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CNN TONIGHT

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D) Texas Is Interviewed On How She Views Attorney General Barr's Response To House Judiciary Committee; Attorney General William Barr Refuses To Testify Tomorrow Before The House Judiciary Committee; What Constant Gaslighting Does to America; Biden Calls On Barr To Resign; Trump Melts Down On Twitter Over Firefighter Union's Endorsement Of Joe Biden; Trump Accuses Kamala Harris Of Being "Very Nasty." Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired May 1, 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.

The Attorney General, William Barr refusing to testify tomorrow before the House Judiciary Committee. He objects to the committee's decision to allow staff lawyers to question him. This is how committee Chairman Nadler reacted earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Attorney General Barr has just informed us that he will not attend tomorrow's hearing. Given his lack of candor in describing the work of the special counsel, our members were right to insist that staff council be permitted to question the attorney general.

I understand why he wants to avoid that kind of scrutiny. But when push comes to shove the administration, he cannot dictate the terms of our hearing in our hearing room.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, Nadler went on to say that he hopes Barr has a change of heart overnight and decides to testify. We shall see. I would hold my breath, though.

Also, Nadler says that the Justice Department has informed the committee it will not comply with today's subpoena deadline to turn over Robert Mueller's full unredacted report on the Russia investigation.

Nadler says if they don't get it soon, he'll seek a contempt citation against the attorney general.

All of this in the wake of Barr's defiant testimony today before the Senate Judiciary Committee, adamantly defending his handling of Mueller's report and downplaying Mueller's letter objecting to Barr's characterization of the results of his investigation.

In fact, Barr called Mueller's letter quote, "a bit snooty." But Barr also was more than a bit evasive on tough questions by Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't recall. No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't recall?

BARR: I don't recall.

I don't know. I wouldn't -- I wouldn't -- apparently according to the report he was -- could you repeat that question?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Let's bring in John Dean. John Dean is a former White House counsel to President Nixon. John, thank you so much for joining us. Boy, what a day we witnessed today. And may have been witnessing a similar one tomorrow but he is he's not going to do it.

So, you were once White House counsel. Is Barr acting more like a White House counsel or personal attorney than attorney general of the United States?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think any of the above actually. I was also a committee counsel of the committee he stiffed tomorrow or may stiff tomorrow. What he's doing is just really being defiant to the entire House of Representatives. Now that's in control of the Democrats.

He's trying to make them test the courts. See what the courts will do. He knows it's a protracted procedure. He knows he can likely run out the clock, maybe to 2020 tying them up. So, this is going to be, this is what you call a constitutional crisis when one branch won't comply or even play by the rules with another.

LEMON: So, before I move on here as you were saying that, but why? Why would he do this?

DEAN: You know I think they're afraid of the oversight. And so, Trump has got them convinced if they yield on any subpoena, if they yield on any witness appearing --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Even someone like Barr who's at the end of his career who is retiring? Yes?

DEAN: Well, I thought he shamed himself today and embarrassed himself badly. He was -- there was some very good cross examination by two of the senators, Richard Blumenthal and Kamala Harris really nailed him today. And it shows he's not strong as a witness. He knows he can't tell the truth. And so, this hairsplitting and trying to filibuster under the five-minute rule is his only remedy.

[23:04:56] LEMON: John, I just want you to listen to this moment from Barr. It is revealing about how views the president and the Russia investigation. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: How did we get to the point here where the evidence is now that the president was falsely accused of colluding with the Russians and accused of being treasonous and accused of being a Russian agent.

And the evidence now is that that was s without a basis. And two years of this administration have been dominated by the allegations that have now been proven false. And you know, to listen to some of the rhetoric, you would think that the Mueller report had found the opposite.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, he views Trump as a victim. Is it his job to view the president as a victim or in any way?

DEAN: His job is to deal with reality. And that recitation there was not reality, Don. The president -- yes. Some partisans rightly called him and were worried that he might be an agent of the Russians. It's still not clear why all of his aides lied, why he has lied about Russia.

