regarding pre-existing conditions. You said earlier that is impossible to know the impact of this law. How can you make that guarantee?
SPICER: He was asking -- they were asking about cost. The president has made it very clear on numerous occasions that he is going to make sure pre-existing conditions are covered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Ok. So, again, Jack there you go, pre-existing conditions will be covered. Can you make that promise?
KINGSTON: Absolutely. This is a huge political discussion, but in reality 93 percent of Americans get their health care through their employer, Through Medicaid or Medicare and it's not going to happen to them at all. In the event they go 60 days without insurance, they will be able to get coverage through a pool and for a state to opt out of it. They have to show that they have a better program. So I strongly disagree with the assertion that this is a figure leaf. This is a very serious proposal. Fred Upton is a guy who is a moderate Republican who chaired the committee that writes health care. He is a very serious player. He is not going to let anybody fall through the cracks. This is a political truth, too. No matter what they pass out of the house, the senate will change it. No matter what the bill is, the Democrats will oppose it.
LEMON: So what if the senate says no way? What happens to the congressmen when they go back to their districts and the reason I ask that is because, according to Phil Mattingly's reporting, he says they want to get this off of their plate? They don't have a CBO score. They don't even know how much it's going to cost.
KINGSTON: Steve and I were on this topic earlier this week and he is somebody on a different side of it. He says this is going to be a bad vote. We both agree Republicans have already cast this vote, whether it was last year or five years ago. They've voted to repeal Obamacare many times and it never tells you what year that vote was. They are on the hook for this one way or the other.
LEMON: Jack, that was in theory and that never happen. Let's say it does happen. Again, not knowing -- remember, we have to pass the bill to see what's in it. Remember how much criticism Nancy Pelosi got for that? And I'm sure you were one of them. Isn't this essentially passing the bill without knowing what's in the bill?
KINGSTON: The substantial new part has come from Congressman Billy Long and Congressman Fred Upton. It's pretty well vetted. I can tell you in the ways and means committee and house leadership. The rest of the bill is largely unchanged from what has been sitting before them not just these sessions but from many marks and years to come. , before now
LEMON: I've got to run. Steve, you like that question by the smile you have on your face, but I got to run. You can do it in five seconds.
ISRAEL: All right. What have not changed are the CBO provisions that premiums is going to go up 15 percent, if you're older, you're going to pay more. That hasn't changed another has the CBO score.
[22:25:10] LEMON: I got to run, thank you gentlemen, when we come back the FBI director calling Russia the greatest threat on any nations on earth. Just how much is Russia continued to interfere with U.S. politics.
Plus, John Legend joins me. Why he thinks President Trump is unqualified for the office he holds.
LEMON: FBI director James Comey giving a disturbing assessment of about Russia to the senate judiciary committee today. I want to bring in Ambassador James Woolsey. He is a former director of Central Intelligence Agencies. Also Stewart Kaplan, a former FBI agent and CNN National Security Juliette Kayyen. Good evening by the way, listen to FBI Director Comey dire warning on Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what kind of threat do you believe Russia presents to our Democratic process given to what you know about Russian behavior?
COMEY: In my view, my greatest threat on any nation on earth given their intention and their capability.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: so, you say that you've never seen an FBI director so worried and that Twitter plays a role in that, explain what you mean by that.
STUART KAPLAN, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, I mean, Don, look, I will tell you this, 20 years ago when I was working some of the most high-profile national security cases when I was assigned to the Special Operations in New York, Russia then was a high-profile target. I don't think anything has really changed other than it's coming to the forefront and being played out in the public domain.
I have to tell you, it is quite unusual that we have a director putting it out there for public dissemination under former Director Muller or former Director Louis Freeh, this would not have been acceptable to have a director talk so candidly about ongoing investigations in connection with Russia.
LEMON: Juliette, Director Comey gave some insight into why Putin favored Trump. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL FRANKEN, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: What is your assessment of why the Russian government had a clear preference for President Trump?
COMEY: The intelligence committee's assessment had a couple of parts with respect to that. One is, he wasn't Hillary Clinton who Putin hated and wanted to harm in any possible way. And then also the second notion that the intelligence community assessed that Putin believed he would be more able to make deals, reach agreements with someone with a business background than with someone who had grown up in a more of a government environment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Juliette, do you think those are the only reasons why the Russian government wanted Trump in the White House?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: No. I think the only reasons that Comey is willing to say but Franken went on, I thought actually Franken had the best dialogue with Comey to ask two other important questions. You know, could this have to do with financial dealings. Comey sort of punted that one. And then also asked an amazing question, which is, is the FBI in
possession of Trump's tax returns, which they would be able to get if there's a criminal investigation. With which Comey did not say no, but simply did not answer.
