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CNN TONIGHT

Lies And More Lies To Cover The Truth; Paul Manafort Sentenced Today; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D) Texas Interviewed About Michael Cohen Case; Matthew Whitaker Did Not Deny Talking To Trump About The Cohen Case; Beto O'Rourke Hinted He's Running For President; Nineteen UPS Workers Have Filed A Lawsuit. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 13, 2019 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: And that would be a great disservice to the truth and to our Democracy. And it will make it that much more likely that the Russians will do this again because the resulting division will be proof that their efforts to confuse what is real and factual, to blur what matters, to play out our differences -- this will be the best proof yet that their efforts worked.

Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Rorschach test. Reality is not a Rorschach test. Truth is not a Rorschach test. You know, and the Russians win if that is, indeed, how people feel.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: They win.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: I really don't get it. I don't get how so many people are hoodwinked, how so many people don't believe what they see and what they hear, how people -- and you're probably right -- won't believe what's in the Mueller report.

Do you actually -- I'm not sure if it's actually going to make a difference. I think the people who support the president are going to say, Yes, it's -- you know, even if they say conclusively there was collusion or there was conspiracy or there was obstruction of justice, he was set up. Mueller is trying to find information. He's biased and on and on.

And then if they don't find anything that's conclusive on those things that I said, then the folks on the left and the people who don't like him or the resistors are going to say, well, you know, they were biased, and of course it's there. And what happened in that Trump tower meeting, that's already evidence of collusion. That's what you have.

CUOMO: You're going to have some victims of extreme analysis. You have people on the left who have been set up for disappointment because they've been set up to believe that this is going to lead to the downfall of the president. They got him.

LEMON: You and I have never said that by the way.

CUOMO: No, I've never had any reason to say it.

LEMON: I've never ever said that.

CUOMO: I'd be happy to say it if I saw the proof.

LEMON: Yes. I've always said that if you want this president out of office, the best way to do it --

CUOMO: Vote him out.

LEMON: -- is to vote him out, conclusively say, we're done. Vote him out and then there's no question about it. Otherwise, they'll say, well, you usurped the power of the people or the will of the people.

CUOMO: That's the power of a democracy.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: Look, I'm happy to say right now with the FAA did with this airplane, something's wrong.

LEMON: Something's wrong.

CUOMO: Something's wrong.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: Now, can I say that with the presidency? Yes. There's a lot that they did that was wrong, not a crime, not a felony, but you heard the RNC head tonight. If it's not a crime, they think it's OK. And you know who agrees? Ninety percent of Republicans.

So where do you go with impeachment? Of course, Pelosi is going to back off that position because you have zero chance of removal. Why go through the exercise? What does that get you?

If the American people can't agree that things are wrong even if they're not illegal, this is over. And I'll know the answer as soon as I read that report.

LEMON: Well, I watch people's -- their strategy. Nancy Pelosi is shrewd.

CUOMO: Shrewd.

LEMON: Shrewd. She says it's off the table unless there's, you know -- and then she leaves herself some room. And then she allows her members to say whatever they want, to govern for their own districts.

But at the end of the day, she is the leader of the party in saying no. But then her members are saying whatever they want. I think that is an interesting position. It's a very shrewd and smart way to handle this.

CUOMO: It is because, look, ultimately, I think the reality is simply stated. You will not win. If you don't have buy-in from the other side, you can't win. It's a vote contest. It's an election of sorts. It has all these legal trappings on it, and it may even result in having a chief justice of the Supreme Court sitting there presiding in the Senate. But it's all about votes.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: But as soon as we see the report, we will see --

LEMON: If we see it.

CUOMO: Right. If we see what is passed along -- and, you know, you got to wonder if one of the reasons we keep hearing it's coming and then it doesn't come is because they're actually giving more leeway to Mueller to do a lot of the classified redactions and stuff like that than we had assumed, but that's probably too inside baseball.

LEMON: I know.

CUOMO: But whenever it comes out -- I'm sorry. I'm sorry. That's the world I live in.

LEMON: That's you. I always tell people, Chris? OK. So, let me tell you about Chris.

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: Chris is the ultimate dad. Whenever I go somewhere with Chris -- like if I go fishing or whatever, you over explain everything like you're talking to Bella, like one of your kids.

CUOMO: It's true. It's true.

