Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Hinted Using Migrants as Pawns Against His Opponents; George Conway Attack President Trump in a Tweet; Barr Falsely Claims There Was Spying Against Trump Campaign; Vice President Mike Pence Versus Mayor Pete Buttigieg On LGBTQ Community. Aired 10- 11p ET

Aired April 12, 2019 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: CNN TONIGHT with D. Lemon starts right now.


CUOMO: Hey, Don.

LEMON: Don't you think he's already decided of thinks that he's above the law of he's trying to do all of these things and you know, send undocumented immigrants into so-called sanctuary cities. Don't you think he's already decided?

CUOMO: I think this president --


LEMON: And telling people to reportedly to break the law and he has their back.

CUOMO: So, I agree with you on the facts, obviously. What is the motivation? And I'm not going to duck it by saying I can't know the heart of a man.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: I will say this. I think that the president lacks a certain sophistication when it comes to how the law works, despite all the business and all the litigation, he lacks a certain sophistication.

LEMON: It's called ignorance, but go on.

CUOMO: But, you know, he should know these types of things, the Flores settlement, that doesn't mean the judge, Flores.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: He should know that. But there is something else that you're hinting at. He has a pathological problem with seeing things as just a matter of convenience. He does not respect anything that he does his own will, and that can be a problem when you have a lot of power.

LEMON: It is problematic. It's interesting, though, I wonder, though, if he thinks -- well obviously -- I don't -- number one, I don't think he's going to do it. But if he does, if he wanted to somehow legally they figured out how to place undocumented immigrants into areas so- called sanctuary cities if he thinks that's going to hurt his opponents, that's you know, which I think he does, wouldn't that essentially be hurting America, or Americans, unless, you know --

CUOMO: Well, he's just thinking about the leadership there, look at you, you're flooded with these people you said you wanted to have, how do you like it now, now your own constituents hate you.

LEMON: Yes. But what if the reverse happens if they accept these people into their communities and they figure out a way to work it and make it work then it backfires on him.

CUOMO: It could. Although he's got a built-in base of people --


CUOMO: -- who don't want them here.


CUOMO: And who like the harshness as an extension of the rule of law. That's the irony to me. He's respected and revered for being somebody who's about the law and he keeps flouting it and abusing it.

LEMON: Yes. I've got a congressman coming up who says this would be akin to President Obama taking people who didn't have insurance, right, and putting them into places where Republicans who oppose the Affordable Care Act, so that those people could weigh on their system instead of in the areas where people did and, you know, I don't think the former president would do that because he's an adult. But this time who knows? Would he even suggest or think of something like that?

CUOMO: The idea of seeing them as pieces on a board, I think is also telling.

LEMON: It's amazing.

CUOMO: I also think that this is a real issue. He has the ability to make a difference on the border. Congress does too.


CUOMO: That relationship is broken and it's hurting all of us.


CUOMO: And you've heard me talk about the Democrats before but he's got this emergency declaration which I don't think was a legal extension of that statute, but now that he has it and it's being challenged in California yet still operative --


CUOMO: -- he can build the accommodations they need right now, Don. LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: Under that emergency declaration. He could give them what they're asking for right now himself would be a big winner.

LEMON: This has been a heavy week. So, I'm going to leave it on a happy note with you.

CUOMO: What do you got?

LEMON: I got this, because I just want to show the skills that you don't have. This is, boom, Chris's son Mario.

CUOMO: Where do you think he gets it? That's Mario, Mario Nicholas, in your face.

LEMON: Boom.

You didn't teach him any of that.

CUOMO: Can't be learned. It's natural, it's genes, brother, genes.

LEMON: Listen --

CUOMO: And not them baggy ones you have on.

LEMON: That's what -- that's what's important. Family, those are the things that are important.

CUOMO: This is what marriage does to you, pal.


CUOMO: It's just the beginning, soon you'll break an ankle just turning just to chase him back to the basket.

LEMON: Be lucky if I can afford jeans after that.

CUOMO: It's going to be the best thing you've ever done in your life.

LEMON: And that's why you wear the same outfit every night.

CUOMO: Every night.

LEMON: He can't afford it. He's got too many kids.

CUOMO: Budget. Wash it myself.

LEMON: See you, Chris.

CUOMO: See you later. Have a great weekend.

LEMON: Thank you. Have a good one. You, too.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. And what's happening this week in the United States of America is stunning. If any of it happened in another country -- well, we would call it the action of a tin pot dictator with delusions of grandeur and no respect for the rule of law.