So that series of questions I thought was one of the most illuminating as regards Putin's desires to choose Trump over Clinton. This is not some random, you know, series of them infiltrating our elections, they wanted Trump to win.
LEMON: Ambassador Woolsey, according to Director Comey the Russians aren't the problem of the past. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRAHAM: Is it fair to say that the government of Russia actively provided safe haven to cybercriminals?
GRAHAM: Is it fair to say that the Russian government is still involved in American politics?
GRAHAM: Is it fair to say we need to stop them from doing this?
COMEY: Yes. Fair to say.
GRAHAM: Do you agree with me, the only way they're going to stop is for them to pay a price for interfering in our political process?
COMEY: I think that's a fair statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Ambassador Woolsey, have the Russians paid a price?
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: They haven't paid it yet and they should. The Russians are never not interfering in other country's elections. They've been doing it since the 1930s. They call it their disinformazi (Ph) campaign, their disinformation, otherwise known as lying campaign. And they're never, not doing it.
So, you know, in some years they may favor one candidate more than the other. But the main thing is we have to stop them from expanding the way they interfere with our elections by existence of cyber and electronics.
We did something awful after the year 2000 elections with the hanging chads, and so forth, which is a quarter of the voting machines in the country are all electronic and have no paper trail. Those you can't do a recount on. That is really, really stupid.
Before our next elections, we've got to get, at the very least, all of our voting machines on having papers so there can be a recount. LEMON: A way to have a recount. Director Comey -- Ambassador Woolsey,
I want to ask you about Director Comey. He said that the suggestion made by Hillary Clinton as recently as yesterday, , I'm sure you saw that interview yesterday, the suggestion that he swayed the election by revealing details of her e-mail investigation but not the investigation into candidate Trump in Russia made him, quote, "mildly nauseous," unquote. What's your reaction to that?
WOOLSEY: I think that it was a mistake for him and I'm reluctant to criticizing because I think he's a very public fine servant and he did the best that he could in difficult circumstances.
But I think it was a mistake to get into the business of making the announcements because after you make the first one, I could see how he felt like he had to make the second one and so on.
[22:35:02] I think it's -- it is the Federal Bureau of Investigation, not the Federal Bureau of Public Information. And so I think it was a bad idea to start but I can see why he was torn and why he was drawn to do it and I think he's a very able individual.
LEMON: Thanks to all of you. When we come back, how is the art of the deal working out for the president? I'm going to speak to a Trump biographer who says so far the president has failed to deliver.
Plus, John Legend is here. Why he's fighting for criminal justice reform.
LEMON: Donald Trump ran on his record as a deal maker but can he deliver?
Joining me now is CNN contributor Michael D'Antonio, the author of "The Truth About Trump." Good evening, sir. Thank you for joining us.
I'm so glad because you wrote a great column for CNN discussing the Trump presidency so far you say that it seems as if he's quite miserable and that if Trump has proven anything as president, it's that he is unable or unwilling to do the job to which he was elected. Explain that.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what he wants to do is win. So I think his earliest memory from childhood is of winning a baseball game with a great hit and then getting his name in the paper. And that's pretty much a perfect day for Donald Trump.
He wants to succeed and prevail and get that victory and he wants the attention for it. I think the nuts and bolts of doing legislation or haggling out something with various members of Congress and doing the horse trading, that's not his thing and I think it does make him quite miserable.
[22:40:02] LEMON: Michael, let's talk about the health care bill, shall we? The House leaders will hold a vote tomorrow. We know that President Trump has been calling for lawmakers to urge them to support the bill. You say a win matters immensely to the president and what's fascinating is that he has never negotiated so publicly for anything.
D'ANTONIO: No. His big negotiations in the past have been with financiers or people he's buying property from. Probably the biggest thing he ever did in terms of negotiating with multiple parties was to get out of his first bankruptcy, that's when he was 900 million to a billion dollars in the hold, and I think there were about 100 people he had to deal with.
So that's pretty impressive. But that was back in the early 1990s and now he's got twice that many or almost three times that many republicans in Congress that he has to negotiate with and each one of those men and women has something in his pocket that he wants or she wants.
So there's either an amendment or promise for the future and he's going to have to make good on these promises or satisfy these desires for amendments or he's not going to get these votes.
