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Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Is Interviewed About The Abortion Law That Was Passed In Alabama; President Trump Portrays Himself As A King; The Trump Administration Refuses A Pact To End The Spread Of Terrorism Via Social Media; State Department Ordering Evacuation From Iraq; CNN Original Series: Champions for Change. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired May 15, 2019 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: But this was an actual violent action that checks every box of what? Our Supreme Court has worried about in terms of legislating this. Why not?

Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I have a good answer for you. Why not?

CUOMO: Please.

LEMON: Number one, it's not politically expedient. That is the main answer. That's why.

CUOMO: To stop people from broadcasting their crimes?

LEMON: Well, but they also, on the other hand, I feel they want people to think that they're somehow being censored because of it and if you somehow tamp down on that then you're also -- you may also be doing it for people who support him and so I think that's the concern from them. Think about what they're doing now.


CUOMO: It won't be if it weren't a speech.

LEMON: They won't sign onto the Christchurch thing.

CUOMO: I give it to you if it were just speech.


CUOMO: And look, they're going after Twitter and other people, the police discrimination against people on the basis of thought. I get that, I'm fine with it. If you can find that outlet to say I don't like what you're saying, I'm going to take it off, now you're going to have a problem with that under the current legal standard. But this is not action --


LEMON: Well, not if they're a private company, you don't have the right to say anything you want on a private web site. CUOMO: I know. But you're going to have a problem.


CUOMO: You're going to have a problem politically is what I'm trying to say.


CUOMO: You know, you have law and you have politics. That's why I made both arguments here. This is action and under the law it triggers every consideration of what you want to protect against.

You say whatever you want to say about me, but if you tell somebody else to hurt me and it's reasonably calculated to make that happen you're going to have a problem, fighting words although technically there are no fighting words, there is no hate speech recognized under our law. That's the test. I don't know how this doesn't pass.

LEMON: What's fighting words these days, you and I both know all too well things that we don't really want to say here about people, you know, who are trying to protect us, examining what's fighting words and what's not. What's a threat and what's not. I'm going to do it on a daily --


CUOMO: It's kind of bonded us.

LEMON: I know, in an odd way, right?

CUOMO: If people knew what we talk about and what we kind of bond over and commiserate about, they would really, feel really badly about some of the things that are said.

LEMON: Yes. Well, you know, an interesting point, I'll share some of our, a little bit of our personal conversation, if you don't mind where you talk about people don't realize how big you are.

I mean, Chris is a big guy. And so, they may be they may want to threaten you or harm you or say something and then they see you and they're like, I'm not going to mess with that guy, right, but then you have me, you know, I'm just lean and I've got a six-pack and thin, and, you know --

CUOMO: Six packs of Heineken.

LEMON: But you know, you have to laugh about it because we are inundated with it. And I told you I actually had a conversation with you yesterday, or was it today, it's today, that bumming me out, man, I'm sick of it.

CUOMO: It's tough. I mean, you ask what's fighting words? I mean, we've clearly established a line, at least for the two of us, whenever we're out and somebody says here's the check, I mean, you'll go to war over that in a second. I've never seen anybody fight for paying a check the way you do. I

mean, that's certainly your legal standard of what you're going to ball your hand into a fist.

LEMON: You're crazy. Or as they say, cray, cray. I've got to go. Hey, listen

CUOMO: Cray, cray, but I'm not cheap, yes.

LEMON: Good-bye. Enough of --


CUOMO: See you later, D. Lemon. You're going to have great conversation. I'll be watching at home.

LEMON: I'll see you. We got a big show ahead so I'll see you. Thank you, Chris. Great job tonight.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

And you've got to wonder why this president loves to surround himself with strong men, with dictators. He's met with them in the Oval Office, you know, he's met with them around the world.

But this president doesn't just surround himself with strong men, leaders who -- whose word is law, it seems he wants to follow their lead. I'm going to give you the latest example right now.

The White House today, shutting down a request from the House Judiciary Committee, flat out refusing to turn over documents in the committee's obstruction of justice investigation. Jerry Nadler saying this.


