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President Trump Made a Surprise Visit in Iraq; More Lies in Front of American Heroes; Donald Trump is Saying That the Wall is Being Built; High School Referee Ordered a Wrestler to Cut Off His Long Hair. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 26, 2018 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you so much for joining us.

Well, President Trump finally, finally visited troops in a war zone today after nearly two years of being in office. It is a good thing that he went to Iraq. But as with this president, the comments he made there, the mess he left at home requires a whole lot of fact-checking, and we'll do that for you this hour.

However, just like previous presidents, he and the first lady were enthusiastically greeted by service men and women in a dining hall decked out for the holidays. Some troops even took selfies with him and Mrs. Trump at the air base, which was near Baghdad.

But back at home, some service members, some 42,000 of them protecting America's coast, they're working without pay because the commander-in- chief shut down the government before he left.

And even if a combat zone, this president, well, he can't tell the truth to our troops, lying right to their faces, telling them they got them a 10 percent pay raise this year and that it was the first they have had in 10 years. That's a lie.

Troops get an annual raise. That means they get one every year. Some years it's more than others. This year, it was 2.8 percent, not 10 percent.

And even on his first visit to troops in a war zone, usually it's a morale booster. It's supposed to boost morale, right? You say positive things. You thank them for their service. Well, this president took the opportunity to tout his policy on Syria, specifically defending his decision just one week ago to withdraw U.S. forces from the country against the advice of his own national security advisers, his top generals, and party leaders, creating a crisis at the Pentagon.

The Defense Secretary James Mattis, even quitting his post and publicly rebuking Trump's policy. But today the president is telling reporters he made the right decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that a lot of people are going to come around to my way of thinking. It's time for us to start using our head.


LEMON: So, President Trump also claiming falsely last week that ISIS had been defeated. Remember that? Well, today he walked back those comments, slightly, saying ISIS is very nearly defeated.


TRUMP: We've knocked them out. We've knocked them silly.


LEMON: But he's also suggesting Iraq could be used as a base for potential future missions against ISIS in Syria. So, ISIS has not been defeated, and the Pentagon brass knows it.

President Trump while out of Washington on the fifth day of a partial government shutdown, chaos largely of his own making. And the ones paying for it, hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are either furloughed or forced to work without being paid. The big battle remains the border wall.

The president is demanding Congress give him $5 billion for it, but he doesn't have the votes in the Senate. And he's still not backing down. He was asked just today how long the shutdown may last.


TRUMP: Whatever it takes. I mean we're going to have a wall. We're going to have safety. We need safety for our country, even from this standpoint. We have terrorists coming in through the Southern border.


LEMON: The president as well as investors, though, getting a Christmas break on Wall Street. The Dow Jones soaring more than 1,000 points today, erasing what was a disastrous, disastrous Christmas eve loss.

President Trump is only adding to the market's chaos and volatility. He's said to be upset with the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, doesn't feel he's doing enough to calm Wall Street jitters. And the president's been hinting that Fed chairman Jerome Powell's days may be numbered in that post. Here's what he said just yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the Fed chair?

TRUMP: Well, we'll see. They're raising interest rates too fast. That's my opinion.


LEMON: Today, a White House official sought to calm markets and investors by saying that Chairman Powell's job is safe. We shall see. We've heard that before.

We have a lot to get to tonight with Samantha Vinograd, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling who served two years -- two tours, excuse me, two tours in Iraq, and Major General James "Spider" Marks, he's also served in Iraq. So, we're so glad to have all of you here. Thank you so much for your service.

Gentlemen, good evening, and happy holidays to all of you.


LEMON: General Hertling, your last job was commanding U.S. forces in Germany. The president just left Ramstein Air Base there following his visit to Iraq, his first visit to a war zone. What does it mean to our troops to have their commander-in-chief meeting with them on foreign soil, especially during Christmastime?

[22:04:59] MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's very positive, Don. Having experienced it during three tours in Iraq actually, all of the presidents visited while I was active duty in the war zone.

President Bush famously came during Thanksgiving and served dinner to our troops. What's interesting is you're jazzed for it. You're excited about it. You're seeing the commander-in-chief. You like to take selfies. You like to get autographs. All of those things are important.

