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CNN TONIGHT

President Trump Paints Democrats As Anti-Semitic; A New Threat For Europe From Trump; Republicans Not Done Yet With Rep. Ilhan Omar; Labor Department Reports A Decline In Jobs Created; President Trump Is Renewing His Attacks On The Media And The Federal Reserve As Fears Over A Recession Loom; President Trump Thanks Conspiracy Theorist Who Compared Him To 'The King Of Israel' And 'The Second Coming Of God'; Sean Spicer Joins The Cast Of "Dancing With The Stars." Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 21, 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] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: President Trump not backing down in the face of criticism that he is pushing an anti-Semitism trope, in fact, ramping up his divisive rhetoric today claiming that Jewish- Americans who vote for Democrats are being disloyal to fellow Jews and to the state of Israel. Much more on this just ahead.

Also, today, the president trying to defend the state of the economy and his handling of it, especially his trade war with China. Oddly insisting it's not his trade war, even though it is. Also insisting that China should have been confronted years ago and saying this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Somebody had to do it. I am the chosen one. Somebody had to do it. So, I'm taking on China. I'm taking on China on trade. And you know what? We're winning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Lots to discuss. Philip Bump is here, Peter Beinart, and Michael D'Antonio. Michael is the author of "The Truth About Trump."

Good evening one and all. It's so good to have you in studio. So, is this going to be a fight or what are we going to do? What a crazy day. Right? Seriously. I mean, all right, anyway.

The president looking up at the sky referring to himself as the chosen one, Michael. He praises himself all the time. But don't you think that this is another level.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it is another level, but I think this is the secret voice that's inside of him. He does think of himself as a near deity. He imagines he's the smartest person in the world. He's a very stable genius.

And when things are tough for him, he actually sort of, retrenches to this automatic pressing of his superiority, his dominance over the news cycle in this case. You know, he got up this morning and I think decided that he was going to be talked about all day long by just about everybody, and it turns out that he was talked about all day long by just about everybody.

LEMON: How many times do you think he practiced that?

D'ANTONIO: I think, you know, first he had to write the line I'm the chosen one and then he had to practice it. He probably had Ivanka come in and critique and tell him how it looked. She said it looks terrific, daddy. You know, this is absurd. To quote the prime minister of Denmark, this is absurd. This is an absurd man.

LEMON: Yes.

D'ANTONIO: Who has brought us to an absurd level.

LEMON: Philip, he is tweeting quote, a quote from a conspiracy theorist. He said "The Jewish people in Israel love him like he is the king of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God." I mean, king, second coming of God, I mean that's a messiah complex, right? And the people of Israel, I'm sure they love him, right? But that's a messiah complex.

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He is popular in Israel, yes, that's true.

LEMON: Of course.

BEINART: Jewish tradition actually says that the messiah -- when the messiah comes will be someone who brings peace and tranquility to the world. Right? Not exactly something I think Donald Trump is doing.

But, you know, part of it has this very weird notion I think Donald Trump has about nationality, which is that Donald Trump thinks American Jews should be loyal to the state of Israel. American Jews are American citizens. Right?

It's just like he called Judge Curiel, remember, who was born in Indiana, the Mexican-American judge, he called him a Mexican.

LEMON: Yes.

BEINART: Because I think for Donald Trump if you're not white and Christian, the idea is you don't really belong here so you actually belong somewhere else.

LEMON: Did I call you Philip? I'm sorry.

BEINART: It's an honor. It's an honor.

LEMON: So, Peter -- I mean, Philip. No, I'm kidding. The president he's accusing American-Jews of disloyalty. Watch this and then we'll discuss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Jewish people and you're being very disloyal to Israel, and only weak people would say anything other than that.

I think that if you vote for a Democrat you're very, very disloyal to Israel and to the Jewish people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, listen, his defenders are trying to say that, you know, he doesn't mean what you think he means, right, about this whole thing about a dual -- about questioning and having a dual loyalty. Then he doubles down on it. When he said that -- when he insists, he meant disloyal to Israel. What do you think it's anti-Semitic? What is it? Is he still not getting it right even in his explanation?

PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: No, I think what he said today is exactly what he meant when he was speaking in the Oval Office yesterday. He meant to say that he thinks that American-Jews who vote Democratic are being disloyal to Israel.

Now the fascinating thing about this is I actually reached out to the White House. Because we've been hearing for months Donald Trump's critiques of these legislatures -- legislators as being anti-Semitic. I reached out for the White House, they said give me the evidence, show me what you've got that says here how these people are anti- Semitic.

And what they provided to me was a list of things that we already know about nothing dealing with two of the four Congress members, but one of the points that's central to it is claims that Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota had made a dual loyalty allegation, which is precisely and much more directly what President Trump did today.

I think especially in the context of those tweets from Wayne Allyn Rot, what he is really doing is he's speaking to his base. In the same way that he made this outreach to black voters in 2016 in an attempt to sort of say to his base, look, I do care about black voters as well.

[23:05:06] I think what he's doing with this is to some extent is trying to show to his base, hey, I'm not anti-Semitic because look at how I'm doing this outreach to --

LEMON: His evangelical base you're talking about?

BUMP: Exactly. That's exactly right.

LEMON: Let me ask you this. Were you satisfied? Because I read the article when you asked them well, when you asked the White House, so what are all these allege anti-Semitic things that these congresswomen said.

BUMP: Right.

LEMON: And then they gave you a rundown of it and it wasn't necessarily a laundry list of things.

BUMP: Right. LEMON: So, were you satisfied with that list?

BUMP: Well, I mean, I was not expecting anything more to be fair. Donald Trump has portrayed these four Congress members as being inherently anti-Semitic and thoroughly anti-Semitic. Right?

But in reality, what's presented is one tweet from Rashida Tlaib of Michigan which is essentially is sort of questionable as to whether or not she's saying something which could be construed as anti-Semitic.

Various things by Ilhan Omar which have been talked endlessly in the press. Nothing by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Nothing by Ayanna Presley. It is simply Donald Trump trying to blow up anti-Semitism as a thing he can label the Democrats with while not having any justification for doing it.

LEMON: It doesn't matter if it's true or not.

BUMP: No. I mean, that's --

LEMON: It doesn't matter if it's a lie. Michael, Trump previously invited the creator of an anti-Semitic comic to the White House or when he tweeted out during the campaign an image of Hillary Clinton with the Star of David over the background of money. He told Jewish Republicans in April that Netanyahu was, quote, "your prime minister."

Part of why we're seeing anger now is because that isn't new. That there is so many other examples. Like the example of Charlottesville.

D'ANTONIO: Charlottesville then early in his life talking about how he wants short Jewish guys in yarmulkes to count his money. This is a man who uses these tropes whenever they're convenient to him.

He's kind of lost in the 1940s and '50s New York City hype ethnic awareness period, you know, where everybody seemed to identify themselves and others with well, you're an Italian-American. You're a Jewish-American. You know, he doesn't seem to get that we're all Americans first.

LEMON: Yes.

D'ANTONIO: And I think that Philip was absolutely right, that he was making a play for the Evangelical base, which has fetishized Israel and has gone -- done a complete 180 from regarding Israel as necessary as Armageddon and planning on them being wiped out in the war that will end civilization to embracing Israel and saying we're also like the Jews. We Evangelicals are like the Jews and we're with you.

And the last thing that I think is really notable and you and I talked about this earlier today. Whenever the president gestures wildly, the more he gestures, the more you know that he's lying and that he's trying to sell you something.

So, all day long today he was gesturing wildly. He was looking up to the Lord. He was using his hands in an extreme manner. And that's his tell. That means that he's manipulating us and lying. LEMON: And this, when he does that thing.

D'ANTONIO: Yes, the swaying.

LEMON: So, I mean, but isn't -- it just strikes me, Peter, as Michael was talking there, this is, you know, he -- Trump and his supporters always accuse the left of identity politics.