REP. JERROLD NADLER, (D) NEW YORK: In effect the president is a tyrant and a dictator with no limit on his power.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And you don't --

NADLER: And that is un-American.

BURNETT: So, you don't think those words are too strong at this point, a tyrant and a dictator?

NADLER: Well, he's trying to become, I don't what he's trying. But the implication of what they're doing would make the president a tyrant in the sense of not being accountable to the American people, not being answerable to Congress and that no one can hold him accountable and that is simply un-American and we cannot abide it.


LEMON: Well that, of course, comes after the president freely admitted his plan is to defy every subpoena.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're fighting all the subpoenas.


LEMON: The President of the United States, defying the Congress. So is the attorney general. Nadler's committee voted to hold him in contempt for defying a subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report. But Barr apparently finds that funny.

[22:04:56] When he saw the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the National Peace Office's Memorial Day service today sources tell CNN that he jokingly asked her if she brought her handcuffs.

You might wonder why the top law enforcement official in this country finds contempt of Congress charges so funny. Well, maybe you wouldn't wonder. Given the way the rest of the administration is following the defy all subpoenas strategy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you plan to respond to Chairman Neal's subpoena?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, UNITED STATES TREASURY SECRETARY: Well, we haven't had an official response yet, I think we have a few more days. We will comply with the timing of it and I think you can pretty much guess how we're going to, but we haven't made a decision.


LEMON: Well, you can pretty much guess how they'll respond, with a big fat no, just like the strong men this president loves, just like a king.


TRUMP: President Xi who is a strong man, I call him king, he said but I am not king, I am president. I said no, you're president for life, and therefore you're king. He said, huh, huh, he liked that.


LEMON: You know, I think I know somebody else who would like that. And here's something else. They have in common. Extreme narcissism. That's according to two psychiatrists who analyze President Trump and Chinese President Xi.

It was part of a presentation to top House Republicans about China trade talks by Larry Lindsey, a former economic adviser to President George W. Bush.

Sources tell CNN that the psychiatrist rated Trump a, quote, "10 out of 10 narcissists." That's a quote from them, not me, but that's how they rated him, same as Xi. So, I guess it should be no surprise President Trump is behaving like a king. Remember when he said this?


TRUMP: I alone can fix it.



LEMON: And one thing this president has really wanted to fix from day one is the Supreme Court. Now he has remade the highest court in the land in his very own image. And added one conservative judge after another to the lower courts. In pursuit of the big prize, one conservative have had their eyes on for more than 45 years. And that is repealing Roe v. Wade.

That goal, one big step closer tonight after Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the most restrictive abortion bill in the country.

This is why conservatives wanted control of the court, why they voted for Donald Trump to get it. And it's a giant wakeup call for Democrats who thought Republicans wouldn't go so far as to roll back a right that so many women view as fundamental and have for decades.

Let's remember what candidate Trump said, this was back in 2016, about punishing women who have abortions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe in --


TRUMP: No, but --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?

TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.


TRUMP: Yes, there has to be some form.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten years, what?

TRUMP: That, I don't know. That, I don't know.



LEMON: Well, that as this president has us on the brink of two wars, his trade war with China, that's inflicting financial pain on more and more Americans, and his threatened war with Iran.

The president threatening to send, his words, "a hell of a lot more than 120,000 American troops to the region." Without even giving any information to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the committee that actually writes the laws that authorize the use of military force.

And then there's this. The president refusing to join the Christchurch call for action. That call for action is a pact to fight extremist violence by working to end the use of social media in acts of terrorism.

The White House claiming that their refusal is all about protecting freedom of expression and freedom of the press. I was just trying to explain that to Chris moments ago. That's where it is.

He wants his supporters to think that they're being discriminated against. Because he thinks it makes him a stronger candidate and they will continue to support him.

But whose freedom are we talking about here? This may be a clue. The White House today asking its followers to submit examples of being -- this is their words, "censored," or "silenced" because of online political bias and claiming they are fighting for free speech.

So that's the kind of free speech that this White House wants to protect, even if it means refusing to be part of an international effort to fight extremist violence.

[22:10:02] Even when extremist violence is costing lives right here at home. And like I said, the battle over Roe v. Wade is headed for the Supreme Court, a court this president has reshaped.

