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CNN TONIGHT

Violence Now A Laughing Matter To President Trump?; Former FBI Director James Comey Believes President Trump Obstructed Justice; Trump Turns Threat To Shoot Migrants Into A Punchline At Florida Rally; Trump And Inner Circle Frustrated By Don Jr.'s Subpoena By Senate Intelligence Committee; Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) Is Interviewed About Senate Intel Committee Subpoenaing Donald Trump Jr.; 2020 Race. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired May 9, 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.

Breaking news. Former FBI Director James Comey in a CNN town hall tonight says he believes President Trump had criminal intent to commit obstruction of justice during Special Counsel Mueller's investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER UNITED STATES FBI DIRECTOR: It sure looks like he did. The president is not above the law, and I don't accept the notion that because the president is the head of the executive branch, he can't ever obstruct justice in connection with the executive branch activities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Much more on James Comey in just a moment. And just listen to this. From the president's off-the-rails surprise news conference today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I'd like to see with Iran, I'd like to see them call me. You know, John Kerry, he speaks to them a lot. John Kerry tells them not to call. That's a violation of the Logan Act. And, frankly, he should be prosecuted on that, but my people don't want to do anything that's -- only the Democrats do that kind of stuff. You know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Kerry's spokesman says everything Trump said there is wrong. But this is a big deal. The president says he'd like to see John Kerry prosecuted, but his people don't want to. So, he's talked to somebody about prosecuting someone he sees as an enemy.

So, you remember it was just last week that Senator Kamala Harris asked the attorney general about exactly that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Attorney General Barr, has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?

WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I wouldn't -- I wouldn't --

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS: Yes or no.

BARR: Could you repeat that question?

HARRIS: I will repeat it.

BARR: Yes.

HARRIS: Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no, please, sir.

BARR: The president or anybody else.

HARRIS: Seems you'd remember something like that, be able to tell us.

BARR: Yes, but I'm trying to grapple with the word, suggest. I mean, there have been discussions of matters out there that they've not asked me to open an investigation, but --

HARRIS: Perhaps they've suggested.

BARR: I don't know. I wouldn't say suggest.

HARRIS: Hinted?

BARR: I don't know.

HARRIS: Inferred? You don't know? OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The attorney general really didn't sound like he wanted to answer that question, did he? Did you see Cory Booker's face? Said everything.

Well, tonight, Senator Harris sent him a letter demanding answers. Sent the attorney general a letter demanding answers. Pointedly saying, quote, "In light of the president's deeply troubling statements, I request that you supplement your testimony and clarify your answers to my question."

Let's see if he answers. Lot to talk about. Ryan Lizza is here, Carrie Cordero, and Renato Mariotti. Did you guys happen to see Cory Booker's face sitting there when he's like? RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's great.

LEMON: Yes, that was great. I didn't catch it the first time. Good evening, everyone. Ryan, I'm going to start with you. With the former FBI director Jim Comey making news at tonight's CNN town hall, he says this about the president and possible obstruction. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: There's 10 different episodes. I actually think the ones that would be most likely charge are not necessarily the ones that involved me, but particularly this McGahn episode and another episode where he was trying to get the attorney general to limit the investigation only future elections are examples that any reasonable prosecutor would charge.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: If, you know, there are now, what, I think it's up to 800 former federal prosecutors who worked in both Democrat and Republican administrations who have signed a statement saying that Mueller's findings would have produced obstruction charges against President Trump if he weren't president. Do you agree?

COMEY: Yes, I agree.

COOPER: No doubt.

COMEY: No doubt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: No doubt. So, Renato, listen, he believes there was obstruction in some of the 20 episodes as he put it that Mueller laid out. He also agrees with you, that you were one of the 800 former federal prosecutors, right, who say that Trump would have been charged if he weren't president. What is the -- what is the message here to Congress and to the Department of Justice and to the American people?

MARIOTTI: I think the message to the American people is that the President of the United States committed a crime and although that is not completely transparent to the average person when they read the Mueller report, it's plainly obvious to someone like James Comey or myself, former prosecutors who are looking at them.

