Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

President Trump Doubles Down On Attacks Against Rep. Elijah Cummings, Calling Him Racist; President's Racist Attacks Benefit Him; CNN Democratic Presidential Debates In The Next Two Nights. Aired 10- 11p ET

Aired July 29, 2019 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: We'll find a country desperate to go along.

Thank you for watching tonight, the eve of a big occasion. "CNN TONIGHT" with of the stars of tomorrow night, D. Lemon starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: He emboldens bigots.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: But bigots embolden him as well. There are many. Not all of his supporters are bigots. I'm not saying that. But there are people who are out there who don't stand up to this president. And so, what category does that put you in if you don't stand up to this president? When it is obvious beyond a doubt that what he is promoting is bigotry.

You use the word racist if you want. Some people use that word. But for me it's bigotry. Because it's more -- it's about blacks. It's about as you always --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: It's wider than that.

LEMON: You call it the brown menace.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: It's also about anti-Semites as well, and on and on. It's about misogynist. He emboldens that sort of thing because he thinks it will help him. He knows it will help him politically. And what does that say about as Americans that something like this can help him politically. It's unfathomable to me. I just don't understand it.

CUOMO: Well, look, we are in a culture reversal right nor. We spent years letting people know like this guy in Gilroy that you need to stay down and you need to stay away because we are not about you.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: That has reversed. Here's what I feel badly for. When we are in a place like this in Detroit and you know, on the radio show I get to talk to people across the people. He's doing them a disservice. The people who believe in him as a disruptor of the norm who will finally find some way for government to care about them and people like them.

Because now they've got to own all this talk and a lot of them didn't sign up for that. They sign up because they want manufacturing back, they want other things. You're right. Some people cotton to him because of the hate, but not all of them.

LEMON: There are many reasons that people -- that some people who did it on television do it because they feel that they have to politically. They're getting paid. It's paycheck somewhere.

CUOMO: Others are afraid of him.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And they're afraid of him. Right. And they're afraid of him. Other people do it because in some way they think it's a reflection of them. And if they call out his bad behavior, his bigotry and at times racism, then that makes them either bigoted, racist or complicit.

And I think that is something that you, you got to dig deep. That's a fantastic question to ask yourself in this moment. Who am I? What am I? What am I supporting? Is what I'm doing American? Is this the best way not only for me and for my family, for this country as well? Am I putting -- am I elevating or at least prioritizing bigotry and racism over the right thing to do?

CUOMO: I mean, I think --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And economic advantage as well.

CUOMO: Yes. And look, it is an obvious question.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: Because you cannot say that I love the president because of his economics and I don't like what he says on -- no, no. It's not like, the guy is picking one team over another in a football game.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: These are real divisions and he's playing on them. They cannot be dismissed. They may think they can be but they cannot. And tomorrow night, you know how much I love you. And it's going to be great to see you up there because this is chance. This country is desperate for better.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: Than it's getting right now.

LEMON: Yes. CUOMO: What man or woman can have a message and connection themselves as the proper agent for that message with the American people? And it's great that you're going to be bringing up that conversation.

LEMON: That is a very important question. And we have many important question that we are going to present to the candidates tomorrow night.

Always a pleasure, my friend. Get yourself a good night rest. We got some more work, some big work to deal with while we're here and in the future and beyond.

Chris Cuomo, the anchor of PRIME TIME, thank you, sir. See you soon.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. Live here in Detroit as you can see while we are counting down tonight one of our CNN Democratic presidential debates.

You see that countdown clock. There it is. We put it right there on your screen. Taking the stage tomorrow night beginning at 8 Eastern. Here we go. Williamson, Ryan, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Sanders, Warren, O'Rourke, Hickenlooper, Delaney, and Bullock.

And then on Wednesday, Bennet, Gillibrand, Castro, Booker, Biden, Harris, Yang, Gabbard, Inslee, and De Blasio. They will be up on the second night. Two nights 20 candidates. Every one of them vying for the nomination for the chance to run against the president.