This is a huge wakeup call for Democrats, and I'm going to get Democratic presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar to weigh in. There she is and she's next.


LEMON: So, Alabama's Republican governor signed into law the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in the country today. She says the bill is intended to get the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade.

I want to bring in now Democratic presidential candidate and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.


LEMON: Senator, I appreciate you joining us this evening.


LEMON: Let's right off and talk about this bill, it essentially bans abortion even in the cases of rape and incest, with an exception only for serious health risks. Doctors who perform an abortion could face life in prison. Give me your reaction to this? KLOBUCHAR: It is unconstitutional it is dangerous. You look at the

fact that this state is really literally copying what Georgia just did which was essentially to ban abortion at six weeks.

[22:14:58] And you think about this at a time when this president came in, and we were at an all-time low for abortions because of the fact that Planned Parenthood was funded and because the Obama administration supported women's health and we got to a good point.

And now what happened as they try to cut back on Planned Parenthood funding, actually to defund it entirely at the same time that they're taking away a woman's right to choose.

And by the way, in the state Senate in Alabama it was all men that voted for that, not one woman.

LEMON: Yes. You know, I've got to ask you about this because I remember you questioned, senator, you questioned both of the president's Supreme Court appointees, Justice -- Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch. Here's what they had to say. This is on Roe v. Wade during their hearings. Watch this.


NEIL GORSUCH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: The Supreme Court of the United States has held in Roe versus Wade that a fetus is not a person for purposes of the 14th Amendment. And the book explains that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you accept that?

GORSUCH: That's the law of the land. I accept the law of the land, senator, yes.

BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: It is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. By it I mean Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood versus Casey. Been reaffirmed many times. Casey is precedent on precedent. Which itself is an important factor.


LEMON: Do you think they'll vote to overturn Roe v. Wade even after saying that it was precedent?

KLOBUCHAR: I don't know. There was a recent case where Justice Roberts actually sided with the Democratic appointed judges. But other than that, I think we don't know.

And clearly, the Republicans in these states and the Republican Party thinks that they have a chance because they're basically setting this thing up to go to the Supreme Court. They are playing politics with women's health, using them as pawns, just to try to get up to the Supreme Court with this case. That is exactly what they're doing and no one knows what this court will do.

LEMON: What do you have to say to your Republican colleague in the Senate, Susan Collins, Susan Collins voted for Kavanaugh but said earlier this year that she believed -- she still doesn't believe that Roe v. Wade is in jeopardy.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think, you know, I am not certain based on what this big attempt that's being made across the country right now and I also think that part of this is they're trying to keep their base happy, and instead they are literally jeopardizing the health of the women in these states.

They are taking away -- they're trying to take away their constitutional right. At the same time, they're defunding Planned Parenthood, trying to do this attack on our rights every which way, including, by the way, Affordable Care Act repeal, to take away that protection so you don't kick off your insurance for pre-existing conditions.

Before the Affordable Care Act in eight states it was actually a preexisting condition to be a victim of domestic violence because that meant maybe you would need health insurance or you had a problem. This is a true story.

So, when you look at everything that they do is getting in the way of women's choices and women's health.

LEMON: Yes. I just, you know, you mentioned the men who signed off on this bill, not just as a visual, I'd like to put it up there because I think it's important --


LEMON: -- to discuss it if we can put it up there. I mean, these are the men.


LEMON: And no women. What do you think of that?

KLOBUCHAR: Yes, there are very few women in that Alabama State Senate to begin with but in this case not one of them voted for this. And you think about this.

I think that no one actually believed this. Right. They've been fighting this, trying to make issues out of a third trimester, things like that, when, in fact, look at what they're actually doing.


KLOBUCHAR: They're actually taking away the entire women's right to choose.


KLOBUCHAR: That's what they did in Georgia, that's what they just did in Alabama today. There's a number of other states, as you know, that are considering this or have done it.

LEMON: Can I ask you about that?

KLOBUCHAR: No one thought we would get to this point. And they just thought people were making claims. Well, it's happening right now.

