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President Trump Doesn't Believe In Polls; U.S. To Send 1,000 U.S. Troops To The Middle East; Donald Trump Preparing To Kick Off His Reelection Bid; Donald Trump With A Huge Advantage? Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 17, 2019 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Thank you for watching us. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: How do you tell cancer, how do you tell lung disease, how do you tell mysterious illnesses that you have no idea how to even label, we'll get to you when we get to you. How do you say that?

CUOMO: Things happen last minute all the time in Congress.


CUOMO: I don't know why he's so bent out of shape.

LEMON: OK. You went somewhere different.

CUOMO: I mean, it's disgusting. It's disgusting.

LEMON: It is disgusting How do you say that when you -- especially when you if you talk to the men and women and the men and women who were there and who testified and who were fighting these diseases that you know had to have come from all the dust.

CUOMO: And remember, that was hard fought too, D. Lemon.


CUOMO: I covered that back then. We did the air quality thing. You know, Giuliani, you know, he'll say he didn't know any better at that time. A lot of people who filed lawsuits would take issue with that. The air is fine, the air is fine.

You could see it on the particulate matter everywhere in the air.

LEMON: Yes. We knew it was all those things that have been in those buildings for all those years.

LEMON: You know that couldn't be good for you.

CUOMO: Of course.

LEMON: Especially coming -- yes.

CUOMO: And then these people start getting this maladies in such huge numbers and they wrote it off. They had to fight for this money. Nothing w was given to them as a gift. None of them -- none of this was gifted.

You know, when they ever to sit outside your office, you're not taking care of them in the right way and that's the truth.

LEMON: Well, here's the thing, and you always talk about this. Terms limits. There is a sense of entitlement. I belong here, I'm going to tell you how it goes, this is my job, this is what I do, I decide when it's going to come, what's going to be appropriated and what's not. And I think that's what it is.

And I think that, you know, maybe and I'm not speaking of just Mitch McConnell specifically, but maybe some people who had this sense of entitlement wouldn't and they wouldn't even be in those positions to be able to talk like that. I don't know why he's so bent out of shape. We'll get to it when we get to it. That's a horrible sentiment to have especially about our survivors.

CUOMO: Well, look, I mean, this is how simple the argument is. If I care about this, then there's no condition on it, right? I want this to happen because I think it's right so I'll do it. If I have to say, hey, Don, I'll take care of this. I'll do the Zadroga Act, but you have to give me this. That tells you everything you need to know.

If he put a condition on it about U.S. oil exports, which was something I will assume that the Democrats would give him a hard time on, what does that tell you? That he thought he was giving them something with the Zadroga Act.


CUOMO: Not that he thought it was what he wanted to motivate, he wanted the oil export issue.


CUOMO: That's all you need to know. And look, he's a brilliant tactician.


CUOMO: He's a brilliant tactician. McConnell is (Inaudible) of the game.


LEMON: Tone deaf on this.

CUOMO: But the game sucks.

LEMON: Tone deaf on this. So, can we lift someone up right now?

CUOMO: Please.

LEMON: Can we lift up our colleague and our friend Anderson Cooper who we love so much? The network is not the same without him, and we are -- he is going through something that you can't imagine.

Everybody experiences loss at some point, but your loss is specific to you, his is specific to him, and so we just want to keep him in our thoughts and lift him and his family up, and we can't wait to see him again, but take off as much time as you need. What a great lady, too.

CUOMO: She was a great lady. My mother is her contemporary and they were friends, and she was talking to me about her on the phone today. And she said, you know, she really was one of the truly great ladies.


CUOMO: She was more interesting than most people, my mom said. And she said, I saw her in great pain, I saw her in great moments of triumph, and she was so impressed by her. And I have to tell you, you and I have dealt with a lot of loss.

Anderson gave himself some gift with that documentary he did with his mother.

LEMON: He sure did.

CUOMO: The insight into her and into him, and he'll always have it. As we both know, I can't say anything to Anderson to help him with where he is right now. The pain is personal. But, boy, did he do himself and his family and his loved ones a solid with that beautiful tribute.

LEMON: You took it. I had written something that I was going to say, and I said there's nothing -- you know, to Anderson directly to camera, and then decided that it was better to talk to you about it because your mom knew her and we both know Anderson.

But listen, she gave him her sense of humor. If you saw Anderson's story on her, his obituary on her, the giggle, it's the same laugh.