LEMON: I'm like, Chris, I grew up in fisherman's paradise.

CUOMO: It's true.

LEMON: I know how to fish.

CUOMO: I know. I'm sorry.

LEMON: But that's almost something that's very endearing about you.

CUOMO: And then I brought the bass right to the boat and I dropped it because I didn't grow (ph) up fast enough.

LEMON: But then also, I mean --

CUOMO: Little (ph) me died that day.

LEMON: The other night when we were doing this thing on one of the historically black communities where we live and you say this is where the definition and it came from here. And I'm like, Chris, I don't know if I care about that right now.

CUOMO: I thought it was interesting.

LEMON: They can read that in the dictionary.

CUOMO: I know. I know. Look, I overthink things. I overanalyze. There's no question about it.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: I'll keep it simple.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: When the report comes, whatever access we get to it, if it is a narrative that tells how at every turn people around this president and in his campaign knew what they were doing was wrong and did it anyway and then lied about it, they're going to have to put a question to the people in the middle.

[22:05:05] LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: You're going to have two polls, a third and a third. They're not going to give a damn what it says. They made up their minds months ago. That third in the middle are going to have to make a tough call and push their lawmakers or not.

LEMON: That's where the election is, right in the middle. At least I'm sure there are candidates, but the one that I know about because I did a town hall, that's kind of where Klobuchar is, sort of in the middle. She's not going hard left. She's sort of being the moderate liberal. That may be where the actual win is. We shall see.

CUOMO: Maybe. I don't know. My guess is a decade from now, we have another party at least. It's the way all the big democracies go.

LEMON: All right. We shall see what party it is.

CUOMO: Not to overexplain it.

LEMON: I got to go, but, boy, did you see what George Conway tweeted?

CUOMO: No.

LEMON: Ruh-roh. I'm about to tell you.

CUOMO: I don't like it. I know you are. Look at you.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: It's Kellyanne -- I mean, Come on

CUOMO: You love the drama.

LEMON: Come on.

CUOMO: I hate the dynamic. I hate it.

LEMON: I know.

CUOMO: It makes me uncomfortable.

LEMON: I know.

CUOMO: It makes my hair move.

LEMON: It's news, though.

CUOMO: It is. No question about it.

LEMON: Thank you. I got to get to it.

CUOMO: I'll be watching.

LEMON: You get after it. I'll get to it. See you tomorrow.

CUOMO: That's not his thing. He doesn't --

LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

It's not what Matt Whitaker said today. It's what he didn't say that is making news. The former acting attorney general meeting behind closed doors with top members of the House Judiciary Committee.

A meeting to clarify Whitaker's public testimony last month, testimony that, you remember, amounted to six hours of bobbing and weaving, designed to impress an audience of one. You know who that is, right? Well, today Whitaker did not deny talking with President Trump about Michael Cohen's case. Listen to the chairman, Jerry Nadler.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Unlike in the hearing room, Mr. Whitaker did not deny that the president called him to discuss Michael Cohen -- the Michael Cohen case and personnel decisions in the southern district.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Now, that may have been a bit more bobbing and weaving by Whitaker, who seems to be an expert. He did not deny, did not say no when he was pressed about whether the president called him to discuss Cohen's case. But here's what he said publicly in the hearing room. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TED LIEU, (D) CALIFORNIA: Did you communicate to Donald Trump or any senior White House advisers about investigations from the Southern District of New York concerning the Trump organization, the Trump inaugural committee, Michael Cohen, or the investigations that relate to Trump entities or potentially the president? MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Congressman, I

mentioned that -- I said other investigations in my opening statement. I really don't have anything further to add to that answer.

LIEU: And when you said other investigations, you mean you communicated to the president about --

WHITAKER: No, I didn't.

LIEU: You did not?

WHITAKER: That's not what I said in my opening statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Bobbing, weaving. So, what about Whitaker today, not denying the president called him to talk about Cohen. Ranking Member Doug Collins disputes Chairman Nader's -- Nadler's -- excuse me, version.

But the question now, is this evidence that the president was trying to influence the investigation? And if so, what's Congress going to do about it?