LEMON: Well, that's why I asked you the Susan Collins question, I was wondering if she was naive in thinking that, you know, that they would still support and say that Roe v. Wade --


KLOBUCHAR: You know, I don't know what she was thinking, and I also know, by the way, there are pro-life people that while that's their own personal belief they don't think they should be putting their beliefs on other people.


KLOBUCHAR: And so that's why 73 percent of Americans, Don, don't want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.


KLOBUCHAR: That is a lot of people that they're up against.

LEMON: When I said earlier, the majority supports abortion - the abortion rights, or a woman's right to choose is a better way of saying it and you made the distinction there of how that works.

But listen, I want to ask you about the other states, as you said, because this just in, I want to get your response to this.


LEMON: Just tonight, the Republican Governor of Missouri, Mike Parson is saying that he is ready to sign that state's so-called heartbeat bill, which has already passed the House there. Are you surprised at how quickly these bills are passing all over the country?

[22:20:00] KLOBUCHAR: Well, these people who are in these elected positions in these states have basically made the decision that they're going to do this and once they have power, they go for it.

And I think it should make people realize how important this last election was to make the people's house the people's house again with the House of Representatives in Washington and then how important this next election will be to make sure that someone is in the White House that protects a woman's right to choose, that we look at all of these local races.

As you may know, all over the country right now, states are either blue or red when it comes to state legislatures. Minnesota, my state, actually the only one that has one House that's Republican and one House that's Democratic.

So, it makes you see that while the top of the ticket is key, all of these races down the way matter. And once we're able to show that what these people are really about right now, coming into the 2020 election, is completely eliminating a woman's right to choose, to go back to the stone age, to go back to another era where there were back room abortions and people had to go to other countries.

If that's what they want, I don't think that's what the women or the men of America want and they are now making this a national issue.

LEMON: Well, this --

KLOBUCHAR: It's not just one state, it is, as you point out, state after state after state where they have power.

LEMON: Well, this shows you the importance of this upcoming election and there are a lot of people out there on the campaign trail and that's why we want to hear your voices as much as possible to hear what the folks are saying out there because you're meeting with them every single day.

So, I encourage you and the other candidates to come on early and often, or for us late and often. So, thank you, Senator.

KLOBUCHAR: I will, how can I forget our town hall meeting in New Hampshire? Come on, there we were, it was great.

LEMON: Thank you, Senator.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: I appreciate it. Good luck out there, thank you so much.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

LEMON: Congressman Jerry Nadler says the president is acting as if he is a king and he's not the only one sounding the alarm about President Trump's apparent belief that he is above the law.


LEMON: Congressman Jerry Nadler says President Trump is acting like a king, acting as if he is above the law.

Does he have a point? Well, let's look at the big picture here. Trump vowing to fight all subpoenas for documents and testimony, he's hinting that he may go to war with Iran despite warnings from Congress to tone down his sharp rhetoric, and he wants to put himself front and center on the Fourth of July.

So, let's discuss all of that, Frank Bruni, Philip Mudd, and Michael D'Antonio.

So good to have all of you especially in studio as well. Good evening, gentlemen.

So, Michael, you're the perfect person to talk about Nadler's view of Trump as king Trump. Is he right? Does the president believe he's above the law?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he was raised to think that. So, the president's father would repeat to him when he was growing up, you're a killer, you're a king.

So, this idea of some people being elevated, some people being above all others, in this case above the law, I don't think is foreign to him. I think it feels natural. He's someone who believes in genetic superiority.

He told me, you know, I don't respect most people because they're not worthy of respect. Why would he respect the separation of powers, checks and balances? Any system that is inconvenient for him.

LEMON: Interesting. I mentioned the Fourth of July in my intro to you guys. And so, in your latest column, Frank Bruni, you write how he's inserting himself in that holiday.

And you write this. You say, "He envies Hungary's Orban, Putin and their ilk. They don't have to deal with such disrespect and dissent. They just crush it. His designs on Independence Day called to mind those sorts of leaders, their vanity, shamelessness and equation of natural interests with self-interests." Everything is about Trump.