It's not clear why he's so attracted to Putin and will yield to Putin when he wishes. He still hasn't even admitted the -- what the Russians did during the 2016 election.

So, there's a lot of reason to doubt what's going on. And Mueller's report was limited. We look for criminal wrongdoing. And it did find obstruction. There's no question that Mueller found that. But he didn't find a conspiracy to collude with the Russians. But there's certainly a close connection between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

LEMON: So, you mentioned Senators Blumenthal and Harris. I just want to now go to this exchange from Senator Dianne Feinstein talking about Trump pressuring White House Counsel Don McGahn to lie. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: You still have a situation where a president essentially tries to change the lawyer's account in order to prevent further criticism of himself.

BARR: Well, that's not a crime?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: John, is it a crime?

DEAN: It would be for anybody other than the president of the United States who can't be prosecuted. But the way Mueller wrote the report, he wrote a report that this evidence could be used once he's out of office. There's certainly a prima facie case there.

LEMON: Here's more that exchange about the president pressuring McGahn to fire Mueller. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: And there is a distinction between saying that someone go fire him, go fire Mueller and saying have him removed based on conflict. They have different results.

FEINSTEIN: What would hate the conflict be?

BARR: Well, the difference between them is if you remove someone for a conflict of interest, then there will be another, presumably another person appointed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, it seems like distinction without a difference. Also, in May of 2017 the DOJ made clear that Mueller had no ethical conflicts a month before Trump told McGahn to get rid of it.

DEAN: Well, it's like when he speaks in code to Michael Cohen when he puts -- when he's signaling get rid of him and using an excuse like conflict of interest to remove somebody, it's just nonsense to say this is somehow not an order to fire this guy just because of the particular language that McGahn interpreted as a direction to fire him. And that's the important thing who got the message.

LEMON: John Dean, thank you very much.

DEAN: Sure.

LEMON: Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. She serves on the House Judiciary Committee. Congresswoman, it's so good to have you on this evening. I know you have a busy day tomorrow. So, thank you so much.

The attorney general is going to skip the hearing tomorrow when you are supposed to have this busy day. He's also refusing a subpoena to produce the unredacted report. What are you going to do next?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Well, Don, we're certainly not going to eliminate or disengage from continuing to negotiate with the attorney general because we believe that we have both the power and the authority to demand the unredacted Mueller report and all of the evidence.

So, because we know huh to behave, we're going to continue to negotiate with the attorney general. However, if the attorney general, one, does not appear at this point but does not provide the unredacted material, as you well know it was due today, then I'm certainly going to advocate for him to be held in contempt.

Interaction with the Congress is constitutional. It is protected under the article one powers. And frankly, the way this White House has now disregarded the normal engagement with the United States Congress has not been seen in the history of the United States. [23:10:09] When President Nixon did it, that was one of the

impeachable offenses that President Nixon willfully disobey the Congress and disobey subpoenas. And so, the lack of response by the attorney general and the lack of response by the president by suggesting that none of his cabinet officers should adhere to subpoenas are impeachable offenses.

LEMON: So, the DOJ statement cites Barr's unwillingness to take questions from staff attorneys. Why not just have the attorneys give questions to members to ask directly?

LEE: Well, frankly, Don, it is a different approach by law or by rules. Members time in the House is a five-minute questioning. So, the impact of having a 30-minute time period, which is what we voted on today to extend the hearing for an hour to allow our staff counsel -- these are attorneys of course -- to be able to ask questions in a protracted 30-minute time frame.

And as a lawyer, I can tell you it makes quite a difference when you have a continuous period of time by one or two questionnaires. It makes a difference. Even though many of the members questions will be very poignant and productive.

In fact, all of the members. But you'll have to put all of them together as a group. What happens with these lawyers? And that is what I think the attorney general is afraid of. The ability not to, in essence, avoid answering questions yes or no or factually or truthfully.

