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Democratic Candidates Going After Joe Biden; President Trump Watched The Democrats Debate; Julian Castro (D), Presidential Candidate Is Interviewed About Details After The Democratic Presidential Debate; Barack Obama's Legacy Under Attack; James Comey Will Not Be Prosecuted. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 1, 2019 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Right.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: You outlined the issues. You kept them on task. That was your job.


CUOMO: Their job was to turn that opportunity into an authentic appeal to people that they have a reason to believe that he or she will take them to a better place.

LEMON: You asked some very good question when you said, do you understand what at stake? Before for me, it was kind of you know, this whole thing is kind of like the "Hunger Game." right? Everyone is like clamoring to be on top but every election is like that. We saw it in 2016.

CUOMO: Especially primaries.

LEMON: You know, it's like that. But when you have -- when you have something at stake that you feel, and I'm speaking for them not for me, but they have said that they think that Trump is an existential threat.

If you think that Trump is the existential threat, why are you tearing each other down? I can understand that to some extent, but the bigger question is, why are you tearing down the most liked person in your party right now? Two people. When you say Obama, that brings Mrs. Obama and Mr. Obama and President Obama into it. It just -- I don't understand it. It doesn't make sense to me.

CUOMO: They literally are walking into a house saying there is a dragon in this house. We have to get the dragon out of the house. And once they walk in, they start looking at each other and being like, you know what? I don't like how you dress.

LEMON: I don't like -- I don't like the drapes.

CUOMO: Yes. They start talking about --

LEMON: Can we change the drapes?

CUOMO: And I'm not saying a lot of this stuff doesn't matter. It all matters.


CUOMO: But you got to pick your spots and figure out when you use the ammunition that you have because if they think that Mr. Trump isn't sitting somewhere saying I'm so happy this is coming out now and that they're using the same stuff they'll use on me on each other, they're kidding themselves.

So, at what price will your own ambition be put against your party's ambition.

LEMON: That interview -- so you know it has gone from -- in the interview with me I am the least person -- least racist person that you'll ever meet or something like that to the least racist person in the world.

CUOMO: Who says that?

LEMON: That's what the -- that's what the current president says.

CUOMO: Look, either way he's still calling himself racist. That's the part that I don't get about it. You know what I mean? Like, hey, I'm the least fat person -- well, then I've still got a weight problem, you know?

And what he doesn't get is what the point you always make to people when they ask you about this is, is that what we want? We want somebody who is just not --


LEMON: Who is at least --

CUOMO: -- really that racist or do we want someone who attacks racism like, you know, the toxin that it is?

LEMON: You're nuts. I'm going to let it go at that. Good to see -- it's been a long week, too. So, I got to get to it.

CUOMO: It's not even close to over.

LEMON: I'm running out of -- I'm running out of juice. I'm hitting a wall.

CUOMO: You're doing great.

LEMON: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Keep it doing, brother.

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

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

And with Democrats taking all the oxygen in the room for two nights, it's no surprise the president was itching to get out on the campaign trail tonight. It's no surprise that he said this in the first moments of his rally in Cincinnati.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I was watching the so-called debate last night --


TRUMP: -- and I also watched the night before. And the Democrats spent more time attacking Barack Obama than they did attacking me.


LEMON: You noticed that, huh? And the former vice president sounding pretty frustrated today that his rivals appear to have decided that the best way to take on President Trump is to attack Biden's former boss, and that is President Barack Obama.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I must tell you; I was a little surprised at how much incoming there was about Barack, about the president. I mean, I -- I'm proud of having served with him, I'm proud of the job he did. I don't think there is anything he has to apologize for.


LEMON: He's one of the few people in the world who can get away with just saying Barack, right? Also, in the first few minutes of his rally, the president standing by while the crowd chanted, but this time it wasn't "send her back," it was the old standby "lock her up."


TRUMP: Do you remember when Hillary used the word "deplorable." She used two words. She used "deplorable" and "irredeemable," right?


TRUMP: And only being a politician for a few years, I said what a terrible mistake that she used the word "irredeemable." But it turned out to be "deplorable." "Deplorable" was not a good day for Hillary. Crooked Hillary. She is a crooked one. She's crooked. Crooked.



