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CNN TONIGHT

New Court Documents On Michael Flynn Leads To More Questions; Whites' Fears Of Being Wiped Out; Trump Irritated At Impression That Aides Are Pushing For War With Iran; Trump's Political Pardons; Mayor Bill de Blasio Runs For President. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired May 16, 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.

Newly unsealed court documents reveal why President Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn proved to be so valuable to Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

There are new details about a voice mail recording from Trump's attorney to Flynn's lawyer while Flynn was cooperating. A judge now ordering a transcript of that voice mail to be released publicly by the end of this month.

In just a moment, we're going to take a look at what we're learning tonight on that. Also, we need to tell you about the Justice Department finally agreeing to let all the members of the House Intel Committee see a less redacted version of Robert Mueller's report.

But at the same time, intel chairman Adam Schiff's threatening to take what he calls enforcement action against the Justice Department for not complying with his subpoena for counterintelligence information from the investigation.

So, there is a lot to discuss. I want to bring in Mark Mazzetti, Juliette Kayyem, and Renato Mariotti.

So good to have all of you on. Thank you so much. Good evening.

So, Mark, I'm going to start with you. This voice mail came on the same night that Flynn's lawyers told attorneys for Trump and the White House that they could no longer talk. And here is what the contact said to Flynn. OK. And this is a quote.

It says, "It wouldn't surprise me if you've gone on to make a deal with the government. If there is information that implicates the president, then we've got a national security issue. So, you know, we need some kind of heads up. Just for the sake of protecting all our interests, if we can. Remember, what we've always said about the president and his feelings towards Flynn, and that still remains." So, Mark, how significant is that?

MARK MAZZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, I don't -- I don't know yet. There is the -- the fact of the voice mail and there is this discussion is of course significant to sort of shed light on the back story on what Flynn knew and was possibly willing to tell, and also, how much the president's lawyers were trying to sort of massage the entire situation, massage the testimony.

You know, what is now coming out in the wake of the Mueller investigation, though, that was not in the Mueller report is still hard to know exactly how ultimately significant it will be.

I mean, we know that what is in the Mueller report, we know what the Mueller investigation found about what Flynn had to say and what he didn't have to say. Flynn of course still has to be sentenced.

And so, I guess it's still like -- it's still unclear whether there's going to be a really significant outcome for anything that kind of comes out in court after the Mueller testimony -- I'm sorry, after the Mueller report.

LEMON: Yes. Very interesting. Because listen, Renato, Mueller did determine that the voice mail could have obstructed the investigation, but did not know if Trump himself had prompted the call. So where does that leave the president now?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's interesting, Don. One thing that leapt out at me when I looked at this, is that in the Mueller report he said it was due to privilege issues. That's what kept him from knowing whether Trump was involved in this.

And this is not -- this is not a privileged communication. It's unclear what the privilege issues would be. But what it tells me is that the strategy that we're seeing from Trump and his allies now, of stonewalling, of doing everything they can to aggressively keep information from the House really was just a follow-on to what they did to the Mueller investigation.

I mean, they essentially took a very aggressive approach there, you know. If this was a typical investigation and I was prosecuting it, I would tell the other side this appears to be an attempt to influence -- unduly influence an investigation.

None of this is privileged, and I want to get it, and I would fight in court over privilege.

It appears that Mueller and his team didn't want to do that, and I suspect Congress is going the want to know exactly how that went down.

LEMON: So, Juliette, let's talk about these court documents. Because they show that Flynn told Mueller about multiple examples of this type of outreach. We all obviously want to know who was reaching out to Flynn.

But does it make a difference here at this point given that Barr and Rosenstein rule the president couldn't be charged with obstruction? It's kind of what Mr. Mazzetti just mentioned.

[23:05:03] JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: We'll see. Look, there's the legal side of this and then of course the political side. We'll see what happens on the political side. Certainly, the Congress is going to continue to investigate.