They come with a little bit of rock star image to them. But at the same time, what they don't do is politicize the event. And unfortunately, as we saw some of the commentary by the president today, that's exactly what he did.

And it puts the soldiers, truthfully all of the military personnel, in a very bad position because the military has regulations against doing exactly that. But the president pushed that in both Iraq for a short period of time. He was there for about three hours. He landed at Ramstein Air Base at about 2 o'clock this morning, stayed about an hour and a half there, met some additional probably -- mostly all airmen there, and they're excited to see him.

But what happens at those bases is somewhat confounding when he says, as you said before, the lies about paycheck, the lies about what they're doing to ISIS because the soldiers more than anybody else know that.

I mean, Spider will tell you we get what's called a leave in earnings statement every month that says, here is your pay. And when you get a pay increase, it tells you exactly what it is. So, he's not fooling any of these military members who get that leave in earnings statement every month.

LEMON: "Spider" Marks, weigh in on that. MARKS: Well, I think it's as Mark indicated. It's wonderful that the

president visited. The key thing, albeit it's been, I think, contrived. The reason that he went now is that he couldn't go to Mar- a-Lago because the government was shut down. But let's put that aside, and let's be thankful that he's there.

But I would say that the key thing is that you need to be in the moment. When you're with the troops, soak up and marinate in the joy as Mark indicated. Look, you are the president of the United States. This is a big deal. They want to see you there. They want to be a part of your world. You're now enjoying the opportunity to be with them.

Just kind of be in the moment. Just have a few opportunities to chat, pat some backs, drink some coffee, tell a few jokes. Be joyous that they're there defending America's freedom. It's the day after Christmas. They're deployed from their families. Make it about them.


MARKS: Don't put the spotlight on you. You really don't have to do that.

LEMON: It really was perplexing when you --watching his message today, and then yesterday I do have to tell you, I tried not to because I was with my family. But when we turned on CNN and we saw the president politicizing a Christmas message, it was like we kept saying, he's like the Grinch. I'm being honest.



LEMON: Instead of being--

VINOGRAD: he stole Christmas.

LEMON: Instead of being positive with the troops, saying this is about the troops, it's not about me. I'm here to thank you for your service, whatever, even if reporters ask him questions. This is not about me. This is about the troops. They serve our country well.

Maybe he should have said it's unfortunate that some of them are not getting paid. And I wish they were. We'll come to an agreement and make sure that everyone gets paid, the 42,000 members of the Coast Guard who are not getting paid. So, let's, you know, let's be positive about Christmas.

Same thing during Christmas saying, it was so negative and so -- you want positivity when it comes to Christmas. It is perplexing. Why would he visit the troops and do that?

VINOGRAD: Well, don, to be candid, I hope that this trip helped from a morale perspective. But from a national security perspective, for all the reasons that you just listed, the president should have stayed home. He traveled to Iraq where service members are defending our homeland.

They're not protecting another country. They're defending our homeland from ISIS, an enemy that we know has attacked the United States. And he made this about himself. These visits that presidents undertake -- I served for a year in Iraq. I helped execute some of President Obama's trips to Afghanistan and Iraq -- are about the troops. They're about their mission, and they're there to tell the troops what they're doing matters.

This trip was about President Trump trying ostensibly to score political points and to list his accomplishments instead of telling the troops that what they're doing matters and clearly outlining a mission for them going forward.

How many unknowns do we have right now about when our troops are leaving Syria, when our troops are leaving Afghanistan, and what's going to happen in Iraq as a result of that. There should have been clarity during this trip, and the focus should have been on the troops.

LEMON: You know, this president is defending his decision right now to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. He says that ISIS is, quote, "nearly -- very nearly defeated." I mean he's qualifying that. What is your reaction given a week ago that he said that ISIS was defeated? That's for you, General Hertling.

HERTLING: It's not, Don, and anyone who says it is doesn't know anything about terrorist organizations. Spider, I think, will back me up on this because he's an intelligence, a lifelong intelligence officer.

[22:09:57] What we know is they have been pushed back on their heels. They certainly have gone to ground, and they're in areas in Syria and in Iraq. The new prime minister of Iraq has admitted that. The new president of Iraq, a Kurd, has admitted that.