LEMON: Twenty-sixteen all over again, the election. You know that happened after he told reporters at the White House just this afternoon that he didn't know if he could stop people from chanting. He didn't try very hard, did he?


[22:04:58] TRUMP: I don't know that you can stop people. I don't know that you can. I mean, we'll see what we can do. I prefer that they don't, but if they do it, we'll have to make a decision then.


LEMON: We've got to talk about what happened at the debate last night. A source telling CNN that Obama administration veterans are outraged that there were more attacks against the former president than the current one.

Listen to Senator Cory Booker laying it to Biden for his ties Obama.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can't do it when it's convenient --


BOOKER: -- and then dodge it when it's not.


LEMON: And then there's this, it's from the former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, who served in the Obama administration, responding to Biden saying that he only objected to Obama-era immigration policies once he started running for president.


JULIAN CASTRO (D), FORMER HUD SECRETARY, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past and one of us hasn't.


LEMON: Julian Castro will be here on this program shortly, but the biggest battle in the debate and the campaign may prove to be the battle over health care. Biden defending his Obamacare 2.0-style plan.


BIDEN: No one has to keep their private insurance. They can buy into this plan. And they can buy into it with $1,000 deductible and never have to pay more than 8.5 percent of their income when they do it. And if they don't have any money, they'll get in free.


LEMON: Kamala Harris fighting back last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In 2019 in America, for a Democrat to be running for president with a plan that does not cover everyone, I think is without excuse.


LEMON: And doubling down on that criticism again today.


HARRIS: So, I disagree with the plan that Vice President Biden is offering only because I believe we can do better. I believe that in 2019 we should and can offer a solution to the unavailability and unaffordability of health care in America in a way that offers health care to everybody.

Vice President Biden's plan doesn't do that. Nearly 10 million people will not have access to affordable health care. So, we have a difference of opinion.


LEMON: Now, the fact is, remember, facts first on this program, facts first. Senator Harris is right when she says roughly 10 million people would be left without any health insurance under Biden's plan.

The former vice president says his plan would cover 97 percent of Americans. But that still leaves out about 10 million Americans. And Senator Bernie Sanders, who you heard in Tuesday's debate, he says he wrote the damn bill. You heard him say that, right? Well, he said this today about his health care plan.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've got to do what the Canadians and the people of every other country do. Health care is a human right. We can cut the cost that people pay for health care substantially by eliminating the profiteering, the complexity and the bureaucracy of the current system.


LEMON: And then there was this exchange from last night's debate when I asked Julian Castro about the president's attacks on Baltimore.


LEMON: Secretary Castro, after the president's racist tweets attacking Baltimore and Congressman Elijah Cummings, the mayor of Baltimore slammed the tweets and said to the president, and I quote here, "Help us. Send the resources that we need to rebuild America." So, what would you do for Baltimore and other cities that need help?

CASTRO: First of all, the president is a racist and that was just one more example of it.


CASTRO: We know that whether it's Baltimore or cities like Detroit, they have -- they're tremendously rich in history and culture and also in possibility.


LEMON: As I said, I'm going to talk with Julian Castro in just a few minutes. But just listen to -- I want you to listen to Nancy Pelosi's reaction today to the president's divisive attacks on Baltimore saying, quote, "The president -- this comes as no surprise, really doesn't know what he's talking about, but maybe you could ask his son- in-law who is a slumlord there if he wants to talk about rodent infestations." The president responding by doubling down on his attacks on Elijah Cummings.


TRUMP: I think the responsibility is the people that have run Baltimore for so many years, obviously headed up by Elijah Cummings.


LEMON: This is bigger than what the president said about Chairman Cummings or Baltimore. There's no denying that racism runs deep in this country. That ugly hateful words and thoughts can surface even when we don't expect them.

There is newly revealed shocking tape of Ronald Reagan, the former president, in 1971 in a conversation with Richard Nixon. He was governor at the time. Using the word "monkeys" to describe black African delegates to the U.N. who had voted in a way he didn't like.