[23:05:05] Mueller clearly laid out the evidence and made clear that there is substantial evidence to each of the elements. And I think the question is now do we want the president to be above the law? I think that that is a bigger question. But I certainly think it's a proper inquiry for Congress.

Because I think there was a CNN poll, 87 percent of Americans haven't read much of the Mueller report, so I think it's something that our elected representatives are taking a look at and I think they have a right to examine it and educate the public on the issue.

LEMON: I'm seeing this as you are. You have to put it up on the screen. I don't follow the president, but I understand he is responding via Twitter. So, let's put it up.

"James Comey is a disgrace to the FBI and will go down as the worst director in its long and once proud history. He brought the FBI down. Almost all Republicans and Democrats thought he should be fired but the FBI will regain greatness because of the great men and win who work there." A lot of greats there. Shocking, Ryan?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's shocking that he wasn't live tweeting the event, itself. And that it took him this long to send that out. Of course, it's not shocking. You know, we've all been waiting for his response.

Because Comey, you know, Comey did not pull any punches. You know, he rarely does these days. But he was very clear that he -- that his reading of the Mueller report was that the obstruction charges were, you know, at least several of them were very clear cut, and he has very little respect for this president.

So, no, I'm not surprised that Trump would go after him at all. In fact, it was kind of a mild tweet for Trump, to be honest.

LEMON: Well said. Carrie, there's also this moment. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Do you think the Russians have leverage over President Trump?

COMEY: I don't know the answer to that.

COOPER: You think it's possible?

COMEY: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So that's the fear even today that there is kompromat on President Trump. Would that have been in the Mueller report, do you think?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, remember, there was part of the report that talked about the pattern of obstruction that the president engaged in over a period of time, and then there's the other part that talked about whether or not there was a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

And part of that underlying investigation would have been the national security part of the investigation. That's the area where actually the Mueller report doesn't get into the heavy national security side of things.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has been doing an investigation on that, and actually, the House Intelligence Committee, both the chair and the ranking member in a rare bipartisan move, have requested more information that the government, the Justice Department, has, and the special counsel discovered in the course of their investigation on the national security part. So, one thing to keep in mind is that the Mueller report actually, as

comprehensive as it is, doesn't actually tell the entire story. It was never going to. It was never intended to because it was a prosecutive document.

LEMON: Yes. So, Renato, I found this -- there were lots of fascinating moments during the town hall, but this one was maybe one of the most fascinating. Comey explained how people like Barr and others around Trump make compromises to survive this administration, himself included, and he told this story. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: So, I sat there at dinner with him and he went on about how he had the biggest inauguration crowd in history. He didn't make fun of a disabled reporter. And all these lies are coming at you and you're sitting there over your salad thinking that's not true, that's not true, that's not true.

But you don't interrupt the president of the United States and say, Mr. President, I saw the tape. You made fun of a disabled reporter. Instead, it washes over you. And all of a sudden you finish the dinner or the meeting and you realize, my God, I'm part of silent circle of assent. Did I agree that that's true because I didn't speak?

And then there are ritual -- these rituals of praise of the leader. And pretty soon you're wrapped so tightly in this web that there's no way out for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The way he describes how, Renato, how it washes over you, is that a lot of what we're seeing from folks in the administration, and others in the GOP? That was -- OK. We lost Carrie. Sorry about that.

LIZZA: That was scary.

LEMON: Yes. Renato, is Renato still there?

MARIOTTI: I'm still --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: There's Carrie. She's back.

MARIOTTI: I'm still here.

LEMON: Go ahead, Renato.

MARIOTTI: What I was going to say, that is that I think is what we saw today, for example, with Rod -- we saw that a lot with Rod Rosenstein. I mean, here's a man who, you know, just months ago was, you know, desperate to hang on to his job. Was very concerned about being fired. Thought he didn't want to go out via tweet.

And he got his big sendoff today and, you know, he was standing there silently as the attorney general lied and misled the American people.

