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CNN TONIGHT

Good Economy Is Trump's Only Ladder For 2020; President Trump's Approval Rating At 43 Percent Only; History Of Slavery Brought By NYT 1619 Project; President Trump Has Made No Secret His Admiration For Andrew Jackson; President Trump Appears To Be Backing Off His Plan To Expand Background Checks On Gun Buyers; Three Men Arrested For Making Separate Mass Shooting Threats. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 19, 2019 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

President Trump and his top aides denying that the economy could be facing a possible recession in the near future despite warnings from economists that a downturn may be headed our way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Most economists actually say, Phil, that we're not going to have a recession. Mostly of them are saying we're not going to have a recession. But the rest of the world is not doing well like we're doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The president said to be increasingly nervous at the possibility of a recession just as he is gearing up his campaign for reelection. But what about the Democrats hoping to unseat him? Would a recession help or hurt the eventual Democratic nominee? It's a good discussion.

Joe Lockhart, Bakari Sellers. Gentlemen, hello. Good evening to you. So glad that you can both be on.

Bakari, I'm going to start with. If a recession hit during the primary contest, would that play out -- how would that play out in the Democratic race?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, I don't think any Democrat -- I know Joe and myself both are not hoping that the country goes into a recession. We don't want individuals to have to suffer more than they are.

But what we are seeing is that the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost. Donald Trump inherited a great economy from Barack Obama, one that was steadily growing. And everybody remembers the doldrums, the pits that Barack Obama lifted the economy up from.

But now you have a tax scam for the top 1 percent, which is raising our deficit. I know you had my former Governor Mark Sanford on earlier who harps back when the Republican Party used to care about deficits, how the deficit is now $1.1 trillion.

You have tariffs, which are bad for our farmers, bad for our businesses, bad for our manufacturers, bad for our retailers. And so, yes, I mean, what he's done is he's implemented his own policies and he's screwed up Barack Obama's good economy. Thank you, Donald Trump.

LEMON: Joe, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders are much further to the left on the economy than moderate candidates like Joe Biden. Would that hurt them or help them if the economy enters a recession?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, I think normally and in normal situations, a recession or tough economic times would lead to, you know, more -- would be beneficial to more populist candidates like Warren or Sanders. But these aren't normal times.

I think -- I've been struck over the last couple months how often people say they want a steady hand. They want D.C. experience. They want -- they want things to calm down as opposed to, you know, sort of a lurch to the left or, you know, big radical revolutionary changes.

So, I think it's hard to predict. I think all of them -- I agree with everything Bakari said on where Democrats are. I think whether the economy is in recession or not in recession, Democrats are going to focus on how Donald Trump has made worse the central problem of our time, which is income inequality, by giving this big trillion-dollar tax cut to corporations that's done nothing to stimulate the economy.

So, I think in some ways it doesn't matter because the message is the same. The economy is not working for most Americans whether we're in recession or not in recession.

LEMON: Interesting. Listen, and Bakari, we're talking about this, right, because that is the thing that he has used as his shield, his cape, right, his superhero cape, the economy, the economy, the economy.

A new Wall street Journal poll puts the president's approval rating at 43 percent. Fifty-five percent disapproving. That's down slightly from last month. So, listen, I'm going ask you about the Democrats last time, my last question. What if the economy does take a dive, what does it do to his base, then, Bakari?

SELLERS: Absolutely nothing. I mean, we can't forget that Donald Trump had an approval rating in the mid-30s when he beat Hillary Clinton. So, I'm not someone to believe that these polls somehow are going to dictate who turns out for Donald Trump.

He has a core base of supporters. He has about 60 million people in this country that voted for him, 62 million people. That wasn't more votes than Hillary Clinton, but it was enough to win the electoral college.

[23:05:02] He's more than formidable. There are people who are going to support him for reasons other than the economy. I don't necessarily believe in this economic anxiety myth people are perpetrating as much as it is cultural anxiety.

But he's running on a lot of different things. He's running -- and his campaign is going to be something that divides individuals and turns us against each other.

Because he still has that ability to turn this country against each other and turn us on our heads, he has the ability, if we're not -- if we don't have a strong candidate who helps us point in the better angels of our nature, he has the ability to win again.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, you're right about the culture anxiety. That's what every single study shows. It's not economic anxiety that propelled this president to office, it was cultural anxiety. And I think that it's important that we point that out.

