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Republican Greg Gianforte who is accused of assaulting a reporter; Montana's special election to fill the state's open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives; The President's son-in-law and right-hand man, Jared Kushner, now a focus with the FBI looking at the campaign's data analytics operation; Aired 11-12midnight ET

Aired May 25, 2017 - 23:00   ET


[23:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Here's the breaking news at the top of the hour.

Votes being counted at this moment in the race where Republican candidate allegedly body slammed a reporter.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

Here's where we stand. This is in Montana's special election to fill the state's open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Republican Greg Gianforte who is accused of assaulting a reporter last night is at 47.3 percent. Democrat, Rob Quist, at 46.9 percent. That's with 45 percent reporting. We will continue on with that.

But also our other breaking news story, a major new development in the Russia investigation, one that goes right to the heart of the first family. The President's son-in-law and right-hand man, Jared Kushner, now a focus with the FBI looking at the campaign's data analytics operation. We have got the very latest on both of these big breaking news stories this evening.

We are going to get to this one first. Votes being counted right now in Montana's special election to fill that open seat in the House of Representatives. We want to get to Kyung Lah who is live for us in Missoula, Montana.

Kyung, polls closed an hour ago. What are you hearing right now where this race stands?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are with Rob Quist, the Democrat. This is his election watch party. And we are hearing from a source who is with the campaign watching these early votes begin to trickle in. That the sense inside the campaign is that they are being cautious, that there is some concern about particular swing county, Yellowstone County here in state of Montana, that what they are looking at is Gianforte appears to be doing quite well in that swing county. But at this point, they say it's still early. Their votes are trickling in and that because of the audiotape that was released with "the Guardian" reporter that they think that this is all unpredictable. That is the word we are hearing from the campaign. They say it's going to be almost impossible to tell. They think it is going to be a very long night, Don. LEMON: Kyung, I just want to play the audio of that incident again.

This is from Greg Gianforte's assault -- alleged assault on the reporter, Ben Jacobs.


BEN JACOBS, THE GUARDIANS: In terms of the CBO score. As you know, you are waiting to make your decision about health care until you saw the bill that just came out.

GREG GIANFORTE, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE: We'll talk to you about that later.

JACOBS: Yes, there's not going to be time. I'm curious --

GIANFORTE: Speak with Shane, please. I'm sick and tired of you guys. The last guy who came in here did the same thing. Get the hell out of here.


GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here. The last guy did the same thing. You with "the Guardian"?

JACOBS: Yes, you just broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: The last guy did the same damn thing.

JACOBS: You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.

GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here.

JACOBS: You would like me to get the hell out of here, I would also like to call the police. Can I get your guys' names? He just body slammed me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to leave.


LEMON: So, Kyung, what are you hearing from Montana voters? Do you think this has had an impact on the way that they are going to -- this will turn out?

LAH: Absolutely. They believe it has had a significant impact. The voters we have spoken to. And we have spoken to them throughout the day on both sides. Whether they are a Democrat or a Republican. The Democrats are really inspired to go out there and vote. They think that this is a moral vote, that they don't want Greg Gianforte, somebody who has done this to a reporter, to represent the state.

But interestingly, the GOP voters we spoke with, they were also spurred to vote and they feel that they do want someone like that. Someone who they think will stand up for them to head to Washington.

LEMON: Kyung, we have new vote totals up on the screen now with 47 percent of the vote. In Gianforte 47.9 percent, Quist 46.3 percent. Again, 47 percent of the vote, Gianforte in the lead by a small margin there. Again, 47.9 the percent to Rob Quist's 46.3 percent.

Kyung Lah, thank you very much. She is in Missoula at Quist headquarters. We will get back to her when warranted on this broadcast.

I want to bring in now CNN's David Chalian, Gloria Borger, David Axelrod, Evan Perez also global affairs analyst David Rohde. And then via Skype, we want to talk to a person a little bit later, David Ehrlick - Darrell Ehrlick and he is with the Billings -- in Billings, Montana. We will discuss him in just a moment.

But David Chalian, how much of an impact do you think this assault charge had on today's election?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, it looks like maybe not as much as the news coverage would suggest. We won't really know the answer to that necessarily. There wasn't a lot of pre-election polling that is reliable looking and going in.