Each of them will get a chance to answer tough questions and they are going to make their case to the American voter. And you'll hear the whole thing live right here on CNN, of course.

[22:04:56] But you know what we've got to talk about with the president of the United States is doing. What he's been doing. We've got to talk about his deliberate and intentional strategy of attacking people of color.

You know we have to talk about that. I wish I could say that I'm shocked or surprised. But I'm not. And you probably aren't either.

It is happening too many times. For the man who launched his political career by pushing the racist birther attack on President Barack Obama.

The president is the race-baiter-in-chief. Blatantly using his attacks to stir up his base and to distract you from what he doesn't want you to pay attention to.

His latest target is House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings. And that is no coincidence. The president is riled up about the chairman's investigations of the administration.

So, he goes on a Twitter tirade against Elijah Cummings and his majority black district by the way, which includes much of Baltimore calling it, and this is a quote, "a disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess." And then he goes onto tweet, quote, "no human being would want to live

there." No human being would want to live there. More than 600,000 human beings hard-working men and women, parents and their children, grandmothers and grandfathers. They live in Baltimore. They live in that city.

Imagine if that was your family that the president is insulting. Well, Elijah Cummings doesn't have to imagine. You know why? He's the son of former sharecroppers. He was born and raised in Baltimore. But the president insults him and degrades an entire community.

And doubles down by incredibly calling Chairman Cummings himself racist. By the way, it is really rich for this president to be slamming Baltimore calling it rat-infested since his son-in-law and his senior adviser Jared Kushner's family business owns thousands of Baltimore apartments, apartments with a history of code violations, including rodent infestation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's particularly ironic that the president is making these comments when we know here in 2017 that his son-in-law directly contributed to some of the neglect that the president reportedly is so concerned about today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I just want you to listen. Please listen to what one former tenant of a Kushner property told CNN's Randi Kaye about what it was like to live in one of those apartments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: So, what was it like to hear rats at night?

JOHN OLSZEWSKI, BALTIMORE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: My God. It was crazy. I could hear them gnawing. But you can't see them but I could hear it. And it just made me crazy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And despite the president's claim that Baltimore is rat- infested, House Republicans are holding their annual retreat there in September. I wonder if he'll speak at that retreat like he did last year.

But that word, infested. That word is a particularly loaded one coming from this president. A word he sure likes to use when he's attacking people of color. You remember his racist attack on those four Congresswomen.

Tweeting that they should go back to the, quote, "crime-infested places from which they came" even though every one of them is an American citizen. And you remember he tweeted that sanctuary cities which protect undocumented immigrants many of them people of color were crime-infested?

You remember when he tweeted that MS-13 was infesting our country? Infested. Infested. Infested. Infested over and over and over. In spite of that, you're not hearing a full-throated defense of Congressman Elijah Cummings from his good friend Congressman Mark Meadows.

He apparently couldn't even muster more than a secondhand defense if you can even call it that. Congressman Meadows sent a text to Rick Santorum giving him his permission to read it out loud on The Lead with Jake Tapper today.

And here's the quote. "No one works harder for his district than Elijah. He's passionate about the people he represents. I know Elijah is not a racist. I'm friends with both President Trump and Chairman Cummings. I know them both well. And neither is a racist."

That after Cummings really stuck his neck out to defend Meadows on live TV after Meadows took offense when he thought Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib had called him a racist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): If there's anyone who is sensitive with regard to race, it's me. Son of former sharecroppers that were basically slaves. So, I get it.

[22:10:05] I listen very carefully to Miss Tlaib. And I think and I don't want to -- I'm not going to put words in her mouth. But I think she said that she was not calling you a racist. And I thought that we could clarify that.

Because, Mr. Meadows, you know and of all the people on this committee, I've said it and got in trouble for it. That you're one of my best friends. I know that shocks a lot of people.