These are individuals who are still looking to come forward. And truthfully some of the comments last week has given ISIS and other terrorist organizations a huge propaganda victory because they again have been called dead, and they're not, and they know it. So, they're going to rise back up again. This is going to be unfortunate.

I say that as a guy who has fought these organizations for a while, and it's just unfortunate that in fact you have to drive them into the dirt. You can't stop when there's 10 percent or 20 percent or 30 percent left. You still have to continue to fight these individuals and their ideology. The idea is not dead. There may be fewer people on the battlefield, but the idea certainly can rise like a phoenix.

LEMON: Can I ask you, General Marks, who is -- you know, James Mattis is not there, leaving early, right? He's going to--

MARKS: Right.

LEMON: January 1st, he's gone. You know, we've been talking about adults, what have you. So, if the president is in front of troops, giving these messages to people in their home, a lot of people are watching. Who is -- who is in the government saying to us -- who can say to us, Americans, you are safe?

Is there anyone left in this administration who can calm the fears of Americans and make us feel that we are safe and that we're doing the right thing abroad, especially when it comes to our troops and for national security?

MARKS: Don, it's a great question. You know, the short answer is if you look into the face of any soldier who is out there deployed today, that's the answer. That's the response that says, hey, look, everybody, it's OK. I'm out here on the horizon. I'm on the edge of the universe. I'm doing what the nation's asking me to do, and you're OK at home.

When you're asking to put a face on this at the top level, certainly Jim Mattis and his team have been phenomenally gifted in terms -- I mean, as I think I've said earlier, this really is Jim Mattis' our generation's George Marshall. He's got that gravitas. He has all of the credentials that match that type of a description.

But, look, you do have a president of the United States and a vice president. You have a Congress. You have a Supreme Court. You have this incredible government that we've created. Our founders made this magic occur. We have young men and women that are going to raise their hand. They're going to do what needs to be done.

And the message needs to be clear through every one of those elements of government that we're OK. We're doing our job. We have challenges. We have troubles, but we're all right. We're going to be OK. We're going to weather this storm.


VINOGRAD: But here's the problem, Don.

LEMON: Sam, can you hold because I just want to play this. I want to get your thoughts. I think it goes into this. This is this president, OK, criticizing the former President Barack Obama for withdrawing troops too quickly from Iraq, using inflammatory language when he did it during the 2016 campaign. Watch this.


TRUMP: ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He's the founder of ISIS, OK? He's the founder. He founded ISIS.

I think he's the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her too by the way.

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO SHOW HOST: But he's not sympathetic to them. He hates them.

TRUMP: I don't care. He was the founder. The way he got out of Iraq, that was the founding of ISIS. Obama is the founder of ISIS. The founder. Barack Obama is the founder

of ISIS. Because of his weak policies and because he failed -- he failed -- because he failed to get them out, because he failed to do something about it.


LEMON: I wanted to play that just so folks could see, number one, that's hypocrisy, because he's basically doing the same thing he accused the former president of. But also, does it matter because doesn't the buck stop with the president, what everybody else around him said?

VINOGRAD: Exactly. That's exactly it but what have we been seeing for two years? At least at the beginning. You could argue that there was a National Security Council. There was a cabinet that the president hired, these are people that he picked that did try to emit strategy and messages about what we were doing all around the world, whether it was Iraq.

The president gave a speech on Afghanistan last year and laid out a strategy. His team was working. They may have stopped now. But when he goes out and he makes statements like on ISIS or on the Taliban or politicizes troop deployments, he is Trumping his own team.

[22:14:55] The buck stops with the president, and despite what they're doing, despite the talking points that they probably onerously worked on for this trip, he went to the podium. He described ISIS the way he felt like he wanted to describe ISIS, and all their work is for naught.

Until we have a president that listens to his team and actually coordinates his messaging, I don't know that it matters to the new secretary of defense is from that perspective because the president isn't listening.

HERTLING: Don, if I could go back--


LEMON: Yes, sir.

HERTLING: -- to your question about, you know, who is leading the charge now and keeping America feeling like they're safe. What I would say is this. That what we really have to depend on, there's a lot of institutions and organizations. We have a great country with a great intelligence community, a legal system, a justice system.