Going in before the body slam incident, this was going to be a close race. It looks like this is close, but I do want to underscore something Kyung said about that key county, Yellowstone county, that's where Billings is, Don. This is probably the greatest vote-rich county, more people who vote there than in any other county, most likely, and so it tells you a lot about what's going on.

Let me give you an example. Remember, Greg Gianforte was the Republican candidate for governor last year. He lost to the Democrat, Steve Bullock. So he just went through a statewide election there in Montana that he lost. When he lost that race to Steve Bullock, Yellowstone County was a dead heat. It was completely tied between the Democrat and the Republican. Tonight, right now, as these returns are coming in, Gianforte has a 20-point lead in Yellowstone County over the Democrat, Quist. So it's looking more like the Trump Trump- Clinton race there than the governor's race there. That bode quite well for Gianforte.

[23:05:35] LEMON: Gloria, what's your reaction to these numbers?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm -- I obviously Gianforte's lead is increasing. I think, you know, David is right. You have to look at Yellowstone. It is Yellowstone County. It is very important if a Democrat is going to win anywhere in the state. You have to either win it or you have to hold it as Steve Bullock did when he ran. And if Quist is having little appeal there, that doesn't bode well for his chances.

And I have to say that voters I have talked to in Montana, they are not thrilled with either candidate. Quist is somebody with no political experience who is a musician, who, you know, is kind of a quirky guy. And Gianforte is somebody who is quite wealthy and who has run for statewide office and lost. And so neither of them seem to have a great deal of appeal overall as, gee, this is a candidate I'm really excited about voting for. LEMON: So can I ask you something then, Gloria?


LEMON: What's better than for the Republican Party, is it better for Gianforte winning or him losing this election?

BORGER: Well --

LEMON: Considering the circumstances?

BORGER: I heard David Axelrod say before that, you know, maybe the Republicans would like to sort of lose this one so they don't have to keep talking about Gianforte's assault charges. However, I would always say that they would rather win. So I'm going to disagree with David a little bit because if the House is up for grabs, you know, I think there's a feeling you would like to have every incumbent you possibly can running for re-election. I don't, again, we just don't know.

LEMON: Yes. A win is a win and most people would like to win. But, and then I guess they'll deal with the fallout later is probably the point here.

CHALIAN: Exactly.

LEMON: Yes. Yes. You want to say something, David?

CHALIAN: I was just going say, I would argue that after you have won a congressional seat, it is probably a little easier to go out and apologized and try to get right with where speaker Ryan wants you and where your voters may want you than to take the risk of doing anything 24 hours prior to an election.

LEMON: So in that vein, David Rohde, let's listen to Republicans, how they responded to this alleged assault.


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: We didn't have a course on body slamming when I went to school. I missed that course.

REP. TRENT FRANKS (R), ARIZONA: The left has precipitated this tense confrontational approach throughout the country in recent months.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: There is no time where a physical altercation should occur with the press or with just between human beings. I'm going to let the people of Montana decide who they want as their representative. That's not our choice. That's the people of Montana who choose that.


LEMON: It's interesting that this, David, is being politicized. The left has precipitated when someone assaults someone, I mean, is that a left or a right thing? That's just -- DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: No. You know, it's clearly

an unacceptable way to deal with it whenever he is feeling --.

LEMON: Are you surprised we are not hearing more people, more Republicans come out and saying this is awful?

ROHDE: No. Because we are so deeply divided as a country. And you see that in the reactions that I think that there will be a lot of people on the, you know, conservatives, who will say, well, you know, this reporter provoked it and this is the narrative. This is the Trump narrative of this liberal press attacking him, it's a witch hunt and his base really believes that.

LEMON: Even the reporter who works there who was there who works for a conservative network is saying that this reporter did nothing to provoke it.

ROHDE: But the campaign claims that this, you know, liberal --

LEMON: We know that's a lie. That's a spin.

ROHDE: That's correct. It's false. But we have lots of people to scream about basic facts in our country right now and that's our biggest problem politically.

