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Trump Administration Digging Deeper Hole Over False Allegation of Wiretapping; FBI Director To Testify Monday Before a House Committee; General Flynn Received Payments for Visit and Speech to Russia in December 2015; President Trump's New 2018 Budget Blueprint, Meals on Wheels To Take a Hit; NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill Slamming the President's Budget Proposal. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 16, 2017 - 23:00   ET



[23:00:29] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: The Trump administration digging a deeper and deeper hole for itself over the President's false allegation of wiretapping.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

The press secretary Sean Spicer gives holds an angry and combative press briefing, not only berating reporters but refusing to admit that President Trump is wrong.

Plus, troubling new information about Michael Flynn, President Trump's first national security adviser who was fired and his Russia and his ties to Russia. We will to talk about that.

Let's begin the hour, though, with CNN's senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta. He was involved in the exchange with Sean Spicer. Out chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers, a columnist for "USA Today," our senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, political commentator Andre Bauer, the former lieutenant governor of South Carolina and former congressman Jack Kingston. Jen Psaki had to go. She had other obligations. So we thank her for the last hour and we will continue on. We will continue our conversation in just a bit.

But Jim, bring us up to date. You were at that heated White House press briefing today trying to get answers as to why President Trump refuses to back down from his unproven claims that he wiretapped by former President. You got it to over the White House press secretary. Let's listen to this and then we will get you to talk about it.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But you are refusing to answer. The question that you are refusing to answer is whether or not the President still believes what --

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, no. I just said it to Jonathan. ACOSTA: But you have Senate and house intelligence committee, both

leaders from both parties on both of those panels saying they don't see any evidence of any wiretapping. So how can the President go on and continue --?

SPICER: Because that's not - you are mischaracterizing what Chairman Nunez said. He said I think it's possible, he is following up on this. So to suggest that is actually - and you, you're stating --

ACOSTA: Literally, you said if you take the President literally, he is wrong.

SPICER: Right. And I think that we have already cleared that up. And he said exactly that. But the President has already said clearly when he referred to wiretapping, he was referring to surveillance. So (INAUDIBLE).

ACOSTA: But sounds like, Sean. You and the president are saying now. But we don't mean wiretapping anymore because it's not true anymore. So now other forms of surveillance, what is it going to be next?

SPICER: No. Jim, I think that's cute but end of the day, we talked about this for three or four days. What the president had to quote "wiretapping" in quotes, he was referring to broad surveillance. And now you are basically going back. We talked about this several days ago. The bottom line is that the investigation with the house and Senate has not been provided all the information. But when it does, but --.

ACOSTA: But --

SPICER: Hold on.


SPICER: I think the President addressed that last night. He said there is more to come. These are merely pointing out that I think there's widespread reporting that throughout the 2016 election there was surveillance that was done on variety of people then came up.

ACOSTA: There was investigation going on to whether there were contacts between the President's campaign and the Russians. Of course, they are going to be looking at (INAUDIBLE).

SPICER: OK, I get it. But somehow you seem to believe that you have all of this information. You have been read in by all these things which I find very interesting.

ACOSTA: Haven't been read in by --

SPICER: So, you are coming to these serious conclusions for a guy that has zero intelligence --

ACOSTA: Give me some credit.

SPICER: I will give you some --. ACOSTA: A little intelligence. But no --.

SPICER: Clearance, I wasn't done. Clearance. Maybe both.


LEMON: So Jim, the intelligence community has been read in on it. The Senate Intel community have been read in on it. You know, who else could be read in on it and is the President. Do you ever recall witnessing something like this?

ACOSTA: Yes. It would be really hilarious if this wasn't all very serious. You know, I think what we are seeing at the White House is they are making excuses after excuses after excuses to explain something that the President really should just withdraw and retract.

The President Barack Obama did not wiretap Trump tower. That did not happen during the 2016 campaign. You now have the leaders of both house and Senate intelligence committees saying that did not happen. There is no evidence of that. Now the White House has broadened out to say well, we mean other types of surveillance. We heard the President said that last night on FOX News. And you heard Sean Spicer put out there a couple of days ago when they were trying to walk all of this back.

But at the end of the day, this is something that the President should never have tweeted and he should just pull it back. And unfortunately, Don, as you know and I know, because we have covered this President for a long time during the campaign, it's just not in his nature to admit that he has made a mistake and apologize. And so, the question is just how long can we see this go on?

