Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

President Trump Says Recession is Far from Happening; Former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) Is Interviewed About His Effort To Find A Republican Contender To Run Against President Trump; How Mike Pompeo Went From Critic To Right-Hand Man In The Trump Administration; Anthony Scaramucci Looking To Build A Coalition To Challenge President Trump; NYPD Officer Charged With Killing Eric Garner Was Fired With No Pension. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 19, 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: You have these groups that are organizing being empowered, being emboldened attacking more, you want to talk about the games? Lot of places have games. They don't have this problem.

Now, is this really about the party and that he is copying this play boor or is it about his party mirroring what they hear from him and deciding we got to go along to get along. All we know is they're clearly on the same page, the play book makes it plain.

The proof is clear of what they want this election to be about and how they want to play it. This election is truly about what we accept and what we decide to reject. What will you allow to win? That's the question.

Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: And where your priorities are, whether you prioritize the truth, whether you prioritize racism, whether you prioritize the economy, whether you prioritize money, it depends on what you prioritize.

And you can't hide behind something and say, well, you know, that's not important to me, because if you prioritize one thing, that means you're putting another thing in a different category or below that, and so I think everyone should be -- if you're running for office and if you're supporting someone, you should be able to explain that and at least be knowledgeable and aware of that.

CUOMO: Yes. Look, now, this is subjective, but to me it gets pretty simple. On a personal level it all grows out of your faith, right? I don't mean that in some pandering, religious way, I'm saying that you figure out what you're about and everything grows out of that.

I think it's the same thing for voters where you have to -- these identity questions, what is this country about? Who are we about? Are we about inclusion or exclusion? That starts it all. Everything else grows out of that. Our economic values, capitalism and how we want things distributed here in terms of opportunity. All of our politics grow out of our principles and that's what this election is going to be about, very heavy but very important.

LEMON: And all of it is identity politics. It's identity politics on the left and on the right, and especially for Trump supporters. It's identity politics. They identify with the president. They identify with the make America great again slogan. They identify with what they say, it was economic anxiety, or I'm this kind of person, I'm that kind of person. It's all identity politics. Everything else is just name calling because everyone is doing the same thing.

CUOMO: There's no question.

LEMON: You vote and you support for who and what you identify with.

CUOMO: That's true, but role reversal for a change here, this president is the one starting the beat. He is using these issues, he's looking to divide even when he has a better course, he looks to this.

And the Democrats in that way are being responsive to it in a way that I think could galvanize. I don't think they've gotten there, because to your point, too often they look to play to advantage more than just saying what is right. And I think that's their challenge.

LEMON: Yes. I would say I missed you, but I think I saw you more last week than I see you when we're actually here together. I spent like every other day, if not every day, with you.

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: It was kind of weird.

CUOMO: I had a very uneventful week. I think the only time that I wasn't with you, I really should have been with you. I would have been in a lot better position.

LEMON: Actually, I was there. I did not see it, remember.

CUOMO: Good time not to see.

LEMON: I should have been there. Hey, I should have been with you at the moment. But, by the way, you always say that I don't pay for anything. You were shocked yesterday.

CUOMO: I know.

LEMON: Why?

CUOMO: I was so traumatized, I thought I couldn't be more shocked about anything going on that would make less sense until D. Lemon pulled out his wallet, all this dust and stuff came out of the wallet, and he actually paid for lunch for like 10 people. Even the waitress was surprised.

LEMON: I know.

CUOMO: She was like, I thought you were Don Lemon. He's like, I am Don Lemon, damn it. LEMON: I made you pay for yours, though.

CUOMO: I've been paying for mine, as I mentioned.

LEMON: All right, buddy. It's good to see you again.

CUOMO: Always a pleasure.

LEMON: All right. Take it easy.

CUOMO: Always a pleasure.

LEMON: I'll see you tomorrow. This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

This president spinning as fast as he can on the economy, spinning to save the not so secret weapon that he's relying on to win reelection. Spinning because he believes American -- Americans care more about jobs and money in your pocket than everything he has done to divide us. The president insisting nothing you see here, everything is great.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We have the strongest economy by far in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: If everything is so great, if everything is so great, why is the president playing the blame game? Blaming the Fed, blaming Democrats, even incredibly claiming the news media is trying to cause a recession to hurt his reelection chances.

Listen I've made this point before but I've got to say it again. It's not true. Of course, it's not true. It's a blatantly absurd conspiracy theory.

And let's not lose sight of the fact that, remember, facts first here. That one big reason for fears about the economy is the president's own trade war with China which has rattled the stocks, the stock and bond markets, and sent out warning signs of a recession. We can see the signs with our own eyes.

