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CNN TONIGHT

President Trump Tweeting An Apparent Threat To Ousted Fbi Director James Comey; Melissa Mccarthy, Playing Sean Spicer Speeding Around The Streets Of Manhattan On The White House Briefing Room Podium; Shocking Chemical Attack On A Syrian Town Led To The First American Military Strikes Against The Regime Of Al Assad; The Horrors Of Bashar Al-Assad's War On His Own People Moved President Trump To Take Military Action. Aired 11:00-12:00mn ET

Aired May 12, 2017 - 23:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:00:15] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: President Trump making a veiled threat to former FBI director James Comey.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

The President tweeting, James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.

But here ass a question. Did Trump's firing of Comey this week dampen the investigation into Russia's meddling into the election? Some answers in just a moment.

And look at this. It's not a bird or a plane, but Melissa McCarthy, playing Sean Spicer speeding around the streets of Manhattan on the White House briefing room podium. We are going to see why.

But I want to begin this hour with developments in the Russian investigation. Joining me now to discuss is Alexander Vershbow, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Julia Loffe, staff writer at "the Atlantic" and Jack Barsky, a former KGB spy who is the author of "Deep Undercover."

Good evening to all of you.

Ambassador Vershbow, you first. CNN learned today that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein doesn't see a need at this point for a special prosecutor in the investigation to Russia's meddling in the election. Do you think that's the right decision?

AMB. ALEXANDER VERSHBOW, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: No, I don't. I think that the firing of Comey and all the things that have happened in the last few days, just underscore the need for an independent prosecutor, or a 9/11 style commission, something that would elevate this to something that would have more credibility. Unfortunately, it looks like the Republicans and the Senate aren't prepared to do that. I think that they are in effect becoming accomplices after the fact to the kind of cover-up by the administration. LEMON: You said the administration the must better served by a

Russian policy than a Russian scandal. Look at these pictures. Pictures like this with the foreign minister Lavrov, joking about director Comey's firing like this as well. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the Comey firing cast a shadow over your (INAUDIBLE)?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I mean, what would a White House Russian policy even be at this point?

VERSHBOW: Well, I think it's not completely impossible to get the focus back on policy and away from these scandals and investigations. But the administration just keeps tying itself up in knots. The handling of Lavrov in the oval office just made it worse. The optics were just terrible coming after the firing of Comey and all this glad- handing and black slapping with ambassador Kislyak and with Lavrov just gave the impression that the President either doesn't believe or doesn't care that the Russians tried to hijack our elections.

But I hope that some lessons can be learned after this horrible week. And that we can actually get down to the business of developing a policy towards Russia. The world isn't going to wait, the situation in Syria gets worse and worse. In the Ukraine, there is still an undeclared war going on. And the President, if he gets engage, maybe make a difference working with the French, the Germans and the Ukrainians to get the Russians out of eastern Ukraine. But right now, everything is being swallowed up by these scandals and by the mad tweeting.

LEMON: Jack, you say you are distraught over what's happening, why?

JACK BARSKY, FORMER KGB SPY: Well, the lack of class, the lack of understanding what's going on, the lack of, you know, awareness that you are playing in - you are playing hardball in the international arena, all of that is really disconcerting, particularly, when we're talking about the head of our government showing a phenomenal level of naivete in this realm. And that - it is not just about the Russians, you know. This would apply to everything else in foreign policy. And apparently, he doesn't listen to advisors, assuming that they are actually talking to him.

LEMON: How is all this being perceived in Russia, Jack?

BARSKY: They are running victory laps, absolutely are. I mean, this is what they are after. And they have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations for sure.

LEMON: Julia, Deputy A.G. Rosenstein has agreed to brief the whole senate next week on the firing of FBI director James Comey. Do you think we'll get any clarity as to what actually happened? JULIA LOFFE, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: I don't know. I think this

scandal has so many layers. I think we are at the very, very beginning of this. And if you think about - you know, I'm not the first one to draw parallels to Watergate. They have been floating in the air all week. It took almost two years from the beginning to the end when Nixon resigned. So I think we are like, you know, the first week in what could be a very long process.

