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CNN TONIGHT

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) Is Interviewed About Joe Biden's Introduction Campaign Tactic For 2020; President Trump Fears Joe Biden's Nomination; President Trump's False Claims; Franklin Graham Attacks Pete Buttigieg for Being a Gay Christian. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 25, 2019 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

He has been hinting at it for months and today he made it official. Joe Biden is running for president, becoming the 20th candidate to seek the 2020 Democratic nomination.

He announced his candidacy in a campaign video, but he didn't go after his Democratic rivals, instead, taking direct aim at Donald Trump's presidency. Especially Trump's handling of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said there were, quote, some very fine people on both sides, very fine people on both sides? Those words, the President of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it.

And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I'd ever seen in my lifetime.

I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time, but if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: President Trump is keenly aware of the potential impact Biden's candidacy will have on the 2020 race. Sources telling CNN that Trump has repeatedly asked aides about Biden's chances of winning the Democratic nomination.

One major concern, Pennsylvania, which Trump won by a slim margin. Slim margin in 2016. Pennsylvania is Biden's native state and held a fund-raiser in Philadelphia tonight, his first campaign rally, in Pittsburgh on Monday.

One White House source saying if Biden wins the nomination, it's a problem for Trump. So, let's discuss. Congressman Cedric Richmond, a former chairman of the Congressional

Black Caucus joins us from New Orleans right now.

Thank you, sir. Good to see you. Let's talk about this, Congressman. The president --

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D), LOUISIANA: Hey, Don, how are you?

LEMON: -- response to Charlottesville -- I'm doing great, thank you for asking. The president's response to Charlottesville was shocking, a wake-up call for many Americans.

Joe Biden, he chose that to symbolize what's wrong with the president and this presidency and the direction that he's taking this country. Do you think that was the right thing for him to do?

RICHMOND: Exactly. In our business, character equals your policies and it equals your values. So just as his moral equivalency on Charlottesville, you have to remember, this is the same president that proposed to cut the Special Olympics and meals on wheels for seniors.

So, the fight we have is real and it's for the soul of this country. It's to provide help for the working and middle class and those aspiring to be in it and about unifying this country again. So, I think vice president took direct aim and it was warranted.

LEMON: So, the Trump campaign adviser and daughter -- daughter-in- law, Lara Trump, was on this program tonight. I'm kidding. She was on Fox News today. This is her reaction to Biden's campaign video. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARA TRUMP, SENIOR ADVISOR, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN: I didn't hear any proposals for the future of this country in his announcement video that he made there. Race baiting, as usual, as we see from the Democrats and identity politics is something that I think we'll see more of and we saw it there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: She's accusing Biden of race baiting.

RICHMOND: You know, if this wasn't about the future of this country, I really could laugh at that except that this is about the future of America. It's about what we stand for. You're talking about a president who called wanting to ban all Muslims, called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers.

[23:04:54] I mean, it's just the hypocrisy is just so astounding that it's sickening, but I think he's found his match in Vice President Biden and I think that scares him.

LEMON: Yes. I want to talk about this because, you know, people are talking about this, it made headlines today. Earlier this month Biden called Anita Hill to express his regret over what she endured during the 1991 Supreme Court hearings where she testified against Justice Clarence Thomas but she said was -- she said she was deeply unsatisfied with the conversation.

She said it also said it did not -- she didn't believe it disqualified him. She believes that people can change. Do you think he missed an opportunity there to put this controversy behind him?

RICHMOND: Well, I think the fact that they're talking and they're talking about the incident is very important. But I will tell you this about the Clarence Thomas hearings and Anita Hill's testimony.

One, the vice president believed her. Two, the vice president voted against Clarence Thomas. And three, when it was all said and done, he went, doubled down, so he could pass the violence against Women Act so we would actually start to take domestic violence seriously in this country.

Then fourth, the last thing he did, was to make sure that he went out and campaigned for women senators and said that I will help you only if you commit to be on the judiciary committee so that we will never have a hearing again without the voice of a woman.

And so, I think that it was a teachable moment. I think he learned from it and I think we can look at his policies now and we're a better country because of it.

LEMON: Let's talk about the all-important, as you know, you're a Democrat, black Democrat, the African-American vote, very important to Democrats. Biden served as vice president for eight years under President Barack Obama, the nation's first black president. But he can't take for granted that he's going to earn the all-important African-American vote, right?

