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House Democrats Depending More Information Trip Flynn Made in 2015; Is Special Election in Georgia A Referendum on President Trump?; Chaos in Trump White House Leaves Administration Struggling to Fill Key Positions. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired June 19, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news. Another overseas trip that Michael Flynn never quite got around to disclosing.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
House Democrats depending more information about a trip Flynn made in 2015, one that, surprise, might have something to do with rhymes with Russia. More on that in just a minute.
Plus, voters getting set to go to the polls in the most expensive congressional election ever. Why a lot of people are saying the special election in Georgia is really a referendum on President Trump. We will have first word on tomorrow's headlines for you on that.
And inside the White House bunker, a frustrated agitated President worried, staffers are worried there. No wonder some Republicans say they are afraid to take jobs in the Trump administration.
Let's get right to CNN's Jim Sciutto with the latest on Michael Flynn.
Jim, breaking news tonight on the former national security adviser's overseas trips. What can you tell us?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The ranking members both the Democrats - breaking Democrats of both the House oversight and House foreign affairs committee writing a letter to Flynn's lawyer asking about a trip in the summer of 2015 as well as a later trip in October of 2015, both to Saudi Arabia. They say possibly to help negotiate a deal between Saudi Arabia and Russia for building nuclear power plants. Why did General Flynn not disclose the first trip on a security clearance form as he is required to do by law and give no details on the second trip, again, that kind of detail is required when you're applying for security clearance? This one as General Flynn was coming into the Trump administration as Mr. Trump's national security adviser.
In addition to that, on that security clearance form, he did not list any meetings with foreign officials for the previous seven years. His life as a public official again something that's required by law to be in that form. So they have written to General Flynn asking for details on this. I contacted Flynn's lawyer today. He would not comment on the letter but he did confirm to me that they have received the letter from the House. LEMON: And how does this connect back to the Russia investigation,
SCIUTTO: Well, on the simple level, it connects back though the trip was to Saudi Arabia, it was the Democrats. This is Elijah Cumming, ranking Democrat on the House oversight committee, and Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee because he went to Saudi Arabia to discuss a deal with Russia between Saudi Arabia and Russia to build nuclear power plants. That's one connection.
Bigger picture, what the Democrats are saying that this is about a pattern here. Because it's not the first time that General Flynn has failed to disclose something that's material. You will remember and we have talked about this on the air before, Don, that Flynn did not disclose foreign payments, payments from the Russian government for a speech he gave there in 2015, that famous picture we have seen of him sitting at that banquet table next to Vladimir Putin. He took Russian money for that. He didn't disclose it.
And then there were those key conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the transition that he did not disclose even to the vice President Pence which led to his being fired as national security adviser. So for Democrats on the committee, they are investigating this. They are looking at a pattern here of nondisclosure and why the nondisclosure. Still an unanswered question at this point.
LEMON: That's a big question. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.
SCIUTTO: Thank you.
LEMON: And here to discuss all of this CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston, political analysts Kirsten Powers and David Drucker.
Hello to all of you. So happy to have you on.
Kirsten, what's your reaction to this new Flynn news.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's a big deal, you know? And it does fit with a pattern and you have to always ask the question, when somebody fails to mention something, is it oversight or is it intentional?
And you know, look, you forget some things I guess, but this seems like a pretty major thing to forget considering the investigation that's going on. And you don't forget everything. And it seem -- there seems to be a real pattern not just with Flynn but with other people of really just having no memory of things that are associated with Russia.
LEMON: There's a lot of forgetting going on.
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: A lot of forgetting. And it's just another reminder of what a troublesome figure Michael Flynn has been for President Trump and his administration, so much of this Russia business for him has been about Flynn and Flynn's connections.
LEMON: How did he ever get past the front door?
DRUCKER: Well, I think part of it is that he earned Donald Trump's trust early on and he was one of his earliest foreign policy advisers, military advisers, and that he morphed into a campaign surrogate. And you know, it's a very odd thing in campaign politics to have as your sort of public entertaining surrogate somebody who speaks for you in political terms to also be one of your close policy advisers especially on something so important as military policy and foreign policy. And I just find it so interesting that of all the people that Trump defends and tries to protect, it's Michael Flynn when Michael Flynn whether through oversight or any other reason has caused him more problems than anybody else I can think of.