[22:05:01] The signs that set off a roller coaster ride on Wall Street. Now 74 percent of economists in recent survey, in a recent survey, they say they think there will be a recession by 2021.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don't think we're having a recession. We're doing tremendously well. Our consumers are rich. I gave a tremendous tax cut, and they're loaded up with money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The president did do a tax cut. A tax cut that lined the pockets of businesses, and according to the congressional research service, has done nothing to increase wages or bonuses. That's a fact.

And there are reports today that some members of team Trump have been discussing the idea of cutting payroll taxes as a way to jump-start the economy. A White House official telling CNN a payroll tax cut is not under consideration, quote, "at this time."

Of course, it's not exactly unheard of for this president to throw staffers under the bus if he changes his mind. That as he continues to wage his war with China.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're not paying for the tariffs. China is paying for the tariffs for the 100th time. And I understand tariffs work very well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK, but here's the thing. Think about this. Be rational and logical. If China was really paying for tariffs, why would the president have backed down last week and delayed his newest tariffs, his administration calling the move a Christmas present for American consumers? Why would they do that?

And if the trade war wasn't hitting American farmers hard, if they weren't paying the price for China's tariffs striking back, why would the administration be paying some $14.5 billion to farmers hurt by the trade war?

Just listen to what one of those farmers said and how top White House aide Peter Navarro reacted on CNN's State of the Union. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY WERTISH, PRESIDENT, MINNESOTA FARMERS UNION: Words and Twitters and tweets, that doesn't pay the farmers' bills, that doesn't solve the problem we're dealing with. You know, this one, like I said earlier, this one is self-inflicted by our president and we definitely agreed with it at the beginning, but it doesn't appear that there is a plan B.

JAKE TAPER, CNN HOST: Those are people on front lines are they're saying the trade war is directly hurting them and China is not bearing all the burden of this, they are bearing the burden of this.

PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: So, there's a couple things to say here. First of all, this president has the backs of farmers. All the money we're taking in tariffs, a lot of that is going right to the farmers to give us all. Let's not make no mistake about it. China is targeting those farmers to buckle our needs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And the president? He says this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We'll see what happens, but they definitely want to make a deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, for everybody who is keeping score at home, the economy is great, the Democrats and the news media want it to be bad, and also, it's the Feds' fault.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think I could be helped out by the Fed, but the Fed doesn't like helping me too much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Pretty revealing statement. Because as I think we all know, it's not the Feds' job to help the president, to help him win reelection. It's the Feds' job to keep the economy healthy, to set policies to encourage high employment and low inflation. That's what the Fed is supposed to do, not help the president.

And speaking of the economy, there is this about the man on the $20 bill, President Andrew Jackson. Do you remember his history of harsh anti-Native American policies that led to the deaths of thousands along the infamous Trail of Tears? Do you remember how President Trump dismiss the move to replace him on the $20 bill, with abolitionist Harriet Tubman, calling it pure political correctness?

And remember, this president has a portrait of Jackson, one of his favorite presidents hanging in the Oval, in the Oval Office. Well, today presidential candidate Marianne Williamson had something to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can atone. We can make amends. And if and when I'm president of the United States, we will. We will begin by taking that picture of Andrew Jackson off the wall of the Oval Office. I assure you --

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMSON: I am not a Native American woman, but I find it one of the greatest insults. You will not be insulted. You will be more than not insulted if I am president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: In the midst of all this, I guess it should be no surprise that the president is returning to an old favorite obsession, the size of the crowds at his rallies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think they said 17,000 people outside that couldn't get in. The fire marshals close it at a certain level. The arena announced, I don't know the people at the arena, that I broke Elton John's record. (END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:09:55] LEMON: The thing is, pretty much everybody reported that the president had a big crowd in New Hampshire. There was a viral tweet that showed some empty seats. And we know how seriously the president takes his Twitter, so maybe that had something to do with it.

But CNN confirmed today that President Trump broke the attendance record at his rally last week, even beating Elton John. By the way, what's with the obsession with Elton John?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I have broken more Elton John records. I don't have a musical instrument; I don't have a guitar or organ. This is the only musical instrument, the mouth. And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth.

They said it was like if Elton John came and we broke that record.

I'm no longer competing with politicians; I'm competing with musical talent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Rocket man. Look, I love Elton John. The president sure likes Elton John. Like I said, his real obsession is with the size of his crowds. Remember, it wasn't quite two weeks ago that in the middle of a visit to a hospital where victims of the El Paso were being treated that he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I was here three months ago, we made a speech and we have a -- what was the name of the arena? That place was crowded, right? And judges are respected --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) coliseum.

TRUMP: Right. What was the name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was from (Inaudible).

TRUMP: Good. Come here, man. That was some crowd.

