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GOP Loner Wants President Trump to be Impeached; Judge Order Trump's Financial Records; House Judiciary Chairman Warns Don McGahn; President Trump Reacts to Dem Candidate Town Halls on Fox; Billionaire to Pay Off Morehouse Graduates' Loans; Fifth Child Dies After Arriving at U.S. Border from Guatemala Since December. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired May 20, 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.
We've got big developments to tell you about tonight on three major legal issues for the Trump White House.
The House Intelligence Committee releasing transcripts of testimony from Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer and keeper of secrets. Well, he sure had a lot to say to Congress.
Cohen told the committee that another of the president's lawyers Jay Sekulow knew that Cohen's testimony to Congress at the Trump tower Moscow project ended in January 2016 was false.
And in another development, the president is really not going to like a federal judge ordering an accounting firm to hand over Trump's financial records to Congress.
The president sought to block a subpoena for the records issued by the House oversight committee. That as the White House is directing the former counsel Don McGahn to defy a subpoena and refuse testify in a matter of hours before the House judiciary committee.
The chairman Jerry Nadler threatening, quote, "serious consequences if McGahn fails to appear" and the clock is ticking.
Let's bring in the players here. Jennifer Rodgers, Michael Moore, Max Booth, the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right."
Good evening, one and all. Max, you first. In the face of continued stonewalling by the president and the Justice Department, the House judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler says that there will be serious consequences, he says, if McGahn fails to appear. So that's what he told my colleague Chris Cuomo.
I'm going to play this, he said it could be impeachment. I'll play this and then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Well, there are consequences to the president and as long as his behavior is making it more and more difficult to ignore all other alternatives, including impeachment and we'll have to consider that and all other alternatives.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: What do you think of the idea of what Nancy Pelosi said a few weeks ago he's goading you. He wants you to do that. Do you believe that and do you believe he'll like what he gets?
NADLER: Well, I don't know and even if he is goading us, he may be wrong to do so from his point of view. But we're going to do what we have to do to protect the American people and to protect the rule of law.
The president cannot be above the law, no more than anybody else can. And he cannot seek to be a dictator and to destroy the separation of powers and to be above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Max, what do you make of that?
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, I agree with Congressman Nadler's sentiments that the president cannot be a dictator. He cannot be above the law, which is essentially the position that Trump and his lawyers are talking.
I mean, the issue is, what do you do about it? And you know, Speaker Pelosi basically taking impeachment off the table because in her calculation it's not going to be a political winner for Democrats because so many independents in particular are opposed to impeachment, there's not really that much they can do beyond pursue the hearings and try to beat Trump's obstructionism.
And they got a big win on that front today with a federal judge who ruled that Trump's accountants actually have to comply with a subpoena. And the fact that this ruling came so quickly I think it's a real blow to Trump.
I mean, remember that he's -- that Trump is resisting something like 20 subpoenas and then this one case they just lost -- we'll see if there's an appeal. We'll see what happens at the higher court level.
But certainly, there's something that opens up the possibility the Democrats can proceed with their original strategy, which is to hold hearings and to get the facts out there and try to sway public opinion, because clearly, right now, public opinion is not there in terms of impeachment.
LEMON: Do you think this decision, Jennifer, could help Democrats in other legal battles against the White House, especially now that they're saying you got to turn over the financial records? Do you think it could help Democrats?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it can. I mean, it's a lower court decision. So, it doesn't have the presidential value that it would if it was a higher court decision. Other lower court judges don't have to follow it but it's persuasive. And the reasoning is very sound. It's a comprehensive opinion. So, I do think that it will be persuasive to these other judges if they start to look at these issues.
LEMON: Interesting. Michael Moore, I want to bring in, because the judge cited Watergate, the Watergate investigation. And here's what he said. He said "history has shown that congressionally exposed criminal conduct by the president or a high-ranking executive branch official can lead to legislation."
Did the judge -- do you think the judge validates the Democrat's approach to investigating the president?
MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICTOF GEORGIA: I don't know if they need validating at this point. I mean, I think he's simply pointing out that this is part of the congressional duty. Their job is to legislate and so now they move forward.
