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Trump Administration Stonewalling Subpoenas; President's Tax Returns Still Unseen; Former Vice President Joe Biden Moments Away From Joining The Race; White House's Attention To Russia's Election Interference Like Pulling Teeth, According To A Government Official. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired April 24, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: In this season of rebirth and renewal, maybe our leaders can try to be better, at a minimum. Let's hope they stop acting like martyrs. I hope that gets a big Amen.
Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon starts right now. Can I get an Amen?
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: You can get an Amen. And that is why the fastest growing group out there, people who are unaffiliated with religion because of the hypocrisy and other things and people who have no belief in religion at all.
And I think it's in -- well, the studies show it's in big part because of the hypocrisy and people like Steve King and the president of the United States and quite frankly, many Christians in this country who twist the scriptures and doctrine in the bible to fit their political beliefs and to fit what they believe it should be and also to keep people subjugated and in check and also to keep their stature or status in society, as simple as that.
CUOMO: You are 100 percent correct. You know who agrees with you most?
CUOMO: Carolina Regina Chacha Cuomo.
LEMON: She's mad at me. She's mad at me.
CUOMO: She is not mad at you, she loves you, even though D. Lemon has my nine-year-old in his office, pumps him for information --
LEMON: I've got everything.
CUOMO: -- puts it on video and then tries to use it against her father.
LEMON: She said I could videotape her as long as I didn't send it out and put it online.
CUOMO: Never trust the media. How many times have I told you this? The media is not your friend, not even Uncle Don.
LEMON: I've got to go.
CAROLINA REGINA CUOMO, CHRIS CUOMO'S DAUGHTER: OK. And back on CUOMO PRIME TIME and Chacha Prime Time.
C. CUOMO: He wants to tell you something.
LEMON: I've got to tell you a secret what she said. She said I just said that to Anderson and my dad because I was trying to be nice. I'm the favorite. I got it on tape.
C. CUOMO: You're a politician. That's what you are.
LEMON: She is. You know what, Chris?
C. CUOMO: Yes?
LEMON: I have to say, I met all of your family. I never met Chacha because she's away at camp or what have you, so I'd never met her. So, she came to my office, I want to meet you. She looks exactly like Cristina.
C. CUOMO: Thank God.
LEMON: Thank God. Yes. She doesn't look like -- maybe the mailman.
C. CUOMO: Nice, good thing she can't hear you, you bum.
LEMON: Cristina, I'm joking.
C. CUOMO: Anyway, we both love you.
LEMON: This is for you.
C. CUOMO: You're going to get it now. We love you. I hope you like him.
LEMON: I hope you have a great show. I don't want to eat up your time. We'll be watching you. You got great guests. OK. That's it.
LEMON: She is your daughter. Wait till I tell you some of the stuff she said.
C. CUOMO: I don't want to know.
LEMON: All right.
C. CUOMO: Later, buddy.
LEMON: See you. Take it easy.
C. CUOMO: You say nice things.
LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. And for a president who has been shouting total exoneration from the rooftops for months, this president sure seems to be freaked out in the wake of the release of the Mueller report. And I am going to explain all of it to you. So have a seat and pay attention. OK?
Just look at his escalating battle with Congress, for instance, fighting tooth and nail, to defy lawful subpoenas from Democrats in the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, the subpoena is ridiculous. We have been, I have been the most transparent president and administration in the history of our country by far. We're fighting all the subpoenas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. Most transparent. That's -- we'll talk about that, fighting all the subpoenas. Not a good look for a president who claims to be transparent, OK, subpoenas are, as I said, lawful requests for information, for answers to questions.
If you're truly transparent then you answer. But as I've said before this president's defiance, ordering current and former aides not to comply looks like a deliberate plan to prevent Congress from doing its job, which is oversight, which is the foundation of our system of checks and balances, the foundation of our government.
All Americans should be furious, especially Republicans who talk so much about the rule of law in the Constitution. But it seems the only people in Washington now -- well, for the most part who are furious, Democrats, they're furious.
House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings saying this. He said, "This is a massive unprecedented and growing pattern of obstruction."
And here's Nancy Pelosi from her office.