What I think is really ironic about Rod Rosenstein is he was an unheard of bureaucrat. People who know him say that he made the DOJ a way his life. He was kind of a faceless functionary in this giant apparatus known to be a very impartial like, you know, his reputation going into this was that he was impartial, he was apolitical, he was just about the DOJ and the rule of law, and the way the public finds out about him is in this very politicized, very toxic scandal and that he is now going to be forever associated with. Even if this doesn't end in impeachment or the removal of the President, it will still go down in American history as a massive, massive scandal and Rod Rosenstein who have played this a pivotal role in it after spending decades in the DOJ trying to be the exact opposite of it.

[23:05:49] LEMON: On the other hand, the former FBI director James Comey will not testify before the Senate intelligence committee next week. The "New York Times" is reporting tonight that Comey wants to testify, but he is insisting that it be in public. What's your reaction to that?

LOFFE: We don't know that he will testify, right. He turned down a voluntary - like he turned down an invitation. They can still compelled them to testify. And if I were Comey, I would wait until I was compelled. Because if you were to go just for the regular invitation, go and just spill the beans, it also - it makes him look petty. It makes him look political. It makes him look partisan. If he were to wait for subpoena which could very likely come, then you know, he is just serving a law. He is doing as he is being made to do. He is not doing this voluntarily. He is not voluntarily sinking to this much lower level.

LEMON: Ambassador, who do you think of the reporting tonight of the "New York Times," he wants to do it in public?

VERSHBOW: Well, I think he feels that he has been mistreated this week, so I think he wants the public to hear, and not just the committee to hear his side of the story. But I think the important thing is that who is going to be the next FBI director? Is the investigation going to be allowed to continue without political interference? That I think is the most important thing. But Comey needs to have his say. And explain why he asked for additional resources or additional personnel, where the investigation is going, doing it in public, I think, is better for the public and better for him.

LEMON: Jack, what do you think about how the White House feels about this, they may not want him to do it publicly.

BARSKY: Yes, the whole way this all transpired is. It's bizarre, really. It's totally bizarre, where, you know, one day, it was the assistant district attorney who triggered the firing, and the next day, Trump actually disagrees whole heartedly in public with that. And so, you know, that threat was another one of those tweets about, you know, he better not leak anything. Why would Trump even assume that there is a leak? And you don't know what he is playing, whether he has a game pan or he is just loose. It's very difficult to discern from the outside.

LEMON: Jack, we talked about this tweet last night, and said Russia must be laughing up their sleeves watching as the U.S. tears itself apart over Democrat excuse for losing the election. And then today, Sean Spicer was asked about it. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I would like to quote from another of the President's tweets this morning. He said quote "Russia must be laughing up its sleeve watching the U.S. tearing itself apart over Democratic excuse for losing the elections." What did the President view by that? How do you - specifically, is the U.S. tearing itself apart for all of this?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the President's comments about the Russia and collusion have been very clear, with respect to some of the charges that have been made. He has been very clear that it's one thing that he believes that the notion that there's collusion is a hoax. It's been reaffirmed by several people, including Senator Grassley and others who have spoken to him. And that he wants to make sure that he is focus every day on doing what's best for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So Jack, subpoenas have been issued in the investigation. It is a real thing, not a hoax. Does it get to the bottom of what happened at best for the American people?

BARSKY: Absolutely. And I think our President should just stay out of it, you know. It's like his feelings are hurt all the time. He is acting out like the narcissist that he is. And, you know, this doesn't help anything or anybody. And he is not acting Presidential.

LEMON: Ambassador, the President goes overseas next week. How do you think he's going to be received? What is the world thinking about this, looking at us, you know, from across the shores?

VERSHBOW: Well, I think the effects of all the events of this week unfortunately damaged the President's credibility. And it raises questions in the minds of foreign leaders, whether they can take him at his word because his grasp on the truth is so tenuous.

But at the same time, he has got important responsibilities on this first trip, visiting Saudi Arabia. He is going to have his first summit with NATO. That's less than two weeks away, yet we haven't heart from the President, what is his vision for the trans-Atlantic relationship, our most important alliance. We are so completely bug down in this investigations and scandals that the important business of our government is not being carried. So hopefully he will kind of refocus in the coming days. Certainly, I don't think he wants a repeat of this week. And we can begin to hear some ideas about how he is going to strengthen our security, how he is going to better fight ISIS, how he is going to reset relationship with Russia without selling out Ukraine. These are the things he should be dealing with rather that tweeting at 6:00 in the morning about Comey and mysterious tapes that may or may not exist.

[23:11:05] LEMON: I have got about 20 seconds here. Jack, you say that we aren't going to win this and we will lose influence in the world.