LEMON: Evan, President Trump repeatedly attacks the media then this happens. Do you think this is part of the Trump effect?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, it does feel like there's a trend here. I mean, just in the last couple weeks, you know, we have had a reporter here in Washington who works for "CQ Roll Call" (INAUDIBLE) who was pinned up against the wall by security simply because he dared to try to ask a question of the FCC commissioner chairman and a commissioner after a press conference.

And again, he was just simply trying to ask a question, was pinned up against the wall. And one of the commissioners later tweeted that it was simply because he was hungry and he didn't see the reporter and he had to go and he was cold.

I mean, it's kind of crazy, right. I mean, this is the kind of trend that we are seeing. And it really becomes because I think the feeling we get is because there's a tone that's been set that it's OK, it's sort of open season against the enemy of the people which apparently we are.

[23:10:10] LEMON: People, David Axelrod, are not that stupid to believe those excuses. I don't. I don't think the American public -- I think the American public is very smart and they see through the farce.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, as was mentioned earlier, we are a very polarized country and there are some who very much will accept the notion that as Evan said in the quoting the President that the media, I guess it was Steve Bannon who coined the enemy of the people phrase. You know, what strikes me, Don, is I sat down yesterday for a podcast

with a guy named Alfredo Corchado who is the Mexico City bureau chief for the "Dallas Morning News." And he was going to return to his post after being a fellow at my institute of politics. And he acknowledged that he was fearful about returning there because so many journalists have been killed in Mexico, but he felt it was his responsibility as a journalist to go back there and tell the story of what's happening there with the drug cartels and corruption in the government and so on.

And it made me think all over again just how lucky we are to have a free press in this country and one hopes that Americans value that. That understand that that is fundamental to our democracy and the fact that we have reporters -- you know, he was irritated, this congressional candidate was irritated by a reporter's question.

Well, you know what, reporters always ask irritating questions. When I was in government, I was irritated by those questions and when I was a reporter, I asked irritating questions. That's the way it goes because sometimes you ask questions people don't want to answer. And that's part of the job. And we would be a much poorer country, we wouldn't be the democracy we are if we didn't have that vibrant active press.

LEMON: We just don't ask sweet questions, endearing questions and fawn over -- that's not what reporters are supposed to do. It's supposed to be critical.

BORGER: But this was a substantive question.

LEMON: Of course.

BORGER: This wasn't even a critical question.

LEMON: It wasn't. It wasn't even an aggressive question. The CBO score had just come out.

BORGER: The most major issue in this campaign, it was a question about -- about the CBO score. And it was a legitimate question to ask and it was clear that the congressman was irritated. Maybe it has some kind of bad experience with someone from that same publication in the past, it sounded like. But what it really sounded like to me was that he wasn't prepared to answer the question which was key to his campaign. And he probably didn't want to remind people about the 23 million people who might be uninsured since Montana voters do care about it and he is frustrated because he shouldn't even be close in this race.


LEMON: So let me just say this in case people are wondering, and I speak for a number of my colleagues here. I have been in this business since 1992. Never a substantial or credible threat until this election cycle. And I'm sure it happens to -- it is, I know it's happening, to a number of my colleagues. So if you think that this hasn't started or this election cycle didn't contribute to it and Donald Trump's rhetoric didn't contribute to it, I'll say it again, you're sadly mistaken.

We will be right back.


[23:17:29] LEMON: We are back now where the votes are being counted in a tight race in Montana and the election to fill that state's open seat in the House.

And I want to get back to my panel in just a bit. But I also want to bring in now Darrell Ehrlick. He is the editor of "the Billings Gazette." And he joins us via Skype.

Darrell, I want the new numbers up since we have you here. There we go, it is 48 percent of the vote, Gianforte opening up a wider lead against Rob Quist, 48.3 percent to 45.9 percent. Your newspaper pulled your endorsement of Greg Gianforte. This was not an easy decision for you I would imagine.

DARRELL EHRLICK, EDITOR, BILLINGS GAZETTE: No, it was -- but it was the right decision and it was one that we felt very strongly about. We posted it last night, put it in the paper on Election Day.

LEMON: Yes. It was thought all along, though, he was going to win and he had the lead. I believe it is around, according to our David Chalian and correct me if I'm wrong, several out of ten votes have already been cast by the time the polls opened today?