"President Trump and this administration are engaged in unprecedented stonewalling and once again using the legal system to conceal every area of his life, as well as his wrongdoing and improprieties from the American people. The level of secrecy should alarm all Americans."
[22:04:54] But the stonewalling goes on and on. Today, the Justice Department told the House Oversight Committee it won't comply with the subpoena demanding a DOJ official answer questions about the decision to add a controversial citizenship question to the 2020 census.
That is after the White House official who was in charge of the security clearance process was told not to comply with another subpoena from the same committee.
The administration is also reportedly trying to prevent the former White House Counsel Don McGahn from complying with a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee which is investigating potential obstruction of justice by the president.
And then there is a Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin ignoring last night's deadline to turn over President Trump's tax returns to the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, and saying his department will take what he called final actions on the committee's request by May 6th.
But we have learned something intriguing about the president's taxes, OK? A source is telling CNN the working assumption on his legal team is that Robert Mueller got a hold of an unknown number of Trump's tax returns.
Of course, there might be a vested interest there, an interest in convincing you that Mueller's looked at Trump's taxes and there's no there there.
Mueller's report has no reference to Trump's taxes or loans to his businesses during material related to -- or beyond material, I should say, related to the Trump tower project in Moscow. But we don't know whether anything may have been redacted or referred out as a separate investigation.
That is the president and his businesses have filed suit to stop his accounting firm from complying with the subpoena from the House oversight for financial disclosure information.
So, the White House is basically running out the clock, refusing to comply with subpoenas and setting its own deadlines. A strategy that could kick the can down the road until after the election, bide time, bide time, stonewall, keep them at bay after the election or even longer with court battles that could stretch out far beyond the end of his presidency.
But, you know what, all of this could really backfire? Democrats who are divided over whether the best response to the president is at the ballot box or in impeachment, well they may change their tune if they think the White House is taking the subpoena battle into scorched earth territory. They could change their tunes.
The president, who publicly insists he's not worried about impeachment, has reportedly been discussing it behind closed doors with his allies and with his advisers.
So, let's talk about it. He's tweeting, of course tweeting that if Democrats try to impeach him, he'll head right to the Supreme Court. Having sat the court with conservatives the president thinks it's his magical ace in the hole, sort of a fail-safe, in case of emergency, just call the Supreme Court, which is really, really -- it's not how any of this works.
The Constitution clearly gives impeachment powers to Congress and only Congress, not the court.
Harvard Law Professor, Laurence Tribe tweets that the president thinks, quote, "He now has a get out of jail free card and a stay in power forever card." And he goes on to say this, to quote another expert.
"The country needs a check against a bad behaving or law-breaking president, but the Constitution already provides that check if the president does something dastardly the impeachment process is available."
You want to know who said that one? That was Brett Kavanaugh, nine years before the president picked him for the Supreme Court.
And then there's this in a Washington Post op-ed, this is by Hillary Clinton. Quote, "Mueller's report leaves many unanswered questions, in part because of Attorney General William P. Barr's redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It is up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. Either way, the nation's interests will be best served by putting party and political considerations aside and being deliberate, fair and fearless."
Now, some may say the former secretary of state isn't the right messenger. She actually points that out herself.
[22:10:01] After all, she lost the 2016 election to Donald Trump but she was also a staff attorney on the House judiciary committee during Watergate. Not to mention she was a first lady during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, her own husband.
In the face of all this, let's go back to the question that I had asked at the beginning here. Why is this president freaking out? Why is he still rage tweeting over the so-called witch hunt? Why is he interrupting his remarks about opioid abuse prevention and drug pricing to make a joke about, wait for it, the so-called rigged election?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: At long last we're stopping the drug companies and foreign countries from rigging the system. I know all about the rigging of the system because I had the system rigged on me. I think you know what I'm talking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Ladies and gentlemen, that is your president of the United States. Why do senior White House staffers say, quote, "it wasn't a good idea to bring up issues related to Russia in front of the president." That according to -- that is according to government officials, or one government official. You know why? People who have spoken to the president say he is latching on to the Mueller report as an attack on his presidency.