BARSKY: We are not going to win this as long as we are shooting arrows at each other. I think what needs to happen here is cooler heads should prevail and determine who the fall adversary is.

LEMON: Thank you all. I appreciate it.

When we come back, was Comey's firing the beginning to the end of President Trump's presidency? I'm going to speak with someone who says it could be.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:15:07] LEMON: President Trump tweeting an apparent threat to ousted FBI director James Comey suggesting that their conversations may have been recorded. A source telling CNN that Comey is not worried about any tape recordings.

I want to bring in now Frank Rich, the writer-at-large with New York Magazine and executive producer of HBO's "Veep."

This is a crazy week. I think I tell you that every time you come in. It's a really tumultuous week for the administration, starting with the president firing of FBI director Comey. And do you think this could be the beginning to the end of the presidency or not?

FRANK RICH, WRITER-AT-LARGE, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: I do. I feel that not so much because of that specific act, but we have a President who is not governing. He is issuing executive orders. He doesn't know how get a law through Congress and can't. And now, he is antagonizing anyone who is going to possibly leak on it. Maybe he has some tapes, maybe Billy Bush is in them even. But he has ask - you know, he is antagonizing the entire FBI. He seems to be lying about FBI agents' own view of Comey's. They seem to respect him and he is saying otherwise. And nothing is going to happen. There's not going to be a tax bill. There's not going to be a health care bill.

LEMON: It is unbelievable because he says something and then it's contradicted or his people say something and then he contradicts it. It is like people don't really know what to believe, right. I mean, I think it's throwing everyone off.

RICH: Right. There's no baseline of reality. The problem is if you have the vice President of the United States, the President and the various press spokes people, all giving a different version of events, then reality is gone. I mean, we are in sort of --.

LEMON: Is the administration not accountable for anything? Because here is what you say. You said in your latest column, a White House gang this insular, this politically naive and this transparent in it is maladroit efforts at deflection and deception is a gang that can't shoot straight. No one in the west wing apparently even considered that it might look bad to timeless debacle on the eve of a day when Trump's only scheduled official event was an Oval office meeting with the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Then there's a firestorm, and they didn't realize that they didn't think it was going to be a firestorm.

RICH: I don't know. They read a bunch of liberal columnists saying that they didn't like Comey because of what he did with Hillary Clinton. And they thought that that represented sort of the opinion of Democrats and the whole, you know, of the opposition. It is clueless.

And all this, it's a fire storm but at some point, they have to govern. And if you can't even do a press statement corrected, you can't even arrange a photo-op correctly, how are you going to govern? And eventually, voters particularly in his voters, his base which have been very loyal is going to be affected by it. He hasn't had a real crisis yet, you know. We haven't had a national disaster yet, terrorist attack, anything that would really challenge him where he has to run things.

LEMON: When you look at his approval ratings are in the 30s, I mean, and that's pretty low.

Listen. Dianne Feinstein said that Rod Rosenstein should recuse himself from the investigation. He is going to speak in front of the Senate next week and give his testimony about the firing of Comey. But she also think he is compromised and he should recuse himself because they think that the president went to him to get an excuse to fire Comey.

RICH: I think she is exactly right. And furthermore, I don't know what a recusal means. He really should resign, because Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, his boss, supposedly recused himself from the Russian investigation, but also was involved in this, in the Comey firing which definitely involves the Russian investigation. And Rosenstein who had this stellar reputation, supposedly had been made to look like a dupe and a fool.

LEMON: He says, Rosenstein says, he doesn't think there should to be a special prosecutor. But I want you to listen. This is Senator Burr, what he told CNN earlier. Let's watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would a special prosecutor interfere, if a special prosecutor would be named? First of all where do you come down on this? And second of all, would this interfere with your investigation? SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well to

suggest that I would be for a special prosecutor, I would say I don't think I can do my job, which is to lead this investigation. So I'm not in favor of a special prosecutor. I think that the committee can carry out its responsibility, can come to a conclusion. So I'm going to continue down that path.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So earlier in the week, reports showed that he was leaning towards a special prosecutor.

RICH: Burr was.

LEMON: Burr. But now he is not - now he is saying, you know, he wouldn't be doing his jobs. Do you think we will ever get to the truth with the investigations that are only going on right now?

