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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) Now Starting to Campaign; President Trump Use Social Media to Express What's on His Mind. Aired 10:15-11p ET

Aired March 18, 2019 - 22:15   ET


DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

And you just heard from Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren in CNN's town hall at Jackson State University in Mississippi. You see the crowd still there.

The senator no doubt heading down to that audience, answering questions from the audience members for well over an hour. And you can see she's still there. She's going to take some questions from the folks now informally, not in front of the camera.

[22:20:01] But she answered a lot of questions, handled herself pretty well this evening. I didn't get to see the entire thing as I was getting ready to come in here, but it seems like she had an answer for everything.

I didn't see any moments that, you know, might preclude her from having to -- well, at least she won't have to answer to them at least. She may have to follow up, but I didn't see anything that's really going to hurt her in there.

I want to bring in now Julie Pace, and Astead Herndon. Mark Preston will join us in a moment. There he is. Mark Preston, you're there. Not sure if he can see us. Good evening -- good evening to all of you. So good to have you on.

So, Mark, an incredibly crowded field. I thought she handled herself well. What stood out to you, what did you think?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple things. One is, I was backstage with her in between breaks. And there was a -- she seemed to gain energy each time she walked back out onstage. This is clearly her format. She enjoys interacting with people. She seems very happy.

This is something that Elizabeth Warren I think we're going to see do more and more of, not just doing this these town halls in New Hampshire and Iowa, but across the country and perhaps these national and international town halls where she's taking these questions.

Some of the big issues, though, she talked about reparations. She talked about funding, doubling down funding for HPCUs, a very important topic here at Jackson State University, a historical black university.

She also talked about impeachment with Donald Trump, but she didn't go as far as some other people. She said let's wait for the Mueller report. Let's try to protect Robert Mueller.

When it comes to the Mississippi flag, Don, which still has the stars and bars on it, she was very, very brief in her response when asked whether Mississippi should change the flag, she said yes, which drew a lot of applause here within this auditorium.

And of course, she talked about health care, and she talked about jobs. Elizabeth Warren right now is behind me. She is trying to meet everybody in this room. I suspect she is going to be here for at least an hour trying to shake hands, trying to talk to voters. Very important time in this campaign, I think. You get them early, Don, and they stay with you.

LEMON: Yes, absolutely. She did say something too that I found interesting. She said, I'm going to say something that's a bit controversial right now. I believe in science, and that drew a rousing round of applause, Mark.

PRESTON: Yes, she certainly did on climate change. Well, of course, the number one issue for a lot of Democrats right now. But when it comes to climate change, she said she believes in science.

Again, this is one of the top issues that Democrats -- liberal Democrats want to hear from these candidates. As you said, a very crowded field, so they have to try to differentiate themselves. Elizabeth Warren starts off the day yesterday up in Memphis, down in Mississippi today, heads over to Alabama tomorrow.

The first major candidate in this, you know, in this year to do so. I spoke to the Mississippi Democratic Party chairman. He was elated that she was down here. I suspect, Don, I suspect we're going to see more candidates in the coming months coming to states like Mississippi, perhaps over to Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, states in the south that we didn't see Democrats campaign before.

LEMON: Yes. Let's bring in Julie in. Julie, I want to get your reaction to these moments from Senator Warren, speaking about minimum wage and a tax on the ultra-rich. Watch this.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Today in America, a full- time, minimum-wage job will not keep a mama and a baby out of poverty.


WARREN: I am in this fight because I believe that is wrong. Today, I hear them in Washington. They ask, what will improve the profitability of giant multinational banks?

Well, I want a government that doesn't work for giant multinational corporations.


WARREN: I want one that works for little families like mine. But there's one more we got to talk about, and that is my ultra- millionaire's tax. So, the idea is on the truly great fortunes, $50 million and above, we start charging 2 percent a year on just that 50 millionth and first dollar and on up. Two percent a year.