So, I, to me, it's really hard for me to understand why otherwise honorable people are doing what they do, and I think Comey had limited insight into that, but I think we got a little bit of a sense of that today.

[23:10:07] LEMON: So, Carrie, Comey was asked a few questions about former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: No, I've never met Secretary Clinton ever, and so I've never been --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You've never, ever met here?

COMEY: Ever. I've never been in her physical presence. Actually, I've never spoken to her on the phone or otherwise.

COOPER: What would you say?

COMEY: Well, I would hope that I could have a conversation with her. Look, I feel badly that she feels like -- she said in her book I think that I shive (ph) her. I would hope to give her the chance -- I would hope to give the chance to understand why we made the decisions we made. It wasn't about trying to hurt her or hurt Donald Trump or help Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Carrie, are you surprised that, you know, given Comey's outsized role in the 2016 election that they had never -- that they've never met?

CORDERO: I don't know. Not necessarily. I think sometimes people think that, you know, everybody in Washington knows each other, but it's not always the case. And given that he was supervising an investigation that was looking at activities that she was involved in with respect to the e-mail servers and everything, it doesn't surprise me, actually, that in his role as FBI director that he would not have met her.

But I think the bigger point that he was trying to make was that despite the fact that he is still not liked by many people in the Democratic Party and there's still a lot of hard feelings there, that he's trying to elevate the conversation and identify things that people can be not just partisan about, but recognize that what's going on in the White House right now is something different.

And that even people who have political disagreements can agree that we should have somebody in the White House who's not a liar and who people can have some confidence and trust in. LEMON: OK. So, let's talk about what I talked about in the open to

this hour, Ryan. And that is the president of the United States talking about John Kerry. Saying that john -- accusing him of violating the Logan Act.

And it's what Kamala -- Senator Kamala Harris asked him about last week, the attorney general, and the attorney general just said, OK, well, I don't know if anyone has ever suggested that I should prosecute anybody or start an investigation on anyone.

This is exactly what Kamala Harris was asking about. She sent the attorney general a letter today. What do you think?

LIZZA: Well, couple things, one, you know, I wonder if Barr will now speak up and say what he said in one of the moments in his testimony saying that he hoped people would stop using the criminal justice system for political purposes.

LEMON: But isn't that what the president said today that he wanted to use the criminal justice system for?

LIZZA: Absolutely.

LEMON: Yes.

LIZZA: And Barr was directing that at Democrats. Arguing that they were trying to use the criminal justice system to get the president and put aside for a second whether you believe that's true or not. I don't think that's actually true. I don't think that's what the Mueller investigation showed, but the president does think that way.

He's thought that way since he was a candidate. He's thought that way in the way he's talked about who his attorney general should be, in the way that he's talked historically about how the attorney general and president, what their relationship should be.

He thinks that Eric Holder was, you know, sort of picked as a protector of Obama. He thinks that the Kennedy -- John Kennedy/Robert Kennedy model was a good model and one to emulate thinking Robert Kennedy was there to protect John Kennedy.

And, you know, Barr as the attorney general, might want to speak up and say, you know, Mr. President, that's not how this works. I doubt that will happen, but he fired at Democrats the other day when they said something like this and the president has a much longer track record of thinking that the Justice Department should be his political tool.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, all. See you next time.

LIZZA: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you so much.

MARIOTTI: Thank you.

CORDERO: Thanks.

LEMON: The president laughed the other day when someone in his rally crowd yelled out that migrants should be shot. That's right. He laughed.

The thing is, this isn't the first time he's made light of violence against other people. And is there really ever any defense of any president joking about violence?

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: At his Florida rally Wednesday, the president turned the idea of shooting migrants into a joke. Don't take it from me. Hear it for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We don't let them and we can't let them use weapons. We can't. Other countries do. We can't. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people? You can't. There's no -- that's only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What a riot. Let's have a big old laugh about that. In response to the backlash against these comments, a Trump campaign official noted that the president said that you can't shoot migrants. That is true. That's not the point here.