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Everything is about Trump. And you know, most presidents see their role as lifting up the country. I think Donald Trump sees what he deserves as the country lifting up him. And that's just a partial list of the world leaders whom he perversely admires.

I mean, he has praised and cozied up to the leader of North Korea, the leader of the Philippines, the leader of Saudi Arabia, people who have terrible, terrible human rights records. But what do they have in common? They have the ability to decree adulation, to subvert the Democratic process and to utterly crush dissent. And he envies that because in his perfect that's what he'd have here in America.

LEMON: It really hit home to me, I was telling you earlier in your article, almost in the beginning, where you said he wants to, talking about inserting himself that usually the Fourth of July is about the country, and not about the president. And he wants to make it about --


BRUNI: Well, it's totally -- it's about our country being born and it's about throwing off unhumble rule.

LEMON: Right.

BRUNI: But he wants to show -- he wants to show arrogant rule by making the holiday entirely about him.

LEMON: Yes. Let's talk about, Phil, the tensions, growing tensions with Iran. Because there is skepticism about the president's motives, when he says Iran, call me, I'm just wondering if it's all about him needing to be a deal maker and if he doesn't get his way then we go to war.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I think it's about symbolism. The symbolism and ego of saying, I'm the tough guy. In some circumstances I'm the tough guy by saying, I'll talk to Kim Jong-un, nobody else can, but I can, I can take him down.

And of course, that's not working so well. In this case, especially given Iran's rule vis-a-vis Israel the tough guys says, I'm ripping up the nuclear deal despite the fact that Iran was complying with it. And now I'm potentially talking about what to do in the event that there's a conflict with Iran.

I don't think this is about war, there's a hundred steps including everything from the Congress to a single European who would even discuss Iran, they're all on a different page than we are.

I think some of this is like what the Fourth of July is about imaging. I'm a tough guy, the Iranians they're bad guys, I ripped up the nuclear deal and now I'll confront them on threats.

LEMON: Well, let me ask -- let me go and ask you about that. Because he was saying that he disputed 120 -- the report about 120,000 troops that he's going to send, and if he did, we would send more. It's all -- so this is machismo.

MUDD: Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too, whatever that phrase is. Look, it's about --

LEMON: Sorry.

MUDD: Did I get that right?

LEMON: You got it right.

MUDD: It's for embracing the flag. Same thing as July 4th, it's the symbolism of saying I'm the big patriot. In this case it's the symbolism of saying I'm the tough guy, the head of the big American military.

[22:30:04] Now, every general who has worked for him gets bounced.


MUDD: -- McMaster, the Chief of staff Kelly, all of them bounced. But when the military comes up, he knows the symbolism is Americans love the military. Americans love July 4th. I'll embrace it because it makes me look all American.

D'ANTONIO: And he always takes it one step further. When you said embrace the flag, he literally hugs the flag. You know, this is a guy who will take everything further. In the case of Iran, what he's doing is a very dangerous game. He's creating what he thinks is a crisis that he can then solve. But, you know, what kind of terrorism is going to be inspired by his rhetoric?

What kind of fear is spreading across America? He wants to deliver an enemy for us to hate so that he can rally his base come 2020. I am the tough guy on Iran. Maybe Iranians are the new immigrants that we're supposed to not like.

BRUNI: I think this is a scary juncture of this presidency, because I think Donald Trump responds to vulnerability with a pantomime of super potency, right? And so he's coming out of this phase where he had the Mueller report to worry about, where he was really kind of feeling diminished and was unsure of what the far side of that would look like.

And coming out of that, what's he doing? He's taking on -- today there's a big announcement where he's taking on Facebook, Instagram, social media companies. He's talking tough with Iran. He's escalating this trade feud with China to an extent that it could step all over the economy that he usually crows about. I think he is someone who is doing a lavish amount of chest-thumping in a way that actually could do great damage to his presidency and the country.

LEMON: More on that in a moment. But I think you bring up a very good point. Do you guys ever watch Veep? These silly slogans and they end up becoming -- end up helping the candidate. I mean, if you really think about it, if you -- how -- you know, you talked about the USA thing. Of course, people are going to scream.

If you say we love USA or America, they -- you know -- it's just that simple, I think.