By the way, anybody in here a homeowner? You've been paying wealth taxes for a long time. They're just called property taxes. I just want to include the Rembrandt and the diamonds in the property taxes.


LEMON: So, what do you think there as we look at Elizabeth Warren, Julie? What do you think? She's saying particularly because she has a lane, right, with Senator Bernie Sanders on this issue when it comes to progressive ideas.

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is really Warren's sweet spot, those issues that she was asked about there. Things like the minimum wage, taxing the wealthy. These are the issues that really catapulted her to stardom in the Democratic Party, particularly among liberals.

They are the issues she's been talking about in her life well before she was in politics.

[22:25:00] So, she speaks about them with quite a bit of fluency. She also has a really natural way of connecting the policy prescriptions that she's talking about to real people's lives.

She talked about her own family's history, people she meets out on the campaign trail. She's really unapologetic about these policy prescriptions as well.

Now, for some voters, even in a Democratic primary, some of the things she's talking about might be too aggressive. They might be seen as going too far. But she is not going to budge. She's not going to be one of those candidates that is going to move on one -- on any of these issues because they are so central to her brand, and they are -- and they are really what she believes in.

LEMON: Austin, this is your first appearance as a political analyst for us, so we're happy you're here on CNN. Thank you so much.


LEMON: So, give me your reaction tonight in terms of how she speaks about issues that are important to the left, issues important to the base of the Democratic Party?

HERNDON: Well, Senator Warren benefits from a couple things here. She's run over 30 town halls last year in her Senate re-election campaign. She's run on 30 more in the early stages of her presidential race. And so, there's no question that she's going to hear in a forum like that that she hasn't already heard.

You could see that tonight. She's ready to talk fluently on these types of issues, and this is her wheelhouse. The kind of, this is a Harvard Law School professor. She's comfortable in that question and answer setting.

She knows the mastery -- she has mastery over her policy settings, and so that's going to be a real advantage for her. What I think is interesting from what we saw tonight is she's using this Mississippi issue to -- Mississippi setting to talk about issues of race.

She sees that as a place that she can make inroads with that progressive message, to talk about explicit racial discrimination. You saw the moment on reparations. You saw the moment on confederate statues and asking for them to come down.

But she's also talked about housing earlier today in northern Mississippi, and she's going to talk about that tomorrow in Alabama, about housing discrimination and investing more specifically in formerly red line communities that affected African-American.

LEMON: Astead, again, welcome and thank you. And my thanks to Julie and Mark as well. We appreciate all of you joining us from the town hall down in Jackson, Mississippi.

Now I want to turn now to the president's weekend of grievances. His weekend of rage tweeting over and over and over and over.

Before this president took office, it would have been unimaginable. The leader of the free world spending hours tweeting about one of his favorite TV shows, complaining about another. Taking pot shots at a late -- at a late war hero and on and on.

But this is how you know what he really cares about. The president's tweets, the clearest window into his state of mind. Don't just talk my word for it. I want you to listen to one of his top aides today.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: His social media platforms are a direct way for him to communicate with the country.


LEMON: So, what did the president want to communicate with the country about this weekend? What was he really fired up about? Not the real crucial problems facing the country and our world. Nope.

This president is using his bully pulpit to get Jeanine Pirro's show back on Fox News, tweeting, "Bring back Judge Jeanine Pirro." And falsely accusing so-called radical left Democrats and the news media of silencing her.

I should point out the obvious here. It was the powers that be at Fox News who took Jeanine Pirro off the air for however long that lasts. And according to a source, they did it because she said this about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.


JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: Think about it. Omar wears a hijab, which according to the Koran 33 colon 59, tells women to cover so they won't get molested. Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?


LEMON: And the president defends her in spite of that bigotry, on the same weekend people around the world mourn the 50 Muslims killed in a terror attack during Friday prayers at Christchurch in New Zealand. After he completely failed to condemn the rise of white nationalism that killed them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you see today white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.


LEMON: The acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney seems to have drawn the short straw, defending the president this weekend.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I don't think anybody could say that the president is anti-Muslim.


