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People Ask What's Happening With President Trump; Overstock CEO Made People Scratch Their Heads; President Trump Faces Backlash After Calling Jewish Voters Who Support Dems 'Disloyal'; "The 1619 Project"; CNN Film "Halston." Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 22, 2019 - 23:00   ET


[23:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: And then there is the president's litany of strange and contradictory statements and attacks leading some to question his fitness for office.

Attacks that include doubling down on his accusations about Jewish- Americans who vote for Democrats.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Jewish people and you're being very disloyal to Israel.


LEMON: What is really behind all of this? We're going to get some perspective. Also, tonight, the New York Times magazine 1619 Project which examines the legacy of slavery in America that began 400 years ago. Why is it being criticized by some prominent conservatives? I'm going to talk with one of the lead writers of the project.

But let's get to our breaking news straight away. The CEO of, Patrick Byrne making some shocking claims tonight saying he helped the FBI carry out what he calls political espionage.

CNN's Sara Murray is on the story. She joins us now by phone. And I have Matthew Rosenberg as well. And he will -- we'll talk to him. But we're going to start with Sara first. Sara and Matt, good evening to both of you. Sara, I'm going to start with you.

The Overstock CEO, Patrick Byrne just made a series of extraordinary claims. Who is he? Who is he talking about and what is he alleging?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure. I mean, Don, Patrick Byrne is known as an eccentric and sometimes controversial CEO. He actually resigned today. Now for the course of the last couple of weeks, he has come out publicly and explained that he had a romantic relationship with Maria Butina. That it's been a number of years and he was providing the FBI with information.

But now he's taking that a step further and essentially saying that he believes that he was involved in something that came to political espionage. And he is saying that he was directed by people who were at the top

levels of the FBI or giving the FBI instructions that he was directed to build this relationship and maintain his relationship with Maria Butina and then he was even directed to have a romantic relationship with her.

And he, you know, dropped a lot of names over the course of his interview with Chris Cuomo, had James Comey, the former FBI director was involved in this, and said Peter Strzok was involved in this.

He played it a little bit coy but he did seem, you know, adamant that his relationship with Maria Butina which again span a number of years was essentially something that he continued at the direction of higher-ups at the FBI.

LEMON: Well, let's play a little bit of that what he said to Chris. Here it is.


PATRICK BYRNE, CEO, OVERSTOCK.COM: They said, the very honorable men and women, the men in black, they said we want to be clear. This never happens in the United States. We're the good guys. We're not -- we don't work like the bad guys but we need to ask to you rekindle a romantic relationship with Maria Butina and --


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Members of the FBI, that you're sure were members of the FBI, asked you to do this. And you know their names.

BYRNE: And I know their names. And they said these orders are coming from the personal -- this is being personally supervised by, y, and it's being -- and at the request of x, and then two months later, they said Mr. Z has added his name to this --

CUOMO: Now you've given them anonymity now but I heard you say on Fox, if you go put a camera in Jim Comey's face and say the name Patrick Byrne, you're not going to like the reaction he gets.

BYRNE That's the Z. That's Mr. Z.

CUOMO: So, you believe that Jim Comey knew that you were being asked to do these things in the name of the United States government.

BYRNE: Not only knew. I was specifically told this request is coming from Jim Comey at the request of somebody who I'm not going to name. Do not assume it's the president. Do not assume it's the -- it was -- President Obama. Do not assume that. That came out. Absolutely. Out of federal agents' lips, and all -- this is all the stuff. This is all --


CUOMO: And you have their names?

BYRNE: Yes. This was all done -- this is the kindergarten stuff. CUOMO: Because I got to believe that when they respond, they're going

to say we like Patrick Byrne --

BYRNE: Come on.

CUOMO: -- he was good in business but this story is 100 fugazi.

BYRNE: No. They're not even going to do that. I promise you they'll no comment. They will not come out and deny this. They know there's too much -- if they come out and deny this there's --

CUOMO: Do you have anything in writing?

BYRNE: Listen. This is the silly part. I'm like your --


CUOMO: It's not that silly, Patrick. I mean, this story is so wild. That you have to have some proof.

BYRNE: Chris, I'm lightyears beyond all the world you're talking about.


LEMON: Sara, I mean, do we have a response from James Comey or from law enforcement?