It does seem odd just taking a step back, not getting into the nitty- gritty details of at least, you know, numerous conversations between Trump's lawyers and someone who they know had either flipped or was already talking to Mueller. That's just an odd thing to do. Most lawyers would know at that stage to keep their distance. So, it might show a level of desperation.

Remember, Flynn left and Trump was praising him all the time simply because he knew how much Flynn knew. As part of this court document today, let's not forget the judge also said that the communications between Flynn and the Russian ambassador would also be released. This is the thing that got Flynn into trouble in the first place. He lied about those conversations.

So, both pieces of information, the ones that are related to the contacts between the campaign and the transition and the Russians, as well as the obstruction of justice are now going to be much more public than they were before. Of course, the resolution is likely to be more political than legal, but I do think it matters.

LEMON: Listen, Mark I often have John Dean and Carl Bernstein on the show. And whenever I talk to them, I am reminded that Watergate unfolded over years. There are often lulls on the investigation followed by more revelations.

I mean, it's to remind that there is still so much that we don't know, even though Trump and his folks want this to move on. But there is so much we still don't know.

MAZZETTI: Right. And I think where we are at the moment is this impasse where quite frankly, the White House is kind of gaining the upper hand. The House -- and when we talk about Congress, we're really talking about one party in one House of Congress is really pushing for more information. That's the Democrats and the House of Representatives.

They are trying to get witnesses. They are trying to get in particularly Bob Mueller up to testify. So far, they're not having luck. And the White House is trying to kind of run out the clock here. Slow roll this whole thing so they don't get Mueller, and after several months people they hope forget about it.

And so far, they haven't been able to make -- the House has not been able to make much headway in getting Mueller, Don McGahn, others to testify. So, you're right. There have -- you know, if you're comparing this to past investigations, this is a kind of a lull.

The question is whether the Democrats will continue to fight this until the end. Because as we know, right now the leadership, Nancy Pelosi, has said that she does not want to push this to the ultimate conclusion and actual impeachment hearings.

LEMON: Yes.

MAZZETTI: And so, I think the White House is playing that to their advantage.

LEMON: Yes. I got the ask you this, Juliette. These new documents also showed that Flynn told the special counsel that he was among a select few people who heard statements among senior campaign officials about WikiLeaks. And here is what the memo says.

It says, "Michael Flynn recalled conversations with senior campaign officials after the release of the Podesta e-mails during which the prospect of reaching out to WikiLeaks was discussed. So senior campaign officials talking about directly reaching out to WikiLeaks, that seems pretty big, no?

KAYYEM: Yes, it does. And their desire to at least guide WikiLeaks is, you know, it may not rise to collusion. It's just part of this narrative that this was a campaign that was willing to accept, and in some instances, guide the Russians, WikiLeaks being a tool of Russian intelligence, towards undermining at the very least Hillary Clinton.

See, the unresolved question on the chronology at this stage is how did WikiLeaks know to essentially begin to release the e-mails the day that the story broke about Donald Trump's statements about women and where to grab them. Right?

Is that just WikiLeaks being nice? Or was that actually a coordinated effort? And that's always been the big question. How did those two stories land on a single Friday simultaneously?

So, I'm not surprised that there is going to be more evidence about these kinds of conversations between Trump people and their desire to speak to WikiLeaks. We already know that's true of Don Jr. at least.

LEMON: Yes. Renato, help us understand this. So, you know, the Mueller report already say there is no conspiracy. So, what does this mean legally?

MARIOTTI: Well, regarding the contacts with WikiLeaks, I think what matters to Congress is going to be beyond whether or not a conspiracy can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

[23:09:58] You know, the legal requirements for a conspiracy are actually pretty substantial. There has to be an agreement to violate U.S. law. You could imagine a lot of situations, for example, with Juliette just described discussing with WikiLeaks and agreeing when to release hacked e-mails may not meet the elements of conspiracy under U.S. law, but it's something that would definitely concern the United States House of Representatives. So, I think it's going to matter politically. The question is to what extent.