And then there was the second, the second one, Manafort verdict today. The former Trump campaign chairman sentenced to a total of seven and a half years in prison, and the president doubled, tripled, quadrupled down on his favorite lie. I've said it before. When you'll lie about anything, you'll lie about everything.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I can only tell you one thing. Again, that was proven today. No collusion. There's no collusion. There's no collusion, and there hasn't been collusion, and it was all a big hoax.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Lie about anything, you'll lie about everything. So just listen to what George Conway, husband of Kellyanne Conway, has to say about that. His words, not mine. This is a quote. Ready? Look at your screen. "What a lying piece of garbage," exclamation point. That's what he said. "What a lying piece of garbage." Put that back up.

Adviser, senior adviser to the president, his wife. What a lying piece of garbage. The fact is that what the president said is 100 percent false. It's false. Paul Manafort's case had absolutely nothing to do with collusion, nothing. That is a fact.

You know how we know? Because Judge Amy Berman Jackson said so today in court. And this is a quote from her.

[22:10:01] "The no-collusion refrain that runs through the entire defense memorandum is unrelated to matters at hand. The no-collusion mantra is simply a non sequitur." And if that's not clear enough, OK? And it really should be. There is this. "The no-collusion mantra is also not accurate because the

investigation is still going on." Is that clear enough for you? So, the judge told everybody in the courtroom the case has nothing to do with collusion, nothing at all.

And she pointedly said, court is one of those places where facts still matter, end quote. This is me speaking now like CNN. One of those places where facts still matter, like CNN. Yes, I said it.

Sometimes these days, though, it seems like court, and here as well, might be the only places where facts still matter. But that didn't stop Manafort's attorney from repeating the same old no-collusion lie, though he was nearly drowned out by shouts of traitor and liar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT'S ATTORNEY: Judge Jackson conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of any Russian collusion in this case. So that makes two courts. Two courts --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Traitor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liar.

DOWNING: -- have ruled no evidence of any collusion with any Russian.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not what she said!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Why would he go the no-collusion route? Again, when the judge herself shot down that claim? Simple. Audience of one. The one person who hammers the no-collusion lie over and over and over, the one person who holds the power to pardon Manafort.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you pardon Paul Manafort?

TRUMP: I have not even given it a thought as of this moment. It's not something that's right now on my mind. I do feel badly for Paul Manafort, that I can tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Not something that's on his mind? The possibility of Manafort, a Manafort pardon sure seemed to be on the president's mind back in November when he told his hometown paper, the New York Post, that a pardon was not off the table.

But let's not forget minutes after Manafort was sentenced on federal crimes, he was hit with new criminal charges in New York, where the president does not have the power to pardon him.

All this as Beto O'Rourke is in Iowa tonight, poised to push the button on a bid for the Democratic nomination. Sure, seems like he's gearing up for a big announcement at any moment, seeming to confirm it in a text message tonight.

Put it up. This is a text message. He says -- we don't have it, OK, so I'll just read it to you. The text message was tonight, and then I want you to show this. This is a Vanity Fair cover. There it is. Cover story with the quote, "Man, I'm just born to be in it."

But is he the right person to take on the president in 2020? We'll see if we can get the text message, and we're going to talk more about all of this. We're going to discuss.

So, if the president talked to Matt Whitaker about Michael Cohen's case, is that obstruction? Laura Coates is here, Max Boot, Michael Isikoff. We'll talk about it next.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Questions tonight about whether President Trump attempted to influence the Justice Department investigation of Michael Cohen. The head of the House Judiciary Committee saying the former acting attorney general, in a meeting with committee leaders, did not deny talking to the president about the case. The top Republican on the committee, he's disputing that assertion.

Let's discuss. Laura Coates is here, Max Boot, the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right." And Michael Isikoff, co-author of "Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump."

So good to have all of you on this evening. Max, I'm going to start with you. The House Judiciary chairman says that the former acting A.G., Matt Whitaker, would not deny the report that President Trump called to discuss the Michael Cohen case.

If that is true, why is the president always seeming to influence or involve himself in the investigation, an investigation that concerns him? Again, if it is true.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, if it's true, Don, it comes back to three simple little words -- obstruction of justice. I mean, this is pretty clear-cut. There is no way in heck that the president should be discussing an ongoing case, especially one in which he is involved with the acting attorney general.

And, remember, the conniptions that Republicans had earlier on when Bill Clinton was on a tarmac and happened to run into Loretta Lynch, who was then the attorney general under President Obama, and apparently, they had a friendly exchange about their grandkids and so forth.