Listen, Joe, Joe Biden, Joe Biden's wife, making a strong case for electing her husband while she campaigned in New Hampshire. She's acknowledging not everyone is necessarily all-in for her husband. But she said the electability argument, the electability argument, saying if the polls are consistent in showing Biden at the top, that can't be dismissed. Is Jill Biden right?

LOCKHART: Well, I think she does make an important point. I also think that Joe Biden has the strongest message at its core, which is this election is about the soul of this country, and he makes the point that if Donald Trump gets another four years, we may not be able to retrieve and repair that soul.

Now, he's not the most -- he has not been the most powerful messenger of that. I think you can look at other candidates who have been out there -- Elizabeth Warren is running a tremendous campaign -- that have been creating more excitement.

But I think Biden has the message that Democrats and -- not -- you know, enough voters that went for Trump last time are comfortable with. So, I think electability is strong for him.

Jill Biden is right. But I think it's more than just electability. I think he has a message. The question is, you know, can he deliver it consistently and generate excitement?

LEMON: Gentlemen, I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Joining me now is former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, he's the author of "Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism."

Good to see you again, governor. Thank you so much

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to see you, Don. Thank you.

LEMON: Listen, I want to look at this NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that I discussed with Joe and Bakari. It says that 49 percent approve of President Trump's handling of the economy, down from 51 percent in April. I got to look (Ph) on with that.

And then but the margin between those who approve and disapprove is shrinking 10 percentage points in April, and it's now just three points. Is the president losing his best case for reelection?

MCAULIFFE: No question. The only thing that has propped him up with all the insanity and all the tweets that he's done has been a strong economy. But I remind you that this strong economy started in 2009. So, if he doesn't have the economic argument, he really doesn't have too many legs to stand on.

But, you know, this is a creation, as I say. He's tweeting us into a recession. He's created this trade war. Farmers today, their crops are rotting in the fields. They can't sell them any more abroad. He's alienated all of our allies around the globe.

And, listen, it's hurting the economy. People don't know whether I should build a new plant, they import as well as export. There is so much uncertainty that he has created with these tariffs that he's done with China. So, if he loses that, he doesn't have much to run on.

You know, he's lost the trade war, and now he wants to start a race war. But I implore Democrats, let's not play his game. Talk about those economic issues. And for the Democrats, laying out a planned, concise plan, what we're going to do on health care, a fairer tax code, raising individual wages for people in America, that's what they want to hear from the Democrats.

He's going to do all the insanity that he does and attacking the members of Congress. We can't play that game.

LEMON: OK.

MCAULIFFE: We've got to be strong on the issue of the economy with specifics of how we move forward.

LEMON: OK. Lots to get to because I want to move to.

MCAULIFFE: Yes.

LEMON: On the Democratic side --

MCAULIFFE: Yes.

LEMON: -- who do you see as being the -- in the best position to appeal to voters on the strengthening the economy?

MCAULIFFE: I agree with what Joe Lockhart just said. I think Vice- President Biden is in the best position. He was Barack Obama's vice- president who led us out of the Great Recession that we were in. So, he will have some very good talking points on that.

The other candidates, they are really going to have to lean in with some clever new ideas to capture the imagination of the American public. But I think Biden, as I say, because he spent eight years with President Obama. They got this economy going. Donald Trump inherited a great economy, and the sad part is he

inherited a great economy and now he's going to drive us into the doldrums. You've seen the indicators. You've seen what's happened in Germany. You see what's happening in England as they are moving towards a recession.

[23:10:04] The worldwide economy today is under stress. We're feeling it here in America. Just look at the housing, look at the automotive market. So I think people want to go to who has been there before, who has brought us out of difficult economic times.

LEMON: OK. Let me ask you this.

MCAULIFFE: Yes.

LEMON: I spent a lot of time this weekend talking to moderates and some people who are inclined to vote for President Trump. And they said, listen, if it's not Joe Biden, it's Trump, OK. I'm just being honest. And I said why not? They said because I cannot vote for a socialist.

And so what do you say -- but isn't the concern on the other side, someone like Joe Biden does not animate the progressive wing of the party, younger folks as well? Talk to me about that.