CUOMO: I know.


LEMON: It's the same --

CUOMO: It's really funny. And a little contagious. I almost wound up doing it when I was --


LEMON: It is. And you know what, though, I feel it, you know, you feel it because we are -- I'm a mama's boy, you're a mama's boy. I just saw your mom this weekend. My dog jumped on her --

CUOMO: And bite my mom.

LEMON: My dog did not bite your mom.

CUOMO: My lawyer will call your lawyer. We'll see what -- LEMON: But he's so close to his mom, and so you know, you can't help but feel it, and I know he's going through some things, but again, we do, I mean, we love him and we wish the best for him.

[22:04:59] CUOMO: You know, Anderson is an interesting study. He is the biggest male star in the business, period.

LEMON: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Anyone who doesn't think that's not true is not being honest with themselves.

LEMON: I was at -- I was at a question and answer session one day and they did me, like, you know, they said names, and you had to answer with one word, and they're like, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and I would answer with one word and they said Anderson. And my one word was icon, and everyone in the room went --

CUOMO: I mean, look, he has set a standard for journalism and that's a beautiful thing on television. But you know, people don't give him credit. What they see in him is his reserve. Still waters run deep, and he has such tremendous feeling for his mother, it's so complicated and profound, and he expressed it so beautifully.

And again, we've experienced loss. It's not easy to explain to people your love and your sense of connection, even with those that mean the most to you, and he did it so beautifully, and I just hope he can appreciate the gift he gave his mom at the end of her life and the gift that he gave himself of making that connection with her in the documentary.

LEMON: Yes. Hey, listen, we talked about we used to go to the merry- go-round in chess king. Every woman I know, every girl I know had a Gloria Vanderbilt jean by Murjani and the perfume. It was like if you had, you have to have the Calvin Klein jeans and you have to have the Gloria Vanderbilt jeans.

Speaking of icons, she was an amazing icon. And again, our thoughts and prayers go out to Anderson. Anderson, we love you. Come back whenever you can, but again, you know, take as much time as you need. I got to run. I got a lot of show to get to.

CUOMO: Well said, my friend. I'll be watching.

LEMON: Thank you very much. We'll see you soon.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

President Trump officially, officially kicking off his reelection starts tomorrow. How else? A great big Trump rally. Where else? Florida. Florida is a key swing state that he knows he needs to win if he wants to remain president, if he wants to stay in the Oval Office.

We know he hasn't stopped running since the day -- remember this day that he descended that escalator in Trump Tower back in 2015? It was July of 2015. June, excuse me. June 16 of 2015. And he never broke his campaign stride, even after he won and was sworn in.

But before he heads off to Orlando, he has to deal with tension among the ranks of both his campaign staffers and in the West Wing as well. The president is said to be furious over troubling internal polling. Why? Well, they show he is losing to Joe Biden and other Democratic candidates in key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Adding to his fury, those polls we've been telling you about, they were leaked. He got rid of three pollsters after the information got out. And again, in true Trump fashion, what did he do? He called the unfavorable polls fake.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Those polls don't exist. But I just had a meeting with somebody that's a pollster, and I'm winning everywhere. So, I don't know what you're talking about.


LEMON: No idea what you're talking about? Those polls don't exist? We know Trump lives for polls. You know how I know? He used to hand them to me at interviews, a number of them, when I used to interview him when he would go on other networks, except for the Trump news network.

He's watching every single one of them, even the ones that he calls fake. But this president never misses an opportunity to spin information in his own favor, not only denying that the internal polls exist but also tweeting that only fake polls show us behind the Motley Crue.

There is no question that President Trump is worried about Biden's candidacy. And maybe he should be. Biden is the clear front runner among the Democratic candidates. And tonight, he is making this bold prediction.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I plan on campaigning the south. I plan that if I'm your nominee winning Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, believe it or not and I believe we can win Texas and Florida if you look at the polling data now.


LEMON: Another thing the White House has focused on? The Middle East. Especially the rising tensions with Iran. Tonight, the Pentagon announcing that it's sending an additional 1,000 troops and extra military resources to the region.

The U.S. is blaming Iran for attacking two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week while Iran denies the accusation. And the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo saying over the weekend that the U.S. is considering military action. As a senior Iranian official was telling CNN, that the two countries

are likely to be headed toward confrontation. We're going to have more on that for sure in just a moment.