Others say he waited so long for Mueller's investigation to come to a close that he didn't expect Democrats to pick up where the special counsel left off. So, he is battling Congress, stonewalling, ordering aides to defy
subpoenas. The question is, two questions. Are you going to let him? And will it work?
The president seems to be getting a big assist from the DOJ in his battle with Congress. We're going to dig into that. Matthew Rosenberg is here. Asha Rangappa, Charlie Dent, next.
[22:15:00] LEMON: Tonight, the standoff intensifying between the White House and Democrats in Congress. President Trump vowing to keep stonewalling on subpoenas. One top Democrat is calling it unprecedented pattern of obstruction.
Let's bring in Matthew Rosenberg, Asha Rangappa, and Charlie Dent. Charlie is the former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania. Thank you very much. So -- all of you for joining us.
Let's start with you, Charlie. President Trump says that they are fighting all the subpoenas. And Chairman Elijah Cummings is calling the president's opposition a, quote, "massive unprecedented growing pattern of obstruction." Who's right? Is Chairman Cummings right here?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he's right that there's a massive obstruction by the White House, but this isn't the first time we've seen administrations resist subpoenas. I think what's a little bit different about this administration is they're so blatant about it.
I served in Congress in 2012 during the whole fast and furious episode and Eric Holder hadn't turned over documents to Congress defying congressional subpoenas. That ultimately went to court. Years later, those documents were turned over.
I think the real question is, how does this Congress go about enforcing the subpoenas? What is different is that the number of subpoenas that the president is blatantly ignoring. So, Congress is going to have to figure out how to enforce this.
It really hasn't been -- I don't know the last time this was done, I mean, I guess years ago they've actually imprisoned people for defying subpoenas. There's some talk, I saw an article today that Jerry Nadler was considering fines for individuals who would fail to honor the subpoena.
So, I think we're kind of in a little bit of a -- in an unprecedented moment and I'm anxious to see what House Democrats do to enforce subpoenas.
LEMON: I have a question. You know, as a Republican, will Republicans accept this if a Democratic president was doing the same thing?
DENT: No, that would be a human rights violation, Don, come on. I mean, remember during fast and furious, Congress held Eric Holder in contempt for failing to turn over documents related to fast and furious at that time.
So again, if the shoe were on the other foot, no, Republicans would be waving a bloody shirt, this would be a human rights violation and they'd be outraged and trying to figure out ways to enforce their subpoena.
LEMON: what's going on now?
DENT: What's going on now, I mean, look, this speaks to the tribal nature of politics. By the way, to be fair, you know, I remember the Democrats, they kind of thought the fast and furious situation in 2012 was a witch hunt.
I don't think any of them were too anxious to force Holder to turn over subpoenas -- or to honor these subpoena requests.
So again, I think it's just the tribal nature of our politics, you know, my team, your team. And it's unfortunate because Congress's article I authorities are being undermined by this administration, not just through the subpoena request, but also, of course, through the unprecedented grabbing of power of the purse authority with this emergency declaration that we've talked about many times in this program.
LEMON: Yes. So, let's talk about this, Asha, the legal ramifications of this, right? Because the White House is resisting oversight at every turn. They're telling aides not to comply. They're trying to prevent Don McGahn from testifying. What is the legal strategy here?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The legal strategy here, Don, is to run out the clock. When you stonewall Congress at all points, there's no choice for Congress but to take it to court. And that can tie it up.
And I think the idea here is to hope that there's a new Congress that will then make this issue moot. But I think that there are two other things to think about.
First of all, I think that if Congress began formal impeachment hearings the grounds for which they are requesting the subpoenas could change and increase their power significantly in a court battle.
But beyond that, I think that we need to look at the consequences for the office of the presidency. There's a reason that these things don't go to court often, as the previous guest just mentioned and it's because both Congress and the president have an interest in negotiating this and not having the boundaries of executive power set in stone by a court because members of either party might occupy that office in the future and then they are bound by that as well.
[22:20:08] LEMON: Yes. Matthew Rosenberg, you know the DOJ is signaling to the White House that it's essentially OK to refuse subpoenas.
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes.
LEMON: With the DOJ saying that it won't comply with, you know, over the census thing.
LEMON: I mean, this follows the Barr letter and his press conference. Is he getting this president a major assist from the DOJ and from Barr?