MURRAY: So right now, we've reached out to everyone. We've reached out to James Comey, Peter Strzok, FBI, DOJ, we don't have a response from them. Obviously, CNN has not independently corroborated the claims that Patrick Byrne is making. And you know, he shared a sort of detailed a rambling account of what happened but he didn't actually provide any proof of this either.

So, you know, we're going to continue to reach out and see if we can corroborate any part of his story. It is worth mentioning, told, we were told by a U.S. official that Patrick Byrne did meet with Justice Department officials earlier this year to talk about the beginning of the Russia investigation.

[23:05:06] And there were some who viewed what he had to say as credible because he did have some operational details and information about that stuff that was not widely known.

But in terms of the latest allegations he's making in his interview tonight, we still have not heard back from law enforcement or from James Comey.

LEMON: All right, Sara Murray, I want you to stand by, because I want to bring in now CNN National Security Analyst, Matthew Rosenberg.

Matthew, hello to you. There are a lot of accusations being made. Some of our experts are saying, let's take it slow and look at these. You heard what he's claiming. What do you think? What are your big questions here? MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean, there is a

lot here. My biggest question really is, look, was Maria Butina at the center of some kind of political operation or anything in 2016? Or was she some Russian grad student? You kind of hear both versions of it.

And right now, what people on the right, conservatives have often said is that, she was just some small-time thing. Nothing to look at here. Now if he's right, then she was really important and the FBI was targeting her.

There's a lot of ifs here and a lot of kind of supposition. Look, I don't want to carry water for the FBI. I have no idea what they asked him to do. I do know that it's not unusual if you are some kind of prominent person and you go to the FBI and say, hey, look, this shady foreigner has approached me, what should I do. They'll say we'll keep meeting with them and see what they say and tell us. Does that mean sleep with them? I have no idea and I have no idea what they told him.

LEMON: I want to share this tweet. It's from our colleague James Gagliano. He's a former -- formerly of the FBI. And here's what he said. He says, "Overstock CEO tells Chris Cuomo the FBI agents directed him to engage in a romantic relationship with a Russian agent Maria Butina. Horse manure. Suspend disbelief if able. If true, agents would be investigated by OPR, DOJ, I.G. and fired for mishandling of source."

He is saying, obviously saying for himself, he says horse manure. He is saying be very careful about these accusations though.

ROSENBERG: I mean, I would be, because he's right. If they did tell him to sleep with Maria, then they absolutely should be investigated. They obviously should be fired. And those are clear violations of the FBI's own rules.

Now do we see government officials violate their own rules? Yes. So just because they have the rules doesn't mean they follow them. That said, though, it is treat with care because it does sound so fantastical and outlandish.

LEMON: Yes. I want you listen to a part of what Patrick Byrne told Chris. Watch this.


BYRNE: In 2015, '16, I took some requests from the, from the FBI. And it is the only time I'm going to say that. It's men in black. Because they're not the bad guys here. You'll understand. They're not the problem here.

They passed a request to me from someone up above to do some stuff for about 2015, 2016. I never know who it was. Last summer, watching television, watching Congress rip apart some people, I put some details together and I figured out who sent me the request. The man's name was Peter Strzok.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: So that's not just any name that he's dropping there.

ROSENBERG: I mean, what are they asking him to do? You know, this is so vague. It is almost impossible to assess. In 2015, there was no Russia investigation to speak of. Pete Strzok was a senior counter intelligence official. Who was Mr. Byrne talking to? Who did they want him to speak to or what did they want to ask or find out? We just don't know. And he is being incredibly vague here.

LEMON: Yes. And there was more. Watch.


BYRNE: I was involved in helping them in that period. And what I thought was law enforcement. And it turned out to be political espionage conducted against Hillary Clinton, Marc, minor, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, major, Donald Trump. Primarily a political espionage against Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. This isn't a theory of mine. I was in the room when it happened. I was part of it.


LEMON: Extraordinary claims. What's next, Matthew?

ROSENBERG: You know, I mean, in his version of events, it's the FBI is out to get everyone. It sounds like the worst fantasy of J. Edward Hoover's FBI. I think there's certainly more questions to be asked.

But the questions right now are of Patrick Byrne, you know. He needs to share a lot more details. These are very serious allegations. If there is any truth to them they should absolutely be handled and seriously. But you need a lot more details when you're leveling this kind of stuff.

LEMON: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Matthew Rosenberg, as well as Sara Murray. So. As if we didn't have enough here, I want to turn now to the president. President Trump's increasingly erratic behavior and how could it play into the 2020 election especially for the Democrats.