Sound familiar? Just listen to President Trump, essentially declaring war today on sanctuary cities and not, coincidentally, on Democrats with this threat to dump detained immigrants in those cities.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are looking at the possibility, strongly looking at it to be honest with you, California, the governor wants to have a lot of people coming in, refugees coming in, a lot of sanctuary cities, so we'll give them to the sanctuary cities, maybe, to take care of if that's the way they want it. We can give them an unlimited supply and let's see if they're so happy.


[22:05:00] LEMON: Seriously, think about this. Whether you support this president or not Democrat, Republican, independent, nonpolitical, just think about this. It is stunning and frankly, it's horrifying that the president of the United States would use desperate people, many of them children and their parents, as a pawn, as a weapon to punish his political opponents.

And how is that even punishment? Because the president is assuming here that nobody would want migrants living in their city. That Democrats would knuckle under to avoid that.

Even put it in writing, tweeting, "Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities only."

Doesn't seem to matter one bit to this president that according to documents obtained by CNN the administration got legal guidance, months ago, that his plan is illegal.

The husband of the counselor to the president saying this quote, look at your screen, OK, this is George Conway, this is a quote. "Watching Trump try to work the levers of government these days makes one think of what it would be like to see a chimpanzee try to drive a Corvette, except that the chimp would probably have a better idea of what it was doing." That's harsh. And then there's this from the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


NANCY PELOSI, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The president of tweets have cheapened the presidency. He's just being a freak. I mean, he's just terrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: But there is so much more. Remember, the president's -- remember that visit to the border, just a week ago, remember how we later learned that behind closed doors he told border agents to refuse to let migrants in.

Now senior administration officials tell our very own Jake Tapper that in that meeting the president told the then head of Customs and Border Protection that if he were sent to jail for keeping those migrants out, he would get a presidential pardon.

So many people have been accused of such wrongdoing that are now relying on presidential pardons, so many of them facing prison time.

Officials say it wasn't clear if the comment was a joke or not, a joke, I don't know. Doesn't sound like a joke to me. It sounds exactly like the kind of thing that this president has done, or tried to do over and over and over. It sounds like all the other things he said since day one on his campaign, stoking fear of immigrants and using that fear to try to get what he wants.


TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.

We have illegal immigrants that in many cases are treated better than our great veterans.

Countless Americans are killed by illegal immigrants because our government won't do its job.

We have some bod hombres here and we're going to get them out.

They want to have illegal immigrants pouring into our country, bringing with them crime, tremendous amounts of crime.

We are bringing in some very bad, bad people. We don't want this group of people anymore.

These are rough, rough people, in many cases. Yes, sir, we have barb wire going up because you know what, we're not letting these people invade our country.

In those caravans you have stone cold killers.

You've got some bad people in those groups, you've got some tough people in those groups and I'll tell you what, this country doesn't want them.

The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility.

I am being harmed in my country, my country is extremely dangerous, I fear for my life, say that, congratulations, you'll never be removed.

Now I look at some of these asylum people, they're gang members, they're not afraid of anything.

How stupid can we be? And the asylum program is a scam. Some of the roughest people you've ever seen -- you say, wow, that's a tough cookie. I am very fearful for my life. Give him asylum, he's afraid. He's afraid.


LEMON: So, just, I want you to think about this. Why isn't he as passionate and he doesn't talk as much about people who come into the country and overstay their visas, people coming many on airplanes?

That is the biggest problem with the legal immigration. If you support this president and you care about immigration why isn't that a big issue to you?

[22:10:00] Don't talk about that. You've got to wonder whether this president believes he is above the law. But there are still some people looking out for the rule of law.

In a speech to the University of Virginia Law School federal district court Judge Carlton Wayne Reeves rebuked the president for his attacks on the courts comparing him to the segregationist era.

Remember when then candidate Trump slammed an American born judge for his Mexican heritage, claiming he had an inherent conflict of interest in a lawsuit against Trump university. But just listen to what Judge Reeves had to say about that.


CARLTON WAYNE REEVES, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE, SOUTHERN DISCTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI: I know what I heard when federal judge was called very biased and unfair because he is a Mexican heritage. When that judge's ethnicity was said to present -- to prevent his issuing fair rulings, when that judge was called a hater simply because he is Latino.

I heard the words of James Ethan (Ph), a race baiting politician empowered by the falsehood of white supremacy, questioning the judicial temperament of a man solely because of the color of his skin. I heard those words and I did not know if I was in 1967 or 2017.


LEMON: The president who attacks the judiciary, a president who uses migrants as a weapon to attack his political enemies, a president who falsely claims his campaign was spied on, falsely claims his campaign was spied on.

That's the kind of president whose attorney general, the top law enforcement official in the nation, will go right ahead and make the same outrageous claim of spying, saying exactly what the president wanted him to say.


WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal. It's a big deal.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): You're not suggesting, though, that spying occurred?