LEMON: Really? He seems to be able to say it himself over and over and over.


TRUMP: I think Islam hates us. There's something -- there's something there. There's a tremendous hatred there. There's a tremendous hatred.

I mean, I don't notice Swedish people knocking down the World Trade Center. There's a Muslim problem in the world.

[22:29:59] And by the way, and you know it, and I know it.

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Here's a tip. Let me give you a tip here. When you have to keep saying that the president is not a white supremacist, you know there's a problem. But the president -- President Trump had some more --



MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Is not a white supremacist. I'm not sure how many times we have to say that.


LEMON: But the president had some more Twitter thoughts on TV shows, complaining that Saturday Night Live knocks him over and over. Come on, the president of the United States? He should be bigger than that. Anyway, SNL was a rerun this weekend. So maybe they don't knock the president as often as he might think.

He also took time out this weekend to slam the late Senator, John McCain, a genuine war hero, who devoted his life to service to this country, slamming him for passing on the FBI a copy of the Steele dossier and for voting against the bill to replace Obamacare, President Trump showing you right there what he really cares about, his grudges against anybody who crosses him for any reason. The late senator's daughter, Meghan McCain, fired right back on The View today.


MEGHAN MCCAIN, JOHN MCCAIN'S DAUGHTER: He spends his weekend obsessing over great men, because he knows it and I know it, and all of you know it. He will never be a great man. I just thought your life is spent on your weekends not with your family, not with your friends, but obsessing, obsessing over great men you could never live up to.


MCCAIN: That tells you everything you need to know about his pathetic life.


LEMON: And then there's this tweet, slamming France and the Paris Climate Accord, the day after students marched all over the world to demand action on climate change, the climate change that threatens their survival. A 2018 report from the U.N. says world leaders only have 11 more years to avoid the disastrous levels of global warming.

And we have a new tweet from the president just tonight, pointing out that he is donating his salary for the first quarter of the year, $100,000, to Homeland Security, and claiming that the press doesn't like writing about it, au contraire. The president is putting his money where his mouth is, sort of, that $100,000 is a little over 1.1 -- 1,000th of a 1 percent of $8.5 billion that he requested for the wall in his budget last week.

So there you go. We're talking about it. And remember earlier when you heard from Kellyanne Conway defending the president's tweeting? Well, we heard from her husband, too. Her husband is George Conway, tweeting screen grabs from the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, showing the medical definitions of narcissistic personality disorder, and anti-social personality disorder.

And going on to tweet, "all Americans should be thinking seriously now about Trump's mental condition and psychological state, including and especially the media, Congress, and the vice president, and cabinet." His wife certainly disagrees with him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't share those concerns.


LEMON: Now, let me be clear. None of us are in a position to diagnose mental illness of any kind in this president, and that includes George Conway. But something just isn't right about what the president was up to this weekend. Just not right. Let's talk about it now. Ryan Lizza is here, Michael D'Antonio, the author of The Truth About Trump. Good evening, gentlemen.

Amazing what we witnessed this weekend. Ryan, 50 tweets and re-tweets in just 48 hours. The president slammed a late war hero, Senator John McCain, pushed conspiracy theories, defended a Fox News host who've made very offensive comments, but never mentioned the attack on two mosques in New Zealand that killed 50 people. What does that say about this president?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he never mentioned the mosque attack because it's not about him in any way. The only context he mentioned it was the criticism that the rhetoric he uses and the movements that he is accused of inspiring somehow was related to the attacker, right? That's when he mentioned something has to be personally about him in some way.

I mean as you said at the top, Don, you know, his Twitter account is both horrifying in some ways but also, you know, like a car crash. You can't take your eyes off of it because it gives us this incredibly unfiltered look into, you know, the leader of the free world's psyche. And, you know, one, it has to be about him for it to be important to him.

And, two, you get a sense of what he sees as a threat, you know? You know, he's not the only one like this, but on Twitter, he's often responding with, you know, the sort of lizard part of the brain. You know, it's that quick, impulsive, you know, I'm mad at something part that social media brings out in people and him more than anyone else.