BEINART: Right.

LEMON: This is the definition of identity politics, don't you think?

BEINART: Right. That's exactly right. I think that what Donald Trump doesn't understand is that most American Jews, not all, they're not monolithic, but most American Jews identify with people who are the underdog and are oppressed and marginalized because of our history.

Jews, most Jews have always believed that we would be safer in an America where the most persecuted groups found first-class citizenship. That's why American-Jews went south during the Civil Rights movement.

That's why, you know, Goodman and Schwerner and Goodman were killed along with James Chaney. Because American -- it wasn't only that it was the right thing to do. In the wake of the Holocaust, American Jews knew that if African-Americans couldn't become first-class citizens, our situation was always in peril.

And that's why American-Jews identify with Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even if there are differences on Israel. We know that Donald Trump ultimately and people like him represent a threat to us as a noticeable minority with a history of persecution.

LEMON: Michael just brought this up, Philip, but I want to talk about it. Because this is -- when Trump was quoted by an ex-exec, Trump exec in 1991 as saying "black guys counting my money, I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day." I mean, that's a twofer, racist twofer.

BUMP: I mean, yes. I mean, it's -- I think one of the most remarkable things about this moment is we constantly hear Donald Trump being put out there we're going to let Donald Trump be Donald Trump. He's the guy that's not politically correct. He is the guy he is going to tell it like it is. He says what everyone else is thinking yadda, yadda, yadda.

And at the same time, we're supposed to believe he has this very reserved, a very well-considered views of the people around him. Right.

[23:10:01] I mean, this is Donald Trump is, literally if you go back and watch the very first Republican primary debate. The first question he gets, he says, well, I'm not about being politically correct.

Statements like that are very believable. Because, a, everything we see from Donald Trump suggests that he says these sorts of things and, b, he presents himself as being the person who says these sorts of things. And for us to then give him the benefit of the doubt in terms of how he approaches other people I think is probably foolish on our part.

BEINART: And then it has real world implications for people. Right? Because Donald Trump maybe he's just doing this because it's going to get him some votes or it will get him on national attention.

But there are people out there in the country, right, who listen to this stuff and then taunt kids at school, right, or beat people in the street or God forbid, shoot people in their houses of worship. Right? So, it's actually not just a game.

LEMON: Yes. When Democratic congresswoman -- Peter, this for you. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was accused of using anti-Semitic tropes on multiple occasions, she was and still is condemned. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): There is a rise of anti-Semitism. We already stood up to Congresswoman Omar just a few weeks ago, and she just repeated it, even which I believe worse, questioning the allegiance and the alliance of American Jews. Could they -- could they be true to America?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): They accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins. They're anti-Semitic. They're anti- America.

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): You had a lot of people breaking their silence speaking out about this anti-Semitic trope. It is infiltrating -- it's anti-Semitic and there is anti-Israel hate that is infiltrating American politics. Innocent American-Jews and others are going to confront, well, then I'm not going to be silent about it, I'm going to confront it.

TRUMP: Anti-Semitism has no place in the United States Congress. And Congressman Omar is terrible what she said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, they all went after Ilhan Omar for what she said and what she tweeted, Peter. Zeldin is now defending the president. Trump is doing what he and other Republicans accused Omar of doing. Are any Republican speaking out against Trump now?

BEINART: No, but a lot of this is because it's much easier to paint a black Muslim woman as anti-Semitic. The people are much more inclined to believe that than they are about a white man like Donald Trump.

And remember, there is also a larger agenda here. The agenda is anyone who comes along and wants to talk about the realities of the oppression that Palestinians face, right, Palestinians who live in the West Bank without basic rights, without the right to move freely, without the right to be citizens of the country in which they live are destroyed politically. People go after them in order so they can't be a credible messenger.

I don't agree with everything Ilhan Omar has said, but the reason that she has been attacked as she has, when her statements have been one- tenth, or one-150th as offensive as what Donald Trump has said, has everything to do with the fact that she is actually trying to challenge American policy in Israel and Palestine. She's trying to get people to look at the way that Palestinians are living and Donald Trump is not.