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): And likewise, Mr. Chairman.

CUMMINGS: Yes. But you are. And I would do -- and I can see and feel your pain. I feel it. And so, and I don't think Miss Tlaib intended to cause you that. That kind of pain, and that kind of frustration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That was then. This is now. Now things are different. So much for friendship. So much for reaching across the aisle when it is the right thing to do. For this president, for this administration, might makes right.

But here's another saying for you. One that is pretty important to our country, "E pluribus unum." It's right there on the presidential seal. One of many. Out of many, one. Out of many, one.

If you attack some Americans, you attack all of us. If you call some of our American communities disgusting, filthy, rat-infested, you insult all of us. If you say that no human being would want to live in Baltimore, you don't just insult thousands of human beings who do live there. You insult all of us.

And for the President of the United States to do this to attack us, to insult us, it's unworthy of the office.

I ask you before to imagine how you would feel if it were your family the president was insulting. How would you feel? Well, it is your family, the American family.

The president hosted 20 faith leaders and pastors in the Oval Office today. One of those pastors says that their meeting was not damage control in the wake of the president's attacks on Congressman Cummings and the city of Baltimore. He's Reverend Bill Owens. I'm going to talk to him next.

And coming up, what Democrats should learn from the last debate. We're going to tell you what to watch for in the CNN Democratic presidential debate tomorrow and Wednesday. Both nights beginning at 8 Eastern.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Welcome back, everyone. Live from Detroit. The president met today with 20 African-American pastors and faith leaders behind closed doors at the White House.

Joining me now one of those pastors, Reverend Bill Owens, is the founder and president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors.

Pastor, thank you so much for joining us. Good evening to you.

What did the president say about his attacks against these leaders of color and did any of the faith leaders raise concerns about that?

BILL OWENS, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, COALITION OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN PASTORS: Well, I think something was said in passing. I don't tune in to negative talk from any side. So, some things were mentioned and I took the position that we as black pastors should go down to Baltimore and see what we can do to help.

I'm not going to criticize if there's a need because I was born poor. When I was up until I was eight years old. I lived in the two-room house, no water, no lights, pot belly stove in the middle of the kitchen and until I was eight years old. So --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But, pastor, we have a delay, so pardon me for that. So, I just want to, just for the sake of time. And I don't mean to cut you off here.

OWENS: Sure.

LEMON: The question was what did the president say about his attacks against those leaders of color and did any of the faith leaders raise concerns about that?

OWENS: I don't remember him saying anything about leader -- the color -- leaders that are colored. That was some things discussed said, but I don't remember him referring to leaders of color.

LEMON: Did anybody there raise concerns about what he's been saying lately about people like Elijah Cummings or anyone?

OWENS: Well, that was not the purpose of the meeting today. Today the meeting was how can we help the black community. That is my concern. That was the purpose of the meeting. That is the reason I came to Washington. And that is my focus. Helping our inner-city young people especially. Our children. Our young people.

LEMON: So, the president tweeted today that he was looking forward to his meeting with wonderful inner-city pastors. Any concern for you that the president used this meeting with black leaders to insulate himself from that criticism?

OWENS: I don't think so. I don't think that at all because I've been to the White House four times in five months. So, there was nothing about insulating him from anything. He wanted to hear from us. What our concerns and what he could do to help us.

LEMON: So, pastor, you've said some controversial things before. In 2012, you equated President Obama's support of same sex marriage to supporting child molestation. You later walked that back. But that in itself is an outrageous statement. Why should anyone take you seriously?

OWENS: I've never said -- I've never said that. I have never said that. I have never said that. I have a difference with Obama about same sex marriage. I never mentioned a child about President Obama. Never, never, never. If I did, find it. I've never said it.

(CROSSTALK)

[22:20:08] LEMON: And this is a quote. OK. "If you watch the men who have been caught having sex with little boys you will note that all of them will say that they were molested as a child." Owens said at a news conference in 2012.