LEMON: Mark, we're also learning tonight that the Justice Department told the House Intel Chair, Adam Schiff that it would be willing to extend access, a less redacted version of the Mueller report to all the members of his committee and then six designated staff members. Do you think Democrats will take him up on this?

MAZZETTI: They want -- they'll take what they can get in the interim, but what they want, at least what Adam Schiff has said, is that they don't want anything less than the full report and all of the underlying materials, right. Right?

They want to know exactly everything that Mueller had to base his decision on. Not only that, they want to know where the other part of the investigation is currently in the Justice Department. That's the counterintelligence investigation.

So, you know, there is this kind of cat-and-mouse game going on. Where one -- you know, there is exchanges of letters that appear to be escalating. What is unclear to me, though, is where the Democrats in the House, how far they're willing to go.

If they're willing -- if they're saying, you know, this is not acceptable, the question is therefore what? If the White House -- if they say the White House is obstructing this investigation, therefore what?

And to me, the question hasn't been answered yet, you know, whether they're going to escalate it further than this. And I think, again, going back to what I said earlier, I think the White House knows right now that they can play this out for some time.

LEMON: Yes. That's got to be the last word. Thank you, all. I appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

KAYYEM: Can I just --

LEMON: I've got to run. Thank you so much.

Is President Trump speaking and gearing his policies to white men who fear the loss of dominance? That's our big picture tonight, and we'll dig into it, next.

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So, let me ask you this. Is President Trump through his policies and actions not only appealing to his base, but to white American men in particular who fear the loss of white male dominance?

Let's take a look at the big picture now with Chris Cillizza, Alice Stewart, and Mr. Charles Blow.

Hello. Welcome to all of you.

So, Charles, let's go right to your latest column.

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

LEMON: OK. And you write this. You said "White supremacy beyond a white majority. President Trump is trying to maintain white dominance as the nation's demographics change."

And then you write this, you go on to say this, "The fear of white male displacement is psychological motivator and keeps Trump's active animated and active." Immigration is part of this along with a lot of other moves do you think?

BLOW: Absolutely. This is, it is not new. It is a repeat of things that have happened throughout history where an anxiety builds up around whether or not white supremacy, in this the way it was used in the very beginning right after reconstruction, white supremacy would be maintained or not.

And if people felt threatened that it would not, they did all sorts of things that mirror what Donald Trump is doing today, right. Pass all sorts of laws, stack court, disenfranchise voters, be absolutely cruel to people, including children. This is what we've seen at the border with putting kids in cages.

That can happen because it happened to black people. Right? So, it allowed -- during -- right after reconstruction, when a raft of southern states specifically went in and called new constitutional conventions to, in their words, instill white supremacy into the code and DNA of those states.

That allowed them, that cruelty and the phrase they used back then was the fear of Negro domination. Right now, there is a different fear, but same fear. Whether it's a brown domination, whether or not it's Latin American domination, whether people feel they're being invaded, (Inaudible) people flooding over the border, it is the same kind of language, and it is a repeat of something that I have seen by being a student of history.

LEMON: So, Alice, I want to bring you in here. Because you're a conservative. You support the president. Let me ask you. The Trump administration refusing to join this international pact to fight the spread of hate and extremism online.

They are instead asking supporters to report examples of what they claim is censorship of conservative points of view on social media. Wouldn't a true conservative reject hate speech and extremism?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Certainly. I think everyone should look at any kind of hate speech on either side and not allow it. And certainly, report it and make sure that we don't condone that kind of language.

Look, if I can address Charles' piece, it's extremely well written and a very thought-provoking piece, but I just think it is not the right path to go when you look at an entire electorate of people based simply on their race.

And I think it's a mistake to look at people who vote a certain way based on the color of their skin as opposed to the content of their political policies.