But then people like Donald Trump screamed that this was impeding the course of justice and that Hillary was not going to be locked up for her supposed crimes because of this conversation between Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch.

Now, if that was improper, what is this? This is improper or steroids. This is truly the kind of thing for which Richard Nixon got impeached. This certainly looks like obstruction of justice if in fact this report is accurate.

LEMON: Well, then, I mean, that would make sense in like a world that deals with reality right now, but I mean, Max, it's --

(CROSSTALK)

BOOT: Yes, nothing seems to matter anymore, right? And unfortunately, I mean, Nancy Pelosi reading the political tea leaves is basically saying there's little chance they're actually going to impeach him. So how is he going to be held to account if in fact he did obstruct justice?

LEMON: Doug Collins is the ranking Republican member, Laura, says there's no evidence that Whitaker discussed the Michael Cohen case with the president. But if the president did, in fact, talk to Whitaker, if he did about this case, about Michael Cohen, and it can be corroborated, do you agree? Could the president's actions be obstruction of justice?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they could be but you have to answer the question for what purpose? Why was he having the conversation. Of course, it belies logic to think that he was just suddenly interested in a particular U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York above all other people.

[22:19:53] Why he had a vested interest in interviewing this person, hand-picked this person for the job, replaced somebody who was already there, who had been told by him that he was going to remain, and why this would be the person overseeing the Michael Cohen investigation among other -- of the president of the United States.

And so, if his purpose was to have a review, say of the U.S. attorneys across the country, perhaps it would not be a nefarious event. But when it's targeted in this matter, when you have the overlap of the Cohen investigation as it directly relates to him, you look toward the notion this may actually be for a criminal or a corrupt purpose, and that of course is a problem.

LEMON: So, Michael, let's talk about Paul Manafort, the sentencing. Why on earth does President Trump feel so badly for Paul Manafort? The guy stole millions of dollars from the U.S. government.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: And also, it's worth remembering that President Trump actually fired Paul Manafort as his campaign chairman in August of 2016.

So, it is unusual that he would display such empathy for somebody who he had fired unless he was, you know, very much taken by the fact that Paul Manafort didn't give up anything that implicated him. And, you know, that does raise the question of whether a pardon is down the road. Look, at some point Donald Trump will have his last day in office. It

may be January 20, 2021. It may be four years later. It may be well before then. But that's the moment that you would expect to see a pardon of Paul Manafort and perhaps others.

Let's remember there's precedent for that. Presidents issue controversial pardons on their last day in office. A prime example, Bill Clinton, who pardoned Susan McDougal, his business partner, who had been convicted in the Whitewater matter --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But Michael --

ISIKOFF: -- and refused to cooperate, on his last day in office. So, I think when that last day comes, that's what Paul Manafort is waiting for.

LEMON: Well, how do you explain, Michael, how do you explain Joe Arpaio, then?

ISIKOFF: I don't think Arpaio --

LEMON: Scooter --

ISIKOFF: -- was as controversial --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Scooter Libby and Dinesh D'Souza.

ISIKOFF: -- as Manafort would be because Manafort was so integral to the Russia investigation. So, you know, the controversy would be about the president issuing a pardon for somebody involved in the investigation of him. Arpaio doesn't fit in that category.

So, look, it would be too politically explosive at this point for Trump to pardon Manafort, but down the road when he's about to leave office, sure.

LEMON: All right. I feel you. So, Laura, listen, not even an hour after Manafort was sentenced, the Manhattan D.A. charged Manafort with mortgage fraud, falsifying business records, and conspiracy. Give me your take on this because these are state charges. There's no get out of jail free card from the president on this one, right?

COATES: That's correct. The president only has the authority to pardon federal crimes. However, New York is unique in the fact that they do have a double jeopardy impact here. The double jeopardy normally means that you can't try somebody twice for the same crime.

In New York, you cannot use a state prosecution to prosecute somebody who has already been dealt with in the federal system if you have the same core body of facts, if you have the same elements that you have to prove, if it's a perfect overlap. They will raise a double jeopardy argument to say that this is

actually similar to that and it should go away. Now the legislature in New York is trying to do away with that loophole for presumably issues just like that.

Assuming there's no double jeopardy issue here, you do have the issue here of these charges in and of itself have been brought by a grand jury, who has found that there is more than enough probable cause to actually charge him, and there's evidentiary support to actually take him over the line.