And so, one of the reasons is because of that continuity, but the other reason is the attorney general cannot tell the congressional committee how to run its hearings. That's never been done before. And so, we don't intend to change our policies or our rules because the attorney general does not want to participate.

LEMON: I understand.

LEE: With that we'll have to move towards subpoena for him. Right now, we're dealing with the lack of responding to the request for unredacted materials. And we'll have to --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: For the Mueller report.

LEE: And we'll have to move towards contempt if that is -- if that does not happen.

LEMON: Congresswoman, I would just like the get your thoughts on what you heard from the attorney general and his explanation on how he handled the Mueller report.

LEE: Well, what I heard was a attorney general who frankly did not have the authority to misinterpret and give a narrative that was an alternative to what director Mueller actually provided. And of course, we have director Mueller's letter. And that letter was

issued on March 27th, three days after another perfunctory press conference by the attorney general on March 24th where he expressly exonerated the president.

And on March 27th, director Mueller said give all of this to the public and Congress.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Do you think he'd hand to the Congress when he initially spoke when he was asked if he, if Mueller was happy with his interpretation of the report. I'm paraphrasing, and he said he wasn't aware of that even though he had gotten letter days before. Do you think he lied to the Congress?

LEE: I'm going to go on the evidence. I will not judge whether he lied to the Congress. What I will say is that he had a letter from director Mueller and he never told the Congress that he had that letter. The only thing he could remember was that he didn't have any contact from director Mueller. I think we will draw our own conclusions and the American public will draw its own conclusions.

LEMON: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, thank you for your time.

LEE: Thank you for having me.

LEMON: The attorney general really didn't seem to want to answer questions today about whether he's talked to anybody in the White House about any of the 14 ongoing investigations that grew out of the Mueller investigation. He said I don't recall at least five times. You got to wonder why he can't just answer the question.

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So, the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller is over. But there are still over a dozen ongoing investigation that have spun out of the Russia investigation.

Comments by the attorney general about those investigations raise quite a few eyebrows at today's hearing.

I want to bring in now Shimon Prokupecz and also Bradley Moss. Good evening to both of you.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Hey, Don.

LEMON: Shimon, I'm going to start with you because Barr was asked whether the White House was interfering in any of these 14 ongoing investigations. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Have you had any conversations with anyone in the White House about those ongoing investigations that were spawn or spun off by -- (CROSSTALK)

BARR: I don't recall having any substantive discussion on the investigation.

BLUMENTHAL: Have you had any non-substantive discussion?

BARR: It's possible that a name of the case was mentioned.

BLUMENTHAL: And have you provided any information about any of those ongoing investigations any invest -- any information whatsoever?

BARR: I don't recall. No.

BLUMENTHAL: You don't recall?

BARR: I don't recall.

BLUMENTHAL: Wouldn't you recall about whether you gave information to somebody in the White House about an ongoing criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York or the Eastern District of New York or Virginia or the Department of Justice?

BARR: Yes. I mean, I just don't recall providing any substantive information about a case.

[23:19:56] BLUMENTHAL: Let me ask you one last time. You can't recall whether you have discussed those cases with anyone in the White House, including the president of the United States?

BARR: My recollection is I have not discussed those.

BLUMENTHAL: But you don't --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So outside of a hearing like that if you're just in any conversation with just the average person, they would say I call you know what on that.

PROKUPECZ: Right.

LEMON: Come on.

PROKUPECZ: It's very clear he gave himself some wiggle room there, right, substantive conversations. So, certainly, if word gets out if there is news if the end reporting gets out that, you know, there were these conversations and maybe the president has asked him about other investigations as he has done with other U.S. attorneys.

Look, the president has a habit of doing this, of asking people about other investigations inappropriate. And the Department of Justice has warned him to stop doing so. We didn't hear anything like this from this attorney general to that.