Look, he made a really good point in his piece where he talked about, he says in his opinion white people who voted for Trump were doing so as a flagrant display of white power, authority, and privilege. I disagree.

What does that say for the 40 and 43 percent of white people who voted for Barack Obama? He also talked about the fear of displacement amongst white people. That also motivated them to vote for Donald Trump.

[23:20:04] What does that say for the 96 percent of African-Americans who voted for Barack Obama? I think this is a thought-provoking piece, but people and voters and electorate are not driven simply by race. There is much more that goes into why people support Donald Trump, and it's not just about race.

LEMON: Chris, stand by, because I think Charles should be able to respond to that.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Sure.

BLOW: Right. So that is the problem of logic when people try to say well, it is not the primary motivator on a conscious level. I don't -- I don't even pretend to know how people consciously make choices. I do look at how people, the effects of their actions and what people are willing to countenance, what they're willing to ignore, to promote and cheer.

And what we saw was a presidential candidate who was perfectly willing to demonize people who were brown, demonize people who were black, demonize people who were Muslim, and people cheered that. And the only demographic group where the majority of people voted for this president were white men. And white women came very close.

The plurality of white women also voted for Donald Trump. No other group came anywhere close to a majority of that population voted for Donald Trump. And so, if we are trying now to look at those data and say we can disaggregate that and remove race from that when in fact race is the only reason that he is there. The only reason that his poll numbers are maintained is because white people and primarily white men are basically saying OK, it's OK with us.

LEMON: Chris, let's bring you in. What do you think about all of this?

CILLIZZA: Look, I think it is very difficult to say that race was not a factor in Donald Trump winning and remains not a factor in some of the things he does. I don't think you can look at Charlottesville, the many sides thing. It's tough.

For me, I always try to avoid saying he is definitely a racist. I avoid that, because I always say in my mind, I don't know his heart, but at some point, you've got look at his actions. And things like Charlottesville, there is just no two sides there. There's white supremacists and there's people who are protesting intolerance. Right? And I think we know where we should come down on it.

I think he actively plays with racial animus. He was weaponized it over his time in office repeatedly. Whether that's -- you know, as Charles says, it could be Mexicans are sending us rapists and criminals --

LEMON: Well, Chris -- CILLIZA: -- and some of them are good people. But -- go ahead.

LEMON: Let me get back to the question I asked. Why aren't they joining this international pact to stop extremism online?

CILLIZA: Yes. Yes.

LEMON: Is it like saying, I don't know anything about David Duke? What is going on here?

CILLIZA: No. I mean, yes, I mean I disavow him after saying he didn't know who David Duke was just another example of Donald Trump playing with race. But to your question, I think that Donald Trump is broadly resistant to getting involved in anything that he thinks reeks of kind of like European politically correct behavior.

This is -- it's not obviously the same issue, but pulling out of the Paris climate accord, same thing. He takes pride in the fact that we're the nation that hasn't taken part in that. I don't think it means that he condones hate speech. At the same time, you have to take the messenger with the message.

Donald Trump is someone who has repeatedly as a candidate, prior to being a candidate, as a candidate and as president has actively played with racial prejudice and racial animus to his political benefit.

LEMON: Charles --

CILLIZA: That -- no matter what you think of him, it is very hard for me to say how you could dispute those facts.

LEMON: Charles, do you agree with that, that he -- you know, that's why he doesn't do it, because he doesn't want to -- European political correctness?

BLOW: Well, with all due respect, Chris, I think we're using too many terms of art. There is, I don't know how we say someone is playing with race and benefiting from racism and using racism as a tool and not -- and say that that person is not also racist, right?

I'm always dumbfounded why people -- when people struggle with whether or not this man could be a racist. Like, what is your definition? If it's not a hood and a burning cross, that's not a racist?

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: People weren't actively calling someone n-word to their face.