[23:05:06] LEMON: Mark Preston, I think David is right on that. And part of the reason why all of this is going on, why representative Elijah Cummings and Eliot Engel also asked for more information about this 2015 trip is because the hotel Flynn says he stayed in does not exist. There is no record of a travel companion he took with him. I mean, it is just -- it gets worse and worse and worse.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, it gets worse and worse and worse. And as we discussed these investigations, these investigations can going in so many different directions, you know. By looking into lieutenant General Flynn and his actions during the campaign, that could potentially lead, I'm not saying it is going to, but could lead you down another road that might ensnare somebody else on the campaign, somebody very high up in the campaign.
So that is why it is so problematic right now for President Trump who should be you know, I would say is trying to but I don't necessarily believe it, trying to focus on his policy agenda. He seems so consumed by this investigation then he isn't trying to move forward on major policy issues in trying to work with the special counsel and trying to work with Congress to try to clean this all up.
But David is right. This really does, if you're going to look at the nucleus of Russia, you got to start with lieutenant General Flynn.
LEMON: OK. I want to move now because I have a short time with you guys and I want to talk about what's happening in Georgia. This election in Georgia between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel. It is the most expensive in congressional history.
Kirsten, that is because what it is a referendum - he has referendum on the White House. It may be a sign of the 2018 midterm elections, correct?
POWERS: Yes. Well, I do think it is (INAUDIBLE) I think it is worth saying a lot of times looking at these special elections are not necessarily predictive. But I think what it could tell us is at least in the current environment, is there a backlash against Trump because it is a Republican district. It's been a Republican district for a long time.
And so you know, the question is, Trump narrowly won it but it still has been a Republican district. And thus far, Republicans have paid no credible price for Donald Trump's rhetoric, his low approval ratings. And the question is, will there be some sort of backlash in particular looking at like will there it be Republican crossover voting for the Democrat will be something really interesting to watch.
LEMON: I'm looking at it because he has tweeted about - here it is. He has tweeted about it a couple of times. If you can put the President's tweets up. And I will just read them off the screen. Karen Handel's opponent is in Georgia can't even vote in the district he wants to represent. I'm reading this off the screen. It's a very small monitor here. Karen Handel's opponent (INAUDIBLE). But he misspelled her name and then he spelled her name correctly but, you know.
DRUCKER: These things happen when you are tweeting at all hours of the day and night. The interesting thing about this race is that it is unusual in that.
LEMON: But he is paying attention.
DRUCKER: Of course, he is paying attention. Look, he hosted a fund- raiser for Karen Handel down in Atlanta, raised her $750,000. He is trying to be helpful where he can. But this is a district that it is not that high on President Trump. It's been in Republican hands for 40 years. Tom Price, he held in human service as secretary and congressman was re-elected with more than 60 percent of the vote. Trump won the district over Hillary Clinton by 1.5 points. This is the kind of district Democrats have to win next year if they have any chance of winning back the house.
LEMON: I'm glad you said that. Because Mark, if they don't win, they don't have a good record now in these special elections. Is it more of a must win for Democrats or for the White House or both?
PRESTON: Look, for both. And I will do this really quickly. They have already lost Kansas. They have already lost Montana. They are very likely now to lose South Carolina tomorrow, that being the Democrats.
All the focus has been on this race. I do think if Democrats do win this, there is going to be a false hope of my God, now that we can go win all across the country. Meaning that, you know, that's a positive.
The problem with that is, is that that will cause donors to have to dig even deep into their pockets right now in the amount of money going into this race is not going to go into every competitive house race across the country. That is going to be very difficult.
So look, I think the take away tomorrow is don't read too much into it. Just try to read enough into it to see if there's a trend down the road.
POWERS: Yes. I was going to say that other thing is this district's not really representative of most districts in the country. It's one of the top 15 most educated districts in the entire country. So that's not necessarily going to translate into every district in the country.
LEMON: It's not just -- let's talk about Brad Carver, GOP chairman for Georgia's 11th congressional district said this to the "Washington Post." And if you guys can put this is - I tell you, it's not just a super Pac, right? A super Pac.
He says, I'll tell you what, I think the shootings, so we are talking about the shootings because this has gotten completely ugly because there's an ad out. Let's take that down. Let's explain this first. There's an ad out. David, you have been covering this. There is an ad out now that is sort of tying Jon Ossoff to what happened in with the shooting last week in Washington, D.C.
[23:10:07] DRUCKER: Yes.
LEMON: Or in the Washington area. And it's become very ugly. And then here is Brad Carver, GOP chairman in Georgia saying I will tell you what, I think the shooting is going to win this election for us because moderates and independents in this district are tired of the left wing extremism. I get that there's extremists on both sides but we are not seeing them. Then he apologized later. What do you think? This is - I mean, it's gotten really ugly. And you have recently been down there.