LEMON: You know, he campaigned on being the ultimate deal maker but do you think his deal-making skills are working, you know, in the White House, in this government capacity?
D'ANTONIO: No. I don't see it working so far. And the big illustration of that is we're still now in May waiting for his big legislative win. He hasn't had a single one. Now, it's true that he signed a couple dozen executive orders. He's got a Supreme Court pick through although one might say that that was Mitch McConnell's doing.
He needs this victory. He needs to demonstrate that he can get the job done. I think if this happens and it breaks a large for him, we're going to see a much happier president. He may be, you know, much easier for people to deal with, even in his own administration.
We won't see Sean Spicer backing and filling quite so much because the president's not going to be tweeting or saying outrageous things because he'll have his win.
LEMON: The president won't be tweeting? I'm going to hold you to that, Michael D'Antonio. We'll make a bet. A friendly way there.
D'ANTONIO: Well thought. It's all a matter of degree, right?
LEMON: Yes. OK. So listen, the White House hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier today. He needs a -- I want you to look at President Trump saying that he like to broker the ultimate deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Palestinians and Israelis must work together to reach an agreement that allows both people to live, worship and thrive and prosper in peace and I will do whatever is necessary to facilitate the agreement, to mediate, to arbitrate anything they'd like to do. But I would love to be a mediator, or an arbitrator or a facilitator,
and we will get this done. I've always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Let's see if we can prove them wrong. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Michael, he is suggesting that the diplomatic challenge to the stump the multiple presidents in the administration before him isn't as difficult as it seems. What do you say to that?
D'ANTONIO: Well, this problem only goes back to 1947. You know, given something hard to do. This is a really big challenge to any president, you know, I think it's a measure of the importance that he places on it that once again Jared Kushner is the point man.
You know, but to sound an optimistic note, he does have the government of Netanyahu's confidence. I think more than President Obama did at the end. I think if he wants to press for something, he's got some credibility where the Israelis are concerned and that's probably a sticking point for this negotiation but you also see that he shook Abbas' hand twice and he didn't shake Angela Merkel's hand once. So maybe he is already deploying some of that negotiating skill.
LEMON: Michael D'Antonio, thank you for your time, sir.
D'ANTONIO: Thank you.
LEMON: When we come back -- when we come back, the always outspoken John Legend joins me. He's fighting for a cause he believes in and he has some strong words for the president.
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LEMON: The Justice Department will not prosecute two Baton Rouge police officers who killed Alton Sterling last July. Cell phone video Sterling's death sparked protest across the country.
And joining me now is John Legend who is in Baton Rouge campaigning for criminal justice reform. John, thank you so much for doing this. You know about the decision about those two police officers. What do you make of that?
JOHN LEGEND, SINGER-SONGWRITER: Well, we're concerned. We're concerned that there continues to be a pattern that police officers can take the lives of civilians with impunity and it continues to happen throughout the country and we want to see change in that area.
LEMON: The cell phone video showed Sterling pinned to the ground before he was shot. Police say he was reaching for a gun. You know, the Sterling family I've interviewed them and but they say that -- and their lawyers say that they have seen evidence.
One of the officers is heard yelling, you know, "I'll shoot you, bitch." And then escalating the situation. Federal prosecutors have concluded there's not enough evidence to charge the officers. What kind of message do you think, considering your effort, what kind of message does that send to the country and to the world?
LEGEND: Well, we've seen this message since far too many times that when police kill our citizens and our civilians, that their lives don't really matter because the police are able to do it with impunity. This is not new. We keep seeing it over and over.
And something needs to change. We need our police to have better practices and we need to make sure that taking the life of a civilian, of a citizen is the absolute last resort and it needs to be done with the most respect for their life as possible.
[22:50:12] We need a system that honors those lives and when police do the wrong thing that they face some justice for that.
LEMON: You met with the governor, and then you testified before the Louisiana House judiciary committee, tell us about the testimony, your testimony there.
LEGEND: Well, what we talked about today wasn't about police reform, it was about the overall criminal justice system and ending mass incarceration in Louisiana. That was our mission before we got here. This was planned before the decision on Alton Sterling was announced.
And so it wasn't about police reform, it was about saying how Louisiana goes from being overly punitive on crime to being smart on crime. How do we go from being -- how does Louisiana go from being the number one incarcerator in the world to having a more sensible policy that is more course effective and also more humane.
And we had a great team of people that have worked for the last two years on using data, using input from all stakeholders to suggest some reforms that the state legislature could pass and the governor could sign and we're very close to the finish line on getting those things passed and signed by the governor. But I want to propose...