But then there's this. "The New York Times" reporting that the U.S. is escalating cyber attacks on Russia's power grid as a way to warn Russia that America is ready and able to deploy cyber tools to combat Russia's digital incursions.

But in a stunning development, administration officials tell "The Times" that President Trump has not been briefed in detail about the program over concern he'll overrule it or that he might leak the information to foreign officials.

[22:10:05] You know, like he did back in 2017 when he shared classified material with Russian diplomats who are visiting the oval office? Remember that? The president slamming the article as, of course, untrue, accusing the Times of committing treason. Treason? More on that as well.

There's a lot going on tonight and one thing we know for sure is that this president likes the optics to be just right. Actually, he demands it.

I want you to take a look at what happened during his Oval Office interview with George Stephanopoulos when the acting chief of -- chief of staff Mick Mulvaney coughed.


TRUMP: At some point, I might, but at some point, I hope they get it because it's a fantastic financial statement. It's a fantastic financial statement. And let's do that over, he's coughing in the middle of my answer.


TRUMP: I don't like that, you know?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your chief of staff.

TRUMP: If you need to cough, please leave the room.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I just got a shot of -- I'll come over here.

TRUMP: You just can't. You just can't --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Just a change of site. OK?



LEMON: Let's do that over? It's all about the optics. If it wasn't perfect, demand another take. So why did someone leak internal poll numbers showing the president trailing Joe Biden and other Democrats? We're going to discuss. Gloria Borger is here and Frank Bruni, as

well. Next.


LEMON: President Trump says, don't believe the polls. Of course, he's talking about the ones showing him trailing the Democrats in 2020. He calls them fake news and even fired his own pollsters, well, for leaking them.

Joining me now Gloria Borger and Frank Bruni. Good evening, everyone. I would be kind of mad, too, wouldn't you if someone leaked polls, no? Especially if unfavorable ones. Can we just give him he has the right to be mad about that?


LEMON: All right. So, Gloria, you agree with me.

BORGER: Yes. I think he has every right. Look, if I were a candidate and somebody leaked polls particularly if they weren't good, I'd be upset.


BORGER: I give him that.

LEMON: Frank, you know, he's calling these polls fake, he's firing people, he's calling it fake news. Does he think his reelection is in danger, do you think, or is this just Trump being Trump?

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think on some level he thinks his reelection is in danger, and I think, you know, you raised the question earlier why were the polls leaked? I think in part his pollsters were trying to send him a message because they don't think he is taking it seriously enough.

You know, it's really interesting the last time around his camp --


LEMON: You don't think he takes them seriously enough.

BRUNI: I don't think he takes his staff seriously enough. And I think they are serving a message to him like we're here, we're doing this work. This is the reality-based world and you better live here if you want to be reelected. This is an entirely -- he's about to announce his reelection formally.

LEMON: Tomorrow.

BRUNI: Yes. This is an entirely different campaign than last time. Last time around this was sort of a seat of -- seat of your pants improvisatory operation because no one really took it fully seriously until the end. He himself didn't think he'd be elected. That's pretty clear. This time around they've raised tens of millions of dollars. Democrats have been talking and scared about that for quite some time. There is a huge campaign infrastructure. There are offices in Virginia.

This is an entirely different operation, and one of the things I think Donald Trump is going to find is with all of these people working in this effort, it's going to be much harder to control information. The leaks, which are already prodigious, are going to be more and more.

LEMON: Yes, you're right, it was improv. It was an improv. Hey, Gloria, for the record, the president's own campaign to what, you know, Frank just said confirmed that these polls were in fact real. So why is he still trying to deny it?

BORGER: Not fake. Well, because it's not -- it's not good for him. And I want to agree with Frank here. I think one way to get to the president we saw that in 2016, I still it's still the case. We've seen it in this White House, one way to get to the president is to go around him, talk to the media, and then he watches the news, and he will see that the polls are bad and maybe it will stick with him.

So, you know, there may have been some pollsters here that became kind of the sacrificial lambs, but this is one way to talk to -- to talk to the president because he doesn't want to believe any bad news.

But let me say this. This is early. These polls are early. But if you're a pollster and you're trying to run a campaign, it's always good to have your candidate run a little scared. Because unless you're running scared, you're not going to win.