LEMON: So basically, that's hypocrisy what we heard from?

BEINART: A deep hypocrisy. Yes.

LEMON: Yes.

D'ANTONIO: Well, it's obscenely ignorant and obscenely moral.

LEMON: But when accusations of the president as anti-Semitic come up, everyone points to, well, his daughter and his son-in-law are Jewish. Is that a defense.

D'ANTONIO: It's absolutely no defense. This is the most profoundly ignorant man --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And his grandchildren.

D'ANTONIO: -- we've ever seen in the Oval Office. I think he's ignorant about Judaism. He's ignorant about Christianity. The very idea that he could retweet something about the second coming of God when Jews haven't acknowledged the first coming. You know?

So, this is -- this is crazy. This is so profoundly ignorant that it almost defies imagination. If you saw this in a film you would not believe it, but we have an idiocrasy here and not a democracy.

BEINART: And how can Evangelical Christians not be offended by the fact that the president of the United States compared himself to Jesus Christ?

LEMON: Yes.

BEINART: I mean, that, to me, astonishing.

LEMON: Did you want to say something? I got to run.

BUMP: I just wanted to say that it's more broad. The Ilhan Omar attacks are broader and it's about partisan politics.

LEMON: Yes.

BUMP: And I think it's important to keep in mind that in the same way the Republicans accused Democrats of using race and other issues as for partisan gain. That's precisely what's happening here with these allegations beyond that. LEMON: Thank you, all. Fascinating conversation. I really appreciate

it.

Is President Trump threatening to release ISIS fighters into European countries? The former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper weighs in. There he is. He's next.

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump threatening Europe with what he may do with ISIS prisoners amid fears of resurgence by the militant group.

Joining me now to discuss is the former Director of National Intelligence, Mr. James Clapper. Director, thank you so much for joining us. President Trump had this to say about ISIS today. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're holding thousands of ISIS fighters right now. And Europe has to take them. And if Europe doesn't take them, I'll have no choice but to release them into the countries from which they came. Which is Germany and France and other places.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Does that sound like a threat?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, it certainly does, and it's kind of typical bully approach, I guess. And somehow that's going to incentivize these countries to cooperate on what to do with these foreign fighters.

Actually, I think the numbers from the countries that he wants to bully the most which is, you know, France, Germany, the U.K., et cetera, is fairly small. Much larger number come from Mid-East countries.

And this is a case where some quiet diplomacy to work out arrangements for how to deal with these people is much more in order, but I fail to see how this is going to incentivize any country to want to work with the United States on the disposition of these foreign fighters.

[23:19:58] LEMON: Yes. The president today boasting that he wiped out the caliphate in record time. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday there are places where ISIS is more powerful today than they were three or four years ago. In a Pentagon report released yesterday, backed that up. Is this president in denial?

CLAPPER: Well, I thought the statement when he first made it, that, you know, ISIS has been defeated, which is -- at the time was patently absurd. It failed to acknowledge that the ideology is very much alive and the presence, the existence of other franchises in other countries. Most notably, by the way, Afghanistan.

So, to the secretary of state's credit, at least he's, you know, calling -- calling it honestly. LEMON: He today -- he repeated his call for Russia to be let back

into the G7, which would make it the G8 if they were let back in and claimed that the country was booted because Vladimir Putin outsmarted President Obama on Crimea. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The fact is President Putin totally outsmarted President Obama on Crimea and other things. Should we put Russia back in? We spend a lot of time talking about Russia at those meetings and they're not there. I think it would be a good thing if Russia were there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Can you respond to what the president is saying there, please?

CLAPPER: Not really. I don't, I feel, you know, this preoccupation with President Obama, I mean, he brings him up constantly.

LEMON: It's crazy.

CLAPPER: It makes me wonder, whether, you know, somehow this is a reflection of his jealousy of President Obama. I don't get it. And by the way, the Russians getting booted out of the G7 was not a unilateral U.S.-only action. This was a consensus view of the other members of the G7. And why on earth admit them now? What on earth have the Russians done to deserve that?