EHRLICK: Yes, we had it slightly lower than that, but in Montana, and mail ballots in Yellowstone County, in particular, we have a strong tradition of that. And so I would imagine that at least closer to six in ten votes had already been cast in Montana. Law does not allow for changing your mind and re-voting. So it was -- I think it was already close. And Yellowstone County, as you mentioned earlier in your program, very much a Republican county.

LEMON: Yes. And so it was almost a foregone conclusion that he would win, but the race did tighten up toward the end and not - we are not sure it was because of this. It started tightening before this happened.

So, listen, I want to put -- this is what your paper writes about this. We previously supported Gianforte because he said that he was ready to listen, to compromise, to take the tough questions. Everything he said was obliterated by his surprising actions that were recorded and witnessed Wednesday. We simply cannot trust him because trust, not agreement, is essential in the role of representative and we cannot stand by him.

So, what's the reaction from the community, Ben? Do they stand by your decision?

EHRLICK: Yes. I think, you know, like all things political, it's all over the map. But I think there's some people who believe this is proof positive that we never should have endorsed him in the first place. We have other people who have been very upset with us for pulling our endorsement. But I think the majority, probably I would say at least three-quarters, if not more, were pleased with that and understood why we did it and understood that we just cannot stand by. We -- every day we send reporters to cover crime news and some of that's assault. And we just couldn't tolerate it. And we didn't want people to think that our endorsement was an endorsement of his actions.

[23:20:27] LEMON: Darrell Ehrlick, thank you very much, the editor of "the Billings Gazette" pulling its endorsement of the Republican candidate Greg Gianforte. Thank you. We appreciate your time.

We are going to keep updating you on this vote totals as we get them. And back with me now, my panel. We are going to talk about that.

But I want to move on, panel. Let's talk about the other breaking news story. The FBI looking into the President's son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Evan, why is the FBI so interested in Jared Kushner?

PEREZ: Well, Don, as we know in covering this story now for a few months, we know that there are many tentacles of this investigation, this FBI investigation in particular. And increasingly those tentacles lead to Jared Kushner. In particular, one of those tentacles has to do with the FBI's interest in whether or not the Russians in what they were trying to do in meddling with the election if they were able to in some way take a benefit from the data operation, a very well-prized operation that the Trump campaign used to win in November, whether or not they were able to piggyback on that, whether either by unwitting help from somebody inside the campaign or whether they just spied on it and whether or not they were able to use that to be able to target voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, some of the places where the President ended up having the margin of victory and being able to push news, information that was negative toward Hillary Clinton and positive toward Donald Trump.

We should add that none of this indicates that there is any allegation of wrongdoing by Jared Kushner. As a matter of fact, the FBI has not reached out to him. We don't know that he is a target or is a target of this investigation. As a matter of fact, everything indicates that he is not.

There is also some interest, Don, in his role, in his role with Michael Flynn who is the fired national security adviser. As you knows, Michael Flynn was able to -- had meetings, multiple meetings with the Russian ambassador here in Washington as well as Kushner's own involvement with his own meetings with Russia. So all of that, all of those roads, so to speak, lead back to Kushner.

LEMON: Gloria Borger, this is Jared Kushner's attorney responding in a statement saying, Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry."

How does this development complicate things for the White House right now?

BORGER: Well, look, it's not welcome news but none of this is welcome news. I also don't think it really comes as any great surprise. We know that Jared Kushner portrayed himself and was during the transition the man to see when it came to foreign policy. I think, however, his meeting, not necessarily -- not necessarily with Kislyak, because you meet with ambassadors, you meet with diplomats, I'm sure he met with diplomats from Saudi Arabia as well as from Russia.

But the Sergey Gorkov meeting is the one I think that raises eyebrows because, of course, this is somebody who is the head of VEB bank which is tied to Putin. And if you just did a little Google search on it, you would know immediately that this was probably not a person you wanted to meet with even if you wanted to establish a back channel to Putin which is what Kushner's people say because this guy, his bank was being sanctioned by the federal government here. So either he was naive or inexperienced or something else. And I think those are questions that the FBI really wants to get answers to.

LEMON: David Chalian, this isn't someone who has been fired like Michael Flynn or Paul Manafort or someone on the White House saying sort of ancillary or irrelevant like Carter Page. This is the President's top adviser and his son-in-law. How does the White House or how can they spin it? I'm sure they'll try.