[23:09:57] I want to get the big picture from Van Jones, Charlie Dent, and Karen Finney.



LEMON: Van and I were just, Van, what did we say? It was like the dawning of the age of Jupiter?

JONES: Yes. The moon 7,000, Jupiter is line with the Mars.

LEMON: Mercury is in retrograde. What is happening in the world? What is going on? Is everybody -- seriously, what is happening?

JONES: I honestly, I just don't -- (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I have never lived through anything like this.

JONES: Yes. It's crazier and crazier every day.

LEMON: OK. So, then what do we do?

If you listen and the president has been all over the map this week, right. He is, even for his standards. How do Democrats running against him respond to this?

JONES: Look, I think the need now just for basic stability. Just stability. We would like to be able to wake up in the morning. Reach over, pick up our phone, look at it and not freak out every morning. Just show an ad with somebody looking at their phone and they're just going about their morning.

LEMON: And smiling.

JONES: And smiling. And not taking a fork and try to shove it in the back of head or through their eyeball.

LEMON: But seriously, what it's doing to people though, it's making them, it's making people nuts and it's making people feel like they have, I don't know, like other people are enemies like that.


LEMON: You know what I'm saying?

JONES: Look, I think that you asked the question. How do Democrats deal with this? I think it's very, very bad for the country. But I do think that Democrats have spent a lot of time. And you've said this. Arguing about the minutia of policy details. And who -- how many private insurance companies are you going to put out --

LEMON: Right.

JONES: You won't be insane every day. That's our slogan.

LEMON: It's true.

JONES: Make America sane again.

LEMON: You're talking about, you know, coverage for all, this amount of money.


LEMON: That amount of money. And when you look at the big picture, like, OK.

Charlie, listen, you mentioned what you call soft voters for President Trump could turn on him in 2020. There's a new Monmouth poll out, it shows that approval rating of 40 percent which is roughly in line of what it's been for a past few months.

A CNN poll released just yesterday has the same thing, 40 percent. Associated Press-NORC poll has it slightly lower at 36 percent. How likely is it that Democrats can pull voters away, do you think?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The Democrats can pull voters away from Trump? I think it's quite possible. Because I always talk about the soft Trump voters. There are a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump. Not because they liked him but because they couldn't stand Hillary Clinton. Or they just simply want a change so badly that they're willing to take this enormous risk on Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has almost no margin for error. And as Van said, you know, what should Democrats do to contrast with Trump? You know, talk about order, stability, disciple, measured statements, so should Republicans.

I mean, a common sense conservative can make the same argument. That we need somebody who is going to reflect more traditional common-sense conservative values and not his values.

So, I think the president is in a tough spot. And by the way, everybody talks about the economy being the issue. If the economy was what's driving this election for the president, well, then he would be well ahead of his opponents given the relative strength of the economy, although it's showing down now.

So, I think voters are not just voting about their pocket books. But they're voting their values and they're voting based on the president's behavior and conduct in office.

LEMON: Yes. Let's talk more about the economy, Karen, because we don't want to forget about that.


LEMON: President Trump said today that it's doing really well. Charlie just that the same thing. But there are warnings signs of a slowdown ahead. The economy has been his biggest asset so far. But you say he doesn't have the discipline to run on it.

FINNEY: Yes. I mean, look, the problem, remember the pivot? Does anybody remember that from back when he first got elected?

LEMON: No, I never heard about that. No.

FINNEY: There was all this, he's going to pivot and he's going to act like a grown-up and it's going to happen. If you're still waiting for --


LEMON: Karen, it wasn't even election -- there were people who were saying, asking about the pivot during -- seriously, it was during the election.

FINNEY: I know.

LEMON: It wasn't after.

FINNEY: I know.

LEMON: It was while he was running. Yes.

FINNEY: Right. And so, my point is just, what do we now -- the information that we now have three years later is, there's no pivot. It's not coming. And he doesn't have the kind of message discipline. I mean, my God, how many times have we had infrastructure week? Right?

If he had any kind of discipline to talk about the economy, I think he would actually be able to get some traction. But I'll tell you what's interesting. I've seen some polling, which when you ask people, do you approve of the way he's handling the economy, they say, he gets good marks.

But when you ask people, a lot of black and brown people, has it affected you and your life, are you doing better, they say no, not really.