(CROSSTALK)

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for what you do. Thank you.

D. TRUMP: And we had twice the number outside. And then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had like 400 people. They said his crowd was wonderful. They said his crowd was wonderful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And who could ever forget this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Day one, spicy Sean Spicer. Largest, period. The president is obsessed with the size of his crowds. And he seems to be developing an obsession with Greenland and the question of whether he'll try to buy it from Denmark. This is what he said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The concept came up and I said certainly, it'd be strategically it's interesting and we'd be interested, but we'll talk to them a little bit. It's not number one on the burner, I can tell you that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Right. That was yesterday. Not number one on the burner. You hear that, Greenland? You got to take that laying down? Are you going to take that laying down, Greenland? Come on. The president spinning everything from warning signs in the economy to, as I showed you, Greenland.

Lots to discuss. Catherine Rampell is here, Rob Astorino, Michael D'Antonio. And we're all in the same room so you never know what's going to happen.

Don't look over here, Astorino.

ROB ASTORINO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Come on, Lemon.

LEMON: Next.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm going to buffer right --

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump and his top aides launching a coordinated campaign to talk about the economy and downplay any fears of a possible recession in the near future.

Let's discuss now. Catherine Rampell is here. Rob Astorino, and Michael D'Antonio. Michael is the author of "The Truth About Trump."

Hello, good evening.

ASTORINO: Hi, Don. LEMON: Catherine, a new survey of business economist finds that 74 percent think that we'll see a recession by the end of 2021, but the Trump administration strategy is to deflect, deny and blame the media. Kellyanne Conway right here. Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: It's nice to see the media finally cover the Trump economy. You seem to cover it only when you can use the Sesame Street word of the day, recession.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, we talk about the economy -- Catherine, how often have you been here talking about the economy?

RAMPELL: Quite frequently.

LEMON: Quite a lot. So, the president and his advisers they're blaming the media, they're blaming the Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, they're blaming Democrats. But again, it's the economist who are ringing the alarm bells, it's not media. We're reporting what the economists are saying.

RAMPELL: It's the dingo (Ph). I mean, it's funny. When Obama was president and the economic indicators were good, Trump said that they were fake. Then Trump became president. He inherited basically the exact same economic indicators, then they were real.

Remember, Sean Spicer went up on that podium and he said, they might have been phony before, but they're very real now. Now that the numbers are going south again, of course they're fake.

Now this would be like the most amazing conspiracy, right? This would rival the Illuminati if, in fact, these numbers were fake, because it's not just the trade wars that are causing problem for the U.S. economy, it's also the threat of contagion from abroad.

There are now nine major economies around the world that are either in recession or on the verge of recession. So, like, are all of their statisticians, you know, part of this anti-Trump conspiracy, too? Are they all faking the data?

I think the real question is, when Trump sends his White House aides on TV and they pretend these numbers aren't real, they pretend that the yield curve hasn't inverted which Peter Navarro pretended.

When Larry Kudlow goes on TV and he says we shouldn't worry about consumers even though we got a very disappointing consumer sentiment number, are they trying to fool the public or are they trying to fool their boss?

LEMON: Well, that's a very -- well, then that leaves it to you, Mr. tan suit, by the way.

ASTORINO: Thank you. LEMON: Are you OK?

ASTORINO: I think it looks good.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I might start calling you Obama, I mean.

RAMPELL: It's scandalous. Yes.

ASTORINO: I thought he look good in that suit.

LEMON: OK. Well, I won't say that about you. But why would Trump -- his chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow be making calls this week to business leaders, to state and local officials to talk about the economy if there wasn't some real fear here?

ASTORINO: They do that all the time. I remember we had a discussion, I don't know, sometime last year when there was a business roundtable in Bedminster, and whether or not the PepsiCo CEO should attend and all this kind of nonsense. They do this all the time.

The White House has to do it. The president checks in with key people in banking and all different sectors. And that's important.

But look, to say the economy is tanking or that we're in a really bad economic downturn just around the corner is a talking point from the left because that's what they wanted to. Right now, we have a very strong economy, all the indicators. How is the --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: No, no. No one is saying the economy is tanking.

ASTORINO: Well, I'm -- no, no, that it's getting close. It's really dangerous.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: The yield curve inverted. That's happened before every prior recession.

LEMON: Let him finish. But they're saying that a --

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: Or almost everyone.

LEMON: -- the recession is on the horizon. Not the economy is -- come on.

ASTORINO: No. A recession could always be on the horizon no matter where the economy is. But it is strong right now. It is very strong. And the Obama economy was going up, so that's why we're in this long period of good economic standing.

[22:20:01] You're giving Obama credit? You're going to get a tweet.