RICH: I have a little bit of hope for the senate investigation partially because of Mark Warner who says a Democratic partner, it has I think national political ambitions, and is not going to sit around and lie down for a rigged investigation. Still, I think we need, you know, an independent counsel, and we also need a thorough FBI.

[23:20:00] LEMON: Do you think it will slow down, because Jeff Sessions is saying he won't call for a special prosecutor. They are saying this will slow down the investigation if you would do that. It won't go any faster than this.

RICH: I think as in based on Watergate, I think we can have several paths at once. I think that's a bogus argument. But I think it's actually going to be speed up, because I think people are going to lawyer up. They are going to start talking to the press. This administration can't control the leaks, no matter how hard they try. He cancels all his press conferences, it doesn't matter.

LEMON: But the President went on quite a shock and tweet storm this week. So let's go to some of the. He said as a very active President with lots of things happening, it's not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy. Then he tweeted which is where you were talking about cancelling press conferences, maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future press briefings and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy.

RICH: Well, first of all, as many have pointed out, the written statements the White House produce are also inaccurate including about Comey's firing.

LEMON: My colleague, John Berman, had a perfect response. He said maybe they should cancel lies.

RICH: Good idea. That's a good idea. But they will never cancel that. And I love that he is this active President. He is sitting around watching television news and I'm sure, you, eating junk food and occasionally going to play golf, and sending out executive orders that are photo-ops, they don't even accomplished. The idea that he is this active President, just so busy, I find hilarious.

LEMON: Yes. But we have a lot of serious thought in this president of the United States. He has to deal with as he go on the business.

RICH: Please.

LEMON: Thank you, Frank Rich. Appreciate it.

RICH: Thank you.

LEMON: When we come back, speaking of (INAUDIBLE) exclusive reporting inside a horrific gas attack in Syria.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:25:36] LEMON: Last month the shocking chemical attack on a Syrian town led to the first American military strikes against the regime of al Assad.

CNN's senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward has never before seen footage of the immediate aftermath of that fateful day - Clarissa.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Don.

Well, I do want to warn our viewers that this is extremely disturbing material. And if you have children at home, you might want to have them leave the room.

When the chemical attack hit the town of Khan Sheikhoun, some very brave journalists from the Aleppo media center went straight to the scene, at enormous personal risk. The footage that they shot offers an unvarnished, un-sanitized, up close look at the horror of a war crime, which is why we felt it so important to show.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WARD (voice-over): The attack happened shortly after dawn. The cameraman Adam Hussein says that warplanes are targeting the town of Khan Sheikhoun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WARD: From his rooftop, he quickly sees this is no ordinary strike. They are using toxic gas, he reports.

Five minutes after the attack, there was a call for anyone with a vehicle to go to the scene to help, he says. I headed straight there.

But nothing could prepare him for what he was about to see. We must warn you, these images are shocking. It is a scene of unimaginable horror. The immediate aftermath of a chemical attack. The number of victims keeps going up, Adam explains. And many are women and children.

All around him people are foaming at the mouth. Convulsions racking their bodies as rescue workers try in vain to wash away the chemicals.

Look at the kids here, someone tells him. The limp bodies of small children lie next to those still gasping for life. Death for these innocents is agonizing and slow.

Doctor (INAUDIBLE) is among the first responders. All of the cases were suffering from suffocation, convulsions, narrowing of the pupils, increased sweating and difficulty breathing. All this is proof that a chemical agent was used, he said. I asked the rescue workers to first wash the victims with water, and take off their clothes. This was the only first aid we could provide.

19-year-old Mohammad (INAUDIBLE) lies thrashing on the ground. One of the survivors, he later describes the moment the gas hit him.

I fell down and I couldn't feel a thing. I felt myself laying on the ground and my hands were hitting the ground. And then I fainted, he says. It was as if in hitting myself. I had no control. I couldn't see anything with my eyes.

The casualties are brought to a nearby clinic, built under ground to protect it from airstrikes. A man brings in his lifeless little girl. He is sure he has seen her chest moving. But the doctor says it's just air trapped in her chest. There is nothing left to pray and say goodbye.

Suddenly there is panic as news comes in of more fighter jets heading that way. A local journalist (INAUDIBLE) is in the middle of delivering a report. The camera crew tries to escape the chaos, but once outside, another missile hits. The journalists manage to survive. All casualties must now be taken for treatment half an hour away.