ROSENBERG: Yes. It certainly looks like it. I think, you know, Trump saw that initial Barr letter and thought I'm out of the woods, this is over. And he's found out it's not over. Now he's seen the coverage of the report, maybe he's read parts of it and he's upset about it.
You know, he really thought hey, this is great, I'm done now, but it's a pretty thin line between Trump between victor and victim, and you're definitely seeing that right now.
LEMON: You know, Charlie, we're seeing example after example of this administration trying to delay or they're trying to run out the clock. Mnuchin blowing through two deadlines on the tax return request. What is the political advantage to Trump by pushing this through the election, or at least close to it?
DENT: Well, I guess the advantage is, you know, if he can delay, as long as he can, maybe pass the election, any damaging information coming out would be held until after the election. So, I think he might see that political advantage.
But I think the larger point is for Congress, it needs to reassert its article I powers. I mean, it's not just healthy for our system of separation powers for an executive to be able to resist so blatantly.
LEMON: Charlie, let me ask you this. So, then, what happens -- you know, I mean, listen, the presidency comes with term limits unless, you know, this president is going to -- I'm going to go to the Supreme Court because I want to be president for life. But sounds like that, you know, I'm being facetious, but that wouldn't be far off. I wouldn't be shocked.
So, then, what happens after this administration? After this presidency when maybe a Democratic president comes into office, then what happens? What do Republicans do then? What if the Democratic president says the same thing? I'm not going to abide by anything you say, I'm just going to do what I'm going to do, I'm not going to comply with anything, what do you think happens?
DENT: Well, what I fear is that precedents get set. And future administrations will look at what happened now and say that this justifies their action at a point in the future. So, I think that's really the bigger concern.
In fact, I would argue that Congress's powers have eroded steadily. I could argue probably since the Roosevelt administration under both Democratic and Republican administrations, Congress has seated a lot of power to the executive. And if this issue is resolved in an unsatisfactory way for Congress
this will just be a further erosion of the power of Congress. And the president will be further empowered institutionally.
So again, Republicans -- look, I was a Republican and I saw how my colleagues reacted at the time when Obama was president and when Eric Holder defied, you know, the subpoena for documents. I mean, they went crazy over that. And went to court and it was pretty ugly. And again, nobody's pure in this business. There were a lot of people were guilty of hypocrisy.
LEMON: Yes. But this is beyond. I know, listen, I know you're using Eric Holder that's one example.
LEMON: This is an example of many -- all in a number of them. All in a row. And so, and who knows what else is to come?
LEMON: With this administration.
LEMON: All right. We'll leave it there. Thank you all.
Why is the president fighting Congress every chance he gets? What is he afraid of? We'll discuss next.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The president is vowing to fight all the subpoenas from House Democrats, and there are a lot of them. They sure seem to be getting under his skin, but what's behind this rapidly escalating battle with Congress?
Let's discuss, Frank Bruni is here, Kirsten Powers, as well. Good evening.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Hello.
LEMON: So good to have both of you on. This is -- when you walked in, I said, you know, I was talking to Congressman Dent, like -- does anyone in Washington think about what happens after this administration?
FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
LEMON: Do you think Republicans are thinking about that?
POWERS: No, I don't think so. I mean, I do think what -- to say like if this would have happened if Barack Obama had done this, for example, the -- you know, hair on fire, the Republican Party would have just, you know, he would have been Hitler, basically, right? It's -- and so the level of hypocrisy is hard to take sometimes. And
when you think about what would happen in the future, I mean, the precedent that's being set there's no question that they would be absolutely freaking out.
LEMON: When you talk about the hypocrisy, if you look at -- just look -- this is from the -- this is the government web site, this is from oversight.house.gov., OK. And it says, Republicans in the House and this is from an -- this is from their research from 2016. This article was written on September 29th of 2016, OK.
And in July is when Comey came out the first time and said we're not going to investigate any further. She acted recklessly but didn't break any laws, sort of similar to this does not exonerate the president.
LEMON: OK. "Republicans in the House of Representatives have rapidly escalated their investigations of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to unprecedented levels by issuing more than 70 subpoenas and letters just since July 5th when the FBI director James Comey announced publicly that his team of career investigators unanimously concluded that no criminal charges were warranted in the FBI e-mail investigation."