Instead of condemning an act of violence, as a president is supposed to do, this president and his adoring crowd laughed along.

The president hinted at attacking migrants before. Listen to this. This is from March, back in March.

(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)

TRUMP: Other countries stand there with machine guns ready to fire. We can't do that, and I wouldn't want to do that, OK? It's a very effective way of doing it and I wouldn't want to do it. We can't do it.

(END VOICE CLIP)

LEMON: I wouldn't want to do that and we can't do that. But did you get that? The president said we can't threaten migrants with machine guns but thinks it would be very effective.

This president has a long history of encouraging violence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher, folks.

The guards are gentle with him. He's walking out with a big high five. Smiling, laughing. I like to punch him in the face, I tell you.

[23:19:55] If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them. Would you? Seriously. OK? Just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.

Get him out. Try not to hurt him. If you do, I'll defend you in court. Don't worry about it.

Part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore. There are no consequences to protesting anymore. There used to be consequences.

I would have been out there fighting, folks. I don't know if I would have done well. But I would have been boom, boom, I'll beat that --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The president. Team Trump denies it. Over and over again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I certainly don't think that the president at any point has done anything but condemn violence against journalists or anyone else.

The president in no way, form, or fashion, has ever promoted or encouraged violence. If anything, quite the contrary.

And the idea that the president or anybody on his team or in his administration would encourage violence is absolutely absurd.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Must have never gone to a rally. Maybe she doesn't have a television. We just played the clips for her. Don't believe your own eyes and your own ears, what did I say, he's never done it. You heard him right there. Make no mistake, this is part of the Trump playbook, winking and nodding at bigotry and violence.

It is a message that white supremacist, white nationalist, embrace. The suspect who killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue was so angry about migrant caravans, something the president brought up over and over again at a scare mongering tactic, as a scare-mongering tactic in the run-up to the 2018 election that he allegedly committed the deadliest act on Jews in American history.

White supremacist coast guard lieutenant allegedly stockpiled more than 15 guns, 1,000 rounds of ammunition, to kill people Donald Trump considers his enemy enemies.

And another racist Trump supporter sent pipe bombs to the Clintons, to the Obamas. Other Democrats, major news organizations. And what did the recipients all have in common? They were all perceived enemies of the president.

How does the president react to white nationalists? He defends them. Who can forget this? This was just days after the white nationalists killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: It should come as no surprise to you that he thinks the white -- that white nationalism isn't a big problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you see today white nationalism as a rising threat around the world?

TRUMP: I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, guess what, that flies in the face of the evidence. Attackers with ties to right-wing extremists killed 50 people last year. OK?

These are the facts, folks, so don't get mad at me for giving you the facts. They killed 50 people last year. Seventy-three percent of extremist killings in this country were carried out why white supremacists between 2009 and 2018.

We don't need to worry about president's words contributing to the acts of violence. That's already happening. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Jim Comey has an idea. He was asked tonight about the rhetoric in his country right now towards immigrants. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMEY: The images and the reality of children in cages at our border is a stain on this country and if there's anything good that can come from that, it will be a stirring of the giant. Torches in Charlottesville, children in cages. Wake up. Think about what America is and vote those values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Scott Jennings, Tara Setmayer, Aisha Moodie-Mills are here. We're going to talk about why it's so dangerous for the president not to condemn violent rhetoric, next.

[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: At a Florida rally on Wednesday, the president laughed off a supporter's call to shoot migrants crossing the border.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We don't let them and we can't let them use weapons. We can't. Other countries do. We can't. I would never do that, but how do you stop these people? You can't. There's no -- that's only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Let's bring in Scott Jennings, Tara Setmayer, Aisha Moodie- Mills.

Good evening. Good to see all of you. Tara, I'm going to start you.

So, an audience member shouts that we should shoot migrants crossing the border. The president cracks a joke. What do you think?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's disgusting and it should be very alarming not only the fact the president of the United States laughed at the prospect of illegally shooting people, basically the extrajudicial killings of people coming here illegally or seeking asylum.