The issue here really is the political perspective here and the timing of it because the timing in this case may have undermined the credibility and the gravitas of these charges. These have been in the works under an investigation since 2017.

But within minutes really of this particular ruling, it appears as though it was put in place to be a pardon-proof scenario, which of course lends itself to the argument that this is overkill.

Now, that may not be what this evidence says, and it may be an unfair assessment. However, the jury pool looks at this and says to themselves, well, hold on. The timing of it is really coincidental, and there's very few coincidences here, and why this particular thing?

So, I think they do themselves no service by waiting until this moment in time to actually assert these charges given the fact that there was actually no immediate forthcoming pardon.

LEMON: Max, let's talk now about this back channel that was set up between Michael Cohen and the president's legal team. CNN has obtained two e-mails from Bob Costello. Bob Costello is a lawyer with ties to Rudy Giuliani. He sent to Cohen saying he's, quote, "loved and can sleep well tonight."

[22:24:58] You have people in high places, right, or friends in high places. How do you interpret this?

BOOT: I think it's very hard to know what to make of this, Don, at least based on what I've read. I think this calls out for more investigation. I mean, it seems pretty ambiguous and maybe ambiguous on purpose so that you wouldn't be having this discussion about whether there was actually a pardon dangled or not.

And perhaps there was a pardon dangled but it was fairly indirectly through an intermediary talking to Rudy Giuliani. We don't have evidence yet that Giuliani actually communicated with President Trump.

Now, that may well be the case and there is some evidence that President Trump has certainly not ruled out publicly a pardon for people like Manafort and others, suggesting that he is in fact dangling a pardon, and this may be more evidence to show that is in fact the case.

But I think we need to have a lot more evidence before we can reach that conclusion. And that's why I think it's imperative for the House investigations to continue because there's a lot more to uncover, and Congress basically wasted two years on the Republicans, helping Donald Trump with a cover-up instead of trying to get at the facts.

And now we're starting to see some of the facts come out, and I think there needs to be a lot more fact-finding before we jump to conclusions here.

LEMON: Yes. And the conversation will continue tomorrow and the next day and the next day. Thank you. Tomorrow is a new day. Look what happened just today. I appreciate it.

We're going to dig a lot into -- a lot deeper into Matthew Whitaker's meeting on the Hill with Chairman Nadler. I'm going to ask a member of the House Judiciary Committee; did Whitaker tell the truth during his testimony? Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:29:57] LEMON: The former acting attorney general was back on the Hill today, meeting behind closed doors with the top members of the House Judiciary Committee.

And according to the chairman, Matthew Whitaker did not deny talking to the president about the Michael Cohen case.

I want to bring in now Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. She sits on the House Judiciary Committee, by the way. Good evening, Congresswoman. So let's get started by doing this.

I want to play what Matthew Whitaker told your committee about having a conversation with the president about Cohen. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Did you communicate to Donald Trump or any senior White House advisers about investigations from the southern district of New York concerning the Trump organization, the Trump inaugural committee, Michael Cohen, or the investigations that relate to Trump entities or potentially the president?

MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: Congressman, I mentioned that -- I said other investigations in my opening statement. I really don't have anything further to add to that answer.

LIEU: And when you said other investigations, you mean you communicated to the president about...

(CROSSTALK)

WHITAKER: No. No, I didn't. That's...

(CROSSTALK)

LIEU: That you did not?

WHITAKER: That's not what I said in my opening statement. I will refer you back to my opening statement. I was very clear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. So what he said in his opening statement was this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITAKER: At no time has the White House asked for, nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel's investigation or any other investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Congresswoman, was he truthful in his testimony?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: How many times, Don, do we have to hear that to know that there is a clear sense of not being forthcoming and, frankly, not telling the truth? He, in his own statement, indicated he had no conversations regarding the special counsel or regarding any investigations. And so as I interpret that, that would be any investigations that were related to this White House, this administration.

He was asked by a member of our committee again, and he referred to his opening statement. To say that he was not forthcoming would be an understatement. I am very disappointed. Mr. Whitaker was under oath. And I believe that he is certainly, as he indicated, a man that knows the difference. And the reason is because he offered his former service as a U.S. attorney as evidence that he knows the difference. And so this is a sad conclusion to our hearing.

