Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

Racism In Trump's Era; Domino Effect Seen In Communities; Controversy Over President Trump's Racist Attacks; In The Midst Of White House Turmoil, Where Is Ivanka?; FBI Warrant Shows Trump's Close Involvement In Hush Money Effort; The Story Behind Kidnapping Of Hundreds Of School Girls In Nigeria In 2014. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired July 18, 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.

President Trump seems to be trying to rewrite history. There's one big problem, though. This was something we all saw with our own eyes, heard with our own ears. After getting pressure from GOP allies, he is now claiming he didn't like it when the crowd at his campaign rally in North Carolina broke out in a racist chant of "send her back" after he attacked Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I was not happy with it. I disagree with it. But again, I didn't say that. They did it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That's called passing the buck. President Trump claims his racist tweets telling the four congresswomen of color to go back to the countries they came from had no influence on the crowd. That doesn't pass the smell test. Nor does his claim that he tried to stop the chanting by quickly continuing his speech. He waited a full 13 seconds. And certainly, didn't look upset. Let's go to the videotape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds.

(CROWD CHANTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He went on to slam the four congresswomen saying if they don't like America, they should leave.

Big picture now. F. Michael Higginbotham is here, Douglas Brinkley, Peter Beinart.

Good evening, gentlemen. Thank you so much for joining us. So, Doug, I'm going to start with you. Trump is not the first populist

American leader with an anti-immigrant attitude. For example, Millard Fillmore campaigned on strong anti-immigrant views. Is history repeating itself? And why haven't we learned from this?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, you know, Millard Fillmore with the know nothing party in the 1950s it was vehemently against Catholic immigrants, mainly people from Germany and Ireland.

But where Donald Trump is getting this, you know, back to where you come from rhetoric is out of the Nixon era, George Wallace and Nixon. Those are his touchstone figures. Nixon was more of a covert, you know, racist. He was for affirmative action to a degree, Nixon. He wouldn't have said language like Trump spin doing, you know, banning Muslims and things, too sophisticated for that for Nixon to do.

But George Wallace would go wild at it and Donald Trump sees that as easy picking, the George Wallace, less dramatic Strom Thurmond, old Dixie crap segregationist crowd, and some people used to call it middle class Democrats.

But that's who Trump is trying to appeal to with this ugly xenophobic rhetoric. But unfortunately, Don, that kind of rhetoric and policies have been part of American history from the very beginning.

LEMON: You know, Michael, in the 40s and 50s, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy smeared many innocent people in an anti-communist crusade. And just this week we heard this from Senator Lindsey Graham. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel. They hate our own country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Communists. I mean, is that a term that leaders should toss around? Especially as an attack on four women of color?

F. MICHAEL HIGGINBOTHAM, PROFESSOR OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE SCHOOL OF LAW: Not at all. Trump is in a long line. Lindsey Graham is in a long line of disgraced politicians, like Joseph McCarthy, who basically communist baited.

And what these politicians do is they tell -- they tell lies. They tell falsehoods to try and demonize minorities. Or demonize others. Whether they be dissidents, political dissidents, or whether they be Catholics or Jews or African-Americans or Asian-Americans or Italians or Irish Americans. They try to demonize and make them the other. And that's what Trump has done.

He did it when he started out with Mexican Americans. He did it with Muslims and now he's doing it with black Americans.

[23:04:59] It's inaccurate, his tweets. It's hypocritical. But most significantly, it is un-American. It is against our First Amendment which embraces protest.

LEMON: Peter, you know, tonight, Omar Ilhan was greeted with this when she went back to her home State of Minnesota. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD CHANTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Earlier today she said the president is spewing his, and this is her words, fascist ideology. Is this a lose/lose fight for everybody involved?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's Democrats would rather be talking about issues like healthcare but sometimes you can't avoid this. Right? Because this is a struggle about the identity of the United States. This is a struggle about -- and it's the very, very old struggle.

It's basically America was founded on two principles. The first was that it was a white man's country. And that white men should run it. The second and contradictory principle was the principle that all people were created equal.

Those two principles have been battling it out since the very, very beginning and that's what this fight is about. It's about people who look like Ilhan Omar, of her religion, her race and her gender, are equal citizens and have an equal right to participate. That's what this fight is about. So, it matters.