They issued more than 70 subpoenas because they believed in the subpoena power of the Congress. And now they have a president who is saying that he doesn't believe that they have the powers that they believe that they had just two years ago. Go.
BRUNI: Well, they believed it then for -- because the parties were in different roles. I mean, you're suggesting that there's a double standard here and the mother of all double standards, absolutely.
Republicans have completely lost all ethical moors in their desire to defend and protect President Trump. And the question isn't only what happens after this administration in Washington. And by the way, I worry that when we say that we think we mean in two years, and the more and more I think it very possibly could be six years.
LEMON: Six years, yes.
BRUNI: Very possibly could be. But I mean, what happens to the Republican Party? What's left of the Republican Party after Donald Trump? Because he has completely remade them in his own image and he has completely shown the kind of ethical vacuum at the core of the Republican Party.
Everything the Republican Party has said it believes in, character, the rule of law, all of this sort of stuff they have thrown out the window to kneel down before Donald Trump. And there's no other way to put it.
[22:30:03] LEMON: So the president keeps falsely saying that he was exonerated, right, from this. So then why is he freaking out so much (Inaudible) un-redacted, since the redacted report was released?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, because I think he -- it seems like from the reporting that he sort of thought that this was all going to go away. And I don't know that, you know, he was sort of surprised that the Democrats looked at it and said, well no, actually that's not what the report said.
LEMON: Let me ask you this. Why would he think from the report that it was going to go away? Because if you read the report, the report is very damning to the president, but the summary and then the press conference, OK fine, and then you actually read the report and you say, well, that's not exactly what the report said.
POWERS: Do you think he did anything more than watch the press conference? I mean, seriously. That's the information that he got. He got the information from his attorney general. He probably watched the press conference. And that's what he thinks the report says.
I mean do we really think that he's read the report? And I think that, you know -- and he's probably taken it the same way, you know, Fox News has run with it and all his supporters have run with it.
And just ignored the fact that it's filled with, you know, what is essentially a referral for Congress for impeachment proceedings. And I think that -- you know, and I don't think Democrats did themselves any favors, frankly, in sort of building this up as it was going to be something that it ended up not being. Instead of, you know, letting people sort of see where it was going to go and where it ended up was still a very bad place.
Even if you were to say there was no collusion. There's still all of this obstruction of justice.
LEMON: It ended up here, and they wanted it to end up here.
POWERS: You know, whether there's an underlying crime or not, it doesn't really make any difference, as Republicans full well know since they impeached Bill Clinton for lying about something that wasn't an underlying crime.
LEMON: Go ahead.
BRUNI: I think there are two things behind this sort of meltdown, you know, for a lack of a better word, of President Trump's. One is I think he really is experiencing a kind of cognitive dissonance, right? He keeps saying in recent days and he said it before, but the economy, but the economy, the economy. He thinks he should be getting great credit in public opinion polls and from the media for the Dow Jones, for certain markets like that.
In his mind, whatever ethical transgressions he's guilty of, pale in comparison to affluence and wealth, because that's all he really cares about. And I think the other thing that's going on is he feels impotent, right? He wants to turn the page. The page is not getting turned. And when Donald Trump feels impotent, he does this sort of flamboyant pantomime of potency. And to him, that is tweeting furiously, you know, going into battle
mode, because in the kind of Venn diagram of Trump, battle mode and meltdown overlap.
LEMON: And just -- I think he smart in a way that he realizes that most Americans are not going to read the 400-plus page document, right? They're going to hear the sound bites. They're going to -- you know, go on social media. They'll go on their particular -- wherever they get their news from, which reinforces their own beliefs, and they're going to hear the president say completely exonerated.
This is a witch hunt. I think he's smart in realizing that the actual report is damning, but all the glowing things everyone is saying about me, you know, in the Trump media world, that's what folks are going to believe.
POWERS: I think that's true, but I still think he's worried about being investigated more. And so, you know, there are other things that could come out, and he knows that. And now, if they get a hold of his tax returns, for example, I mean there are all these different things that could be problematic for him, separate from what people think of them.