DRUCKER: Yes. Look, I talk to Republicans and Democrats about this ad. They all want it taken down. They all to go away. I don't think anybody likes talking about the suggestion that what happened last week is going to drive votes. But they don't know. It's possible it could. There's just no data to tell them either way. That's from Democrats and Republicans that I talk to.
Now look, the thing about this whole topic when talking about this race is this race has been so saturated with field operatives and volunteers. They have scraped the every nook and cranny for voters. And I just don't know with so much attention that you are really going to move this race either way. I mean, at this point, it's like a grudge match for turnout and at the end of the day, if Jon Ossoff doesn't get about 15 percent of the Republican vote, he doesn't win. Again, that's just what this thing boils down to.
LEMON: So -- the reason I said the super Pac, the ad was a super Pac. It is like a third party ad. And even the Republican Party condemned it there, as well. But it wasn't just a super Pac. He is the GOP chairman there.
But I do want to give him, you know, credit for saying politics, human tragedy and violence don't mix. I should have not said what I said. I apologize for my remarks. Brad Carver was the eleventh district chairman of the Georgia Republican Party.
So there you and we will be following all this tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Thank you, everyone.
When we come back, more on the very tight race in Georgia. What it could mean for President Trump's agenda.
[23:16:36] LEMON: Voters in Georgia heading to the polls in a matter of hours in a special congressional election that's turning ugly. Democrat Jon Ossoff battling Republican Karen Handel for the House seat held by Tom Price before he joined the Trump administration.
Here to discuss, CNN political commentator Mike Shields. He is a political consultant and Karen Handel is one of his clients, by the way. Also Neera Tanden is with us, the former policy director for Hillary Clinton.
Good evening to both of you.
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN DELEGATE ANALYST: Good evening.
LEMON: Mike, since I mentioned that Karen Handel is your client, I want to get your reaction to this anti-Ossoff ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police brutality rampant. When the so-called black committeeman came around election time, we would all line up and vote the straight democratic ticket. Sell our souls for a Christmas turkey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's not sell out for another Christmas turkey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So great America alliance which is a pro-Trump non-profit group is running the ad. But they don't mention that the President is a former President Obama is actually quoting someone else who is speaking about the black community and Chicago politics before the early 1980s, basically he is playing a character reading as it in character there.
President Obama's spokesperson responded quote "this spot is a fraudulent use of President Obama's voice. It is a shameful indefensible tactic." Do you think it's a fair ad?
SHIELDS: No, I don't and the campaign doesn't either. And in fact, the other ad you were just talking about earlier has been disavowed by Karen Handel. And she wasn't asked about the eleventh district chairman's comments. But her comments there would apply as well. These are all inappropriate things to do.
Look. I think one of the things that is key to remember here is that there is going to be close to $50 million being spent on this election. The airwaves have been blanketed with millions of dollars of television. The other ad you talked about and this one are hardly pinpricks in terms of how big their buys are. I don't really think that the other add you talked about I think that is $12,000 behind us. It cost $600,000 a week to run a TV ad in Atlanta.
So these are things that are kind of floating around twitter and the internet but they are not really having an impact on this race. And clearly, that's an inappropriate thing to do. Karen doesn't need it. She is doing very well this election. That's the kind of help she doesn't want or need. There is no reason to inappropriately change the former President's words to try and score some kind of cheap political point. And so she has disavowed those ads.
LEMON: Representative John Lewis compares Ossoff, Neera by the way, his former intern, to JFK. Do you agree with that if he wins tomorrow? Do you think he is going to have a big impact on the Democratic Party?
NEERA TANDEN, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR FOR HILLARY CLINTON: I think a lot of my former interns are like JFK. Look, I think Jon Ossoff has done a great job in this campaign. This district just vetted for Tom Price by 60 to 40. He is in a neck and neck race with Karen Handel. And this district, just to be clear for viewers, there are 47 districts that are more Democratic than this district in which we are again, neck and neck. There is only a 24-House seat majority.
So I'm proud of the race that Jon Ossoff has run. He has got a lot of enthusiasm. He is attracting Republicans to vote for him. And Democrats, liberal Democrats as well as Republicans. He has created a big coalition.
LEMON: So what are you saying?
TANDEN: And I would say that there are -- there are disgusting ads on the air and they are only one-sided. The attacks this manufactured ad with the President's voice, President Obama's voice, the disgusting ad connected to last week's shooting, the statements people are making, those aren't happening in Jon Ossoff's campaign. He is running a positive campaign about the people in the district.