MUDD: Let me be clear. Let me just -- Frank, you're from the New York Times. You got it wrong. Let me be smarter than The Times.

BRUNI: It's the failing New York Times.

MUDD: Let me make this real simple. This is going to sound facetious. It's not meant to be so. In the world I lived in, foreign policy, you can -- there's a three-letter word, ego. In every single circumstance, North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, NATO, NAFTA, every single circumstance the president has said I am the stable genius.

I am going to do something different than my predecessors and trash them in the process. We're looking for some sort of global strategy. I think some of this is I can't accept what my predecessors did because I am smarter.

LEMON: OK. But listen, isn't that OK to do something different, but shouldn't you do it with some sort of knowledge behind you and listen to your advisers? I mean that --


BRUNI: It's OK. It's OK to chart a new course. But in what world are we better off being friends with Putin than Merkel? In what world do you want this ghastly gallery of friends instead of our longtime allies who are heads of countries that actually respect human rights and the democratic process? It's doing things differently and then there's just being perverse.

LEMON: Listen. I want to know how much of this is about narcissism. I am not a psychologist. It makes me a little uncomfortable to talk about this, but since it was part of a report. I'm asking because this is according to two psychiatrists who were enlisted to analyze President Trump and Chinese President Xi for U.S./China trade talks. Here's what they found. They rated both presidents a "10 out of 10

narcissists." And that's according to two sources. But again, you know, they weren't patients of this, so it makes me a little bit uncomfortable. But I don't think you really need to be a doctor to figure out that there's some narcissism.

BRUNI: I think they're selling Trump short. I think he's easily a 13 or a 14.


LEMON: Huge.


MUDD: Whose mom trains them to grow up and say I am a stable genius? He said he's smarter than the Federal Reserve on interest rates. He's smarter than the generals on ISIS. And he's smarter than the stewards at the Kentucky Derby on how to rule a race.

BRUNI: Oh, and he's the youngest ever. Remember how long he is when he was talking about Biden being -- I am the youngest man ever, really, but not digitally.

D'ANTONIO: This is what Frank was talking about when it comes to how perverse he is. He turns everything upside down and inside out and makes a virtue out of it. And the problem is that it sticks with a substantial number of Americans who think, well, I would love to turn things upside down and inside out and have it stick too. So he's got that base.

LEMON: I want to get this in before we run out of time, because you -- Frank, you referenced this gem from the 2016 Republican National Convention. Here it is.




LEMON: Has he fixed it, Phil, anyone, has he fixed --

MUDD: I mean, just to be -- no. It's frustrating, because I look at the areas where the president and the American people, for some reason, I don't understand, get sold, the areas where you think in a better place, Russia, Iran, Syria, North Korea, trade relations with the Chinese, if you can find something where you say, OK, this hard left by the stable genius got us in a better place. In my world of foreign policy, I am looking and it's hard to find.

[22:35:01] D'ANTONIO: In the world of economy, if you're not a farmer -- see, what's weird is he's in the process of blowing it. He's messing with his base in the Midwest. I don't understand how he's stepping on his own message, but he is. So people feel good about their wages. They're employed. Those are two very good things. LEMON: I have got to go, because among us, I alone can do this. And

that's get us to the break. So thank you, gentlemen, I appreciate that. Is the U.S. heading toward a war with Iran? Well, Congressman Jim Himes is warning the hat president is doing just that, and it's a bad idea. He'll explain, next.


LEMON: Today, the State Department ordered non-emergency personnel to leave Iraq because of escalating tensions with neighboring Iran. My next guest says we're in a dangerous place right now, and he's worried about how this brinksmanship could play out. Joining me now is Congressman Jim Himes, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

[22:40:04] Congressman, man, I saw your Twitter feed. We'll talk about that. You're very passionate about this. So we're glad to have you here to talk about it. Good evening to you. A lot of us have been caught off guard by the sudden talk of the war with Iran. But you've seen this coming for some time.

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Yeah, Don. Catching the American public off guard is precisely what John Bolton and Mike Pompeo and a group of people around the president, who for a very long time have wanted a conflict with Iran, are hoping happens. They understand. And by the way, it's not just people like Bolton who have wanted this for decades, it is people abroad, leaders abroad who would love to have the Americans jump in and do their dirty work for them.