LEMON: And you knew the answer to that. And even if he said, do you, he couldn't recall other stuff about the -- like did you share information?

PROKUPECZ: Right.

LEMON: -- with things like, I can't recall.

PROKUPECZ: And can you imagine these U.S. attorneys who are handling these cases, what they must be thinking?

LEMON: Yes.

PROKUPECZ: How concerned could they be with possibly sharing any information about their ongoing investigations against anyone, certainly out of the Southern District of New York?

LEMON: Bradley, how alarming is it that attorney general of the United States can't seem to just give a straight answer? How do you read it?

BRADLEY MOSS, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: Yes. You know, look, Senator Whitehouse described that he's being a masterful bed of hairsplitting. That's what we saw all day long. He disassembled each piece of questions whether it was Kamala Harris whether it was Cory Booker. Every time it was the I don't recall or that's not quite how I recall the description of the question.

We're debating the definition of a firing. And you know, it reminded you of the Clinton years what definition of is, is, we're saying what the definition of firing. That's how ridiculous this got in order to justify the assessment he made in that letter, the four-page letter to Congress where he said that the, it wasn't sufficient evidence to find an evidence of obstruction of justice. That's how ridiculous this became.

LEMON: When questioned about those 14 ongoing investigations on whether he was -- his influence on them, or whatever, his role on them, he really didn't talk about it. But there are 12 of the 14 ongoing investigations are that are going on are Barr's in charge of them. How do we know if there's some mishandling or some funny business going on?

PROKUPECZ: We wouldn't know. But here's the one good piece that I think people should feel comfortable about this is that these are all being handled outside of the offices in D.C. at main justice, at least as far as we know.

Certainly, some of the most significant work is going on in New York, at the Southern District of New York. And they're known to be fairly independent and not tell main justice, the Department of Justice officials what they're working on and especially in this type of situation.

I know that during the Michael Cohen stuff which is one of the cases that was referred to the Southern District of New York, there were only limited briefings to folks over at the Department of Justice about what was going on there because they have always been concerned that there could be some kind of influence, or that perhaps someone at the Department of Justice, as we've seen today, we don't know may be telling the president about what's going on in their investigation.

LEMON: If it turns out that Barr, Bradley, did talk about the investigation, should he recuse himself?

MOSS: It depends on how detailed he got into it and what he describes. And as in legal matter, there's a lot of discretion built in. You know, a lot of what we know in terms of this wall between the White House and the Justice Department in terms of political discussions and discussions about law enforcement, it's all institutional, it's all customs and norms.

It was built after Watergate. It's not embodied in rules, or laws or requirements. So as long as there's not an ethical restriction, then the attorney general can continue as long as he wants this, you know, ruling over those. But as a political matter, there's going to be pressure.

If information comes out that outlines that described what he actually did in -- beyond what he's described in the hearing, if he provided more detailed explanations to the White House.

LEMON: Bradley and Shimon, thank you.

MOSS: Absolutely.

LEMON: I appreciate it.

We have a problem in this country when we can't take the attorney general at his word. But is this what happens when the entire nation is gaslighted over and over by officials at the top of our government?

[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So, there are a lot of questions about Attorney General Barr's credibility tonight. What does it mean to have an A.G. and an administration that repeatedly lies and misleads the American people?

let's discuss now. Douglas Brinkley is here, Charlie Dent, as well, and Amanda Carpenter. Amanda is the author of "Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies To Us."

Thank you. The only we had a gaslighting expert that we could talk to.

Maybe someone who wrote a book about it. Since you did, let's talk about this. Because A.G. Barr -- you know, he gassed at the Congress a few weeks ago. When he was asked if Mueller, you know, was he aware of Mueller's frustration over the handling of the report and over the summary letter and he said no. But he was sitting on not one but two letters. So then why -- why are people repeatedly being gas lit like this? What's going on?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is the narrative that Donald Trump has been setting for a long time. Anyone that reads the Mueller report can see that there was clearly one, Russian interference, attempted collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign and attempted obstruction to cover up that attempted collusion.