So, if you get under the hood of those numbers, I think the reality is for a lot of people, the economy is not doing so well for them. They're working two jobs and their costs are still going up. And the problem is on top of that, you have a president who then creates all this, as Van was talking about, anxiety for people.

I mean, a lot, again, what we hear just in a lot of the focus groups I've done, people are exhausted. Right?

[23:15:00] And so I think there's this feeling like, of just, can we just have calm? Can we just, you know, wake up in the morning and not worry?

Think if you were in Cleveland, Ohio, reading headlines. We're buying Greenland. We're not. We're going to Denmark, we're not. There's going to be pay roll tax cut, there's not.

We're in a -- and meanwhile, you know, people are nervous. They were already anxious that the, you know, we saw this with President Obama and his re-election in 2012. That even though the economy was strong, people were still very anxious and didn't quite know if they could trust it. I think that has carried on. And certainly, the president's behavior does not make you feel more comfortable or confident.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, thank you. Our time is short because of the breaking news, I'm sure as you understand. But who knows what we're going to be reporting on tomorrow? Wake up --


FINNEY: Who knows?

LEMON: Van's face -- van's face is going to be like. No.

Thank you, all. I appreciate it.

What we've heard from the president in just the past few days, really a few hours, raises serious questions about his fitness for office. And it is exhausting and debilitating for the nation. We'll discuss, next.


LEMON: We need to address the elephant in the room. What would happen if any of us did the kinds of things that this president does? What would -- what do you think would happen?

If you went to work and you started talking about being the chosen one, will people wonder if you're OK? I'm the chosen one for this project. I'm the chosen one.

If you made a habit of attacking people on race or religion, how long would it be until they showed you the door? If you made decisions that cost your company money and weren't based on sound financial practices, how long would you last?

If you lied about anything and everything, would anybody believe a word that you said? Would they?

Well, let's discuss all of this. Wajahat Ali is here, as well as Alice Stewart. Those are good questions.

Good evening. Wajahat, you first.

WAJAHAT ALI, OP-ED WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: If Donald Trump was your Uber driver and he behaved the way he does as president, you would jump out of a moving vehicle. Why? You would have a higher chance of survival.

If Donald Trump was your employee, every day H.R. would come and fire him because of his racist comments, his anti-women behavior, his anti- Muslim behavior. If Donald Trump was the manager of a Starbucks, he would literally within a month destroy the profits, increase the debt and promote Pete's coffee. That's how bad he is.

But thankfully Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America, Don, commander-in-chief of over 330 million people with access to the red button, and he could actually destroy world because the bar is so low for Donald Trump that he has to slither under it.

And I joke about this. But this is where we are. Where the bar has been lowered for a Bulgarian, a man who is corrupt and incompetent and who thinks he is the chosen one who by the way, can't convince China to actually come to terms for the trade war that he started and lost.

LEMON: Well, why don't you tell us how you really feel, Wajahat.

ALI: That was me being subtle.

LEMON: Alice, why does President Trump get a pass on this? And you heard what he said. And honestly, imagine if you came here as a contributor and you did all of that I said. What would happen? Why does he get a pass?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I would probably be shown the door. But the reality is at the end of the day, the Donald Trump that we're talking about today, that we've seen the last few weeks, was the same Donald Trump that came down the escalator and ran for president.

And people are supporting him for and why people will vote for him again is because of the policies that he represents. Many people don't like the way he does it. They, as to use the Wajahat's analogy, they don't like the way he drives the Uber but they don't mind the Uber, they don't like the way he delivers the Starbucks coffee but they like the coffee.

This president is delivering on many of the things that these people want. Look, he was not my first, second, third, fourth or fifth choice for Republican nominee but he was the eventual nominee. And at the end of the day, when it came down to who would I support? The policies of the Democratic president or the policies of this Republican president, I will support him every time.

Because it's inappropriate to question his fitness for office, whether or not he should be reelected, because you don't like his policies. And you cannot deny the fact, these people today and this past week and the months to come --


LEMON: Well, it's more than that, Alice.

STEWART: -- that are questioning his fitness for office, don't like his policies. It's not because they question his fitness.

LEMON: Well, I think it's because he says things like he's the chosen one on the White House lawn in front of the whole world. I mean, that's -- who says that? And especially, if you're an Evangelical and someone says you're the chosen one, there's only one chosen one. That's who?

ALI: Donald Trump.


ALI: Sorry, my bad. My bad. Jesus.

LEMON: Now, I mean, Alice, seriously, you're a Christian, right?