The problem the Democrat have in Congress with these hearings is that time is not on their side. When there's subpoena challenges, when there's a -- when I think is pretty clear obstructive behavior. At that point it has to be up to the court systems and that's a slow- moving wheel, and it's just rolling slowly towards 2020.
[00:04:56] And so it's not on their side. This issue that --
LEMON: How close do you mean because you said --
MOORE: What they need to do is try to move quicker --
LEMON: How close?
MOORE: -- with the hearings.
[23:05:02] LEMON: How close to 2020 could this get?
MOORE: Well, I mean, we could be right in it. I mean, we could be right in the middle of it. We got Democrats are all over the country right now campaigning. I don't know if we have 20 or 30 or 40 running.
MOORE: How many, right now they said they're going to run for president. Yes, but the campaign has started.
MOORE: And so, this is an issue that Trump wants to play in the 2020. I think they don't need to fall into that trap. They need to move the hearings forward. They need to challenge where they need to challenge, put evidence in that necessarily Trump could not stop. Talk about things, get behind each other and have some succinct and on-point talking points and move forward in their process.
LEMON: So, they need do what they're going to do and stop --
MOORE: Are we going to impeach or not?
LEMON: Right. Right.
LEMON: So, talking about impeachment they need to do it. Well, let me ask you about the attorney general William Barr, Michael. He's responding to all the criticism that he is doing the president's bidding and stonewalling Congress.
Here's what he told the Wall Street Journal. He said "I felt the rules were being changed to hurt Trump and I thought it was damaging the presidency over the long haul. At every grave juncture the presidency has done -- has done what it is supposed to do, which is to provide leadership and direction. If you destroy the presidency and make it an errand boy for Congress, you're going to be a much weaker and more divided nation."
I mean, it seems to me that it's Trump who is the one who has changed the rules here. No?
MOORE: I think that's exactly right. If we're looking to this administration for leadership, we're all going to be marching off the cliff. So, I don't take much stock in what Mr. Barr said. He surprises me a little bit. You know, I knew that his memo, his unsolicited memo when he was essentially given a job application to try to be attorney general.
We kind of talked about that and maybe looked past it. Often, he would do things. But he's been carrying the president's water since day one. He's done some things that I think, you know, publicly there's statements he made are disingenuous at best.
So, I think we're seeing somebody who I think is clearly taking a side almost as defender of this particular president as oppose to leave --
BOOT: If I could just say --
BOOT: -- apartment in what is historically done, a search for the truth.
LEMON: Yes. Go ahead, Max.
BOOT: Yes. If could jump in quickly, Don, because now you see Bill Barr kind of masquerading as this kind of principal defender of the institution of presidency and Don Trump himself today said they're not doing this for me. They're doing it to defend the office of the presidency. Well, of course this is putting one side in a selective interest in
the powers of the presidency because I don't remember Bill Barr or Donald Trump defending the presidency when the president was a Democrat.
These are not people who came to the defense of the Obama administration when they were fighting with Congress over Benghazi or Fast and the Furious. These are not people who defended Bill Clinton when Congress was trying to impeach -- the Republicans in Congress were trying to impeach Bill Clinton.
They only discover their respect for the limitless powers of the presidency when the president happens to be a Republican.
LEMON: So, you're saying they're hypocrites.
BOOT: yes, of course they are hall of fame hypocrites.
LEMON: Interesting. Jennifer Rodgers, you want to weigh in that or shall we move on?
RODGERS: Up to you.
LEMON: OK. So, let's talk about the House intel committee releasing the transcripts of Michael Cohen's 2019 testimony today. Cohen told Congress that it was Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow who suggested saying that the Trump tower Moscow project ended in January of 2016 and that Sekulow knew that it was false. If Cohen is right about this, is Sekulow is in hot water, is he in trouble?
RODGERS: I mean potentially, it's an explosive allegation, right? The problem is Michael Cohen had some credibility issues. And you know, remember, we're not talking about jay Sekulow being charged with the crime or anything like that.
The posture of this is just trying to figure out whether the attorney claim privileges peers here, whether there's a crime or a fraud that gives you an exception to the attorney/client privilege.