"For the president to done this type of thing is irresponsible. He later walked those comments back saying he didn't think the president was condoning molestation." Is that not correct?

OWENS: That is correct. I've never felt the president was doing -- as a matter of fact the president is a gentleman. We had a deep conversation with one of his key assistants to talk about the things that we disagree with him on. And the only thing I disagree with President Obama on was same sex marriage. That's the only thing.

Did reporters tried to get me into going to other avenues and I would not do it because I feel same sex marriage was on -- and I took that position and I take it now.

LEMON: So, you know, I know it's hard for you, you think it's hard to believe that Trump is racist. But he's repeatedly used racially charged language. He consistently attacks black and brown elected leaders. So, why is that hard to believe, pastor? OWENS: Well, I find President Trump leaders of all colors. He attacks

who he will. He's his own man. And I can't -- I can't dictate what he should and should not do. But he does not just attack black people. He attacks anybody. And you know it.

LEMON: So, as a man of faith, as a Christian, you're saying he attacks anyone. It sounds like you're condoning attacks? Is that Christianly or Godly?

OWENS: I'm just stating a statement of fact. I'm not condoning anything. I'm stating a statement of fact. President Trump does not pick the people he attacks because of color. He attacks anybody he feels needed.

LEMON: And is that OK with you?

OWENS: Well, I'm not his judge. But I've been attacked. Let me tell you something, let me give you a little background. I was in seminary. And I started recruiting students for this university. And I got criticism from my leaders. From men and ministers why are you down at that white man school?

So, I'm used to criticism. I couldn't believe it. We started out with three students and put 400 students in a university, inner city students that this ministry CAP was born out of, which was giving them a chance ministry, asking the university to give these students a chance to go to college. Students who --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So, pastor, listen, I appreciate your --

OWENS: Yes.

LEMON: I appreciate you're giving me your biography. I do. But for the sake of time because I don't have a lot of time with you. I have a lot of show ahead.

OWENS: Right.

LEMON: What does that have to do with this president?

OWENS: I was criticized then and I'm criticized now directly or indirect for meeting with the president. What I'm trying to say is I do what I can to help our young people. Wherever that is, however that is. And I have an agenda to help our black young people and poor people of any color throughout this country. I've done it and I'll do it again. And I will work with the president on that agenda.

LEMON: Did you work with President Barack Obama on that agenda?

OWENS: I worked with all presidents on that agenda. All presidents. I work with anybody that wants to help this country and help our inner- city young people.

I don't want them to go through what I went through to get where I am. Thank God I'm blessed. Starting from nothing on the other side of scratch. I have three university degrees. I thank God for that because God blessed me in this great country.

LEMON: Pastor Owens, again, thank you so much for coming on. I appreciate your time.

OWENS: Thank you.

LEMON: We've got more on the president's attacks on Congressman Elijah Cummings. One of my next guests reports that President Trump's advisors think that the attacks are good for him when it comes to his reelection in 2020. But are they really?

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Welcome back. We're live from Detroit.

President Trump renewing his attacks on House Oversight Chairman Cummings tonight. Slamming him over what he calls zero Dem help on the border.

That after the president called Congressman Elijah Cummings' district a disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess that no one would want to live in.

Let's bring in now Toluse Olorunnipa, and Larry Sabato. Larry is the author of "The Kennedy Half Century."

Good evening, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

Toluse, I want to go to you first. You're reporting that President Trump's advisers think that overall message, his overall message in these attacks that is good for the president. Why is that?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They think they only need to win specific states. They don't have to win the popular vote. They lost the popular vote last time around. So, they're focusing on states like Michigan where we are now. And Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

And they believe that the message to the white working class is that the president is standing up for you. The president is a patriot. All of these other people are trying to turn the entire country into Baltimore or into an urban area that maybe foreign to someone who lives in rural part of the country or who may live in suburbia.