LEMON: What he is proposing?
LEGEND: ... that extra push today to make it happen. Well, it's a number of things. It's quite a nice week of legislation. But some of it has to do with reducing the penalties for certain crime that have been over punished, bringing some more clarity to which crimes are classified as felonies in which ones are not.
Some of them are related to juvenile offenders. Right now we're the only country in the world that allows teenagers juveniles to be sentenced to life without parole. That means someone could commit an offense when they're 15.
And we know we all make mistakes when we're 15 and 16 years old. They could be locked up for the rest of their lives without the chance for parole. We're the only nation on earth that does that that allows that. It's radically inhumane policy and it happens in half of our states around the country, Louisiana is one of them that we're trying to change at as well. LEMON: Everybody applauds your efforts, and I know that you're very
vocal about politics, you're very vocal about this election. And I want to turn to politics now.
LEMON: Because Hillary Clinton was out yesterday. Did a long interview with our very own Christiane Amanpour. There you are with your wife and Hillary Clinton during the campaign. You campaigned for her. How did you feel about the outcome of this election?
LEGEND: Well, of course I disagreed with the outcome. I thought Donald Trump will make a terrible present and I think he is proving me right every day, but I don't rejoice in that fact. I don't feel vindicated. I feel concern for our country. I feel concern that we have leadership that is misguided, unprepared, bigoted and not going to be good for the country.
I want that to change as soon as possible. And so while I think there is some merit in looking backwards at the last election, I think most of our effort should it be looking forward to the e 2018 election and making sure we get a Congress that can stand up to the president, and then looking forward to how we can move this country forward in 2018, 2020, and beyond. I don't think we need to re-litigate this past election too much.
LEMON: The thing is though, is that the folks he puts around him. When you see a decision like the Alton Sterling case, how does it leave you feeling about this new Attorney General Jeff Sessions?
LEGEND: Well, Jeff Sessions - Jeff Sessions has a proven history of bigotry, a proven history of fighting against every advance of civil rights that he can fight against. He is the absolute opposite of the kind of person that we need running our criminal justice policy in the federal government.
We're going to see him make all kinds of decisions that we disagree with because he has a lot of power. And his pattern over the history of his career has been whenever there are civil rights advances he is the one who is standing against those.
And he lied about his record when he was testifying before the Senate, the commercial that he put out about his career where the opposite of what is true about his career. He's been fighting against civil rights advances for his entire career. We don't expect that to change while he is in office.
But luckily, states and local governments have a lot of control over our criminal justice system and particularly when it comes to incarceration. Most of our incarcerated people in this country are done so through state and local governments.
[22:55:01] And so, Free America, my organization, a lot of the work we're doing is partnering with the state and local organizations that are trying to change the laws on a state level so that we can make a dent in this mass incarceration problem that we have. LEMON: Yes.
LEGEND: And that's why we came to Louisiana because there's ground zero as the number one incarcerator in the world.
LEMON: Number one.
LEGEND: We want to make a change and we can do that regardless of who is the attorney general in Washington.
LEMON: And it is amazing, because I grew up in Baton Rouge, it's amazing that Louisiana is the number one incarcerator in the world -- its the incarceration capital in the world. It's just unbelievable to me. I know that you said, John that you don't want to look back, but I have to ask you, why do you think, why do you think people voted for Donald Trump, why do you think that he became president? Why was he elected?
LEGEND: Well, I think when you look at the data, when you look at the survey data and everything that's out there, a lot of it was based on his racial appeals. He basically ran as the white nationalist candidate. And he made people who feel like they have been left behind and kind of forgotten, in a more diverse America.
He made them feel like he was going to take the country back for them. That he was going to bring back jobs to their communities. That he was going to kind of restore a racial order that was more like what was around maybe 40 or 50 years ago.
And he promised to do that for them and they voted for him. And he didn't get the most votes in the popular vote, but he won enough in the right places to win the Electoral College. We have to, as people who are progressive, and believe this country is better when it's inclusive and diverse, and just, and has equality for all, we have to go out there and make our case and make sure we win the next election in 2018 and 2020 as well.
LEMON: John Legend. His organization is called Free America, it's down in Louisiana trying to help raise awareness and make some changes when it comes to criminal justice reform. John, thank you such a pleasure, I appreciate it.
LEGEND: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: OK. When we come back, I'm going to speak with a senator who had some tough questions for the FBI Director James Comey on Capitol Hill today.
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