So, under that kind of rubric I think you probably have enough to proceed and get that information so that they can explore this further. But we're a long way from a perjury charge or anything like that.
LEMON: All right. A little more about Michael Cohen. Cohen said this about Sekulow what he knew he was saying when he said why Sekulow knew that what he was saying about the Trump tower Moscow project ending in January 2016 why it was a lie." OK.
So Mr. Welch, this is the representative who ask him the question. "Did Mr. Sekulow know that it was June that was the right month, not January?" And then Mr. Cohen replied by saying I believe if he took it to his client, which he stated to me that he did, that he spoke to the client, that he would know that it would by false." Sekulow's client of course is the president of the United States. Is Cohen implicating the president here?
RODGERS: He's suggesting it. But again, this is where it gets wishy washy. The language. Right? If he did, then he would. I believe he would have.
Now these aren't even strong and definitive statements on Michael Cohen's part, and again, Michael Cohen has some credibility issues. So, it's not as firm as you would like it to be. I think they are going to be looking for corroborating evidence, back up evidence, e- mails, other people coming forward to talk about this. Then we'll know a lot more whether there's something there or not.
[23:10:04] LEMON: Michael, the former White House counsel Don McGahn won't testify -- that he's the former counsel, White House counsel, he won't testify in front of Congress tomorrow after the White House instructed him not to. The administration says he has immunity. Does that argument hold water? Does he have immunity?
MOORE: You know, I don't think it holds a lot of water. I mean, he does have some duties to his client and the question is right now who's got two powers sort of pull at him. The congressional branch or the legislative branch and the executive branch.
And so, you know, he now is fallen back I guess on the position of his duty to his client is that he's been instructed not to go. That's sort of the fallacy that we've been watching for the last few months. And that is this administration says to be open and transparent but yet, they're holding people back.
It's the same thing that happened in the Mueller investigation. The White House refused to let people go testify. They sent some out. McGahn went out for a long period of time. But other people who are key players, like we're talking about Jay Sekulow, they did not talk.
And of course, you wouldn't expect his lawyer to talk. But other people involved in the case. You would have thought at some point Mueller would want to know that information but I think he probably have great respect for the attorney-client privilege and didn't pursue some of that as we went forward.
But this again, I mean, it's just, it's laughable at this point to hear anybody in the administration from the White House briefing room or otherwise say that the president is cooperating, the White House has cooperated all along and yet we keep getting these stonewall things where they refuse to comply the subpoena or directing people not to go testify before Congress.
LEMON: All right. Jennifer -- I've got to run, Max. I'm sorry. Michael, Jennifer, Max, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.
A member of the president's own party is standing up for the rule of law. Tonight, the president really doesn't seem to like it, neither does the rest of the GOP. Will Congressman Justin Amash continue to go it alone?
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: President Trump talking a swipe tonight at Congressman Justin Amash. He is the Michigan Republican who said over the weekend that the president has quote, "engaged in impeachable conduct." Trump predictably slamming him tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's been against Trump from the beginning. He probably wants to run for some other office. I don't he'll do very well. He's been a loser for a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Congressman Amash is the first GOP lawmaker to accuse the president of impeachable misconduct. But his colleagues are not supporting him.
More now from CNN's Manu Raju.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A Republican blowback facing GOP Congressman Justin Amash has been swift and intense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He votes more with Nancy Pelosi than he ever votes with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: But GOP leaders sending a message to Amash that they cannot tolerate one of their own suggesting that President Trump should be impeached.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those who know Justin Amash this is exactly what he wants. He wants to have attention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: The chairwoman of the Republican National Committee tweeting that "It's sad to see Congressman Amash parroting the Democrats talking points on Russia.
RAJU: Will you support him for reelection?
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): Well, we're not going to actually play in that. Certainly, any time that you come out against the president of your own party, it makes it very difficult to support in any primary challenge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Even some Trump critics in the Republican Party choosing to keep their distance. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Justin Amasha has reached a different conclusion than I have. I respect him. I think it's a courageous statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: It's not the first time the 39-year-old from Grand Rapids has been at odds with his party. He was elected to Congress in 2010 during the tea party wave and now chairs the House liberty caucus. His views on federal spending, government surveillance and foreign policy often contradict the GOP establishment.