But the long-standing narrative which Donald Trump set the seeds very early in his presidency by saying that the Obama administration wire tapped him is that the Mueller report is just a product of a deep state coup made ups -- made up of people that were upset with the election or trying to overturn the results.

And so, this is why this is so much bigger than a normal lie. This is an elaborate narrative that has been years in the making. So that when the very same people can look at the same set of facts, they see completely different stories.

LEMON: Because of the gaslighting.

CARPENTER: And then you see Barr play into this a little bit when he starts to play around with the word spying. And even today when he stood before Congress and said that Donald Trump has been falsely accused.

[23:30:02] That's sent off warning bells in my head because how can a person heading the Department of Justice say that somehow this investigation wasn't worthy, like your department presided over this, and you're saying he's falsely accused?

LEMON: His department and put the special counsel in place.

CARPENTER: Yes.

LEMON: Republicans put the -- and he keeps saying --

CARPENTER: Yes, Congress has authorized all of this.

LEMON: All of that. And were the Republican --

CARPENTER: And this is the big gaslight. Donald Trump presents himself as the victim when he's responsible for all of this.

LEMON: So what is this gaslighting not just to those who, Douglas, who experience it but just to our democracy? What does this do to our democracy? I think if this is happening in the country, we would be sitting and going oh, my gosh, I cannot believe this is happening and this would never happen in America.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It's horrifying what it does to our country. We've had gaslighting like this before with Joe McCarthy in the 1950s and the Red Scare. But McCarthy was a senator and he got a lot of power. But he wasn't the president of the United States.

You saw gaslighting during the Watergate era under Richard Nixon where he was -- went after the enemy's list of the press and the press is out to destroy America and he tried to destroy the press core and had the IRS look into reporter's backgrounds.

In the end, Woodward and Bernstein were able to hold it up for accountability, Nixon. We have a situation now where the president has gone rogue in the sense that he's trying to undermine all of our nation's institutions. And when people start losing faith in our democracy, you start having -- we already have enough problems with not enough Americans voting. Now people are thinking the whole thing is just crooked and I'm confused and --

LEMON: It's rigged.

BRINKLEY: -- and rigged, and he's been a promoter of that democracy, his rigged agenda from the beginning of his political life.

LEMON: So Charlie, I want to bring you in here. I would like to play this for you. This is Fox News's Chris Wallace, what he said about the letter -- Mueller's letter to Barr. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK ANCHOR: I know there are some people who don't think that this March 27th letter is a big deal and, you know, some opinion people, some opinion people who appear on this network, who may be pushing a political agenda, but, you know, we have to deal in facts.

And the fact is that this letter from the special counsel and it was one of at least three contacts with the attorney general between March 25th and March 27th was a clear indication that attorney general was upset, very upset with the letter that had been sent out by the attorney general and wanted to change or wanted to at least added to and the attorney general refused to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So in that -- Charlie, he is acknowledging that there are people at his own network who are pedaling an agenda to support the president. He calls it a political agenda, an agenda that goes against the facts. Good for him for doing that, but is that -- that is a real problem here, isn't it?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think what the attorney general is guilty of here is he's committed an act of politics. I mean, he's been spinning from day one. That's been my view with this thing. I mean, I read his conclusions. I mean, he stated facts. It was clearly spun to benefit the president. Mueller, it seems, is clearly in the wait (ph) or his people were in the wait (ph).

LEMON: Was that OK, Charlie? When something so serious as the Russian influence and whether the president obstructed justice or --

DENT: I don't think it's OK, but it's not crime either. I mean, that's kind of how I look at this. And I guess I'd gotten a little bit cynical. Since I've been in politics, every attorney general I've seen, the opposition party has always said they're not independent. They're not standing up to the president who has hired them. I heard about Gonzales, Mukasey, Holder, Lynch and now Barr.