STEWART: I am an Evangelical Christian.

LEMON: And the chosen one is who?

STEWART: It is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Certainly, without a doubt. As God as my savior, I can tell you, Christians that support this president, Evangelical Christians recognize the fact that he might not walk the same way we walk and may not talk the way that we talk and he is not of the same cloth as many Christians. But at the end of the day, he represents our beliefs in the White

House and will execute them.


STEWART: Which is far more than any can say when they reached out to Democratic candidates. They give us --


LEMON: OK. I got it.

STEWART: -- they give us the back of your hand.

LEMON: I understand what you're saying. I understand what you're saying.

ALI: Don --

LEMON: Wajahat, I know you want -- let me put your tweet up. Because I know this is where you're going.

ALI: Sure.

LEMON: "White Evangelical Christian -- this is what you said, please don't sell out your religion for Trump. Don't betray Jesus for this con man. All of us including Trump, all of us including you deserve better. Sincerely, a concerned Muslim who loves Jesus and knows Trump is not the king of the Jews or the second coming of God." You think Evangelicals are selling out. To what end?

ALI: Because they believe that Donald Trump is Cyrus. They call them Persian pagan king who was a blunt instrument, who will help them deliver religious freedoms for Evangelical Christians.

[23:25:00] Will give them conservative judges, who will be pro-life and will also help protect Israel. Not because they care about Jews. Because Jews they need to control Jerusalem before the second coming of God, which is not Trump, but Jesus. And when Jesus comes according to their end of times prophecy, the Jews and Muslims will be erased.

But it's still not worth it and as Muslim who went to an all-boys Jesuit Catholic high school where they taught us to be men for others. I will say open up the good book, Christians. Read Mark, chapter 8, verse 36. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his own soul? Think about that. And it's not worth it. You deserve better.

STEWART: I can tell you zero 2020 Democratic candidates have reached out to the Evangelical groups that many that I speak out with, zero. In 2016, when they were seeking out who they should support, Donald Trump reached out his hand and said, come on, let's make America great.

The Republican candidate, Hillary Clinton looked at them and called them deplorable. So, you ask why they would support Donald Trump over the Democratic candidate. That is it, right there. He supports their beliefs and executes on what they want in the White House. The Democratic candidates give them nothing.

ALI: Jesus would not support locking up and separating children at the border.

LEMON: All right.

ALI: And so, I would tell these Evangelical Christians, follow Jesus.

LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it.

Outrage growing over the president's comments about Jewish voters being disloyal by voting for Democrats. But does he understand the outrage?


LEMON: President Trump is facing a backlash over his attacks on American Jews, claiming that they have been -- they're being disloyal to Israel for voting for Democrats. Here's what he said yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.


LEMON: Here to discuss is Yair Rosenberg. His piece in "The Washington Post" is titled "Trump Keeps Pushing Anti-Semitic Stereotypes, But He Thinks He's Praising Jews." Also joining me now is Adam Serwer from The Atlantic. Good evening to both of you.

Yair, I'm going to start with you, and I'm going to start by reading a line from your piece in "The Washington Post," OK? Here's what you write. You say, "As a man who has always stood solely for his own naked self-interest, President Trump does not see the anti-Semitic conception of the self-interested Jew as a complaint, but rather a compliment." Explain.

YAIR ROSENBERG, SENIOR WRITER, TABLET MAGAZINE: So the traditional anti-Semite constructs the Jew as this conniving scheming individual and group that is only out for themselves. They put their own interests ahead of whatever nation they're in. They put their own country's interests ahead of, say, America's interests.

And to most people, that's -- to many anti-Semite, a negative. But to Trump who puts his own self-interests before the national interests, who himself considers that to be a praise worthy act, to look out for you and yours ahead of anybody else, he sees those stereotypes, he accepts them and takes them as a compliment, which is why he keeps saying them out loud, because he thinks he's praising Jews when he says it.

LEMON: Yeah. It's like when he says to African Americans, what else do you have to lose, right? Like, he thinks -- I don't know. He doesn't understand --

ROSENBERG: He doesn't understand his audience. He doesn't understand that when Jews hear people making those stereotypes about them --

LEMON: Yeah.

ROSENBERG: -- no matter their intentions, right, they hear the people who are constructing Jews in ways that you should be suspicious of them because they are not on your team.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Much more articulate than I am when trying to say -- or saying that. Adam, let's -- this is what you tweet. You said, "Trump has more positive feelings towards Jews than Latinos or black people or Muslims but like other non-white Christian groups, he thinks Jews are conditionally American."