While he does more often than not vote with Republicans, he has brokered with Trump on multiple occasions, including that he's a lone House Republican to oppose Trump's use of emergency powers to build his border wall without the consent of Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R-MI): The president doesn't get to decide that he can override Congress simply because Congress doesn't do what he wants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: At the high-profile hearing with former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, Amash was a rare Republican seeking to reveal more details about allegations of Trump's unsavory behavior.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: He speaks in a code and I understand the code because I've been around him for a decade.
AMASH: And it's your impression that others who work for him understand the code as well?
COHEN: In most cases, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Amash used to pride himself in never missing a roll call vote until 2017 when he accidentally missed his first vote because he was talking with reporters about Obamacare. The congressman cried and then tweeted I'm sorry.
He didn't endorse Trump in 2016 and has not ruled out running for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Would you be willing to run for the White House as the libertarian nominee in 2020?
AMASH: Well, I'd never rule anything out. That's not on my radar right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Justin Amash his opponents are taking advantage of the fact that now he is on an island isolated in his own party. One state lawmaker from Michigan announced a candidacy against him in a primary assuming that Justin Amash does in fact run for election.
Unlike others who have criticized Donald Trump in the past and have decided not to run for reelection. But tonight, Justin Amash pushing back, he says this is not a serious primary challenge and he says that he's very safe and confident about his standing in his district. Don.
LEMON: Many, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Lots to discuss now with Ryan Lizza, Angela Rye, and Alice Stewart. This is a dream team. Thank you all.
Very interesting that this is happening -- you know, he said one day it was bound to happen and now it's happened. Someone in Congress is now saying, OK, they're breaking ranks.
Ryan, even under attack from the president, Amash is saying the president's argument that he couldn't be guilty of obstruction is false. And he's not backing down.
[23:20:04] RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he's not. Amash has a pretty long history as Manu just laid out of being against the leadership of his own party. Remember, he was one of the chief antagonists of John Boehner when John Boehner was speaker of the house.
Really helped, along with Mark Meadows and some of these guys who have become very pro-Trump, helped push Boehner out of the party. He pushed him into retirement. He tortured Paul Ryan when Paul Ryan was speaker of the house. And he's never -- he's never been a fan of Donald Trump. You know, he's a little bit like Ron Paul.
Remember Ron Paul was this kind of, you know, iconoclastic libertarian who was very often willing to attack establishment Republicans, Republicans who voted for big budget.
So, you know, he's frankly a lot more ideologically consistent on this issue of obstruction of justice, what impeachment means, when the president acts in a certain way, whether the Democrat or Republican, they should be called out. And --
LEMON: So, he's a young man with old school political values, right? Because he's not falling in line --
LEMON: -- with all the older guys who seem to just be falling in line with this president. Alice, so far --
LIZZA: And they loved him when -- they love him when he attacked the leaders, the Republican leaders that they disagree with. But now these guys don't like when they're attacking Trump because they're so surveil to him.
LEMON: So, you're not, you said that Republicans are not concerned, Alice. That no one is -- no one is saying -- standing alongside of him and nobody one in the party is worried about this gaining traction?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely not. And we saw that throughout Manu's piece as well. For whatever reason Congressman Amash decided to dive head first into deep end of the impeachment pool and he's a lone Republican. No member of the GOP is going to dive in and save him.
And for anyone who says this is the first step in the race to impeachment is simply not the case. He is a libertarian Republican and his views, while he is very conservative on many issues years ago when the tea party was very big, his views now, not just in this case, but a lot of his votes are not reflective of where the Republican Party is right now.
And as evidence by that, he right now has a primary challenger and it's not simply because he's pissed off the president. It's because he's not reflecting the people of his district.
LEMON: I'm not laughing at you, alice. I'm laughing at Angela's reaction. Because we're thinking the same thing at the same time you think a tea party conservative is now not conservative enough for -- we're you thinking the same thing. I was thinking that, I'm like, is there a tea --
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean --
LEMON: She is saying a tea party conservative is now not conservative enough for the party? That's an interesting position to be in.