BARR: I don't -- well, I guess you could -- I think there's a spying did occur, yes, I think spying did occur.


LEMON: And that attorney general will go right ahead and play into the president's favorite conspiracy theories, conspiracy theories, yes, I said it, about a so-called deep state that he thinks is out to get him.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): So, would it be odd that the candidate was never really briefed by the Department of Justice that your campaign may be targeted by a foreign entity?

BARR: That is one of the questions I have is I feel normally the campaign would have been advised of this.

GRAHAM: OK. And can you think of a good reason right now why they wouldn't have been?

BARR: I'm interested in getting that answered. I don't understand why the campaign was not advised.


LEMON: The fact is the campaign was advised. Then candidate Trump was personally warned in August of 2016 by senior U.S. intelligence officials that foreign adversaries, including Russia, were likely to try to infiltrate his team or get intel about his campaign.

But the attorney general, he just put it out there, not only without any evidence, but in contradiction to known facts. It's beginning to sound like a pretty transparent attempt to protect the president from the Mueller report, the report two years in the making, the report the attorney general got three weeks ago, a report that's coming out in a matter of days.

You've got to wonder. What is this president afraid of? Does this president believe he's above the law?

That is the question for Laura Coates, Ryan Lizza, and Max Boot, next.


LEMON: The president confirmed today he is considering a plan to dump desperate migrants, many of them children and parents into so-called sanctuary cities, in a transparent attempt to punish his Democratic opponents.

Sources saying that the White House was told back in February that such a policy would run afoul of the law.

So, let's discuss now. Laura Coates is here, Ryan Lizza, and Max Boot, the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right." Good evening, everyone.

So, Max, let's discuss this. When I -- you know, in the open I talked about why the outrage for one group of so-called illegal immigrants and against another. People who are coming over and claiming asylum they are not illegal; they're doing what is lawful to get into this country. That's not considered an illegal immigrant.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right. I mean, Trump is kind of conflating different categories. There are some people who are actually speaking across the border and are actually illegal immigrants.

But most of the people we're talking about right now, the surge in arrivals and apprehensions at the southwestern border is not people who are sneaking across the border, it's people who are actually presenting themselves at ports of entry and saying I have a claim to asylum and I would like you to adjudicate my claim and they have a legal right to do that.

LEMON: So then why not do that, as I said, with, think about it. Why not do that with people who overstay their visas, which is a huge, huge problem?

BOOT: Right, I mean, Yes, the stuff that Trump is talking about is not -- a lot of that is not the real problem we face. I mean, there is a humanitarian --

LEMON: Absolutely.

BOOT: -- problem on the southern border, no question with these increases in families seeking asylum. But it's a demonstrable fact that the majority of illegal immigrants are people overstay their visas and they're not sneaking across the border. And of course, we know that, you know, the wall has nothing to do with any of this. It won't solve these problems.

LEMON: Yes. But most people are not versed enough to know that people, again, who claim asylum, it's not illegal.

BOOT: Right.

LEMON: So, they're counting those into the numbers of people who enter -- who cross the borders illegally without going to --


BOOT: Right. I mean, it's an issue to deal with because we're having a hard time warehousing these people and adjudicating their cases and so forth. But Donald Trump is making it sound like there's these invasions, these hordes of barbarians, these criminals, rapists and murderers who are attacking the United States. And that is not at all the case. We're mainly talking about women and children fleeing oppression, were fleeing crime, were fleeing terrible conditions in their home countries and are seeking a better life here.

LEMON: I felt it was -- I think it was necessary to explain the difference to people who may not understand.

BOOT: Yes, I know. I think that's a very important point, Don.

LEMON: Right.

BOOT: Because there's so much incendiary rhetoric that Donald Trump is putting out there.

LEMON: And as people sit there and they believe it.

BOOT: Right. Yes.

[22:19:59] LEMON: So, listen, I got to ask you about this, Ryan. Because the president of the United States openly advocating using migrants, many of them women and children as tools to punish his political opponents. I mean, what do you think of that?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, I think it's inhumane. I mean, obviously. And think of how this played out. The Washington Post reported this, it popped last night as a big breaking scandal story, right, that the White House had quietly asked the Department of Homeland Security about this, the Department of Homeland Security said no, no, we can't do that.

And then when asked about it, when the Washington Post reporters presented the White House with the evidence of this story, they basically said, no, no, you know, we didn't -- we thought about it for a second and then we dropped it, right?

The piece goes live. Trump reads the piece; not even clear he knew about the initial policy. And essentially embraces it and says that's a great idea. And tweets in favor of it, thus turning like a scandal that everyone's sort of shocked at, into adopting it as his own policy.