[22:35:09] So you see what he's threatened by. He's threatened by the media criticizing him. So he goes after SNL. He's threatened by Fox perhaps not being as propagandistic in his favor, so he tweets in support of the weekend host that lost, you know, her show for one night. You know -- and he tweets about things like Mueller.

And then he rage tweets about people who it still bothers him were more popular and more successful, like the late Senator McCain. So it does all have a theme. And you do actually learn things about, you know, his state of mind.

LEMON: You know, I mentioned this earlier. It is a window into his soul, if you will. But I mentioned this earlier. George Conway tweeted out the medical definitions of narcissistic personality disorder and anti-social personality disorder. A lot of things on this list may seem to apply to the president. None of us, right, can diagnose him.

But clearly, Conway feels very strongly about this, and it's surprising considering who his wife is.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you're right. And I hear everyday from mental health experts who are concerned about the president's condition. There's actually a book written by 36 psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, each of whom diagnoses the president. So there is a problem here. This is a very troubled man.

And you look at what he did about Saturday Night Live and John McCain. And so you've got a television show that's in reruns and a senator who has been dead for many months. They own him. This president is being owned by a TV show and a deceased senator. There is -- this is something that Americans have never faced before. I think we're all right to be concerned about it.

I think George Conway raises a valid point, as do the critics who noted that this is a president who defended anti-Muslim comments by Jeanine Pirro, but couldn't seem to come to the defense of Muslims in New Zealand, or offer reassurances to Muslim-Americans. He's very stingy with his concern for anybody who doesn't fit his base definition.

LEMON: I want to -- this is new tonight. Ryan, let me get this in, because Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted out about George Conway tonight and he wrote this. He says we all know that real Donald Trump turned down Mr. Kellyanne Conway for a job he desperately wanted. He barely worked at the Justice Department and was either fired, quit, didn't want the scrutiny.

Now he hurts his wife because he is jealous of her success. POTUS doesn't even know him. What do you think about that response?

LIZZA: It's my understanding George Conway actually introduced Kellyanne to Donald Trump. I'm pretty sure I've got that right, if I understand their history. So it's -- and the Conway's lived in a Trump building. That's how they knew him. So it's wrong to say that George Conway doesn't know Trump. He very much started the relationship -- the Conway's relationships with Trump.

I -- you know, look. I think one of the problems with -- I think the biggest problem with Trump's tweets and the way that he's coursing into the public dialogue is not just Trump. I mean we all know how he is and what he's going to be like. So when I look at my phone on Sunday and see 50 tweets, at this point, you just sort of roll your eyes, and it just -- it is normal.

What I think is more worrying is how it has bled into the larger Republican Party, and frankly, to people who should know better. So to me, what was even worse this weekend than Trump's tweets was when the main Republican account, @GOP, tweeted out a disgusting, anti- Irish meme attacking Beto O'Rourke as a drunk, you know? I've lived 44 years, Don, and I don't think I've ever actually encountered anti- Irish bias, right?

That was sort of erased in America, right? And, you know, to bring that back, I mean that, to me, is what is worrying is that you have so many Republicans who have now coarsened and degraded themselves by joining in with this kind of rhetoric.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, I'm glad you said that, because let me put that -- because that -- and then this response from Brad Parscale tonight doesn't address the substance of the issue of what Mr. Conway was talking about. But it's very Trumpian. He insults him, calls him Mr. Kellyanne Conway. He was turned down for a job. He was fired or either quit.

[22:39:52] He didn't want the scrutiny, and he's jealous. All attacks on him but not addressing the substance of what he says.

D'ANTONIO: This is all unworthy of our public discourse. I think we don't need to hear what Brad Parscale has to say about this. And we certainly don't need to see this kind of bigoted commentary about Irish-Americans. But think about who would be better informed than George Conway about Donald Trump and what goes on in the White House. What do Mr. And Mrs. Conway talk about at night?