STEWART: Well, because he has now --
STEWART: He has now swayed more to the libertarian edge of this.
STEWART: And the fact now he's got a primary challenger goes to show that he is not representing the people of the third district of Michigan --
STEWART: -- and that's why he's in real trouble.
LEMON: Go ahead, Angela.
RYE: So, I think a few things here. One is it's fascinating. What was really happening in my mind, Don, is the ways in which people contort -- like if there was physical representation of the ways in which people go about defending Donald Trump, I see you sipping your tea. It's like this contour -- like a body just bending and waving like.
I can't get beyond the fact that no matter what happens, there's always a rationale and excuse, a reason for this. And I think when I saw his tweets this weekend I was like, finally, there is someone who is speaking truth, that is like party be dammed. Talking points be dammed. I'm not here for this. I'm just going to speak my truth.
And I appreciated it in that moment. I would like for somebody to say you know what, maybe we haven't found the smoking gun because of all the redactions in the Mueller report but there is something to be said for ethics and the fact that they're gone, missing, zero in this administration. Somebody is speaking to that.
There has to be values that this country, that administration, that Congress at the judicial branch has to kind of run by and we're just throwing all off that out the window. And to watch that when I built my career in politics is kind of frustrating.
RYE: So that's what -- that's what I'm thinking. All the contortions s I'm over like, just speak truth.
LEMON: Go ahead, Ryan. What do you want to say?
LIZZA: Well, I was going to say Angela has a really good point. And reading what he said and I don't see a lot of Republicans grappling with the content of what he said in his tweets.
RYE: That's right.
LIZZA: Instead, they're pointing out, look, I was a little bit guilty of this myself in the opening. They're pointing out that he often bucks the party and he's not a reliable conservative which all is true. But deal with what he's saying in the tweets. He's saying this is obstruction of justice.
RYE: That's right.
[23:25:00] LIZZA: He's saying that Mueller basically put out a road map for Congress to follow and he's also saying to me the most surprising and sort of eye-opening thing I really shouldn't be surprised by this is, is a lot of Republicans didn't even read the report. He said a lot of his colleagues haven't read the report.
LEMON: Well, that's the point. If you -- so, but if you listen to what Bill Barr says, and if you listen to what the president says, and you've listened to what the people who speak for the president, they say one thing.
But if you read the actual report, the report says another thing.
RYE: That's right.
LEMON: But people don't read the report. It's 448 pages and most people don't have time and so they got to shake the narrative and now think the report says one thing when it actually says another.
Go ahead, Alice.
RYE: But Don --
STEWART: Don, if I can just address one of the things that Angela pointed out about Republicans twisting and turning to try and explain this. Look, I have said many times on this show and all over CNN that a lot of the activity taken on the part of the Trump campaign in relation to this incident very ill-advised, very inappropriate, very ignorant and very idiotic.
But to -- as to what the Mueller report found; it did not rise to the level of something that would lead to impeachment. That is the take away from this and most Republicans, pretty much everyone except for Amash agrees with that and that's what the American people --
LEMON: Alice, that's not what the report says.
STEWART: Republicans want to move forward.
LEMON: It says it didn't rise to --
RYE: I was just about to say --
LEMON: It didn't rise to a conspiracy and coordination.
RYE: That is exhibit a for someone -- yes.
LEMON: Yes. It says it didn't rise to conspiracy and coordination but it said on the part of obstruction. That is still very left up in the air. Whether if the Democrats want to impeach, they can impeach on that.
RYE: And that was not his obligation, right? Like we have to be clear about the separation of powers which I think again is kind of the fundamental foundational principal of all the debates we have. People are forgetting that there is a distinction.
Mueller's obligation wasn't fulfilling congressional investigations. Right? Like this is my frustration also frankly, with Speaker Pelosi. She is saying that we have to take impeachment off the table. Well then why are you allotting step resources, finances resources to investigations if impeachment is off the table.