So, are you saying for Trump, there is a hierarchy?

ADAM SERWER, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: I mean, I think there's obviously a hierarchy in which he puts himself at the top. But the notion that American Jews should vote in the interest of Israel is not only, as Yair said, an anti-Semitic canard flipped on its head in order to be represented as a positive, but it is sort of an implication that we are actually guests in this country and we don't really belong here.

We are displaced citizens of the state of Israel. That's simply -- it's not the case. It is offensive. I'm not even sure how else to describe it. The implication is that we are not actually truly American. We are merely guests. And while he is a little more kind to America's Jewish "guests" than he is to black Americans, Latinos or Muslims, it is fundamentally a world view that says that we are not, we don't really belong here.

LEMON: Yeah. Yair, you outlined in your article what you call the president's positive anti-Semitism. You say it is deeply dangerous positive anti-Semitism.

ROSENBERG: So, imagine if one person thinks that Jews are good with money. Jews, you know, control finance, control the banks, control countries. So one person says that and says, oh, I'm out, Jews are my enemy. Another says, no, I want Jews to run my finances, I want Jews to be my lawyers, I want Jews in my corner so I, too, can be powerful, I want to imitate them.

This is the sort of anti-Semitism that Trump sort of dabbles in. He sees the stereotypes but he sees them as positives. I gave an example in my article of places where I have traveled and report on anti- Semitism.

You find where there are no Jews, there are often these stereotypes about Jews, but they are taking positives. Jews are really smart. How can we be smart like the Jews? How can we be good at business like the Jews? How can we succeed in politics like the Jews?

In some ways, it is better than the alternative, obviously the negative form. But in other ways, it is exactly the same stereotypes, the anti-Semites, who are out to get Jews believe and those people can easily be turned against Jews.

Because if they believe Jews are scheming and cunning, right, and out for their own interest and control lots of things, actually, they're your enemy, and they're the reason why all the problems are here. We have examples of that in various ways.

LEMON: Yeah. I've read the article and you mentioned that. You talked about -- everyone has a Torah in their home because they think --

[23:35:00] ROSENBERG: So in South Korea --

LEMON: South Korea, yeah.

ROSENBERG: It is a great example. The country has many files. It is known they have lots of extracts of the Talmud that are bestsellers, translated extracts of the Talmud. When asked about it, you know, reporters have asked them, they said, oh, we want to know the secret of Jewish genius and we want to succeed like the Jews.

LEMON: Right.

ROSENBERG: But then in 2015, there was a giant anti-Semitic controversy in public sphere --

LEMON: Yeah.

ROSENBERG: -- when there was a dispute within the company Samsung, the biggest South Korean business conglomerate. There was a proposed merger between two subsidiaries. And the major shareholders, a South Korean family, very powerful, wanted this merger to go forward. And a minority investor, Paul Singer, a Jew here in America --

LEMON: Basically --

ROSENBERG: -- said this is a bad idea.

LEMON: And basically they turn --

ROSENBERG: Instead of arguing against policy, they started putting anti-Semitic cartoons and other things.

LEMON: I got to run. Thank you both. I appreciate it. Fascinating conversation. We'll be right back.


LEMON: The New York Times magazine launching a groundbreaking special issue this month. ""The 1619 Project"" marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first slaves on American shores and "aims to reframe the country's history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are."

Here now to discuss the driving force behind "The 1619 Project", journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. I am so happy to have you here. I am fascinated by this. There is a lot. It is taking me a while to read it, but it's good because you get to learn a lot about it. It is a really exhaustive project. There are more than a dozen reported essays. There are photo essays, there are poems, so much that we can really only scratch the surface here on television. What do you want people to know about this?

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, STAFF WRITER, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: I think the most important thing to me is I realize that the 400th anniversary of what I consider one of the most pivotal things that would happen in what would become the United States is going to pass in most households and most Americans have never heard of the year 1619, we weren't commemorate this 400th year.

So what I hope people will take away is that slavery has been marginalized in the American story but it is actually foundational, and that the year 1619 is just as important to the story of America as year 1776.

LEMON: Why do you say that? That was my next question to you.


LEMON: Why do you say that?