LEMON: So today, speaking of what he said, you know, the chairman, Chairman Nadler says that Whitaker did not deny, Congresswoman, that the president called him to discuss the Cohen case. Nadler also says that Whitaker was involved in conversations about whether to fire one or more U.S. attorneys. If it turns out that those conversations were with the president involving investigations into the president, how big of a deal is that?

JACKSON LEE: Well, it means that Mr. Whitaker, as I said, sadly may have told an untruth to the United States Congress. We will now investigate further based upon his conversations in this smaller meeting, where he did not deny that he had conversations, whereas in the hearing it seems as if he made it very clear to emphasize what he said.

No, I did not have discussions regarding the special counsel investigations. As you well know, Don, we have the right to address the question of whether someone has told an untruth, has lied under oath, and to respond to it accordingly. That is unfortunately a crime.

LEMON: Yeah. We should say that the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who was there for the Whitaker meeting, says Whitaker did not talk to the president about Cohen. Can you explain that? JACKSON LEE: What I can explain is this long journey that we've had

has been consistent. The Democrats are trying to find out the facts. And my good friends, they are my good friends, Republicans are defending the White House. But I think this is not about either one of us. This is about the American people. And we've taken an oath to uphold the rule of law and to be able to provide to the American people the accountability that is necessary to uphold the rule of law.

It will be our task not to cast judgment, not to immediately decide what has happened between our hearing and the meeting that was just held, but to pursue the facts. And once we pursue the facts and we'll make a determination as to just what happened with former acting attorney general Whitaker.

LEMON: Thank you, Congresswoman. I appreciate your time.

JACKSON LEE: Thank you so very much, Don. It's been good to be with you this evening.

LEMON: You too. Beto O'Rourke is in Iowa, and he's telling Vanity Fair that he is "born to do this." It sure seems like he's about to announce. And he may have dropped a big, giant hint tonight. We'll discuss next.

[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Breaking news. Beto O'Rourke seeming to confirm he is running. In a text message with CNN affiliate, KSTM in El Paso, the station is reporting this, that he texted I am really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents. It is a big part of why I am running. This city is the best example of this country at its best. It sounds like he's doing it.

Arriving in Iowa tonight, O'Rourke and his aide declined to comment to CNN's Leyla Santiago or confirm the content of the text. But he's also on the cover of Vanity Fair, looking a lot like a candidate. Here to discuss, Patrick Healy from the New York Times with former Democratic nominee for governor of Florida, Mr. Andrew Gillum. Thank you so much.

[22:39:52] I appreciate you both joining us. (Inaudible) Mayor, so Mayor, listen, O'Rourke doesn't shy away from his ambitions, telling Vanity Fair I want to be -- I want to be in it. Man, I am just born to be in it and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment. So he's ramping up to something, it looks like.

ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. I mean it's clear. I think the congressman maybe ready to make a decision. I will tell you, though, that a race for president clearly has to be about the people of the country. You got to feel it in your heart and in your nerve and in your sinew, that you're restless at night because you're so moved by the conditions in the country that it causes you to do something.

And so I think that's what people are going to be looking for. And candidates in this Democratic primary, the people who are in this race and are in it for them, and will do the best job at demonstrating what they're going to do to improve their everyday live condition. And I think that's what they'll be looking forward to.

LEMON: So let me ask you this, because you've run, you know, races. You know this political game. Would his entrance change this race, do you think?

GILLUM: Oh, well, I mean obviously. He then enters this race, and there's another lane. I think he does bring something to the table and will give us another option here. I saw just this weekend Stacey Abrams out of Georgia also at south by southwest sort of tweeted out that she may be interested in joining this race as well.

I think she'd bring something. Quite frankly, even here in my own state, Mayor Wayne Messam down in Miramar, Florida, has opened up a presidential exploratory committee. So I think there will be no shortage of choices in this race. And quite frankly, I think that's a good thing for the Democratic Party. I think it's a good thing for this country. And I believe that we choose right, we'll have a new president of the United States.

LEMON: All right. So let me ask you, Patrick. Let me bring you in because you get a lot of people's hopes up, because he came close to winning in Texas. But then he sort of waffled and he hedged. And, you know, I am wondering if that's going to hurt him at all, or do you think that will all be forgotten?