LEMON: Yes.

CLAPPER: They are a -- Russia is a pariah state, and as we've recently seen because of the serious accident that took place in Russia, they are bent on building doomsday weapons and they only have one adversary in mind when they build these weapons.

So, it's beyond me why we're so deferential to the likes of Russia while we beat up loyal longstanding allies like Denmark.

LEMON: Listen, you mentioned the other members of the G8, now G7. French officials telling CNN that Emmanuel Macron has not changed his position on Russia rejoining the G7 after a Trump administration official earlier said that Macron agreed that Russia should be invited to next year's G7 conference.

The German chancellor, the British prime minister say that the case is yet to be made for Russia to rejoin.

CLAPPER: Right.

LEMON: Is it -- is he driving just -- is this another wedge that he is driving between allies? What is he doing here?

CLAPPER: Well, that's a good question. I have no idea. That is certainly the effect of this. You would think he would want to promote unity among the G7 countries and not divisiveness, but that's been a characteristic of this administration from the start. LEMON: Yes.

CLAPPER: Is to beat up allies, drive wedges in our alliances such as NATO, and be deferential to autocrats and adversaries, and, of course, Putin and Russia are the most prominent example of that.

And you're asking me for an explanation? Sorry.

LEMON: Well, you know, you know a lot of things. I thought maybe you could answer that one.

CLAPPER: No.

LEMON: Well, listen, his personal lawyer, the president's personal lawyer, you know, Rudy Giuliani, says he is once again pushing the Ukrainian government to pursue investigations into the president's political opponents, and it includes looking into Joe Biden's diplomacy in Ukraine and his son's role in the gas company there.

How does it look that the president's own lawyer is pressuring a foreign country for political purposes?

CLAPPER: Well, it's, again, consistent and certainly not surprising. You know, it's just -- it's another distraction and that's one thing that this president and his camp are good at is when things are going aground or going off the -- off the tracks, well, let's bring up another distraction -- distracting issue, and that seems to be what this is all about.

And, yes, it's not appropriate to involve foreign countries in our internal political ecosystem.

[23:25:00] And, you know, that's -- you think we'd learn from our experience in 2016 with the Russians.

LEMON: Always a pleasure, director. Thank you so much.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: New signs tonight on the economy. Job growth is less than previously reported and the deficit is growing faster than expected. And none of that is good news for the president with 2020 looming.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump renewing his attacks on the media and the Federal Reserve as fears over a recession loom.

Let's discuss now. Catherine Rampell is here. Rick Wilson as well. Author of "Everything Trump Touches Die." Good evening to you.

[23:30:01] Rick, the Labor Department release a preliminary report today --

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Hi, Don. LEMON: -- that shows job gains in 2018, early 2019, were less than previously reported by half a million. Not the news the White House needs right now.

WILSON: Certainly isn't, Don, and I think what we're seeing now with the president's lashing out and blaming the media and trying to pre- emptively get out there and excuse away the poor decisions of the trade war, the deficit and debt blowout of the tax bill and the other mistakes he's made in the last couple of years, I think that preemption is not going to work.

I don't think people are going to buy it largely because this is a man who claimed to have some sort of magic secret sauce on the economy, and just the media being skeptical about it or reporting the actual facts of the global economy is not sufficient for his hand waving to work on everybody.

LEMON: I'm so glad you said that. You know, when I read that, because I'm going to end up I'm sure in a montage on conservative media, saying the media is taking glee and whatever. We're not taking glee on reporting bad news about the economy. It's our job to report the news about the economy. Good or bad.

Catherine, the Congressional Budget Office today increased its estimate of the projected federal budget deficit. By the 2020 fiscal year, it will be over $1 trillion and continue to rise over the next decade. These warning signs, they keep mounting.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. I mean, there are a number of reasons to be concerned. We're not about to tip into another great depression yet. I hope we don't. But there are a number of things that are worrying. I think what's interesting is that a lot of Trump's shall we say stupid economic ideas seem to follow the same pattern that they start out with him saying, you know, don't worry, don't listen to the experts, whatever they've told you there won't be any pain.