And so, I think that this is a president who is used to a lot of people saying, yes, yes, yes to him, and if he wants to win, he has to have people who tell him the truth even if he doesn't accept it.

LEMON: To light a fire. Gloria, let me ask you.

BORGER: Well --

LEMON: You know, when you said that he doesn't want any bad news, remember was that the wiz, don't anybody bring me no bad news?

BORGER: Right. Yes.

LEMON: So, listen, Fox News polls are always bad for me. This is what he tweeted. He said, "They were against crooked Hillary also. Something weird going on at Fox. Our polls show us leading in all 17 swing states. For the record I didn't spend 30 hours with ABC News, but rather a tiny fraction of that. More fake news, Bret Baier." I mean, guys, he's even attacking Fox News.

BORGER: Well, it started I think and you guys know this. It started I think when Fox News started having Democrats do town halls on Fox News. And the president, who seems to think he's the programming director there over there at Fox, and maybe he is, but he said, well, what are they doing having these Democrats on wasting time? And ever since that moment, he's been a little less polite about them,

and he didn't like what he watched on Brett Baier tonight, obviously and he didn't like the polls.

LEMON: Let's talk about a little what you said, you said about him, Frank, kicking off his campaign for 2020, his reelection officially tomorrow in Orlando, Florida. He knows Florida is a key swing state. If he loses there, chances are he will not be in the White House.

Is there anything that his staff can actually do to manage him now, and less improv and more get down to business and deal with the things that you need to deal with?

BRUNI: Well, I don't know, because he is in a very kind of strange phase of his presidency, and I've been watching him over recent days, and I kind of think he's in full emperor mode, you know. I don't like the polls, be gone, pollsters. I don't like that cough, be gone, Mick Mulvaney.

He seems to be feeling cornered in a way that he doesn't typically in the office seems to be intolerant of any descent or any bad news. So, what do they do? Well, as Gloria and I were talking about, they go to the media because he does watch TV constantly. They hope that maybe that penetrates.

[22:19:56] But I mean, I have a serious question that I think we all do about his grip on reality. And I don't mean that in a mental illness way. I mean that in the sense that whenever his reflex now is so profoundly and consistently to call anything, he doesn't like fake, to believe on some level that's fake, that I don't know how he gets through a campaign like that.

Because there are going to be valleys, there's going to be bad news, there are going to be adjustments that need to be made, and I'm not sure that Donald Trump we've seen in recent days and weeks is someone who is capable of adjustments.

LEMON: Wow. And listen, Gloria, Joe Biden certainly seems to get his goat, right?


LEMON: Joe Biden has been on the campaign trail calling him unfit to lead, an existential threat to the U.S. How does the Trump campaign counter that?

BORGER: Well, they -- let's see. Donald Trump has called him sleepy Joe Biden, which I think he will continue to do. Donald Trump will say Joe Biden doesn't have the energy to be president, and we'll talk about Barack Obama, and on and on.

But I think that what Biden is doing here, and it's smart, is that what he's trying to do is talk to people about the stakes of this election early on, and this is a way to get at the vote.

LEMON: Do you think it would be better for him to just ignore Trump? No?

BORGER: No, Trump plays right into his hands right now. Every time Trump talks about Joe Biden, it's good for Joe Biden, because Democrats have someone. They say, well, maybe Trump is taking him seriously and maybe he can beat Joe -- Donald Trump, which seems to be Biden's entire campaign right now.

But what he's doing, what Biden is doing is telling Democrats, you know what? There is this so-called existential threat out there. His name is Donald Trump, and maybe last time around you didn't think you had to vote because you thought Hillary Clinton was going to win, but this time the stakes are higher. So, you have to get out there.

So, what he is doing is kind of shaking Democrats if they need it and saying, let me focus you on what we need to do here. And obviously, Trump is going to react to that because he can't stand it, and it gets under his skin, which is what Biden wants.

LEMON: So, but Frank, you said also -- I don't know, I think -- what this - what Trump loves more than anything is attention. And so, if Joe Biden is constantly leading him in the polls and Joe Biden just pretends he doesn't exist, Trump was going to continue to talk about him as long as he's leading, and it will just infuriate him if Joe Biden ignores him as if he doesn't exist.