LEMON: So why deny it? Why people are denying it? Saying it's not about the color. I disagree with them on their policies, which is fair to disagree with anyone's policies. I mean, but anyone can see what this is about, any thinking, rational person.

BEINART: But here's the crucial context. The polls show that most Trump supporters believe there is more racism against white people than there is against people of color. Right?

I know you're laughing. Right? It is laughable. But that's what most Trump supporters believe. Right?

LEMON: Do they believe that or do they want to believe it? There is no way that they can actually believe that.

BEINART: Well --

LEMON: Come on.

BEINART: That's what they say. I mean, and look at how -- this is, this is what they tell pollsters. So, if they see themselves as the victimized aggrieved parties, they're the ones who feel that they're being oppressed and that's how they justify, that's an old story, too, the idea that people in power actually tell themselves that they're the victims. LEMON: Interesting. So earlier today, Michael the House oversight

chairman Elijah Cummings got heated with the acting Homeland Security Secretary McAleenan -- excuse me -- over the family separation conditions at the border. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): I get you. You feel like you're doing a great job, right? Is that what you're saying?

KEVIN MCALEENAN, ACTING HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We're doing our level best in a very --

(CROSSTALK)

CUMMINGS: What does that, what does that mean when a child is sitting in their own feces? Can't take a shower? Come on, man. What's that about? None of us would have our children in that position. They are human beings.

And I'm trying to figure out, and I get tired of folks saying, they're just beating up on the border patrol. They're just beating up on homeland security. What I'm saying is I want to concentrate on these children. And I want to make sure that they are OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, the border crisis, Michael, the president's racist attacks, are these race issues reaching a boiling point now?

HIGGINBOTHAM: I think unfortunately they are. And you know, it is time for all Americans to stand up, to take a position because we are really at a situation where we need to make sure that we take stand against racism.

This country is a special country. This country is better than what Trump is putting forward. And if Americans stand tall on this, and I believe Trump has made a mistake.

I think you will see a majority of Americans come out and say, look, this racism is wrong. The statements were wrong and they need to stop. And I think you are going to see that at the polls, if not at the upcoming election.

LEMON: Douglas, weigh in on this. What do you think?

BRINKLEY: Well, I think, you know, Donald Trump is a product of right-wing radio. He used to listen to these racist, bigoted taunts on Bob Grant's radio show for decades in New York, things that Rush Limbaugh might say and it has become normal to him.

He has no sense of American history, Trump, so he just -- he's just media -- just does media. So, I was stunned in 2016 when you had Trump running for office, the lowest mark of FDR, our great president, was the Japanese internment camps in World War II. Trump loves those camps. The lowest moment of Dwight Eisenhower's presidency was Operation

Wetback and Trump praised Eisenhower for his worst moment.

[23:09:58] He likes detention camps. He likes arguing about immigration and saying who is the real American and who is not with himself being the judge.

The big question is in 2016, he could have said Trump is a one offer kind of third-party billionaire, let's give him a try. He now is a proud overt racist. And if the American people vote for him, it does tell us a lot about our country this late in the 21st century.

LEMON: So, Peter, you've heard Lindsey Graham say the squad, you know, those women that they hate Israel. The president also said this. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You look at what they've said. I have clips right here, the most vile, horrible statements about our country, about Israel, about others. It's up to them. They can do what they want. They can leave, they can stay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Peter, listen. It is true that Representative Omar and Tlaib have made controversial statements about Israel. But is Trump doing this deliberately?

BEINART: First of all, to Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are American citizens and American members of Congress. They have the right to have any opinion they want about America and Israel. Right? Just because they're people of color doesn't mean they have to go on bended knee and basically say whatever Donald Trump wants them to say.

They have the right to their opinions. Rashida is a Palestinian. She has seen firsthand in her own family the immense suffering of Palestinians who live without basic rights in the West Bank like her own grandmother. Why wouldn't she be a critic of Israel? Right?

And I love the fact that on the one hand, Donald Trump says that basically, and his supporters say, you can't accuse Donald Trump of bigotry. Right? And then yet they call Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar anti-Semites all the time without virtually citing any evidence at all.