You know, I think that this is a turning point week, every once in a while, we have a week with so much crazy news from this administration that it's worth taking a step back on a Friday night to just sort of think about all the things that happened.

We have the attorney general going before Congress saying he gets to decide whether the president committed obstruction of justice or not, not Congress. We have a Treasury Department that is basically saying, no, we don't believe that law that says you get the president's tax returns, even though it's as clear as -- it's crystal clear.

And you have a president that is dangling pardons to people at the Department of Homeland Security if they break -- if they don't listen to -- if they break the law. This -- you know, and I always come back to the same thing, we know

what Donald Trump is. We know the way he thinks about the law. We know his instincts. It doesn't -- nothing will change until Republicans in Congress are as outraged as people in the press and a lot of Democrats.


LIZZA: It's Republicans who enable this behavior.

LEMON: Yes. And you forgot one, you forgot the attorney general floating a conspiracy theory with no evidence about --


LEMON: -- spying on the campaign, basically repeating talking points from conservative radio, conservative media, and Trump TV, or state TV, whatever you want to call it, that channel.

LIZZA: Absolutely.

LEMON: Laura, I got to ask you about, let's talk about the law, the legalities of this, right, joking or not, as the president could be whatever, he also said that he would pardon that border commissioner if he went to jail for blocking asylum seekers for entering the U.S. What about -- what does that say about his views on his powers?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That he's omnipotent, and perhaps he's not only above the law but can control every aspect of it and if somebody happens to violate the law then he will just throw out a pardon to excuse the behavior.

Remember, these are basic civics here. The president is the head of the executive branch of government whose job it is to actually enforce the laws. To have a thumbing of your nose at the actual laws by the head of the executive branch for those trying to follow it is extremely disturbing.

Set aside, if you will, for a second the humanitarian issue that suggests that undocumented persons should be released like they're the bubonic plague on society to punish Democrats.

But also remember there's also a legal aspect of it as to why he would perhaps turn to that particular arena. Because there have been legal channels that were pursued, particularly by his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to try to attack sanctuary cities, to try to essentially commandeer local institutions, change their prosecutorial priorities and to suggest that there should not be the free flowing information between members of the community, which include undocumented persons and law enforcement to actually solve crimes and prevent them.

They've tried that avenue, and the courts have said, particularly in California, no, no, you don't get to either attach grant money or refuse to provide grant money because you do not like sanctuary cities, you don't get to commandeer, and we also have federalism and states' rights here.

And so, he's tried the other angles and now I think he's trying the avenue of, listen, the only way I'm going to combat sanctuary cities is by hopefully capitalizing on some form -- on form of fear mongering because the legal channels are not available.

And since that's not working, I'll enact pardons that nobody else has the power to actually provide. That's what's most disturbing to me. Among a lot.

LEMON: Among -- I was going to say, among other things. We've got a lot to talk about. So, everybody stick with me. We're going to talk about the counselor to the president, what her husband is saying tonight about the president of the United States, you saw a little bit of it earlier. I'm going to discuss with them.

[22:24:57] Also, the Attorney General William Barr says that he's going to release a redacted Mueller report within the next few days. But how much will we actually -- how much will actually be revealed? Will he hold anything back to protect the president?


LEMON: Back now with Laura Coates, Ryan Lizza, and Max Boot. Max, I have to ask about it. I read this a little bit earlier. This is George Conway's tweet, he likened running the government, he said, "what it would be like to see a chimpanzee try to drive a Corvette except that the chimp would probably have a better idea of what it was doing."

I mean, this is from the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. He attacks the president, but this is -- he does this all the time, but this is next level stuff.

BOOT: Yes. I mean, this is one of these many things that would be considered bad shape crazy in the other administration, but in the Trump administration it's just Friday because this is what we're kind of used to, right?

And I would say, I mean, the only area where I would dissent from George Conway is, I mean, I think he is right that Trump has no idea how to run a government. But the one thing he does know how to do is to push the buttons of his supporters. And that's what this is all about.

He doesn't really care, I don't think, about solving the immigration issue, he doesn't really care about appealing to Americans, he certainly does not care about governing on behalf of all Americans. All he cares about is catering to 40 percent of the population, the people who support him, and so much of what he does is really the acts not of a president, but of an internet troll.

And I think this whole thing about, hey, why don't we send these undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities, see how they like it, that's not a serious policy proposal, Don. That is basically trolling the opposition, and basically being in their face.

[22:29:59] It's not how you would expect a president to behave. This is, you know, kind of an internet troll in the White House.

LEMON: Yes. You know --


BOOT: But he's good -- I mean, he knows how to work that for political advantage.



LEMON: It's interesting --

BOOT: He knows how to do that.