At the hospital, both bags are already piling up on the sidewalk from the attack. The dead are brought out to make room for the living. The tiniest victims are carried in gingerly, one by one by one. Inside, medical staff struggle to cope with the flood of patients and only a limited supply of the lifesaving antidote atropine. Most are treated hastily on the floor, as distraught relatives look on, powerful to help.

The youngest victims are the most vulnerable. After a quick check that the heart is still beating, the doctor moves on to the next case.

Those who did not survive are take on to be buried before the end of the day in keeping with Islamic tradition. In all, 92 people were killed in Khan Sheikhoun, among them 33 children. Entire families were laid to rest in a single grave.

(INAUDIBLE) Yousef lost more than 20 members of his family.

This is the grave of my cousin, Yasser. He is my friend and brother. His son Amar just four years old. What did he do to deserve this? His second child, Mohammad, may God have mercy on his soul, he says. And this is my brother, Moham's grave. Abu Yousef, I am your brother. Abu Yousef, you left me all alone. May God protect you my brother, and accept you as a martyr. Abu Yousef, please God, answer me.

In Syria now, the dead are considered lucky. Free from the unspeakable crimes of this brutal war, and the agony of grief.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[23:33:50] WARD: American, British, and French intelligence, as well as chemical weapons experts whom we have spoken with, all agree that this attack was almost certainly carried out by President al-Assad's forces. Samples taken from the scene have shown that the nerve agent was likely Sarin gas which has been outlawed since the end of the First World War.

But in an interview shortly after the attack, Mr. Assad denied it ever even taking place, Don, calling it 100 percent fabrication.

LEMON: Clarissa, I mean, it is just heartbreaking to watch that. My question is have the U.S. strikes made any difference to the situation on the ground there?

WARD: I think when you talk to people inside rebel-held Syria, there was a real moment of optimism, that the U.S. strikes could possibly change things on the ground and they may have changed things at the negotiating table. They may have given the U.S. more leverage when it comes to further peace talks. But for people on the ground, Don, the bombardment still continues day in and day out and whether they are using chemicals or conventional weapons, people are being killed every day, Don.

[23:35:01] LEMON: Do they fear that Assad will use chemical weapons again? Does he still have more, Clarissa?

WARD: There are widespread fears, not just from people on the ground inside Syria but chemical weapons experts, also intelligence officials who do believe that President Assad's forces still have chemical weapons stores inside the country that they are continuing to produce chemical weapons. And that potentially you are not dealing necessarily with a rational person or a rational regime, they could be used again, that of course is the worst case fear.

LEMON: And the people that are involved in this horrific story, they want to see some action, I would imagine, from the international community. What do they want to see?

WARD: Firstly, I think they just really want to have their story told. They want the world to bear witness, to listen, to take the time to watch, even though they are such painful images and then yes, of course, they would like to see the international community act.

The thing I hear again and again from people on the ground is there must be some way to protect us from the skies, from the threats coming from the skies, whether it comes in bombs, whether it comes in chemical weapons such as we saw in the attack on Khan Sheikhoun. But I do think there's also a real understanding that a lot of the hard work needs to be done at the diplomatic table and that real consensus needs to be built between rush 145, between the U.S., between Turkey, between Iran and all the other proxy powers who are driving this war, Don.

LEMON: Clarissa Ward. Thank you, Clarissa.

To find out how you can help the Syrian survive the conflict, go to CNN.com/impact.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:40:35] LEMON: The horrors of Bashar al-Assad's war on his own people moved President Trump to take military action.

Joining me now to discuss is ambassador Richard Haass, the president of the council on foreign relations and the author of "a world in disarray."

Ambassador, I have to start with your response in Clarissa Ward's story that she reported here. It's unbelievable. The disturbing aftermath of those chemical attacks in Syria last month. What's your reaction?

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I thought the most power line was the idea that the living envy the dead or something for that effect. This is horrific. This is not just a distraction of war crimes, this is the reality of it on a scale that is what we thought was the kind of thing you read about in history, but it's stunning and it's troubling that it's happening here in 2017.

LEMON: You know, it's hard to imagine that anyone could watch these terrible images and not be moved to do something. Is this the kind of thing that motivated the President to launch those retaliatory air strikes last month? Was this a red line so to speak for him and for the world?