And we need leaders that exhibit -- and we've been saying this for a very long time -- the character that people can depend on, that rely on integrity, on telling the truth, in searching for facts, in having the intellect to know that you don't have all the answers and you have to depend on everybody else around you who are the smart people.

That's what we've gotten away from. It can't just be one individual who is constantly lying, who is constantly telling untruths, who feel they can be the only one that solves the problem.

Leadership is, has -- you know, Spider and I study leadership in the military. It's part of a doctrinal manual. There are certainly things you must do, and one of those things is to have integrity.

Another one is to have empathy and humility. We've lost that. But there are certainly a whole lot of people in government who still maintain that. They've got to stand forward and rise to the forefront again, particularly some of our members of Congress on both sides.


HERTLING: One, perhaps one side more than the other have to stand up when they hear lies, when they hear facts being distorted, and where people aren't listening in terms of what is the best interest of not a certain base, but the entire group of American people that depend on leaders to guide our nation forward.

LEMON: When people like you speak, I believe them. We count on you. I hope that you are right. I do have to say it did not go unnoticed, though, General Marks, your Christmas outfit. I love the sweater.

MARKS: How do you like that. Hey, that's my bride.

LEMON: It's look at that.

MARKS: She laid it on.

LEMON: It's the perfect Christmas outfit. It's warm and fuzzy and cozy, and it also gives us a sense of comfort.

HERTLING: Fuzzy and cozy, thank you, Don.


MARKS: Hertling, be quiet. Hertling, be quiet.

HERTLING: I've never heard Spider Marks be called warm and cozy before.

LEMON: Thank you, all. I'm so glad you're here the day after Christmas. I hope you had a great Christmas and whatever holiday you're celebrating, everyone. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

MARKS: Merry Christmas.

HERTLING: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

HERTLING: Merry Christmas.

MARKS: See you, guys.

LEMON: President Trump visiting troops in Iraq while the federal government in the fifth day, is in the fifth day of a partial shutdown with no end in sight. And another wild day on Wall Street. Is chaos now the norm under this president?


LEMON: So, the president making a surprise visit to U.S. troops in Iraq earlier today. But even there he could not escape questions about challenges he faces here at home.

Let's discuss. Patrick Healy is here, April Ryan as well. April is the author of the book "Under Fire: Reporting From the Front Lines of the Trump White House." Good evening to both of you. Hope you both had a great Christmas.

April, listen. The president made a surprise Christmas visit, and we keep saying surprise. These trips are often -- not often. They're always planned because there's lots of logistics, so he surprised the troops, but this is probably been in the works for a while, right?


LEMON: He is following in the footsteps of presidents before him.

RYAN: Yes.

LEMON: What stood out to you? What would be a normal visit for a president to make?

RYAN: Well, first of all, Don, you're absolutely right. You know, presidents before this president have done this before. What stood out is that it took this long. That's what stood out. Many of the troops want to see that. It's a morale booster.

But I talked to Congressman Elijah Cummings today, who is the incoming majority leader in the government oversight reform committee, and he said, you know, he needed to do this, especially at a time when he's losing General Kelly and General Mattis. He said he needed to do this. And he said at issue is the fact that once he does this, what happens next? What's next?

But this is definitely something that should have happened a long time ago. He did it, but I mean should we really be commending him because presidents have done this before. It's just been a while. It took him a little bit longer to get there than we expected.

LEMON: Yes. Patrick, you know, speaking to the troops, I mentioned this in the open of the show. The president overstated the pay raise the soldiers got every year. He said, because of me, you got a pay raise. You got a 10 percent pay raise. You know, he says, you haven't got one in 10 years.

It's not the truth. They get one every year. Some are larger than others. Usually it's around 2-point something.


LEMON: I think this one was 2.8 percent. So, he's lying to the troops, right to their face. What's your reaction to that? HEALY: Yes. I mean, details and facts have rarely mattered to this president. What he's going over there to do is doing what he usually does. He likes to brag. He likes to brag about himself, and he likes to often overstate what he thinks he's doing for the military.