The president is trying to paint a picture that, you know, we are trying to protect the country from becoming like urban America. And that's the strategy that they're going for.

Basically, trying to juice the turnout among the white working class even though they feel that it may offend some people who are minorities or live in some of these cities. They don't necessarily need votes from people in California or in Baltimore because they're focused on the electoral map and this that that message works.

LEMON: And it -- he thinks it galvanizes his base. But Larry, let me bring you in. His attacks targeted elected officials of color. Is that a winning strategy for the president?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Not necessarily. Because I think the mistake they're making, Don, is they're looking at the white working class in isolation from all of the other complex parts of the electorate. There are lot of moving parts.

You know, this kind of overt racism is going to turn off a lot of white college graduates that Trump carried the last time. Or it may stimulate additional turnout among white college graduates, people who didn't like either Trump or Clinton last time but may come in to vote Trump out in 2020.

[22:30:04] And about the minority vote, I think they're way off. Donald Trump got 8 percent of African-Americans in 2016, 13 percent of African-American males. You know, I think there are a lot of African- Americans in both genders who are turned off by the way the president is approaching this.

Not to mention the 27 percent of his Hispanics that Trump got in 2016. I don't think most people believe that they're happy to hear the kinds of words coming out of President Trump's mouth or Twitter's mouth.

LEMON: To that point, the Republicans are saying that the president's attacks are about ideology and patriotism. Is that argument working, do you think?

OLORUNNIPA: They tried that argument when it was about the squad and the four congresswomen, because the president didn't specifically talk about race. And they tried to try out that argument and tried to shift the focus away from, you know, go back to your country and turning back to this is about socialism versus freedom. But that argument isn't really holding water now that the president is making these attacks on Congressman Cummings.

Because the president is specifically talking about the African- American community, specifically saying that Congressman Cummings has not done enough for his district in Baltimore and saying that, you know, black voters need to come to the Republican side, because the president feels like he's doing for more them. You saw that he brought in the inner city pastors. So the president is making this overtly about race. And it's making it hard for his campaign to say it's not about race, because the president is on that --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But he'll say or tweet something that many people find offensive. And then his apologists will come on and twist themselves to try to turn it into something that can be about policy, or to say look, the president has a point when the whole point was not what they're saying it is.

OLORUNNIPA: Yeah. We have seen this from the president a lot. He gives his supporters an out. He gives them an opportunity to say this is not about the offensive that it really it is about when you read between the lines. LEMON: Because he knows they're going to take the bait.

OLORUNNIPA: Right. He knows that his supporters will have an out. They'll have a way to protect him and defend him. And they do it.

LEMON: And protect themselves as well, to inoculate themselves.

OLORUNNIPA: Right.

LEMON: Being associated with that.

OLORUNNIPA: Right, because a lot of them are not comfortable with the overtly racist language of the president, but they want to defend him. They want to protect him. They don't want to be out of step with him. And he gives them the opportunity to do that.

LEMON: Larry, I want to put up these numbers. This is from the latest Quinnipiac poll, OK? Among independents, 57 percent say that they would definitely not vote for President Trump again. He's underwater. Does the president risk alienating independent voters, especially the ones who voted for him in 2016?

SABATO: Is the Pope Argentinean? Yes. I think there's a real chance he's alienating some of them. And look, yes, many of those independents lean to one party or the other disproportionately, to Democrats. So that's reflecting their Democratic nature, probably. But remember, it's much more significant than that, because 54 percent of Americans voted against Donald Trump in 2016.

What reason has he given that 54 percent for voting for him, particularly on social issues like race?

LEMON: Larry, Toluse, thank you both for your time. I appreciate it. The president attacks on Congressman Cummings are part of the pattern, really. We're going to dig into his strategy and what it means for 2020. That's next.