The trade war, you know, China is going to pay for the tariffs. The tax cuts, they'll pay for themselves. And then of course when we find out that that's not true, you hear from the White House and from his advisers, OK, OK, maybe there's going to be a little bit of pain in terms of higher deficits or farmers suffering or what have you, but you know what? It will be worth it.

It will be worth it because eventually China will pay for the tariffs. Eventually the tax cuts will pay for themselves. And all we need to do is just have more tariffs and more tax cuts, right? Because obviously the lesson is if something isn't working, keep on doing it.

LEMON: I thought Stephen Moore took over your body just now when you were saying that invasion of the body snatchers.

RAMPELL: Well, I mean, this is the argument -- this is the argument he's been making.

LEMON: Yeah.

RAMPELL: He and other Trump supporters have been making, despite the fact that, again, every actual expert has said from the very beginning that, no, the tax cuts were not going to pay for themselves and, no, the tariffs are going to impose major costs on Americans, and yet for some reason they kept denying reality.

LEMON: And the revisions, though -- just to make clear, you told me those are just through March.

RAMPELL: Those are just through March.

LEMON: It may be revised down for --

RAMPELL: Right. So, once a year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does this massive revision that only goes through the previous March, so it doesn't include whatever has happened since the trade war has really ramped up.

LEMON: Rick, the Congressional Budget Office also says that the trade war could hurt economic growth. But today, the president defended the trade war in rather lofty language. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Somebody said it's Trump's trade war. This isn't my trade war. This is a trade war that should have taken place a long time ago by a lot of other presidents. I am the chosen one. Somebody had to do it. So I'm taking on China.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He calls himself the chosen one. Is the economy and both Trump's biggest asset -- it is his biggest asset, potentially also his Achilles Heel, I would imagine. The tax cuts didn't pay for themselves, as Catherine has been saying. The deficits have been skyrocketing, the trade war, he said, would be easy to win and it is still going on.

WILSON: You know, Don, after being named the chosen one, the king of the Jews, the conquerer of Greenland, and whole variety of other honorifics this week, I don't know how Donald Trump tops himself. But you're right. The economy is absolutely something that has protected him in the minds of an awful lot of voters.

And, you know, look, this was a continuation of the gigantic quantitative easing we had and the general economic trend that was going on through the end of the Obama administration. It wasn't some magical thing that Donald produced -- Donald Trump pulled out of his ample backside and said here is my miracle economic plan. It was just the sort of glide slope we were on.

And now, he upset that glide slope. He started doing these things like the trade war. We did this tax bill that was wired up, and I know the guys who wrote it, it was wired up for about 150 hedge funds and billionaires in this country. It had nothing to do with middle class tax relief. And so, of course, when it didn't pay itself off and it blew out the deficit and the debt, the results are obviously going to start having ripple effects in the economy.

[23:35:03] The trade war is obviously having a gigantic effect in the economy, particularly in the upper Midwest where the ag sector and the manufacturing sector are all taking a huge beating on this.

And of course, what are we doing with those farmers who are losing their farms because Donald Trump's trade war blew up their trace with China? We're subsidizing them with money. We're borrowing from China. It's an astounding set of economic morons chasing bad ideas.

LEMON: You said how is he going to top himself, remember, man of the year in Michigan, that non-existent award.

WILSON: Oh, damn it, right.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: You forgot about that one.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Why do you say that this economy that we have now is basically microcosm of Trump's life story? What do you mean by that?

RAMPELL: What I mean is he inherited something very valuable from the guy who came before him. He took credit for that very valuable thing. And since then, he has effectively worked to destroy it, knowingly or unknowingly. I don't know. I don't --

LEMON: Do you hear Rick saying that's perfect?