CHALIAN: Yes. Well, look to see what their reaction is to this as the hours go forward. But you are right. This is a different phase of this investigation now because it is inside the White House. It's inside the oval office, basically. Both in the family circle and the closest adviser. So there is no more distancing. There is no more Sean Spicer from the podium trying to say Paul Manafort had nothing to do with the campaign and Donald Trump barely couldn't even recognize Carter Page in a lineup. None of that really flew then and now with Kushner, it's going to be impossible to do that.

The other thing, Don, that we have to watch out for here is this becomes a much bigger distraction now, much bigger. It was already a big distraction. But when the top adviser to the President is in and out of meetings all day long on various issues, in between shuttling calls with his lawyers about dealing with this, it is impossible for this not to seep in as a pretty substantial distraction in the day-to- day processing of the work in the west wing.

[23:25:22] BORGER: Well --

LEMON: I got to take a break. And I want to get -- I'll get David Rohde and David Axelrod in on the other side. So don't go anywhere, everyone. Stick with me.

When we come right back, this awkward moment between President Trump and the President of France. We will discuss.


[23:30:05] LEMON: We are back now with our breaking news. Votes are being counted right now in Montana's special election tonight. My panel is back. But I want to put them up before we discuss this and other things.

Gianforte opening up a wider lead there, 49.4 percent to Rob Quist's 44.8 percent. And that is 56 percent of the votes counted. And the votes that are in. So we will continue to follow this breaking news story.

Let's get back to the other breaking news story now and that is Russia.

David Rohde, we were talking about Jared Kushner and the FBI and his involvement in the FBI, you know, the interest in Jared Kushner now. This is a family member now. The closest person to the President now having some involvement in this or at least being accused of having some involvement.

ROHDE: Yes, what I'm curious about is how does Donald Trump personally react to this? This must infuriate him. If he is innocent, frankly, there was no conclusion, you could understand his frustration. But he is now the President. He has had a pretty good trip. It went better in Saudi Arabia and Israel. How is he going to react when he gets home and can he control himself or will we have tweet storms? Will he just be enraged that now his son-in-law is being ensnared in this thing he calls fake news?

LEMON: All right. Let's talk about, David Axelrod, this moment from today that's getting a lot of attention. President Trump pushing past the prime minister of Montenegro to be front and center with a group of world leaders. What does this moment seen around the world say about President Trump?

AXELROD: Well, it's not -- it's not a good look, obviously. And, you know, that -- you know, that's clear. I don't know in the big scheme of things what it means. I don't think it probably will play well in Montenegro. But at the end of the day, I think his remarks at NATO were probably more concerning to people around the world because there was an expectation that he would reaffirm America's commitment to Article 5 and to NATO. That didn't happen. I think some of the fears that people had going in were exacerbated by the President's remarks today.

But Don, if I could just shift for one second, because I have a question, maybe Evan knows the answer, you know, one of the reasons --

LEMON: Evan stepped away. He stepped away to get some information. So can you ask it without Evan?

AXELROD: Well, let me -- I can ask it without Evan and then maybe someone could pretend that they know the answer while we wait for Evan. But, you know, the Flynn investigation bubbled over because Flynn was talking to Kislyak and obviously intelligence was listening because Kislyak is known as a spy master.

Now, this guy, Gorkov, who Jared Kushner was talking to, is a graduate of spy school and he runs this sanctioned bank. Is there any belief that his conversations were being monitored as well? BORGER: Well, I could try and take that. We don't know for a fact,

David. But we do know, and we've reported, that there are Russian-to Russian conversations that had been intercepted in which the Russians were bragging about their relationship with Flynn. We don't know if there are Russian-to-Russian conversations that were intercepted that were bragging about other people in the administration or saying other things about people in the administration. But, you know, you have to presume that Gorkov is somebody that intelligence is always looking at, given his position at this bank and given the fact that it's a sanctioned bank. I mean, that's what spies do. They listen.

AXELROD: Yes. I would think so, too.

BORGER: They listen.

AXELROD: So my question is, could they -- could Jared Kushner have been recorded in -- could that conversation have been recorded? I don't know the answer to that.