[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump's blistering attacks on the majority African- American Baltimore district represented by Elijah Cummings revealing a campaign strategy which appears to mirror his 2016 playbook. I want to bring in now Kirsten Powers, Nia-Malika Henderson, former Florida Governor Nominee, Andrew Gillum, and Joe Lockhart.

So good to have you all here in Detroit, thank you so much for joining us.

Mayor, we're going to start with you because President Trump once called you a stone cold thief.

ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A thief, and then he said I presided over the most dangerous city in America.

LEMON: So you have been on the same side as Elijah Cummings. Then what's the best way to respond to his current attacks? GILLUM: I mean the truth is that I apologize in advance for my

exhaustion on this issue, because we've been talking about quite a bit today. But this president has decided very clearly where he is. He has decided electorally, strategically that it is best for him, as he seeks a reelection, to turn us against each other. I mean he's literally running a race war of a campaign.

I think most frustrating to me, as a former mayor of a city, is that when you're the mayor of a city, and this happened under the Obama administration. They called all of us, Democrats, Republicans in. We worked together to address issues of infrastructure and health and how we'll resolve homelessness in our communities. This president is now actively working to divide people at the level, that in my opinion, is the most pure when it comes to the political system.

He's corrupting that. And I really do fear for what this next election may foretell. If we don't do the right thing by getting rid of him now --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: What does that mean? What does that mean?

(CROSSTALK)

GILLUM: What it says about us, right? There's not a person in this country who right now can deny what it means right now if you were to go out and vote for Donald Trump. It isn't the stock market. It isn't healthcare. He's not running on any of that. He's hardly mentioning it, quite frankly. Even though, it could be to his favor. What he is decided to run toward is a war of race, of urban versus suburban versus rural. And I think we're better than that.

[22:39:49] LEMON: Well, let me bring in, because that brings me to Joe Lockhart. Joe, you tweeted this, and it's strong. You say anyone who supports a racist or a racist strategy is a racist themselves, 2020 is a moment of reckoning for America. Vote for Donald Trump, and you are a racist. Don't hide it like a coward. Wear that racist badge proudly and see how it feels. What's been the reaction?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have heard from every Donald Trump supporter in the last 24 hours. Here's the point I was trying to make, which is in 2016, he spoke in dog whistles. In 2020, they're now actively going out and telling people we're going to run on race. We're going to run and try to generate enough support among what we believe are racists in this country.

And that will take us over the finish line. So your ability to sit back and say no, no, no, I disagree with some of those tweets is gone. If you're going into the voting booth and pull that lever for Donald Trump, you know he's cynically trying to turn this country back to the days of George Wallace and before. And that, in my view, makes you complicit and makes you a racist.

LEMON: Nia, I want you to weigh in on this, because he -- the president called his racist attacks on those four congresswomen of color a winning strategy. He's seeing this division as a strategy. But go on, talk about that.

(CROSSTALK)

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think that's right. He sees it as a way to bind his supporters to one another, to bind them together emotionally, to make them think about their identity, their white identity, an identity based --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: This is identity politics.

HENDERSON: It is. And, you know, we have been talking about this. I mean at least I've been talking about it for a while. And, you know, you go back to 2016, there was a little trepidation about talking about it. Because it was much more coded to most people, you can kind of say maybe this was really about a fear of economic displacement or being economically left behind.

It really had this overlay, underlay subtext of being left behind, because of the demographic changes in America. I do think it -- on the one hand it has the effect of binding his people together, and these are white Americans (Inaudible) economic groups. It's not just white working class of voters. But it also has -- I talked to some Democratic strategists about this.

When they talk to black voters and focus groups about this, what they see from black voters isn't energizing to -- when they mention the president's racism. It's more like sort of apathy. And there is a fear, I think, among Democratic strategists, particularly among the so-called surge voters, African-Americans, sort of the younger African-American voters.

That it kind of just makes them disengage in the entire process -- we know it. You know, and the focus then comes to Democrats. Like, what are what Democrats going to do for African-Americans?