(LAUGHTER)

RAMPELL: I mean, it's true, as much as Trump wants to blame the media and the fed and Democrats for trying to wreck the economy, he is the one who is actually working to make it worse.

LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. Man of the year, Rick.

WILSON: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Man of the year.

WILSON: Conquerer of Greenland.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Thank you both. The president is tweeting his thanks to a conspiracy theorist for his support that includes saying President Trump is like the king of Israel and the second coming of God, and there is more to this conspiracy theorist that has said that you need to know about. We're going to tell you, next.

[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: President Trump is doubling down today on his criticism of Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats, accusing them of being disloyal to their fellow Jews and to Israel. His comments are being roundly denounced as anti-Semitic, an age-old trope that questions the loyalty of Jewish citizens.

But the president appears to be ignoring that criticism. And in a strange twist this morning, he tweeted thanks to a man named Wayne Allyn Root. Wayne Allyn Root is a conservative conspiracy theorist who hosts a nightly show on Newsmax TV and is practically hailing Trump as a messiah.

Here's what President Trump wrote. He said, "Thank you to Wayne Allyn Root for the very nice words," because Root said, "President Trump is the greatest president for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world, not just America. He is the best president for Israel in the history of the world. And the Jewish people in Israel love him, like he is the king of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God. But American Jews don't know him or like him."

OK, well, the president is clearly impressed, ending his tweet with the word, "Wow!" And just a short time ago, the president tweeted out another clip from Wayne Allyn Root and thanked him again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAYNE ALLYN ROOT, CONSERVATIVE CONSPIRACY THEORIST: We've got to get away from the Democrats because they're no good for us. They are just self-destructive. If you're Jewish, you're voting Democrat, you're voting against yourself, you're voting against Israel, you're voting against American economy, you're voting for higher taxes and more regulations, you're voting to let millions of foreigners into the country who are going to take American jobs and raise our taxes and commit crimes, some of which could affect your children.

Donald Trump has been great for Jews, for Israel, for America, for the middle class, for the U.S. economy, et cetera, et cetera.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: A couple of important points to make here. Wayne Allyn Root says he is Jewish by birth. In 2016, he described himself as a Jew turned evangelical Christian. He offers no evidence that Jews love Trump like he is the king of Israel or the second coming of God. By the way, the second coming is a Christian belief, not a Jewish tenant. And like I said, Wayne Allyn Root is a noted conspiracy theorist.

He once said Barack Obama was sent here to destroy America. And there are reports that Wayne Allyn Root is a birther, just like Trump was for years. He claimed the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people -- he said it was a coordinated Muslim terror attack. It is completely false. Not only have authorities never determined a motive, but the shooter in that case was a lone white man.

Root also falsely claimed the deadly violence in Charlottesville two years ago was likely perpetrated by paid actors and infiltrators hired by democratic mega donor George Soros and saying, "No conservative I've ever met commits violence."

President Trump himself has routinely criticized George Soros over the years and it turns out the president knows who Wayne Allyn Root is. In a tweet -- this is from November of 2015 -- Trump called him "highly respected" and he shared several opinion pieces written by Root over the years. The president of the United States is heaping thanks and praise on a conspiracy theorist. We'll be right back.

[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" under fire tonight in the wake of the announcement that former Trump White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer will be a contestant on the upcoming season.

I want to discuss now with "New York Times'" James Poniewozik, who has a new article and is titled "Don't Let Sean Spicer Tap-Dance Out of Infamy on 'Dancing with the Stars.'" It is so good to have you on. Thank you very much.

JAMES PONIEWOZIK, CHIEF TV CRITIC, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Here's what you write in your article. "This is one time when we should get uptight. "Dancing with the Stars" is just a silly, innocuous reality show, that's true, and that's exactly why it shouldn't be helping Sean Spicer dry-clean his reputation."

I mean, you go on to call his casting a disgrace. Tell me why you're so opposed to him being on the show.

PONIEWOZIK: This was somebody who is not a "C" list actor from a sitcom. He is somebody who had a public trust and who had one job which was to inform the press --

LEMON: A very serious job.