But the fact that there were that many people in the audience who hooped and hollered and cheered for that is very alarming, that there are people in the United States that seem to think that this is OK.

You know, let's not act like people are not taking things into their own hands already. We already know about these lunatics down on the border.

[23:29:58] These unregulated militias that are acting like vigilantes to try to, quote, "secure the border" because Trump has been pumping up this whole thing about there's an invasion, there's an invasion.

Is there a problem at the Southern border? Yes, there is. Do we have trained border patrol agents and ICE agents and others that are working very hard every day and honorably to try to do their jobs to protect this country and the border? Yes, we do.

The Department of Defense put out an intelligence report at the end of 2018, saying that there are over 200 unregulated Militias right now patrolling the border and that they are concerned about confronting them more so than they are with the immigrants coming across the border. So, this is a problem. What is it going to take? The president laughs at this.

Next thing you know, you're going to have one of these lunatics shooting, you know, immigrants or someone they perceive to be an immigrant, and then what? You have blood on your hands.

LEMON: Aisha, why is this dangerous?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it's dangerous for everything that was just stated. It's dangerous because you have the occupant of the White House who is inciting violence. Here's the thing, though, Don. I want us to remember that this is not surprising and it's not new. The Republican Party is 86 percent white for a reason, because since the 60s, there was a consorted effort to make this the party of the white men, and they did that through race baiting and racial undertones.

And so we're in a situation now where you have the current president who is inciting violence and racist rhetoric, now the target is immigrants, but at the end of the day it's because they're brown. And this is intended. This is something that the Republican Party has always used as their strategy. They see this as a way to win.

Thirty-five percent or so folks in America are always going to support this party. I'm not saying they're all racist, but I'm saying that race really matters. And so we've got to get to the heart of that and really have those real conversations because today, it's about immigrants and the border. Tomorrow, it would be about something else. But at the end of the day, this is the party's strategy and that's what's so problematic.

LEMON: Just quick, Scott, before I get to you, do you -- Tara, do you still consider yourself a Republican? I'm not sure. Did you leave the party?

SETMAYER: I'm a conservative. I mean --

LEMON: You're a conservative, got it, OK.

SETMAYER: It's a little tough --

LEMON: OK.

SETMAYER: -- to take the label still but I'm a conservative first which matters.

LEMON: There are two conservatives on the panel now and one who is an identified Republican and that is Scott. Scott, I want you to respond to that. Also, respond to -- do you think the president knew in the moment that it was wrong but just doesn't want to insult anyone maybe in his adoring crowd? I mean, I'm trying to figure out a reason here, but he'd rather had their claim, but he is a president and there is a duty to stand up to that kind of ugliness, no?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I think your assessment of what he was probably thinking is probably right. I don't think he should indulge these kinds of comments, though, because it's not right. And, yeah, sure, there are always going to be people in crowds out there wherever they are who make some dumb comments like these and you shouldn't indulge it as the president.

So, I don't like these kinds of comments. I don't like them popping up at political events. I don't like the president indulging it. I wish he would just say we're not going to have any of that kind of talk here.

SETMAYER: That's going to be wishful thinking --

LEMON: Hold on. Hold on, Tara. Hang on, hang on, hang on. SETMAYER: Don, he's done it many times.

LEMON: I got to give Scott his due because he didn't say, well, it's obvious the president was making a joke, and he said he did not make an excuse for it. He said the president should not do that. So Scott, I think that you -- I commend you for doing that, so thank you. No, I do.

SETMAYER: Is the bar really that low now?

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Yes, the bar is that low. It's sad that it is because we see so many people come on and they make excuses for this president --

SETMAYER: That's true.

LEMON: -- no matter what his behavior. I do have to say when someone actually does it, I want to just give --

SETMAYER: I think that's a sad state of affairs.

LEMON: I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm just saying --

MOODIE-MILLS: I would have to --

LEMON: I'm just saying -- I'm just telling you why I'm doing it.

SETMAYER: I get it.