RICHMOND: No, he can't take it for granted. One, I think that he has his own credibility with the African-American community around the country and he's been so approachable and accessible. He was there for us when he was the vice president.

So I think he has his own credibility, but, too, if you look at his policies that he's going to present and listen to them, I think he has an agenda to uplift the African-American community, but not only the African-American community, but all poor and struggling communities but he's not shy about saying that there's a real harm done in the African-American community and we need real action to get it done.

So, I'm excited about that and I think that African-Americans around the country already recognize that.

LEMON: Thank you, sir. Listen, I don't know -- I'm going to let you go. If you want to stick around and listen, I would love it and maybe we'll bring you in, maybe we won't. I don't know if we have time. But I've got two gentlemen here. No, seriously, I mean that. Because I think you'll find this important and interesting, too. I want to bring in Van Jones and also W. Kamau Bell. Hello.

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST: Hello. LEMON: So, you were listening. I heard you. I saw you guys nodding

your head. What did you think of what Cedric just said?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I have to say, I welcome Biden's voice in this campaign. I mean, I'm on the left side of the party, so on the policy stuff, we may part ways. We'll see what he comes out policy wise, but --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You think he's too moderate?

JONES: He might be too moderate for me and for the party. But I will say is this. Put policy aside for one second, the person of Joe Biden coming out the way that he did, he wasn't just calling Trump out. He was calling us out.

And I was -- I was, like, help is on the way. I was so glad to hear someone speak in those tones to the country. This is not who we're supposed to be and that we can be better.

And I think, so just bringing that moral authority back in the public conversation which I think he does very well is a good thing. He has a tendency to be Mr. Empathy. I'm surprised that he's kind of missed the opportunity to show that empathy with Anita Hill and to close that.

It's not a hard conversation to have and it's not a hard thing to apologize for. I hope he gets that cleared up. I will say, we'll talk about policy at some point, but the person of Joe Biden is a welcome presence in American policy.

LEMON: Can I ask you something? Because, yes, I really appreciate your advice here. Here's what, at the top of the last hour I said Anita Hill doesn't have to accept his apology. She doesn't have to support him. She probably won't, right?

If he addresses it, and I'm not sure if he has done it adequately or not, I'm not saying that, but if he addressed it, he apologized, what more can he do? What -- like --

JONES: I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: If you listen to what Cedric said, he said, you know, the violence against Women Act. So, I'm asking you.

JONES: Look, I think we live in an era where your accomplishments and that kind of stuff is important to some voters and I think those voters will take Biden seriously and appreciate all he's done for women. But you have another set of voters that the optics and that kind of stuff matters a lot to them, the symbolism.

And I think he has to in this era get the symbolism right. And until he can land an apology with her that makes sense to her and others, it's going to be a problem for him. LEMON: W. Kamau, what do you think?

[23:09:59] BELL: Yes. I mean, I think calling today -- was it today he called?

LEMON: No, he called earlier in the month. I think a month ago.

BELL: OK. A month, still, that's, like, last minute. I mean, that's sort of like when it hit the news cycle that it came up again. And for me, it's like he had years to apologize in a more profound and more timely manner.

So, I think he just -- if I'm Anita Hill, it feels suspicious that you're calling now. This feels like you're apologizing because you're about to run for president. Not that you're apologizing because you actually feel sorry.

LEMON: Well, we don't know if it was an actual apology. She wouldn't qualify it. We don't know what the conversation was about. But I get your point. You're saying it seems a little late, right?

WELL: It seems. I mean, I think the problem with the presidency is sometimes things seem craven when people are running for president.

LEMON: What do you think about him centering his announcement around Charlottesville?

BELL: I think that's great, but I think that that's just a good speech. I think that we have a long way to go. I think the problem is just like you said earlier about he, one of the things he can win, he can maybe win Pennsylvania.

I think people of color, black people, are afraid that this election is going to be framed around white working-class voters and that starts to leave us out. I think that's the thing I'm afraid about, that when you put Trump versus Biden, it becomes about who the battle for the white working-class voter which people of color are exhausted about hearing about that.

LEMON: Do you agree with that?