HANNAH-JONES: Because everything that we can look at across modern society, so much about the way the United States would develop politically, our Constitution -- even our declaration originally included a passage about slavery before Thomas Jefferson took it out -- our cultural institutions, our social institutions, all of these things were influenced so heavily by slavery.

The fact that you and I are even here in America talking right now is because of that first group of 20 Africans who were sold into Virginia. but as you know, we're not taught this history, something that we are ashamed of, it kind of gives life to our creation story, and we're really trying to force this to address both the history and the legacy of slavery.

LEMON: So yours is the first one I read. I was struck by this because I grew up in a home that was similar. Not quite as emphatic as your dad was about this but very similar because my -- veterans in my families, we have the flags folded from the funerals, and all of those things.

But this essay that you personally wrote, you write about your dad and how he always had an American flag at your home growing up. Even when your house is in disrepair, he made sure the flag was pristine, and you were embarrassed by this.

Here is what you write. You said, "How could this black man, having seen firsthand the way his country abused black Americans, how it refused to treat us as full citizens, proudly fly its banner? I didn't understand his patriotism. It deeply embarrassed me. Like most young people, I thought I understood so much, when in fact I understood so little. My father knew exactly what he was doing when he raised that flag. He knew that our people's contributions to building the richest and most powerful nation in the world were indelible, that the United States simply would not exist without us."

I mean, what realization that is. How did you go from embarrassment to pride?

HANNAH-JONES: It took a long time.

LEMON: So it wasn't overnight.

HANNAH-JONES: No. I mean, honestly, I think I didn't really truly understand my dad until I embarked on this project. I was really thinking about the role that black Americans have played in trying to perfect this democracy and trying to make those ideals written in the Constitution, our founding documents real.

And the more I read and thought about it, I just really started to understand what it was that my dad was doing, that my dad was laying claim to a country that so many black people had fought for, that, you know, all of our ancestors are going back as long as we can count were born here and buried here.

And that it is actually disrespectful to our ancestors not to claim this country as our own. It is the only country we know. As I argue, fought harder than almost anyone to make this country as close of a democracy as we have, and to not honor that legacy, it's not honoring ourselves.

LEMON: You talked about also not just the physical building of the buildings, the White House and the stock market and all these buildings, but the building of a democracy.

HANNAH-JONES: Absolutely.

LEMON: We share in it. Not only do we share in that, but we have a huge and enormous contribution to that.

HANNAH-JONES: We have been dying for this democracy since Crispus Attucks became the first person in the revolutionary war or to die for the revolution. When we think about when the founding fathers draft the Constitution, it is actually decidedly anti-democratic document.

It does not provide the vote for most Americans. It does not provide for women, for native people, for black people. A large number of the people who wrote that document deprived other people of absolute liberty.

[23:45:02] They enslaved other people. But black people look at those words and actually took those words literally, and not only fighting in wars abroad, but fighting against their own countrymen for 250 years to make those ideals real.

LEMON: Let's talk about some of the pushback. HANNAH-JONES: OK.

LEMON: You expected it, right?

HANNAH-JONES: Of course.

LEMON: OK. So, some conservatives over this project, Newt Gingrich call it propaganda. Others accused it of being an effort to delegitimize America. Erick Erickson says you're factually wrong about slavery being one of the primary reasons the colonists wanted to declare independence. How do you respond to this criticism?

HANNAH-JONES: My response is these people have been used to learning a history that glorifies our country in ways that it doesn't need to be glorified. I'm not arguing that the ideals were not amazing ideals. What I'm arguing is that they actually were not true at that time.

What I find interesting about this is we somehow believe the 1776 was important, but we don't get to choose which parts of history we think matter and which ones don't. And it is undeniable that 10 of the first 12 presidents of the United States were enslavers.

It is undeniable that the primary wealth that allowed this scrappy group of colonists to believe they could break off from the British Empire was coming from enslavement. In 1776, when we declare our right to form our own country, the colonists could have immediately ended slavery, but they chose not to. In fact, it took the deadliest war in American history to end the institution.

These are all the facts of who we are. I don't understand how telling the truth about our country delegitimizes it. The essay I wrote is actually the most patriotic thing I've ever written. It is actually saying that these ideals set forth could be made true and that the people on the bottom were the ones who actually believed in them the most.

LEMON: Thank you so much.

HANNAH-JONES: Thank you.

LEMON: Not only for coming here but for doing this.

HANNAH-JONES: I appreciate it.

LEMON: Thank you. Nikole Hannah-Jones. I really appreciate it.