LEMON: Scott, listen -- hold on, hang on. Listen, you note that the president's approval ratings are the highest that they've ever been and that is true. His approval rating it at 46 percent in the Gallup poll but he's never broken 50 percent. Do you think the voters outside of his base are turned off by that kind of rhetoric?

JENNINGS: Good question. I don't know. I think that the people who already don't like Donald Trump as evidenced by our panel tonight certainly are unhappy with the rhetoric. I think what strikes me that is driving his approval rating up right now is just the torrent of good economic news. So I think that the reason he's going up has to do with unemployment, has to do with wage growth, has to do with manufacturing resurgence and so on and so forth.

Look, I think these kinds of comments will get a lot of attention as the presidential campaign wears on. If you look at the cohort of voters that went away from the Republican Party in the 2018 midterms, yeah, I think they could be bothered by this kind of rhetoric.

But on the whole, I think the president's rise is largely due to his, A, good economic record and B, frankly, to some degree, his willingness to call out the crisis at the Southern border and at least try to get Congress to move on it even though they haven't so far.

LEMON: Listen, I'm not fighting with Tara or Aisha. I do think it's a low bar, but sometimes when you sit here, you're like, whoa, well, that was different.

[23:35:03] Scott, thank you.

SETMAYER: Can I just say something really quickly? Just really --

LEMON: I got to go.

SETMAYER: OK.

LEMON: I'm sorry. See you next time. Thanks. Bye. I got to go. I'm sorry. See you next time. Thanks. Bye. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Sources are telling CNN members of the president's inner circle are frustrated that the Republican-led Senate Intel Committee subpoenaed Donald Trump, Jr. The president is defending his eldest son today saying Don Junior is a good person and that he's very surprised he's been subpoenaed.

I want to talk about this and other developments with Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware. Senator, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining us. I know it's a busy time. So, subpoenaing the son of a president really is no small thing, as you know.

[23:40:02] Why do you believe the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Donald Trump, Jr.?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Well, my speculation on this, don, would be that they reached out to him. They reminded him that those who were previously interviewed by the Intelligence Committee were told that the committee could bring them back at any time to clarify statements.

Other folks who are members of the president's inner circle, according to press reports, have been back to be re-interviewed by the Intelligence Committee following the release of the Mueller report, and my hunch is that Donald Trump, Jr. refused to come so they felt compelled to subpoena him.

Any committee, such as judiciary on which I serve or intelligence, that's questioned someone where they have reason to think that they weren't testifying truthfully is completely within their scope and powers to demand that they come back and clarify their testimony.

LEMON: OK. You said didn't -- if they have reason to believe he didn't speak truthfully or clarify testimony, then what happens if the Senate Intel Committee determines that Don Junior lie, senator?

COONS: He can be referred for prosecution for lying to Congress. As we know, several of the folks who were central figures in the Mueller investigation have been prosecuted for lying to Congress.

That's one of the most striking features of Mueller's investigation is that, you know, more than a dozen folks ended up being indicted and some pled guilty, most were convicted. But it's ended up leading with quite a few folks being charged and held guilty as matters of accountability for having lied to Congress.

LEMON: I want you to listen to what the president said this morning about Robert Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Do you allow Robert Mueller to testify in Congress?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I'm going to leave that up to our very great attorney general, and he'll make a decision on that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: So, senator, this is yet another reversal. Most recently when he tweeted over the weekend that Mueller shouldn't testify, he says it's up to Barr now, but don't you think that Barr knows exactly what the president really wants?

COONS: Yes. One of my real concerns about Bill Barr since he was nominated by President Trump was that he would end up acting as the president's personal defense attorney rather than as the attorney general of United States, someone who serves all of us and is the people's attorney.

In recent hearings in front of the Judiciary Committee, ways in which Attorney General Barr characterized the Mueller report, his specific use of the term "spying" to characterize what I think was authorized surveillance, have suggested that he's really got more of a political agenda than is appropriate.