JONES: Well, let me -- I mean, I think there's two ways to look at it and so one way to look at it which I think is a legitimate way to look at it to say, well, we lost the industrial Midwest by a total of 70,000 votes. Out of 120 million votes cast, like, 10,000 votes in Michigan, you know, the rest, Ohio, Pennsylvania, could Joe Biden get 70,000 more votes in the industrial heartland than Hillary Clinton got? Without getting out of bed? Yes.

So, if you assume, you're going to have the same basic matchup, then Biden is the surer bet. I think the other half of the party says maybe we shouldn't bet on the same exact matchup and maybe we should try to energize voters who sat it out altogether, maybe you put Florida back in play, we can have more black and brown.

So, I understand. But for me, I think it's important to at least start with the basic math that if you want to be cheap and lazy about it, basic math says Biden is a good bet.

LEMON: You made a really -- you made that point earlier and I saw it. I used it in the open of the show. You said look, you've got the progressive side that, you know, gets all the attention but when you really look at it, right, the heart and soul of the party, for now, at least the bulk it, is with the moderates.

And so, Democrats have a -- Democrats have a dilemma. It's true. You can do that all you want, Kamau. All you got to do is look --

(CROSSTALK)

BELL: As you notice, I'm staying to the left of Van.

LEMON: OK. So, let me tell you this.

Kamau, don't you know most of the people --

BELL: What don't I know?

LEMON: Most of the people who vote in the -- as Democrats and most of the party is made up of moderates. The people on Twitter don't necessarily vote -- I'm not saying -- I'm generalizing.

BELL: You know why they don't vote? The party isn't speaking to them.

LEMON: Yes.

BELL: They can vote.

LEMON: That's fair.

BELL: It could vote. But the party is not speaking to them. So, I think the problem is that if we're going to argue over the 70,000 votes, which I understand the math, but also, we have to admit, Joe Biden is also, what's his alias? Creepy Joe, Uncle Joe? He's a gaffe machine waiting to happen. There will be three things he does in the next week, we'll be like, whew. So, I feel like we're looking at this in a two --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Kamau, let me ask you this, though.

BELL: Yes, ask me.

LEMON: You say that. How many gaffes does this current president -- I hear -- I'll say this. And I ask people that because there's always -- Republicans always fall in line. That's been an observation sitting here. Republicans always fall in line, every one. I said this before, everyone on that stage against Trump in 2015 or 2016, they hated him.

They said he does not represent the values of this country, that he built his business on the backs -- even the person who became his campaign manager is now his adviser. All of them fell in line once he became the nominee. Right? BELL: Yes, I remember that.

LEMON: OK. And so --

(CROSSTALK)

BELL: I'm old enough to remember that.

LEMON: -- Democrats had this litmus test, where they're saying this wasn't good enough, that wasn't good enough, and well, we're not going to do it because they're screaming at Hillary Clinton in the hallways because they want criminal justice reform which is a good thing to do, they should be doing that.

But guess who's getting credit for getting criminal justice reform right now because the Democrats couldn't come together? That is Donald Trump.

BELL: You said a lot of things, Don.

LEMON: I'm quoting -- I'm saying to you is --

(CROSSTALK)

BELL: No --

LEMON: -- the strategy --

BELL: But I'm saying, I'm never going to feel bad --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let me ask you this.

BELL: -- bad for holding people up to a high standard.

LEMON: Is the strategy to hold everyone to a standard that unattainable to a perfection that's unattainable, or is it to win the White House?

BELL: You can do both, you can hold people up to a high standard and you can also not fall short of perfection.

LEMON: Man. Get out of here.

(CROSSTALK)

BELL: Do you remember the --

LEMON: Are you perfect?

BELL: Am I perfect?

LEMON: Are you perfect?

BELL: No. LEMON: OK.

BELL: I'm quoting my wife.

LEMON: If you -- OK. So, if you --

(CROSSTALK)

BELL: I'm not perfect. But I guess I'm trying to be better every day.

LEMON: So you're a comedian has everything you've done --

BELL: I'm a college dropout sitting between you two. Let's keep going.

LEMON: That's good. I think that's great.

BELL: Yes.

LEMON: But are there things in your past -- listen, I'm not making excuses.

BELL: Yes, no.

LEMON: I'm talking about all the candidates.

BELL: I'm disqualified from running for president.

LEMON: Are there things in your past you'd like to undo?

BELL: A hundred percent. But you can atone for those things. You can make up for those. You can try. You can at least try.

