Return to Transcripts main page


A Discussion Surrounding Trump's Speech in Phoenix, Arizona. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired August 23, 2017 - 00:00   ET



[00:00:15] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Here's our breaking news.

President Trump delivers an angry, divisive speech in Phoenix and explosive protesters erupt in the streets.


I'm Don Lemon. Thank you for joining us in the midnight hour here on the East Coast.

The President, after one of the worst weeks of his chaotic presidency, surrounding himself with his supporters; blasting what he calls the fake media again and again and again while defending his shocking Charlottesville comments last week but failing to mention his references to many sides and failing to mention so many other things -- a speech that was filled with so many lies and mistruths, falsities and omissions.

Meanwhile, the crowd of angry anti-Trump demonstrators flood the streets tonight. We have it all for you.

And we're back now with my panel and we're dissecting the speech. David Chalian is here, April Ryan, Scott Jennings, Bakari Sellers, Maria Cardona and Rick Wilson. Thanks for staying with us here.

So I want to play what the President said tonight regarding his response to Charlottesville. And then I'm going to play what he initially said and show how he lied about it. Here's the first -- here's tonight.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's just what I said on Saturday. We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is me speaking. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. That's me speaking on Saturday right after the event.


LEMON: Left out a big part of it. Here's what he actually said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides -- on many sides.


LEMON: No mention "on many sides" tonight -- David Chalian. At all.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Don, what confounds me is that Donald Trump is pretty media savvy. What I don't understand is he knows we have the videotape.

So if he went in for this entire section tonight with the idea to read these grievances against the media and sort of vent and have the American people sort of take on the burden of his venting tonight -- why? Why? He knows we're going to pull the clip. He didn't tell the full story here.

Never mind -- he ignored his Tuesday press conference entirely where he created a moral equivalency between the KKK and neo-Nazis and the counter protesters. But to leave out the term "many sides", "many sides" which is exactly if you go back and look at the coverage from that Saturday afternoon after those remarks, that's what set everything off course. Those words.

LEMON: No, no. We never played those words. We never played his press conference or his comments -- remember. The media won't show you that.

CHALIAN: The fact that he won't --

LEMON: That was sarcasm. We played all of it. We ran it live.

CHALIAN: But he wants to air this and he's not even providing the full context of his own words.


I mean -- Maria.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Don -- I have a couple of things to say. The first one is, I want to commend you for last night's really stating under no uncertain terms how uncomfortable it was -- and I think offensive is what you might have said.

And I believe it was offensive when he talked about Charlottesville and knowing the debacle of the way that he handled it and trying to cloak it in the way that our armed services give us every single day -- their life and their work on the frontlines.

By talking about how our armed servicemen and women who, you know, with no regard to background, to race, to religion, how they come together with love and with unity when in reality we knew that he does not believe any of it. I found that incredibly offensive because he was using our armed services men and women and their honor in order to cloak how disgusting his Charlottesville debacle was. The second thing I want to say about all of this is that there's another option than what we all believe we saw tonight, which is his complete and total mental instability, and what that might mean for his future in this office.

I don't think he wants to be president anymore. We have heard reports that he is miserable in the White House. That he can't stand the kind of coverage that he is getting. That yes, he goes to these rallies and he's boosted for a couple of hours but then he sees coverage like this because you know he's watching, and he is absolutely down right miserable.

[00:05:03] I don't think he wants to be president anymore. I think he is trying to find a way to get out of it. He's trying to find a way to perhaps resign. He's trying to find a way for people to kick him out and then he's going to blame the swamp for not being able to keep the promises that he made during his campaign.

CHALIAN: Maria -- just about -- I don't know -- we certainly don't know if he doesn't want to be president. But I thought tonight was really interesting.

In his remarks you saw that he was trying to break free of the handcuffs that his staff put on him, right? I said I wouldn't say their names. He's referring to John McCain or Jeff Flake. He went on when he was alluding to the fact that Sheriff Joe Arpaio has a pardon coming his way and that everything's going to be all right but then he wouldn't say it because that would be controversial.

You could almost hear John Kelly and others around him trying to coach him tonight about how to handle this, and he breaking free of those constraints during the speech.


CARDONA: And speaking of John Kelly, you know, he's in a --

LEMON: Go ahead -- Rick.

CARDONA: You know John Kelly is in a fetal position right now -- right.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: One of the things I think we're seeing here -- one of the things I think we're seeing here is that Donald Trump knows that his base and his pet media outlets rely on this war with the media he's doing and his sort of -- and the ways he is transgressive and breaks the rules, et cetera. Because that's all they're about.

This is a president who doesn't care about the country. He cares about his image and he cares about this war with the media that is the central part of his brand now.