LEMON: Kirsten, listen. His presidency has been all about governing by minority. His approval is averaged around 40 percent through his term. Does he need to worry about expanding his base? And weigh in on all of this, because I've been waiting to hear from you as well.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah. I mean I think -- first of all, has any leader ever had a lower opinion of their supporters, right? I mean he obviously has the lowest opinion of his supporters. He's saying I have a strategy that's based on the belief that you're a racist. And I don't know why they're not offended by that, right? If they're not racist, they should be extremely, extremely offended by the fact that he's doing this.

You know, I think as by conservative standards, he's been a pretty successful president. He actually has quite a few things he could be running on. There are things that make them very happy. For example, the Supreme Court, which was the number one issue for most of the voters who voted for him. You know, he has been able to do a lot of things that make them happy. LEMON: That gives him that much cover, do you think?

POWERS: I think that and the economy doing well. And, you know, the feeling that he's standing up for, you know, there's real sense among Christians that they're under siege. And he stands up for Christians. There's various things you hear them talking about that they say they love about him. So why does he have to do this strategy with them? Why does he believe that this is the only...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let me ask you -- that's a good question for you, because you have discussed with me, personally and on this network, about this sort of epiphany or -- I wouldn't say metamorphosis because not -- that you are ever racist or -- that you -- that you may have had a blind spot. And that you -- there was an awakening for you that you -- you wanted to tell people about it.

POWERS: Yeah. And then I said some things. And I can relate to what Joe's saying, where I, you know, for a week and a half was, you know, getting death threats and, you know, trying to have a conversation basically as a white person, saying look, we have to all be realistic about the fact we have blind spots that we benefit from a system that is institutionally racist.

And we need to have a conversation about that. And that frankly didn't seem to be a conversation that very many Trump supporters were interested in having.

LEMON: Yeah, interesting.

(CROSSTALK)

GILLUM: To the point of the fact that the president has a lot of other issues, if he wanted to, quite frankly, raise them for his supporters. They would be happy with his appointments of the Supreme Court. They would be happy with the judgeships at the federal level (Inaudible) Supreme Court -- his tax breaks to the wealthy as one percent, so on and so forth. So why isn't he going after that?

[22:45:01] And I agree there's something really sinister about this approach, which if I am a Trump supporter, I tell you. I have got to be honest with you. I would be insulted with the fact that what he has resolved me to be is basically in-line with him, as it relates race, race relations, and racism in this country.

LEMON: I hate to give you a short trip on this, but I have a short time. Do you see similarities between Trump's intolerance and Nixon's southern strategy?

LOCKHART: I think there's been sort of a reversal. There's a famous (Inaudible) quote where he talks about what we learned in 68 with Wallace and then Nixon in 72, was we have offended too many voters by, you know, using the N-word. So now, we just don't use it. But we do, we speak in code. What Trump has done is reversed it and gone back in time. And he's now doing everything but using the N-word, and being, you

know, the code has been thrown out. It's all now explicit race- baiting. And, you know, again, I don't think he has got that greater record to run on. But that's an argument for another night. But it is hard to see how the people in the (Inaudible) -- he expands his base enough to get.

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: And maybe he doesn't need to, right? I mean that's the thing. There could be enough of these voters in states like Michigan, in Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, that look, you know, either see racism as a good thing, you know, sort of the racially divisive language as a good thing or overlook it and say the stock market is doing well.

LEMON: We were all here in 2016.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Oh, my god. This is happening all over again. Thank you, all. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The CNN Democratic presidential debates over the next two nights are make or break for all 20 candidates, really. Joining me now to discuss is Nina Turner. She is a national co-chair of Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign. It's always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much to you, Nina, good to see you.

NINA TURNER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN NATIONAL CO-CHAIR: Good to be here, Don.

LEMON: You know we're just hours away from this debate. What is the senator's goal for tomorrow night, please?