BLOW: Exactly. You're not -- watch Charlottesville and say the Jews will not replace us? You're not like -- at some -- I don't -- I really - I really do struggle this. Because I -- the mental gymnastics that people go through to not say what is completely obvious, that it's not debatable. And I think that every time we pretend that it's debatable, we do a disservice.

LEMON: You would have toed a admit something about yourself, then. [23:25:00] BLOW: Maybe that's it. But I'm not exactly sure that

that's always the case. I think -- I think there is a willful blindness by a lot of people because we don't want the obvious to be true, right?

LEMON: Yes.

BLOW: There is no way that I can look at -- and even to say that he doesn't condone hate speech, that's not true. That's not true.

If you're in the Panhandle and somebody says, you know, what should we do about all these people from -- Latin Americans coming across the border, somebody said shoot them, and you laugh?

LEMON: Yes.

BLOW: What is that -- how is that not racism?

LEMON: I've got to get Alice, last word. And I'm really -- I'm really over time here but I want to give you the last word.

STEWART: If I can say look, hate speech and divisive language didn't start with Donald Trump, and unfortunately, it's not going to end with Donald Trump.

Has he done and said some things that have added to hateful language? Absolutely. But I think more than anything, this is an important conversation to have, an important conversation to continue, and I would like to think that moving forward, especially in a presidential campaign cycle, we can continue to call attention to hateful language, and hopefully clean things up and make this election a lot more positive than 2016. I'm going to be cautiously optimistic.

LEMON: Before I go, Chris, just one-word answer. Do you think that's going to happen?

CILLIZA: No.

LEMON: OK.

CILLIZA: Thanks for having me, Don.

LEMON: So, listen, Alice, I don't disagree with you on that. But we should have the conversation, but we have to have these conversations with honesty, and we have to come to an agreement about what is truth and what is fiction, and what people's motivations are as well.

Thank you, all. I appreciate it.

The president is irritated at his advisers over the escalating tensions with Iran, and tonight "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that the tensions could all be stemming from a big misunderstanding.

[23:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Sources are telling CNN that President Trump has been calling outside advisers to complain about John Bolton allowing the situation in Iran to reach a point where it seems like war is a real possibility.

In "The New York Times" report, he told his acting defense secretary he doesn't want to go to war. Congress is complaining about being kept in the dark. So who's in charge here, and are we on the verge of war with Iran?

Lots to discuss. Nicholas Kristof is here of "The New York Times." Good evening, Nick. Thank you so much. So let's take a step back in all of his. Why do you think -- why do people like John Bolton and Secretary Pompeo want to move us closer to war?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, so I don't think that they exactly want a war, but I think that they are somewhat reckless about the way they're pursuing it. I think they have sort of mistaken perception of how Iran will respond, and a faulty intelligence how Iran responds. I think that does lead us to a really dangerous situation.

I know the U.S. Navy is deeply concerned that because of Bolton and Pompeo, that there is a risk of conflicts in the Gulf because of miscalculation that escalates very quickly and that would be -- you can't exaggerate how serious that would be, not only for Iran and the U.S., for Saudi Arabia next door, but also about 40 percent of oil goes through the Strait of Hormuz right there.

LEMON: You know the area. You know the region well. You visit it.

KRISTOF: And, look, I've been to Iran in a number of times. I've been -- you know, I have no illusions about Iran. I've been -- I've been detained there and threatened with imprisonment there. And the people of Iran, I think, would welcome a change of government.

But when the U.S. government engages in this kind of behavior, so Pompeo and Bolton think they're undermining the regime. In fact dissidents there say that this just causes the country to rally around the government because people are nationalistic.

LEMON: I'm glad you said that because this is what The Wall Street Journal is reporting tonight, that some of Iran's moves that may have appeared aggressive happen because Iran thought the U.S. was going to attack, so they prepared for a counterattack. Is that where the danger really lies here?

KRISTOF: So there is certainly a real chance of intelligence being mischaracterized, being exaggerated, both sides being very vigilant and escalating and responding. You know, I do think that there is something real here. There were four tankers that were attacked.