And the fact of the matter is I think an awful lot of Americans are looking at this, outside the Republican base and thinking dear God, where is this going to go next. And you're right. David -- the handlers he's chafing against the adult supervision and the handling of these people. He doesn't want to be told how to behave even when his behavior is so far out of any presidential norm. And that's not a compliment. That's not praise. That's a warning.

But I do think that they want the story to be about the media tomorrow. They want to have their ability to beat their chest and say the war with the media is what's really important -- not the security, safety, prosperity and unity of our country.

LEMON: He wants to change -- he wants to change the narrative.


LEMON: Listen, before -- I'm going to get to you guys. He mocked John McCain, a man who is suffering from brain cancer and he didn't mention the 11, 10, 11 soldiers on the USS John McCain. Why not? Why would he do something like that?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Why are we asking these questions? Why are we asking these questions? It's funny to me because we're asking why is the President so petty. Well, he's been petty since we've known him on the scene.

Why is the President lying? Because he's a liar. I mean, nothing about tonight was new. Nothing about tonight shocks the conscience. Donald Trump is exactly who we thought he would be.

I mean, I think that there's some things here that we have to concern ourselves with that are even that much deeper. You know, we talk about Charlottesville and then we talk about his condemnation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis but then later in that speech he literally channeled the same language that white supremacists use saying they're trying to take away our culture. They're trying to take away our heritage.

I mean those are the things that I find to be more dangerous than the fact that Donald Trump has a pattern of lying, and it's even pathological. Because he's giving a platform to something that you stated earlier to give this rise of hate, to give this rise of bigotry. And I think that's more dangerous than the psychopathy that we know to be Donald Trump.

LEMON: I want you guys to stand by. Stand by -- April.

I want to bring in now CNN national security analyst James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence.

Mr. Clapper -- thank you so much for joining us. What did you think of tonight's performance by President Trump?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Don -- it's hard to know where to start. It is just so objectionable on so many levels. You know, I toiled in one capacity or another for every president since and including John F. Kennedy through President Obama. And I don't know when I've listened and watched something like this from a president that I found more disturbing.

Having some understanding of the levers of power that are available to a president if he chooses to exercise them, I found this downright scary and disturbing. I think Bakari is right on the money though that this is not a surprise.

[00:04:54] It is interesting to contrast last night's teleprompter Trump performance versus tonight which is, of course, the real Trump, just as it was in the unglued impromptu press conference at Trump Tower. So I just find this extremely disturbing.

LEMON: Are you questioning his fitness?

CLAPPER: Yes, I do. I really question his ability to -- his fitness to be in this office. And I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it. Maybe he is looking for a way out.

I do wonder, as well about the people that attracted to this -- to this rally as others. You know, what are they thinking? Or why am I so far off base? Because I don't understand the adulation and of course, that's why I think he gravitated to having this rally, as ill- timed as it is.

He should have quit while he was ahead after last night, but again, I think the real Trump came through and again, as Bakari said shouldn't be a big surprise to anyone.

LEMON: What should we do? What should Washington do at this point? I mean you said you're questioning his fitness. There are many people who are saying it. They won't say it publicly. They don't have the courage that you do.

Maybe after the speech they will now. It will become painfully obvious as it is to most Americans. What should we do?

CLAPPER: Well, I think you know, the key thing here is where is he with Republicans? And I was quite struck by Senator Corker's remarks -- very thoughtful and very, very measured.

And I've -- I know Senator Corker. I've dealt with him. And he is a very thoughtful senator. And he wouldn't say that lightly and without forethought. And I'm hopeful that other similarly thoughtful Republicans will reach the point where enough is enough.

LEMON: Enough is enough. And what do you mean? Keep playing for us.

CLAPPER: Well -- that this behavior and this divisiveness and the complete intellectual, moral and ethical void that the President of the United States exhibits. And how much longer does the country have to, to borrow a phrase, endure this nightmare.

LEMON: The "New York Times" is reporting tonight about the falling out between the President and Mitch McConnell over the investigations of Russia's interference in the 2016 election. There you see the headline now up on the screen. The report says the President was furious that McConnell failed to protect him. You call the accusations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia worse than Watergate. What do you think is going on with the President? Why is this such a hot button for him?

CLAPPER: Well, first, to be clear, Don, I -- when I left certainly on the 20th of January, I had not seen any evidence of a direct collusion between the Trump campaign, the Trump camp and Russians. There may have been collusion, but I didn't have any evidence of it.

So I don't understand, frankly, the President's fascination and solicitation of -- solicitousness of Russia and Putin particularly unless he feels he's a kindred soul perhaps. So it is very strange to me. And I don't have an explanation for it. I don't know if it's collusion or something else.

LEMON: You said you questioned his fitness. Is he a threat to national security -- the President?

