Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

Presidents Trump And Putin Spoke Over Phone For An Hour; North Korea Test-Fired Nukes; Trump Brags About The Strong Economy; Poll: 56 Percent Approve Of Trump's Handling Of The Economy; Joe Biden Makes Trump's Character A Central Issue Of His Campaign; V.P. Pence Meets With Pastors And Congregants Of Three Historically Black Churches Torched In Louisiana; Boeing 737 With 136 People On Board Slides Off Runway In Jacksonville. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 3, 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: And it seems he's only doing all of that just to help himself. Now if you can't own that, then you surrender the high ground that you're asking for in balance. Because you are every bit as imbalanced as that what you say you oppose.

Thanks for watching us tonight. I appreciate it. I hope you have a good weekend. But before you start it, CNN TONIGHT with the man, D. Lemon has lots to talk about tonight.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: You're going to be shocked and surprised.

CUOMO: By?

LEMON: I don't disagree with anything you said.

CUOMO: Stop.

LEMON: I'm serious.

CUOMO: It can only be explained by you not listening.

LEMON: I did listen. And I think you're right. If you own one part you have to own the other. So, mark this down on your calendars, everyone, Chris and I agree on everything that he said in his closing argument, you have to own all of it.

I think that the sad part about it is that nothing seems to matter. Most people in this country will not read the Mueller report, they won't see all the evidence in there, what they will see is what the attorney general said about it and they will hear what the president said about it and his spokespeople and they know that.

So, I just wish -- I just wish the rule of law matters and people cared more about facts.

CUOMO: Well, it does and it has to, because you know we have to be careful. The way you get to a Maduro is by the erosion of justice.

LEMON: Right. CUOMO: And the dependability of the institutions. That's when you become vulnerable. And I'll return the favor not just because you said something nice. Because in truth we agree all of the time, it's just nice to disagree on television.

I think I was a couple of tequilas in at the time, but you said something that I hadn't considered at the time about the way Democrats may go forward when we were eating the other day.

And I was like, look, I just don't see the benefit to it, and you're like, no, I hear you, but you're assuming everybody is going to read this report like you, you psycho and the truth is, if they see people say the same things on TV it will resonate in a way that the report won't ever. You were right about that. I did not give that enough weight --

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: -- and I understand that now as part of the calculus of what they want to do going forward.

LEMON: Because the sound bites play over and over on platforms --

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: -- that people have access to and in short, right? Snippets that that they can understandable. You know, like it or not, many people just read the headlines and maybe a very small part of the story, and many people just like look at clips online and they -- and that's all they see.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, people are -- well, there is something wrong with that, people are very busy, I'm not faulting them for that, but perhaps when it's something that is so important to our democracy, they should be a little bit more read in. I'm not chastising people but --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Yes. And it's just impressive. TV is impressive. People get so much insight into what you're saying and how you feel about things by being able to watch you and process you human to human.

And hearing the A.G. argue about the McGahn situation. I get it. Very plausible arguments. Cogent argument. But if you were to hear Don McGahn say yes, I thought he wanted me to fire the guy.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: That's why I was so upset, that's why I made all these phone calls. That's why I told them --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You hear that ego.

CUOMO: - I'd rather fire.

LEMON: What? What did you say?

CUOMO: All right, well now, now that's pretty compelling too.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: I get it, you're right.

LEMON: Well, OK. So, listen. Someone who is going to give us amazing insight. I love having him on the show, you remember McNeil there was a smart --

CUOMO: Sure.

LEMON: So, one of our bosses calls this the McNeil-Lemon part of our program. I should just call it the Fareed Zakaria Lemon part because I'm going to really get down into it with Fareed Zakaria who is sitting right here.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: I thought you were calling me the Fareed Zakaria of our match up. And I was like, finally, you see the way it is.

LEMON: No, not at all. We can see. I mean, that video of you and Stephen Colbert says just about everything. Don't you agree?

CUOMO: I didn't rip my pants though, did I?

LEMON: Don't you --

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: I'm not getting in the middle of that.

CUOMO: You can get like dance.

ZAKARIA: This is like between an old married couple and I just, you know --

LEMON: You stay out of it.

CUOMO: And one of them has ripped pants.

LEMON: All right, Chris. Hey, listen, have a great weekend.

CUOMO: You, too.

LEMON: I've got to get to Fareed and other guest and the rest of the program. See you --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: You, too. It sounds like an awesome lineup. We'll be watching.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, sir.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

We've a lot here, lot to talk about. President talk -- President Trump's hour plus phone conversation with Vladimir Putin today. A call the Kremlin says was President Trump's idea.