BRUNI: He might, but Donald Trump is doing Joe Biden an enormous favor because Biden --


LEMON: But I think -- I think if Biden ignores Trump, it will make Trump talk about him even more. That's --

BRUNI: I don't think you can -- I don't think you can ignore Trump in this campaign. I don't think Democratic voters would allow it. I just want to say one other thing.

Let's not forget what else Donald Trump is saying about Joe Biden. Donald Trump is insinuating and insinuating is actually too generous and kind a word, that Joe Biden is not entirely well.

LEMON: Right.

BRUNI: And it's something that Trump and Rudy Giuliani and others did in 2016 to Hillary, and it's really reprehensible. I don't think it's a good campaign tactic because I think it just makes the president look awful.

BORGER: You know --


LEMON: Go ahead, Gloria.

BORGER: And eventually the American public will be able to judge that when they see Joe Biden up against other Democrats in debates. So, you know, they'll be able to judge for themselves.

But everyone knows that this was something he used against Hillary Clinton, and he used it to some degree of success, I would argue. And I don't think the Biden camp is going to fall for that, and I don't think other Democrats are going to fall for that as well. I really don't.


BORGER: I think they would -- even though they're running against Joe Biden, I think they would defend him in that circumstance, I do.

LEMON: Yes. So, I want to play this for you guys again. This is during the ABC interview when he talks about releasing a financial statement. Watch this.


TRUMP: I hope they get it because it's a fantastic financial statement. It's a fantastic financial statement. And let's do that over, he's coughing in the middle of my answer.


TRUMP: I don't like that, you know?

STEPHANOPOULOS: When your chief of staff --

TRUMP: If you're going to cough, please leave the room.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll just get a shot of and I'll come over here.

LEMON: You just can't. You just can't --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Just to change the (Inaudible)



LEMON: At first, I thought he was joking. But then is that a look of disgust, Frank?

BRUNI: Yes. Genuine disgust. Remember, he's a germophobe and everything as you said everything is optics and theater to him. I mean, he cares about the show. He doesn't care about the substance, and someone has ruined his take. Let's do it over. I'm surprised he didn't call the makeup person back in to powder his nose while they were at it.

LEMON: Gloria?

BORGER: Well, it's like you have interrupted my show, and how dare you, and that's why I think George was very clever when he pointed out, this is your chief of staff. You're not just talking about anybody; you are treating your chief of staff like this. [22:24:56] And If I might talk about the substance a little bit, here

is the president saying, I hope they -- I don't know who they is -- I hope they release my financials, whatever that means. If it means tax returns, then why is the treasury department fighting Congress on that? If you hope they release your tax returns, you can do that tomorrow.

LEMON: He can do it himself. He can just say, here they are.

BORGER: Exactly. Exactly, so you know, we're not paying attention to the substance of that because what he did to Mick Mulvaney was so embarrassing to the chief of staff.

BRUNI: And it was so dumb. The cameras were rolling.

BORGER: Right.

BRUNI: I mean, he didn't think that this footage was going to exist and here we are looking at it and talking about it.

LEMON: All right. Well --

BORGER: Because it wouldn't on reality TV, but it would on the news.

LEMON: No coughing. Yes, do another take.

BORGER: Sorry about that.

LEMON: Thank you, guys. I enjoyed the conversation. See you soon.

The president ordering a thousand more troops to be -- to the Middle East I should say as tensions with Iran escalate. But could this all have been avoided. I'm going to ask former director of National Intelligence, Mr. James Clapper. He's next.


LEMON: Tonight, the Trump administration announcing a new deployment of troops to the Middle East. This comes as the Pentagon release its new images of what it claims is evidence of an Iranian attack. The images are a more detailed close-up look on the attack on two tankers last week and they've only been declassified after U.S. allies expressed skepticism at Trump blaming Iran.

This is an image. Take a look at it. It was taken by a U.S. helicopter showing an Iranian Revolutionary Guard boat just moments after the crew had been -- the crew had been removed what the Pentagon says an unexploded mine from one -- and unexploded -- excuse me -- unexploded mine from one of the tankers.

[22:29:58] Let's discuss now with James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence is here. Mr. Clapper, thank you. Serious business we have to get to. So, what are your thoughts on these images released? Do you think Iran did this?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Oh, yeah, Don. I think -- I thought -- I figured that from the get-go. I mean there's really nobody else right now that has both the capability and the intent to do something like this. It might be useful just for a moment to contemplate Iran's perspective on this. So if Iran can't export oil. That means others in the region are going to fill the void.