Reagan's daughter, Patty Davis, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post about her shock that her father who taught her racism was so evil would say something so ugly.

[22:09:57] But she went on to say this. "That wound will stay with me forever. But I believe, if my father had, years after the fact, heard that tape, he would have asked for forgiveness. He would have said, I deeply regret what I said. That's not who I am. He would have sought to make amends for the pain his words caused."

And make no mistake, words like that, they do indeed cause pain, whether those words come from a former president or the current president.

We are learning tonight that another Republican congressman won't seek re-election. Is it the Trump factor at work again here? We'll discuss with Philip Mudd, Ryan Lizza, April Ryan. Next.


LEMON: The president in his rally tonight in Cincinnati firing up his base with fierce attacks on Democrats and making it pretty clear that he's going to run his re-election campaign with a take no prisoners approach.

Let's discuss now. Philip Mudd is here, the author of brand-new book "Black Site." There it is on your screen. Also, with us, Ryan Lizza. And April Ryan. April is the author of "Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House."

Good to have all of you on. Good evening one and all. Ryan, I'm going to start with you. President Trump started his rally tonight talking about the Democratic debates and how the Dems seemed to attack Obama more than him.

[22:14:58] The president picked up on that and he is taking a victory lap.


RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sorry. I thought you were going to play a clip there. Well --


LIZZA: Well, I mean, I'm not as smart as these guys. These guys have written books. I haven't. I'm sorry.

Look, I don't understand what Trump gets out of this attack. I mean, he is pointing out something that is the conversation on cable today and is an interesting dynamic in the Democratic race, but how does it -- I don't really see how it helps either with his own voters or that there's much of a strategy behind this one.

Frankly, it just seems like Trump playing pundit without any, you know, tactical reason behind it. I mean, you know, so what? The Democrats are debating the legacy of Barack Obama. I mean, I disagree a little bit with some of the commentary today about this.

You know, Obama can be extremely popular in the Democratic Party while people who are running for president can point out policies that they want to expand on or where they fell short. I didn't really hear anyone on that stage last night condemn Obama or say that his legacy is somehow, you know, worse than Trump's or something anyone wants to erase.

They were saying, you know what, on his deportation policy in the first term, there was something to be desired. On health care, Democrats can do better in the future. You know, I feel like, you know, it's a big complicated country. People can have complicated views about the legacy of any president, no matter how popular he is personally.

LEMON: Phil, you know, we heard some of the usual attacks on Senator Elizabeth Warren. He also went after the former vice president's mental sharpness, meaning vice President Biden's -- it seems to be a new line of attack. What do you make of that?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't see it that way. We're going into football season. If the president were a coach, he would have about three plays in the books. One play is, denigrate the opposition. Remember, last election and it worked.

You got low energy Jeb. You got lying Ted. Lying Ted, by the way, who later, after the president disses lying Ted's wife invites him down -- invites the president down to help him in an election campaign.

I think the president had a playbook that said, look, to the American people I appear to be a tough guy, I talk straight, the people laugh at what I say at rallies. I think some people find it entertaining like we're in the third grade.

So, I'm looking at the playbook from the last election, wow, with Elizabeth Warren, Pocahontas, with how he speaks about the mental capacity of the former vice president. It's like we just did this and the people said, OK, we'll elect you.

LEMON: April, President Trump tonight took aim at cities run by Democrats as well and then he said this. Watch this.


TRUMP: For decades these communities have been run exclusively by Democrat politicians, and it's been total one-party control of the inner cities. For 100 years it's been one-party control, and look at them. We can name one after another, but I won't do that because I don't want to be controversial. We want no controversy.


LEMON: So, you know, it appears that he's kind of making light -- I don't know if you read it that way. Making light of his attacks of Baltimore politicians like Congressman Cummings or was he just sort of having a moment with the crowd there?

RYAN: Well, first of all, Don, I want to congratulate you on two great nights of the debate. Great questions.

LEMON: Thank you.

RYAN: And you dealt with issues of urban America.

Don, I'm thinking about Donald Trump who is campaigning the first time for president and he was talking about, you know, I've got an urban agenda, I've got an inner-city agenda.