What is happening right now is that these people understand that President Trump has an intuitive version. He doesn't want to get into another quagmire. So what they're doing is they're going to turn the heat up under the kettle, and we see this with the -- stepping away from the Iran deal in position of sanctions, calling the Republican guard a terrorist organization, something the Pentagon warned against, threatening to send bomber groups and carrier strike groups.

Eventually, the temperature gets to the point where the Iranians do what any other military -- whatever any other group would do, which is they adopt a more aggressive posture, and lo and behold they've adopt aggressive posture. Isn't that terrible? And the next thing you know there's a nervous Iranian sailor who points a gun at a U.S. vessel and we're off to the races.

We are in a military conflict, and it is absolutely not an accident, and because Donald Trump will not be hit without hitting back, he hits back.

LEMON: I just want to go through that again. Because -- let's put that back up. Because this was on your Twitter feed, you were saying why we are close to war. This is what you said. I just want the viewers to get it. Starting with their decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, then re-imposing sanctions, designating the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, moving the USS Abraham Lincoln strike group to the Middle East.

And then the reporting, as you said, the military's plan to -- of his plan to send 120,000 troops to the Middle East. Listen, the administration says that they have intelligence that Iran was trying to get proxy forces to attack Americans in Iraq and Syria. But had they shared that evidence at all, and are you skeptical at all?

HIMES: So Don, I sit on the Intelligence Committee, so I have looked at a lot of that evidence. I obviously can't talk about the classified intelligence that the White House is referring to. But I will tell you my reaction. And you use the words. You said they are thinking about -- they are planning, guess what? This is a very dangerous region of the world.

If you have two -- if you have a militia next to American troops, they think about defense. They think about if things go wrong, how they might fight the American troops there. What is being sold as an aggressive posture by Iran is two things. Number one, it is either the way the militias or other groups have been for a very long time, or it is responding to the change in posture that the Iranians are making.

Because we've threatened to send bomber groups, carrier strike groups, and 120,000 men there. And let me throw one last fact in this, Don, because this is important and it's not classified. I was talking today to one of my colleagues who was actually at the Iraqi embassy a couple of years ago, working for one of our security services. At the time, there were 50 mortar shells a day landing in or around the embassy.

They didn't evacuate the embassy. They didn't do any of the -- we've got to take our people out of there that they did today when there are no mortal shells landing in or around the embassy. And yet, this administration is trying to create the sense that things are a lot more dangerous over there than they have been before, all in the service of getting us to a place where there will be a military conflict with yet another Middle Eastern power.

LEMON: I have got to ask you this. Because as you know, this is the world we're living in now, that there is a tweet for everything, right? And this -- I want to read this. Everyone look and listen to this. This is in November of 2011. This is what he tweeted. He said in order to get elected. Barack Obama will start a war with Iran. And then he tweeted this on October of 2012.

Now that Obama's poll numbers are in tailspin, watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran. He is desperate. And then just a few weeks later, he said don't let Obama play the Iran card in order to start a war, in order to get elected. Be careful, Republicans. What do you think? Is he doing this for political purposes now?

[22:44:56] HIMES: This is a president -- no, let's be really clear. I have been a pretty strong critic to this president. One good thing I will say about this president is that I think he's got a natural understanding that waltzing in to yet another quagmire in the Middle East is a bad idea. I will give Donald Trump that, and that's why the people around him are taking the steps that we see play out every single day. I don't think he wants to go to war in Iran. But he does understand.

And remember those tweets, right? This is a man. This president projects onto others his own flaws, his own liabilities. And so we know that he's now -- by the way, I don't think he thinks he's going to lose the next election. But I do think that that is in his mind.

And I think that the people around him understand that for a 100 years or 200 years or 300 years, whenever an unpopular leader has been unpopular, one of the things you can do is get involved in a conflict abroad because that tends to unite the population around the leader. So all I am saying, Don, is we've got to be very, very careful in the next couple of days, next couple of weeks.