I mean, this is a president who said that, you know, through the Trump foundation, you know, through his own support, he was going to be better for the troops, better for the military, than any president in history. And by so many measures, that hasn't proven true.

But he is still, his view of leadership is one, again, of bragging and making claims to make himself sound, you know, like this historic figure who has got the troops' back. And you know, oftentimes the facts don't measure up.

LEMON: Listen, April, it's interesting because during his visit, the president defended his decision to withdraw troops from Syria. And you know, he faced questions about the government shutdown. Was it surprising to you the way he answered it because usually the answer -- I guess, well, a more fitting answer is, listen, we face problems. We're America. We will get through this.

But this trip is to support our troops and give credit to the men and women who keep us protected. But still, he sort of used it as a -- almost as a campaign, you know, stomp to talk about his policies in defending, you know, the shutdown in Syria.

[22:24:58] RYAN: A campaign stop in Iraq to defend his policies. I mean, some of the troops, hats ready, those red MAGA hats ready. And there's a question right there for that. You know, you don't use your troops to campaign for yourself.

Nothing surprises us any more with this president. Again, we've said it over and over. It's overstated that he's non-traditional. But the question is does he understand what he's doing when he goes beyond, well beyond the norms and says things like this?

I mean, these things, what he's doing is setting a precedent for other presidents to see what he is doing to get away with or what he's allowed to do or not to do. The troops deserve more. These are people who are fighting for our freedoms, and they deserve more, and they do want to come home. But the matter is how and if he can do it the right way.

LEMON: This is all happening amidst a partial government shutdown. We're just a few hours from day six. I just want to play for you something the president said when he was in Iraq.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long do you think the shutdown will last, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Whatever it takes. I mean, we're going to have a wall. We're going to have safety. We need safety for our country. We need a wall. So, when you say how long is it going to take, when are they going to say that we need border security?


LEMON: Patrick, what? Why?

HEALY: Yes. I mean he's so -- he is so preoccupied with the word the wall or with the phrase the wall. I mean, that is sort of his focus, and he knows that is what helped get him elected, that that is what the base of supporters that, you know, the president still has left after the midterm shellacking that he experienced in the suburbs and with traditional Republicans. It's the base that's left wants a wall. But the problem is the Republicans--


LEMON: But that's why they were defeated because people don't want a wall.

HEALY: That's why they were defeated, but he doesn't -- well, again, he doesn't see it as a defeat. He saw it as a massive victory. They won North Dakota, you know. That's where the future of the Republican Party resides nationally. You know, that's what he tells himself.

But the thing is the Republicans for years won this battle over immigration because they focused on border security, this phrase that encompassed, you know, a great many things. It encompassed workers. It encompassed drones. It encompassed fencing.

There was, you know, some sort of perimeter security that got into border security when they focused on that. You know, President Trump is so focused on the wall and sort of making that the -- you know, the animating idea for his base, keeping out the others, keeping out those people, those sorts of dangerous people.

And as long as he keeps talking about the wall, which is something the Democrats, you know, are never going to support, sort of the literal wall idea, you know, he's losing a battle that Republicans often won when they just kept it to border security, to a comprehensive package of policies to keep the border safe. But, you know, he can't get off that one phrase.

LEMON: Well, it just, I kept listening to him when he was talking about this is being built, and we're doing this contract and that. I'm like what is he talking about?

HEALY: Right. On Christmas morning--


LEMON: On Christmas--

HEALY: -- he's bringing up--

LEMON: What is he talking about? Things that are just factually not true, provably--

HEALY: Right.

LEMON: -- false statements and just lying through his teeth like nothing. Like, yes, I had eggs for breakfast.

HEALY: yes. So, it's 115 miles. It's 200 miles. It's 500 miles.

LEMON: Yes. The original wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for is 2,000 mile as long the border.

HEALY: Right.

LEMON: Now it's five. It's like, my gosh, like, there's any -- anyway.

HEALY: Well, it's a big, beautiful wall that no one would be able to get over, and now it's steel slats, you know.

LEMON: OK. We're going to talk about that. Maybe he should be more focused on his--


RYAN: With a pretty door.


RYAN: With a pretty door.