Where is that inner city agenda? You're pointing fingers. The pointing is his urban agenda. Not doing something, not reaching a hand out to help, but to use that finger to point, look, look, look, instead of here's what I'm going to help you with. I'm going to work with you.

I think about when he ran for office, again, going back to that first time he ran. How he said, you know, he told African-Americans what do you have to lose? Well, look at Baltimore. Look at cities like Baltimore. Look at Flint.

You know, it's a sad situation and a sad day when a U.S. president laughs at a city that he's supposed to protect, defend and help and to uplift. Baltimore City --


LEMON: April, you know what he's going to say. He's going to say --

RYAN: Go ahead.

LEMON: He's going to say those are cities that re run by Democrats.

RYAN: I know. So what? He is the president of all America. He is the president of all America. Baltimore is just 30 some-odd miles door to door from the White House. And there is no reason why he has not come to take a look himself.

[22:20:07] And, I mean, I've already heard that a lot of Baltimoreans don't want him to come. They really pitched Ben Carson, who really received his fame in Baltimore from being a famous neurosurgeon when he was at Johns Hopkins. They put him out of a parking lot where he wanted to do a press conference.

But this president asked black America what do you have to lose? Well, we're losing a lot in Baltimore --


RYAN: -- and other urban cities. Mr. President, it's time to help, not to point fingers.

LEMON: Well, Ryan, listen, Greg Sargent over at the Washington Post is making the argument that Trump's strategy is moving from s-hole countries to s-hole districts. What do you think of that?

LIZZA: I think there's -- I think there's some truth to that. You know, first of all, April made me and Phil look really bad by not complimenting you on the terrific job you did.

LEMON: You guys don't have to do that. But thank you.

LIZZA: And Dana and Jake did. But really, it's one of the most -- two of the most substantive debates that I've seen. I've covered every campaign since 2000. You guys did a great job.

LEMON: Thank you.

LIZZA: I think what Greg says, there is a lot -- there is a lot of truth to that. One of the -- you know, one of the most unusual parts of obviously an extremely unusual president is that he sees himself in his rhetoric and his style as president only of his half of the country. His voters. And we see this when he talks --


RYAN: White America. White rural America.

LIZZA: That's right. Anyway, when he talks about his poll numbers among Republicans, right? You know, and when he talks about, say, you know, a vote in the House of Representatives, how many Republicans voted for his agenda.

And he just sort of -- and then of course, in much worse cases when he denigrates parts of the country that he sees dominated by the other party as if the presidency, as April pointed out, it's the only office we have in this country that represents every single American.

And he does -- obviously does not govern that way. And he is more and more playing up geographic areas of the country that don't support him against his own supporters.

And, you know, knowing what we know about Trump, this is, you know, this is obviously going to accelerate as, you know, as the election soldiers on here.

LEMON: Phil Mudd?

MUDD: Yes, I think Ryan is right, but as usual Ryan is right for the wrong reasons. So, let me explain. Let me correct. Look, I think --


LEMON: Is that like a backhanded -- what was that?

MUDD: Let's move on.

LIZZA: I can't tell if I should say thank you or something else.

MUDD: I mean, we're talking about this in political terms. Let me give you a slightly different perspective, a psychological perspective.

Behind every human being, a quarter inch below if you scratch the surface is the willingness to say I'm better than the next guy. The president is brilliant at exploiting this. I'm better than immigrants. There are people coming from poor places, s-hole countries.

I think the Baltimore issue is part of a bigger hole where he knows people will respond in the places that are his heartland. Maybe more white than Baltimore. When he says whether it's s-hole countries or Baltimore, we're better than they are. They're a lower species.

I think this is a psychological thing that plays to a typical human's weakness. You're supposed to take people up as a president. He's allowed them to go down.

LEMON: So, what are you saying? You're saying it's psychological -- is it not racism in this context?

MUDD: No, it is because you're telling someone for years, we've been trying to escape the idea that I'm better than you because I have a different -- a different skin color.

I think he's going -- taking us back 50 years by saying subversively, actually, we are better than those people. We're better than those immigrants coming across the border. It's a really subtle psychological game that works but it's dangerous. LEMON: That's a crazy psychological game considering, especially

considering a number of the districts who voted for the president are poorer than Baltimore.