ASTORINO: Well, no, no. Please, I get plenty, trust me, when I get off the air. But what I'm saying is, yes, it was improving but it was minimal. It was --

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: GDP growth --

ASTORINO: -- like this.

RAMPELL: -- is exactly where --

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, that's actually not true.

ASTORINO: Now it's doing very well. When the tax cuts, corporations spent money, spent money, they're investing. Why are they slowing? Of course, they do.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: The (Inaudible), they're not investing.

RAMPELL: Corporate investments fell last quarter.

ASTORINO: It's last quarter. last quarter. Do you know why? Because for two and a half years, they have been investing. You can't invest at a high pace with --

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: That was the argument.

ASTORINO: No, no. True.

RAMPELL: That was the entire argument.

ASTORINO: Because they did a lot of hiring, so they're not going to continue hiring. They did their hiring.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: Basic hiring is below what it was when Obama left office

ASTORINO: Look, this is when the tax cuts came in --

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: Before we spent $2 or $3 trillion.

ASTORINO: -- business gave bonuses, businesses started doing capital expenses, businesses started expanding all over the place.

RAMPELL: Bonuses have fallen.

ASTORINO: Come on, that's ridiculous. That's why the economy is doing well.

It was the low it was when Obama left office. Before we sent a billion dollars for this tax cut.

Businesses started expanding all over the place. That's why the economy is doing well.

RAMPELL: No, no, they pulled -- I'm telling to you. I cover this stuff. I've been covering this stuff for more than a decade.

LEMON: Do you guys have some popcorn for me?

D'ANTONIO: This is all untrue.

ASTORINO: Yes.

D'ANTONIO: Business investment is down 5.5 percent in the last year.

ASTORINO: OK. So, you're missing the point.

(CROSSTALK)

D'ANTONIO: The GDP, the rate of GDP growth --

ASTORINO: They spent a lot of money when they got this new money from the tax cuts.

D'ANTONIO: He has not exceeded Obama's rate of GDP growth. Obama was 2.9 percent, the best Trump has done is 2.9. He promised four.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: And we spent 2, $3 trillion --

D'ANTONIO: And he spent all this money. He's got to be double Obama's deficit.

ASTORINO: Look at tan man.

LEMON: Are you OK?

ASTORINO: Yes, I am.

D'ANTONIO: Double the debt.

LEMON: Come on, tan man.

ASTORINO: I love every --

(CROSSTALK)

ASTORINO: Where are the Republicans -

LEMON: Listen, let me ask you this, Rob. Are you, -- listen, if you look at the economic indicators, and that's what people are looking at. They're looking at the facts. They're looking at what has indicated every economy, every downturn in history. Why is this different under Trump?

ASTORINO: One thing can be, they can be interpreted in different ways. Even board of governors have said this. Yes, they have. You can look at the numbers which are strong, but then one can interpret well, if a trade war happens, if, then this could happen. Others can say, we don't think a trade war is going to happen.

RAMPELL: Yes. Trade war. We're in multiple trade wars.

D'ANTONIO: It's happening now.

ASTORINO: No.

RAMPELL: With China, with the E.U., with Japan. We were in a trade war with Canada and Mexico, our two closest trade wars.

ASTORINO: We were. So, it's not having a major effect in the economy.

LEMON: But Rob, my question is, do you have any concern?

ASTORINO: At this point.

LEMON: You have no concern?

ASTORINO: Not right now, no, I don't. I think the economy is doing well.

(CROSSTALK)

D'ANTONIO: Do you check your 401K?

ASTORINO: People are spending. Consumer -- yes, I'm doing well. Consumer confidence is up, consumer spending is up.

RAMPELL: Consumer confidence is not up.

D'ANTONIO: It's down.

ASTORINO: Down from what? From really high down to a little bit less?

RAMPELL: It's at its lowest level so far this year.

LEMON: But that is still down.

RAMPELL: The University of Michigan consumer sentiment numbers.

LEMON: It's -- you're fighting -- I understand you're in the middle of your --

(CROSSTALK)

ASTORINO: No. I ask the average person and they think things are going very well. Here's what's happening.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: The bond market says different.

ASTORINO: The bond market, the average consumer who is going out and spending is thinking things are going pretty well. And that's why the Democrats are attacking the economy, because it's a strength. It's a smart political move. You always go after your opponent's strength.

LEMON: So, Rob, are you saying --

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: This is such a huge conspiracy. I'm sorry.

ASTORINO: And not a conspiracy. But the left is --

(CROSSTALK)

D'ANTONIO: Yes.

LEMON: All of the people who do this prediction --

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: The bond market has enlisted nine economies.