LEMON: That's all we have time for. Thank you, Representative Himes. I appreciate you coming on.

HIMES: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: We'll be right back.


LEMON: All this week, we have been bringing you stories of remarkable people who are making a lasting impact around the world. We call the series Champions for Change. Last year, I told you about Oliver Scholars, an independent school, an independent network that sends -- prepares kids for schools in underserved New York communities to succeed at some of the nation's best high schools and colleges.

And since then, I have joined their board, their board of trustees and have spent a lot of time with Oliver students and staff members. This is their story.


LEMON: Why did I choose Oliver Scholars again? When I looked around and I thought about all the stories that I've done, there was nothing that personified a champion of change more than this program. Oliver Scholars helps young people, mostly in the New York area, mostly black and Latino students, who come from struggling communities, who are good students.

This program helps to bridge the wealth gap and even race gap in the country. There's been so much change (Inaudible) to Oliver Scholars. Number one, the kids that I got to interview are going to these great schools and they're doing very well. That's exciting. Number two, I got involved in the program. And number three, they have a new leader.

DANIELLE MOSS, OLIVER SCHOLARS CEO: I am Oliver Scholar in my own way. So I didn't have the benefit of this organization, but I went to an independent school in New York City. So I have a very similar trajectory with our alumni.

LEMON: Immediately, you saw the importance of a program really like Oliver Scholars. MOSS: Oh, absolutely. You know, I think it's a really special

journey. So once a student is admitted to Oliver Scholars, there's a 14-month scholar immersion program, that in many ways is an academic and personal boot camp, if you will. It's a big climb, but our students are always up to the task.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oliver Scholars' core tenants are...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scholarship, leadership.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I associate myself (Inaudible) scholarship.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I work really hard in order to achieve my goals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most that I identify with is leadership. Oliver has boosted my confidence a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And service, it's always good to give.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just really love helping people out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I graduated from Oliver Scholars in spring of 2018. Coming from public middle school, you're not necessarily ready academically for the level of rigorous classes that you would take at high school, so a lot of the classes that I took at Oliver Scholars prepared me for them. Every class has a counselor and a tutor supervising the students.

MOSS: One of the things that the staff would say distinguishes this organization is how deeply involved we stay with our students. We are the connective tissue that connects educational opportunity with professional opportunities. But I think our school partners understand their students and their school community's benefit from the diversity that Oliver brings to their campuses.

LEMON: This has been a big year for you.

MOSS: Very big year.

LEMON: So (Inaudible) now is at Middlebury, finishing up her first year. She had a little bit of trouble, which most students do. Instead of isolating herself, she opens herself up to the world to help her with her problems.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was prepared for the most part. But it was definitely the culture shock I got. It was a little hard at first. Definitely some big adjustments to make, you know, living by myself, being in rural Vermont, versus New York City, making new friends.

LEMON: So you felt isolated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little bit. And then I got used to it, you know, I started looking on campus more, started doing more activities, joined the softball team. Having a lot of activities to do on campus made me feel better and more connected to the college.

LEMON: Do you think you'd be in college at all if it were not for Oliver Scholars?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I would be at college. I just wouldn't have put the schools that I did on my list, because I wouldn't have thought that they were in my reach. I would have definitely set the bar lower if I didn't have Oliver.

LEMON: When I saw (Inaudible) again, I was surprised at her maturity and how confident and comfortable she seemed in herself, because before, she's like wide eyes that go my, gosh. And now she seems like, OK. This was tough. This was challenging. But I can do this. As my mentor used to tell me, you'll be all right.


[22:55:02] LEMON: I wanted to join the Oliver Scholars board and have some influence on the scholars, because of people like (Inaudible). Kids from underserved communities many times only need someone just to give them the chance. And if they belong to a program like Oliver Scholars, I think it opens up the world to them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am grateful that our hardwork is recognized and that other people beyond the Oliver Scholars staff see what we can do and what we can accomplish later on in life.


LEMON: (Inaudible) one day, she's going to run the world. Look out. We're going to be sharing these inspiring stories all this week. And make sure you tune in Saturday night at 8:00 Eastern for an hour long Champions for Change special. We'll be right back.