LEMON: Listen, Neera, I'm not there. I'm not in Georgia so I don't know what ads are on the air.
TANDEN: You can check.
LEMON: I take your word for that. But you were comparing it, you know, to Tom Price and Ossoff and Handel. What are you trying to say that -- are you setting up that Ossoff may not win if he comes close enough, that's a big enough win?
TANDEN: No. Look. I think he is going to win. But like I think the reality is it, why is Jackie Rosen choosing to run against Heller tonight? Senator Heller of Nevada? It's a prime pickup opportunity. One of the people Democrats were trying to recruit. I think people see this environment in which Jon Ossoff is doing really well and I hope he wins. And I think he will win tomorrow because, you know, he has got a lot of enthusiasm. But I think the overall environment has been one in which Donald Trump
is dragging down Republicans all across this country.
[23:20:15] LEMON: But Neera, you say that. But, you know, the last I think three special elections that we have covered here last time.
LEMON: The Democrats lost.
TANDEN: Yes, those are 70-30 districts, 60/40 districts. This is a district that is a plus 20 Republican district. And it is a neck and neck.
SHIELDS: That's not true.
TANDEN: It is 60/40.
SHIELDS: That is a non-fact fact you just gave.
TANDEN: How much did Tom Price win by?
SHIELDS: The spin on the other side --
LEMON: Go ahead Mike. Let him answer. Go ahead, Mike.
TANDEN: How much did Tom Price win by?
SHIELDS: Tom Price really almost ran unopposed. He got over 60 percent of the vote. But President Trump won the district by one point. And I think it is a much closer district, obviously.
TANDEN: Are we having a congressional election or a Presidential?
SHIELDS: Sure. Look. I tell you what, let me tell you the real reason why this race has gotten close. It is because national liberals like my colleague here on the air has supported Jon Ossoff to the tune of $25 million, 97 percent of the money that he has raised.
TANDEN: $20 million of super Pac money supporting her.
LEMON: One at a time. One at a time, please.
SHIELDS: Jon Ossoff doesn't live in this district. Here is what this is really a sign of. This is not a reference among the president. This is a sign that if you are a young person, a wealthy person and you go work in Congress for five years, you can move back to a district and run if you get $25 million sent to you from being part of the resistance campaign.
LEMON: OK. But if it's not.
SHIELDS: You can run without mentioning President Trump's name one throughout the entire campaign.
LEMON: Mike, let me jump in here because we have short time. Let me jump in here. You say that it's not important. It's not a referendum.
Hold on, both of you please, stop, stop, stop.
TANDEN: Career politician.
LEMON: OK. Let me tell you this you, guys. When I need to get in, let me in or I'm going to end the segment. It doesn't do any good when I both of you talk over each other, when you don't listen to the moderator. The people at home don't get anything out of it. I'm here to ask questions and to moderate this because I'm trying to get some answers and I'm trying help the people at home come to some understanding about what's going on, OK? So will you please do that?
LEMON: OK, great. Thank you.
So Mike, you say that this is not a referendum on the President. But the President has tweeted about this a number of times just today. You can put the tweets up. So you are saying that everybody in Georgia should be excited about it or they shouldn't be excited about it. Then why is the President excited about it then?
SHIELDS: Well, it's a Republican seat. He wants another person to help pass legislation in the Congress. And Karen has had the President down. She is the vice President down. She had two of his cabinet secretaries down this weekend.
But look, I have worked in House campaigns for most of my career. And the 2010 cycle when we picked up 63 seats and won the House, we lost three special elections earlier on. These are localized elections. And the really dominant issue in this election is that national money has poured into this district to the tune of, it will be the most expensive house race.
LEMON: $50 million.
SHIELDS: Close to $50 million, $25 million of it straight into the coffers of Jon Ossoff who is running as a member of the resistance to try and gin up support. And so, that is where all this money came from.
LEMON: We let Neera respond to that.
LEMON: Go ahead, Neera.
TANDEN: There's I just need to say, there is $20 -- from your own numbers, there's $20 million, $25 million in super Pac money defending Karen Handel. That's not money she is raising in her district.
SHIELDS: On both sides. TANDEN: No, $25 million. She has raised like over $20 million from
super Pacs coming in national super Pacs coming in to defend her. That's not - you are right. That's corporate money. That's not grassroots money. It's national corporate money.