CLAPPER: Well, he certainly could be. Again, having some understanding of the levers that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to the nuclear codes. In a fit of pique, he decides to do something about Kim Jong-Un, there's actually very little to stop him.

The whole system's built to insure rapid response if necessary. So there's very little in the way of controls over you know, exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.

[00:10:06] LEMON: Do you see this as a crisis -- Mr. Clapper?

CLAPPER: Well, I'm not sure what the definition of a crisis is. If it is, we've been in it for quite awhile, certainly since the election.

I have to say, Don -- I couldn't help but think in the course of the Charlottesville, his statements about Charlottesville when he was so quick to characterize the intelligence community as Nazis -- likening us to Nazis on the 10th of January yet seemed very reluctant to call out the real -- the wannabe Nazis in this case.

Maybe that's -- I'm being a little parochial here and defensive about the intelligence community but that's one thought I had. So I think if it is a crisis, we've been in it for quite awhile.

LEMON: What do you think other intelligence officials now and people who have some way in Washington -- what are the conversations they're having tonight? And what will they be having tomorrow, you think after the speech?

CLAPPER: Well, I think many people in the intelligence community, certainly rank and file, are worried or concerned about this. They in their -- and it's a tradition in the interrogation community to carry on with the mission and provide the intelligence that our decision- makers so desperately need. And they'll continue to do that.

But I think in moments of personal reflection, I suspect they are greatly concerned about the divisiveness that is taking hold of this country.

LEMON: James Clapper is the former Director of National Intelligence. And we thank you -- Mr. Clapper. Thank you for your service to the country. We thank you for coming on this evening.

We want to get back now to what's happening. This is in Phoenix outside the convention center. You can see there's still some disturbances going on.

You saw our Gary Tucker (SIC) and our Miguel Marquez both there earlier this evening being overcome with gas that the police were throwing to try to disperse the protesters. And you see some on the streets.

I'm not sure if we have our correspondents with us now. But we'll just --


LEMON: -- show you what's happening with the pictures.

We get out to CNN's Miguel Marquez who's been in the middle of this all evening. Miguel -- What are you seeing on the streets of Phoenix right now?

MARQUEZ: All right. What you're looking at now is this car that got caught in this. You can see the police down at the end of the street. They have pushed now the protesters back one block away from the convention center. They are using pepper sprays, gas, and flash bang grenades and they're shooting them over the heads of protesters. They make a very loud sound basically scaring people and getting them to disperse.

We are at Second and Van Buren -- between Van Buren and Polk. There are protesters now scattering on Third Street as well; as well as First Street and police are trying to move protesters back and make them disperse. Most have gone home.

I will tell you what set this off is right in front of the doors -- the north doors to the convention center. There were a couple of water bottles thrown at police. They then used pepper stray. That enraged the crowd. They started to pull back. Things started to be thrown at police and police moved in, in very, very heavy force.

Within about two or three minutes, police had -- they had half riot gear on but then they had full riot gear on. They were using pepper spray pretty much at will.

In some cases they seemed to be using the pepper bullets which they would shoot certain people in the legs. We saw people, you know, limping away. We saw people throwing up. We saw protesters extraordinarily angry at the use of police force.

I will tell you there were old and young people out there today protesting. They were waiting, I think, for the Trump voters -- the Trump supporters to start to leave. And they wanted to sort of mix it up with them and shout at them.

You can see some now protesters walking and sort of flouting the police. We have the helicopter for Phoenix police right overhead. They are making announcements saying "disperse or you're subject to arrest". Police trying to get in control of this the situation. But clearly, they came at protesters with great force.

LEMON: Miguel -- keep safe out there. We'll get back to Miguel Marquez on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona where the President held a -- I can't even -- I don't even know how to describe the speech this evening.

I want to bring in David Chalian because David --

CHALIAN: A rant.

LEMON: Yes, a rant. Thank you. Thank you very much.

The former Director of national intelligence James Clapper, we just had on, dire words saying he is concerned about his fitness for office. He does not believe he's fit for office. Concerned that such a person, who exhibits that behavior has access to the nuclear codes and is, you know, possibly going to have some sort of retaliation against Kim Jong-Un.

[00:20:03] CHALIAN: It's one thing when we hear politicians you know -- Democrats obviously have a lot of knee-jerk opposition to the President. We've seen more and more Republicans coming out politically and making arguments of and comments of concern against the President.

If that doesn't make the hair on the back of your neck stand up when the former Director of National Intelligence is saying that his assessment of the President of the United States is one of concern because of his access to the nuclear codes and how his behavior matched with that responsibility, raises concern in him, I sort of stood back listening -- and I know --

LEMON: I looked at you.