JONES: You can find redemption.

BELL: You can find redemption.

JONES: You can find a redemption.

[23:14:58] BELL: There can be a project to find redemption for you. A redemption-type project.

JONES: Yes.

BELL: Hosted by Van Jones this Sunday at 9 p.m. on CNN.

JONES: Thank you, sir.

BELL: No problem.

LEMON: Cedric, we're going to talk more about that after a break. Cedric, do you want to say anything to anything that we just said?

RICHMOND: Let me just say this. I actually think they're both right and you just gave Donald Trump credit for criminal justice reform, actually Hakeem Jeffries, Van Jones and I really worked hard on that but we accomplished that. So, this is what I want to say.

LEMON: No, I didn't say that you --

(CROSSTALK)

RICHMOND: He can have --

LEMON: I just said who's getting the credit for it, don't you think, you don't think the Trump administration is getting the credit for it?

BELL: We don't say that he is --

LEMON: It happened under the Trump administration. Did it not?

RICHMOND: It did. They came along --

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: Go get some credit -- I will give you and Hakeem a bunch of credit as well.

LEMON: Go ahead. Go ahead. I'm sorry.

RICHMOND: And Van. But here's the thing. I think he can do both. I think he can bring the Midwest, but I also think that if he actually gets it so when we talk about criminal justice reform now, you'll see that his policies are going to focus on prosecutorial discretion.

All these prosecutors who thought it was nice and popular to be hard on crime, overcharge African-Americans and then you find the disparity in the criminal justice system so I think he's going to be able to do both.

And the one conversation I keep hearing that people say African- Americans stayed home last election cycle, presidential, it's not true. They voted for the third-party candidate because they didn't hear what they liked. We came out, but we voted for the third-party candidate 300 percent more than what we did during President Obama's race.

So, we're active, we're engaged and I think his policies are going to resonate with people who actually get it and I'm just looking forward to the race where people can actually show their values through their policy statements and I think he is going to be spot-on for the African-American community.

LEMON: All right. You're good, you're good? Because I have to go to the break.

JONES: Got to go to the break? I'll be good. After the break, I'll be good.

BELL: Just happy to see four black men on CNN at one time.

LEMON: Where you been? You don't watch this show, do you? So --

BELL: I watch Fox.

LEMON: Really? With that lift every voice t-shirt on and sing the black national anthem? Anyway, yes, I said that. So, we're going to talk about your project, Kamau and Van's project after the break.

Thank you, Cedric. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.

[23:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Back now with Van and Kamau and they're part of a special new Sunday primetime lineup on CNN original series, "The Redemption Project" with Van Jones and "United Shades of America" with W. Kamau Bell and it starts this Sunday. You're welcome because I gave my approval as the --

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: Yes. Thank you.

BELL: Is this -- this is the first time to CNN with black to black.

LEMON: I almost --

JONES: And we make -- all kind of history is made.

LEMON: I almost gave initials that was going to get me in trouble, you know.

JONES: I know, exactly, four initials, H. And I see but we don't want to say that.

LEMON: My god. So, "The Redemption Project" is Van's project, his new show on CNN. Let's take a sneak peek at the first episode.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My actions started the cycle of violence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He took the love and what my life could have been like. I want him to look me in the face and tell me why he killed my mother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way that you could actually prepare for something like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the last piece of that puzzle from a lifetime of what if.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Man, that is intense.

JONES: Yes.

LEMON: Tell us about the experience of watching this show. What are we going to get? JONES: Look, this is a heartbreak to hope kind of a show. In that,

first of all, I just think that the culture has gone so negative. It is no -- no compassion, no forgiveness, no listening, no empathy, all that. Now it's just canceled culture, call out culture. I'm a black culture.

And that's just poisonous. I wanted to put some medicine out there. So, this show goes 180 degrees the other direction. We take people who have done really bad stuff. I'm not talking about a bad tweet. Really bad stuff.

Many of them in prison who want to make amends and who want to atone and then we find the people that they hurt or the surviving family members, we get their backstory and then we just film them talking to each other for the first time. And it is an unbelievable experience.

This is not reality TV. There are no tricks. There are no stunts. We aren't trying -- we just let them talk to each other. And the healing that happens is unbelievable. it doesn't always end up warm and fuzzy. It doesn't --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Some people don't want it.