LEMON: Hold on a second. Hold on, hold on. All these people who do the prediction, all the economists, all of them are Democrats.

ASTORINO: No, definitely not.

D'ANTONIO: But they're all wrong. Rob Astorino is correct.

ASTORINO: Thank you, Mike.

D'ANTONIO: I mean, this is the problem, is the data doesn't align with the argument. And people have to look ahead. Businesses are looking ahead. That's why they stopped investing.

The raises that people were supposed to get never materialized. We have this huge deficit looming on the horizon. He's going to make Obama look like the most careful spender in presidential history. He's blown through Obama's record. So, I think for anyone to not look at this economy and be worried, they have to have their head in the sand.

LEMON: Can I ask you --

(CROSSTALK)

ASTORINO: I remember right after the election, Paul Krugman in the New York Times, we're going to go into a depression because he was elected.

LEMON: Well, but they weren't looking at economic indicators.

ASTORINO: That didn't work out.

LEMON: So, they were just talking about his ability to lead a world economy.

RAMPELL: If he -- look, not just that, but if he had successfully implemented his economic agenda. It's quite possible he wants to go back to the gold standard. That's what he ran on. He wants to immediate -- he said he was going to immediately deport 11 million undocumented immigrants.

ASTORINO: There is a lot -- there is a lot of ifs here but the economy is doing pretty well.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Catherine, let me ask you.

RAMPELL: That was his agenda. That was his agenda.

LEMON: Catherine, let me ask you about this Washington Post reporting.

ASTORINO: But he didn't do it.

RAMPELL: So, we should praise him for not successfully --

(CROSSTALK)

ASTORINO: He wasn't going to --

RAMPELL: -- executing his agenda that would have thrown us into a depression? I don't --

LEMON: OK. So --

D'ANTONIO: He ran on it.

LEMON: He's saying he wasn't going to do a gold standard, but he ran on it so it didn't matter.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: He wanted to default on our debt.

LEMON: Listen, let's not get too far afield here. Because I want to talk about this "Washington Post" reporting. White House officials eyeing payroll tax cut in an effort to reverse weakening economy.

So, the White House is knocking down the idea tonight, saying that more tax cuts may be on the horizon, they're saying, right now. President Obama had a payroll tax cut for a time. Should this be done now, do you think?

RAMPELL: Well, when we had a tax cut under Barack Obama, that was in response to what could have been another Great Depression.

[22:25:03] So it was a very different set of economic circumstances. This was as part of, you know, the recovery act, I believe, was part of that or was a separate piece of legislation. I don't remember the exact chronology at that time but it was at a very different point in the business cycle.

I'm not as a rule against cutting payroll taxes. These are taxes that fall on, by definition, working people. They're not capital gains taxes, which is another idea that this administration has floated unpaid for.

So, I think if we were talking about tax cuts, this would be better, but if we're looking at what's actually threatening the economy right now in the realm of tax policy, it's tariffs.

LEMON: All right.

RAMPELL: Tariffs are taxes. Why not go after those?

LEMON: Thank you.

ASTORINO: I want to talk about Greenland because we have a lot of money to spend to buy Greenland.

LEMON: That's because you're wearing this green tie and tan suit.

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: We'll solve the tariffs, right?

LEMON: Thank you, Catherine. Thank you, Michael. Thank you, green tan man.

D'ANTONIO: Tan man.

LEMON: I appreciate it. You take it every time you come.

ASTORINO: I love it.

LEMON: Yes. Well, I hope you'll be back. Thank you all.

Anthony Scaramucci said the BOP needs to come up with a primary challenger for President Trump. Well, I'm going to speak with a man who said he'd explore doing just that. Well, Mark Sanford, please stand up. There he is right there. Will he run against President Trump? I'm going to ask him, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump still has strong support from Republican voters, but some are unhappy with the direction of the party and the country. Is the president vulnerable to a primary challenge?

Joining me now is former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Representative, Mr. Mark Sanford.

Good evening. How you doing?

[22:30:03] FMR. REP. MARK SANFORD (R-SC): I'm good. Good to hear your voice. LEMON: Good to hear you. Good to hear your voice and good to have you

on. We have lots to talk about. Back in July, you told our very own Kate Bolduan that you'd be exploring a possible primary challenge to President Trump. So what's the status of that?

SANFORD: I have been running the traps, and you know you go through this process of talking to a lot of folks here at home, and frankly across the country, on the merits and demerits of doing so. And I am nearing a decision. I basically said by Labor Day I got to make this decision one way or the other.

LEMON: Well, you got, what, four, five days. You have, what, six days until you have got to make a decision. What are you going to do? You don't know?