They talk about what happened at work. Well, what happened for you, dear? Well, what happened to you? Her stories are going to be hair- raising. This is a woman who has been in the White House longer than anyone else. She knows everything about what goes on there. I think George Conway is consummately well informed.

And remember, it was spouses in the case of Martha Mitchell, during the Nixon administration, who helped bring down Nixon because they got fed up. They started to tell the truth to reporters about what was really going on. So I would watch out for the husbands and wives of people who work for Donald Trump.

LEMON: A word of warning from Michael D'Antonio. Thank you, Michael. Thank you, Ryan. I appreciate it.

LIZZA: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Is the White House trying to hide some of Robert Mueller's report before Congress and you get to see it, the details next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: We have some breaking news to report to you. CNN is learning that White House lawyers expect to see Mueller's findings before Congress and the public, before we all get to see it. So sources say the administration wants to ensure that they have the opportunity to claim executive privilege. Pamela Brown joins us now live, Pamela, good evening to you with the breaking news.


[22:45:03] LEMON: What are you learning tonight about the White House plans on the Mueller findings?

BROWN: Well, we've learned, Don, that the White House wants to review any version of Mueller's report that the Attorney General, Bill Barr, intends to share with Congress before lawmakers and before the public sees it. And this could be a flashpoint. This could set up this political battle of this hotly contested document.

So basically these White House lawyers, Don, we've learned, they want to have the opportunity to assert executive privilege from any of the information gleaned from interviews with White House staffers or other documents that were turned over to Mueller's team over the course of this nearly two-year investigation.

Now, the president has the right to assert executive privilege. It's something that the president can do to protect conversations he's had with other officials to keep them confidential. But, of course, this could be litigated in court if it's challenged, and it's something that Democrats would almost certainly do. So we very well could see this battle playing out soon.

Because we're expecting Mueller to handover his report to the attorney general any day now, Don.

LEMON: Well, speaking of battles, I mean there's going to be a political one, I'd imagine. Because it seems like the president may be trying to shield some of it. So there's definitely going to be a political battle in that with Democrats saying, hey, all of this should be released, and the public should get to see it.

BROWN: Right. So that's sort of the political battle that could play out. Because you have a situation -- just the perception of the president putting his thumb on the scale or looking like the president shielding information going out to the public in an investigation that has swirled around him since day one of his presidency. So while it's the president's legal purview and the White House's legal purview, there's this political aspect.

I spoke to one source who said, look, there's always this tension between the political optics and what's best for the institution, in this case, the office of the presidency. And this person who is close to the White House says protecting executive privilege trumps the political optics. But again, we're likely going to see all of this play out very soon, Don. LEMON: So also tonight, the House Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler,

says that he is encouraged by the responses that they've received from their investigation into President Trump. What else do you know?

BROWN: That's right. He spoke to reporters today. He said since they released those 81 letters to different individuals and entities, there's been a response, quite a response of tens of thousands of documents going to his committee or commitments to provide those documents. So Nadler said today to reporters that he's been pleased by the response so far.

And he also said he may issue what's called, in his words, friendly subpoenas to some witnesses who basically indicated to him that they need cover through the means of a subpoena. And so he sort of indicated today that that may be something that he does in order to give witnesses cover to cooperate with his committee, Don.

LEMON: Pamela Brown with our breaking news tonight. Pamela, thank you so much.

BROWN: Thank you.

LEMON: Congressman Steve King posting a meme to Facebook, to his Facebook page, claiming red states would beat blue states in a modern day civil war. But it gets a lot more offensive from there.


LEMON: Iowa Congressman, Steve King, has a long history of outrageous statements and he's at it again, this time sharing a meme on Facebook about what he calls another civil war. And here's what he posted. He said folks keep talking about another civil war. One side has about eight trillion bullets while the other side doesn't know which bathroom to use.