Sarah Sanders says that they hardly talked about the Mueller report at all and Russia's election interference. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The conversation on that part was very quick, but what I can tell you is that this administration unlike the previous one takes election meddling seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Really? Well, they've got a funny way of showing it. And it was Sarah Sanders who, let's not forget, she's the one who admitted to Mueller's team that she lied to the American people. So, we probably, you know, so we probably take what she says with a grain of salt. That's how I feel about that.

But think about this for just one minute. Think about it. The president of the United States, had just a normal old call with his pal Vladimir Putin. Didn't tell him not to interfere in the election. Like he did in 2016, like he did in 2018, like we know he is planning to do again in 2020. Nope. He didn't really talk about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[22:05:04] We didn't discuss that. Really, we didn't discuss. So, we discussed five or six things. We also, we went into great detail on various things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Why do you keep asking me? I said I didn't tell Putin not to interfere in our election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you tell him not to meddle in the next election?

TRUMP: Excuse me, I'm talking. I'm answering this question.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President --

TRUMP: You are very rude.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. But we know what they did talk about. The Mueller report. Yes, the guy who investigated Russia's election interference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We discussed it and he actually sort of smiled when he said something to the effect that it started off as a mountain and it ended up being a mouse but he knew that because he knew there was no collusion whatsoever. So pretty much that's what it was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, you talked to Putin about the Russian investigation, you just don't seem to want us to know exactly what was said. Because if was a very, very brief part of the conversation like Sarah Sanders claim, it should be pretty easy to tell us exactly what was said.

But no, nothing to see here. Which is kind of the theme of this administration. Nothing to see here. Nothing to see when the president talks for more than an hour with the leader of an enemy nation. One that has repeatedly attacked our democracy and will do again.

One he's talked to in private multiple times without ever letting us know exactly what was said. Talks with him for an hour, but doesn't tell him not to attack our election. Nothing to see when the president threatens to prevent his former White House counsel from answering questions from Congress in spite of a lawful subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you decide whether you'll invoke executive privilege as it relates to Don McGahn?

TRUMP: That all will be determined over the next week or so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Nothing to see when his attorney general summarizes principal conclusions of the Mueller report in a way Mueller himself says, quote, "did not fully capture the context, the nature, and substance of this office's work and conclusion."

Nothing to see when that same attorney general insists that the president was falsely accused even though what Mueller said was that he did not conclude that the president committed a crime, but he also did not exonerate him.

Nothing to see when that attorney general waits until he is painted into a corner by Senator Kamala Harris to admit that he didn't even bother to review the evidence before he decided not to charge the president with obstruction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In reaching your conclusion, did you personally review all of the underlying evidence?

WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: No. We took and accept --

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: Did, Mr. Rosenstein?

BARR: We accepted statements -- no. We accepted the statements in the report as factual record. We did not go underneath it to see whether or not they were accurately accepted it as accurate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Nothing to see when the president's former chief of staff who defended the administration's zero tolerance immigration policy that lead to thousands of children being taken from their parents joins the board of the company operating the largest shelter for unaccompanied migrant children.

But the thing is the more they tell you there is nothing to see here, the closer it gets to being a self-fulfilling prophesy.

If this continues, if Congress and frankly, the American people let this president get away with obfuscating, misdirecting and just plain refusing to answer questions, there will be nothing to see. No facts, no evidence, nothing this president doesn't want you to see.

And speaking of what he doesn't want you to see, let's remember how the president started the week. He started by refusing to answer questions about whether or not white nationalism is on the rise. Just days after the deadly attack on a synagogue in California.

Doubling down on his attempt to whitewash white nationalism with a bogus argument that the white supremacist and neo-Nazis who openly paraded their hate on the streets of Charlottesville leading to the murder of Heather Heyer were protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

Well, today, two of them pleaded guilty to a federal crime for instigating violence in Charlottesville. The prosecutor saying, quote, "Those avowed white supremacist who travel to Charlottesville to incite and commit acts of violence not to engage in peaceful first amendment expression."

So, Charlottesville wasn't about a statue no matter what the president says, it was about hate on parade. That may not be what he would like you to hear, but it's a fact. A fact.

[22:09:59] The question is, will Americans let this president continue to hide the facts? Will you? The president says he didn't tell Vladimir Putin not to interfere in the next election?

Is that dereliction of duty? That's the question for Fareed Zakaria, he's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We have some breaking news right now. We're learning tonight that North Korea has test fired several short-range projectiles from its eastern coast. That word is coming from South Korea's defense ministry. It happened just a little while ago. It's already Saturday morning there.

A senior administration official telling CNN that President Trump has been briefed.

I want to talk about this and more with Fareed Zakaria, the host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS."