CHALIAN: -- that Director Clapper has, you know, been making comments in opposition to the President or concern. But when in the totality he took what we witnessed tonight as part of the pattern of behavior we've seen from the President and put it into the context that really Clapper understands better than anyone about what that power is, the nuclear codes. What that means and how quickly a president can move on that.

That -- that's an alarm bell that is going to be heard by many people in Washington. That is not just going to be dismissed as some punditry on cable news which can be easily dismissed.

You are going to hear Republican senators, Republican members of Congress talk to each other about what they heard Clapper say.

LEMON: He said I'm not sure that he wants the job after listening to the speech. Did I get that wrong? He said I'm not sure the President of the United States wants the job after that or is looking for a way out of this.


CHALIAN: Yes, I mean, that is what I heard Director Clapper say, as well. I think that it's hard to separate out wanting the job and what that means. What is clear is that President Trump does not want to be a unifier in the country.

So if that's what you believe being president of the United States is about and representing this country on the world stage and trying to bring people to common understanding and solutions to big problems here at home, that is clear that President Trump is not interested in doing that part of the job.

LEMON: You know, Scott talked earlier about strategy. And I respect that he talked because it's a very smart point. Politically, this is what is he's trying to do. This is what his advisers are trying to do.

But the question, April Ryan -- is at what cost do you strategize, do you continue to divide people? Do you continue to say things, that are just flat out ridiculous, and appears to be lunacy? At what cost politically, if you love the country, then you bring the country together. It's not just a one-upsmanship. This is about America.

And then him saying that, you know, he said that the media doesn't care about America -- me as an American. He's talking about me, he's talking about you and everybody else here -- that we don't care about America, which is insulting because, of course, we care about America. We don't do this, you know, we wouldn't be doing this otherwise.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Don -- you and I have to put this in context because we are part of that group of the enemies of the President in that ad -- that campaign ad. If we put that in context we're the scapegoat yet again.

But I listened to Mr. Clapper. I listened to him keenly. And he was concerned about the division, as well. And I was hoping that you would ask if there is a continual back and forth with different groups in different cities, would that be a national security issue.

And that really -- it could be a problem. Anytime you have communities like that unrest in cities and people divided not being able to tolerate each other -- there is a problem. And the question is, what was the President trying to do tonight?

I'm wondering, was this supposed to be his race speech or to bring it together? You know, I think about Bill Clinton when he had his race initiative 20 years ago, second term when he was talking about you know, the nation is browning. You know, the majority of America will be minority at a certain time period. And it was time for people to understand tolerance is needed.

I think about George W. Bush when he had to go out and deal with issues of Katrina. And how he stood in that square in New Orleans and made a statement after his faux pas. He came back and just continued and tried to work it out even after the Brownie issue, "Good job Brownie".

And you know, I think about how he went to Africa --

LEMON: "Heck of a job".

RYAN: Yes, "Heck of a job, Brownie."

I think about Africa with George W. Bush how he was the President at that time who did the most for Africa than any other president.

And I think about then-President Barack Hussein Obama who, had to deal with issues of Trayvon, Ferguson. I mean I remember you being out -- watching you in the tear gas how the President tried to set the tone to heal the nation.

[00:25:06] And then I look at this, 44 minutes of omission, lie -- it is a real issue. This nation is divided. You could say what it looked like with Barack Obama. You could say what it looked like -- you can go all the way back to Lincoln.

You could say whatever you want but you are in charge right now. And the onus is on you.

So the question is, what is it going to be, how will he heal? It needs to be more than this rhetoric. It needs to be a serious something.

I don't know what it is, but watching history, this is not what it was. And seeing what's happening in Arizona right now, this is not what it was.

LEMON: And Scott Jennings, my initial question is, you know, at what cost -- at what cost, Scott Jennings? Because listen -- and I just want to read -- this is the quote from I wanted to look it up as to what the former Director of National Intelligence said.

He told me tonight that he found the President's rally down right scary and disturbing. Again, this is a quote from him. He said, I really question his ability to be -- his fitness to be in this office. And I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it. Maybe is he looking for a way out.

He also is worried about the President's access to the nuclear codes, Scott Jennings. What did you think of what the Director of National Intelligence -- ok, we don't have Scott. I'll ask that to Bakari.

SELLERS: Well, I'm scared. I mean listen, if James Clapper -- somebody who we all admire, adore, for just the way that he serves his country, the attitude and the courage in which he has -- has those type of feelings, which mirror most of America's feelings about the current President of the United States, you can't help but to have a little trepidation. And so I think that -- and I think Chalian was correct. I mean listen, Republicans tomorrow are going to have real serious conversations. And the words that you heard tonight on your show from Clapper are going to be resoundingly heard throughout the halls of Congress.

The question though remains, what happens next? And that's where I think the rubber meets the road because for me, listen, I want to know what that conversation is like with Ben Carson, Alveda King and Donald Trump after this speech.