SANFORD: It's coming up fast, yeah. I mean, you know, the obvious answer in human terms is there is a bit of fear and trepidation in a project so daunting and impossible. And I don't relish the idea of being a human pinata in front of Donald Trump. On the other side of the equation are the different friends who have encourage and their point has been, look, you know, you've spent a lot of time over the years talking about debt and deficits and the way the government spends.

You've talked about different things vital to our system of government, whether Republican or Democrat, in the way that the founding fathers set up the system. And a lot of things are being challenged on that front right now. And we need to have a serious conversation as Republicans about what it means to be Republican these days. And so it's for that reason that I think strongly about it, particularly given its implications in my four boys' lives going forward.

LEMON: Yeah. You guys really need to have a -- when somebody says, we need to talk. You need one of those talks, the Republican Party. Former Trump ally, Anthony Scaramucci, I think he agrees with what I just said and what you just said as well. Anthony Scaramucci told Anderson tonight that he's looking to build a coalition to take on Trump. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: This is really about the country. This is like step back, be brave, be courageous, look at the entire country. When you're going to bed tonight, close your eyes and say wait a minute. Is this how it's supposed to be in my country? The country I love. Is America supposed to be like this? I know I am worried about my 401(k), but what about the fabric of my country?

What about the division that's being sewed and the hatred? Is this what I want? And I am hoping a few guys will wake up tomorrow morning, give me a call, very easy to find, and say, hey, let's put this coalition together.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Governor, have you spoken to Anthony Scaramucci? Is that what this is about for you, too?

SANFORD: No. I mean, I have not spoken with him. I am certainly familiar with the name. And I have spoken to other folks in that camp that have been wandering around looking for folks that will run against Trump. You know, my direction and my hopping into this thing, if I do so, it will be based on the conversations I have had with friends here at home that I've known over the course of my life and a lot of new friends I've talked to across the country.

And that's sort of it. I wish them well in that endeavor. My view is the more the merrier. I think we need to have a robust conversation on the Republican side of the ledger on what it means to be Republican and how important it is that we go back to some of our historical lynchpins. I mean, traditionally, the Republican Party, on some level, stood for historical spending. That's gone out the window here for this administration, and for me, and I think other Republicans (Inaudible).

LEMON: Yeah. You said you're going to make a decision whether or not you're going to challenge Trump by Labor Day, and that's coming up, as I said, just a couple of days. But look at this poll. Look at these polls. Recent polls show that his approval is 88 percent among Republicans. How do you overcome that?

SANFORD: Well, I think what's interesting, because in New Hampshire, I was there last week. There was a similar poll, same kind of numbers in terms of overall support for the president. But about half of the respondents, in that very poll, said that they would like to see the president challenged. They would like to see a primary challenge.

And so I think that there is some level of cognitive dissonance on the Republican side of the equation, where people say, you know, I like what he's doing in terms of what they perceive to be happening in the economy or with regard to 401(k) plan, or what's going to comes next with regard to the border or wall. But at the same time, they do have a sense of unease about is this economy sustainable?

What's happening on that front? Is some of the (Inaudible) that goes on as a consequence of his occasional outrageous tweets? Is this sustainable? And so I think that there is a market out there. And that there are a lot of Republicans, because I have talked to them over 20 years in politics that care very much about bread and butter, what -- again, are historically Republican issues, about simply balancing the budget and things like that.

LEMON: If you're not the candidate, if you decide come Monday, next week, that you're not going to run, would you vote for Trump?

SANFORD: Again, what I have said is -- with all due respect to Bernie Sanders, his political ideology is even further afield than Donald Trump's for me because I am a conservative Republican.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: There are others besides Bernie Sanders, though.

[22:35:00] SANFORD: I know, but the last time I checked, the progressive wing of the party seems to be leading the charge, and so that's where I am.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Hold on one second. I am sorry for the delay. Bernie Sanders is not even leading the polls. It's Joe Biden at this point, and then Elizabeth Warren is second.

SANFORD: I am aware of that. But last time I checked, there seems to be a nipping on the heels with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie accruing, and Biden holding, more or less still, that the movement seems to be on the other side. Maybe I am wrong on that, but that's some of what I have seen in some of the polls.

(CROSSTALK)

SANFORD: I am saying I am a Republican. I will end up supporting a Republican.

LEMON: All right, which is the president, yes? That's a yes?

SANFORD: I know I am disappointing you right now.

LEMON: No, no.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I'm going to make this clear. You're not disappointing me. It's just that there is a delay, this crosstalk. I just want to make sure that what you're saying comes across to our viewers. That's it.

SANFORD: Sure, sure.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, Mr. Sanford. I appreciate it.

SANFORD: My pleasure.