TURNER: Be himself. Be consistent. Really talk to the American people about why he is the best candidate to lead this nation, especially, especially in light of the person that we have in the White House. He has been consistent. He has been a strong advocate for what is just, right, and good, all of his life, even before he got into elected office. So it's simple for him. Be himself.

LEMON: So the polls go up, the polls go down.

TURNER: They do.

LEMON: I'm just wondering if you guys are looking at the polls everyday the way people on television are looking at the ratings.

TURNER: No, because we're doing the work.

LEMON: OK. So listen, let me ask you. Since this last debate, the senator is down 2 points to 11 percent. Elizabeth Warren is up to 15 percent, according to a new Quinnipiac poll out today. Why do you think that is and what do you think of it? TURNER: I mean polls go up, they go down. They're a snapshot in

time.

LEMON: Right.

TURNER: The real poll that we're the most concerned about is the one that happens on Election Day during the primary cycle of 2020. So I want the American people to hear from me. When your candidate is up in the polls, the polls are fantastic, and when they're not doing so well, you just discount those.

LEMON: Really? I never heard that from a strategist.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And that's what happens. Thank you for being honest about that. So -- but you know the criticism that's happening right now, especially at the center of the party, that the party is moving too far to the left. How will the senator address that?

TURNER: The way he always has. And you know him. And we can roll the tape, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years. The senator has been consistent about a rigged system, a rigged economy that hurts the working poor and barely middle class in this country. He's not going to change how he feels about -- not just feels but his efforts to stand up for the citizens of this country (Inaudible).

LEMON: Over a dozen -- let's talk about some more issues. Over a dozen of the candidates support -- now support some version of Medicare for All. Do you think health care is going to be a definitive issue in this campaign, Nina?

TURNER: I do. And as we traveled the country, we hear that, jobs and healthcare. And, you know, the senator and I just met with some brothers from the Teamsters Union. And even though, you know, you have some candidates saying, well, the union workers work hard for their healthcare. Some of that healthcare is not really covering their needs. These particular members within the Teamsters believe in a Medicare for all system. It's a system that's not attached to a job.

It is a system by where the average family will save money and they don't have to have their doctor haggle with whether or not they can get the prescriptions that they need or a procedure that they need. The way that it is now, Don, the insurance company gets to tell your doctor what you can get and cannot get, because if it cuts into their profits, they really don't care if you live or die.

LEMON: So let's talk some news of the day. President Trump just dragged Senator Sanders into his Twitter attacks (Inaudible) Representative Cummings. How does your campaign respond to that?

TURNER: Well, the senator made a claim that President Trump is lying again. And he's being told who he is. It is more than unfortunate that we have a president instead of trying to solve the problems of this country, he just pours gasoline and lights the match, and he watches everything burn. Senator Sanders has been a champion. So while President Trump and his father were discriminating against African-Americans in Harlem, Senator Sanders was protesting, you know, against segregation and discrimination.

You know, while this man lied to the working people of this country and said I am going to cut your taxes, I am going to save your healthcare, you're going to have the best healthcare in the country. He tried to cut it.

LEMON: I have to get to this.

TURNER: OK.

LEMON: Because in the -- Senator Sanders sat down with hip-hop superstar, Cardi B. tonight.

TURNER: He did.

LEMON: Here's what she said on Instagram that he shared his plans on how he wants to change the country. What did they talk about?

[22:55:03] TURNER: I mean -- we can't tell. We've got to leave something spicy. But it is really good to have Cardi B. stand up and, you know, for Senator Sanders and to support him.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Does this show his support, do you think, among younger voters and especially younger --

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: You know, in 2016 he won five million more votes than both Secretary Clinton and President Trump. The senator got some cool, you know, between Cardi B. and Killer Mike, and Sister Turner. Don't leave me out, my generation has got some cool too.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Thank you. I have to get some glasses advice, because every time I see you, you have got some great glasses on. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. I'll see you definitely tomorrow night.

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: I look forward to it.

LEMON: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)