And you know, you are right. Jon Ossoff is new to politics. He is not a career politician. He hasn't run for six different races like Karen Handel has. This is her sixth time at bat for this. She is a career politician. He is new. That is going to be the choice tomorrow.
LEMON: All right, that is the last word. Thank you all. I appreciate it. Thank you both.
SHIELDS: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: Thank you.
When we come right back, President Trump described as agitated exhausted and frustrated. Why some Republicans say they are afraid to work for this White House.
[23:28:31] LEMON: Chaos in the Trump White House leaving administration struggling to fill key positions.
Let's discuss now CNN political analyst Abby Phillip and Tara Palmeri are here.
Hello to both of you. Thank you for staying up late.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The thanks for having us, Don.
LEMON: Beautifully said it.
Abby, you first. You write in the "Washington Post" about the Trump administration struggling to fill vacate top government roles. The "Post" spoke to 27 people to assess what is becoming a debilitating factor in recruiting political appointees. And here is what you write.
The Republicans say they are turning down job offers to work for a chief executive whose volatile temperament makes them nervous. They are asking headhunters if their reputations could suffer permanent damage. I mean, it's a little late for that, but fill us in.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, a lot of people when they decide to take a government job in an administration especially if they want to come into the White House, it's about sacrificing short-term pain, time with your family, working crazy hours for a potential resume boost in the future. And one of the things that we heard over and over again from people was that they are not sure that that resume boost factor is there in this White House. They are concerned about the Russia probe. They are concerned about a boss who routinely throws his employees under the bus. Publicly on twitter and in interviews, they are concerned about a boss who has acknowledged.
LEMON: Are they worried about legal bills?
PHILLIP: Yes, they are concerned about legal bills. I mean, many of these people are staring down the prospect, having nothing to do potentially was Russia but still staring down the prospect of massive six-figure legal bills as a result of the fact that there are three ongoing investigations into criminality here in this White House. It's a huge problem for them.
[23:30:18] LEMON: So Tara, "Politico" keeps their own version of the White House visitor logs. It keeps track of who gets the most face- time with the President and when. And you wrote a great piece detailing how CIA director Mike Pompeo, secretary of state Rex Tillerson and defense secretary James Mattis spend the most time at the White House meeting with President Trump.
And you write, senior aides say Trump demands face-time with his appointees in part because he doesn't trust bureaucrats who do the day to day work of the federal government. The President shuns the, as tools of what he often refers to as the deep state, OK, and then blames them for frequent unflattering news stories coming from his White House.
Oh, boy. It sounds like certain news program I watch, but explain that, please.
TARA PALMERI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, President Trump really appreciates time with the principals. And he actually is very proud of some of the members of his cabinet. He introduces them to people as his killers. He says, you know, Rex Tillerson ran the biggest company in the world and now he runs my state department. He goes my Wilbur. When you say his name on Wall Street, everyone knows who he is. All you have to say is Wilbur.
He is very proud of the fact that he has this high net-worth individuals and generals who have, you know, four stars working for him. And he likes to have them around him. Now, some cabinet secretaries have higher status with the President than others. But at the end of the day, they are all pining to be close to him because in a way, the way he treats his staff which is like a shuffling of who is up, who is down, he sort of does the same thing with his cabinet secretaries. So they are all sorts of trying to get close to him.
Now, senior staffers are sort of complaining that cabinet secretaries are literally coming in and out of the oval office all the time. One, White House official joked to me Wilbur basically lives here. Scott Pruitt eats lunch at the White House mess hall all the time just to be close to the President.
So you know, they are sort of this feeling that Trump likes to be close to the principals. Pompeo, CIA director, he literally spends three hours of his day coming from Langley to the White House to give a briefing and then leaving. Traditionally, it would just be a working level briefer that would do that. But Trump doesn't trust these people. He believes he is getting burned by the intelligence community. And he doesn't want leakers around him and this extends to all the cabinets.
LEMON: Interesting. Yes, interesting. Wow. It's a little bit -- I would hate to qualify it, but it sounds a little bit like paranoia. Am I --
PALMERI: I would say that is right, I mean. But it's not completely unfounded in the sense that there have been a lot of leaks in this White House especially coming from law enforcement and intelligence. I know that in the beginning I reported that he wouldn't even let specialists in certain regions of the world sit in on him when he was talking to foreign leaders from the national security council because he didn't want them near him able to pass note and give him some tips during the phone calls. But they were sitting in the situation room the whole time listening in, but he just didn't want him in his eyesight.