Now, tomorrow is going to be a very crucial test. There was going to be a news conference over at the White House, joint press conference between the President and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor who is going to be visiting the White House. And Donald Trump is going to have a very serious choice to make. Does he call on conservative news media as he did during some of the joint news conference as the world leaders and get questions that don't pertain to this wiretapping question or is he going to take this head-on, and call on somebody who is going to ask that question? And we are not going to know the answer to that until tomorrow afternoon. But I think it's a very critical moment for this President because it goes to his credibility and it goes to -- I know in Trumpland they love the guy.

I mean, he was down in Nashville last night. He gave a rally and they were very enthusiastic about him. And nobody wants to take that away from his supporters. But at the end of the day, he has to be President of all Americans. And to some extent all Americans have to believe the President is telling the truth and he can't make outlandish claims that can't be backed up. And I think that's what he is struggling with. That is what he has going to have to deal with tomorrow, think, Don.

[23:05:59] LEMON: To the other Jim on the panel. Jim Sciutto, good evening to you. So Sean Spicer went through a laundry list of press reports to try to back up what the President said. Here is an example and then we will discuss.


SPICER: The "New York Times" reported the following. Sean Hannity went on FOX days after election. Heat streak reporting. Candy McCarthy writing in "National Review," Sara Carter from "Circle Reporting." On March 3rd, FOX News chief anchor Bret Baier said the following. Quote "there was a report in June 2016, a FISA request by the Obama administration for the intelligence surveillance court to monitor communications involving Donald Trump and several other campaign officials." Then they got turned down, then in October. Then they renewed it into a start wiretap at Trump tower with some computer and Russian banks.


LEMON: So Jim, I mean, what it looks Jim Sciutto, it looks like an attempt to muddy the waters here. So please explain to us, what is the truth?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Listen. You know, it is the height of irony to have the White House spokesperson quoting from the price that the President has called to dishonest media repeatedly, right, you know. But forget that for a moment. Because let's put up against that beyond as Jim Acosta said, ranking Democrat and Republican on the house intelligence committee, ranking Democrat and Republican on Senate intelligence committee, but also the Republican speaker of the House, the attorney general and there's Republican appointed by President, the FBI director who have all said there is no evidence in this. They are briefed on the intelligence too. There is no evidence. It says that's why on our screen we have said that this is a false claim by the president. It's false. No question.

What you have had in recent days from the President Trump and Spicer is a redefining of the terms of the President's allegation. Fact now the President alleged that President Obama ordered a wiretap on President Trump.

You know, it is three elements there. President Obama did it, the target was Trump and it was wiretap. Now they are saying, well, you know, it wasn't really talking about this general surveillance where you might have had Trump advisers, not Trump himself caught on other end of communications with Russians. And the fact is there is evidence of that. That's CNN's own reporting. That gets you into potentially dangerous territory, right. Because why then where there are Trump advisers and members of the campaign repeatedly and that is CNN's reporting in contact with Russian officials and others Russians known to U.S. intelligence during the campaign? That's what there is evidence off, right? And that evidence was gathered during perfectly legal surveillance of Russian officials. That's what intelligence U.S. does. It listens to them to see what they are doing for the sake of U.S. national security. And sometimes, U.S. persons are on the other side of those phone calls. That information is minimized by U.S. law. That's all perfectly legal, is what U.S. intelligence agencies do. But it then raises other question, which is the subject of house and Senate and FBI investigations. Why were Trump advisers in campaign and staff caught up in that? So you know, listen. No direction of this is particularly good for the Trump administration.

LEMON: That's what (INAUDIBLE) said, the more the spin comes, it's not good. If, you know, no matter how you slice it for this administration or for the President. And I want to get everyone in. So glad I should, you know, have my questions should be shorter. So brevity is the key here.

Kirsten, did Sean Spicer do himself any good today? Did he do more harm than good?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, for himself personally, no of course not. I think every time he does this, he, you know, further erodes his own personal credibility which he built up for a long time in Washington. But the thing I have to say is I'm just wondering if anybody else is start getting angry about this? I mean, about what Donald Trump has done here?


POWERS: Because I think he has sent everybody on a wild goose chase. He has taken an entire apparatus, the government, the entire U.S. government basically and sent them down this rabbit trail to hunt down something that never happened.

LEMON: And he knows it's.