MCAULIFFE: Yes, but the polls don't show that today. He still has the lead. Listen, I disagree with the earlier statement. If it's not Joe Biden. We have a lot of great candidates running for president. I'll take any one of them against Donald Trump --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I'm just telling you what they said to me. This isn't me speaking.

MCAULIFFE: So, I got it.

LEMON: Yes.

MCAULIFFE: A lot of people say if it's not Joe we're not going to be able to win this. You know, I don't buy that. I've been doing this a very, very long time. Many candidates who went on to win our nomination to become president started at 1 or 2 percent and had no name identification and then --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But Terry --

MCAULIFFE: Yes.

LEMON: -- what I'm saying to you is that I think the president is pretty savvy in casting the Democrats -- and his accolades, casting the Democrats as socialists. Because he knows that someone like Joe Biden or a moderate Democrat could actually win. They might vote for that person over him. And so does that not make any sense to you? Because this, I mean,

listen, several people -- I can't vote for a socialist, I can't vote for a socialist. I would rather not vote for Trump, but if the choice is one of those people who are far left, then it's Trump.

MCAULIFFE: Well, if Donald Trump has the ability to portray the Democratic nominee as a socialist and a lot of people believe that argument, then we are going to have a difficulty winning the White House.

I agree with you a 100 percent. You know, that's not where our party is coming from, but we -- as I say, though, Don, it's not about these labels. Donald Trump has gotten us into this mess and we've first got to focus on Trump. He's the one that got us in this position today. What is it we're going to do laying out our positive message?

LEMON: Got it.

MCAULIFFE: We've got great candidates out there running getting their messages out. But you know, we're going to be close to a nominee in the next six or eight months. The focus will be on the nominee of the Democratic Party who then will be contrasted one on one with Donald Trump. And let me tell you, we've got closets full of stuff that we can talk about Donald Trump. But we've got to talk about what we're going to do.

LEMON: That's not making anyone feel any better especially me six or eight months. That's a long time. We've got a long way to go.

MCAULIFFE: Don, it will go pretty fast. Trust me.

LEMON: Thank you, Terry, I appreciate it. I'll see you soon.

MCAULIFFE: You bet.

LEMON: Thank you so much.

We've talked about the 1619 Project from "The New York Times," OK, and how it reframes American history around the date 400 years ago when the first ship full of American slaves arrived on our shores. So why is there a backlash against the project from some conservatives? We'll discuss. That's next.

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So, I want you to sit down and listen to this. It is very important what we're going to talk about here because there is a backlash erupting this weekend from conservatives over the New York Times magazine's groundbreaking.

It's a ground -- you got to read it, 1619 Project which, quote, "aims to reframe the country's history understanding 1619 is our -- as our true founding and placing the consequence of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are." So, let's discuss now the 1619 Project. Gloria Browne-Marshall is

here, Adam Serwer and Tim Naftali. It is a fascinating project. I tried to read through it as quickly as I can. But I will be finished with it by next Sunday, and then there will be more and I'll spend my entire week reading it.

I'm going to start with you, Gloria. Because Newt Gingrich is one of the people most upset about the 1619 Project, sending out a tweet this weekend equating it to propaganda. And saying, this is what he said on Fox News this morning. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: The whole project is a lie. Look, I think slavery is a terrible thing. I think putting slavery in context is important. I think certainly if you're an African-American, slavery is at the center of what you see as the American experience.

But for most Americans, most of the time, there were a lot of other things going on. There were several hundred thousand white Americans who died in the Civil War in order to free the slaves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK, why is discussing this such striking such a nerve? Black people were at the center of American history. Slaves helped to build every asset and facet of this great nation. It is not -- I think this is framing it in the way that it should be framed finally in this country.

GLORIA BROWNE-MARSHALL, PROFESSOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Finally, and that's the problem. From 1619 forward, no one talks about Mary and Anthony Johnson, a family, Angolan African family with land and servants of their own in the 1600s.

No one talks about that because then they change the laws to take away their land, make them aliens within their own colony and drive them away and that has been the way we have worked this country. It's two steps forward, one step back.

LEMON: I'm seeing a lot of heads shaking going on from Timothy Naftali. Tim, what did you want to say?

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I was very lucky. I learned about colonial American history from Edmund Morgan in college, and it is striking how the laws changed where African- Americans in some cases had the opportunity to acquire some economic power.