LEMON: Because we discuss like, you know, do you cover this? Because it's obvious trolling --

BOOT: Right.

LEMON: -- but then he is the president of the United States.

BOOT: Right.

LEMON: You know, even he --

BOOT: He moves the conversation.

LEMON: Yes, you have to --

BOOT: The one thing I will say -- I will add is it backfired against them in the midterm elections, because he kept pushing these buttons and all he did was to energize the opposition.

LEMON: I want to turn now, Laura, to the Attorney General's appearance this week. Does it seem to you that he is playing defense for the president?

LAURA COATES, CNN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL ANALYST: You know, it seems to me that he is made some rookie missteps, the idea of not using precise language to really convey what you think is happening about potential surveillance, the idea of -- I know he used the word spying and that raised eyebrows, but for me the most problematic was his term talking about the genesis of the investigation.

Because that was the dog whistle that you've been talking about, the idea of talking about the genesis means that you are talking about the conspiracy theories surrounding really the Carter Page FISA warrants, we are talking about the Christopher Steele dossier, we are talking about George Papadopoulos whether it was that or the Steele dossier that actually prompted the investigation.

He mentioned the upper echelon of the FBI, you're now talking about of course Comey and Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok, all of whom have been ripe for the president's comments and vilified by him as people who are corrupt in some form or fashion.

So, in just the use of that word and questioning it, I think it made everyone say, well, hold on a second, our interpretation of what this Mueller report was going to be about was the results of the investigation, not its inception, because the inception focuses on the things that the president would like.

So, if his focus is now on that, I think he is catering to perhaps the desire of the president to really be substantiated in what he is saying about, hey, don't trust this organization. There should be mistrust all around except when it ensures to my benefit.

LEMON: Yes. Laura, I love you, but you make too much sense. We're living in a world right now that is pretty senseless. So Ryan, listen, let's continue on.

COATES: Sorry, Don.

LEMON: Yes, that is all right. You know, you have to continue. You got to do you, do you. So Barr has been seen as an establishment guy. The relief was palpable in Washington when he was nominated, because the president had picked a serious Attorney General, but then, I mean, if you really dig into his past, you'll learn that there are some oddities, shall we say. Did Barr hide behind the establishment credentials to get this job?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, ESQUIRE MAGAZINE: Yes, look, I mean, you know, the president is picking, you know, Herman Cane and Steve Moore, you know, no disrespect to Steve Moore who I know is a colleague of ours here at CNN, and a good, conservative pundit.

LEMON: Former colleague, not anymore.

LIZZA: Former colleague, but, I mean, you know, in economic circles, he is not someone, and nor is Herman Cane, they are not people who are considered worthy of the Federal Reserve, let's just be honest. Look at some of the other people in the administration. So he picks Barr and everyone's like, oh, thank god, all right this guy at least was in the Justice Department once before. So, you know, we're grading on a curve here, right?


LIZZA: I think that is why there was a lot of relief, but that hearing this week it suggested, you know, I've been a little -- I've been a little less critical of Barr than some other people. I've tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, but that hearing, we started to see some glimpses. And just you start to think right --

LEMON: And where did that get you? Benefit of the doubt.

LIZZA: Yes. Using a very loaded political term like spying to describe a FISA warrant, that is where you veer from the Attorney General into a political operative speak.

LEMON: Right. Yes, I should be aware of the language. Did you gave him the benefit of the doubt as well?

BOOT: I did. I mean, I was -- I thought, hey, anybody's better than Matt Whitaker, at least Bill Barr has --

LEMON: I'm wondering why you guys did that considering what happen with him.

BOOT: Right. I mean, in hindsight, I think it was a mistake and now he is feeding into this crack pot conspiracy theory and then look at what came across just this afternoon, or this evening, the Trump campaign is fund raising based on a distortion of what he said. They're saying A.G. Barr believes the Obama administration illegally spied on President Trump. We need answers, fight back. Donate 28 bucks now and get a free i-spy Trump gift.

OK, now to set the record straight, Barr did not say they illegally spied on Trump. He said they spied on him, which is the wrong word to use, but he didn't say illegally, but they are kind of filling it in.

LEMON: He said on the Trump campaign. Some of this was before there was even a campaign, right?

LIZZA: They are talking about -- if Barr -- this really needs some clarity, because if what they're talking about is Carter Page, one Carter Page, even was on the campaign, the campaign said he was a nobody, right? When the FISA warrant went into effect he was off the campaign. The FISA warrant was renewed under the Trump administration. So the Trump -- what they're saying is that the Trump administration spied on his own campaign?

[22:35:08] BOOT: Yes.

LEMON: Again, like Laura, you're making way too much sense, but I'll give you the last word, Max.