LEMON: Well, just tonight, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a group of House Democrats an impeachment efforts need to be methodical. And so, I'm just wondering if there's pressure for her now to start going to that road of impeachment.
RYE: I'm sure.
LEMON: Listen, I got to take a break. I'll give you the first on the other side, Angela. We'll talk more. Don't go -- Don't go anywhere. We'll be right back.
[23:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: President Trump calling out his favorite network tonight over Fox News town hall with Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's going on with Fox, by the way? What's going on there? They're putting more Democrats on than you have Republicans. Something strange is going on at Fox, something very strange. Did you see this guy last night? I did want to watch, you always have to watch the competition if you call it that. And he was knocking the hell out of Fox and Fox is putting him on. Somebody is going to have to explain the whole Fox deal to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I'm back now with my dream team. Angela, why he mad though?
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You play too much.
RYE: He is mad because Donald Trump is used to being the Fox favorite and anything other than being the Fox favorite is unacceptable. Can you imagine telling unbiased news story than having people other than him on? No way.
LEMON: Yeah. Ryan, I want you to respond to this, but watch this moment first.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: When you got Tucker Carlson saying that immigrants make America dirty, when you got Laura Ingraham comparing detention centers with children in cages to summer camps, summer camps, then there is a reason why anybody has to swallow hard and think twice before participating in this media ecosystem.
There are a lot of Americans who my party can't blame if they are ignoring our message because they will never hear it if we don't go on and talk about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So that was a point at critic at Fox News from Buttigieg. He did it on Fox. What does it say to you that Wallace did not defend his network and his colleagues after Buttigieg said that?
LIZZA: He's not going to defend those comments anyway. You know, we all know a lot of people over at Fox and there's a great divide there between some very hardworking people who still try and just do plain old news gathering and the dominant force at Fox that is just an appendage of the Trump White House.
You know, he made two points there. One, he was trying to, you know, for democrats and for the people -- for liberals he's appealing to, go on Fox and, you know, and call out some of their hosts. But the other thing he did is he made the case for why Democrats should go on Fox, and there's very interesting debate happening among the candidates about that.
You know, there's this view that, you knoiw, don't help Fox in any way, that Elizabeth Warren has taken, and Buttigieg is saying, you know, if you're president, you're going to have to deal with Republicans in Congress, you're going to have to deal with North Korea and Iran, you know.
So, going on Fox shouldn't be that much of a stretch. So a very interesting debate is happening on there. He's taken a different approach.
LEMON: That's an interesting comparison. But go on, Alice. What do you have to say to that?
LIZZA: I'm not saying Fox is like Iran and North Korea. I'm just saying when you're president, you have to deal with opponents, you know.
LEMON: OK, Ryan. All right.
LIZZA: Don't get me in trouble.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Don, I think I've said many times Mayor Pete is the candidate to watch.
[23:35:00] I think he's strong. He has got a great story. His ability to connect is good and it is wise, I think, to go on Fox. He's not going to win over the viewers there because they are set in stone on Trump but there are some that he will be able to get his message out to. But going on there and criticizing Fox and some of their hosts, I don't think is the smartest idea.
I reached out to Tucker Carlson tonight and asked him what he thought about it. He said it was amazing for Buttigieg to go on Fox and criticize him, but he won't go on Tucker's show. Tucker says they have asked him numerous times and he won't come on Tucker show. He says it is quite cowardly for him not to come on.
But that being said, knowing that there is this animosity between the two of them now, I would probably think that Buttigieg would go on Tucker show but it is good to go on Fox and it is good to get his message out there to as many people as he can.
RYE: I'm so overdone with today.
LEMON: Would you go on that show? For what? You would just be just like -- OK, yeah.
LEMON: Right. Go on.
STEWART: No. I don't see it happening. I don't see it happening.
RYE: Don't worry. It's not going to happen.
STEWART: It will happen the day that Trump comes on your show, Don, as soon as Trump is on your show.
LEMON: No, well, listen --
RYE: Donald Trump is scared to go on with Don Lemon. He criticizes Don on Twitter, whereas Tucker criticizes kids sleeping on rocks like -- come on, nobody needs to go on Tucker's show. Why does he even still have a show? Advertisers --
LEMON: That was still --
RYE: I guess now is not the time for the boycott.