LEMON: OK. I never thought about this. Excuse me. But I had never heard Jared Kushner's voice before. So the President's son-in-law, his top adviser Jared Kushner speaking for the first time in months at an event with technology leaders. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT: We are here to improve the day-to-day lives of the average citizen. That's a core promise and we are keeping it. Together, we will unleash the creativity of the private sector to provide citizen services in a way that has never happened before. We will foster a new set of startups focused on gov-tech and be the global leader in the field making government more transparent and responsive to citizens' needs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Abby, he has been called President Trump's secretary of everything. So why do you think -- we rarely hear from him.
PHILLIP: Well, he is pretty busy. I mean, he is running a lot of things in this White House. He is in a lot of meetings.
LEMON: He is running the world.
PHILLIP: He is doing a lot of stuff. But I also think that he likes the idea of not being the guy that you see every day. And it's not actually a bad thing because I think he understand something really important about Trump which is that if you -- if your profile starts to creep up bigger than the boss, he will start to get very irritated with you.
Remember, the other day he said about Jared. He is starting to get more famous than me. It is very risky to be out front in this White House with this boss. So you have Jared Kushner keeping a fairly low profile. And also, but also maintaining a really broad swathe of power throughout the federal government.
LEMON: Yes, I love -- my favorite thing was like he is busy doing a lot of stuff, right? He is the secretary. PALMERI: Middle East. G-20.
LEMON: Yes, a lot of stuff. Thank you, I appreciate it.
When we come back, President Trump fails to personally address the London mosque attack and critics say his silence speaks volumes.
[23:39:36] LEMON: One man died and ten people were injured when a driver in London plowed his van into a group outside a mosque in an early morning terror attack. But so far, President Trump has not condemned it.
Joining me now Dean Obedallah, the host of Sirius XM's "it's a Dean Obedallah" show. CNN political commentator Margaret Hoover and Scott Jennings is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush.
Good evening to all of you.
Dean Obedallah, I'm going to start with you because President Trump has yet to take to twitter to condemn this terrors attack in London by a white man against Muslim. And you write in the "Daily Beast, you say Muslim lives only matter to Trump when he can demonize us for political gain. And to Trump, we Muslims were simply props for his hateful campaign platform, not fellow Americans." Explain that.
DEAN OBEDALLAH, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Sure. That's how we feel on Muslim. That's how our community feels.
Donald Trump ginned up fear of us from day one of his campaign, things like thousands of Muslims cheered in New Jersey on 9/11 which Rudy Giuliani said it wasn't true. To Islam hates us, to wanting to ban us, every Muslim, Don, is sort banning them from coming to this country.
After the London bridge attack three weeks ago, Donald Trump tweeted that next morning three times that next morning about we have to get smart, goes after the mayor of London who is a Muslim. It is not a coincidence. After this attack, zero.
It's similar thing in Portland. There was a white supremacist terrorist attack. Three days later finally the potus official account responded. Donald Trump, he will demonize us when he helps us but he silent when we are talked.
[23:41:01] LEMON: But Sean Spicer said today that the White House is sending thoughts and prayers to the victims. But we haven't personally heard from the President. And you say the twitter account, regardless of what the White House or administration, but the twitter account is Donald Trump.
OBEDALLAH: It is. It also sends a message to his followers I think that I'm concerned about Muslims.
LEMON: Here's what's important to me. OBEDALLAH: Right. And I think that plays against his base. I think
it would be so important, the President to be the President of all Americans, to stand up and do this. Also keep in mind one other thing. This is Ramadan. Every President since the mid-'90s have Ramadan dinner. It starts at the White House. This is the first administration that is not had it. It keeps sending the message, we are not part of fabric of this country.
LEMON: Margaret, shouldn't the President be more outspoken with when it comes to these issues, he is? As Dean says, when it is, you know, a Muslim attack in a different way. So should he be more outspoken?
MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, there is no question Scott Jennings and I work for a different kind of Republican President, one that in the day after 9/11 within days was at a mosque in Washington, D.C. saying Islam is a religion of peace.
Many people who support Donald Trump disagree with that statement, but the point that Dean made is correct. The President is the President of all Americans. And there is a minority group, Muslims in this country who feel totally justifiably persecuted. And it is upon the President really does fall at his lap to speak out against all forms of terrorism, not just terrorism that is perpetrated by Islamist jihadists.
LEMON: So Scott, you say that you are forgiving about what President Trump tweet because you say there is no criteria to trigger a presidential tweet. But he is quick to tweet when Islamist terrorists attack the innocent. But he seems to have a different standard when it comes to white male bigoted terrorists or white male bigoted terrorist targeting innocent Muslims. Why don't we see the same kind of outrage over these attacks?