BORGER: I have --

AXELROD: But it would be an interesting thing to find out.

LEMON: We're being a little speculative. We will ask Evan Perez if there's anything to that. And what you are wondering if he was caught up on incidental communication, is that what you're wondering, David Axelrod?

Yes, absolutely. I mean, I'm wondering if that -- if Gorkov was being monitored by intelligence because of his role at the bank with Russian intelligence close to Putin. And, yes, I mean, I have no -- I ask that without prejudice. But it does make you wonder given the other events that we have seen.

LEMON: I have got to get my friend, David Chalian, in here. We'll get - we will ask Evan and our team of investigators if that is so.

But put it, David, can you put a bow on this for us? Can you make the Russia investigation, the President now overseas, he had that tense moment, you know, where he pushes someone out of the way, interesting, then he had this very incredibly intense handshake with the newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron. So what do you think?

[23:35:00] CHALIAN: That looked like a pretty standard strong Presidential-style handshake to me. I don't think that's as quite as dramatic video as pushing the Montenegro guy to the side.

But I - but, listen, I don't know if I can put a bow on any of this, Don, because it's a sprawling mess for this White House. It's very hard to tie it up in a bow and that's the biggest problem is that even while he is overseas, he is battling these headlines back at home. And so, when he gets back home from this trip, it's not as if this foreign trip is going to be able to turn some page and Donald Trump is now going to be able to drive a daily narrative.

LEMON: David, it's not even turning the page while he is there. He is being knocked off, you know, the headlines out of the headlines by, you know, what happened in Montana last night and then every second there is something on the Russia investigation. There's a new development.

CHALIAN: Right. What our reporting is, and what we know, is that there is going to be a stepped up response machine out of the White House. So there is going to be, I would imagine, accelerated and more intense pushback to a lot of the stories involving the Russia investigation, but it's not going away at all.

LEMON: More results when we come back. Thank you, as usual, everyone. If I don't see you, have a great memorial weekend.

BORGER: You, too.

LEMON: We will be right back.


[23:40:43] LEMON: All right. Here is our breaking news tonight. The votes are being counted right now in Montana's special election. There they are, 49.4 percent for Greg Gianforte and 44.8 percent for Rob Quist. Greg Gianforte, when we got this, was very close. They are opening - he is opening up a lead now.

Let's discuss now. CNN political commentators, Peter Beinart, Symone Sanders, Jack Kingston, and Kevin Madden.

So Jack, let's start with Greg Gianforte. Although he lost three newspaper endorsements, response from the GOP, far more permissive. Where is the outrage in this for someone who's accused of committing a misdemeanor assault?

JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER RO THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, Don, let me say this. We weren't there. We don't know everything there is to know about it. But I think that the voters of Montana have weighed out everything and they decided he is the guy. You know, I do want to say, I hope Symone won't get mad at me, but if I declare him --


KINGSTON: -- the winner, would that be CNN being the first to declare his victory? I don't know.

LEMON: But Jack, in all seriousness, this is about - I mean, he was expected to win. I mean, no one will be surprised if he wins. But this is not about winning or my question was, where is the outrage for -- where's the decency here?

KINGSTON: Well, you know, I think we all know in politics these things happen. Think about 2012.


SANDERS: I have to interject. In politics it does not --


SANDERS: -- happen that a potential congressman body slams a reporter for asking about the health care bill which has an abysmal CBO score that is going to cost 23 million people --

KINGSTON: 2012, two Democrat candidates, two long-term Democrat candidates almost got in a fight in a debate and had to have a sheriff. It was Brad Sherman --

BEINART: Wait a second. Wait a second. I watched that. I watched that debate. It was nothing like the body slamming of a reporter. I can't believe you are apologizing for this.

KINGSTON: I know --

SANDERS: He is not apologizing.

LEMON: Hold on. Hold on. One at a time.

So, Jack, are you condoning this? It sounds like you are condoning it.

KINGSTON: No, I'm not.


KINGSTON: Let me tell you. Passionate people get involved in journalism. They get involved in politics. They fiercely believe in what they are fighting for. And I don't mean physically in this case, but they are out there --

BEINART: And we do mean physically in this case.