I think it is probably more likely than not that Iran did attack them, but the reason it did so was quite predictably that we squeezed Iranian oil exports, and the natural way it would respond would be to try to raise the cost of shipping through the Strait of Hormuz, raise insurance costs, make oil prices rise. I think that was a predictable outcome of our behavior. Likewise, when we pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal, it's predictable that they will be enriching uranium again and that does seem to be what's happening.

LEMON: OK. If this is all a big misunderstanding, Nick, you have -- you know, the Trump administration is saying, trust us, right, on intelligence, which kind of reminds me of the Bush administration, you know, sending Colin Powell to the U.N. --

KRISTOF: Right.

LEMON: -- and trying to relay that that there were weapons of mass destruction when there were no threats of WMDs in Iraq. Does this administration have that kind of credibility?

KRISTOF: This administration, I think, has, you know, very, very little credibility on anything vis-a-vis Iran, and that is why European foreign ministers have been kind of desperately pleading with the U.S. to revise its policies and to pull back from this risk.

[23:34:58] But I don't think that foreign ministers think that President Trump has a secret plan to invade Iran. I think their concern is more about miscalculation and escalation and putting Iran in a box that leads it to lash out, that leads us to escalate, that leads Iran to escalate.

You know, we've seen the possibility of this kind of miscalculation. In 1998, there was a tanker, so-called tanker war in the Gulf, and the U.S. shot down a civilian Iranian plane with 290 people -- innocent passengers on it. And we've forgotten about that in this country. Every Iranian knows about that incident and sees any conflict through the prism of things like that.

LEMON: Yeah. And speaking of confusion, even Lindsey Graham is confused at what's going here, about how we got here. Here's what he said. He said, "I think they should tell us what the hell is going on. I'm tired of being asked questions, which is your job. I'm not mad at y'all guys." That's southern speak, y'all guys. "I don't know what to tell you." I mean, that says a lot.

KRISTOF: I mean, I think the problem is that there is an administration policy towards Iran. There are about five different administration policies. There is a Bolton policy, there is a Pompeo policy, there is perhaps a vague Trump policy, and there is, I think, you know, a navy policy which is deeply concerned about the Bolton policy.

LEMON: Well, because I alone can fix this. I mean, listen, we are operating with an acting defense secretary without an ambassador to the U.N. I mean, there is real foreign policy deficit when it comes to the Trump administration even beyond Iran. Is that contributing to the confusion or no?

KRISTOF: Absolutely. I think that the uniformed officers in the Pentagon and in the field are -- I mean, they know that a war with Iran would be a catastrophe. It would be far more serious than one with Iraq. Iran has more than twice the population. It can indeed close the shipping.

So, this would be a real catastrophe. I think they've been trying desperately to push the White House and push Bolton and Pompeo away from that kind of action. I hope that they are heard.

LEMON: Thank you, Nick.

KRISTOF: It's good to be with you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you very much. The president is pardoning a billionaire pal who called him a "genius" in his book, and this isn't the first time -- the first of his very personal and political pardons.

[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: In just the past day, President Trump issued pardons to two political allies. The first went to billionaire Conrad Black, who served 42 months in federal prison for defrauding his own company and shareholders out of $60 million. But perhaps more noteworthy to the president is that Black published a book, and it's titled "Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other."

He writes about Trump's "unquenchable energy, sheer entertainment talent, and raw toughness." He also defends Trump against charges of racism. That, viewers, is a recipe for a presidential pardon from this president, anyway.

The second pardon went to Patrick J. Nolan. Patrick J. Nolan is a former Republican leader of the California State Assembly who served time in prison for corruption. Nolan is close to the Trump family, especially Jared Kushner.

You can see him here with the president at the White House ceremony celebrating criminal justice reform legislation. And it's definitely worth noting that Nolan slammed the Mueller investigation, saying investigators "decided who they're going to prosecute and then hunt for a crime."