And so the Iranians are going to do what they can to disrupt that, and do it in such a way and do things that are attributable, which this certainly is, but deniable. Because the Iranians will continue to deny, you know, this is going on. It shouldn't come as a big surprise given the impact of sanctions on the Iranian economy.

I think the Iranians are messaging people, both with the action they've taken with the ships, as well as their announcement about enriching uranium, which they're not doing secretively. And I think the messaging there is directed more towards Europe and trying to prevail upon the Europeans to find some way to get around the U.S. sanctions, which the Europeans are finding is very difficult.

LEMON: You know, I spoke to Fareed Zakaria last week, and he said he thinks there was more of this coming that they're basically being squeezed and they're trying to get themselves out of it.

CLAPPER: Well, that's true. You know, there is a historical precedent for this. You go back to 86 and 87, you know, similar situation. And we ended up, if I recall, escorting ships and reflagging Kuwaiti ships and this sort of thing to get them through the Strait of Hormuz. I will say I don't think Iran intends or wants any kind of a conventional war with the United States. But they feel as though they're being pushed around, and they're trying to push back.

LEMON: Director Clapper, the Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan's justification was (Inaudible) reads in part this. It says the recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region.

You know, we're talking about 1,000 troops here. That's not a huge number. But what is the message here, Director?

CLAPPER: Well, I think the message -- again, messaging all around here. And I think we're trying to message back 1,000 troops. You know, it's pretty modest. I wouldn't be surprised if at least some of them are intended for what's called forced protection. You know, shades of Benghazi sort of thing where some of this may be for protection of U.S. diplomatic facilities, and may be bolstering the defensive capabilities of our shore installations, notably in places like Bahrain or Kuwait.

LEMON: You know, there is also this "New York Times" report about U.S. intelligence escalating cyber-attacks on the Russia power grid as a warning to Putin contain this line about the president's lack of involvement, OK? It says, Trump reportedly had not been briefed in any detail on the operations for concerns over his reaction and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials. Listen, American national security officials are declining to share

Russia-related intelligence with the president of the United States because they view him as a security risk. How serious is this?

CLAPPER: Well, first, as an intelligence guy, you know, you kind of cringe when you see articles like that. If the president didn't know about this program with the Russians, assuming "The New York Times" article is accurate, well, he sure does now. I do know there are other instances where there have been concerns about U.S. intelligence capabilities, particularly when it comes to Russia.

Since there is some mystery about just what exactly what the relationship is particularly personally between President Trump and Putin. So I think it's -- you know, we can't confirm or deny, but it's certainly plausible. And I do know there is concern in the intelligence community about that.

LEMON: Yeah. The president just tweeted a denial of The Times story, and also called for them to immediately release their source. I mean he's previously denied ever watching much TV or our show, but do you buy that?

CLAPPER: That he doesn't watch TV? Oh, yeah.

[22:35:04] LEMON: Yeah. He's saying he's calling for a denial from The New York Times. I mean do you -- yeah, what do you think -- and to release its sources.

CLAPPER: Well, that gets into a real sensitive area with freedom of the press and all that. And I hope it doesn't come to that. Because, again, assuming this is accurate, that for the sake of discussion, then someone conveyed that to "The New York Times" who has concerns and, you know, wanted those concerns be known publicly. I will say in defense of the administration that they did publish a national cyber- security strategy, which was in tone, although not much different in substance.

And they're upsized and downsized to being more aggressive. Plus, I think the commander of Cybercom, the director of NSA (Inaudible) has been circumspect, but nevertheless I think made clear to people about self-defense and being more activist. And frankly, if we have done this with the Russians, that's a good thing, because we've known and it's been discussed publicly about the Russian penetration of our grid.

So if this is all true, then we perhaps achieved a mutual deterrence here. And that's a good thing.

LEMON: Director Clapper, thank you for your time. I appreciate it. us.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: We'll be right back.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: President Trump is preparing to formally kick off his bid for a second term tomorrow night with a serious edge. He's amassed a giant war chest, which puts him far ahead of any of the Democrats running against him. So what does this mean? And what is the campaign planning to do with it? Here's CNN's Athena Jones.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As President Trump prepares to officially kick off his reelection bid in Florida tomorrow, his campaign's enormous fundraising edge is already shaping the race, especially online, where a Democratic firm that tracks ads spending shows Trump has spent nearly five times as the closest Democrats on digital ads. Like these, targeting his base.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will close the damn border.