LEMON: The question in this case, Charlie, does the spin go so far as to make what is the truth inaccurate here? It's because if you actually read the Mueller report, the spin is a lie. It's not just spin. It's a lie.

DENT: Well, again, I think what we're all arguing about at this point is process. We don't like the process. In retrospect, I think that Mueller should have released the summaries that Mueller had provided to Barr. Those should have been released at the same time as the conclusions. I think that Mueller should have reviewed the original conclusions. I believe that Barr gave him the opportunity and Mueller, at that moment, chose not to.

I don't think it's OK. I mean, look, a lot of people like Barr who came in this administration, came in with reputations, and they become tarnished. He's not the only one. I think a guy like Barr is going to suffer reputationally going out.

[23:34:58] BRINKLEY: Barr, unlike those other attorney generals you mentioned, showed contempt for Congress. The way he treated the senators today and his past appearances, I never can imagine an attorney general almost hating the legislative branch. He comes off of not answering anything, stalling, eye-rolling. The body language of Barr alone is just almost hard to watch.

And it makes us as a country look small. I also think that Bob Mueller needs to step up not just when it comes to the House Judiciary Committee. But where is Mueller? Why can't he talk to the American people? Why does he have to be in hiding? I don't remember Ken Starr during Bill Clinton days being -- nobody can see where I'm at. He needs really to come forward and explain what is going on.

LEMON: We may see him but everyone has said he's a process guy. Maybe he is waiting for the process to play out, and he thinks that the truth will come out eventually.

There's a piece in Forbes from April 18th, just after the release of the Mueller report and the Barr press conference. It is called "Did We Just Get Gaslighted By The Attorney General? He it is. I will read this for you, Amanda.

"I think Barr gaslighted all of us, meaning that today, we have to work just a little than usual not to go insane. There are different kinds of psychological impact. The easiest to recognize is the impact of an event on feelings. More insidious is a negative impact on our capacity to think"

Gaslighting makes us a little crazy.

CARPENTER: Yeah, that's the point, either you come to the lie and to decide to go along with it or maybe you go crazy or the opposition tells people you are crazy. Think of how many times you hear Trump supporters say, well, they just think that because they don't like Trump. They just hate Trump. They take everything to that feeling. You can mount any kind of logical, reasonable defense and you will be called hysterical, crazy or be accused of just hating the president.

LEMON: And you as a conservative will be called the lefty.

CARPENTER: Oh, yeah, whatever, whatever, whatever. (LAUGHTER)

CARPENTER: It is a really cheap political argument that gets used far too much. But to go along with the lie, it is a decision. It is a conscious thing that is tearing Republicans apart. You saw the clip from Chris Wallace chastising people pretty much on his own network. It is dividing Republican Houses apart. Ask Kellyanne Conway.

And so I'm kind of baffled by how effective Trump has been pre- emptively accusing Democrats of overreach in a way that they are even afraid to make the argument sometimes, and it's like can't you see how soft this Republican support is. And so these kinds of offensive in your face emotional tactics are working.

LEMON: Yeah.

CARPENTER: Jus by sheer facts, many Democrats are afraid to dig in on this very meaty subject.

LEMON: I have to run. You have to be open to it or vulnerable in some sense that you're susceptible to being --

CARPENTER: Oh, yeah.

LEMON: -- gaslight --

CARPENTER: That's crazy.

LEMON: It doesn't work on me. We'll be right back. Thank you all.

[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We have some breaking news tonight. Joe Biden on the campaign trail in Iowa is calling the attorney general, William Barr, to resign in the wake of his defiant Senate testimony today. The former vice president is saying Barr has lost the confidence of the American people.

Let's discuss now. Alice Stewart is here, Keith Boykin, Rick Wilson. Rick is the author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies."