[23:20:01] And whites in the old dominion wanted to reframe the nature of work so that whites would always be in a superior position to Africans. And so that it is impossible to understand the development of the southern economy and southern culture and southern politics in the early part of the Americas without understanding slavery. I do not understand the argument from someone who considers themselves

an historian like Newt Gingrich, that you cannot -- that you can somehow subtract slavery out of the story of how this great American culture was formed.

LEMON: Listen, other conservative voices like Erick Erickson they're claiming that this is coming from opinion writers who, quote, "profit from seeing things through racial lenses and keeping racial tension a claim as much as Trump does."

Another conservative tweeting, contrary to its stand -- its stated goals, "it appears that the purpose of the 1619 Project is to delegitimatize America and further divide and demoralize its citizenry."

BROWNE-MARSHALL: But, Don, it's because this country wants to believe the concept that only hard work by Europeans created it, that they didn't steal the land from Native Americans, they didn't steal the labor to come and build this country. They didn't take the intellectual and creativity of Africans and other people.

They want to make this a European story. And if they talk about slavery, they then have to make it more than a European story.

LEMON: But isn't that what we learned in American history? I remember learning that in American history, basically that America it was European Americans who created most of America and on and on and on. That was something we learned on American history.

It wasn't -- listen, I went to a school, a Catholic school that was predominantly African-American growing up. But still, we didn't learn the true history. Isn't that, hasn't all of that been taught what all of these people are so upset about, Adam?

ADAM SERWER, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I think Newt actually told what you his problem is. It's OK to talk about slavery in the context of a redemption ark for white people. If you talk about black people as kind of a vehicle for white redemption of the original ideals of the founders, then that's fine.

But if you talk about slavery from a black perspective with black people at the center of it, that's offensive and delegitimatizing.

And I think there is sort of an ideological nugget of truth here in that if you look back and you see the country as fundamentally shaped by this institution of slavery, its economy, its governing institutions, by this institution that existed on this continent for longer than the United States has existed, then all of a sudden you have a particular responsibility to rectify the harm that was caused by that institution.

And I think that's a place that people like Mr. Newt Gingrich really don't want to go. And I think that's why there is such a backlash from this particular crowd.

LEMON: Everyone stay with me. We have much more to talk about. I also want to talk about Marianne Williamson's pledge to remove Andrew Jackson's portrait from the Oval Office. She's calling it one of the greatest insults. We'll be right back.

[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So, President Trump has made no secret of his administration for his admiration, I should say, for Andrew Jackson, even hanging a portrait of the 17th -- of the 7th president in Oval Office.

But today, 2020 Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson told a Native American audience that if she is elected president, that portrait is gone. Listen.

(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 Johnson 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: Back with me now to discuss, Gloria Browne-Marshall, Adam Serwer and Timothy Naftali. She was speaking to a Native American audience there. Gloria, I'm going to go to you first. Because we know about Andrew Jackson's Trail of Tears, forcing the relocation of Cherokee and Native Americans resulted in thousands of deaths. What do you think of Williamson's pledge?

BROWNE-MARSHALL: Well, why start and stop there? I mean, when you start thinking about the fact that George Washington had a slave, only judge who ran away and he sent bounty hunters after her into New Hampshire, no one talks about the fact that Jefferson, of course, and Sally Hemings' rape and the children she had by him.

And Andrew Johnson is more the president because he should have been impeached. He was the one who followed Abraham Lincoln and turned the clock back on reconstruction.

So, there's so much that we can say about different presidents and their portraits. My major concern is educating people as to who Andrew Jackson is or was and what he did, you probably gave people more information in that introduction about him than most school children and other people even know about Andrew Jackson.

LEMON: Wow. That is -- that's pretty sad. I mean, Tim, President Trump has made, as I said in the opening here in the introduction here, he's made no secret for his admiration for Andrew Jackson. This is -- remember, this is Sirius XM, 2017, this is what he told them. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later, you wouldn't have had the Civil War. He was, he was a very tough person, but he had a big heart.

[23:30:03] And he was -- he was really angry that -- he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, "There is no reason for this."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All right. So, maybe Gloria has a point, Timothy, because the fact check -- here are the facts. Jackson died well before the Civil War. It is comments like these that leave everyone scratching their head. Where does Trump get -- where does he get this stuff?