MUDD: Yes, yes.

LEMON: Right? Interesting. Thank you all. I appreciate it.

LIZZA: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: So, like I said earlier, Democratic candidates are attacking the former president, who is very popular with voters in his party. Why are they going after president Obama and will it hurt them in the end? I'm going to ask a former member of team Obama. Next.


LEMON: So, Joe Biden seems to mention his former boss just about every chance he gets, but in last night's debate he faced criticism from his fellow Democrats on the Obama administration's record on health care, immigration and trade.


BIDEN: I must tell you I was a little surprised at how much incoming there was about Barack, about the president. I mean, I -- I'm proud of having served with him. I'm proud of the job he did. I don't think there's anything he has to apologize for and I think, you know, it kind of surprised me, the degree of the criticism.


LEMON: Joining me to discuss now is Ben LaBolt. He is the former national press secretary for President Obama's re-election campaign.

Good to see you. Thank you so much, Mr. LaBolt for -- Mr. LaBolt for joining us. We appreciate it.


LEMON: Was last night's debate the circular firing squad that president Obama warned about back in April?

LABOLT: Well, earlier I was comparing it to the Quentin Tarantino movie "From Dust till Dawn" where you kind of checked the remains at the end of the debate and it wasn't quite clear who the victor was.

I think it was a bizarre political strategy to attack President Obama more than they attacked President Trump. I mean, the fact is that President Obama's numbers among Democrats today are at 95 percent. Among independents they're at a 65 percent approval rating.

So that's not the path to winning the primary or the general election, competing over the 5 percent of Democrats who might be disappointed with President Obama. Winning campaigns are about the future and we need to hear these candidates' visions for what they're going to do.

LEMON: OK. That's a good point. So, who's -- are they listening? Because I think all the people that were up there on that stage have some pretty good political instincts, right? And when you're -- when you're running for office, yes, you should listen to your advisers, but I think you have to go with your gut. Right.

So, who do you think -- do you think they're listening to their advisers or someone advising them -- listening to their gut or someone advising them saying you got to do this and you got to do that, maybe someone who is younger or maybe doesn't have enough political experience or expertise because on the surface it does not sound like a really smart strategy.

LABOLT: Well, I don't think they weren't playing three-dimensional chess. So, I understand what their strategy was. They're going after Vice President Biden because he's the front-runner today and they were trying to peel off pieces of his support.

But I think that there are opportunities to do that in terms of attacking Vice President Biden's vision and also his Senate record, but when they went after President Obama, I think they made a mistake. And I think they recognized that today.

[22:30:04] A number of candidates seemed a little sheepish when they got asked about attacking President Obama. They praised his record. They walked it back. They pivoted to Trump. So maybe we're seeing a change. Maybe last night was an anomaly.

LEMON: I want you to hear now from the former Obama chief of staff and Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, on candidates criticizing the Obama presidency. Here it is.


RAHM EMANUEL, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION FORMER White House CHIEF OF STAFF: There was also shots taken at President Barack Obama, the most popular Democrat in the country, because Joe Biden was his Vice President. That struck as a little odd.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The strike the word a little. The guy's at 90 some-odd percent among Democrats. He's the most successful, progressive, prolific president who had an incredible chief of staff, let me just say that, since the great society. What are they doing?


LEMON: Forty four percent, Ben, 44 percent of Americans say that Obama has been the best or second best president in their lifetimes. I mean, shouldn't Democrats see that, learn from that and, you know -- and that's all Americans, Republican and Democrat and independents.

LABOLT: Well, first of all, you got to love Rahm for his subtlety. Look, I think Barack Obama was a transformational president. If you look at the accomplishments, the Affordable Care Act, pulling the economy back from a recession that was going to be as bad as the great depression, rescuing the auto industry.

But I think one more lesson we should look at from his presidency that Democrats should consider, you know, last night we heard a lot about getting to Medicare for All, whether patients want to be within the Medicare system or not, decriminalizing the border instead of comprehensive immigration reform. You know, when you're elected president, you only get three or four major legislative shots on goal at the beginning of your presidency.

