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CNN TONIGHT

G7 Leaders And Trump Clash On Russia; U.S.-China Talks On Trade To Resume; Tropical Storm Dorian Moving Towards Puerto Rico; New Forecast For Tropical Storm Dorian; With Long Lines At Popeyes, A Teen Encourages Customers To Register To Vote; The Obamas Put Out Its First Film On Netflix. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 27, 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. We're going to answer five big questions for you in the hour ahead, beginning with this. Why did President Trump repeatedly argue with G7 allies that Russia should be allowed back in the group, clashing with European leaders who are against it because Russia hasn't changed its aggressive international behavior?

I'm going to discuss with Mr. Fareed Zakaria just ahead. Why is Attorney General William Barr booking a holiday party at Trump's Washington, D.C. hotel with an expected tab of $30,000? Is it even ethical? We'll get some answers tonight.

Also, how is an industrious North Carolina teen getting people to register to vote when he is too young himself to cast a ballot? And I'm going to ask him what Popeye's chicken sandwiches have to do with it.

And Tropical Storm Dorian, will it strengthen into a hurricane as it roars towards Puerto Rico? We're going to have a forecast for you.

Plus how relevant is the new Netflix documentary "American Factory" which is backed by the Obamas? It explores the culture clash between Chinese management and American workers at a plant in Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where you sit today used to be a General Motors plant, and now there are over 1,000 employees working here.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (TEXT): They're pretty slow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (TEXT): We keep training them over and over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (TEXT): American workers are not efficient. Output is low. I can't manage them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Well, let's turn to our big picture now, and that's the

president at odds with his G7 partners. Here to discuss, Fareed Zakaria, the host of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." Good to see you. Doing OK?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

LEMON: So, let's talk about this. There is reporting -- CNN is reporting that a huge fight or argument, I should say, that broke out at the welcome dinner in France after President Trump argued that Russia should be allowed back into the G7.

President Macron of France had to step in to keep it from getting out of hand. Why does the president continue to promote Vladimir Putin's interests over our own allies?

ZAKARIA: Well, this has always been the central puzzle of the Trump presidency in some ways and certainly his foreign policy, which is Trump really doesn't like other countries. It's pretty clear, right? I mean his whole attitude is other countries take advantage of the United States. They beat us. We're always losing.

He even thinks the Canadians beat us. Certainly the Mexicans, the Chinese. He doesn't like the European allies, except Russia. He has this strange soft spot for Russia and what is weird about it, he's coming 20 years late to this party.

This conversation about Russia and where it should sit in the world was one we had a long time ago, and we tried very hard, and I was one of those in favor. I was arguing that Russia should be made part of the G7, which become the G8. This was all done in the Clinton and Bush administrations.

But then Russia turned under Vladimir Putin. It became more repressive at home. It became more expansionist abroad. It invaded Georgia. It invaded Ukraine. It annexed Crimea, one of the rare cases of, you know, essentially gobbling up territory both by force. It's almost never happened since 1945. That's why Russia was expelled from the G7.

And the weird thing is Trump goes on about how Russia outsmarted the U.S. under Obama and took Crimea where if he recognizes all that, why does he want to reward that behavior? So, I mean this is -- but, you know, the Russia appeals was part of an almost freak show of contradictions that Trump displayed at the G7 meeting.

LEMON: Yes. "The Washington Post" say its own reporting on the dinner and I'm going to read a quote from it. It says, "The discussion quickly turned even more fundamental. Whether the leaders should assign any special weight to being a democracy, officials said, most of the other participants forcefully believed the answer was yes. Trump believed the answer was no."

I mean that's quite a startling image when you think about that. What does that do to our image as the beacon of democracy for the world?

ZAKARIA: Think about those people protesting in Hong Kong. LEMON: Right.

ZAKARIA: You know, the two million, three million people who have come out on the streets. They look at the United States as the exemplar, the beacon of democracy around the world.

[23:05:00] And you have a president of the United States who is saying it doesn't matter if you're a democracy. It doesn't matter, you know, whether there is any greater legitimacy accorded to it. What's sad about this is, again, you think about how many times President Trump has taken President Putin's side or said something nice about him, said something nice about Kim Jong-un.

He claimed that his wife had this wonderful relationship with Kim Jong-un, the most repressive dictator in North Korean, whom his wife has never met. Can you remember a nice thing Donald Trump has said about a democratically elected leader? It's very hard.

LEMON: Right.

ZAKARIA: Right? Angela Merkel, Macron, you know, it's just --

LEMON: The former president.

ZAKARIA: Yes.

LEMON: Yes. Can I go back to something that you said because you were talking about why Russia was booted from the G8, right? And then it became the G7 again, because everyone -- he said, you know, he outsmarted the former president.

Everyone there, all of those leaders know that it is not true. I'm just wondering what does it do to our credibility. Do we have any credibility left with allies because they know they're like, this man is saying something that's totally not true, either he's doing it on purpose or he's ignorant to the facts?

ZAKARIA: So we increasingly have very good reporting that says a lot of President Trump's senior staff essentially manage him. I mean, I hate to say this, but almost like he's a petulant, you know, adolescent, somebody who has to be managed. You have to make sure he doesn't get too upset, he doesn't see certain things.