JONES: Trump has a massive leg up heading into 2020, because he never really stopped running for president.

TRUMP: I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear...

JONES: Filing his reelection paperwork on the same day he was inaugurated.

DOUG HEYE, GOP STRATEGIST: He's been out there earlier than anybody really in modern day president history.

JONES: The president began the most recent quarter with nearly $41 million in his campaign war chest, after raising just over $30.3 million in the first three months of the year, a total that rivals the combined fundraising haul of the top two Democrats that quarter, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and California Senator Kamala Harris.

Trump's campaign has raised nearly $100 million since January 2017, far outpacing his most predecessors.


JONES: All this cash allows the Trump team, led by Brad Parscale, a digital marketing executive, to spend big on advertising in key states way ahead of the general election, a concern for Democrats still battling for their party's nomination.

TARA MCGOWAN, DEMOCRATIC DIGITAL STRATEGIST: The Democrats running are each focused really narrowly on primary voters on the left. And so they're not even engaging the larger swath of general electorate voters that they're going to need to build support with when one of them is the nominee.

JONES: Trump campaign officials believe his huge haul could even help Trump expand the political map. CNN reporting that officials are considering putting resources into deep blue Oregon, which hasn't voted for a Republican for president since 1984. Trump's campaign pollster, Tony Fabrizio, arguing in an internal memo that New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Nevada, all states Trump lost in 2016, are now highly competitive.

And that Minnesota, which Trump also lost, is a state to keep an eye on. While this crop of states may raise eyebrows among Democrats, the Trump team can point to the resounding success of its decision to spend resources in seemingly out of reach blue states like Wisconsin and Michigan in 2016. In the end, he turned those states red for the first time in a generation.

HEYE: And as we talk so often about how the path to the White House is limited for reelecting Trump, that's why it's important for them to look at other states where there may or may not be possibilities and try to extend that map to give them more avenues to play in.

JONES: Another big advantage Trump has is an incumbent. He's already agreed to merge his campaign field operations and fundraising efforts with the Republican National Committee, giving him a reelection machine unprecedented in modern politics. The president's eventual Democratic opponent won't be able to mount a similar effort until after securing the nomination next July.

And at least at moment, the RNC has more cash on hand than the Democratic National Committee. Outside groups on both of the bipartisan divide are also likely pay a major role in the 202 race (Inaudible) to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, something Democratic strategists say needs to start happening now.

MCGOWAN: We can't wait any longer because they've already been doing this for months.


JONES: Now, judges from both parties say winning won't be just about outspending the other side. When, when, and how that money is spent will matter too. Candidates and outside groups need to make sure they're reaching voters where they are, day in and day out, on their phones, on social media. They can't just rely on a national TV ad by a year from now to shape the narrative. Don?

[22:45:01] LEMON: Athena Jones, thank you very much for that. Is Trump's massive war chest enough to flip traditional blue states? We'll dig into those numbers, next.


LEMON: So we told you President Trump is entering the 2020 race with a significant head start of many on his many Democratic rivals. Joining me now to discuss, Chris Cillizza and Josh Green, Josh is the author of "Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Nationalist Uprising."


LEMON: Yes, gentleman, good stuff. Good evening, good stuff, I agree. Chris, $97.8 (Inaudible) $97.8 million raised since 2017, $40 million in the bank. How big of an impact will that much money have on the race?

[22:50:05] CILLIZZA: Well, go back a little. Athena mentioned this in her (Inaudible) last segment. She mentioned that it's a lot more than Bush and Obama, and that's true. It's a lot, lot more. Bush had raised $4 million by the end of 2002. Obama had raised $3 million by the end of 2010. So you're talking about exponentially more.

Donald Trump held his first fundraiser 40 months before November 2020. So I think it will help him compared to himself. So in 2016, he was drastically outspent, he kept saying. Well, I am going to write a big check. He never really wrote that big a check to himself. He was outspent in the primaries. He was outspent the general election. That won't happen again, right?

This will be a much more, well-financed campaign. That said, Donald Trump got outspent by Hillary Clinton everywhere, and Donald Trump is the president and Hillary Clinton is not. So I think we'd be a little bit careful about money being totally determinative.