HAASS: Well, it ought to have been a red line long before this President. And I think the President urged by not responding when the Syrian initially is chemical weapons. I thought it was good to respond with military force now that will discourage not just Bashar al-Assad from doing this again but anybody else. It's not going to change to be perfectly honest. It is not going to change the future history of Syria. This was a limited use of force. But it was a useful use of force all the same.

LEMON: You have maintained in the past that how President Trump reacts to Syrian conflict in attacks such as these, is ultimately what will separate his presidency from President Obama's. Do we have a better understanding of the President's overall strategy when it comes to the Syrian conflict?

HAASS: No, I don't think so. I think the most immediate question will be after the United States and others defeats ISIS in Syria, what do we do to provide stability to the liberated areas? And I think diplomatically, and in your conversation with Clarissa Ward, what can the United States and Russia do together to provide a degree of stability and safety for people in parts of Syria. At the same time the government of al-Assad continues in power.

What I would say will essentially in partnership with the Russians, I don't think the Syrians, Iranians or Turks are viability partners. And what we start to do it we tell the Russians if you're not willing to work with us, if we can't make parts of Syria safe from the air, we are going to provide air defense missiles to groups we have confidence in, the Syrian Kurds or certain Sunni groups. And that would pose a threat to Syrian aircraft and even Russian aircraft. But I think it is time to take that step.

LEMON: The President now that is going to begin to arm Syria and Syria's Kurdish fighters whenever necessary. It would be able to recapture the key Islamic States from Raqqah. Even though Turkey is extremely against this move. Is this a wise decision or do you think there is going to be some diplomatic repercussions here?

HAASS: Both. I think it was a wise decision. The Syrian Kurds (ph) have been the best partners we have against the terrorists in Syria. At the same time, we are likely have diplomatic repercussions. United States could find some of its access to Turkish military bases are constraints.

Mr. Erdogan is due in Washington in a matter of days. For all I know he will call off his visit, or it will be a much more contentious visit. But in foreign policy, sometimes you got to choose, you have got to decide what your priorities and I think this was the right decision.

LEMON: The White House is currently weighing whether it sends as many as 5,000 more troops into the Afghanistan fight. And as you know, before becoming -- taking office, President Trump was very vocal about his opposition to the surge in troops. He even put out tweets like these that you see there - you can see it from the screen. Why do you think the change, do you think, ambassador?

HAASS: Well, things are deteriorating in Afghanistan. The Taliban continues to make something of a comeback. The administration essentially wants to put in more troops to work with the Afghan government forces to push back against the Taliban. Not to defeat them militarily, that's not going to happen. But to persuade the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.

I will be honest with you, Don. I'm skeptical. I have been involved in Afghanistan and U.S. policy toward Afghanistan now for more than 25 years. And it's not clear to me how a few thousand more American troops will tip the balance.

I think sooner rather than later, we have either got to get the Pakistanis to stop providing sanctuary to the Taliban or we are going to have to come up with more modest goals in Afghanistan and we're going to have to try to shore up the government and some ways defeat the Taliban, probably content ourselves with more modest effort against terrorists there in much as we do in other countries.

LEMON: Ambassador Haass, thank you.

HAASS: Thank you, sir.

LEMON: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:49:26] LEMON: It is rarely Sean Spicer missed his time in the limelight when Sarah Huckabee Sanders took some of this White House press briefings because he was seen outside CNN headquarters podium and all angelly (ph) shouting at New Yorkers in traffic. OK, that was actually Melissa McCarthy re-pricing her "Saturday Night Live" version of Spicer.

I want to bring in our in-house comedian. In-house comedian Kamau Bell, host of CNN's "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA."

Hello sir. How are you?

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA: I'm doing good out here in the streets that's where comediennes are now.

LEMON: I'm here in this mean streets and that's where she is rolling through the streets.

I mean, "Saturday Night Live" is all over the administration. Do they even have to write anything because earlier this weaning I want to show you this and then we will talk about. This is a fun tease we are Melissa McCarthy. Everyone's favorite character. Watch this.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)

[23:50:48] LEMON: I mean you don't even think it is Melissa McCarthy. You think it is Sean Spicer. She place Sean Spicer better than Sean Spicer. And then today this happened her spicy character driving this motorized podium past CNN. What do you think, Kamau?

BELL: I mean, I'm sure Trump when he saw that he probably thought Sean Spicer was moonlighting first of all what are you doing? And the other thing is that -- I sort of -- I don't feel bad for Sean Spicer but you know every time Melissa McCarthy does that he is getting yelled at by daddy Trump. President Trump is yelling at him every time that happens.