POWERS: And he has no evidence that ever happened, you know. By press secretary's own account, he learned it not really - necessarily even from journalists. I mean, Sean Hannity doesn't say he is a journal. I mean, Andrew Napolitano does not described himself as a journalist. I mean, these are people who have in perspective, right? And so, he has had the Entire government apparatus hunting down something that probably never happened when there's actually real problems is happening in the country that he should be spending time on. I mean, it really is. And I don't understand why anyone is defending this.

[23:10:18] LEMON: Well, Andre, why is anyone defending this? I mean, take us inside the President's head if you can here or why would anyone defend this? I mean, everyone has said, anyone with any brain and anyone who has any idea of how this country works and intelligence has said there is no -- as President whispers, he does that too. There is no proof. I mean, I was watching CNN and there was no proof. There is no proof.

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Don, number one. That's Sean Spicer's job. I mean, he is the Rambo of the media right now. He is taking on heavy artillery from every angle and he has handing it right back to them. I admire the guy.

LEMON: No he's not.

BAUER: Not bend down to the press.

LEMON: Andre, he knows why in the press conference - does anyone think that he handing it back? I feel embarrassed for him.

BAUER: Don, that's his job. His job is not to say, you all are right and I'm wrong and the President is wrong. His job is to defend the President of the United States to best of his ability.


LEMON: Go ahead. Jim Sciutto, what are you saying?

SCIUTTO: He's not defending -- Andre.

BAUER: Hired by Democrat party?

SCIUTTO: Forget what we are reporting. I mean, we are reporting what the president's own appointees are saying about the claim. His attorney general is denying it. The Republican speaker of the house is denying it.

LEMON: Nia, go ahead.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: But I do think one of the things that what he's effective at in the long (INAUDIBLE) that he is giving talking points to Trump supporters. He is talking points to Brietbart. He is giving talking points to Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingram and anybody who wants to talk about this and defend the President. And so, I think in that way it's very effective.

And also I think you have to wonder is there going to be a consequence for this President with his credibility? And in some ways, possibly not. But at the same time, you got Republicans who are working on health care. You got him putting his budget out. So it's not clear that this is a President who thinks there is going to be consequences. There were so in their consequences during the campaign when he said that. And there have been no consequences so far in terms of him spouting a ridiculous conspiracy theories.

LEMON: I'm wondering this is going to be different. Who knows?

Jack Kingston, you get a last- Jack, stayed around, by the way. Because he had other things and he is so kindly stayed around. Jack, I will give you the last word.

JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER RO THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Let me say this. If you are a Trump person you believe that all this discussion about Russia of colluding with the Trump campaign there is partisan bull. I think if you are a Democrat --.

LEMON: That doesn't mean it's true. Maybe someone should tell him it's not.

KINGSTON: Well, but if you are a Democrat, you are looking at exact same thing and saying that tweet was irresponsible and bad. I think this whole debate is reflection of --

LEMON: Republicans are saying it is irresponsible and bad.

KINGSTON: Well, you know what? I hope within two weeks when.

LEMON: Do you think it was irresponsible -hold on.


LEMON: Truth. Do you think it was irresponsible for the President to put that tweet out?

KINGSTON: I think he should have said surveillance. And let me say -- .

LEMON: Come on, Jack. Be honest with me.

KINGSTON: Obama responded in a very legalistic way.

LEMON: Obama spokesperson.

ACOSTA: Even if he said surveillance --


ACOSTA: Comparing President Obama to Richard Nixon and trying to pull off a Watergate style --


ACOSTA: There is no cleanup on 5th avenue on this one. I think this is just if, you know, the President could go back and delete these tweets, whoever it is on his staff that he dictates his tweets too could go back and delete those tweets.

KINGSTON: I think this all leave into one --


KINGSTON: I might walk back what I said about President Obama. But you have to walk back what you said about my campaign.

LEMON: Why? He won.

ACOSTA: That might be what he wants.


LEMON: Should he say I'm going to walk back what I said about birtherism.


KINGSTON: And in two weeks when he says there's no collusion, I just wonder. Get you to hug Nunez when he says there's no collusion in two weeks.

LEMON: To be continued.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, boy. LEMON: That's why I love everyone. Jim - stick around, Jim. We have

to talk about some more troubling and new information out about that, this administration, specifically Michael Flynn who used to be a part of President Trump's first national security adviser who was fired in his ties to Russia.


[23:19:01] LEMON: The FBI director James Comey set to testify Monday before a house committee investigating Russia's meddling in the election.