LEMON: One of the president's most loyal supporters started 2016 trying to stop him from getting elected. How Mike Pompeo went from calling Trump a con artist to being his right-hand man as Secretary of State.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: In an administration known for record staff turnover, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stands out as a lone survivor of President Trump's original national security team. More remarkable is Pompeo's transformation from being an outspoken Trump critic to becoming one of his most vocal supporters. Susan Glasser joins me now. Her profile, Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of Trump, is just out in the New Yorker and it is fascinating.

I read the entire thing, Susan. And I agree. It is fascinating, so thank you for joining us. Mike Pompeo was not an obvious choice to serve in President Trump's cabinet. This is then Congressman Pompeo who backed Senator Marco Rubio, his presidential bid, attacking Trump. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Donald Trump the other day said "if he tells a soldier to commit a war crime, the soldier will just go do it." He said they'll do as I tell them to do. We spent seven and a half years with an authoritarian president who ignored our Constitution. We don't need four more years of that. We all know that our men and women in uniform don't swear an allegiance to President Trump or any other president.

They take an oath to defend our Constitution as Kansans, as conservatives, as Republicans, as Americans. Marco Rubio will never demean our soldiers by saying that he will order them to do things that are inconsistent for our Constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, Pompeo went from that blistering criticism to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POMPEO: I think a fantastic outcome from the day and a half that we all spent there led by the president. The president's discussion with President Putin set the conditions where we can find overlapping space. Counterterrorism, the Russians on the treaties that there are violations of in place, and we can begin to have important dialogues to put that relationship in a place where we reduce the risk to the United States.

I am glad to serve as your CIA director. It is an incredible privilege to lead the men and women (Inaudible), and I am not going to say a damn thing in front of the media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Susan, what happened? What's behind this transformation of Mike Pompeo?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, it's such a breathtaking flip-flop, I think that in some ways we forget just how monumental it is, because it's really, you know, in a way a microcosm of what the Republican party did. Remember that, you know, basically the entire party was against Donald Trump. Now, what's notable is that Pompeo as a congressman spoke out in such strident terms.

This wasn't just a matter of policy differences with Donald Trump. He said that he was a threat to the Constitution. Just a few months later, according to my reporting, he was not only willing to serve Donald Trump, but was actually seeking a job out in the Trump administration within days of Trump winning the election. He was trying to become CIA director or secretary of the Army. And now, he's gone in the exact opposite direction of being perhaps

the most obsequious of Trump's many advisers, according to people I spoke with. You know, the thing is that I was struck by the fact that, you know, Trump has nominated and given people chances they wouldn't have had in any other administration, right? Mike Pompeo has a thinner resume than any modern Secretary of State.

He has less international experience. He hasn't been vetted in many ways by the public in a way that we've become accustomed to, never mind having the diplomatic experience. It's really -- Trump has given him this opportunity of a lifetime in many ways. And I think that explains at least part of this transformation.

LEMON: Yeah. Susan, listen, there is a description in your article by a former ambassador, very simply calling Pompeo a heat-seeking missile, and this is a quote, for Trump's ass. It's gotten a lot of attention. Is this how the Secretary of State managed to become the lone survivor of Trump's original national security team?

GLASSER: Well, Don, there are plenty of people who have worked with Trump as that ambassador had who believe that that is a key part of his success. Needless to say, that is not very diplomatic language, and is not the kind of thing I have heard from current or former U.S. ambassadors about American secretaries of state before, and it leapt out at me.

[22:45:06] And I think it's something that's striking and notable. And when we look back on this period of American history, it's one of the things that are going to distinguish this moment. I mean, you know, Secretary Pompeo, at his one-year anniversary, and most cabinet secretaries these days don't even get one year in office.

He defined the State Department's mission as serving -- the premier agency serving the president of the United States. Not the American people, but the president of the United States.

LEMON: Susan Glasser, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

GLASSER: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: The officer accused of fatally choking Eric Garner was fired today. But the story is far from over, all the details, next.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The New York police officer accused of fatally choking Eric Garner in 2014 has been fired, will not receive his NYPD pension, the commissioner James O'Neill saying this today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES O'NEILL, NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: In this case, the unintended consequence of Mr. Garner's death must have a consequence of its own. It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Garner, a father of six, was allegedly selling loose cigarettes illegally when police tried to arrest him, although his family disputes that account. His last words, I can't breathe, I can't breathe, became a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter, the Black Lives Matter movement around the country. Joining now to discuss is Tom Verni. Tom is a former NYPD detective and a CNN contributor. CNN Contributor Wesley Lowery is here as well.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining United States, this all coming down today. I want to play a little bit more from Commissioner O'Neill, and then we'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'NEILL: Carrying out the court's verdict in this case, I take no pleasure. I know that many will disagree with this decision and that is their right. There are absolutely no victors here today. Not the Garner family, not the community at large, and certainly not the courageous men and women of the police department, who put their own lives on the line every single day in service to the people of this great city. Today is a day of reckoning, but can also be a day of reconciliation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So Wes, he says there are no victors. What's your reaction to Pantaleo's firing?