I mean what are they telling him on Air Force One or in the ride back? I mean is it a pat on the back and say well done, 45, well done, Mr. President?

Or are they -- do they have aptitude and the ability and the courage to say that Mr. President, you did a disservice to our country. We needed you to bring us together. That is what we set the stage for and you missed that mark. We need to do better.

I mean I want to know what those conversations are like with some of the people that are around him. I mean where are -- and I know I'm getting a little off script -- but where are, you know, the Ray Lewises and Jim Browns and Steve Harveys and all of these people who he used to cloak himself in some type of respectability? Where are they now?

Where are their voices now when this person is continually dividing our country and he's dividing our country at the very heart what our number one issue is which is race.

So I'm looking for some of these voices. I heard J.C. Watts the other day, the Congressman who our politics are different but I love and admire him and respect his courage and his dignity and the way that he carried himself then and now, how he's speaking up and speaking out. But we need more voices like that.

So I'm just -- I am kind of intrigued by the legacy of Dr. King on that stage and I'm really intrigued by Ben Carson who, you know, growing up in the south as a black man on your wall you had a picture of Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King and then you had "Gifted Hands", the book that everybody read.

So I mean I'm trying to figure out where that person is, somebody who has his ears and can tell him that he's lead our country astray.

LEMON: You're absolutely --


LEMON: You're absolutely right.

RYAN: Don -- Bakari is --

LEMON: I heard that -- April, quickly because I want to get Rick in, as well. RYAN: Yes. Sorry.

LEMON: That's all right. Go on.

RYAN: Bakari is absolutely right. I'm thinking about what Paul Ryan said last night to Jake Tapper. He said in the initial statements President Trump messed up. Now, what does Paul Ryan have to say about tonight?

And Bakari is absolutely right. The question is, what's going to happen? And black Republicans are very upset. There's the J.C. Watts, the vanguard J.C. Watts and the Tim Scotts versus the Omarosas and the Diamond and Silk crew. So it's -- it's unfortunate but that's what you're looking at.

LEMON: Sorry.

RYAN: The stakes are so high. I mean -- but it's the truth.

LEMON: It is laughable. In other words, I think it was the "New York Times" today about black Republicans and how they're responding and teetering. And I read a very good article.

[00:29:59] But Rick, I've got to ask you -- diamond and silk. This is where we are right now. I got to ask you about.

RYAN: It is. It's true.

LEMON: What happens with Republicans?

And listen, James Clapper, this is not someone who is partisan. James Clapper served under Barack Obama and George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

What do Republicans do right now?

WILSON: Listen, I know how terrified these members are. I talk to a lot of Republican House and Senate members who, in public, are the biggest Donald Trump cheerleaders in the world and, in private, are on the edge of their seats. They're just about to have a nervous breakdown.

One of the things that I think needs to happen is that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, in their role as constitutionally sworn members of a coequal branch of government, need to go down to the White House and sit in a room with Donald Trump, John Kelly and nobody else and lay it out for him.

And just say, Mr. President, unless you conform your behavior, unless you stop had this insane ranting about, you know, that is setting this country on fire racially and in other ways, it's all going to stop. You're not going to get what you want. We're going to have to step in here and uphold our responsibilities as members of a coequal branch.

And I'm afraid that that won't happen. And I am afraid we're going to do this passive-aggressive thing where Paul Ryan says, well, I was disappointed with this but I -- I love you, I hate you. I think we'll end up with that and with stories.

Friends of Mitch McConnell say, I think -- these guys on my side of the equation, not only for their long-term political viability but for the moral and constitutional responsibilities they all have, need to step up and need to say that this president is out of control and they need to outline to the adults around the president, the world can come to a swift halt for this man.

And nothing is going to happen that he wants or dreams of unless he conforms his behavior because, look, one U.S. senator can train-wreck the entire appointment process forever.

If John McCain or Lindsey Graham or anybody else decides they want to stop every single Trump appointee, they can do it. If Mitch McConnell decides one day, there will be no wall, there will be no goodies, you get nothing, they can do it in a hot second. And there's nothing the president can do about it.

There's only so many executive orders you can sign and so many ranty speeches you can give when the power of Congress and the Senate is deployed against you. He's begging for that to happen at this point.

CARDONA: but they have to be at a point where they can put country before party, which they haven't been able to do that yet.

Maybe tonight is that breaking point because one of the things that really stuck out at me -- and we've kind of been talking about this but I want to be very clear for your viewing audience -- is that this president was not just divisive because of his horrendous debacle on Charlottesville and how he handled that, which really went to the heart of our core American values, all of us; he also stood on that stage to say that he was going to pardon Joe Arpaio.