These pardons follow a trend for President Trump. He likes to pardon supporters, high profile ones. He also seems to like pardoning people facing issues he knows something about. We saw this when he pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a huge Trump fan, who was convicted of contempt of court in a case related to racial profiling. Conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza, who compared Trump to Lincoln, also got a presidential pardon. He pleaded guilty to illegal campaign donations, a charge that hits home for this president.

And then there was Scooter Libby, the Scooter Libby pardon, former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, who was convicted of perjury and obstruction in 2017. Libby was prosecuted for lying to the FBI and for obstruction of justice in an investigation. The kicker, the man who authorized the special counsel in the case, was none other than James Comey. And the news of Trump's pardon of Libby came the day after explosive excerpts from Comey's tell-all book surfaced in media reports. This is one heck of a coincidence. Of course, he has made other pardons, perhaps most notably Alice Johnson, whose case was pushed by Kim Kardashian during an Oval Office visit, and it was the right thing to do.

But President Trump is not the first president to have issued questionable pardons to allies. President George H.W. Bush pardoned six Reagan administration officials related to Iran-Contra. And President Bill Clinton pardoned international fugitive Marc Rich, who was married to a Clinton fundraiser.

It seems Clinton and Bush knew those pardons would be scandalous. They were issued during the final days of their administrations. But President Trump doesn't appear to have those concerns. He has issued multiple controversial pardons throughout his presidency. And President Trump isn't just pardoning allies. He appears to be sending a message with all of these pardons.

It's all about this president, and it's all about politics. We'll be right back.

[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio throwing his hat in the ring, becoming the 23rd, wow, Democratic presidential candidate. Let's talk about this and more with comedian Colin Quinn. His CNN special "Colin Quinn: Red State Blue State" premieres Memorial Day at 9:00 p.m. Good to see you, sir.

COLIN QUINN, COMEDIAN: You too, Don.

LEMON: So, can you imagine on the stage 23 people for a debate?

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: That would be nuts. Let's talk about Bill de Blasio, all right? You're a lifelong -- are you a native New Yorker?

QUINN: Yes, I grew up in Park Slope.

LEMON: OK.

QUINN: I know all about the de Blasio --

LEMON: I used to live in Carroll Gardens.

QUINN: Oh, nice.

LEMON: We were neighbors. So listen, Bill de Blasio --

QUINN: Yes.

LEMON: 2020 run today. The New York Post promptly put out this. Let's put this cover. (LAUGHTER)

[23:50:01] LEMON: Mocking him for -- what do you think?

QUINN: I think that, look, I used to -- when I was a kid, I get high a lot. And whenever you get high, you think of ideas that sound good. And then once you implement them, you go, oh, no, what did I do? I'm not saying this is what happened with Bill de Blasio, God forbid, but there's a possibility.

LEMON: When you were a kid?

QUINN: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

QUINN: He may have just been like, you know, you don't read the room the same way when you're getting stoned when you walk outside.

LEMON: President Trump tweeted out this video which appears to have been made on Air Force One on his way to New York City today. Watch it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't believe it. I just heard that the worst mayor in the history of New York City and without question the worst mayor in the United States is now running for president. It will never happen. I'm pretty good at predicting things like that. I would be very surprised to see him in there for a long period, but it's just not going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Two questions. One, why didn't he close the window? The back light is bad. If he closed it, you couldn't actually really see him. And number two is, they're both unpopular New Yorkers, why is he spending time trolling Mayor de Blasio?

QUINN: Why? That's what he does. He spends all of his time trolling. He probably just kept de Blasio in. That's the best thing that could happen to de Blasio.

LEMON: You think so?

QUINN: Yes.

LEMON: To get attacked by Donald Trump?

QUINN: The worst mayor -- of course.

LEMON: He's the worst mayor.

QUINN: Keep him in there.