LEMON: That was still a pretty bold move for him to go on. And really, he spoke the truth about those hosts, right to the face of the folks who watch and did very well on the ratings. I'm sure a lot --
LIZZA: And people are talking about it, right? It's just not talks.
LEMON: They are, but I don't know if he's going to win over any voters. I think Alice is exactly right, those people are locked in on Trump and they are not going anywhere.
LIZZA: Well, maybe not to Fox watchers but people who respect him for going into the lion's den --
LIZZA: -- in the Democratic primary. I mean, again, he finds ways to get the media talking about him in a way that a lot of the other Democratic candidates aren't successful in doing.
LEMON: I can't say that you're wrong with that. Thank you all. I appreciate it. Fascinating conversation.
LIZZA: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: See you soon.
STEWART: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Be sure to watch CNN tomorrow night at 10:00 p.m., not for me, but for that guy, he's going to be on, Beto O'Rourke. Congressman Beto O'Rourke joins Dana Bash for a live CNN town hall from Des Moines, Iowa to talk with Iowa voters about his run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
I will be back right after 11:00 p.m., so I'll see you then, but more of the show coming up. The members of the Morehouse College class of 2019 celebrating their good fortune tonight. Billionaire Robert Smith announcing he's going to pay off their student loans which would likely amount to tens of millions of dollars. The president of Morehouse College reacts, next.
[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: I love this story so much. Imagine the surprise of Morehouse College class of 2019. Actually, just watch it for yourself. Billionaire Robert F. Smith making this promise to all 396 graduating students at their commencement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT F. SMITH, FOUNDER, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, PRIVATE EQUITY PARTNERS: We're going to put a little fuel in your bus. Now I've got the alumni over there. And this is the challenge to you, alumni. This is my class, 2019.
SMITH: And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Wow! Joining me now is David Thomas, president of Morehouse College. President Thomas, you had no idea. Do you really have no idea this was going to happen?
DAVID THOMAS, PRESIDENT, MOREHOUSE COLLEGE: I had no idea that that was what Robert Smith was going to say.
LEMON: And so -- and your reaction at the time?
THOMAS: Amazement, great gratitude to Mr. Smith, and joy for my students because I realized that in that moment, because most of them haven't started to pay their loans back, they don't realize what a gift of liberation this actually is, because we know that there are people who are in their 40s, maybe even their 50s still paying off college loans.
THOMAS: And, you know --
LEMON: Do you know how this is going to work? Do you have any idea who it is going to work, the details, anything?
THOMAS: No. One thing about doing something that's never been done before is -- we're inventing (ph) every aspect of it including --
LEMON: But that's OK.
THOMAS: -- what the process would be.
LEMON: That's OK, though, right? That's OK.
THOMAS: That's fine.
LEMON: Yeah. Go on. Sorry to cut you off.
THOMAS: That's OK. My ear piece came out. But, yeah, no, that's fine. We're glad and we're hoping that we're setting some precedent and that this will happen in the future at other institutions.
LEMON: Yeah. I just want to go back and talk to you about something you said. You said most of these students have not even started paying off, that any of them have started paying off their debts yet, so they have no idea what a burden that has been lifted for these new graduates. What does this mean for them? What kinds of opportunities does this create for them?
THOMAS: Well, this creates the opportunity for them to pursue their passion. A great example is we know that significant portion of our students have interests in going into teaching. And they often times struggle with taking more lucrative jobs coming out of Morehouse College because lots of companies want to recruit our students.
[23:45:04] And when they look at their college debt, many of them make the choice to make sure that they can pay off their college debts and not burden their family members with that. Also, Morehouse is well known for sending students to graduate school. Many of them go on to professional graduate schools, medicine, law, architecture. And usually when you go to a professional graduate school, you wind up having to take out a significant amount of loans so they delay it.