JONES: Yes. It doesn't always end up warm and fuzzy but in every case, something happens that you would have thought was impossible to happen in every episode.

LEMON: OK. Thank you. That's it. No, sorry.

BELL: Man. Terrible.

LEMON: Kamau is back with a new season of "United Shades of America," a look at his first adventure in a very interesting place, a megachurch. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BELL: As a comedian, I look at this as part of this is performance and you had two shows today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No doubt, it's performance.

BELL: Yes. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm not scared of saying we're entertaining because if you look at the gospels, I could argue that Jesus entertained. What's the word, entertainment? It means to capture and hold someone's attention for an extended period of time.

I hope we don't come off, you know, I'm sure to some people, slick, polished, whatever. Hope not. I don't want it to be. BELL: Yes, because I think that, you know, people who do not feel

invited into the church I think one of the things they see when they see a church like this is why is that where they're spending all that money?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

BELL: Why --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's always -- I've heard that my whole life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: It's completely a performance. I mean, if you've been to any -- not even a megachurch, any Baptist church, southern Baptist, you know it's a performance. Yes, it's a performance. You know my favorite is T.D. Jakes.

BELL: Yes.

LEMON: I steal from him.

BELL: Well, the thing we're talking about there is that it's a performance. But when it feels more like a performance, like one preacher said it's like a rock concert with a motivational speech.

LEMON: Right.

[23:24:57] BELL: And less about the teachings of Jesus. That's the thing we're trying to get to, when it feels more -- it feels like sometimes they're worried more about entertaining people than actually delivering the message.

LEMON: So, but people are drawn to that more because sometimes -- think about what we're doing now, we're going to talk about it later, Franklin Graham, what he's saying about Buttigieg, that people shape the scriptures to match what they want it to be.

BELL: Yes.

LEMON: Right?

BELL: Yes.

LEMON: And so maybe in the megachurch somehow, it's not to churchy, and it's not so whatever that they actually get to heart of what religion is about or faith.

BELL: Well, not all megachurches are created equally, so there's like the Cathedral of Hope, which is an LGBTQ plus megachurch in Dallas.

JONES: In Texas.

BELL: Yes, in Texas, there's a friendship west which is Pastor Freddie Haynes which is a very MLK-based social justice church but then there are churches where they're basically calling -- they're called MAGA churches, whether they're basically telling you to vote for Trump and somehow making the bible sounds like it wants to support Trump.

LEMON: Is that the ones where they ask the people in the church to buy them jets?

BELL: Yes. Well, you know, that goes through a lot of those different churches.

LEMON: I'm being told I've got to run.

BELL: All right.

LEMON: I've seen too much of you all.

JONES: Quiet. Listen, this is the line up to end up all lineups, you all.

BELL: I only won -- I only won two Emmy's. But yes, let's go to commercial.

LEMON: All new CNN original series "The Redemption Project" with Van Jones. It premieres Sunday night at 9, followed by something else, the all new season of "United Shades of America" with W. Kamau Bell at 10 p.m.

Thank you, both. I appreciate it. Good luck. We'll be watching. We'll be right back.

[23:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump going off the rails again on Twitter about the Mueller investigation, falsely claiming he didn't order Don McGahn to fire Mueller. The evidence in the Mueller report shows that Trump told McGahn to get rid of the special counsel. He also called the investigation illegal. It wasn't.

I want to bring in now the man who literally wrote the book on Trump, and that's Tony Schwartz. He's the author of the -- I should say -- well, he's the author. We'll say co-author but really the author of "The Art of the Deal."

Tony, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it. For a person who --

TONY SCHWARTZ, AUTHOR: Thank you.

LEMON: -- falsely claims that he has been fully exonerated by the Mueller report, I mean, the president sure seems to be freaking out. Why is that? What's going on here?

SCHWARTZ: He doesn't like what's in the Mueller report. You know, it's incredibly clear evidence of obstruction of justice and of a range of other behaviors that are somewhere between unacceptable and despicable. He doesn't like to be portrayed in that way, so he is fighting back.

You know, I was thinking today about crime and punishment and how "Crime and Punishment" Raskolnikov keeps coming back to the scene of the crimes he committed and eventually at the end he finally can't stand it anymore and he confesses. I think what you're seeing on Twitter from Trump is a running confessional, even though it is happening in sort of reverse because he's denying everything even when it's transparently true.