BOOT: Well, I mean, this all goes back to this crack pot conspiracy theory that Trump himself put out there in I think March 2017 when he said Obama tapped my wires in Trump Tower, which was blatantly false, but it set off all these people like Devin Nunez scrambling around to try to prove that the president was right and that he was somehow being framed for collusion with Russia. And Bill Barr is old enough to know that. He has been around this whole time, and he knows what he is doing, he is feeding into these conspiracy theories, because he knows that is what the president wants to hear and it is just deeply, deeply irresponsible behavior for the nation's senior law enforcement officer to be doing this and throwing the FBI and the Justice Department under the bus here.

LEMON: Thank you all. I appreciate it.

BOOT: Thanks, Don. Thank you. Till we meet again.

LEMON: Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Vice President Pence are lock in a battle tonight, while Buttigieg says, a polite relationship isn't enough to cover up Pence's policies of prejudice, next.


LEMON: The vice president and the former governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, and the Democratic presidential candidate, and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, they're locked in a battle over their religious beliefs and LGBTQ rights. The two are former colleagues and according to Mike Pence, friends. And that is what makes this feud frankly weak on the part of Mike Pence.

The vice president is hiding behind what he calls friendship to defend his policies that Buttigieg is calling out as wrong. I can show you what I mean. So, Buttigieg lobbied the first volley in his back and forth with Pence during a CNN town hall last month. He asked how Pence, someone who stands firmly in his religious beliefs would become the cheerleader for the porn star presidency. Buttigieg then followed that up with this at the LGBTQ fundraiser watches.


MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-SOUTH BEND-IN) 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That is the thing I wish that Mike Pence's of the world would understand, that if you've got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me, your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.


LEMON: Well, the vice president's wife who works at the school that bans gay students, was quick to respond pointing to the past relationship between the two men.


KAREN PENCE, SECOND LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: They really have always had a great relationship. It's kind of funny because I don't think the vice president does have a problem with him, but I think it's helping Pete to get notoriety by saying that about the vice president.


LEMON: And the vice president speaking exclusively to CNN's Dana Bash had this to say.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I considered him a friend. And he knows I don't have a problem with him. I hope that Pete will offer more to the American people than attacks on my Christian faith or attacks on the president.


LEMON: Said with him, he didn't say with gay people, this all goes back to 2015 when Pence was governor and Buttigieg was mayor of South Bend. Then Governor Pence backed the religious freedom restoration act, which allows businesses to cite religious freedom as a legal defense, the backlash was intense as critics argued it could be used to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, and Pence's anti-LGBTQ history goes back farther than that.

"The New York Times" has uncovered Mike Pence's 2000 congressional campaign website which has several anti-LGBTQ positions, including Pence's opposition to same sex marriage, in an outline of a separate position that Times says, has been widely interpreted as signaling Mike Pence's support for conversion therapy.

The issue listed was the Ryan White Care Act, an act that provides federal funding for HIV aids patients. Pence stated the program should be reauthorized only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed towards those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.

A spokesman for Pence denied to the Times that Pence supports the practice of conversion therapy. Well today the Trump administration policy banning transgender recruits from joining the military went into effect. Pence has been critical of the policy that allowed transgender troops to serve.

So when the vice president says that he and the mayor are friends, and that he doesn't have a problem with the mayor, as his way to fight back, that is not defending himself on the merits of the issues and it's not giving the mayor the respect he deserves. In fact, it glosses over issues that Mike Pence has supported that have been hurtful to the LGBTQ community, the people of Indiana and the members of the armed forces.

Mayor Buttigieg belongs to all those communities. So, he is not playing along with the vice president and the second lady that they play the friendship card here. He is not playing along with that. He called it out for what it is earlier this week, tweeting this, people will often be polite to you in person while advancing policies that harm you and your family. You will be polite to them in turn, but you need not stand for such harms. Instead, you push back honestly and emphatically, so it goes in the public square.

So here are, in the public square, here we are on the public square right now. It is fair to say to call people when they are wrong. Call them out. And the vice president should know that he can't hide behind friendship when defending policies that are bad for people like Mayor Buttigieg and for many Americans, all of the America. And then there is this, the vice president couldn't even tell Dana Bash, if the way Mayor Pete and millions of LGBTQ people across the country live their lives is a sin in their eyes, watch this.


M. PENCE: I'm a bible believing Christian.

[22:45:00] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And is that belief that being --

M. PENCE: My wife and I are bible believing Christians, we cherish our faith.

BASH: And the idea of it being a sin to be gay?

M. PENCE: Dana, I'm a bible believing Christian, I draw my truth from god's word.


LEMON: Why didn't you answer that question, Vice President Pence? I'm sure your friend, Mayor Buttigieg is listening, and waiting. There's a lot there to break down. Hilary Rosen and Gregory Angelo are here to do that, that's next.