LEMON: You said 40 months before...

CILLIZZA: Forty months. June of 2017, he held his first fundraiser, $10 million bucks. Guess where he held it, Don, Trump Hotel in Washington.

LEMON: Well, there you go. I said in the opening statement to this show, in my take, is that he really hasn't stopped running since he came down the escalator since June 2015.

CILLIZZA: That's right.

LEMON: Josh, you heard Athena's report. The Trump campaign has already spent five times more on digital ads than Trump's closest Democratic rival. So talk about the use of social media. How important is that?

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it's important to an extent, and Money that Trump is spending right now on social media is not helping his reelection race. You know, the only thing he'd be getting out of it is list building, building out new donors, that's sort of thing. Trump did a lot of that. He did it very well in the 2016 campaign led by Brad Parscale.

There's value in that. But there's not a whole lot of value right now in going out and running these kinds of Facebook persuasion ads, because people see these ads and then they forget about them in a day or two. The idea that they're going to be in any way determinative, you know, 18 months from now in a general election against God knows who, just doesn't comport with reality.

So I think there's a limit to the Democratic alarmism here about how much Trump has raised and how much he's spending. I don't think Democrats are going to have any problem at all, whoever their nominee winds up being, coming up with boat loads of money. If Democrats lose, it's not going to be because they're short on cash.

LEMON: OK. Josh, didn't you report a lot on Brad Parscale?

GREEN: I did.


GREEN: Brad Parscale about a month before the 2016 election.

LEMON: So what's his strategy now?

GREEN: Well, one thing Parscale is very good at is small dollar fundraising online. Trump himself doesn't feel comfortable asking people for money. I mean, part of the job of president...


LEMON: Wait, what?

GREEN: No, no...


LEMON: Trump doesn't like asking people for money?

GREEN: No. He thinks that rich people ought to kind of bend a knee and just throw it at him. And that's not the way that presidential fundraising works. He didn't do much big dollar fundraising last time around.


GREEN: Parascale got the small dollar donations in, you know, millions and millions of dollars. And that's really what made Trump competitive.

LEMON: Well, that was my next question. Where is this money coming from now? Is it large scale? Is it small?

GREEN: Well, I mean, the advantage of being president and being the only serious Republican candidate...


LEMON: RNC and all the fundraising goes right to him.

GREEN: Well, right. Anybody who wants to, you know, advance his presidency or kiss up or ingratiate themselves to Donald Trump, is going to be happy to write big dollar checks now because he's president, whereas last time, he was this fringy outsider who seemed certain to lose. So Trump is in a much better situation fundraising- wise than he was 2016. But I don't necessarily think it's a terrible thing for Democrats.

LEMON: All right. We have to stop talking like Chris isn't here, so Chris.

CILLIZZA: That's OK. LEMON: That all right.

CILLIZZA: Why? Hello, everyone.

LEMON: Dana Bash, our colleague, got hold of a memo from a Trump pollster suggesting there may be an opportunity to win Minnesota, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Nevada, even Oregon in 2020. Are any of those traditionally blue states actually in play?

CILLIZZA: Probably not. I mean, the best of that, I think you could make -- the two arguments you would make and not be laughed out of a room are Nevada and Minnesota. Minnesota has been moving towards Republicans, true before Trump. Trump lost it by a point and a half. Nevada, Bush won it in 2004, right? The problem in both of those states is Trump is going to struggle to win over independent and loose Democratic voters.

And he kind of have to in both of those states to win, Oregon, 1984 is the last time a Republican won that. That was Reagan in his second reelection. Minnesota is 72, the last time a Republican won it. So there's not a huge amount of evidence historically. But I will note, like I said, I do think they're long shots.

[22:55:04] That said, Don, look. Michigan and Pennsylvania had not been won by a Republican for president since 1988, George Herbert Walker Bush. We had seen Republicans say we're going to get it. George W. Bush in both of his campaigns, Pennsylvania, it's really close, we can win it. They lose. He wins. So I think they're longer shots than Pennsylvania or Michigan was. But I am also not ready to rule it out, because of what we've seen Trump about 30 years ago.

LEMON: Hey, Josh, I would ask you another question, but Chris ate up all your time.

CILLIZZA: Take that, Green.

LEMON: Thank you very much. We'll be right back.