LEMON: Listen, whenever they say that, I want to know what the evidence is. Because, you know, I did a fact check on what they about it. And what she did say, and you talk about it, about the Benjamins, about Hamas and Gaza, she's talked about the conflict there.

But then she said, she apologized and said that she was learning from her comments, which is something the president hasn't done. And by the way, they were elected because of those positions. But go on.

BEINART: Right. And when -- (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: In part because of it.

BEINART: If Ilhan Omar is anti-Semitic for saying that AIPAC is influenced is because of the Benjamins, then Donald Trump is anti- Semitic because he told the Republican Jewish coalition in 2015 that they would support him because he didn't want their money. Right?

Donald Trump has actually been more blatant about associating Jews with money and with due loyalty than Ilhan Omar has. Right? So, there is no good faith in this whatsoever.

What this is, is an attempt to delegitimize these women because Donald Trump is threatened by the demographic and cultural changes that they represent. And he doesn't want those people to be able to express themselves politically.

LEMON: The ADLC Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted this out. He said, "Donald Trump is using Israel to defend his blatant racism only hurts the Jewish community. He doesn't speak for any of us. We call on all leaders across the political spectrum to condemn these racist, xenophobic tweets and using Jews as a shield."

Thank you -- that was important to point that out. Thank you very much. I appreciate all of you.

Are the racist comments coming from the president freeing Americans to express hateful attitudes out loud? We'll dig into that. That's next.

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: This is a week highlighted by President Trump's racist tweets against four congresswomen of color, telling them to go back to their countries even though they are American citizens.

And tonight, there's another example that words matter. That words can hurt people. A conventional store cashier in Illinois taking it upon himself to question the citizenship of customers and telling them, quote, "they need to go back to their country."

I want to bring in now CNN's Sara Sidner.

Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, for those who have not experienced racist vitriol that you have and I have in person, look no farther than viral videos to remind us that people are xenophobic and racist to other folks' face. And that is part of the American fabric.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm an American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: A gas station clerk in Naperville, Illinois, railing on a customer who said she was trying to buy a bag of chips.

Carolina Buitron says the clerk questioned her legal status and that of her two cousins waiting outside.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you a citizen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. What is your problem?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you know the rules?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your problem? What is your problem?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They need to go back to their country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: This incident popping up Tuesday. Just a few days after President Trump's racist tweets telling American congresswomen to go back to their crime-infested countries.

There is of course no way to know whether this incident has any connection to President Trump's comments. But experts who track hate in America say statistics reveal during divisive events or political cycles, racists are emboldened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN LEVIN, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF HATE AND EXTREMISM, CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY: After political events, particularly emotionally charged political speeches, around some divisive issue, we've seen hate crimes spike when leaders talk. And we've also seen hate crimes decline when leaders urge tolerance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: Brian Levin is the director of the Center of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, which studies hate crime data.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEVIN: There is a printed circuit of stereotypes and the more these stereotypes are out in the ether, the more these unstable and angry people are likely to act on them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: Case in point, in 2018, a Los Angeles woman gets in a landscaper's face as he worked, invoking President Trump's words about Mexicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you hate us?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because you're Mexicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we're Mexicans?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

[23:20:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're honest people right here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Rapists?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rapists?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And animals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many people have I raped?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even the president of the United States says you're a rapist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many drugs have I dealt?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: In this 2017 incident --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My (muted) is the greatest country in the world. My country is the greatest country in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: On a beach in Texas, a man attacks Muslim beachgoers invoking Trump's name.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump (muted). Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What else, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (muted) Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: And now Trump targets American congresswomen of color telling them to go back to crime- infested countries from which they came.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: These are people that if they don't like it, they can leave. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: Three days later at a campaign rally --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD CHANTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: The president's hateful sentiments towards American progressive Congresswoman Ilhan Omar who emigrated from Somalia regurgitated by some of his core supporters. He now says he disagrees with the chants.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I felt a little bit badly about it. But I will say this. I did, and I started speaking very quickly. But it started up rather -- rather fast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIDNER: And as you have pointed out very specifically and clearly, actually, he let that chant go on for at least 13 seconds and simply picked up his stump speech without admonishing anybody. Clearly, some of his supporters are taking the president's sentiments to heart. Don.