Good evening to you, thank you very much.

On North Korea, the breaking news, what's the message here? What's going on?

ZAKARIA: Well, the North Koreans have essentially played Trump from the start. I think that they recognized that he thought that he was going to be able to deliver a deal which would make him seem like a great peacemaker and maybe win the Nobel Prize.

This is not -- I'm not -- I'm not speculating, Trump, himself, said most of this. He got Prime Minister Abe of Japan to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize for the, you know, the supposed peace that was going to come about.

So, what the North Koreans realized was they could essentially get Trump to agree to a deal that, you know, they don't have to give up their nukes. They don't have to give up much what they were doing.

[22:14:58] And that's what they were proceeding on. The spanner in the works ended up being Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, Trump's new advisers who understood what the North Koreans would do. And then said, if you're not actually going to give up your nukes, there's no deal here.

And so, the whole thing collapsed and now the North Koreans are doing precisely what Donald Trump said was the most dangerous thing in the world. Remember, when he into office he said we're this close to war.

LEMON: Right.

ZAKARIA: It was simply because the North Koreans were testing missiles. They are now doing exactly that. They still have the 60 nuclear warheads that we think they might have; they still have the program we thought they might have. But Donald Trump doesn't talk about it because he thought he was going to be the peacemaker and get a deal --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: A love affair.

ZAKARIA: Right.

LEMON: He fell in love.

ZAKARIA: He said we were in love. Imagine if Barack Obama had said he had fallen in love with grand Ayatollah Khomeini, you know, in Iran. I mean, the whole thing was Trump it's negotiating 101. I'm sure he wrote about it in the "Art of the Deal." Don't want the deal too badly.

LEMON: All right. Let's talk --

(CROSSTALK)

ZAKARIA: It's all the fallout of having wanted that deal too badly.

LEMON: So, OK. And also wanting to work with Russia, I mean you listen to this phone call, almost an hour-long phone call. The president talks to and then repeats what Putin tells him. Is he naive when it comes to Putin? How would you describe this?

ZAKARIA: Well, let's take a look at Venezuela and you tell me what you think. So, Putin tells Trump, we have no interest in Venezuela other than to just keep things, you know, just to make sure that there's a positive outcome. Trump's own secretary of state has said over the last two weeks that the Russians are effectively what is propping up the regime. That there are hundreds, if not thousands of Russians who are in Venezuela propping up the regime.

He said just a couple days ago. That the that Tuesday uprising, you remember the opposition leader tried to get an uprising in Venezuela which failed. The reason it failed because Maduro, the dictator, was about to get on a plane and fly away to Cuba in exile but the Russians talked him out of it and told him no, stay there and continue to repress your people.

So, that's Trump's secretary of state's version of what the Russian involvement is. And Trump says, no, Putin told me he has no involvement. I mean, yes, it's the definition of naive.

LEMON: OK. But him, you know, in this phone call not telling Putin to meddle -- telling -- you know, not telling him not to meddle in the election, is that a dereliction of duty? What is that?

ZAKARIA: I think, look, you can -- about the 2016 election you can say look, Trump is sensitive about that. He thinks it affects his -- it's the sense that people have of his legitimacy. I get it. He is not going to revisit that issue with Putin.

But 2020 I think this would be an opportunity for him to demonstrate that he cared about this, that he doesn't want foreigners meddling. That he was willing to draw a line, and most importantly, he doesn't think he needs the Russians to help him win.

So, this is a win-win, win for Trump to be tough on the Russians to say I talked to Putin about it. I said we absolutely draw a line and by the way, to direct his own government to thwart these measures.

So again, we get back to the kind of central puzzle of the Trump -- Trump's foreign policy which is, he never wants to confront Putin. And as I've often said, I don't know why that is. But I will point out that in that same conversation, that same meeting, you know, which had with the press, he went on about the Europeans as usual. He was, you know, he's blasting the Europeans because we have a trade deficit with the Europeans. He never misses a chance to say something nasty about most allies except --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Or about our allies.

ZAKARIA: Right. Except the Russians.

LEMON: Right. Except the Russians. Well, that reminds us of that moment in Helsinki standing there with Putin.

ZAKARIA: Right.

LEMON: Here it is. Let's watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin he just said it's not Russia. I will say this; I don't see any reason why it would be.

I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: It's like he is a spokesperson for the Kremlin, no?

ZAKARIA: Well, you just think about what Putin must be thinking at that podium to hear the president of the United States saying my intelligence people tell me this, but Vladimir Putin doesn't admit and he said it very strongly so I believe him.