NAFTALI: All right. Trump is the least historically knowledgeable president of the modern era. My guess about Andrew Jackson is that he knew that Barack Obama wanted to change and take Andrew Jackson off the $20 bill and replace Jackson with Harriet Tubman, and he wants to make sure he doesn't do anything that Barack Obama wanted to do.

I don't think he has a clue who Andrew Jackson was. I think someone told him that Andrew Jackson was uncouth and was the first popularly -- among whites, that is -- popularly elected president and that was enough for him. I can't imagine that he would know anything about Andrew Jackson.

Look, every president gets to choose the portraits they have in the Oval Office. You learn a lot about a president, about the portraits they choose. If somehow Marianne Williamson should become president, I mean, a lot of stars would have to align in a different way.

LEMON: You never know.

NAFTALI: We can look forward to seeing the kind of people she chooses, which president she puts there.

LEMON: Yes.

NAFTALI: And I don't think Trump knows a darn thing about Andrew Jackson, frankly.

LEMON: It's interesting because I asked her a question about reparations during the debate. Here, she sort of took umbrage. I don't understand why. I thought it was a perfectly legitimate question. But, Adam, listen, Williamson was not -- she hasn't shied away from race- related issues. She has consistently spoken out of her belief in the need for reparations, telling CNN this earlier this month. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I feel strongly about reparations as opposed to race-based policies. Race-based policies leave open the question of whose fault it is that this economic gap exists. With reparations, there is an inherent mea culpa. It is an acknowledgment of a wrong that has been done, a debt that is owed, and the willingness of a nation to pay it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Adam, what do you make of how this issue is being discussed in the democratic primary right now?

SERWER: The issue of reparations?

LEMON: Um-hmm.

SERWER: I mean, I think at the moment, what you're saying obviously is democratic candidates trying to earn attention and support from the important demographic groups within the Democratic Party, and one of those groups is African-Americans. I'm not actually sure the extent to which being aggressive on reparations is going to win them over. I certainly don't think discussing the interior decorating decisions of the White House is really a big deal.

LEMON: Adam, hold on one second, because you are voicing what people will say when the cameras are not rolling. They'll tell you if they meet you, you know, somewhere at a party or on the street, they'll say, listen, discussing reparations -- I'm just telling you what other people are saying. This is both black and white, people of all stripes. Discussing reparations is a losing issue for Democrats. They should just stop it. But go on.

SERWER: I mean, I think it's pretty obvious that reparations in particular are unpopular. That doesn't mean that it would be wrong for the U.S. government to grant reparations given the history of not just slavery but discrimination and apartheid in this country aimed at African-Americans. But I think it's pretty obvious that it's not an issue that polls extremely well outside of certain segments of the Democratic Party.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, it's not me. Don't send your tweets and letters to me. I'm telling you what people are telling me. I'm sure you don't agree with that issue, that it is not the right time to be discussing it.

BROWNE-MARSHALL: People decide at Cali house, for example, decided reparations would be an issue of concern within days of the ending of slavery.

LEMON: Right.

BROWNE-MARSHALL: That's how long people have been trying to get reparations for African-American labor and contribution to this country. So I believe it is a very important discussion that must take place. African-Americans have turned the tide of many elections. It can turn the tide of this one. If this is an important issue, we should discuss it the same way labor discusses their issues. And African-Americans have that right to make their voices known in the political market place.

LEMON: Thank you all very much. I really appreciated this conversation. We'll be right back.

SERWER: Thank you.

[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A little more than two weeks after the deadly mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso which killed 31 people and injured dozens more, it appears that President Trump is pulling back from his initial plan to expand background checks on gun buyers. Days after the shootings, here is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm looking to do background checks. I think background checks are important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Here's what he said yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: People don't realize we have very strong background checks right now. There are a lot of background checks that have been approved over the years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So what happened? Likely a number of factors here. National Rifle Association, major supporter of the president, is against the idea of expanding background checks. And there is practically no support among Republicans on Capitol Hill to advance any kind of gun control legislation. After Dayton and El Paso, President Trump said this about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I will tell you, I spoke to Mitch McConnell yesterday. He's totally on board.