HANNAH-JONES: Thank you.

LEMON: We'll be right back.


LEMON: During the height of his fame in the 1970s, the name Halston was synonymous with fashion, style, and glamour. Now, the new CNN film "Halston" looks at the iconic designer's meteoric rise to fame, his status as groundbreaking stylist to the stars, and fixture on the New York party circuit, as well as the ultimate loss of his fashion and lifestyle empire that mystified both industry insiders and the general public alike. Here's a preview.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His clothes fit me like this is it. This is the fashion that I would want to wear. No zippers. Just get in and out over your head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Overnight success. It was a clean look. The simplicity was really needed after the 60s and it was all-American, from an all-American boy.


LEMON: Wow. Joining me now is model Pat Cleveland, who worked with Halston through the height of his career and was also a close personal friend. It's so good to see you.

PAT CLEVELAND, MODEL: I appreciate being here.

LEMON: How are you doing?

CLEVELAND: Thank you. I'm doing fine.

LEMON: Great. Listen, he was such an iconic designer, really larger than life personality. What was it like to work with Halston?

CLEVELAND: He is big hearted, generous person who cared very much about the people he chose to be around him, because we all loved each other. We were like a little tribe of colorful rainbow people and the personalities all blended and worked so well together. It was lovely. He hosted beautiful people. He hosted -- he wanted to dress everybody, and we were the ones that were fortunate to get the chiffon to wave.

LEMON: Get the chiffon to wave, what do you mean?

CLEVELAND: Well, I'm like a flagpole. I wave the chiffon for the designers. But the way he cut it on the bias, it made us all feel like, God, this is --

LEMON: It would just flow when you walk down.

CLEVELAND: It just flows and you felt like you were in heaven because the breeze when you're in the runway and Marcie Graham (ph) sitting there saying that's the way you have to do it. Oh, my God, we were just invited into a social world that was beyond stars. We were just in a cosmos of stars.

LEMON: When you look at the -- even at footage we're looking at now, those dresses still hold up. They're timeless. You can wear them at any time. He is really credited with being one of the early American designers to put American fashion on the map globally. What was it like to -- what was about his designs that did that? Is it because they were timeless?

CLEVELAND: It was himself. It is the way he saw women. He identified with his mother who is a little bit heavier. So he took on girls that were like (INAUDIBLE) and made them gorgeous. He took on stars (INAUDIBLE) and made her shine. The way you feel in those clothes is that he just enhances what you have.

LEMON: Yeah. Not only was he a trailblazer for fashion, but I think he was also in fashion for diversity as well because he worked with models of color like you. He worked with Armani. He worked with Alva Chinn.

CLEVELAND: Naomi Sims.

LEMON: Beverly Johnson. Go on.

CLEVELAND: Naomi Sims. So many more.

LEMON: How did that impact fashion, do you think?

CLEVELAND: I think it was just the realization that the palate needed to be filled out. And it was just one-sided or -- there were no sides. It was just one thing. And he brought a bouquet of girls.

LEMON: Yeah.

CLEVELAND: That's what he did.

LEMON: What did that mean for you personally?

CLEVELAND: That meant that I had a platform. I could be with wonderful people that I dreamt about. It's like a dream come true to spend time with creative people who know -- have a vision bigger than themselves. They see the future and they want to help people and make the world beautiful.

LEMON: Yeah.

CLEVELAND: That's the place to be.

LEMON: You're working on a new project?


LEMON: What is it?

CLEVELAND: Well, it's from my book "Walking with the Muses" and they're going to do a movie. So I can't tell everything now, but I'm so excited.

[23:55:02] The writers and directors are at my house right now.

LEMON: Yeah. And your beautiful daughter, I hope she is involved.

CLEVELAND: My daughter, Anna, yeah.

LEMON: Who is a model as well.

CLEVELAND: Yes, she's going to be involved.

LEMON: Yeah. It's so good to be able to sit here with such an iconic person.

CLEVELAND: You are my -- I love you.

LEMON: I love you so much. Thank you, Pat Cleveland.

CLEVELAND: Thank you so much.

LEMON: It is good to see you and good luck to you.

CLEVELAND: Thank you so much for your time and your energy.

LEMON: Thank you.

CLEVELAND: Thank you.

LEMON: You as well. Be sure to tune in to this new CNN film. It's called "Halston." It premieres Sunday at 9:00 p.m., only on CNN. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.