Like, he could be in actually legal peril, right, if they get his tax returns and they find out that he was his, you know, misstating his income, and these kinds of things. I mean these are serious issues, right? And so, you know, God knows what else is out there. And so I think that, you know, the idea of he does know that when you're under investigation, they're going to typically find things, whether it's the things they were looking for. They'll probably find something. And so I think that that's very scary for him.
BRUNI: And what Congress is asking for now is actually going beyond the parameters of the Mueller report, right? They want to talk about security clearances. They're still after the tax returns. He thought Mueller was his greatest threat. And the sorts of things Congress is investigating, issuing subpoenas for, actually look at a wider world of Trump behavior that just Mueller was looking at.
LEMON: Even in his business practices, let's just say that it's like the Mueller report, it doesn't rise to the level of criminality, people peering inside and seeing how you do business can be pretty damning that you don't pay as much taxes as most people, and on and on and on. So I think that's -- you know, that's one reason, one reason he doesn't want people to look into that. Thank you. Appreciate it.
I'll believe this one when I see it, though. Joe Biden getting ready to announce his bid for president tomorrow, that's what they say. So will he be the Democrat to beat?
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The former Vice President, Joe Biden, is just hours away from officially jumping into the 2020 race. Is he the right Democratic candidate to win back voters from President Trump in crucial swing states? Let's discuss now, because the former governor of Pennsylvania is here, Ed Rendell, as well as Mr. Mark McKinnon, sporting his fancy hat. So -- and we know he wears many hats, so thank you very much -- TV producer and also a political analyst, and good guy all around.
Thank you both for joining us. Governor, I want to start with you, because you go way back with Joe Biden. So tell us what he is thinking about tonight as he prepares to enter this race.
ED RENDELL, FORMER PHILADELPHIA MAYOR: Well, I think Joe Biden has always wanted to be president. I think he genuinely believes that he's the best candidate to face Donald Trump, the one who can surely beat Donald Trump. And that he's the best candidate, given his experience and the things that he's done, to bring about to change that the country so desperately needs.
So I think he's going into this as a happy warrior. I think you'll see Joe Biden at his best, and his best is awfully good.
[22:39:57] LEMON: All right, fair enough. Mark, you know, it's still really early, though, in the campaign. You know, Biden is the candidate that Trump should fear most. That's the question, some of -- you know, like Trump supporting guests have indicated that that is so when they come on this show. Do you agree with that?
MARK MCKINNON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, SHOWTIME'S THE CIRCUS: Oh, I agree with i, and there's a really good reason why, which Governor Rendell can tell us about, which is that if we presume that whoever the Democratic nominee holds, serve, and just wins the states that Clinton won, which is a pretty low bar, all they have to do is win Pennsylvania. So you could say that a lot of other Democrats could win Pennsylvania.
Joe Biden will absolutely win Pennsylvania. So there -- he is very high on the Trump radar. In fact, it's been reported that there's a big meeting of Trump campaign people in Pennsylvania tomorrow, because they recognize what a threat Joe Biden's going to be.
LEMON: Yeah. So how should they -- should they be worried about that? Because -- exactly right, we're told there are a group of Trump campaign advisers in Pennsylvania, today as a matter of fact. And I guess they're going to be meeting with officials today and tomorrow, because they are worried. How worried should they be in 2020?
RENDELL: Well, they should be very worried, because I think that we can make a great case that everything the president told those working class, white, mostly blue collar workers in 16, he's broken promise after promise after promise. And the best candidate to deliver that message is Joe Biden. Look, the president is smart. He knows he can't win by doing anything he can control.
He's got to poison the well for whoever the Democratic candidate is. He's got to scare voters, and he's going to scare them with Democrats are socialists. Democrats will spend money, and it will cause your taxes to go up. The one Democrat who he can't deliver the socialist message to with any credibility is Joe Biden. LEMON: So Governor, just simplistically, can you break this down for
us? The concern here is that Joe Biden can peel off enough voters in those states, those working class voters, some of those voters who voted for Barack Obama, but then ended up voting for Trump last time. He can peel enough of those off that this could be a slam dunk for him if he decides to get in, considering everything goes right.