Jim Sciutto is back with us now and we are joined by CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem, a former department of homeland security official in intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer, former CIA operative.

Good to have all of you on.

Jim, thanks for coming back. I'm going to start with you. You have been digging on these ties between President Trump's associates and Russia. Tonight, I understand you have some troubling information on lieutenant general Michael Flynn who was fired as national security adviser to the president. What can you tell us?

SCIUTTO: That's right. This coming from the house oversight committee. What they have documented are payments that General Flynn received for a visit and a speech to Russia in December 2015. This speech was known about. You probably seen the pictures or viewers have of General Flynn sitting next to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a banquet in Moscow. General Flynn has acknowledge the speech before. What he is not acknowledge that he has paid money by the Russian broadcaster RT, Russia Today, which is backed by the Kremlin and the view of U.S. intelligence. And that is important not just because of how it looks but because of U.S. law. U.S. law requires that he disclose payments from foreign government on what is known as his (INAUDIBLE). This is an application for a security clearance and then army regulations require that he disclose payments from a foreign government as well.

We spoke on the Pentagon, the army has no record of him reporting that payment. The House oversight committee is asking the Trump administration and the Pentagon and the FBI whether he disclosed the payments on his security clearance form. I asked the spokesman today, he had no comment and answer to that. It is still an open question. If either of the answers to that question, those questions is no, he didn't report to the army. He did not reported on security clearance form, that's a major problem for General Flynn.

[23:20:53] LEMON: Interesting.

Juliette, Flynn said the speaker's bureau paid him to speak. But it is clear that RT wrote the check. He told the vice president and others that he didn't talk about sanctions with the Russian ambassador until it became clear that, which he did, and he was fired.

Is Flynn a rogue player or do these connections signal a deeper problem with the truth, do you think?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think we don't know yet. I also think we haven't heard the last of Flynn yet. I, you know, as we look at all of these different pieces unfolding both last summer and then over the course of the transition, the Flynn incident always seemed to me the most inexplicable both because of all of his ties, who he is going to be paid for, his essentially lying to the vice president, the White House and Trump and his people essentially covering for Flynn. And Sally Yates telling the White House this guy could be compromised and them not doing anything.

That whole series of events is not explained in any way that should make us feel good, right, in terms of who he is. And so, I think what is going to likely see is either further investigations of Flynn. Did he lie all the things Jim was just painted, he lied on his forms, did he not disclose, some of them are, you know, internal penalties, some may be criminal penalties.

But also the question I have is while we are all waiting for this Monday hearing to happen, I think one of the most important people that won't show up is, of course, Flynn. And the question remains out there is he talking to investigators about what he knows about what happened during the transition? We simply don't know what Flynn's strategy is to either protect himself or protect the White House.

LEMON: I wonder how this sits with you Bob as former intelligence agent because the image of American general sitting next to ruthless autocrat like Vladimir Putin, getting paid to speak for Russian propaganda outfit, I mean, that's jarring. Can you remember anything like this in recent history?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Don, I think you already know how I feel about this. I mean, sitting down with Putin is fine and I would do it. You would do it, anybody would. But the question is - I mean, RT is an arm of the KGB. I mean, RT provides cover slots for the KGB, for the SFB, the SVR. It's intelligence organization. It is Russian propaganda. We used to have Pravda in my time, and now it's RT. And he knew better. He was head of DIA. You don't take money from the Russian government period. And I don't care whether it goes through speech agent or not. And so, I find this very troubling.

Everywhere in this Russian, you know, crisis or whatever you want to call this thing and Trump, you see the fingerprint of the KGB. Whether it's hacking, whether it is Trump advisers in touch with these people in Europe, and you know, it gets worse by the day. And I just relieved, you know, you too have to wonder what is going on here.

LEMON: Jim Sciutto, while Congress has been investigating all of this Russian intrigue, North Korea is heating up. Today, secretary Tillerson said that U.S. diplomacy there has failed and now Pyongyang is warning of war. How dangerous is the North Korea threat?

SCIUTTO: You know, consistent message you hear is the biggest most immediate national security threat to the U.S. is North Korea. I mean, granted you have terrorism no question, you have the threat from Russia, China as well. But the most immediate one, North Korea as they nuclearize and the secretary of state said today that U.S. policy towards North Korea has failed over the last 20 years and it is a fair argument because multiple administrations of both parties, Clinton, Bush, Obama, they tried negotiations, they tried sanctions, pressure, they tried to push China to be tougher on North Korea. And in the midst of that North Korea has had this long successful march towards a nuclear weapon and towards the ability to miniaturizing nuclear weapon and put on the ballistic missile and they have been testing those. And it's a view of the U.S. intelligence community today that they have to assume that they have and intercontinental ballistic missile capability with nuclear warhead untested. But they have to assume they are capable of that. It's hard to say that in the year 2017, you look at five, ten, or 20 years, whether that would be a success by any stretch of the imagination, it's a clear failure.