He wasn't going to do it tonight because he didn't want to be divisive. But that he's going to pardon a criminal sheriff, who would deliberately and on purpose profile Latinos, throw them in jail, simply because of the color of their skin, because of their accent or because they had a last name that sounded like mine.

When it comes to the extreme vetting -- he talked about Islamic terrorism; that was a focus on Muslim Americans. This president did nothing tonight but spew hatred, spew xenophobia, spew racism and continue to divide this country.

And Abril (ph) asked this question.

What was his intent tonight?

His intent was complete and total narcissism based on the fact that he felt bad because he was getting horrible coverage.

LEMON: Settling the score.

CARDONA: And he had to go to a rally to make him feel better.

LEMON: He was settling a score, settling a score -- (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I've got to get to the break but let me say this to all of you and the viewers and to be very plain about this.

I think the question -- and the moral question for both politicians, especially Republicans, and for journalists is not to pretend there's some sort of fake objectivity. History is watching right now. History will bear witness to this.

Do you pretend that what's in front of your eyes is not happening?

Do you enable someone like you enable an addict by pretending it's not happening?

We all see what's happening in front of our very eyes. We all hear it with our ears. It's time for us to stop pretending that something's not exactly right. And that's not a fake objectivity, oh, we've got to be fair and -- you cannot pretend something is not happening. You cannot pretend there is sanity where there is none.

We'll be right back.





LEMON: Here's our breaking news tonight. President Trump's angry, out-of-control speech in Phoenix, divisive and unrepentant. Back with me, Scott Jennings, Bakari Sellers, Maria Cardona and Rick Wilson and joining us now, CNN political commentator, Mike Shields, and former Breitbart spokesperson, Kurt Bardella.

I'm so glad, Kurt and Mike, that you joined the panel.

Mike, I just want to get your take on the speech you heard tonight.

What did you think?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I tend to agree with what Scott said earlier that, you know, this was a speech to the base. And, to be honest with you, it's not the speech I would have advised the president to give. I think the speech he gave last night was one I would advise him to give.

But, Don, you know we have these conversations on your show about media coverage. I think a piece of advice I would give everybody is the president's spent a tremendous amount of time tonight criticizing the media.

It's right to push back on that. It's right to hold him accountable and it's right to fact-check him but immediately after that, when the conversation shifts into he's insane and he's unfit for office and he's lost his mind and we're doing psychoanalysis on television of the president --


SHIELDS: -- you're doing his work for him. This is almost what he wants to see happen, is that he criticizes the media and the media themselves are unhinged and start calling the president insane. I think that's a huge mistake.

I also think it's a mistake not to call the protesters left-wing protesters that are in Arizona right now, fighting the police, I think that's a mistake, as well. I think if you could do those things, not call the president insane and just fact-check him and call the protesters out for who they are, you gain the credibility ground that you need to push back on the president when he gives a speech like this.

But you're almost doing his work for him when we start calling him insane. So that's the first comment I have to make about that.

LEMON: You thought his speech was sane?

You thought it was a rational speech?

SHIELDS: I thought it sounded exactly like a speech he gave in the campaign and no one was calling him -- let's have a whole panel discussion about how he insane is he during the campaign.

So you can disagree --


LEMON: Should we have been?

SHIELDS: -- the president's saying -- look, I think that it is correct to criticize the president's handling of how he's communicated to the American people about race and about the Charlottesville incident. That's a legitimate conversation. We should have that and we have been having that.

I think that it's good he's talking about it. He should keep talking about. I understand the criticism tonight of how he talked about it, although I do think he was trying to point out that there are parts of what he said that weren't covered. And we can argue about whether or not that's appropriate for him to do or not.

But that's a good conversation. And my point is, veering off into he's insane sort of ends our credibility to criticize him because now people just think that we're the ones that are losing it over his speech.

And that's probably --

CARDONA: What people?

SHIELDS: -- a lot of his supporters want us to do.


CARDONA: What people think that, Mike?


LEMON: Go ahead, Rick.

CARDONA: Go ahead.

WILSON: Let me jump in here.

Mike, your point would be absolutely correct if Donald Trump were a rational actor and if Donald Trump were anywhere inside the boundary layers of where we deal with a president's behavior.

You know, if I just declared Barack Obama insane because I disagreed with his politics, it would be off kilter. And it would give him credibility to say that guy's just a hater.

In Donald Trump's case, his behavior is erratic, it is unstable, it is demonstrably the responsibility, I think, of people who are observing this political process to call this out and not to give him a safe haven to go back --


SHIELDS: You mean his speech or behavior?

Because his behavior are the policies that he's putting forward.

His speech is a speech he gave at a rally --


WILSON: The speech tonight was marked by a whole variety of asides and bizarre assertions and a constant sense of --

SHIELDS: And that's a legitimate thing you can -- criticize his speech and what he said.