The post was later removed from his Facebook page. So now we want to discuss it. Keith Boykin is here as well as Alice Stewart. Good evening to both of you. Thank you for coming on this evening. So Alice, I want to start with you, because you know Representative King. You spoke to him about this meme. Why was this ever posted?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Don, thanks for having me on to talk about this. Look, he says that this was put up by someone on his staff that manages his Facebook posts. And as soon as it was brought to his attention, he recommended that it be taken down. He says that this is something that he certainly would never personally advocate for civil war.

And this is a -- this is a meme that was posted, and he disagrees with it. I asked him if it had been brought to his attention before it was posted and they asked for his permission. He says that he would have recommended that it not be put up. But I think more than anything, the fact that he realizes that this was offensive and something that should not have been posted in the first place and it was taken down.

LEMON: OK. STEWART: And we can all agree --


LEMON: But in the interest of time --


STEWART: He might not have done that.

LEMON: I want to try to get Keith in, because we're truncated because of the town hall. What does it say, Alice, about King that his staff thinks that those posts sound like something that he should or would communicate to his constituents, that he would be OK with it?

STEWART: Look, at the end of the day, this is something that someone on his staff decided that they wanted to put up. The congressman saw it and decided it should be taken down.


STEWART: Because it is offensive. And that's the takeaway.

LEMON: Are they going to take action? Are they going to be fired or disciplined in any way?

STEWART: He didn't indicate that that was going to happen. But I think the main thing is he realizes that it shouldn't have been put up and it's no longer up there.

LEMON: So, Keith, I want you to weigh in. You heard what she had to say. You know he was stripped of his committee assignments in January for a controversial quote in The New York Times. You know, all of this is happening while the president's acting chief of staff has to say -- deny that the president is a white supremacist.

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. It's crazy. Yeah, I don't know if I buy Steve King's response to Alice, first of all. I feel like he hasn't apologized as far as I can tell. He just took it down, right? And secondly, he hasn't disciplined the staff member who allegedly put this up there against his will.

LEMON: That we know of.

BOYKIN: That we know of. And then thirdly, he has a history of saying statements exactly like this. This is not the first time he's made a statement threatening civil war, talking about the possibility of civil war if the white majority loses its power. So it's perfectly on message for him to have something out there like this said.

But this comes -- it is so tone deaf. It also took him two days to remove it (Inaudible). Because so tone deaf, because this happens on a day after 50 people were shot and killed by a white supremacist in New Zealand, and Trump is going on talking about SNL and the Republican National Committee is busy tweeting drunken stereotypes about Irish people. [22:55:00] And Steve King is threatening a civil war. This is

exactly the time when you want the country to try to come together and not be divided. Trump is not helping with that at all. The Republican Party isn't helping with that at all. And Steve King is not helping with that at all. And Trump has not condemned him.

He had time to condemn everybody else over the weekend on his Twitter feed, Twitter attacks. He didn't say a word about Steve King or this outrageous meme.

LEMON: Alice, there are a lot of memes on his Facebook page. I mean dozens in the past week.

STEWART: Look, I think more than anything, we can all agree this particular meme was inappropriate. It was offensive. There is no place in the public arena for a meme like this. And the congressman, when it was brought to his attention, he ordered that it be taken down.

BOYKIN: Two days later.

STEWART: I'll push back on something that Keith said. The congressman, while he has said a lot of things in the past that I disagree with, he is not and never has and never would advocate for civil war. I think that's just highly...


BOYKIN: He has threatened the possibility of civil war.

STEWART: Factually incorrect and that's not what he's doing here.

BOYKIN: Alice, he has threatened the possibility of civil war if the white majority loses its power. That's a record. That's on fact. That's a fact that's on record. So you can go check that out if you don't believe me. So this is not inconsistent with his past statements at all. And that's the reason why people believe that he probably did authorize this, or at least his staff thought he would authorize it.

LEMON: Out of time. Thank you, both. Thank you. I appreciate it. White House lawyers say that they expect to see Mueller's findings before his report ever gets to Congress or the public. Will that spark a huge political battle?