LEMON: And then going back to that, leave it if you don't like it refrain later on in the speech --

SIDNER: Yes.

LEMON: -- a number of times. So, is there -- Sara, is there any data yet to indicate whether or not the hate incidents or crimes have gone up again?

SIDNER: Yes. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism is about to release a report they gave me. Some early information saying that what they have found so far when they look at as they regularly do, the biggest 30 cities in the country, that in 2018, in those 30 major cities, that hate crimes are having their steepest rise since 2015, those numbers scary for a lot of folks. Especially black and brown folks, Jewish folks who have taken the brunt of some of these hate crimes.

LEMON: Boy. Sara, thank you.

SIDNER: Yes.

LEMON: Thanks so much. I appreciate it.

So, she was supposed to be the moderator. Remember? Moderate the president. Ivanka Trump. But she's largely disappeared from public view amid the border crisis and her father's racist tweet rants. So, the question is, where is Ivanka? [23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: You heard that expert in Sara Sidner's story just before the break, saying that during divisive events or political cycles, hate crimes increase.

So, let's discuss now with the former Congresswoman Mia Love, also Elaina Plott is here, Max Boot as well, the author of "The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right."

Good evening. Mia, hearing that gas station clerk saying they need to go back to your country, to a customer as Sara pointed out, the incident popped up a few days after the president's racist tweets. We don't know whether the incident has any connection to the president but it is unsettling.

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if you look at what happened with the rally, I think unfortunately, not coming out, not apologizing, not saying that hey, I made these racist comments, is giving people permission to actually say all of these things. It is actually inciting the worst kind of divisiveness I have seen.

And if you think about what the United States tends to lose, it's that it's us being divisive.

LEMON: Yes.

LOVE: I mean, that is the thing that threatens the United States more than any, anything else in the world. It is this divisiveness and the fact that we're tearing each other apart.

LEMON: Yes.

LOVE: And I have to say that this is something that, I've hit a wall. It's really difficult to continue to help out and to protect policy when these things are coming out of the mouth and out of the tweets of the president --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Do you want to hear more of the GOP speaking out against what they heard?

LOVE: I think they have to. Look, I think it's -- we've got two responsibilities. As far as I'm concerned, I put two responsibilities on myself. One is to be very thoughtful about what I say. There are times where you want to speak out and your emotions say to do something and it's not necessarily the right thing to do. So, you have to think about it a little bit.

Second is when your mind catches up with your heart, you call it out for what it is. And to protect the Republican Party, they have to say, I'm sorry but this is not who we are. We don't want to be part of this. We don't want to be associated with this. And that is what you do. You hold people accountable to the platform and the principles of the party. LEMON: OK.

LOVE: And I'm telling you the principles of the party is not racist.

LEMON: Yes. You know, Max, people have been saying terrible things long before, you know, Donald Trump took office. Are things different now though?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think we have seen a change, Don, as the congresswoman was saying. I think what has basically happened is that, you know, whoever occupies the Oval Office has a very powerful bully pulpit and the kind of message they send really matters.

And the message that Donald Trump is sending is one of hatred, of division, of racism. And he is enabling and giving permission people who have those sentiments to begin with.

And I know just in my own personal life, in the last several years, I've gotten a bunch of messages on Twitter and e-mail saying some very -- go back to where you come from. Because I was born in Russia and so these people are saying go back to Russia or go to Israel because I'm Jewish.

[23:29:58] Just as I've gotten all this anti-Semitic filth that I never used to see before Donald Trump came along. Maybe it's a relatively small number of people but they are definitely being enabled by the kind of hateful rhetoric coming from Donald Trump, which is a kind of thing we have not heard in American politics since the dark days of George Wallace and Lester Maddux in the 1960s.

LEMON: Yeah. I would say that it has ramped up. I haven't seen comments like that, especially on social media until 2015, and all of this started. Listen, he didn't start it, but he certainly helped legitimize a lot of --

BOOT: He's amplifying --

LEMON: Yeah, amplifying.

BOOT: He is giving it legitimacy.

LEMON: One person we haven't seen, Elaina, we haven't heard from throughout this controversy over the president's racist attack on "The Squad" is Ivanka Trump. And you cover this in your new piece. It's in The Atlantic. Let me just read a little it from it.