WILSON: -- and lying and those things reflect, I believe, something much deeper about the president than simply a political set of choices or a strategic set of choices.

I believe they reflect a degree to which he is not in touch with reality and a degree to which he is willing to go out and let his id run around the stage and, I'm sorry, I don't think we're being disrespectful or putting ourselves at risk when we say this behavior is real and it's demonstrable.

And we see it every time he goes on stage unless he's got a teleprompter and a shock collar on.

SHIELDS: Look, the other part of this -- so where this is sort of leading is and I heard you guys saying this, is that the Congress has to go do something about this.

The American people are who elected the president. OK? The media didn't elect him. Commentators didn't elect him. The Congress didn't elect him, either.

So before the Congress is going to go do something like this, this is why we're jumping so far ahead in this conversation because we're so upset about the speech that he gave, that I just think it does a disservice to say let's start talking impeachment.

That's like the signs and the protesters outside the arena as opposed to a conversation about should we fact-check the president and is he handling the Charlottesville thing properly.

How should we handle that topic with dignity if we don't think he handled it with dignity?


LEMON: So Mike, are you saying that there's never any -- nothing is out of bound with the president?

You know, Richard Nixon was driven from office. He resigned.

So the president is always right, is always sane, is always accurate and can do no wrong?

SHIELDS: No, that's not what I'm saying at all, Don. That's actually my point. My point is that the media does exist to hold elected officials accountable and the media has to have credibility with the public when they do that.

We lose our own credibility -- I'm saying we because I'm on CNN. We lose our credibility when we go so far as to immediately say, you know what, let's have a 10-minute conversation with multiple people all chiming in that we just think the president is insane.


SHIELDS: -- being heard by millions of people. They're going, you know what --


LEMON: I think -- hang on. I will let you get in.

I think by saying that something is insanity is not necessarily saying that they -- what is happening right now is insanity, not saying specifically that the president is insane.


LEMON: I think people are questioning his fitness for office. And for me to say, for people to say oh, my gosh, this is insane doesn't mean the person is insane. It just means the situation we're in is insane or not the norm. But to question -- the former Director of National Intelligence, also

his members of his own party are questioning his fitness for office. And we are talking about that.

And if you cannot assess someone's behavior and figure out whether they're OK or fit for something, then who are we?

What have we become, where we have to have this fake objectivity and pretend that something is not happening?

When I hear someone yelling on the streets, Mike, for no reason, screaming, howling at the moon and the sky, am I supposed to say, well, I'm going to lose my credibility because I don't assess that person as someone who has something wrong with them or who needs help?

We cannot sit here and pretend that that is not happening, that what happened on this stage tonight in Phoenix, Arizona, is normal, is rational, is worthy of the highest office in the land, is worthy of someone who has the nuclear codes.

For someone to sit there and have these -- and present these fake enemies, we're not the enemy of the state or of the people or of the President of the United States.

This man has the nuclear codes and can blast us to smithereens at any moment if he wants to. So says the former Director of National Intelligence, who just appeared on CNN, who said now he is worried and scared about this person.

SHIELDS: Yes, look, I just think there's a difference between what you just said. First of all, I'm not asking for fake objectivity. I'm asking for a little bit of sort of credibility about how we're talking about these things.

Secondly, whether or not he's worthy to hold office and whether or not he's fit and insane to hold office, whether to hold office is a partisan thing that lots of Democrats never thought he was and never will accept he is.

He's not fit for office takes us, veers us into a place where it allows people that want to criticize media, when you want to push back on them and say the president shouldn't criticize us and that's crazy for him to do that, when we turn and say he's actually insane, you're doing the work of the president and the people that want to criticize the media.

That's my point.


CARDONA: Mike, members of your own party are saying that they believe that this president has not demonstrated the stability to hold this office. So it's not just the partisan thing.

And I would agree with you except for two things: the audience with which you're saying we're losing credibility are Trump's core supporters, which we never had credibility to begin with.

And the second thing is --


CARDONA: One more thing, Mike. If you were right, then his approval ratings, both nationally and in key states that he won in November, would not be plummeting. They are plummeting. This president is in crisis and his actions and his words are a reason for that.


SELLERS: But can we just be relatively blunt?

If the President of the United States comes out and misquotes himself intentionally, to take pressure off of what we all know to be an inartful, insensitive and lack of cultured statement after Charlottesville, then I call that a lie.

If the president has made omissions and lies repeatedly, therefore I call him a liar. I don't think anything's wrong with that.

And then if you think someone's lying intentionally to you repeatedly and does it time after time after time after time again, knowing that we can roll back the tape, then I think it's also fair to say that that exhibits examples of being pathological.