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's been the media's focus definitely and sort of the political class has been wondering, you know, on Twitter, on cable news, and our pages, you know, what to make of him. You know, normally a candidate in waiting will spend these three or four months, you know, looking for advisers, looking for staff, calling donors, you know, sort of lining something up, working on policy.

And he's been sort of driving around the country. You know, he's been talking to voters. He's been doing very low-key events like going to universities and talking in closed rooms to students. You know, in some ways, you know, he's being himself. This is how he ran in Texas. So I think once he sort of hits it tomorrow in Iowa and he starts talking to voters, I don't think voters are going to be sort of judging him, you know, where have you been?

What have you been doing? The reality is, is that if and when he starts running, Don. He is second only to Bernie Sanders in having an incredibly formidable online fundraising machine. And I think even though he's been, you know, sort of under the radar. That will probably kick in pretty quickly.

LEMON: So do you think that's why he's gotten as they call so much free media, unearned media, because he's on -- this cover of Vanity Fair.

HEALY: Right.

LEMON: There are people who have already declared, people are very popular like Kamala Harris. They don't have this kind of -- why him?

HEALY: He is a celebrity candidate. Right now, he is the celebrity candidate that is in the field. Kamala Harris has some of that. There's some excitement around her, even though she hasn't been the policy force that Elizabeth Warren has been in the race so far, or the ideological force that Bernie Sanders has been in the race. Kamala Harris certainly has...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I am just wondering as an example. But even Bernie Sanders, I mean he gets -- he's not on the cover of Vanity Fair, and he's already announced.

HEALY: We went down to Atlanta a couple weeks ago and did a long interview with Stacey Abrams, who got very close, you know, to being governor of Georgia. You know, the mayor ran a very strong race, got very close to being governor of Florida. But it's Beto O'Rourke who, you know, fell three points behind, got close to Ted Cruz. But he's the one who's on the cover of Vanity Fair.

I think it goes to, you know, what his trademark was in Texas was driving around in that pickup truck, live-streaming himself on Facebook, getting into sort of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez space of having what people call real sort of authenticity and an ability to connect with people. He excited a lot of people.

And also he does have far, far more online, small-dollar donors than a Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren. So that's real.

LEMON: So basically what he did in Texas, he's doing that...

(CROSSTALK)

[22:44:51] LEMON: Let me ask you this, Mayor, because (Inaudible) from "The Washington Post" tweeted out this. O'Rourke's Vanity Fair cover side by side with a Time cover of Ronald Reagan from 1981. You see that? He said the -- he's more often compared to RFK. These are pretty lofty comparisons, Mayor. Do you think he can live up to that?

GILLUM: Well, I will tell you. If I were him, I would want to be known as Beto O'Rourke. I would get out there, and I would let people see who I am. I would show my full self. And I also have to say that people in this primary, voters are going to want to know what it is you stand for. What do you believe? What positions drive you? And ultimately, what are you going to do to make this country better for me, for my children, for my family, for my neighborhoods?

And so I think there will be some celebrity-ness to this at the beginning. But I will tell you. Democratic voters are pretty hardcore these days. They are pulling back the layers of their candidates and really sussing out what's really and what isn't. What do you stand for? What don't you? And so the veneer will wear, and then I think it's going to be to the content of what the person happens to be offering by way of policy and our belief about their willingness to get it done. LEMON: Yeah. You know, I said, well, he's sort of waffled, but just

remember, it was what? Was it June or July when Trump announced?

HEALY: Yeah.

LEMON: So this is pretty early.

HEALY: Yeah. No, this is quite early. And just to the Reagan point, if I could just say, I mean Reagan was an ideological warrior. He wasn't just a celebrity. He was an ideological warrior. I think the mayor is so right. The Democratic Party right now wants policy specifics. They want to know where you stand.

O'Rourke brings immigration, elevates that certainly more than I think what we've been hearing about in terms of being in the economic space. But, you know, right now he's got something to prove.

LEMON: Thank you, both. I really appreciate the conversation. We'll see you soon. We'll be right back.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Nineteen UPS workers are suing the company, saying they suffered repeated racial discrimination and the company did nothing to stop it. The lawsuit also alleges that managers and supervisors enabled and even encouraged the hate at a distribution center in Ohio. CNN National Correspondent, Sara Sidner is here with all the details.