THOMAS: And in today's environment, it might mean that there will be some who wouldn't go. So, this really opens up lots of avenues for them. LEMON: It's been such a long time since -- listen, when I was in college, it did not cost that much, OK? I mean, the cost of college has just gone up exponentially. And I just want to read this and talk a little bit more about that. This is from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
She says, "It is important to note that people shouldn't be in a situation where they depend on a stranger's enormous act of charity for this kind of liberation to begin with (AKA college should affordable), but it is an incredible act of community investment in this system as it is."
Listen, it is a wonderful gift for these students. I mean, this is clearly an extraordinary act of a billionaire. But we have to do something to solve the student debt issue so that they won't have to have an incredible gift.
THOMAS: So, what do you think we can do?
THOMAS: Well, I'll give you, you know, one example that I think is critically important and that would be to increase the amount that is available for Pell grants to support students, you know, going through college to -- also to lift the level of income that a family can have to qualify and to look much more not just at income but also at wealth because we know that at certain communities, your income doesn't really speak to how much wealth they had.
And that's particularly true when it comes to communities of color like the African-American community, the average family, even if you hold income constant, meaning how much is in a paycheck. There's actually not as much accumulated wealth because there hasn't been intergenerational transfer.
THOMAS: So my students are much less likely to have a set of grandparents who are helping to defray some of their costs than the students that I taught at Harvard and Georgetown --
THOMAS: -- and Penn during the first 30 years of my career.
LEMON: President Thomas, congratulations to you. Whatever you guys create, whatever you figure out how this is going to work, maybe you can, you know, it can be repeated across the country. But I'm so happy for the graduates. And I'm so happy for you and we're grateful for you coming on. Thank you so much.
THOMAS: Well, thank you. LEMON: Yeah. Thank you very much.
THOMAS: All right.
LEMON: President David Thomas. We'll be right back.
THOMAS: All right.
[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: A fifth child since December has died after arriving at the U.S. border from Guatemala. Carlos Gregorio Hernandez-Vasquez was 16 years old. He died in U.S. custody only about a week after he was apprehended. In a statement, Customs and Border Protection says this, "The men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection are saddened by the tragic loss of this young man and our condolences are with his family. CBP is committed to the health, safety and humane treatment of those in our custody."
Border authorities have also described the situation at the border as not sustainable and that's clearly the case, because this is the fifth time we are telling you a story like this. It was only last week that a 2-year-old boy from Guatemala died at a hospital in El Paso, Texas. And in the past few months, we reported other deaths.
Juan De Leon-Gutierrez was 16 years old. We don't know how he died. We told you about Felipe Gomez-Alonzo. He was eight years old. He died from the flu which was complicated by sepsis. And Jakelin Caal Maquin. She was seven years old. She died from an infection.
For the families who have lost their children, there aren't many options. The Guatemalan consulate can get involved and the family of the child can file wrongful death actions if you have the means. But you have to remember, these are migrant families. They have travelled more than 1,500 miles in search for a better life.
And now that five migrant kids have died after being apprehended by U.S. authorities, you have to ask, what is being done about it? We do know that immigration authorities have ordered an increase in medical checks for children in their custody, with a focus on children under 10. But beyond that, we don't know much about what is being done to keep migrant kids healthy. In fact, what we have seen shows that many of these children and families are living in less than ideal conditions.
Just last week, CNN obtained photos that show migrants in McAllen, Texas at McAllen Texas Border Patrol station. There, the migrants including many children were seen sleeping on the ground on rocks and covered by blankets.
Also last week, the president unveiled his proposal to reform the U.S. immigration system. That proposal had no mention of the children who have died after being taken into U.S. custody at the border. And in April, the Trump administration announced that they were cutting aids to Guatemala and other Central American countries, even though data shows that USA has lowered murder rates and migrant flows to the U.S. in the past.
[23:55:06] Now what you'll hear from some people is parents bear the responsibility. That journey is too perilous or too risky, and they shouldn't have brought them all this way, except that's what parents have always done in this country for hundreds of years. Parents and their children have been willing to risk a great deal for the freedom this country represents.
For a reminder of that, just look at the words inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Tonight, there are five families who are without their children forever. Did we do all that we can do to give these children an opportunity to breathe free in America?
Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.