KINGSTON: Listen, I know everybody on this panel's perfect. But I have worked there. I have been in the case where you are working 15, 16 hours a day and you are tired and you are exhausted.


LEMON: No, Jack.

KINGSTON: No. I think actually the journalist was very obnoxious. I don't think he should have been body slammed.

LEMON: So what if he wasn't a journalist? What if he was a constituent? Hold on.

SANDERS: Are you telling me he asked for it? Tell me that's what you're saying.

BEINART: Of course that's what he's saying.

KINGSTON: Here's --

SANDERS: He asked for it?

KINGSTON: Here's what happens. I think that the nerves get down there. The journalist has to write a story so he has to be snarky. Let's all admit part of what journalists like to do is get under the skin of the people they are covering in hopes that they will say something outrageous which will sell a whole lot of newspapers.

LEMON: Jack, hold on. Simply stop. Jack, that's your assessment of a journalist. That's not what journalists like to do. Journalists like to get to the bottom, like to get to the truth of it. That's really all it is. That's your assessment of what you think journalists are like. I really want to hear from Kevin Madden.

KINGSTON: Don, I have been on the receiving end of snarky snippy journalists.

LEMON: Well, because someone asks you a question that you don't like, it doesn't mean its snarky or snippy. Go ahead, Kevin.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Congressman Jack Kingston, I worked with you up on the hill. We both had questions from reporters that were snarky, questions that were smart, questions that were dumb, questions we agreed with, questions we disagreed with. Did you ever body slam anybody when you were working on Capitol Hill?

KINGSTON: I never did but I'm not a big guy.

MADDEN: OK. So let's not normalize it as if it was something that happens every day.

KINGSTON: I'm not. But let's not overdramatize it. Let's not overdramatize it.

MADDEN: Don't under-dramatize it.

KINGSTON: OK. Yes, but where was the journalist outrage when people were throwing glass and chairs through storefront windows in the wake of the Trump election? Where was that outrage? There was violence, there were people being pulled out --

LEMON: Jack, you're condoning this --

MADDEN: A false equivalence here. That's the problem. That's a bit of a false equivalence, all right?

KINGSTON: OK. I'll admit --

LEMON: Jack, let him finish. Go ahead.

MADDEN: One of the things that's worrisome about this is it is a sort of, you know, a snapshot of our politics. And I think the politics of hypocrisy and tribalism which is as long as it happens to the other team, then it's bad. When it happens to my team, it's OK. You know, that is something that we should not get into a pattern of. I mean, if we are going to be able to be better than our opponents, then we ought to call ourselves out when we see somebody who happens to wear the same jersey as you or who is a Republican who does something wrong.

[23:45:27] LEMON: Can I get an Amen from the panel?

Kevin, thank you. This has nothing to do with politics. This is just common human decency that we are talking about.

BEINART: Can I say, and it is, you know, those of us -- there were those of us who were calling -- on the left politically who when Charles Murray was shouted down and attacked at Middlebury, were expected and did speak out very strongly against that because that was disgusting and this was disgusting and there's a context here, which is we all know, which is a President who has been demonizing the media day after day after day since he started running and, you know, it's really appalling.

KINGSTON: I can't believe you're going to blame this on Donald Trump.

BEINART: But you can't come out and say this is wrong.

KINGSTON: Only the left would say this is Donald Trump.


LEMON: Only you would say -- Jack, only you would say -- and partisan people would say blaming it on Donald Trump. By saying that someone contributed to the environment is not blame. That's not a test of blame. They say that they contributed to the environment that would allow something like this.

SANDERS: I think this candidate has to own his own actions. So I don't blame this solely on Donald Trump. I think this is on the part of, you know, the Republican candidate. And whether Democrat, Republican, independent, green party, whoever you are, if this was a Democratic candidate, I would definitely be calling for this person to recuse himself. If, in fact, they won this election, I would say they need to step down because this is beneath the dignity of the office. But to -- it is a fact that Donald Trump has contributed to the lack of civility in our current political climate. It is an absolute fact that Donald Trump has called the press the enemy of the people.


SANDERS: The absolute enemy. And Donald Trump has contributed to this.