And we need to listen to the voters who will decide this election to understand what their priorities are and make sure we're addressing them, because we can accomplish some big things but we have to be selective. And you have to get it done very quickly in your administration.

LEMON: Do these -- I want to read something from our op-ed, but do you -- you mentioned the three dimensional chess thing, right? But do these -- you hear the -- and did you hear the president's comments tonight when he talked about Democrats attacking Obama and he was surprised?

LABOLT: Well, I think, look --


LEMON: Does it play right into his, you know, into what he wants?

LABOLT: I think -- look, I think Donald Trump is going to intervene in this primary. And he has already pivoted to the general election. He's in Cincinnati, Ohio, a major battleground market, tonight trying to reach swing voters in that market. He's been to Panama City. He's been to Green Bay. He's getting an extra year.

And so as we're deciding our nominee, we also need to make sure that we're countering Trump and we're countering his message in front of the voters that will decide next November's election.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, I will read the title. I am not going to read from it, because basically you've said, you know, what -- you've given us the gist of what this is about, what your op-ed is about. It is Democrats must win without becoming Trumpian themselves. And it is a very good op-ed. Thank you so much. I appreciate. Ben LaBolt thanks for joining us. Please come back.

LABOLT: Thanks, Don. I will.

LEMON: Thank you. My next guest took aim at the Obama administration's deportation policies at last night's debate. I am going to ask him if he stands by his criticism. Presidential candidate, there he is, Julian Castro joins me next.


LEMON: Former President Barack Obama's legacy coming under the microscope of the Democratic presidential candidates as they debate each other and really stake out their positions, veterans of the Obama administration not happy about it. So joining me now to discuss, Julian Castro, the Democratic presidential candidate who was the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under president Obama, thank you so much, I appreciate you joining us.

I know it's a busy time for you, personally. I was up on the stage for you, and so -- in Detroit. So I thank you for joining us. Listen, I got to ask you. I want to get your reaction to what we just heard from President Obama's former campaign press secretary, Ben LaBolt. What do you think about that, Secretary Castro?

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I mean, let's go back to last night. What I said was that I thought Vice President Biden should learn the lessons of the past when it comes to immigration. Now, I don't think you're going to find somebody that's been more effusive in his praise about Barack Obama than I have been over the years, as somebody that served him in his cabinet.

I said that last night, you know? I said that when Trump is trying to take credit for the economic recovery that belongs to Barack Obama, not only the economy but in so many other ways, health care and so forth. However, I do think that it's legitimate to say, OK, well, how can we improve in certain ways on the Obama administration?

And when it comes to immigration, the lessons of the past are, number one, and this goes to something that Ben said, look, you have to prioritize. And I believe that one of the lessons that we learned from 2009, 2010 is that we can't wait on immigration reform. That there were 60 votes in the Senate, there was a Democratic majority in the House, obviously a Democratic president in 09, 10.

And, you know, if I had that again or even if I have 50 plus the vice president, then I will go forward with immigration reform at the beginning of the -- of my tenure. Secondly, that, you know, you can't deport your way to the negotiation table with Mitch McConnell or the Republicans. They're never going to accept, you know, a whole bunch of deportations is not going to convince them to negotiate a good deal.

LEMON: Some of what you're saying --


LEMON: Secretary Castro, I just want to play this and I am going to let you finish with your response, because I think this plays into what you're saying right now. This is you last night taking on Biden's record on immigration, and then we'll talk on the other side. Here it is.


[22:40:06] CASTRO: First of all, Mr. Vice President, it looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past, and one of us hasn't.

(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Your time is up.

CASTRO: We actually need to have some guts on this issue.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had guts enough to say his plan doesn't make sense. Here's the deal. The fact of the matter is that, in fact, when people cross the border illegally, it is illegal to do it unless they're seeking asylum. And the only reason this particular part of the law is being abused is because of Donald Trump. We should defeat Donald Trump and end this practice.


LEMON: So, go on. Was that an improvement, because some people saw that as an attack on the Obama administration? Go on, Secretary.