LEMON: Yeah, but his actions show something else. Tony, President Trump is tweeting, I mean, he never told his then -- he said he never told his then-White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, despite the evidence laid out in the redacted report, the redacted Mueller report that he did just the opposite.

Why would anyone believe a serial liar like President Trump on Twitter over the White House counsel McGahn's interviews which carry the penalty of perjury?

SCHWARTZ: Yeah, I mean, I had exactly the same thought and the answer is almost nobody does believe him.

LEMON: You don't think his supporters believe him?

SCHWARTZ: We know that somewhere around -- I think a small -- I mean, honest to God, I think a small percentage of his supporters believe him and a larger percentage know he's a liar and don't care.

LEMON: Interesting. I also want to get your view on this. This is what our Jeff Zeleny and Kevin Liptak are reporting tonight, that Trump is not thrilled that the 2020 Democrats are taking up more airtime on TV and he is working to counter that with more angry tweets, more friendly phone interviews. So, can we expect his attention-seeking outbursts to get worse, to increase?

SCHWARTZ: Well, first of all, when is Trump at any point during his adult life not been attention-seeking? That's his modus operandi at all times. I actually, Don, would separate those two ideas. I do think he's always trying to figure out how to get maximum attention, but I think the anger you're seeing is in direct response to his inner awareness of -- I don't know if it's a direct experience but his inner awareness of his guilt.

He does not like the fact that a legal document lays out in meticulous detail what he did that is by any reasonable measure unacceptable. Although it's extraordinary that a hundred percent of Republicans have effectively stood behind him, not a single one has said he's unfit to be president.

And if a Democrat did a tenth of the things Trump did, according to the Mueller report, every one of those Republicans would vote for impeachment.

LEMON: Let me read you this quote. It goes along with what you're saying. This is by Paul Waldman over at The Washington Post. He says, "How far will people around Trump go to defend him? Will they lie to the public? Will they lie under oath? Trump himself can't be sure, which is a key reason that he is now moving to shut down any possibility that those who work for him will have to testify before Congress." Do you agree with that?

SCHWARTZ: Well, I mean, there are two groups. There's the group inside the White House and then there is legislators, and I think what we see from legislators is that actually, I think, you know, Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham, they're already willing to lie. They've lied repeatedly, even in the last week in their response to the Mueller report. Inside the White House, I think he's -- you know, he has shut them down so that they wouldn't dare say a word.

[23:35:02] And I dare say they wouldn't say a word even to someone in law enforcement at this stage. It's a very different stage than when Don McGahn sat with the Mueller folks for 30 hours.

LEMON: Yeah.

SCHWARTZ: Trump has made it clear that his vindictiveness which we've always known is intense essentially knows no bounds.

LEMON: Let's talk about Don McGahn because, well, you mentioned him, but also it will be different, I think, than just reading a report and, you know, I think it will be different to see someone actually testifying. If Don McGahn testifies publicly on Capitol Hill about this June 2017 phone call, when Trump directed him to fire Mueller through Rosenstein, do you think Trump sees the peril in that?

SCHWARTZ: Well, it's interesting, is there a peril in it? I'm not absolutely certain there is. I mean, who is going to be convinced by McGahn's honest testimony? I mean, the folks --

(LAUGHTER)

SCHWARTZ: -- who are opposed to Trump are just going to be reinforced and the ones who are his supporters are going to dismiss his testimony and they're going to dismiss it because Trump has told them to dismiss it, even though most of them are well aware he's lying.

LEMON: Yeah. There was also Kellyanne Conway's husband, George Conway, no fan of the president, who got the hashtag "deranged Donald Trump --

SCHWARTZ: I'm a fan of George Conway.

LEMON: You're a fan. So, he got this hashtag "deranged Donald." It's trending in a series of tweets. How much will this get under the president's skin, you think?

SCHWARTZ: Oh, I think this is a persistent irritation for Trump, maybe even a significant irritation. I mean, imagine having one of your closest advisers married to someone who relentlessly criticizes you and in very penetrating and stinging ways. I think it gets to Trump every time it comes in front of his gaze.

The thing is, there's so many things that irritate and enrage Trump and his attention span is so short that he may alight on a George Conway for one moment but in the next moment he's moved on to being upset with the -- with any of a dozen or 100 other critics.