LEMON: 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg speaking to CNN tonight, saying he is not interested in getting into a personal fight with Vice President Mike Pence, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana says, the back and forth has been good for his candidacy.

[22:50:08] And that it helps people understand the contrast. So let's discuss now. Hilary Rosen is here and Gregory T. Angelo as well. Good evening. Thank you so much, an important conversation, important discussion.

Hilary, I'm going to start with you. Is Buttigieg right to take on the Vice President on LGBTQ issues?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Hi, Don. And, you know, look, your monologue was really important. So, of course he is right. And the reason he's right is because, he actually is living in Middle Americans speaking to kids across the country who are still dealing with this problem. Let's put that in perspective. In 30 states you can still be fired from your job for being LGBTQ.

So, you know, the vice president trying to turn this around and act like a victim here just doesn't wash with me. He is not a victim. It is LGBT kids across the country who are victims of religious discrimination. People using god as a weapon to wield power over their lives. And you know, good for Mayor Pete for raising these issues and I'm proud of him.

LEMON: Listen, the vice president wouldn't tell Dana Bash, if he believe being gay is a sin, but he has opposed gay marriage and the second lady works at a school that doesn't allow gay students. Given their record, how can they say that they're not antigay, Gregory?

GREGORY T. ANGELO, COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT: Well, I think it's really simple and I think actually it goes to the heart of the dispute here when people attribute policy position that the vice president has taken and attribute them specifically to his Evangelical Christianity. I think that's in many ways the height of religious bigotry. Why didn't people say that Hillary Clinton was an antigay bigot and that her positions of being opposed to same-sex marriage until as recently as 2016 were motivated by anti-gay? Why was Barack Obama not an antigay advocate -- (CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: That makes no sense.

LEMON: Hold on, hold on. Gregory -- hold on both of you. Hold on. I don't want to go off on a tangent and by deflecting here. When Hillary Clinton was opposed to gay marriage, she was criticized for that and she should had been criticize for it. Hillary Clinton is no longer running for president of United States.

ANGELO: She never was, right.

LEMON: And she is no longer in office.

ANGELO: Right.

LEMON: So let's not bring up (inaudible).

ANGELO: I'm just saying that there's a different standard that's being applied here to Mike Pence specifically because of his Evangelical Christianity and in your monologue, you went back as far as the year 2000, that's 19 years ago, Don, talking about policy positions that Mike Pence took -- actually, potentially just advocating for safe sex --


LEMON: And I asked you just a moment ago something he said just yesterday that Dana Bash, that he wouldn't answer the question. So let's talk about what's happening now. So, how can we say they are not anti-gay, why won't he answer that question?

ANGELO: Because, well, Mike Pence has answered that question. He specifically said that people should not be discriminated against, because of who they are, who love or their religious faith. And I think that that's his policy in middle ground that people of good will should be able to meet him.

LEMON: His policies don't show that, Gregory. He's policies don't show that. He is saying that gay people should have less protection under the law than heterosexual people. That they shouldn't be allowed into the military. They shouldn't have -- be included in certain aspects of American society. They shouldn't have the right to get married. That is not equal protection under the constitution. Where does that come from-- that doesn't come from the law, because if he was governing from the law, then he would be wrong, but he is governing in his policies are coming from his religious believes. Go on Hilary.

ROSEN: But he said it -- he had said Gregory, this is where you're wrong, because Mike Pence, himself in response to Dana Bash's question yesterday raised his religion as an excuse for why he had the views he did. So, don't you dare say that other people are discriminating against him with his religion. There is something very sacred in this country called separation of church and state which means --

LEMON: I agree.

ROSEN: -- that you can believe anything you want to believe, but you may not use the power of the government to wild that religion on anyone else which is exactly what Mike Pence did. And let's not even go back to 2000. Let's say that in 2015 after he wins -- or won her case at the Supreme Court, legalizing gay marriage, Mike Pence was still trying to amend the Indiana constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Let's say that this week alone, Donald Trump and Mike Pence have attacked trans people in the military. That one of their first acts when they became president was kicking little trans kids out of protective programs in the schools.

This is not somebody saying live and let live. This is somebody who is saying we're going to use our power, because I feel justified in doing it, because of my religion to hurt people and so what, you know what, we have now is Mayor Pete saying, no, no, no, you're not the victim here. There's no religious discrimination against you. It is you wielding your religion against others, using the power of the state. And that is your problem with this.

[22:55:11] LEMON: Let him respond. Go ahead, Gregory.