LEMON: In 2014, Mayor de Blasio was ridiculed in Staten Island, as we say here, on Staten Island --

QUINN: Right.

LEMON: -- for eating pizza with a fork. But guess who else eats pizza with a fork. This is back in 2011.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: They have more in common than they think.

QUINN: Yeah, they do.

LEMON: And Sarah Palin. Look at that. More in common than they think.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: What do you think of that?

QUINN: Yeah. It is kind of a --

LEMON: Are they like two sides of the same coin?

QUINN: Yeah, they really are. They both kind of like, you know, a little spacey, a little bit, you know, like -- they both -- neither one of them ever smiles. You notice that. Neither one of them has a happy moment.

LEMON: Yeah.

QUINN: They both have a look on their face.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Do you eat pizza with a fork?

QUINN: No, I don't think I've ever eaten pizza with a fork. If I did, it was under different circumstances.

LEMON: You've never eaten pizza.

QUINN: I've eaten pizza my whole life.

LEMON: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: I thought you said before, you meant with a fork.

QUINN: With a fork, yeah.

LEMON: I got it.

QUINN: Just one finger, sliced. I don't think I eat pizza unless it's a slice.

(LAUGHTER) QUINN: I wouldn't eat a whole pie out of a pie.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Unless it's from Ray's.

QUINN: Unless it's Joe's.

LEMON: Unless it's Joe's. All right. So, let's talk about this, because this has been a serious stuff in the news. We've recently learned that President Trump isn't quite the businessman, shocking --

QUINN: Right.

LEMON: -- that he says he was. This is according to The Washington Post. The president, his prized Doral resort is in steep decline, a decade of tax returns show over a billion dollars in losses. Also Trump Tower, his crown jewel, I think is down like 20 some percent for sales. But his whole campaign was based on him being this sort of brilliant businessman. Do you think that changes things in 2020 or is that baked into the cake?

QUINN: I don't think that matters. People have to be careful. You don't want to start doing this to a man like this, because his mind, if he keeps chipping away, he's capable of anything.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Let's talk about "Red State Blue State." Colin Quinn, what are you doing here? Let's talk about "Red State." Colin Quinn, what are you doing here?

QUINN: Oh, I'm here to promote "Red State Blue State," my new CNN comedy special.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: You point out the absurdity of politics on both sides of the aisle. Here is a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUINN (on camera): I understand it is sad breaking up the United States, but we're already broken up. This would just be acknowledging it. We're already tribal. We're broken into tribes already. It's over. Liberal, conservative, white, black, Latino, Asian, Wall Street, Main Street, the working poor, the forgotten middle class, feminists, soccer moms, Bernie Bros, dad bods (ph), man tits (ph), mom jeans, muffin tops, unibrows (ph), propelio (ph), cardio (ph), keto (ph), intersectional trans (ph). We are more tribal than 18th century Afghanistan.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

QUINN (on camera): Admit it.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Why can't we all just get along?

QUINN: Wise man. Yeah, well, the whole thing is like -- when everybody goes, here's what I want no candidate to ever say again, I'm going to be the president for all Americans. There's no such thing as all Americans anymore.

LEMON: What do you mean?

QUINN: What I mean is right there. Everybody is now saying, no, I'm here. It's the idea of a unified thing, won't exist, unless we're attacked by like outer space.

LEMON: But we're all supposed to be different but -- it's not a melting pot, it's like a gumbo.

QUINN: Yeah, but you take -- take Alabama, the abortion thing --

LEMON: I go to go, but quick.

QUINN: Oh, no. I'm just saying no one's going to change their opinions on this.

[23:55:01] LEMON: Yeah.

QUINN: That's never going to change.

LEMON: Thank you.

QUINN: Thank you.

LEMON: "Red State Blue State." Colin Quinn. The original CNN series, "Colin Quinn: Red State Blue State," is going to premiere Memorial Day, 9:00 p.m., only here on CNN. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)