[23:40:00] He said, "I've been waiting for your call." He is totally on board.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: But that may not be the case. After the president made that comment, McConnell's office made clear that the majority leader hasn't committed to any proposals yet. Last week, McConnell told a Kentucky radio station that the Senate will consider background check legislation and red flag legislation when it returns from its summer recess and that's next month.

A red flag law would allow family members and law enforcement to petition a judge to bar someone from having the ability to buy or own a gun if they are deemed a threat to themselves or other people. But there are a couple of sticking points here. McConnell refused to bring the Senate back early from its recess to consider gun legislation. There were calls to do so right after the mass shootings. So he is delaying any consideration, basically letting things cool off, which likely means that no legislation will be put forward.

Another point Democrats in the House passed a universal background check, that bill was in February. But Mitch McConnell has refused to bring it to the floor for a vote in the Senate. So let's get back to the president. Instead of leading the way on expanding background checks or pushing legislation to get weapons of war off America's street, well, he is blaming the epidemic of gun violence in this country on mental health.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don't want people to forget that this is a mental health problem. I don't want them to forget that because it is. It's a mental health problem. It's the people that pull the trigger. It's not the gun that pulls the trigger. So we have a very, very big mental health problem.

These are people that have to be in institutions for help. I'm not talking about as a form of a prison, I'm saying for help. And I think it's something we have to really look at, the whole concept of mental institutions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That sounds like a talking point right out of the NRA playbook, as does this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm also very, very concerned with the Second Amendment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, too bad he's not concerned that weapons of war are killing Americans who can no longer feel completely safe in shopping malls, in churches, in synagogues, schools, movie theaters. The list goes on and on. But this is a pattern with President Trump. After 17 people were shot to death at the high school in Parkland, Florida last year, here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I will say again, background checks are going to be very strong. We need that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Talks the talk, doesn't walk the walk, though. He didn't do anything or push Congress to take any action at all. But he did say this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's called concealed carry, and it's -- it only works where you have people very adept at using firearms, of which you have many. And it would be teachers and coaches. If the coach had a firearm in his locker when he ran at this guy -- that coach was very brave, saved a lot of lives, I suspect. But if he had a firearm, he wouldn't have to run, he would have shot, and that would have been the end of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: There are school districts around the country where teachers and administrators are armed, but a lot of teachers say more guns are not the answer. Getting rid of guns is the way to go.

After the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, the president called for the death penalty for mass murderers, just like he did after the massacre in Pittsburg at the Pittsburg synagogue last fall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think one thing we should do is we should stiffen up our laws in terms of the death penalty when people do this. They should get the death penalty and they shouldn't have to wait years and years. They should pay the ultimate price.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So the death penalty is not likely to stop mass shootings. Most shooters expect to die at the hands of police, like the Dayton gunman did. Instead, the president should listen to the people. A poll last month found that 89 percent of Americans considered it a good idea to implement background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or private sales. A position shared by both Democrats and Republicans.

And yet the Tampa Bay Times reported last week on the existence of a House GOP talking point's memo which reiterates opposition to new gun control measures. It also condemns white supremacy and domestic terrorism. Republicans need a talking points memo to condemn white supremacy. Think about that. No one should hold their breath about new legislation to expand gun background checks, gun control, taking weapons of war off the streets.

Three different men arrested in three different states after authorities say each was threatening a mass shooting. Details, next.

[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Three different young men from different parts of the country are in police custody, each accused of planning to launch a mass shooting. CNN's Sara Sidner has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-year-old James Reardon, arrested with an arsenal of weapons, assault rifles, gas masks, knives and bullets, the potential makings of a mass shooting, police say, near Youngstown, Ohio.

VINCENT D'EGIDIO, CHIEF, NEW MIDDLETOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT: He was charged initially right now with telecommunication harassment and aggravated menacing.

SIDNER (voice-over): The investigation began after police were alerted to his Instagram post, intimating there would be a mass shooting at a Jewish community center. Reardon appeared in court and pleaded not guilty, but he has admitted to being a white nationalist.

This is Reardon 2017 at the racist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly.

[23:50:03] JAMES REARDON, WHITE NATIONALIST: I want a homeland for white people, and I think every race should have a homeland for their own race.

SIDNER (voice-over): In Volusia County, Florida --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).

SIDNER (voice-over): Police arrest 25-year-old Tristan Scott Wix after linking him to a potential mass shooting and finding a rifle and 400 rounds of ammunition in his home.