I, frankly, think if President Trump is guilty -- excuse me, if President Trump is innocent of any of the questions or charges that have been laid against him, he should want to prove it. He should want Bob Mueller to come in front of the Congress and testify further about this report and clarify any questions or misunderstandings there may have been.

So my advice to President Trump would be if you're innocent, act like it, and follow through on a previous commitment you made to let folks come forward and testify to Congress about the outcome of the Mueller report.

LEMON: I want you to watch this. This is Manu Raju when he caught up with Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham and asked him about the Don Jr. subpoena. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I like Richard Burr. I just don't know -- to me, Mueller is the last word for me. So, I'm over. I'm done. He testified before the committee. He testified to the special counsel. In this environment, I'd be very reluctant, if I was a lawyer, to let my client get back into this mess, but that will be up to Don Junior and his lawyer. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, senator, to correct the record, Don Jr. never testified to the special counsel, but for Graham to say he's over, he's done, why just roll over like that?

COONS: Well, this is following the lead of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who came to the floor recently and said "case closed." Chairman Graham has also said publicly, "I'm done, this is over," when in reality, I think there were lots of questions raised by the second volume of Mueller's report.

The first volume of Mueller's report deals with Russian interference in our 2016 election, and we shouldn't set that aside, either. We should be taking stronger actions to defend our next election against Russian interference. But the second volume deals with 10 different instances of obstruction, of actions by the president or his core advisers that could make out some of the elements of a potential obstruction charge.

And there's quite a few instances characterized in that second volume, detailed in that second volume, that I think are worthy of further investigation and examination. That's why I joined all of my Democratic colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee in sending a letter to Chairman Graham saying, we believe special counsel Mueller should come in front of the Judiciary Committee and answer our questions about that second volume of the report.

[23:45:04] LEMON: Senator, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler told me just last night that they'll hear from Robert Mueller because he'll subpoena him if he has to. You think it will come to that?

COONS: Well, my hope would be that the special counsel will voluntarily come forward and testify, will be allowed to come forward and testify to the Judiciary Committee. As was made clear this week, the House Judiciary Committee is willing to use the full process of law available to them to compel that testimony.

My hope is it doesn't come to that. Robert Mueller has had a long and storied and honorable career in federal law enforcement, and I think he should be both allowed to and willing to come testify to the House Judiciary Committee.

LEMON: Senator Chris Coons, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

COONS: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: We'll be right back.

[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Coming up this Memorial Day, a CNN original series special presentation, "Colin Quinn: Red State Blue State," starring comedian Colin Quinn. In this special, he takes a look at tenacity rhetoric that is dividing America today and wonders if United States should actually stay united after all. Here to talk about the special and about politics is Colin Quinn.

COLIN QUINN, COMEDIAN: Thanks, Don.

(LAUGHTER)

QUINN: Good to see you again.

LEMON: How are you?

QUINN: How are you? Great to see you.

LEMON: Can we talk politics? You and I have talked politics before.

QUINN: Yes, we have.

LEMON: OK. I'm going to put up some new polls. This is out of New Hampshire today and it shows Vice President Joe Biden with a huge lead. Bernie Sanders, look at that, he has got 36 percent. Bernie Sanders is up that support of 18 percent. Then you got big names like Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris. They are still polling in the single digits. Look at that, 36 percent.

QUINN: I know.

LEMON: What's your view of the field?

QUINN: That is all an insult to Bernie Sanders because he is from Vermont, right next door. But, you know, the person next to you hates you the most. So it's like -- I'm sure New Hampshire, we don't like him. Vermont and New Hampshire are like red state, blue state.

LEMON: What do you think of this seriously? That's a pretty diverse group and Joe Biden just got in last week.

QUINN: Yeah.

LEMON: Yeah.

QUINN: Yeah, but he's got that crazy energy of a guy that's been around -- you know, back slapping and shaking hands and, you know, making people laugh at barbecues for 50 years.

(LAUGHTER)

QUINN: He comes in running.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: You won't say who do you think is going to come down to, right?