Sara, hello to you. These are some shocking allegations against UPS in this lawsuit. So walk us through what the workers say happened at that distribution center.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are shocking. They're surprising in 2019 that this lawsuit has been filed with the allegations that are in it. Some of the employees say, one of them in particular said when he came to his workspace there were two nooses that were hanging over his workspace, above his workstation. And he went and took a picture of it and alerted the company to that. And that he was almost terminated because then he posted it online.

He said nothing had been done about it. This all they say happened at the (Inaudible) distribution center in Ohio. So you have the issue with the noose. And the black workers who are there are saying, you know, it's not just that they feel fear because things like this happen, which are very overt, in your face, you know, racial threats, having a noose hung like that.

But they say that when they would complain or when they were trying to get promoted, when they were trying to become a driver, which is the best job they feel that is available there at the UPS center that they would be constantly knocked down. They were not given promotions. There were very number of blacks that were given promotions at that UPS distribution center.

And they were very concerned that it had to do with their skin color, not their skill. Then you have some other things that also happened. There was a video game that black workers saw people playing. It was a hangman game, and the person being hung, lo and behold after you see this, you know, noose show up at your office is a black stick figure that they colored in and made the skin of the stick figure black.

Then you've got these text messages, Don. And, you know, these really disturb a lot of the employees that found out about them they disturbed them. There's a group chat, and they just kind of want to read you through some of the messages. The text group chat, amongst the workers, they were talking about winning the lottery, which sounds like a wonderful thing.

And as they're going through talking about how great it would be to win, one of the people texted just remember if you don't win and you're feeling down-and-out, the noose is loose. And that's an early retirement option as well. And then someone replied to that, well, we can buy another noose with the winnings. These are the sorts of things that were being said around the employees who were black, that were being talked about, that were being played.

And this isn't just men. This is men and women. There are 19 people who have filed suit who have come forward. Some of them are still working there at UPS. Some of them have recently retired. But there is a great fear amongst some of those who are working at the UPS office. And also just a disappointment with the fact that they feel that they have made these complaints for -- to management and nothing really has been done to stop this kind of behavior, Don.

LEMON: So UPS took no action when they learned about this behavior? What are they saying?

SIDNER: So the workers are saying they don't feel like action was taken and not proper action. And in one instance as I mentioned, the person who discovered the noose and took a picture of it and said look, I brought it to the attention according to the lawsuit to the managers. And he was told to erase the picture. And then when he posted it online out of frustration, he was -- they threatened to fire him.

So those are the sorts of reactions they said that they would get. And they were sort of walking on eggshells, if you will, at work. But UPS has responded. We did reach out to UPS to find out what their thoughts are on this lawsuit by 19 people. And I'll read to you what they said in a statement. They said UPS has no tolerance for hate, bigotry, or prejudice.

[22:54:57] That was coming from the UPS director of corporate communications. And he said look. The company has strict policies against harassment and discrimination. We will not comment further on pending matters. It is not unusual for a company not to want to comment because a lawsuit has been filed. But certainly, these workers want some answers...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I have got to ask you, Sara, about a report you had earlier this year about a similar accusation of racism at General Motors, at a plant in Ohio. What does this say that this sort of behavior is happening at some of the country's most well-known companies, and how many other places is it likely happening?

SIDNER: Yeah. That is really good question. I can't say how many places this is happening. What is surprising, these two companies are in -- and very close to each other. One in (Inaudible) which is not that far from Toledo where the GM plant is being sued by more than a half-dozen employees who faced numerous incidents of people hanging nooses, the N-word being scrolled, whites only being scrolled on the bathroom as well.

And Nazi symbolism being put into the workplace, some of them said they actually felt -- one in particular said he was threatened and had to have guards watching him go in and out of work. One of the issues may be, Don, and we've heard this from some of the folks that live in and around the Toledo area that the demographics of the plant were starting to change.

There were lots of people coming in from other places. And when they say lots of people, I mean lots of people of color. And there was a lot of push back. People felt just because of their skin color and there was a lot of fear. And there were people saying I shouldn't have to fear to go to work. I am trying to work here.

I am trying to better myself and my family. Why am I facing this sort of kind of discrimination? And again, the company says they don't tolerate it, but these workers beg to differ.

LEMON: Sara Sidner, thank you very much. We're going to dig deeper into the moves Robert Mueller has been making. Is he wrapping up his investigation?

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