CASTRO: No. First of all, that was in no way an attack on Barack Obama. I've always praised Barack Obama. Last night, I did that with regard to the economy. At the same time, let me be very clear, Don. I do believe that when it comes to immigration, and I said this when I was Mayor of San Antonio before I even joined the Obama administration in 2014, that there were ways that we could improve on what the Obama administration was doing.

I also think that the Obama administration got better on the issue of immigration as it went along. The number of deportations started to fall precipitously from the beginning to the end. And they did things like DACA and DAPA, which were great work. So we can improve on that. But to go to the conversation that I had with the vice president, he and I do have a disagreement about what we need to do in the future.

He said in that clip that the problem is Donald Trump. I agree that the problem is Donald Trump. The other problem is that Donald Trump has the tool in that section of the law that we don't need that was not enforced for 60 years, under whether it was Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush. I mean, this law was not enforced. We don't need it.

We have a consequence, a civil action, deportation courts, and asylum claims that are heard in a civil court, a civil setting. Most people don't understand that. Most Americans think that this is all criminal. It's actually mostly civil, not criminal, but he's using -- Trump is using this law to separate little children from their parents.

Now, why is that important for the future? The disagreement that the vice president and I have is that I say, look, if this law is so unnecessary, which it is, then I want to make sure that we take that tool away from a future administration that might be like Trump. We can't count on that you're always going to have a Democratic president.


LEMON: OK, all right.

CASTRO: In the future.

LEMON: OK. I've got -- two things I want to cover, so if you can go quickly here. And I mean that respectfully. But listen, I -- you were sitting next to Van Jones. I was watching the post-debate last night, and he questioned your idea of decriminalizing the border. He said he thinks that it creates political problems and alienates moderates. How do you respond?

CASTRO: You know, that's very telling, because people never make an argument on the substance. They make an argument on the politics. And my answer is this, that if you elect me president, that I want every voter out there to know that if you elect me president, you're not electing me to follow...


CASTRO: You're electing me to lead.


CASTRO: And I will lead even when some things right now are unpopular.

LEMON: OK. Secretary, I want to get this in, because -- this moment from the debate last night. Watch this.


LEMON: Secretary Castro, after the president's racist tweets attacking Baltimore and Congressman Elijah Cummings, the mayor of Baltimore slammed the tweets and said to the president. And I quote here, "help us. Send the resources that we need to rebuild America." So what would you do for Baltimore and other cities that need help?

CASTRO: First of all, the president is a racist. And that was just one more example of it.


LEMON: Secretary Castro, the president has made it his mission to divide the country. Tonight, we have learned that one of the Republicans who is known for crossing the aisle and standing up to the president is leaving Congress. That's your fellow Texan, Will Hurd. Give me your reaction, please.

CASTRO: I think Republicans are jumping ship because they see how toxic the president has made it for them. I think we've seen something like five or six announcements of retirement from Republican congressional representatives in the last seven or eight days. That's amazing. They can see the writing on the wall that this guy, Trump, has made it so terrible for their political future.

They know what's coming in 2020. And Will Hurd is just another example. We actually, as Democrats, have a great opportunity to retake the 23rd congressional district of Texas. So I am excited about it. LEMON: Secretary Castro, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

CASTRO: Good to be with you.

LEMON: President Trump had another phone call with Vladimir Putin today. And again, he says he didn't bring up Russian interference in the election. Former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, weighs in next.


LEMON: The FBI Director, James Comey will not be -- the former FBI Director, I should say, will not be prosecuted over his handling of the memos that the FBI later determined contained classified information. Despite a referral from the Justice Department's inspector general, DOJ prosecutors declined to prosecute Comey, in part because they didn't believe there was evidence he intended to violate laws on handling of classified information.

So let's discuss now with CNN National Security Analyst, James Clapper. He is the former Director of National Intelligence, always a pleasure. Thank you, Mr. Clapper, Director Clapper for joining us. James Comey is not going to be prosecuted. That will disappoint the president. What's your reaction?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I agree, it will disappoint him and other critics of Jim Comey. I think it was, though, the right decision on it for two reasons, both in the interest of fairness and as well more practical. I'm quite sure -- I never saw the memo in question. But I am quite sure that Jim, in his own mind, took great care to ensure that there was not classified information.