So I don't think that there's anything wrong with those criticisms. I don't think that those are out of bounds or out of line. I mean, but I do think that we have to call it as we see it.

And listen, I've said this for the past and I agree with you on this point, Mike. There's been absolutely nothing new about Donald Trump today than it was Donald Trump 18 months ago. I mean, I thought he was unfit then. I think he's unfit now.

You call me partisan, you call me a hack, you call me whatever you want to call but I do believe it's the same person. And I do believe he still maintains those same characteristics.

However, my question to you and any other Republican who wants to say that we're out of bounds in questioning his fitness and character to serve as President of the United States, on what realm of the sanity bar or meter is it OK or is it place for you to criticize a United States senator, who is a war hero, who has brain cancer, in his home state?

Like, how does anybody think that that is sane?

How does anybody think that that displays anything other than being --


SELLERS: -- unfit?

Normal people do not do things like that. And I think it's fair for Don or me or Maria or Rick or you or anyone to call that out for what it is because to me, that just ain't normal.

I'm trying to figure out why is that the new normal?

LEMON: OK, a break and --


LEMON: -- we'll hear from you on the other side. We'll respond on the other side, Scott and Kurt. We'll hear from you.

This is live pictures from Phoenix, Arizona, and you can see that the protesters still are out there, battling with police following the president's rant this evening in Phoenix, Arizona. We'll continue to dissect the speech and discuss it and talk about the questions over this president's fitness for office. We'll be right back.




LEMON: Breaking news tonight, look at that, live pictures from Phoenix, Arizona, you see police officers still trying to disperse the protesters there from the Phoenix Convention Center. They have been moving them back block by block. You saw earlier here on CNN, police throwing tear gas into the crowd, trying to get them to disperse. We'll keep an eye on that situation happening outside of the convention center. And we'll let you know what happens.

I want to get back now to --


LEMON: -- my panel. We've got Rick Wilson with us, Scott Jennings, Mike Shields, Maria Cardona, Kurt Bardella and Bakari Sellers -- and Symone Sanders is with us now.

Symone, thank you for joining us.

So listen. I want to get Kurt; we have not heard -- Scott. Well, Kurt, we haven't heard from you. And you've newly joined the panel very recently. I want to hear what you have to say.

What was your reaction to the speech this evening and to our discussion we're having here on CNN?

KURT BARDELLA, PRESIDENT, ENDEAVOR STRATEGIES: You know, first of all, I think we should point out that there are right now at this second, reporters in the media, who are putting themselves in the middle of this confrontation to chronicle what is happening, to inform the American people.

And that is a very brave and courageous thing to do, that we have right now at this moment in history men and women that are willing to put themselves in harm's way, in volatile situations to tell the truth, show the truth and let the American people make the decision for themselves.

Secondly, we have a president who right now thinks it's OK to give a shoutout to a man who believes it is all right to racially profile Hispanics in his state, who committed a crime.

We have a president right now who say he wants America to be great for everybody but if you are a transgender who serves in the military, if you're an immigrant who came here for a better way of life, if you're a female who doesn't want to be sexually harassed, that America doesn't apply to you.

And when you have a president who goes on this 20-minute riff in the middle of a so-called speech to just completely attack one of the major pillars of our democracy, the free press, one of the things keeps our country different from all the other ones in the world who are subjected to tyranny and dictatorships, when he goes after it that way, that shows that he doesn't care about the very fabric of this country.

It shows that he is not mentally stable enough to be the leader of the free world. And the longer that Republicans go without calling this out, just standing passively by and maybe expressing the occasional disgust or they don't agree with, the longer they allow this to happen, they are complicit in it. They are allowing it to happen. They are directly responsible for whatever damage Donald Trump does to this country.

LEMON: Symone, the Speaker of the House was on last night, saying he believed he didn't like some of the president's initial statements, but believes since then he had made great strides in correcting it. I wonder how he feels now.

What did you think?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the Speaker of the House last night was all talk. And as I said earlier today, Teleprompter Trump cannot be trusted because that's not the real Trump. We saw and heard yet again the real Donald Trump.

So I'm just really wondering at this point -- so is the rest of America -- what else is it going to take?

When will Republicans in Congress decide to hold Donald Trump accountable?

This has gone far past just partisan bickering, if you will. You have the current President of the United States, one, standing up there, literally backing a known racist in this country after white supremacists literally killed somebody in America using ISIS-style tactics last week.

Two, you have the current President of the United States literally misquoting himself, as if we can't pull the tapes, as if we weren't there, we weren't watching this in real time.

And so I think it is high time for Republicans to just face the facts and face the truth. And the truth of the matter is that we cannot sit by and let this happen. Control of the White House, Senate and Congress cannot be more important that the future of the republic, of this country.

LEMON: I got to get to a break. We'll be right back. Don't go anywhere.