[23:25:19] LEMON: Thank you panel. I appreciate it. Have a good evening. Will see you soon.

Coming up, preliminary outline for President Trump's 2018 budget, what is it could mean for older and impoverished Americans.


[23:29:25] LEMON: President Trump's 2018 budget. Blueprint could slash money from meals on wheels, a program that provides meals for older and impoverished Americans.

Let's discuss now, Ashley McCumber is here. He is the CEO of Meals on Wheels of San Francisco. So glad to have you on. Good evening.

My pleasure to be with you.

LEMON: Under President Trump's new 2018 budget blueprint, Meals on Wheels is set to take a bit of a hit. How is it going to impact you?

ASHLEY MCCUMBER, CEO, MEALS ON WHEELS OF SAN FRANCISCO: Well, I think we have to really take it in context. And we are approaching this potential cuts with already a pretty challenging situation. We have unprecedented growth of seniors who need services across the country. If you look at the amount of meals that were provided in 2005 and the lack of funding that's followed this growth, we have over 23 million meals less than we did in 2005.

So we are actually starting at point that is actually really bad already. And so, the President's volley and budget, as starter, has suggested that under the community development block grant that there will be an impact on the meals on wheels program. And although we don't have the actual cuts that will take place in health and human services, there is a proposal to cut 18 percent from that. And largest base of funding from the Meals on Wheels program across the country is the older Americans act, which is part of HHS.

So we really don't have all the information we need. But the bottom line is that we are already struggling to meet the need and any cuts anytime when we are seeing more and more seniors needing services and growth of the senior population is just not good news and it will mean -- go ahead.

[23:31:08] LEMON: Ashley, I don't mean to cut you up. But my question is can you survive with this current proposal?

MCCUMBER: Well, you know, I mean, I don't think it's a question of survival. I think what you are going to see is program across unable to meet the need. About 35 percent of the funding for most Meals on Wheels programs across the country come from the older Americans act. So this is a really solid public/private partnership where dollars from the federal government will build the base of the program and communities through volunteerism and dollars step in. But there's no way to take and to buffer that type of cut, especially when programs are struggling to actually meet the needs at their door right now.

LEMON: Yes. It is you won't be as effective and that means that - I mean, and that affects people's lives. We are talking about people and their lives.

So listen. I want you - the White house budget director Mick Mulvaney was asked today about the cuts to Meals on Wheels. Listen to what he said.


MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: Can't spend money on programs just because they stand good. And great Meals on Wheels sounds great. Again that's state decision to fund that particular portion. Whether to take them the federal money and give it to the states and say look, we want to give you money for programs that don't work. I can't defend that anymore.


LEMON: So then the National office of for Meals on Wheels responded. And here is what they tweeted. They said Meals on wheels is proven public/private partnership that effectively meets community needs. That's what you said. And then they include the stats about how important the program is to seniors. It says 81 percent say it improves their health, 92 percent say it enables them to remain living at home and 90 percent say it makes them feel more safe and more secure.

So Mr. Mulvaney's argument is that it is unfair to taxpayers if there are proven results? Is that the case?

MCCUMBER: Well, I just respectfully disagree with him strongly. I don't think it is just Meals on Wheels America who is disagreeing with him. I think some of the third party, independent investigation of the impact of the Meals on Wheels program and model and service delivery shows time and time again that not only are those things that you just said true, but there are real assistance offered in keeping people out of hospitals, keeping them from (INAUDIBLE), going back in the hospital after leaving the hospital, and diminishing the need to place people in nursing care.

So we have proven time and time again in study after study that there's a real return on the investment that is made and that every dollar out there really makes a difference.

Just give you one stat. My program in San Francisco, and every program across the country, can serve a senior and keep them in their homes for entire year for the cost of one day of hospitalization. So I think that the argument this doesn't produce a return or have an impact is just not true.

LEMON: CNN's Van Jones wanted to see just who is going to be affected by these cuts. He went to visit Christa Patton and she is here in New York and she depends on Meals on Wheels. Listen.