I mean that has got to be the greatest success for a foreign intelligence operation ever. To have the president of the United States believe what Putin said despite the fact that his own intelligence people based on multiple, evidence, documents, et cetera, are telling him it's the other way around. That's pretty impressive.

LEMON: Did you notice that Trump said, you know, Putin, quote, "sort of smiled when they talked about election meddling." I mean, on the phone. I don't know how he saw the smile. I don't know, maybe, unless they were on video conference, maybe that was it, but what do you think of that?

[22:05:04] ZAKARIA: Well, the whole, his whole interaction the way he describes his interaction with Putin, again, it's very different from how he describes his interactions with elected leaders of the west.

LEMON: Was he making a joke about the Russia investigation like, because he's always --

(CROSSTALK)

ZAKARIA: Well, he keeps trying -- yes. He keeps trying to belittle it. And as I said, let's put that aside in a way. Because you're not going to get Donald Trump to say the Russians meddled in 2016 because to him that means his election was illegitimate.

But to me, what's most striking is that he's not taking on the opportunity to talk about it. Because we know the Russians have ongoing operations. They are trying out things in the Ukraine. What they are trying on in Ukraine they are going to try in the United States.

They're trying it in European elections. So, this is an active ongoing issue. We know this only because of his own intelligence people testify. His own foreign policy team testifies about this on Capitol Hill.

LEMON: Before -- I got to ask you quickly before you go. You posted this question on your latest op-ed in the Washington Post. You said, you asked is there a Trump doctrine? Well, what's the answer?

ZAKARIA: It seems that there is a trump doctrine which is a very dark one, which is that the United States gets to do whatever it wants whenever it wants. John Bolton said that, you know, the United States has the right to intervene in any country in the western hemisphere whenever it wants.

And my question is, if that's the case, how do we stop the Russians from intervening Ukraine? How do we stop the Chinese from intervening in the South China Seas? How do we frankly tell the Iranians not to meddle in Yemen.

LEMON: Yes.

ZAKARIA: If each one of them invoke the Trump's doctrine, well, then we're in for a very messy chaotic world.

LEMON: Thank you, Fareed. Always a pleasure. Don't miss "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern.

Is the 2020 election shaping up to be a choice between money and morals? And if so, which one went up?

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The president crawling about the economy today with the monthly jobs report showing unemployment at its lowest rate in 50 years. The president quick to boast about the numbers, telling reporters he will be running on the economy.

Let's discuss now with Alice Stewart, Catherine Rampell, and Max Boot, the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism." Good evening to all of you.

Max, I'm going to start with you. So, the president is banking on a strong economy to help him get re-elected. Joe Biden is now saying that he is going to make America moral again. So, is this going to -- this is money versus morals this election?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, think there is something to that, Don. Assuming that the economy stays as strong as it is through the 2020 election which of course there is no certainty. I mean, there is no question that the economy is going great right now. The question is how much do you actually credit Donald Trump with that?

I mean, I think a lot of the credit really goes to President Obama because he is the guy who inherited the Great Recession and turned around and presided over this massive expansion which was going strong before trump came in office, and still going strong.

But there's no question that whoever is in office at the time accrue some political benefits but those benefits are decidedly limited. In Trump's case, I mean, look at the fact that he's at about 40 percent approval. I mean, based on the economy, if you were a normal president, he ought to be at 60 percent approval.

If he would stop tweeting, stop talking, stop offending 60 percent of Americans his approval ratings would go up, but he can't help himself. And he is undercutting his economic appeal.

And you saw in 2018 a lot of Republicans in Congress wanted to run on the economy and Trump refused. He wanted to run a hysterical, xenophobic anti-immigrant campaign which backfired on him. And I think there is a chance that it backfires in 2020 as well.

LEMON: So, Alice, let's talk about that. Because the week started out with a focus on morals with the president defending his response to Charlottesville, as you well know. But it ended with today's powerful economic numbers. If there were a horse race you think for 2020, who would -- what would win? Money or morals?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think if the economy is like it is right now, which we don't know what it would be like, Donald Trump is a hands down favorite. Look at this. Look at Donald Trump, who he was when he ran in 2016, and who he is now.

He is just as insulting to other people. He is just as impulsive on Twitter as he was then, and he's just as unpredictable and untethered to the truth as he was back then. And he won.

So, fast forward to 2020, people know what they're getting with him, and they look at the fact if I'm going to have more money in my pocket, if we're going to have unemployment rate at 3.6, GDP at 3.2, 263 jobs created this month alone.

The economy continues on this route the American people will stand by him because he is making progress on the economy and many people look past the flaws of Donald Trump and say the ends justify the means. And if this is better for my bottom line I'm going to vote for Donald Trump.