ANGELO: Time and again, Mike Pence has been asked about this. It's been underreported in the media. Mike Pence has said while he was governor of Indiana and even today as vice president of the United States that if he ever saw a same-sex couple or a gay individual discriminated against, simply because of who they are, he would never frequent an establishment that did something like that again.

Mike Pence has gone out of his way --

ROSEN: He wants Pete to be fired for.

ANGELO: -- you know, no, he doesn't. He doesn't want anyone to be fired for it. In fact he's powered people-- he's sworn in multiple gay individuals to positions of prominence in the Trump administration. He is welcome the openly gay ambassador -- the openly gay Prime Minister of Ireland to the Vice President's Mansion. He didn't need -- and reported, by the way. He didn't need to do any of this things. Those are not the act of an anti-gay people.

LEMON: OK, Gregory. Here's the facts. OK, he opposed the law -- hold on, Gregory, he opposed the law that would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in the workplace. The employment nondiscrimination act would have banned discrimination against people base on sexual orientation. He opposed that. He opposed the repeal of don't ask, don't tell. Those are policies that are anti-gay. I don't understand what you're saying.

ROSEN: What he's done, Gregory, is support certain Republicans like you who are willing to take it, who are willing to say, you know what, it doesn't matter to me if you oppress other gay people, I'm going to sit here in my place of privilege. Like the three of us are on TV. We are very lucky. We are not one of these trans kids suffering from bullying in schools or worrying about being thrown out of a job they love, because we love America and the military. We are privilege, but you know what, the people that Mike Pence is supporting like the ambassador, like you, like others are privileged people not standing up to them for the policies they stand for.

ANGELO: That is absolutely not the case. Every time --

ROSEN: Of course it is.

ANGELO: -- Mike Pence has had an opportunity to show welcome and hospitality to members of the LGBTQ community, he is done so ever since he's been vice president. He made a point --

LEMON: Actually, Gregory, whoa, you're talking about exactly what Mayor Pete is talking about. We are going along and you know, listen, everyone's going to yell at me. We're talking about exactly what I'm talking about the producers, because we are actually way over.

But we're talking about exactly what Pete Buttigieg -- Mayor Pete Buttigieg is saying is that people are being polite. Because he is polite to you, it doesn't mean that he is fighting for your rights. He is being polite, smiling in your face and discriminating against you at the same time by saying you are not equal under the law. You don't deserve equal protection under the law, because of his religious beliefs. You are doing exactly what Mayor Pete is saying.

ROSEN: And he wants you to believe that being invited over for tea, to the Vice President's Mansion is, you know, an equivalent payment for that. I'm sorry those kids deserve better from the vice president.

LEMON: Gregory?

ANGELO: All of the actions that Mike Pence has taken since he was been sworn in as vice president of the United States have shown him to be someone who represents everyone in the United States equally, whether they're part of the LGBTQ community or otherwise.

ROSEN: You can't possibly believe that.

ANGELO: 100 percent. 100 percent, Hilary.

ROSEN: Then your blinders are on about what this government is actually doing to LGBT people.

ANGELO: You are perpetuating victimhood. You are perpetuating victimhood

ROSEN: Victimhood? We're talking about children, we are talking about soldiers. We are not talking about victims. Stop it with that privilege. That is just not going to fly. If he wants to have you over for tea, great, go over for tea. But that is not going to help those people suffering right now trying to decide if they're going to have a military career or if they have to give up the country that they love and fighting for the country they love, because the president and the vice president want them hell out. ANGELO: These are mistruths you're speaking.

LEMON: Go ahead, Gregory. Let him respond Hilary.

ANGELO: There have been no transgender people that have been discharged in the military under this policy. There will not be transgender individuals --

LEMON: Then why have the policy, Gregory?

ANGELO: Because this is a nuanced issue. It is different from the issues that impacted, don't ask don't tell for gay and lesbian service members in the military. It's one that I think still needs to be perfected personally, but I think it's wrong to say that the implementation of the policy means the transgender individuals are going to be discharged from the military, because that -- and the Pentagon has said, it's flat-out false.

LEMON: OK, so, listen. Let me ask you, do you think LGBTQ people should be allowed in the military?

ANGELO: Yes. I do. If they meet the qualifications that the Pentagon requires.

LEMON: The very person you're defending doesn't think so.

ROSEN: Do you believe that the bullying programs that the Department of Education that will protecting gay and trans kids should have been eliminated as part of the president's -- one of the president's first act?

ANGELO: Hilary, I'm glad you asked about that, Hilary, because you know that those very same provisions were ruled unconstitutional almost as soon as they were implemented.

ROSEN: No, they weren't. They absolutely weren't.

ANGELO: That's why we report case that was moving towards the Supreme Court.