CHRISTA PATTON, MEALS ON WHEELS RECIPIENT: I think you should try to put yourself in my situation and what would you do? As I indicated, I'm on a fixed income. I'm basically homebound. I haven't been out of this apartment in like seven years. How else would I eat? I don't know.


LEMON: So you saw Congressman Chris Collins there. He was watching. Van had him on the show tonight. Is Christa Patton a typical person who benefits from Meals on Wheels?

MCCUMBER: Overwhelmingly.

LEMON: So what are her options without Meals on Wheels?

MCCUMBER: Well, I mean, let's just be clear. Meals on Wheels of San Francisco provides two meals of the day, seven days a week to its clients. And many of the clients live on $900 a month of income in a city like San Francisco. Imagine if we're not providing those meals.

This is not just value add, It is actually the difference, as the client that you just heard, it's difference between life and death and being able to survive. And this is not uncommon. This is true across every community of the country. And I think that what is really troubling is as you look at first round of cuts and the community development block grant, these block grants are targeted predominantly at low income communities and communities that live on the margins. So we are really are kind of causing and exacerbating a problem that actually we need to remedy.

LEMON: Ashley McCumber, San Francisco executive director of Meals on Wheels, thank you.

MCCUMBER: Thank you.

LEMON: Coming up, Donald Trump campaigned as he would be a law and order President. So what does the president's budget mean for police around the country? That's next.


[23:39500] LEMON: What does the President's preliminary budget blueprint mean for police forces around the country?

I want to bring in CNN's Brynn Gingras.

Good evening, Brynn. Tonight the NYPD commissioner James O'Neill slamming the President's budget proposal for cuts that will impact his force. He tweeted this. He said under Potus budget virtually all that funding to NYPD are eradicated entire counterterrorism apparatus in nation's top terror target (INAUDIBLE). How much money are we talking about?

[23:40:15] BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, let's break it down for you, Don. We are talking about $700 million that would be affected. All the states affected with that money. But if you break it down to New York, $190 million would be cut according to this proposed budget and $110 is going to the NYPD.

So we are talking about the police department as you just said in that tweet that is constantly foiling terrorist attacks. As mayor said, we are in the crosshairs of terrorist activity here in New York City. And the commissioner said that they need that money to just put the resources for those counterterrorism efforts. We are talking about surveillance cameras all around the city. We are talking about dogs that can sense vapors in the air. We are talking about active shooting training for its new police officers in this enormous force here. So the police department called this critical money. And here is more what the commissioner said in the press conference today.


JAMES O'NEILL, NYPD COMMISSIONER: This funding is absolutely critical. It is the backbone of our entire counterterrorism apparatus. This is the cornerstone of effective preparedness and preventions against terrorist threats. It enable us to do what we can do to keep this city secure. To cut this funding would make us increase and less safe.


GINGRAS: And Don, this is something that I even heard, you just talk about in the tease. Mayor de Blasio is saying, you know, for a President who says he wants to keep America safe, it is just sort of ironic that he is threatening to take so much money away from city that really needs that money, Don.

LEMON: Brynn, New York Republicans, how are they responding?

GINGRAS: Well, we heard from representative Peter King, I want to show a tweet I can put out today. He said, well, White House has released no precise numbers regarding proposed budget cuts to homeland security money. Any reduction to New York and Long Island is dead on arrival. So it's a pretty strong tweet.

And I have to say, there is bipartisan refusal to this money being cut. It is something that they do fight every year. We hear, you know, even last year President Obama threatened some cuts, certainly not significant as we are seeing this year with President Trump's proposed budget. But this is something that I have to say listening to the city leaders, the commissioner and the mayor, it's personal. Remember when New York City is Trump's hometown. So they find this to be a little bit personal.

LEMON: That's a good question. So I mean, it is good answer because I want to ask you. The first lady and the President's youngest son currently living in Trump tower on 5th Avenue. Hundreds of thousands of dollars going on to protecting the president and the first family in NYC. What is - is there discussion about that?

GINGRAS: Yes, absolutely. I mean, we know that $146,000 a day goes into protecting Melania them and their son, Baron, at Trump tower. It is even more when the President is actually in town. So there is a lot of resources that are paid to that. It is unclear right now certainly so easy with just so early, I should say, so early in this type of proposal where the money will come from for that to happen. I mean, NYPD is trying to get reimbursed by the federal government. So we don't know if that money, some of the homeland security budget actually goes to that. And certainly this is the discussion that is ongoing because NYPD needs money for that as well, Don.