It says, "Where is Ivanka? When flashy opportunities arise, such as the chance to play diplomat with Kim Jong-un, the edges of her purview, which she often defines as 'women's economic empowerment,' become conveniently blurry. But when the du jour is particularly messy, she is quick to clarify its limits, thus absolving herself of accountability for problems that exist outside of it."

Listen, that is nothing new. There are other issues where she's done the same thing. You say that she's using her narrow portfolio as a shield.

ELAINA PLOTT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT FOR THE ATLANTIC: And I think the reason that this feels particularly subversive, sinister in this moment is that we just saw her last month, Don, come off of this, you know, "glamorous trip" to the demilitarized zone where you have this historic meeting between the president and the North Korean dictator on the North Korean side of the boundary.

And then suddenly reports reveal that it wasn't just President Trump that had this meeting with Kim Jong-un to discuss their nuclear program. It was also Ivanka Trump, his daughter, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who, you know, have used their portfolios in the past quite regularly as a reason to not dive in on the issues of the day or the noise, as she likes to call it.

She says, "My portfolio is about women's economic empowerment." You know, "This issue that everyone is clamouring about right now is not something that is in my purview." Nuclear weaponry though is not under the purview of uplifting women along the Ivory Coast in Africa.

LEMON: Yeah.

PLOTT: So what we see here is sort of this convenient toggling between -- well, when I would like to be a part of the historic photo op, I will kind of say that, well, I'm the first daughter, I can kind of do whatever I want. But when it comes to --

LEMON: It's not that. It's not that. She is in the administration. And if he didn't want, if he doesn't want criticism, if she wants to use that excuse, then she should not be part of the administration.

She can't say, well, I'm the first daughter, I can do whatever I want, but I am also an adviser to the president of the United States. No, you're an adviser to the president of the United States. You can't do what you want, especially when it comes to the public. You have to be held accountable. And listen --

PLOTT: Well, that's it --

LEMON: Elaina, I got to tell you that. Every time something like this happens, I always notice, wow, this has to be a PR strategy. The New York Times is reporting tonight that Ivanka Trump spoke with her father this morning about the chanting. And you actually detailed in your piece that anonymously sourced reports like this often pop up to try to show that she's one of those moderating voices. That's a PR strategy. Somebody is planting that, correct?

PLOTT: It is absolutely a PR strategy. And Don, I mean, it came conveniently several hours after my piece ran and got a lot of attention. It is not really something that has happened that often in the last year in particular. But, you know, when it comes to the border, when it comes to these racist attacks, she at least in the past has tried to seem like she is a check on the conscience of this White House. We haven't seen that at all in the past. And I do think that there is, you know, a nervousness mounting in this White House that if she wants to still play that game, you know, the anonymous source has to be doled out every once in a while.

LEMON: Mia, I want to give you one more question, because there was also anonymous "New York Times" op-ed by a senior official in the administration, promised America that they were part of the resistance inside the Trump administration. Where is that person while the president presides over chants of "send her back" at his rallies?

LOVE: I have no idea. I absolutely have no idea. Again, everybody wants to feel like this president at least has their back. If you're an American citizen, this president will have your back. I'm really disappointed in what I see.

You can be upset with Representative Omar. You can say, look, I'm going to call you out for your comments. And you can say -- you can even go as far as saying, if you don't like it here, this is a free country, you can go where you please, but don't say, go back to the country where you came from, because that encompasses all of us.

[23:34:57] I don't know if you know this but Donald Trump's grandfather is from Germany. His dad actually hid his history up until 1980. So, you know, he did not grow out of the soil here. His ancestors immigrated here, too.

PLOTT: Most of us are from somewhere else.

LOVE: That's who we are.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, unless you're Native American. The only people who can say --

PLOTT: Exactly.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you all. Thank you. I appreciate it. A federal search warrant released detailed how then candidate Trump and his allies scrambled in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign to arrange a hush money deal to hide his alleged affair.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:39:56] LEMON: Court documents unsealed today reveal that the FBI believed then candidate Trump was closely involved in the hush money payments made by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, and that he and top campaign aides rushed along with Cohen to cover up his alleged affair with a porn star.

Joining me now to discuss is former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, also Areva Martin is with us as well, author of "Make It Rain."