WESLEY LOWERY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, certainly, you know, this was a decision that there were questions about whether or not this was what was going to happen or not. We have to remember, this has been an extremely long, more than five years long process, right? First, the local grand jury deciding they weren't going to bring criminal charges. Then you had a federal investigation begun under the Obama administration stretched into the Trump administration.

There was a big fight at the DOJ about whether or not they were going to charge this officer federally. Ultimately, they decided not to. And then you had what is the internal administrative process, right, an internal trial where the NYPD had to decide. Did officer Pantaleo violate the chokehold policy? It's no police officer in NYPD is allowed to use a chokehold. The officer's attorneys argued, essentially, that he hadn't used the chokehold.

It was a different type of hold, a seat belt hold. They argued that Eric Garner was so out of shape, in such bad shape that a bear hug could have killed him. Meanwhile, the prosecutor said, look, we've all seen the video. We've all watched it. It appears to be a chokehold. You know, it's unsurprising to me that the officer was fired based on the facts of the case.

And I sat in the courtroom for the six-day trial. But I thought the prosecutors made a compelling argument. But then again, it is remarkably rare for police officers to be fired for on-duty work. And we do have to remember that even once an officer is fired, very often they succeed at appealing and getting their job back. And so, you know, so two quick things, you know?

First, a five-year process, whether the officer, whether you're the Garner family, whether you're the city of New York, that is a remarkably slow bureaucracy for justice no matter what. And second, this still probably isn't over.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, let's get a former member of the NYPD in, Tom Verni. You say that the commissioner was backed into a corner with his decision. Why do you say that?

TOM VERNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you have to remember that when I first started coming on CNN almost five years ago, we started talking about this case, this right after Ferguson. And you have to remember the mayor of New York is currently running for president, as ridiculous as that is. That's all we need is for him to go run the country the way he's running New York City into the ground. So, you know, Commissioner O'Neill needs to keep his job.

So aside from the facts of the case, he has to appease the mayor of the city of New York. And plus, they also don't want a city full of riots going on tonight if the decision had gone the other way. So his back was up against the wall. If he keeps him on, he was screwed. If he fires him, he's screwed.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Do you think there are other commissioners who -- someone like Bratten would have backed down to the mayor of the city? Do you think it was wrong?

VERNI: Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times and none of those officers were fired. So there have been other incidents where during the department trial, it's found that the officers took the proper action that they were trained to take. And again, you know, Wes is correct, in that during trial they didn't talk about the fact that Pantaleo used an academy-trained approved seatbelt maneuver, which during the struggle starts to turn into a chokehold.

But he's not choking him to death on purpose, certainly we know that. And it's unfortunate -- I feel awful for the Garner family, I really do. I said that from day one since I stepped in here. I feel awful for them and what they've gone through. You know, but there is also some responsibility bared by Eric Garner not complying with the police. And let's also not forget a huge part of this.

The mayor of the city of New York put this perfect storm together by ordering the police department to crackdown on the sale of loose cigarettes, because the city was losing tax revenue. So the mayor chose tax revenue over Eric Garner's life.

LEMON: Yeah. So listen -- go ahead, Wesley, what did you want to say?

[22:55:07] LOWERY: I was going to add, I mean, that was something that came out in the administrative trial that was really interesting, right, that this order -- one of the things about these cases, right, is that we very often don't find out all the details until well later on. And so when this administrative trial happened, there was testimony that the reason Eric Garner was stopped that day was because the command staff had called their officers in, had ordered a crackdown on loose cigarettes.

That day, a lieutenant had called into the precinct and said I see some guys on the corner. Go check it out. And so it speaks to, again, stepping away from the specifics of the interaction, one way or the other, it does speak to the way high-level policing decision and priorities can start to create these on the ground, you know, moments. Again, someone, a high-ranking officer at NYPD, because of what he had been instructed, called in and said get those guys off the corner.

And it leads to this fatal interaction. I just think that the context, that's worth considering.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you both. Listen, I got to run. But it's important to note the family is looking for a law in Eric Garner's name. They talked about at in the press conference. They've been talking about it since it happened. So we'll continue to follow the story. Also, he plans to appeal, so we'll see, Eric Garner. I'm sorry, Pantaleo, is going to appeal. Thank you, gentlemen, appreciate it, gentlemen. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)