RENDELL: Yeah, I mean that's the theory. And I think it's a good theory, because most of those voters were Democrats. They did mostly vote for Obama. And Trump took them away with false promises. The one Democrat you hear them talk about, that profile voter is Joe Biden.
LEMON: Mark, you know, Trump won. Since Trump won Pennsylvania, Republicans have suffered really a number of defeats there. You were here with me when we were talking about it. Remember the midterm elections about the number of defeats that Republicans had, starting with Connor Lam, (Inaudible) ending with double digit losses in the Senate and gubernatorial race. Has the political landscape there turned against President Trump?
MCKINNON: No question about it. I mean Pennsylvania was always a state whenever we -- when I ran with President Bush in 2000 and 2004. It was always out there -- we thought something we could get and we get close, and then at the end it would widen out. So I think it's kind of returning to form. The challenge for Joe Biden is not the general election.
The challenge for him is the primary, in a party where all the heat is with women and diversity and younger voters. He's the old white guy. He's the old establishment guy. So the tough thing for him is going to be that, you know, he's going to basically hit his high watermark tomorrow, and then he's not going to be -- he may try and be a happy warrior, but it's going to be a really tough ballgame in that primary, because he's going to get attacked from everybody.
Being a front runner is a tough deal when you've got to go, basically, eight months as the frontrunner. Everybody's going to be going after him. And so -- but he's Joe Biden. He's well liked. He's -- people associate him with President Obama. They associate him with the better times. So his sort of fundamental message to a lot of voters is just make America normal again.
LEMON: Looks like you want to get in, Governor. What did you want to say?
RENDELL: Yeah. I think Mark made a great point, two points. His value set and the American people know the values that Joe Biden has. And they're directly the polar opposite of the president. So that's a huge thing in his favor. His experience level is incredible. And they know that he can reach across the aisle and work with Republicans. That's what voters, I think, basically want.
So I think Joe can do better in the primaries than people expect. I think most Democratic voters, contrary to what the media thinks, are still moderate, left of center, and not way out progressives. And I think Joe's going to speak to those voters. And to show you how well liked he is, I had someone call me this morning and say he was ticked off because he didn't get an invitation to the fundraiser tomorrow night.
[22:44:55] And that's the first time in 42 years of politics that somebody has complained about not getting an invitation to a fundraiser. First time I ever heard that.
LEMON: We skimmed over some of the other battlegrounds, because we've been focusing very heavily on Pennsylvania since you're the former governor. But there are other battleground states Democrats need to focus on where Trump narrowly won, Governor, Michigan and Wisconsin. How does Biden get those states back?
RENDELL: Well, they're the same task. He has to appeal to those Democrats, working class, white Democrats who voted for Trump in Wisconsin and Michigan. But remember, it's not a heavy lift. We lost Michigan by 10,000 votes and Wisconsin by 22,000 votes. So it's not a heavy lift. And if he can bring a portion of those voters back into the fold, we're going to win fairly handily.
LEMON: Mark, do you concur?
MCKINNON: Yeah, I mean, he's got the very practical message. He's lunch bucket Joe Biden who understands those exact -- the voters in Pennsylvania are the same voters in Michigan, the same voters in Wisconsin. It's all the same demographic. So I mean he'll easily win Pennsylvania. He should win both of those back as well, because they're the same kind of voters, as the governor mentioned.
It was a slim margin by which Trump won those voters. So, you know, I mean the fundamental thing about Biden is that he's going to have a real air of a winner. People think he can win, and you can't underestimate the power that will have in the Democratic primaries as well.
RENDELL: And remember, Don. In November of 18, Democrats won the governorship and won it back in Michigan from Republicans, won it back in Wisconsin from Republicans. And, of course, our Governor, Tom Wolf, Democrat, was reelected by a huge margin in Pennsylvania. Those are, I think, in part referendums on Donald Trump.
LEMON: You guys are the right people to have on. So thank you so much. We still got a long way to go, and...
RENDELL: A long way to go.
LEMON: Yeah. I'm just going to predict...
MCKINNON: It's like the Kentucky Derby. It's not who breaks first out of the gate, it's who breaks last at the tape, long way to go.