LEMON: Yeah. Tony Schwartz, I appreciate your time.

SCHWARTZ: Thank you.

LEMON: So, I've got to call out something really hypocritical and frankly outrageous. Evangelist Franklin Graham is attacking Mayor Pete Buttigieg, saying he has to repent for the so-called sin of being a gay Christian. You don't want to go anywhere. You want to hear this.

[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: I want you to listen to this, Franklin Graham. Franklin Graham is the son of prominent evangelist, Billy Graham. He's taking on rising Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. The South Bend mayor is gay and he is also very open about being a man of faith. So here's what he said at a CNN town hall, this was Monday, about challenging the religious right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I get that one of the things about scripture is different people see different things in it, but at the very least, we should be able to establish that God does not have a political party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, Franklin Graham had some thoughts about this. Frankly, I hate to even read this out loud, but I will because I want us to be able to talk about it, all right? So here it is. "Presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor, Pete Buttigieg, is right, God doesn't have a political party. But God does have commandments, laws and standards he gives us to live by. God doesn't change. His word is the same yesterday, today and forever. Mayor Buttigieg says he is a gay Christian."

"As a Christian, I believe the bible which defines homosexuality as a sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The bible says marriage is between a man and a woman, not two men, not two women. The core of the Christian faith is believing and following Jesus Christ, who God sent to be the savior of the world, to save us from sin, to save us from hell, to save us from eternal damnation."

OK. Let's stop here because actually, the core of the Christian faith is love. Many faithful Christians disagree with Franklin Graham's bigoted viewpoints on gay people. He is a prominent evangelical supporter of the president. The same president, OK, that he makes excuses for, but the same president who married three times, had multiple affairs, one of which was with an adult film actress named Stormy Daniels, just four months after his wife, Melania, had given birth. He got his attorney to pay hush money to cover up the affair and then reimbursed him, then he paid hush money to someone else as well, then he lied about it to the American people. Whatever happened to thou shalt not bear false witness?

Franklin Graham supports a president who didn't just lie about this, but he routinely lies to the American people, over 9,000 false or misleading claims since he took office, and that's according to The Washington Post. And who can forget this, the president actually bragged about his -- about sexually assaulting women.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): I better use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her.

[23:45:00] You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful. I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP (voice-over): Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Whatever you want.

TRUMP (voice-over): Grab them by the pussy.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP (voice-over): You can do anything.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: So gross. Despite all of this, Graham has stood by this president, defending him even on this show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The bible and everyone always taught me to do unto others and to not attack others, and that's all this president does.

FRANKLIN GRAHAM, EVANGELIST: He's not the pastor of our country, Don.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: There are a lot of words for this, but let's just start with the word "hypocrisy." I want to bring in now Reverend David Gushee, a Christian ethicist and the author of "Changing our Mind." Reverend, it is so good to have you on. Thank you.

DAVID GUSHEE, CHRISTIAN ETHICIST: Hey, Don, how are you?

LEMON: I'm great. I want to get your reaction to Granklin Graham speaking out about Mayor Pete Buttigieg and same-sex marriage and so forth.

SCHWARTZ: Well, I have to say that I'm not surprised, but I am distressed. What we're talking about here is attacking a whole group of people at the core place of their faith and in this case, of their marriage. I think those of us who are both people of faith and married people know that you can hardly go to a more core spot than to try to discredit morally and religiously the faith-based marriage of two people.

LEMON: Yeah.

SCHWARTZ: And so it's hurtful and inappropriate, and I think represented some kind of retrograde theology that continues to hurt people.

LEMON: So you wrote back in 2014 about your change of heart on LGBTQ rights and here's what you said. You said, "It finally became clear to me that I must side with those who were being treated with contempt, just as I hope I would have sided with Jews in the Nazi era and with African-Americans during the civil rights years." So why don't evangelical leaders see it the same way?

SCHWARTZ: Well, I think what we're talking about here is a long history of selective biblical literalism that takes certain passages or sentences, strands of the bible, severs them from the heart and example of Jesus and ends up using that selective literalism to hurt people. It's a long history, Don, of that from anti-Semitism to grotesque sexism, support for slavery, colonialism, segregation, even the exclusion of divorced people from the church.

And right now, the main battleground is LGBTQ inclusion. It's interesting to note that on a lot of those previous ones, conservative Christians eventually realized that they needed to change their mind. A lot of us have come to that same conclusion on this one, but Franklin Graham has not.