[22:50:24] I am told that -- what I understand is that retroactively, the FBI classified one of them as confidential, which is a pretty low bar for classification. And I am -- I would be curious, what their rationale was for saying that one memo was classified. So anyway, I think, you know, justice was served here by refusing to prosecute. I think actually they would have a hard time making a case before a judge.

LEMON: Yeah. You know the president was asked about ongoing Russian interference today, Director, and whether he brought it up to President Putin in his phone call yesterday. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, (Inaudible).

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do you really believe this? OK, OK, we didn't talk about that.


TRUMP: Well, I watched Mueller. I am not sure Mueller knows what is going on.


LEMON: So how is the U.S. going to stop Russia from interfering in our election if the president will not admit it is even happening?

CLAPPER: Well, that's what is -- concerned me for some -- for many months now because of the president's refusal for whatever reason to acknowledge the magnitude of the Russian interference. And now, I think a lot has probably been done to enhance our security. But the problem is -- in the absence of the bully pulpit that only the president can speak from.

There's not the galvanizing affect to warn people, warn the American electorate of what the Russians and now I think others will emulate the Russians to interfere in our election process for 2020. So, you know, the president's response was very consistent with the last time he was with Putin, and just kind of mockingly, jokingly, made a joke of it.

So he doesn't take it seriously. And I think the reason is it goes back to when we briefed then president-elect in -- on January the 6th of 2017, in which he just could not get his head around it or refused to accept the evidence that we presented because it cast doubt on the legitimacy of his election. I think he has been very consistent about that ever since.

LEMON: Well, here's what he says. He claims the phone call was mostly about forest fires in Siberia. What do you suppose that means?

CLAPPER: Well, what struck me is what he did not talk about. For example, the demise of the IMF treaty tomorrow, the Intermediate Ballistic Missile Treaty that has been a pillar of core -- Arms Control Agreement for decades, nor did he bring up potential extension of the new start, the strategic arms reduction treaty. And so to me, these would be serious issues that the two of them should discuss rather than the forest fire thing, which is, I think, you know, a buddy-up gesture.

But there's no -- for reasons of sovereignty, pride, and security, the Russians would never accept an offer like that anyway. And as for trade, I thought were sanctioning Russians so it would be very difficult to trade with them. So again, I think the most important thing here is (Inaudible) significance of the calls, what they didn't discuss.

LEMON: Director, I want to switch gears now to President Trump's nomination of Congressman John Ratcliffe, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, for the Office of Director of National Intelligence, your former job. This is what the Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, said about that nomination. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is about war and peace. If we don't have a DNI, who speaks truth to power, who first is able to cull the facts and come up with an unbiased view of what they say, and in an unvarnished way call tell the president. We're in a much more dangerous world than it would've been. I can hardly think of a worse choice than him, padding resume or not.


LEMON: And so I want to get your thoughts. Are you are concerned that Ratcliffe would not speak truth to President Trump and that he would be just another yes man?

[22:54:59] CLAPPER: Well, yes. Now, I say this because I don't know Congressman Ratcliffe. I'd never heard of him until his attack dog performance during the Mueller hearing. And it's clear. I mean the law stipulates that the DNI is supposed to be someone that has extensive expertise in national security. And by practice, that has been the case with Dan Coats and all of his predecessors.

I will tell you. I had spent 50 years in intelligence and run a couple agencies for almost 9 years. And being DNI was the hardest thing I ever tried to do. And it's a difficult job if you know something about intelligence. And if you don't, it's (Inaudible) impossible. Now that all said, that's not why the president selected him, sort of did it in an Apprentice like audition, I guess, for the hearing.

LEMON: During the hearing, yeah. Listen, I've got to run. But I just want to say, and Garrett Graff pointed this out. And he says becoming DNI, James Clapper had worked in U.S. intelligence for nearly 50 years and personally headed two of the nation's 17 intel agencies. By comparison, John Ratcliffe was Mayor of Heath, Texas, population 8,000. Thank you, Director. I appreciate it.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. We will be right back.