LEMON: Maybe he should be more focused on his separation policy at the border rather than the wall because another child died in DHS custody. We're going to talk about that, and we're going to talk about who wants and who doesn't want this wall. We'll be right back.


LEMON: We're back now. Patrick is here, April as well. So listen. The President is also trying to claim, April, that the wall is being built. On Monday, he tweeted that he had signed a contract for 115 miles of the wall. The President doesn't award construction contracts. And sections of the wall are being -- sections of the fence are being renovated, but there is no new construction going on.

RYAN: Right.

LEMON: What is going on here?

RYAN: Right, smoke and mirrors. The President wants to be perceived as a winner and that he's winning. In all actuality, you know, Congress goes back next week. And Democrats are saying they're going to let the President stew in this right now. So he's trying to show that he's winning when he's not. And they say that when they go back, the Democrats in the House say when they go back, they're going to possibly work on something to reopen the government, because of the stalemate over this wall that he wants $5 billion for.

LEMON: Yeah. I just want to play something. This is what the President said today about why Democrats won't support funding for a wall. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) have you come down from the $5 billion ask to $2 million?

DONALD TRUMP (R), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Here's the problem. Yeah, here's the problem we have. We have a problem with the Democrats, because Nancy Pelosi is calling the shots, not Chuck. And Chuck wants to have this done. I really believe that. He wants to have this done. But she's calling the shots. And she's calling them because she wants the votes.

And probably if they do something, she's not going to get the votes. And she's not going to be Speaker of the House. And that would be not so good for her.


LEMON: Again, here is another fact check, OK, Patrick? Nancy Pelosi locked down the votes for Speaker of the House a while ago. So that's his explanation. That does not make sense. Also, thank you for sending me this quote because I didn't see it today. This is from USA Today. Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, a Democrat, who is expected to be elected Speaker next week, told USA Today, says he says we're going to build a wall with cement.

[22:34:58] And Mexico is going to pay for it. While he's already backed off of the cement, now he's down. I think now he's down to, I think, a beaded curtain or something. I am not sure where he is.

HEALY: Yeah.


LEMON: This has only just begun.

HEALY: Yeah. No, it's going to be two years. I mean, Nancy Pelosi has President Trump's number pretty well, as we saw in that White House meeting, you know, when she schooled him quite a bit on how politics works and how the Congress works. And the reality is, is that, you know, President Trump's political analysis of her claim, her chances of becoming Speaker are pretty off.

I don't think she has to worry about getting the votes because of what she does or doesn't do on...

LEMON: She's boxed him in.

HEALY: She's really boxed him in. I mean what they're looking at now is if the shutdown continues into next week and the Democrats take the gavel and Nancy Pelosi is in the leadership. There's a likelihood that the Democratic-led House will pass the bill that the Senate, the Republican-led Senate, has already approved, that has money in their for border security, that the Republicans have agreed to but doesn't have the wall money that President Trump is, you know, screaming for. And if the Democrats approve that and then the Republicans in the

Senate -- excuse me, re-approve it again, it will go to the President. And he'll have to decide whether to veto a bill that Senate Republicans and a lot of Republicans like on border security. So Nancy Pelosi knows the strategy that she's pursuing here.

And the beaded curtain quote is, you know, is characteristic of how she knows how to get under his skin.

LEMON: April, a serious subject when you talked about there's been another tragic death of a child, an eight-year-old Guatemalan boy, died in border patrol custody on Christmas Eve, the second child to die in custody this month. DHS is now doing medical screenings for all children in its custody. But it's another example of the severity of the problems and also the lack of preparedness to deal with them.

RYAN: Yeah. You know, when the White House was asked about the first death, they were saying things like, you know, it's a sad situation. But it would have never happened if the parents would not have allowed them to come across the border. And the White House is deflecting and throwing the onus on the parents, who are trying to find a better way of life.

And it's about humanity at this point. I mean when you have two children who have fevers over 103 degrees, 105, 105-plus, that's not good. And that's saying something. And you have to figure out what are you going to do. You can't just keep deflecting. These are humans. These are children who are dying in the midst of looking for a better way of life, and they're coming to our country dying.

Something has to be done. And they have to figure this out because it doesn't bode well. Two within the last month, two within just a matter of weeks doesn't bode well at all.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, both. I appreciate it.