LEMON: $146,000 per day. Wow. Thank you, Brynn. I appreciate that.

Coming up, how budget cuts impact African-Americans, a voting bloc that Donald Trump swore to work for.


[23:46:44] LEMON: Candidate Donald Trump reached out to African- American voters by famously asking what do you have to lose? So at some points at this, and what the hell do you have to lose?

So here's some answers now, the President Trump's preliminary budget plan is out. So let's discuss now. CNN political commentators Shirmichael Singleton, Bakari Sellers, Angela Rye, and Paris Dennard.

So good to have all of you on.

So let's go through this. Paris, I'm going to start with you. President Trump said on the trail to African-Americans. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? You are living in poverty. Your schools are no good. You have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?

We will get rid of the crime. You will be able to walk down the street without getting shot. Right now you walk down the street, you get shot. What do you have to lose?


LEMON: Wow. That did happen, didn't it? So what do we have to lose? What do African-Americans have to lose? The President proposed budgets slashes funding, let's see, for federal agencies that assist the poor in urban areas, including many African-Americans, department of housing and urban development, down 13.2 percent. Department of education down 13.5 percent. Department of health and human services down 16.2 percent. So it seems like some African-Americans are losing a lot. Am I wrong, Paris?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes Don. I think you are wrong. Because if you look at 13.5 percent cut that you mentioned for the department of education, what we do know at a time that a lot of cuts happen across the board, across the federal government because the president said in campaign that he was going to do that. What we did not see were any cuts to HBCU. The $492 million, the HBCU were not cut. What we did not see were cuts to pail when you see overnight --.

LEMON: Well, when people are kicked out of houses I guess are going to go live in historically black college or university, but go on.

ANGELA RYE, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: But Don, he said that those were going to be priority. They were going to be top priority. He kept the same amount of money peers. I have heard you complain about from President Obama. That's why mouth dropped open. You are right on the numbers but I can't believe - yes. I can't believe that you are now defending the same number. Please, at least hold your guy accountable on this. And you are like champion for HBCUs. Come on, Paris.

DENNARD: I am a champion. That's why I was so disturbed when President Obama cut millions on HBCUs funding from his first budget. And when you look at this President's budget, he did not make one cut to HBCU funding. He does not make one cut to Pell Grant.


LEMON: Angela and Paris. So a lot of people that HBCUs is important. But there a lot of people who are sitting here watching tonight going, HBCUs, I got to eat. I got to live somewhere. Great. Yes, I would love to send my kid to a college, any college. And hopefully maybe they want to send him to an HBCU. But why are you rambling on about HBCUs when we are talking about urban development, about other education, about health and human services? We have more important issues than HBCU.

DENNARD: Well, Don, I will caution you by saying to all of those 300,000 students who attended.

LEMON: I didn't say it wasn't important. I said there are more important issues. I didn't say -- don't put words in my mouth. Did you hear what I said? I said there are more important issues.

[23:50:01] DENNARD: And when you put up the graphic that shows all these cuts.

LEMON: Paris, my entire family went to HBCU. Don't give me that lesson. I know what HBCUs. Look at me. I know what they are.

DENNARD: Well, I'm glad.

LEMON: I have an HBCU family. But my point is there are more important things than HBCUs and you keep pointing to one of them when I have gone down a list of things that are really important and when I'm telling you I would rather eat than or some people it is more -- the priority for them is to eat rather than where they are going to college.

DENNARD: All I'm saying, Don, is that on the graphic that you put up, you showed that where there were cuts and I was pointing out to your audience that there might have been a 13.5 percent cut to department of education. But within that cut, as it relates to African- Americans, no cuts to HBCUs. No cuts to Pell. When you let that other department things such as charter schools, that there was an increase to charter school funding which all African-Americans overwhelmingly support. When you look at things like building the wall and enforcement and things that going to directly impact jobs, there are -- money is going into DHS which are going to lead to more jobs, ICE officers and immigration officers which African-American can --.

LEMON: Shirmichael, please go ahead.

DENNARD: So you can make fun of HBCU.

LEMON: I'm not making fun. Don't say I made fun of HBCU. That's a flat out lie. That's not - I didn't make fun of HBCUs. And you know --.

DENNARD: You said they were not important.

LEMON: That's a lie.

RYE: He didn't say they were not important. He said there were other more important things.