LEMON: Well, I've got to point out that you are a Trump supporter and that you're saying he's just -- STEWART: I am.

LEMON: -- as untethered to reality. Well, look at him after twice. That was great. I love it. Sorry. Go on.

STEWART: Well, the truth hurts, Don, that's the reality. And look, we all knew this about him when he ran in 2016. But at the end of the day, I voted for him because I thought he would be strong on the economy, I thought he would deliver on the Supreme Court, I thought he would deliver on securing the border, we're still working on that.

And it looks like potentially this week we're making some progress on infrastructure, which I think that will be good for him. But if he continues making these successes -- but he also has to keep in mind if he is going to run on the economy, he needs to be focused on message on running on the economy.

LEMON: OK. So, Catherine, listen, the president bragged about the job numbers today, and voters who gave him good marks on this issue. Let's put up the poll. Fifty-six percent -- this is a CNN poll by the way, 56 percent approved the president's handling of the economy. You think he can ride that good economic news to a second term?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, you know what I'm going to say here. Because I say it basically every time this topic comes up. I'm a broken record.

Presidents get too much credit when an economy is good, and too much blame when an economy is bad. And that's what you see happening here, that's what always goes on.

[22:30:01] We don't know what the counterfactual is, right? We don't know what the economy would look like with the different president. Maybe it would have the same levels of growth. I mean, maybe we wouldn't have trade wars, maybe we wouldn't even have better growth, who knows? I think that Trump is going to take credit this time around.

The real question is, whether this trends will continue, whether he has anything to do with them or not, right? I mean, it is in completely possible within the realm of possibility that the economy does turn. Just based on how long this recovery has been going on and we are almost at about to break a record for longest recovery in history. So, I'm not saying that Trump is going to be the one to cause a recession, that we are about to have a recession, but it's totally within the realm of possibility.

And if that happens, I find it highly doubtful, of course, that Trump is going to take as much credit for a downturn for souring his economy as he is, of course, for the good numbers, but that could certainly weigh on him. Because as Max points out, I mean, his numbers are not particularly good. Even given the fact that we have a very strong economy. So, if things turn which, again, it is not outside of the realm of possibility that really does not look good for him.

LEMON: If he does it will be another caravan or something that will, you know, he'll take the focus off of that, but, who knows? These numbers could hold up. Mick Mulvaney, the president's Chief of Staff, the White House Chief of Staff today on the president's re-election message. Just watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We hate to sound like a cliche, but are you better off when you were 40 years ago? It's pretty simple, right? It's the economy, stupid, I think that's easy. People will vote for somebody they don't like if they think it's good for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: People will overlook his behavior is what he is saying, if the economy is good. Is that smart? Is that right?

BOOT: Well, some people will, I won't, Don, because to me, there are things more precious than a strong economy. And that is a strong rule of law, that is a strong democracy, that is a country where the president is held accountable to the law and that is not what we have at the moment.

And also, things like racism, xenophobia, the way that Donald Trump is tearing at the fabric of our society. You know, sooner or later, this expansion is going in, we are going to have a recession whether Donald Trump is re-elected or not. It is just the law of economics. It will happen sooner or later, but we need to be concerned about is, what kind of country is Donald Trump going to leave us?

Is he going to leave a country were the rule of law is decimate, is he going to leave the country with democracy is undermined, where ethnic and racial groups are pitted against one another? And that is what's going to happen if Donald Trump is re-elected and that is not an outcome that I can count on. No matter how strong the economy is going. And I hope that other people out who share those concerns.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, we got to run. Alice, just quickly, I want to ask you this before we get to a break. If the economy is good, right -- the economy was good for the 2018 midterms, Republicans got trounced. So, is that a smart bet that the economy -- is the economy stupid this time? And a quick answer if you will, because I want to get to a break, even if we come back.

STEWART: If Donald Trump is on the ticket, then it is a safe bet that he will do much better than a lot of folks did in the midterm. Does Donald Trump is someone that can motivate people to come out to the polls. As he demonstrated in 2016 and I can't quickly say on the Mueller's issue.

The president has met with faith leaders this week on the National Day of Prayer and they joined with him at the White House yesterday. He has the evangelical support, because of the president standing up for religious liberty and what he has done with the Supreme Court. So, a lot of those issues that people think that he is not going to not continue to have their support, he has it 100 percent. LEMON: OK, we got to talk more, the importance of morals in the next

selection. We will be right back.

[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We are back, Alice, Catherine, and Max are with me. So, Joe Biden has made character the central issue of his campaign. Here's just a bit of what he's been saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, 2020 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Make America moral again, make America return to the essence of who we are, the dignity of the country, the dignity of the people, treating our people with dignity, and this god awful deliberate division id being taken, till we noted out, separating people to aggrandizes his own power.