Good evening to both of you. Renato, you're first. Documents show calls involving Michael Cohen, Hope Hicks, and then candidate Donald Trump after the Access Hollywood tape was released as the campaign scramble to do damage control. What do these filings tell us -- what, I should say, do these filings tell us about Trump's role in the hush money payments?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it sure shows that he knew about the hush money payments while they were happening even though, of course, he had denied that repeatedly, publicly. There is no question that he was in the thick of it. That's what an FBI agent actually told the federal judge, that the agent concluded about the calls. And they're right in the middle of all the calls.

In other words, Cohen is calling Trump then Hicks then David Pecker at the American Media, the company that owned the Enquirer, and then, you know, going back and forth with the opposing attorney who is representing Stormy Daniels. So it is very hard to see anything but the president being involved in that transaction.

LEMON: Areva, remember when the president said this aboard Air Force One? Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no. What else?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Then why -- why did Michael Cohen make this, if there was no truth to her allegations?

TRUMP: You have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you'll have to ask Michael Cohen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: I don't know.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: OK, Areva, so here's the thing. Court filings show that Cohen spoke to candidate Trump at least twice on the day he transferred the money to pay off Stormy Daniels. We know within 30 minutes of speaking to Trump, Cohen opened his bank, opened a new account, and transferred the $130,000 payment. How damaging is that?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it just shows, Don, that Donald Trump has absolutely zero credibility with respect to that statement that he didn't know what was going on. I think Michael Cohen made it very clear in his testimony before Congress that he was acting at the direction and in coordination with Trump and other members of the Trump Organization.

That has been corroborated by executives at AMI and that has been corroborated by the information that was revealed today with respect to the warrants that the FBI got as they were investigating the whole hush money payment scheme. Donald Trump is just not credible. Let's just call it what it is. He lied. He absolutely positively knew what Michael Cohen was doing. He was attempting to hush Stormy Daniels up, silence her, prevent her from talking about an affair that they had so that it wouldn't be revealed.

We have to talk about the fact that this was happening right after the Access Hollywood tapes had come out. So he is already facing this very damaging information with respect to the election that was about two weeks away. So to have another big story come out about Donald trump and an affair with a porn star would have been what I believe we should have all been thinking would have been devastating to his campaign.

So here we are. The president, Michael Cohen and other members of his team working very quickly and feverishly to silence Stormy Daniels, to catch and kill this story so the American people would never find out about it just prior to the election.

LEMON: Renato, here is what the House Intel chairman, Adam Schiff, tweeted today. This is a quote. "There was ample evidence to charge Trump with the same campaign crimes Cohen went to prison for. Were Trump not the sitting president, he would likely be criminally charged as Cohen's co-conspirator." Is he right? President Trump is only avoiding charges because of the Justice Department's guidelines?

MARIOTTI: Well, certainly that's the conclusion that I would draw, that the Justice Department guidelines prevented him from being charged. I don't think that we can be sure necessarily that Trump would have been charged because Cohen has his own set of problems. We don't know. One thing we don't know from these documents is what Michael Cohen told prosecutors.

We do know the Southern District of New York wasn't willing to give him cooperation credit. They thought he was holding something back. We don't know exactly what that was. But I will say this. The evidence that was unveiled today that was set out in the search warrant affidavits, I think, is strong evidence. If Cohen was able to testify, if prosecutors found him credible on these issues, I think that certainly there would be enough evidence to charge Trump.

LEMON: Areva, could he face charges, the president, once he leaves office?

MARTIN: Absolutely. Let's assume that the Democrats win.

[23:45:01] There is a new president in 2020. There is a new attorney general. The new attorney general can direct those prosecutors in New York to convene the grand jury and to indict Donald Trump. I think it is clear that the reason that we're not looking at an indictment today is because of those regulations, those DOJ regulations that say that you cannot indict a sitting president, but nothing about those regulations say that Donald Trump cannot be indicted once he is out of the White House.

And the evidence, they suggest that there is ample evidence to support an indictment once he leaves the White House.

LEMON: Areva, Renato, thank you so much. I appreciate it. It has been over five years since more than 200 school girls were kidnapped in Nigeria. The story of the missing Chibok girls, next.