Hello one and all. Rick, I'm going to start with you. I just want to start by getting your reaction of what you saw today with the attorney general's testimony. Can you hear me, Rick?

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL STRATEGIST: I've got you now, Don. Sorry about that.

LEMON: What do you think of the testimony today?

WILSON: I think what we saw today with William Barr was this is a man there acting in capacity as one of the president's personal attorneys. He wasn't there acting as the AG who ought to be serving the law and justice to the American people, but he was there to continue playing this game he has played with almost every public interaction he's done since he took this job which is to play defense for Donald Trump. I think that it was a disappointing and a typical performance, unfortunately for what we've come to expect from Bill Barr.

LEMON: OK. I got to ask you this, Keith. Before I ask you this question, I don't know if in the last year I've tweeted 60 times.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Keith, I mean, the president had a meltdown earlier this morning. He is re-tweeting almost 60 tweets, lashing out about whether Joe Biden has a backing of the country's firefighters. What is it about the firefighters that had the president so freaked out?

KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's a couple of things. First of all, the president did all these 58 tweets. I think it was before 6:30 a.m. this morning. Who does that? That is an indication --

LEMON: The president.

BOYKIN: He's supposed to be the busiest man in the country, the busiest man in planet, and he's spending his time doing 60 tweets in the morning. Doesn't the guy have anything else better to do? It's indication of A, the fact of how obsessed he is with his public approval. B, it is an indication of how afraid he is of Joe Biden and how scared he is about the election. And C, it is an indication of how afraid he is also about the testimony today of Bill Barr.

[23:44:58] I think this whole 58-tweet nonsense was a distraction in order to draw our attention away from the fact that this letter came out last night from Robert Mueller implicating Bill Barr is involved in this conspiracy to lie about what was in the Mueller report.

So, yes, Donald Trump need to get out there and change the dialogue and change the narrative if he could with his own tweeting storm but it wasn't successful because people weren't paying attention to what Donald Trump said today. They are paying attention to what Bill Barr was lying about to Congress.

LEMON: I'm so glad I don't follow him because I'd be like, oh, geese. I mean, Alice --

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Seriously.

LEMON: Yeah, seriously. I mean, he must be concerned about that they can attract the same types of voters, right? Joe Biden and Donald Trump can attract the same types of voters. Donald Trump sees these voters as his.

STEWART: Absolutely. And it is mornings like this morning where we wish that Donald Trump was a little bit like the Joe Biden that he refers to as "Sleepy Joe." We wish this morning it was "Sleepy Donald" because it was one after the other after the other.

But here is the thing. When Donald Trump attacks you, that means he is fearful of you challenging him. Clearly, Joe Biden is going to Pennsylvania, going into the heart of working class America, and certainly going after firefighters. It got under Donald Trump's skin.

And the reality is Joe Biden is doing well in the polls. You can't underestimate his base. A lot of people say Democrats want someone young and fresh and new, but Joe Biden has a base. He clearly has some fundraising capabilities. He has got momentum right now.

You never as thin and tan as you are on your wedding day and you're never as hot, as hip as you are on the day that you announce for presidency. Joe Biden is hot. He is hip among those who support him. He has got some momentum. That's why he's under Donald Trump's skin.

LEMON: It's so sad.

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: -- after your wedding day.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: I have to get to thin first. Listen, we're going to talk more about why the president -- remember when he was with the 18-wheelers, the truck drivers on the south lawn? We'll talk about that. And also the president is speaking out about -- it appears he wasn't happy about Senator Harris's questions. We will be right back.

[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're back with Alice, Keith, and Rick Wilson. I brought up this before the break. Remember when in 27 -- sorry, you're talking to me, Danny. Sorry about that. Listen, these pictures, this is from Trump in the truck driver's seat in an 18-wheeler when he climbed into this truck. It was parked in the south lawn.

He was pumping his fist. He made some strange faces. He tooted the horn. I'm just trying to figure out, what do these firefighters represent to him, Alice? I think that's a legit question. That's why he tweeted 60 times.