LEMON: Do you think - I mean, if you were in that position, do you think you would be upset by it or would you just take it in stride and laugh? I mean, people making fun of you. I don't know.

BELL: I mean, I think you -- if it was any other time in history maybe you could take it in stride and laugh. But you know that like that commercial goes out or goes online and immediately Spicer gets a text come to my office. You know that it's not -- it's not good for him for Melissa McCarthy to go at him like that. It is directly affecting his job.

Don, he hid in the bushes this week. That's what the man --.

LEMON: You think we're seeing that on "SNL" though, this week, hiding in the bushes.

BELL: I'm sure they are like order some bushes. Yes, we will definitely see bushes on "SNL." I'm sure they ordered a fresh crop of bushes for this week's episode.

LEMON: I bet the writer were like no way. This didn't happen. We would never have even written this. This is hilarious.

BELL: No. I mean, it is really, right now, to be a comedienne, there is kind of like sugar-shock. There is too much good stuff. It is like my daughters go to those yogurt places and they put too much candy on the yogurt right now.

LEMON: Yes. Do you remember when the (INAUDIBLE) would say in these times, right? It's serious because it's extraordinary times right now. President Trump firing the FBI director, possible tapes in the oval office be compared to Nixon during Watergate. Do you think that's all fair?

BELL: Yes, because let's also remember he had time to troll Rosy O'Donnell this week in the middle of all other stuff.

LEMON: It was a good troll, though.

BELL: He is having one of the busy week. It was. But shouldn't he have his mind on other things? I mean that -- that's what the crazy thing about that is that any time you think that maybe we are not taking this seriously enough. Literally, President Trump steps forward to go. I'm not even taking it that seriously. He is having one of the - maybe one of the not so very good week in the history of the presidency and he had time to troll Rosy O'Donnell.

LEMON: We got to talk about your show, alright. Because on your show, "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA," you show -- your show is about Native Americans how they blend traditional ways of living with today's world. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BELL: So this is better than a tent that you buy like at a store right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can have a fire in you can't have a fire in the regular old tent.

BELL: Yes. And why can't you have a fire in a regular tent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it's made of plastic, it will burns up.

BELL: Yes, thank you. I don't camp a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ideally used to be buffalo Ross robes in it that could survive, you know, negative 40 degree weather.

BELL: It's cold like that here shortly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BELL: You will be able to survive in this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I mean, ideally you'd survive in it. But this is not the kind of buffalo hide tepee that I could survive in negative 40 degree weather.

BELL: What are you going to do when it gets cold up here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a hotel up the road.

BELL: OK. All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So listen your show is about -- you laugh through humor but you teach people because I thought this is important for people to know Native American haves a high rate of poverty, unemployment, on crime among their population. What did they tell you about that?

BELL: I mean, that is the thing that is important -- I think I really like the episode because we are sort of like we are going to address all the things that you sort of think about Native Americans and the stereotypes, like the tepee. But we are also going to talk about where they are at right now in this country. And I think that we sort of often times, you know, Don, we are both black. We tend to sort of make this country black and white even as black people in this country. And we forget sometimes we include Latinos, we include Asians. But Native Americans are rarely included in that mix. And so, this episode has a lot of shocking statistics about how Native Americans are living in this country right now that we need to pay attention to.

LEMON: And we talk about what happened from the beginning the show goes through all of that brings up to now in a humorous way but a very interesting way as well. I can't wait to watch.

Kamau, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

BELL: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Don't miss "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" with Kamau Bell, Sunday night at 10:00 right there on CNN.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:58:56] LEMON: Two CNN heroes joined forces last month to assist women struggling in refugee camps in Greece. One already works with refugee families in U.S. The other helps women escape life on the streets in Tennessee. Together, they have created a unique project helping refugee women rebuild their lives using the live vest they and others wore on their journey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The project is making welcome mats from the life vests. So they are weaving these getting paid to weave them. And we are going to see these in the U.S. And the idea is that we are laying down the welcome mat for them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can do so much better in welcoming people into our country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a direct way to give empowerment and hope in something as simple as purchasing a mat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: To find out more about the welcome project how you can buy a welcome mat or nominate a CNN hero, go to CNNheroes.com.

That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. Happy Mother's Day everyone. And Happy Mother's Day, mom. Love you.