We are seeing appeals to populism, nationalism and xenophobia. And the system (inaudible) that will be in favor and the powerful. Ever body, everybody is entitled to be treated with dignity.

Limited to four years, this administration will go down in history as an abhorrent moment in time. But, give eight years of this administration in the White House, we will forever and fundamentally change the character of the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: To him, he is talking about it, he's describing it as if it's a national emergency.

BOOT: I mean, I fully agree, Don. I mean, what's striking to me is that Biden so far is almost alone in focusing on that issue of what Trump is doing to the presidency and to the country with almost all the other hopeful Democratic candidates. Something like 20 of them basically focusing on other issues, whether it's global warming, or health care, education, or what have you.

And Biden is addressing that issue and it's possible that could be part of the reason why, he got such a big bump when he entered the race. Because I think, there is a hunger among voters, certainly Democratic voters for somebody who will challenge Donald Trump head on and clearly Trump is worried about Biden, I mean, just look at the level of vitriol, he is already on voting on Biden with this crazy like 60 tweets a few days ago.

After the firefighters endorsed Biden and his attacks on Biden and the suggestion that he and Giuliani are trying to get the Justice Department to investigate Joe Biden. So, you can just already see them teeing up a lock them up type of campaign.

I think what that be speaks is, is that Trump is very worried about Biden and I think there is several reasons for that in which Biden, is a guy who is not very threatening, he is a guy who has appeal to the blue collar based that Trump relies on. But also the fact that Biden is making such a powerful moral case against Trump and we will see how that plays.

[22:40:07] STEWART: Don, they also, the political game here of Biden leading in all of the polls virtually certainly, I mean, the primary against other Democratic candidate spread in the recent CNN poll showing the general election head to head between Biden and Trump.

LEMON: Isn't it amazing, isn't it?

STEWART: Yes, it is. Biden leading a Trump in a head to head. And that right there, I'm sure has gotten the ire of the president, but Joe Biden is facing the political double edge sword of the lead dog has the best view, but he also has a target on his back. So, Democrats are going after him and the fact that Joe Biden is going after the heart and soul of the moral virtue of this country.

I don't see that as disturbing the president as much as Joe Biden going to Pennsylvania, trying to claim the mantle on the Rustbelt states and going after firefighters, those were the kind of things that I think gets the president up early and tweeting off about Joe Biden and this is only just began.

LEMON: Since you talked about that, I want to put this up, anyone else besides President Trump would be unbeatable with economy, but CNN poll how Democrats fared and match-up against the president. Here is Biden, let's put that up, there is Biden, right, 51, president 45 and Sanders, you see, 50 to 44, Buttigieg, 47 to 44 and then on and on.

You see Harris, she is at 49, O'Rourke is at 52 and the only person who is not up there is Elizabeth Warren, but, I mean, what does that say here? I mean, we have a long time till Election Day, but that's --

RAMPELL: I think what it says is, even if voters credit Trump properly or not for the state of the economy, for the fact that their 401k are doing well, voters may also still be asking themselves is it worth it?

Is it worth it for my 401k to be a little bit fatter if we're putting babies in cages? Is it worth it for my wages to be a little bit stronger, if our president can't, you know, unequivocally condemn neo- Nazis, or sucks up to President Putin, or otherwise, you know, denigrates Gold Star families. I mean, I think people are voting on values.

LEMON: Don't you think that the economy was good in 2016. And people, they set those same challenges about, you know, grab them by, you know, what, about the affairs and on and on.

RAMPELL: But it continued improving since then. I mean, at more or less the same phase at least for job growth. GDP growth has gotten stronger.

LEMON: So, are you saying that Democrats are making mistake by focusing on character and people care more about their pocketbooks, are you saying they should -- all voters should do more?

RAMPELL: I think it's not either more.

LEMON: OK.

RAMPELL: I think that the way you could think about these issues, the sort of constellation of these issues is even if the economy is doing well, I still don't believe that Donald Trump cares about people like me as much as he cares about the titans of Wall Street. If you look at what's in the actual content of his tax plan.

And also, I don't think that he cares about, you know the forgotten man, if you look at what he wants to do to the Obamacare, cutting Obamacare protection from people who have pre-existing conditions. So, there are some pocketbook issues, of course, but even beyond the universe of pocketbook issues there are issues of values, and I think people are just not willing to say that one completely offsets the other.

LEMON: And just in an effort for fairness for the frontrunners in Democrats, I just want to put up Elizabeth Warren, because the only Democrat who doesn't beat Trump in this polls. Elizabeth Warren who's running a campaign that -- her campaign is actually focused on inequality and domestic policy. What do you say about that, Alice?