HEALY: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Speaking of wanting to help your children, maybe Fred Trump, Donald Trump's father, wanted to help him in some way. So we're going to discuss bone spurs. Did they help keep Donald Trump from military service in Vietnam? Did his father help him with that? Next.


[22:40:00] LEMON: President Trump making a surprise visit to Iraq to visit U.S. troops. News of his first visit to a warzone coming as the daughters of a Queen's doctor, New York foot doctor, say that their late father diagnosed Donald Trump with bone spurs so he could avoid the Vietnam War. They say he did it as a favor to Trump's father, Fred Trump, a powerful real estate developer at the time.

Here to discuss, Michael D'Antonio, the Author of "The Truth about Trump."

So a very interesting story. Michael D'Antonio, thank you so much for joining us. Do you believe this story about a podiatrist diagnosing Trump with bone spurs in 1968 to evade the draft?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I absolutely do believe it. You know, this -- the clincher for me was the reference to it being a favor. So the Trumps forever have dealt in favors. You do something for me, I do something for you. And these daughters of this podiatrist talked about how forevermore, he was able to call up and maybe talk about the rent not going up so quickly and get a repair made here and an adjustment made there.

And Fred Trump was good to people who were good to him. And I am not even sure actually that the President knows the truth about this. This is the odd thing. He may have been examined. He took off his shoes and tried to show me these bone spurs. I didn't see anything, but...


LEMON: I thought he said they healed over time, Michael. How does that -- is that -- I am not a doctor, but is that medically possible? You have bone spurs, and then all of a sudden they miraculously cure themselves, heal themselves.

D'ANTONIO: No, they don't generally heal overtime. And he really did think that he was showing me something and that I saw it. You know, he pointed to his heels and said, see, right there. And, you know, if you're a polite person, you don't say, well, I don't see anything. You say, uh-huh. So, you know, this is the problem with the President, is so many of his biographical details are hazy in this way.

And in this case, you know, I believe these women. I don't think there ever was a medical issue.

LEMON: Do you think that people should be requesting these medical records like he requested the former President's birth certificate?

D'ANTONIO: Well, I think they should. I don't think they're available from what the New York Times reported. There weren't any records left behind. And, you know, the irony here is that Fred Trump was trying to do something for his son. Donald was not a conscientious objector, but he really did not want to serve.

[22:45:09] And he was like millions of other young men during the Vietnam War who tried whatever they could do to get out of their service. And then now, we have a situation where there are all these parents who are trekking across Latin America, trying to get their kids out of harm's way. And the irony is now that they're in custody in United States facilities. So there's confusion and ironic details going in every direction here.

And I wish the President would step back and think about those parents and their motivations being the same as his father's were in 1968.

LEMON: Very interesting. There is a difference, though. I mean these are poor people. He and his dead had plenty of money. But he likes to name people. So -- but you know, he has gotten the name now, President Bone Spurs. So there you go. Thank you, Michael. I appreciate it.

D'ANTONIO: I am afraid he's stuck with it. Thanks, Don.

LEMON: I hope you had a Merry Christmas. Thank you so much. Outrage leading to an emergency meeting tonight, after a high school wrestler was forced to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a match. Was the referee just following the rules or is this a case of racism? We'll talk about that.


[22:50:00] LEMON: A New Jersey school board held an emergency meeting tonight after a high school referee ordered a wrestler to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit his match. School district administrators say they have seen the video of Andrew Johnson's hair being cut in the middle of the gym, and that they're deeply troubled by it. Well, the referee insists Johnson's hair and headgear were not in compliance with league regulations.

But the ACLU says this has nothing to do with hair and everything to do with race. Joining me now my colleague Miguel Marquez and Amol Sinha, the Executive Director of the New Jersey ACLU, who was at the board meeting, thank you both. Everyone has been watching this video, the story, and has been troubled by it. What came out of this meeting? Good evening to you, by the way. What came out of this meeting?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, not a lot. Except that they held it on the day after Christmas while school is out, trying to make the statement that they are taking positive steps, that they are paying attention to this. And that they're hearing from people. People are incredibly upset by this video. They actually took testimony from the public. One woman spoke out that was -- she was particularly emotional.