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I can't speak to why the President chooses to tweet on any given day or not. But I would say this. We tend to judge Presidential behavior based on what past Presidents did. And we are really in uncharted waters here. You know, the previous President had twitter but didn't use it as aggressively as President Trump does. He uses it more aggressively, obviously, than most Americans. I mean, the power that he has with twitter is really remarkable. But there is no Presidential template for it.
I would say that Ivanka Trump tweeted about the attack. And that is not only a high level White House official but also the President's daughter. But she is also someone who has a tremendous amount of influence.
LEMON: Scott, she is not the President. Hold on, Scott. If she has a tremendous amount of influence over the President, why doesn't she just tell her father, dad, can you send out a statement about this attack and condemn it? Not that other Presidents haven't done this in the past. But simply because it is the right thing to do.
JENNINGS: I think what we are going to find over the next three plus years of this presidency is every single day, there are going to be things that happen in this world that people want the President to tweet about. He doesn't do it and they will be mad. And there will be things he tweets about that they wish he didn't, and other people will be mad. We are really writing the rules of presidential twitter as we go along here. And I think it is going to be virtually impossible for Donald Trump to please everybody with --.
LEMON: Scott, hold on.
HOOVER: This isn't about a new technology.
LEMON: Do we have to write the rules of dignity, of decency? Do we have to rewrite the rules of decency, Scott?
JENNINGS: I'm not disagreeing with the points that were made. Do I think a Presidential tweet here would be a nice gesture? Absolutely, 100 percent I do. But I want to say that I think that the President is going every single day to tweet some things that you don't like and he is not going to not tweet things that we don't like. And at the end of four years, we may look back on this and say, well, you know, maybe we shouldn't use twitter as much or maybe we should do more aggressively.
LEMON: All right, I got you. Margaret, go ahead. Sorry, I cut you off.
HOOVER: No, this isn't about a new medium or new way of communicating with people. It's what he is saying when he is communicating. He has any way of communicating. But what he should say is he should stand up for the victims of all terrorism so that it's sort of equally applied. And think about the moral authority he would have. If - I mean, this is sort of this, he could have more moral authority and what he hopes to do in terms of prosecuting radical Islamism if he were to sort of evenly apply his sympathies to all Americans and to all victims of terrorism.
[23:45:22] LEMON: Dean?
OBEDALLAH: It is an extremely valid point.
OBEDALLAH: Hold on one second. If Donald Trump - one second. If Donald Trump is actually open to having other tweets, there's another one he could send out. Last week on Wednesday, Robert Darget (ph) was sentenced to 19 years and ten months in federal prison for what? They are plotting to kill Muslim Americans in New York state. It would have been great if would come out he said that's wrong. If Robert Darget (ph) was a Muslim planning to kill Christians, I am sure Donald Trump would have tweeted about it.
LEMON: Scott, can I get your response before we go to the break because that is it. That is a good point. I mean, you basically just said what Margaret said that if he applied it evenly, then it may have more impact.
OBEDALLAH: It would have more impact.
LEMON: He is a Trump supporter. OBEDALLAH: Right.
LEMON: He says maybe he should be more. How do you feel about that?
OBEDALLAH: He is certainly got a long way to get there. The reality is this shouldn't be a political issue. It should be I stand against terrorism if it is white wing terrorists, Christian terrorist, Muslim terrorist, any terrorist, I stand against - let's hear strong voice. The President is the President of all people, not just your base. It's about time he started pivoting.
LEMON: OK, standby everyone. Stick around. When we come back, Democrats protesting on Senate floor trying to pressure Republicans into revealing details of their so far secret health care plan.
[23:50:24] LEMON: Let's get you live to the Senate floor. There we go. Bob Casey on the Senate floor now. Democrats staging a Senate slowdown tonight to protest the Republicans' closed door process to gut Obamacare. Minority leader Chuck Schumer has some thoughts on why the GOP is keeping their bill under wraps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: Why are my Republican friends engaging in this farce of a legislative process? Why are Republicans willing to engage in such blatant hypocrisy, contradicting all the things they have said about good procedure in the Senate? What are they afraid of? There is only one reason why Republicans are doing this. They are ashamed of their bill. The Republicans are writing their health care bill under the cover of darkness because they are ashamed of it. Plain and simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Dean, Margaret and Scott are back.