STEWART: I think what's going to happen is a big part of Joe Biden supporting himself from the Democratic field is because right now, he understands that the way the Democrats are voting, I mean, campaigning, and the issues they're pushing, as Max mentioned, the green new deal, Medicare for all, free college education for everyone. Those policies are too far left for mainstream America.

And majority of general election voters are not going to want to focus and nominate someone and elect someone with those issues. That is why Joe Biden is going after these moral issues, but the key is not just about money, it's not just about morals, it is about who is going to motivate people and you have to give them something to vote for, not just go out there and say vote against Donald Trump and right now I don't see anyone doing it.

LEMON: OK. I want to give Max, the last word here. Because I'm really out of time, but do you -- when you look at the numbers, show the candidates is up against Trump, do you think that character still counts to a lot of voters? Is there a possible sign?

BOOT: I think it does kind of. I think what you see is a lot of concern among voters about the kind of president that Donald Trump is. How disruptive he is, how offensive he is, how he undermines the rule of law, but I think they want some reassurance that the Democrats is not going to turn America into the (inaudible), which is that Donald Trump attack line. So you basically want a safe Democratic candidate, somebody who is relatively reassuring and non-threatening and Joe Biden, Beto O'Rourke, people like that meet that test. Which is why I think they're so far ahead of Trump in those head to head match ups.

[22:45:10] LEMON: Thank you, Max. Thank you, Catherine. Thank you, Alice. I appreciate your time.

STEWART: Bye, Don.

LEMON: Vice President Pence visiting today with pastors from the three historically black churches destroyed by an arsonist a single Louisiana parish. We're going to speak with two of those pastors, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Vice President Mike Pence meeting in Louisiana's Day with pastors and congregants of three historically black churches that were torched by arson in March and April. Joining me now, the pastors of two of the churches that burned, Reverend Harry Richard and pastor of -- he is a pastor of Greater Union Baptist Church and Reverend Gerald Toussaint, pastor of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. Thank you both pastors for joining us. I appreciate it.

[22:50:10] REVEREND GERALD TOUSSAINT, PASTOR, MT. PLEASANT BAPTIST CHURCH: Your welcome, Don.

LEMON: I know these are tough times for you. How are you guys making up, how are you holding up?

TOUSSAINT: We're holding up by the grace of god.

REVEREND HARRY RICHARD, PASTOR, GREATER UNION BAPTIST CHURCH: Doing fine Don. It is good.

LEMON: So, Reverend Toussaint, the president mention the arsons at the national day of prayer ceremony yesterday, let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: In recent months it's been pretty tough. We've seen evil and hate filled attacks on religious communities in the United States and all around the world. One month ago three historically black churches were burned tragically in Louisiana.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So listen. Today the vice president visited the site and visited your church. How do you feel about the support that you have received from the Trump White House? Reverend Toussaint?

TOUSSAINT: It's satisfying and it's uplifting because of -- me and Pastor Harry is veterans and we were kind of concerned of how we -- our government would react simply because we are veterans and we thought we should have a better representation from the head of our country, but now I'm reassured right now, because of the reaction that we're getting, especially the visit of Vice President Mike Pence.

I'm encouraged right now, because of the action of the country. The country has been so supportive.

LEMON: Right.

TOUSSAINT: And for us because we didn't know what we were going to do during -- after the fire. We didn't know what reaction we are going to have, but now I'm so encouraged right now and I'm so, you know, elated about the reaction that they had and what we have -- the people that gave, the people that supported us. I can only be just joyful.

LEMON: Joyful in the lord as they say. Reverend Richard --

TOUSSAINT: Exactly.

LEMON: -- I've got to ask.

TOUSSAINT: The joy of the lord is our strength.

RICHARD: Yes, sir.

LEMON: Amen. So, I've got to ask you. There was criticism that the president didn't talk about this. He did talk about it yesterday and as Reverend Toussaint said that is good, right. And some said, about it was a little too late, but it's good now. Now that the administration has acknowledged it. And do you think that they're going to help. Do you feel satisfied with it?

RICHARD: Well, I'm optimistic, Don. I feel like after this tragedy, you know, the country is coming together. I appreciate the fact that Mr. Trump did acknowledge the fact that we had this tragedy here in Louisiana and I was encouraged today when Mr. Pence came and visited with us. I respect our leadership.

One thing I know, Don, that if you're going to be a leader, you've got to acknowledge the suffering of Christ. And if that is where his heart is I believe that we are going to be helped.