LEMON: Pearls of wisdom. Thank you, gentlemen, I appreciate it. We'll be right back.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: A government official tells CNN that getting the White House to pay attention to Russia's election interference was "like pulling teeth," in part because senior didn't think it was such a good idea to bring up Russia related issues in front of the president. This, after The New York Times reported that the Former Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, was told by the White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, not to bring up election security in front of the president, because the president felt that it questioned the legitimacy of his election win.
Mulvaney tells CNN that he doesn't recall anything along those lines happening in any meeting. So let's bring now Lisa Monaco, the assistant to President Barack Obama for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. So we are glad to have you here.
LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good to be here, Don.
LEMON: You come with a lot of experience and knowledge so thank you so much. So the Russians attacked our country. They're continuing to attack our country. You heard what I just said and what the reporting is. It's a bad idea to bring this up in front of the president. Is he putting his own ego in front of national security by refusing to confront this problem in a way that it should be?
MONACO: Well, look, Don. I had a lot of reactions to the reporting that you just referenced. And one is that putting aside kind of (Inaudible) intrigue and who said what to whom, just looking at this from a national security perspective. A threat like the one that we experienced in 2016, in which the intelligence community says is ongoing, is serious.
And the first responsibility of the president and the reporting that you referenced, that's no way to deal with a national security threat, let alone an attack by a hostile foreign government on our Democratic process.
LEMON: You told The New York Times, Lisa, that you believe the Mueller report shows that the Russian threat is escalating. It's getting worse. What do you mean by that?
MONACO: Well, first of all, the Mueller report said that the Russian efforts against our 2016 election represented a sweeping and systematic effort to interfere in our election. So that's a baseline. That's a reference to 2016. But we also know that the senior most national security and intelligence officials of the Trump administration say that this is as threat that is ongoing.
And I am referencing here the Worldwide Threat Assessment, the most recent one. That is a public report that is issued by all the intelligence agencies provided to Congress. It said in the most recent Worldwide Threat Assessment. Now, remember this is a Trump administration's assessment that cyber threats are the most serious threats that we face. They hold the top spot on that threat assessment.
And within that, election interference by Russia is something that is continuing. They said they expect that Russian interference and elections here and abroad to continue and to continue to try and aggravate our divisions. And they also pointed to the fact that we are likely to see additional and new tools by Russia against the 2020 election.
LEMON: Mick Mulvaney is saying that the administration, they're on top of issues relating to election interference. Do you buy that?
MONACO: Well, look. We've got the reporting that was in The New York Times this morning that says that there was a direction not to raise these issues with the president, and that Secretary Nielsen, if the reporting is to be believed, had a hard time getting the attention of the White House and could not get the White House to convene the top national security officials, so she had to resort to her own meetings and convening folks on her own.
Now, look. People may think well, why does it matter who convenes the meetings. Is this just a bunch of protocol nonsense and bureaucracy? And I worked in agencies. I worked in the Justice Department. I also worked in the White House. And I can tell you this isn't about protocol. It's not about bureaucracy. It's about getting things done.
[22:55:06] And there is no substitute for having the unified forces of the government, all instruments of national power, convened by the White House, directed by the president all marching out in unison. It makes a difference.
LEMON: Listen. I got to get to top of the hour. I am running out time. Because, you know, there has been criticism by this president. This president says that the Obama administration, President Obama didn't do anything or didn't enough for Russian interference, and that it should be blamed on the former administration, the former president. How do you respond to that?
MONACO: Well, look. It's just not true. Obviously, President Obama directly confronted Putin. He did not stand there next to him in Helsinki, and undercut the intelligence committee.
LEMON: -- of that from September of 2016.
MONACO: He also directed his team, and I was among them to make protecting the actual conduct of the election a top priority. And he directed that we try and get a unified bipartisan response to Russian's -- to Russia's efforts. That's -- we've got to remember. This should not be a partisan issue, Don. This is an attack on our Democracy. We -- the best defense against an effort to divide us is to pose a unified front. LEMON: And the fact is President Obama is no longer the president,
MONACO: That's exactly right. The focus should be on what are we doing today
LEMON: Thank you, Lisa. I appreciate it.
MONACO: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: We'll be right back.