DENNARD: I don't know what a qualified thing is more important. I think they are equally important.

LEMON: I tell you what's more important.

DENNARD: You have to have a god education, Don.

LEMON: It's more important that you come here and tell the truth, OK.

DENNARD: I'm telling the truth. Did the President cut HBCU funding? No, he did not.

LEMON: Shermichael, go ahead. Shermichael, please. Paris, you are done. So ahead, Shermichael.

DENNARD: Here we go again.

LEMON: Go ahead, Shermichael.

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If I can interject, and OK, the President did not cut HBCU. The funding remain the same as it did prior to the President being sworn in. OK, that's fine.

But I want to talk about some more critical issues such as housing. For example, 85 percent of HUD's budget which oversees housing for a lot of poor people who happen to be African-American, 85 percent is residual. So you decreased a budget by $6.3 billion and you will see a net loss in people who rely on housing vouchers. For example, they are African-Americans.

And so, when you look at programs such as that where you are going to be potentially decreasing the number of housing vouchers that will assist people with moving out of public housing into a home, a rental home, where they are going to have a decreased rent because of the government's ability to assist them, I think is extremely troubling.

Clearly, you want to get people out of a bad neighborhood to a more decent neighborhood to assist them with some point been able to move on to what we like to call a market rate apartment meaning essentially they can pay at market rate with anyone else. That's problematic when the President says I want to revitalize the inner cities, et cetera, when you are cutting programs that will hurt people who you claim to want to assist. I think that's extremely hypocritical to say that.

Many African-Americans are not concerned about a border wall. I hate to say that. Many are not when there is a large number of African- Americans who were living in communities where they are now going to have to worry if they are currently relying on a housing voucher. Is that voucher still going to be there? If you are a single mother, you rely on WIC, will that program still be there in the next --?

DENNARD: WIC was not cut.

RYE: WIC was cut!

SINGLETON: That's not true, Paris. It was cut. You should read the budget, Paris.

RYE: I mean, I'm trying to figure out --.


LEMON: Hold on. Hold on. In case you are wondering, Shermichael is a conservative. He is a Republican and once worked in government.

So anyways. Baraki, how much will this budget - Paris, let other people speak.

DENNARD: That wasn't me.


LEMON: OK. Sorry. Go ahead, Bakari.

SELLERS: I think the way you judge a budget is by how they treat individuals who are at the dawn of their life which are children, how they treat people at the twilight of their life which is our seniors and how they treat people who are in the shadows which are the disabled individuals. And so, I think that this budget fails on all of those metrics. And specifically to African-Americans.

I mean, the irony that we are sitting here having to defend and I heard it earlier on your show Meals on Wheels which directly affects many of the old ladies who sit at the black churches and wear the big hats who have to decide whether or not Saturday - Monday through Saturday whether or not they are going to get their prescription drugs or pay their utility bills. They depend on Meals on Wheels throughout the week.

You are talking about after school programs and school lunch programs that directly affect many poor African-American children. And you know, to Paris's point about historical black colleges and universities and I appreciated the dialogue because they need to be lifted up even more. But the fact that they were not cut is not any type a success story because we needed an infusion of money into those programs, not some harmless stature.

Look. The president said what the hell do we have to lose? And as my grandmother say, you can't fall off the floor. Well, African- Americans feel as if they are on the floor doing this White House and he didn't do anything to help lift us up in this budget.

[23:55:15] LEMON: Angela, I will give you the last word here. Eight percent of African-Americans voted for this President more than for Mitt Romney. He vowed to help poor African-American communities. How do you think those voters are feeling tonight?

RYE: Well, I think they are learning about the budget right now. And so, it's incumbent upon us to tell the truth about what's in it. What's in it is a cut to the small business administration after this administration including Ben Carson today tweeted that small businesses are the backbone of this country.

This is a budget that cuts the minority business development agency. This is a budget that cuts the (INAUDIBLE) program to ensure that kids and mothers and families can stay warm during the winter. There is cuts to WIC, to SNAP programs benefits. That is a fact.

There are cuts to department of justice programs that we all know, love, and care about. There is an increase in funding and earmark of $2.6 billion for a border wall. Guess who is paying for it? He lied. It is not Mexico. It's me and you, your mama and your cousin too, period.

LEMON: I got to go. I'm out of time, guys. I'm sorry. Thank you.

That's it for us. I will see you right back here tomorrow night. Thanks for watching.