[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Five years ago, more than 200 schoolgirls in a small town in Nigeria were kidnapped by the militant Islamic group Boko Haram. Many have been freed, but more than 100 girls are still missing.

Joining me now is Isha Sesay, a former CNN colleague and my friend, who is the author of the new book "Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram." It is so good to have you on.

ISHA SESAY, JOURNALIST, AUTHOR: Hello, friend.

LEMON: Thank you. Congratulations on the book.

SESAY: Thank you.

LEMON: I can't wait -- hello, friend. I can't wait to talk to you about it. Can I just talk to you about, though, the president attacking these four women of color?

SESAY: Sure.

LEMON: What do you think of that?

SESAY: You know I'm not going to pull any punches for someone like myself who moved here 14 years ago.

LEMON: Became a citizen last year.

SESAY: Became a citizen just last year, because I believe in all that America has, that it's possible for people and their personal journeys to make of themselves what they want to. It's disgusting. It's disheartening. This president has said a lot of things that I have found deeply troubling.

But this was painful. There is something deeply painful about it, painful about the venom in it. And it has people in my circle, not necessarily me, but people for the first time, people I know who moved here in the same way I have, thinking, is it time to leave? Because I tell you what, the thing about this, Don, that I often think about is there is this notion should this president not be re-elected, this country will naturally revert back.

LEMON: No. This is going to take a while because he has exposed something that was there beneath the surface, and he has elevated and legitimatized hatred in this country. Everyone, almost everyone here has ancestors who are from somewhere else.

SESAY: Yeah.

LEMON: He is saying that it's a winning strategy for him, this whole otherizing. How dangerous do you think this is, Isha?

SESAY: It's deeply dangerous. I mean, first of all, again, it seemed to me almost kind of, you know, for want of a better word, moronic, oxymoronic that you had people chanting "send her back" when this country was built by people from other places and enraged by her speaking out.

Whether you like it or not, some of the things she said, this country is built on the principle of free speech. So it's almost like they're criticizing her, but they're actually criticizing the essence of America, you know, for all this that she's anti-American.

You're actually criticizing the essence of what makes this country great, our diversity and the fact that you can speak your mind. And it's so dangerous, this otherizing. You know, you hear of people wearing hijabs now being attacked. Can we just say -- can we move it away from, you know, the theory to the fact that these women now could potentially be in danger? And their family -- can we just talk about that reality?

LEMON: Well, I want to talk about this because this is a very dangerous situation, which is your book, which is what your book chronicles, "Beneath the Tamarind." Over 200 girls in Nigeria were kidnapped by Boko Haram back in 2014. You covered the story here on CNN. I remember you covering it and doing an excellent job. There you are right there on the ground.

SESAY: A younger me.

LEMON: A younger you. Tell us about these -- the -- when you found out these girls were taken and what you learned from that experience and what you've learned now.

SESAY: I think what I felt when the girls were taken, first and foremost, was the sense of outrage that they were taken from a school, a place they should have been safe. That these girls as I got to learn more about their stories were girls who almost to -- every last one of them comes from an extremely poor family.

They come from a part of the world where 50 percent of girls are married off before they're 16. So the fact that these girls who were 18, 19 on average when they were taken were in school makes them heroic.

I was outraged. And I think that one of the things that I found out as I researched the book was that it was a crime of opportunity. That when the terrorists arrived, they arrived looking for male students, who they had typically attacked in schools in Northeastern Nigeria, but because there was no security, they debated in front of the girls, should we set them on fire? Should we put them in burning rooms as the buildings were on fire or should we take them?

LEMON: Over 200 girls went missing. One hundred are back.

SESAY: Yeah, 107 are back. And can I just say this is another reason I wanted to write this book. I wanted people to move beyond the headlines and to get to know some of them. They are in a school, the majority of them, in Northeastern Nigeria, so they are back in the very place that these men didn't want them to be --

LEMON: Yeah.

SESAY: -- and they love it.

LEMON: Come here.

[23:55:00] It is so good to see you.

SESAY: Now I feel very short next to you.

LEMON: Thank you for coming on. It's so good to see you.

SESAY: Thank you.

LEMON: Isha Sesay. Her book, "Beneath the Tamarind Tree," available in bookstores and online now. So thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)