LEMON: You mean they needed to change their mind on some of the sins that they wanted to change their mind for, or so-called sins, correct? Yeah.

SCHWARTZ: Right, well, there's a -- I mean, there are a lot of different ways the bible can be interpreted and in the past, it has been interpreted to harm people. And in many cases, the conservative Christians changed their minds on those issues. But, right now, they're digging in their heels on LGBT inclusion.

And I think to the extent that Pete Buttigieg becomes a very serious candidate, this issue is going to be re-litigated, you might say, daily in coverage and commentary on his campaign.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, reverend, listen, excuse me, our time's a little shorter than I thought here, but I think it's interesting that you say that the Christian right has been in the grip of the Republican Party for 40 years now and it's getting worse. We're going to have you back. We're going to talk to you more about these issues. Thank you so much for coming on CNN. We really appreciate it.

SCHWARTZ: Absolutely. Thank you.

LEMON: Is the religious right threatened by Mayor Buttigieg? We'll discuss, next.

[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So we're back now in Franklin Graham going after Pete Buttigieg for being a gay Christian. Let's discuss. Alice Stewart is here, Hilary Rosen.

Hello to both of you. Thank you so much. So you heard my -- I read it all out, my conversation with the pastor there.

So Hilary, Franklin Graham publicly supports a known adulterer, a chronic liar in President Trump, yet has a moral problem when it comes to a man who has committed in marriage and is a veteran and is a devoted church goer and a Christian.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was just going to call him a clown and a hack. But I liked what the reverend just said, it was selective biblical literalism. I mean, I thought that was a, you know, a much more intellectual and thoughtful way to talk about this.

Look, I think, you know, the leadership of the evangelical church in the last couple of years has evolved from like a moral authority into kind of transactional operatives for the Republican right wing and it's appalling, it's frustrating, but I actually think that they're less and less and less influential, you know, certainly much less than they have been in years past.

LEMON: So Alice, Franklin Graham certainly doesn't speak for the majority of Americans or even many Christians who don't share his views on LGBTQ issues. Do you think Graham's comments reflect badly on Christianity?

[23:55:02] ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think first and foremost it's important to say that Franklin Graham has led a life of ministry and charity that is not surpassed by many people. In this, the problem I have with this is that the cornerstone of Christianity is love. And the great part of faith is believing in something that you cannot see, you simply have a belief in it.

And the problem here, there are certain facts here in this case that I think are troubling. Franklin Graham himself said that a Christian is a person who is a follower of Jesus Christ. Mayor Pete Buttigieg says that he is.

Also, Franklin Graham says that when we look at what is a sin, that this is -- homosexuality is a sin. Well, I'm not an expert in the bible like he is, but I know that the seventh commandment says that adultery is a sin, and he has supported Donald Trump, so I think we have a problem there.

But at the end of the day, he also agrees with Mayor Buttigieg that this is not -- Christianity is not a political issue. Well, if that's the case, then let's take that out of this. Let's take this as an opportunity to show that faith and Christianity is not transactional, it's transformational.

We can take this as an opportunity to expand Christianity to all people of all races, of all sexual preferences, and not be the judge ourselves of other people but let God be the ultimate judge on these things.

LEMON: Yeah. There's so much that I want to say, Hilary, as -- especially considering that I just got engaged. We would love to be able to be married in the Catholic Church because his family are staunch Catholics and so is he, to profess our love for each other in front of family and friends and cannot do that. And it seems to me the antithesis of what Christianity in the church should be about --

ROSEN: Well, there are Christian churches where you can get married.

LEMON: Yeah.

ROSEN: I mean Pete Buttigieg got married in an episcopal church. There are good Christians who have seen transforming ways and greater acceptance and love as enhancing the morality of the church, and so that is where this should go. You know, we've had the same thing in our Jewish religion. Like I said, I do think that a majority of Americans --

LEMON: I got to run.

ROSEN: -- like seeing LGBTQ people both, you know, worship God and love each other.

LEMON: Thank you.

ROSEN: I think those two things are compatible.

LEMON: I got to go. There's no commandment that says thou shalt not be gay. Never saw one.

STEWART: There's not.

LEMON: Because here I am. Thank you.

ROSEN: Thou shalt not be gay.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)