PONIEWOZIK: Yeah. Thereby inform the American people and did it mendaciously. He did not carry out that job, spread misinformation. That's, you know, not good for the press. It's not good for democracy. That is actually a serious thing. You know, generally, I don't care who "Dancing with the Stars" casts. You know, it's a light, ridiculous show.

[23:49:58] But when you take somebody, particularly since why is Sean Spicer there at all? What is he known for? He's known for the controversies around him basically misinforming the country. So, they're rewarding that.

LEMON: Yeah, he responded to article by telling media that "The idea that I need this to make myself feel better is preposterous. I'm in this because I enjoy it. I'm very comfortable with who I am, what I believe and who I support, and that's it." What do you think of that?

PONIEWOZIK: You know, I don't think that this is therapy for him. But, you know, public personalities do this sort of thing all the time as rehabilitation. You show yourself as somebody who is, you know, got a good sense of humor, can laugh at himself, can put himself out there and can we just, you know, move on past all of this and let bygones be bygones. And, you know, I just -- I don't think there's really that level of contrition there that justifies that.

LEMON: You basically call him a professional liar in your article. That's basically what you're saying. As White House press secretary, as we said, he did spread misinformation.

PONIEWOZIK: Yeah.

LEMON: I mean as we know on the first day when he talked about the crowd sizes. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: It's about the inauguration. He said that even though there was no photograph -- there was photographic proof that what he was saying was not true.

PONIEWOZIK: Yeah. And because it's so brazen, that's what makes it so dangerous. Basically, his first act is to say the evidence of your eyes doesn't matter, and just believe what's important for your team. And, you know, just disregard the objective facts and listen to what you need to be true.

Coming from that position, that's a serious thing. It's much more serious than, you know, anything that generally goes on and on in ABC dancing reality show.

LEMON: One of the hosts of "Dancing with the Stars," Tom Bergeron, actually joked about Spicer's inauguration line today. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BERGERON, GAME SHOW HOST: The nice thing is Sean will be in charge of assessing audience size.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, he did not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: But Bergeron seems -- he seems to actually be pretty unhappy about Sean Spicer's booking, about them casting him on the show. He tweeted out a statement today where he says that he had lunch with the show's executive producer few months ago about where he thought they would both agree on the show. He said, "Would be a joyful respite from our exhausting political climate and free of inevitability divisive bookings from any party affiliations." He goes on to say that clearly a different decision was made after they talked about that, right? He didn't want --

PONIEWOZIK: Yeah.

LEMON: -- these political bookings. And he -- you have to agree to disagree. Why do you think he felt the need to go on the record saying that he wasn't happy about this?

PONIEWOZIK: I'm sure he wasn't comfortable with this, you know. I mean, it's a divisive decision partly because, again, you know, you are -- you're casting somebody who -- because he's famous and because he's famous for misleading people from a position of power. I think a lot of people would be uncomfortable.

Of course, when you do something like that, when you cast somebody like that at the producer level who is controversial, that means attention, you know, like this, and it means ratings, you know, which makes me feel sort of ambivalent about calling it out. But on the other hand, you kind of have to call that out or else we just don't have any standards.

LEMON: James Poniewozik, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

PONIEWOZIK: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: And thank you for watching. Before you go tonight, here's a look at CNN film, the premiere, a film about the first big name American fashion designer, "Halston." Be sure to watch CNN, Sunday night, 9:00 Eastern and Pacific.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Is successful fun?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, sure, it's fun and it's not fun. As my mother says, it's the price we have to pay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most successful individual in the history of American fashion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Halston.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Halston.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Halston.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Halston. I made it in New York.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His clothes dance with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Halston felt that he had to design everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Rug, sheets, perfume, shoes, bags, gloves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): He came like a king.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): He knew how to get publicity. The problem was he began to believe it all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm the all-time optimist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): I took Halston to Studio 54.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): They fell in love with him right away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): They lived out a lot of their fantasies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drugs, sex, and rock 'n' roll.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[23:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)