STEWART: They are flyover country voters. They are rural America. They are his base. They are the people. They are not inside the bubble. They are not Washington. They are not D.C. They are not the east coast. They are not the left coast. They are the heart of America. He looks at them as a big representative of his base and that's why today several times he tweeted, I've heard from many firefighters, they support me.

And just because they're the head of their organization who supports Biden doesn't mean he doesn't have the faith and support of firefighters. Look, they are a big part of his base, firefighters and police officers and and law enforcement. They are a big part of the president's base. He is wise to bring them in.

But also at the same time, he doesn't need to take the Biden bait. He needs to focus on -- if he wants to engage in the 2020 battle, let's talk about GDP.

LEMON: He swallowed the Biden hook, and he can't get it out.

STEWART: He can't get the hook out of his mouth.

LEMON: He can't get the hook out of his mouth. So, I've got to ask you, Rick, we're talking about what the firefighters mean to him. I'm just wondering because, you know, when you look at his base, it is -- not a lot of minorities, especially African-Americans, right? Not all firefighters are white, right? And the unions don't really back this president as well. So, he really needs to keep whatever he's going to keep from that.

WILSON: Yeah, I mean Donald Trump's entire strategy is very much based centric. He is not really looking to expand out of it which he ought to be strategically but he's not. And so he looks at the firefighters, I think, as this representative group of folks that are culturally in the right wavelength with his base and he wants to keep addressing them, you know, outside of the political organizational side of the union itself.

And it's an understandable strategy, but I think it runs up against Joe Biden who has the kind of affable populism that is less tinged with the kind of cruelty that Donald Trump is sort of known for. And I think that there is an opportunity for Biden if he continues to sort of work the Pennsylvania and middle class blue collar vibe that he's got a pretty good handle. I think he's got a chance to sort of make that element of Donald Trump's base competitive in the 2020 election.

LEMON: He doesn't have to peel off a lot of those voters, right?

WILSON: No, I mean, this is a game of small math. Let's remember, Donald Trump is president because of 90,000 votes nationally in the Electoral College. If he peels off, a percent here or a percent there, that changes the electoral map very quickly and frankly in a way that I think is some pretty significant danger to this president.

LEMON: So, remember when this president called Hillary Clinton a nasty woman in the debate, we were all so shocked, right? Well on Fox Business tonight, this is the president's response to Kamala Harris.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I heard he was really -- he performed incredibly well today and --

[23:55:02] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have the -- Kamala Harris, uh- huh --

TRUMP: She was probably very nasty. How about these three people? Three of them are running for -- three of them are not doing very well. But three of them are running for a particular office. I think I may be -- you're talking to the person right now. They're running -- you have three of them running against me and they're up there ranting and raving like lunatics, frankly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So he said nasty. Alice, does that bother you?

STEWART: Look, I have many times said his tone and tenor is really beneath the dignity of the presidency. And the way he attacks people, whether men, women, white or black, it just shouldn't be the way you run for office. But this is Donald Trump. We knew that when he ran for office, we knew that when he took office, and we knew certainly as he has been the president of the United States.

People knew this was how he behaves, this was how treated people, and he got elected. I don't condone it, I don't support it, but I do support his policies so far.

LEMON: I know you want to jump in here, Keith. I got to run, but quickly, the host did push back, go on.

BOYKIN: At the same time, Melania is going around telling everybody to be best. He has a tendency to continue to do this, this criticism about nasty women for Hillary Clinton or nasty for Kamala Harris, or he is talking about raving lunatics for Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker.

What do all these people have in common in addition to the fact they're Democratic presidential candidates? They're all women and minorities. Donald Trump loves to pick on women and minorities.

LEMON: Thank you all.

STEWART: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: What will happen tomorrow? What we will we be covering tomorrow? Who knows? Maybe it will be --

STEWART: Not Barr.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Thank you. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)