LEMON: So what led up to this? Do you have a soundbite? Let's play this, sorry.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a mother raising children in this community, it broke my heart. It didn't matter if he was black, white, green, or purple. It broke my heart to watch that young man stand there and be humiliated like that.


LEMON: Which is a natural reaction.

MARQUEZ: That is the sensibility that you're hearing across the board. But there are two different agencies now investigating this. One other thing that they said in this meeting tonight is let's wait. Let's give the family some space and let's wait for the facts to come out before we start drawing conclusion about what's this was all about.

LEMON: OK. So my question is then what led up to this. I understand the referee was even late to the match.

MARQUEZ: He was late for weigh-in when they would do the initial assessment of the wrestlers. When he got there, he did a quick assessment, didn't have any issues when this young man, Andrew Johnson, got on the mat. That's when he said the hair's a problem. It's not in its natural state, meaning that it was dreadlocks, which he kept referring to as braids, say the family.

That adds a racial context to it, as well. They're just upset all the way around. The other thing that the lawyer for the family is saying is that they don't blame the woman who was actually cutting the hair. They don't blame the coach who was talking to him and sort of trying to keep him focused. He actually won that match, by the way.

They blame the referee. They're keeping the focus on the referee who insisted that either the hair goes or he forfeits the match.

LEMON: So Amol, you're the Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. Why do you think this student had to make a choice, had to choose between cutting his hair or participating in this match?

AMOL SINHA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW JERSEY ACLU: Well, if you ask the referee, he'll tell you it's because the student was out of compliance. But there has got to be a step in between not being compliant and being forced to choose between cutting your hair or forfeiting the match. It just seems unconscionable that there was no other alternative.

And as Miguel mentioned, I think this is incredibly inextricably intertwined with race as we've seen throughout the United States recently. There's a narrative going on. We see black folks and people of color generally carrying the burden of enforcement of rules that seem to be race neutral on paper. When they're applied, it has a racially discriminatory impact.

LEMON: But I would imagine he has been wrestling with this same hair, obviously, to get to this point and has not had any trouble before.

SINHA: That's right. And to force the student to make a decision within 90 seconds is incredibly coercive. It puts him between a rock and hard place. And what's he going to do?

LEMON: You're sure it was discrimination.

SINHA: I think it smells of discrimination. It smells of an implicit bias, right? We all carry these implicit biases with us, and every institution including schools in particular have them within their ranks. So it's important to view it through that lens.

LEMON: Miguel, give us the facts. What are the rules when it comes to hair and the cap...

[22:54:52] MARQUEZ: They follow national rules like as all schools across the country. The hair can't be below the eye line, can't be below the ear lobe, can't hit the collar. If it does -- if it's longer hair, they have rules for that. They can be tied back, in a helmet, with a hair net to keep it in place. That's what he had done the weekend before.

LEMON: So why wasn't that an option?

MARQUEZ: This for whatever reason, and that's why the family is focusing on this referee. For whatever reason, they're saying this referee insisted did not listen to the young man, didn't listen to his trainer, didn't listen to his coach. They were all pleading with him to let him just wrestle as he did before, and they wouldn't allow it.

LEMON: Is the referee saying anything?

MARQUEZ: He was just saying it was not in a natural state -- that he kept referring to them as braids.

LEMON: But he hasn't put out a statement or anything.

MARQUEZ: Has not put out a statement. And we're not naming him at this point, because, you know, it's difficult to know exactly what happened there. And that's what's this investigation by the attorney general's office in New Jersey is all about.

LEMON: I have got to go. But what do you want to see happen?

SINHA: We want to see some sort of uniform policy change here. We should make sure that there is no discrimination whenever laws and policies are enforced. So we've got make sure that this sort of situation is addressed before the match, that any sort of hair accommodation that's able to be made to any other student is applied equally across the board. And we need guidance at the state level for this.

LEMON: If you just -- go on the Web site and watch this video if you haven't seen it. It is just -- it makes you cringe.

SINHA: It's heartbreaking.

LEMON: It is heartbreaking. Thank you, Amol. Thank you, Miguel.

SINHA: Thank you.

LEMON: Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.