QUINN: I mean -- it's too early. Look at Beto. Six months ago, he's like the Heisman Trophy winner that turns pro --

LEMON: Yeah.

QUINN: -- and then suddenly it's over. What happened to that guy? He was the greatest.

LEMON: You are in New York. It's Beto.

QUINN: He's out basically at this point.

LEMON: I want to talk to you about the new special. Your new CNN special is called "Red State Blue State."

QUINN: Right.

LEMON: It actually started off as an off-broadway play. Tell us about it.

QUINN: Well, I've been writing about -- when I was on -- if you remember, unconstitutional --

LEMON: Yeah.

QUINN: -- and then the country breaking up. But it was more like people are like, you know, we're not going to break up. But now, everybody else is talking about like this is going to happen. This show is about how we would break up practically speaking into city states and become a -- you know, separate but together, like Soviet Union did.

LEMON: Yeah. So you think that could actually -- I mean, look at the divide in the country.

QUINN: Yeah. I think it should.

LEMON: You think it should?

QUINN: Yeah. I think we should divide like the Soviet Union broke up into Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, the Ukraine, why not.

LEMON: Yeah.

QUINN: Try it. Right now, it's ready to explode most of the time.

LEMON: I'm wondering. They always ask -- or actors always say, what is my inspiration? What was your motivation? What was your inspiration? Is this a by-product of the Trump administration or what?

QUINN: No, because I was -- I felt like it was happening before. Trump is just like a -- he's a good figure. He's like a by-product of this breakup.

LEMON: Right.

QUINN: The opposite way is more like it is. You know, I mean, he's the manifestation of both sides. I feel like he got elected by the left and the right, you know. And so I was doing it in stand-up and then we did it as a show.

LEMON: I wonder -- what do you think our particular ailment is, what is it? QUINN: I think -- well, I mean it's a lot of things. From day one, we didn't get along. But social media, you can actually see each other. In the old days you'd say, I heard they're like that there, but nobody would see each other. But now, everybody's in each other's face all day.

LEMON: Yeah.

QUINN: -- and also I feel like politically, all parties and all people are afraid of the people on social media. It's the ultimate democracy.

LEMON: Don't you think people put too much emphasis on social media and they rely too much on what people on social media say?

QUINN: Yeah. I think the next -- I think the best candidate would be the person that's like I don't care what you say on social media.

LEMON: I agree with you. Let's watch this part of the special. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUINN (on camera): We look in the mirror and see ourselves as we really are, and realize most of what everybody says about each other is true. The right can be a little racist and the left can be a little fascist. And you can tell the Christians by their guns and the liberals by their hatred of free speech. Is this what we're supposed to look? Is this what we really are?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: How do we move past this then? That was pretty damning of political parties.

QUINN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I don't know if we can move past. I mean, we -- somebody who's strong enough to say, look, here's how I feel about everything. I don't care what any poll says. I don't care what anybody says in either because both parties are led by extremists and led by social media. So unless there's somebody who's like can speak practically and just say, look, this is what I feel. You know what I mean? You're never going to resolve it. It's too disparate.

LEMON: Do you think we're right there on the verge of civil war?

[23:55:00] QUINN: Yeah. I talked about it in the show.

LEMON: Wow.

QUINN: Say it's the first time in history you'll see bad (ph) refugees.

LEMON: My man.

QUINN: Thank you so much. LEMON: Always a pleasure to see you. Thank you so much. We really love having you. Good luck with this. I can't wait to see it. Colin Quinn. "Red State Blue State" premieres Memorial Day at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

Thank you for watching. Before we leave you tonight, a look at the new CNN special, "Champions for Change."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Some people.

LEMON (on camera): Some stories.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are so powerful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They leave their mark.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Nobody has ever affected me the way your son did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Their work creates real impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On their communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On their country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On us all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meet the change makers we have never forgotten.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a difference seven years makes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the place where we jumped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. This is the place where I live.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Bill from CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was my first time today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are the champions for change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just get to tell your story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): "Champions for Change," a week-long CNN special event, all next week.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)