LEMON: All right. Stand by, everyone. Stand by. We got another segment. Hold on, Jack. Hold on. I got to get the number up then I got to get to a break and then we will come back and we will continue our discussion.

Greg Gianforte, 49.9 percent, Rob Quist, 44.2 percent, 56 percent of the vote in right now. He is opening up a bigger lead.

We will continue our conversation on the other side of this break. We will be right back.


[23:51:42] LEMON: All right. We are back now with my panel, Peter Beinart, Symone Sanders, Kevin Madden and Jack Kingston.

I'm surprised Jack did not have more sympathy for fellow glass of ware (ph) because we know health care is a big issue right now, Jack. And glasses are really expensive. So listen, though.


LEMON: I want to say this. Jack, you were saying we don't have all the information here. We don't know exactly what happened but there were people there. One of them was a Fox News reporter and a Fox news crew and here is what she said went down.


ALICIA ACUNA, FOX NEWS REPORTER: I was standing about from two, three feet from Gianforte and just having a conversation about polls and when Ben Jacobs, the reporter from "the Guardian" walked in with his audio recorder, asked the question about CBO report. And Gianforte pushed back and said he will get you later. And then Jacobs came again with a question saying, you know, he want to get something now. And Gianforte then told him to just talk to his press guy, Shane. But then immediately after grabbed him with both hands, top of the body, both sides of the neck, pulled him and then slammed him to the ground, gone on top of him and started punching him about two or three times, started screaming I'm sick and tired of this, that kind of thing. And Ben Jacobs said and got away from him kind of scrambled away from him. He was on his knees, picked up his glasses and you heard on the tape said you broke my glasses and that is where it happened from there.


LEMON: So Jack, you are OK with that?

KINGSTON: I could say if that description was accurate, then Jacobs, and your own reporting hasn't get enough than you broke my glasses. He wasn't coughing.

BEINART: He went to the hospital.

KINGSTON: Yes. Well, I'm sure he did for his lawsuit and for his complaint.


KINGSTON: So let me say this. I'm just saying that I think it is overdramatized. I don't think he shouldn't been hit. I do want to point out that there was a fist-fighting in Alabama legislation in 2011.

BEINART: What the heck does that have to do with anything?

KINGSTON: I think it has to do with a lot. And it also happened in California in 2011 and here is. SANDERS: It's absolutely abysmal.

KINGSTON: You guys were saying this is all because of Donald Trump during the break.

LEMON: Nobody said it was all because of Donald Trump. You are putting the words in everyone's mouth. Everyone is saying here that he contributed to this environment of incivility.

KINGSTON: That's no way.

BEINART: There is no way. First of all.

KINGSTON: What about the press's role in this.

SANDERS: The NATO members this morning.

BEINART: He encouraged people and (INAUDIBLE) a crowd to assault during the campaign. Have you forgotten that?

LEMON: Kevin --


LEMON: Kevin help us out Kevin. As I always count of Kevin to be the voice of reason. Kevin, can you please --.

MADDEN: I wish I could help you out here, Don. I don't think we can convince the un-convincible. So I don't think there is anything we can say that will change Jack Kingston's mind and that's unfortunate. But look. What I would say to Jack --.

LEMON: What about the rest? Peter Beinart, you said they would welcome him.

BEINART: Well, what I would say to jack is Congressman Kingston is the audiotape is damning. I mean, it is obvious that there was something there.

LEMON: Let him finish, Jack.

BEINART: It's OK to say at a mistake was made. He reacted in the wrong way and move on. I mean it's OK to say that.

[23:55:02] KINGSTON: Well, you know what I have said he was wrong in doing that. I did say that. But the people of Montana have say we are looking beyond that. And not only did he win tonight but he won decisively and they voted in Montana.


KINGSTON: Because somebody -- because someone streets eye go ahead.

BEINART: This is the same thing we hear again and again with Donald Trump. Right.

KINGSTON: Again Donald Trump what does he have to do with this.

BEINART: Just because someone wins votes doesn't mean their behavior is acceptable.

SANDERS: I would agree the American people have many things about history that are not totally acceptable.

LEMON: Kevin, next time, please jump in and be more of a voice of reason here.

That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I will see you back here next week.

Our live coverage continues with John Vause and Isha Sesay in Los Angeles.