LEMON: Good for you. So, listen, you know, you just heard from the president and he talked about the attacks on religious communities which is awful and the latest FBI stat show hate crimes rising significantly between 2014 and 2017. Do you believe that the White House, the country is doing enough to condemn acts of hate?

RICHARD: Well, you know, Don, you could always improve. There's always room for improvement. You know, I wouldn't know how much is enough, but at least I feel confident that at least they're reaching out. More could be done. There's always room for improvement.

LEMON: What do you think -- Reverend Toussaint, what do you think needs to be done about the rising -- that the country can do to reverse this tide of hate crimes and so forth?

TOUSSAINT: The only thing we can do is the people that don't hate, the people that don't -- does not seek to hurt somebody, to rise up themselves and can't go back into a closet and be fearful off those that hate.

[22:55:07] You see, because you can't defeat hate with hate. You've got to defeat hate with something else. There's no -- we, as a spiritual advisors or spiritual people. We have to encourage something else besides hate. It I cannot -- even though somebody hate you. Really pretty much they hate you without a cause. LEMON: Right. Hate is irrational.

TOUSSAINT: So, I encourage this nation. Hate is -- exactly. I don't wake up in the morning with somebody else on my mind.

LEMON: I agree. Unfortunately, I got to run. I hate to cut you both of. Listen, we are rooting for you and praying for you. Anything we can do, please let us know. I've got to get to some breaking news. And I'm sure the --

TOUSSAINT: I appreciate you giving us that time.

LEMON: Absolutely.

TOUSSAINT: And thank god for you.

LEMON: Absolutely and --

RICHARD: We appreciate you, Don. Thank you.

LEMON: Please pray for this country and for all of us. And we appreciate that. Thank you so much. Good luck to you.

TOUSSAINT: This is what we want to do. We want the country to be best.

RICHARD: God bless you. Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you so much. Talk to you guys soon.

So here's the breaking news. It's out of Jacksonville tonight. A naval public affairs specialist at the Naval Air Station Jacksonville telling CNN that a Boeing 737 slid off a runway into the St. John's River at 9:40 tonight. There was 136 people on board.

The Jackson Mayor Lenny Curry is tweeting tonight quote, we have a commercial plane down on the river. I have been briefed by our fire and rescue. They are on the scene while they work. That is what I said. Please pray. Let's get Mary Schiavo on the phone. She joins us now. She is our aviation expert.

Mary, do you know anything about this? Can you tell us more?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: Yes. Well, first the question is if it's a commercial plane, what it was doing at the naval air station. So, they would have to have special permission or an emergency situation to be there anyway. The news reports are it's taking off. Usually when you're skidding off a runway like this, most often it's a landing situation. You have a weather problem, but they are just more questions than answers, because it wasn't the naval air station.

I can see the pictures and difficult to notice any logos from the commercial scheduled aircraft. So it does appear to be from the lack of commercial aircraft logos, it does appear to be some kind of a special flying or a charter flight, but it's just not possible in the pictures I have to see the logo, but again --

LEMON: Stand by. Stand by Mary, let me read this off on the screen and then, I'll get you the respond. So this is from the Jackson sheriff's office, you can see that, and it says Marine Unit was called to assist in reference to a commercial airplane in shallow water. The plane was not submerged. Every person is alive, that's good for and accounted for, but there you see the pictures off that Boeing 737 with 136 people on board in that water, Mary.

SCHIAVO: Right. Well, I guess the good news is we know for certain it's not a 737 Max 8, because they are still grounded. So, it's an older 737. So, whatever happens on the -- if the news reports are -- it's take off, what narrowly it's not.

It's the landing situation, skid off the runway like that or they failed to get lift from the engine, but difficult to tell, the best news that everyone's is accounted for and everyone is alive. When planes go off the runway into water. Unfortunately most commonly some people do drown. So, the good news here is they were able to get everybody out. Able to get everyone to safety with a few minor injuries and now in the picture I can see the logo. It does look like Miami.

LEMON: Yes. It may be a technicality as you said. I'm not sure if everyone is off, I mean, you would know better than I, but maybe they went on and accounted for, but one would assume that everyone is off. You see at least the front door of the plane is open. I would imagine they had a slide and even in this water, maybe there were boats, I'm not sure. But, you know, I'm not sure if everyone is off, Mary, but they say that they're accounted for, which is good news.

SCHIAVO: That is good news. On a situation like this obviously it would be very difficult for people to have their life vest on and be prepared for this, the sliding off the runway is not something, you know that you got time to brace for -- and prepare for --

LEMON: Live pictures now from Jacksonville, Florida. We are looking at from our affiliate WJXT, we have Mary Schiavo with this. Mary, continue on.

SCHIAVO: Well, and you can see lot of rescue crews there.