Margaret, I'm going to start with you. The fact that the Senate bill is being crafted in secret by a small group of Republican senators, I mean, we have no idea what exactly is in it. Come on, Margaret. You and I were here back - remember 2009. We had this conversation in reverse in 2009 and 2010.
HOOVER: That's precisely -- let's start this conversation. I just can't help but choke a little in my throat when Chuck Schumer is lecturing me about hypocrisy in crafting this bill. I mean, let's recall that it was in 2009 when Democrats did the exact same thing.
Is it -- is there gambling in Casablanca? No. OK. Sure. Is the Republican sort of group of whatever they are, 14 putting together this bill semi-privately or in secret? Sure. But is it going to the entire process going to be secretive and will there be no transparency at all? No. Of course not.
This is part of the sausage making. I'm sure Democrats would prefer it be wide out in the open so they could kill it easier. There is a bit of a tango and a dance. We also basically know what's in the bill, right? We know that the Republican House has passed something that was hugely problematic, that the Senate is trying to fix. It mostly deals with how to handle people who have lost coverage through Medicaid and how to get them enough subsidies so that they can buy insurance --
LEMON: But Margaret, I want to get the other guys in. Listen, and it's very unpopular. But Dean is shaking his head over here going it's not like 2009, 2010. What's not? Why is it not?
OBEDALLAH: It's not because as I saw Senator Markley earlier today talk about they had 25 days of debate on the Senate floor, 25 days. There were 300 amendments offered to the bill, 100 by Republicans that were --
HOOVER: At end of the process, Dean. Not the beginning of the process.
OBEDALLAH: At beginning of the process they had health care forums. They had a year that went by.
Look. We know this -- Democrat or Republican, we know one thing is true. If politicians are going to do something they think they are going to get credit for, people are going to like they are going to brag about it. These guys are hiding it. That's how bad it is.
LEMON: All right. I want to get this in because this is a House speaker, Paul Ryan, criticizing the Democrats back in 2009 for Obamacare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I don't think we should pass bills that we haven't read, that we don't know what they cost. And if you rush this thing through before anybody even knows what it is, that's not good democracy. That's not doing our work for our constituents. We shouldn't rush this thing through just to rush it through for some artificial deadline. Let's get this thing done right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Scott, what do you think? Is that hypocritical or no?
JENNINGS: Well, I think we still have time to, a, see the bill. B, get a CBO score. C, have debate on the Senate floor. And d, see if it passes or not.
LEMON: I think you all are spinning right now.
JENNINGS: Come on. We are going to know everything there is to know about this bill before they take a vote. If someone tells you this thing is going to be voted on and no one is ever going to have read it that's a lie. That's not true. This bill will be publicized. It will be debated on the floor. There will be a scoring of it which is a very public thing. OBEDALLAH: But Scott, they didn't even wait for the CBO score in the
JENNINGS: And I think getting this process moving and setting a vote deadline of July the 4th is a great way to force this thing out into the open --
LEMON: Hey, but Scott or Margaret --
JENNINGS: See whether it's going to pass or not.
LEMON: Listen, I think -- Margaret, I'll let you get in. I think he makes a very good point because the precedent set by the House was no CBO so, they just sort of did what they wanted and then waited for the CBO score and it didn't really matter what the CBO score said.
HOOVER: Well, and the precedent set by the house back when the affordable care act was passed was that truly nobody had read the entire bill and that's why you have according to Kaiser family foundation in 2018 as many as 47 counties in the United States that will not have a single insurer available for poor Americans in order to buy their own health care.
So look, I am for transparency. I'm for everybody having as much information as possible. I am not for what the Democrats did when they passed the affordable care act. I am for an open and transparent process. This is but the very beginning part of the Senate bill. This is a long process. By the way, if anything passes the Senate, which will be a more open process, it's going to have to go back to the House. There is going to be plenty of time for people to have input here.
LEMON: OK. Dean, you wanted to --
HOOVER: This is a democratic stunt.
OBEDALLAH: The only thing less popular than Donald Trump is the GOP health care plan. It's at a 20 percent approval rating. You know what has a 60 percent approval rating? The idea of Medicare for all according to a Pew poll in January. It's time to go forward, not backwards.
LEMON: OK. Scott, I'll give you the last word. I have ten seconds.
JENNINGS: You know what has a zero percent approval rating? Everybody whose premiums went up and whose deductibles make their insurance useless.
LEMON: OK. That's it. Thank you all. I appreciate it.
Thanks, Margaret. Thanks, Scott. Thank you, Dean. I appreciate it.
That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. I will see you right back here tomorrow.