MICHAEL CHITWOOD, SHERIFF, VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLORIDA (voice-over): He fits the profile exactly. He lost his job. He lost his girlfriend. He is depressed. He has got the ammunition and he wants to become known for being the most prolific killer in American history.

SIDNER (voice-over): The sheriff hailed the suspect's ex-girlfriend a hero because she alerted authorities to text messages they say she received from Wix, saying things like, "I want to open fire in a large crowd of people."

And in Connecticut, another man, another arrest, involving the fear of a mass shooting, 22-year-old Brandon Wagshol was picked up after a tip that he was trying to buy a large-capacity rifle magazine out of state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was some Facebook post that indicated his interest in mass murder.

SIDNER (voice-over): Police say he had the weapons at his home to carry it out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: Now, Wagshol's attorney says that he thought his client was doing everything legal. His client thought he was doing everything right and that he was not trying to hide anything from police. CNN also tried to get in touch with the other two and/or their representatives and have heard nothing back.

But there is something else that is common in all three of these cases. In all three cases, they were stopped, police say, because someone from the public or their social circles reported it. Don?

LEMON: Oh, my gosh. What the hell? I want you to stay with me, Sara, because I want to bring Juliette Kayyem into this conversation as well. Good evening to both of you.

Sara, you know, just two weeks after the massacres in El Paso and Dayton, it certainly sounds like we came awfully close to seeing more tragedy. Can you imagine? We could be sitting here, Sara, reporting on three mass shootings right now. Luckily, we are reporting that they were thwarted.

SIDNER: That's right. The sad thing is, Don -- and I am sure Juliette will also concede to this -- that this is not a surprise because we've had more mass shootings than days of the year this year.

So, it is the exception that we're seeing three different places, three different states with three different -- more than three different law enforcement agencies making these arrests.

We're usually reporting on the aftermath of this horrible tragedy. This time, we're reporting on law enforcement that has gone fort and said, look, this appears to be a threat and we are going to try and nullify the threat, stop it from happening.

Usually, reporting on the opposite thing. So I think we have to think in terms of this happens far too often. In fact, more mass shootings than days of the year. What does that tell us about what we are dealing with here?

LEMON: In all of these cases, Juliette, as Sara just mentioned, three of these cases were brought to the attention of law enforcement by tips from the public. Are people, you know, finally getting tuned in, you think, to this very real threat of mass shootings in this country?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I do. I think it is absolutely right. You had either a girlfriend or someone who is watching this social media presence of these guys come forward, not be embarrassed, not be shy, not think that it's a joke, let federal law enforcement, let the legal process determine whether it was a joke, whether it was real.

In all these cases and in particular, you know, two of them, these guys had like war rooms. I mean, four -- what is it, four hundred rounds? This is not -- this is no joke. I think that this is the half- glass full aspect of it. The half-glass empty aspect of course is they are feeding off of each other. This idea of notoriety, this idea of publicness, that's the amazing thing about it.

They are all talking about their desires either on social media or with a girlfriend or in texts. That is a sense that they have a community and that they want this to be their sort of, you know, 15 minutes, so to speak.

LEMON: Juliette, I got to ask you this. I mean, you can't ignore that all of these cases involved young, white men. You said there is a sort of toxic masculinity that is part of how these men view themselves in the world. What is going on?

KAYYEM: We have seen this in a number of cases. I mean, this is -- at Sara's point, we forget some of these, like the man who walked into the yoga studio. A lot of these men are animated by just this toxic masculinity, this hatred of women.

One of the guys that we are talking about today was texting the girlfriend. The texts were both courtship, right, a weird sort of idea that the guns were some sort of like, you know, part of foreplay, I hate to say it, but also they were threats, right, that they -- that if she did not give him what he wanted, that he was going to take it out on the community.

So this idea of masculinity being tied with guns is animating a lot of things we see. Look at these pictures from Walmart. These men walked in to a Walmart.

[23:55:00] I mean, I like going for fertilizer.

LEMON: I know.

KAYYEM: In guns and such. So, it's just, you know, until we address the guns issue, you know, we're stuck.

LEMON: That's got to be the last word. Thank you, Sara. Thank you, Juliette. I appreciate it. Nice reporting, Sara. Thanks. Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.

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