It seems increasingly like that's how the world's most senior leaders are dealing with the president of the United States. I mean, there was very good reporting that said Macron's, the president of France's principal objective was not to get Trump to be too angry about various things.

LEMON: Right.

ZAKARIA: So, they didn't issue a communique at the G7, which is a completely routine thing, because they thought it would piss Trump off, but to recognize that everybody else agreed on issues like climate change and he didn't. So everybody is sort of stage managing and treating with kid gloves,

the person who is meant to be the leader of the free world, the person who is meant to set the agenda. It's a kind of sad situation where we've gone from being the leader of the world to the toddler of the world.

LEMON: You made me think of a conversation I had with a friend and you know I will tell you this. He wants his kid -- when he wants his kids to come out of their room, he has this device that limits the Wi- Fi in the area where they are, and inevitably they all show up, you know, in the family room.

ZAKARIA: That's a very interesting way. So, if you wanted President Trump to listen to the presidential daily briefing --

LEMON: Right, you cut the Wi-Fi.

ZAKARIA: -- if you cut the Wi-Fi --

LEMON: There you go.

ZAKARIA: -- you can't tweet.

LEMON: Right.

ZAKARIA: Maybe you might as well just come down and hear what the damned head of the CIA is telling you what's going on in the world.

LEMON: He would come down to the residence for, you know, for executive time.

ZAKARIA: But you wouldn't be able to wish Sean Connery happy birthday, which is obviously a more pressing issue.

LEMON: Let's take a listen to this Democratic Congresswoman, Jackie Speier, what she said tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): Frankly it was the G6 plus the United States because all he did there was pitch his country club, Doral -- not his country, but his country club, and pitch Vladimir Putin coming back into the G7 to make it G8.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Is she right? Is the U.S. isolated now and everyone is just moving on and working around the U.S. at this point until there is someone else in office?

ZAKARIA: Yes. I mean, and if you put aside the absurdity and the grotesqueness and the vulgarity of pushing your own hotel. The point you're making, Don, you could see it in the discussions with Iran, where the rest of the G6, the other countries are trying to find a way to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive. Because they have recognized how important it is to keep Iran on a track that it was on, which was non-nuclear which was to ensure with inspections that they never did get nuclear weapons. And so what you've done is you've created this weird wedge between the United States and the other leading powers of the world, which Iran is frankly exploiting right now.

The Iranians are finding enormous diplomatic leverage in trying to play the rest of the world against the United States because the truth is the rest of the world doesn't agree with America.

So, after Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran went to the G7 on the invitation of Macron, he next headed to China, where he was going to talk to the Chinese about how to, you know, maintain and strengthen Chinese-Iranian relations. His stop after that is America's closest ally in Asia, Japan.

So, what we have done is we have created this rift between the United States and the world. Everyone is taking advantage of it. The Iranians are just particularly clever. But, you know, it recognizes a reality, which is we're the ones isolated.

LEMON: Okay. So, you know, you talked about Macron and he's getting praised really for his performance and for managing this president.

[23:10:02] Does this -- so there's a vacuum there, I would think, of leadership and he is stepping in and maybe others. Is his lack of leadership opening up for others because usually it's about the U.S. and the U.S. president, and you have the communique and what have you? Now, Macron seems like the world leader instead of Trump.

ZAKARIA: Well, what you're seeing is that episodic and it's an issue by issue. Nobody can quite take the place of the United States because no country is powerful enough. But what you're going to see is a free fall.

Everyone is going to freelance. Some people are going to step in on certain issues, others on other issues, and it's all entirely self- inflicted. This is what they call in soccer an own goal, right?

I mean, this is -- there's no reason for the United States to be sitting on the sidelines when the fate of the world is being discussed, when the fate of security in the Middle East is being discussed, the fate of the world with regard to climate change is being discussed.

But we're, you know, absent from the table because it puts President Trump in a bad mood to attend a session on climate change.

LEMON: Yes.

ZAKARIA: You know, somebody needs to tell him, even if he doesn't attend that session on climate change at the G7, the climate is changing.

LEMON: It's going to -- the climate is going to deal with itself. ZAKARIA: Yes, Mother Nature is going to do what it's going to do

regardless whether Trump attends that meeting.

LEMON: One leader though that openly backed the president was Italy's prime minister. President Trump praised the prime minister on twitter, of course, today saying, "He represented Italy powerfully at the G7, loves his country greatly, and works well with the U.S." So, do you have to agree with this president in order for him to work with you or to work with him?

ZAKARIA: Well, it seems like that, but even then half the time he changes his mind. I mean, what does it mean to agree with this president? This is a president who said, you know, on one day that President Xi is the greatest enemy of America. Then the next day he said he was a great leader.

He said he was going to order American companies to stop, you know, doing business in China. The next day he said to them, they have a great future in China. So, I think anyone who thinks that their future lies in their warm solidarity with President Trump should keep in mind he's going to get up the next morning and he may have a very different view.

LEMON: I kept thinking as I was watching you that, you know, people would be talking like (inaudible) and then, oh, here he comes. Oh, hi. Hello, Mr. Trump. How are you? You know, it's like, here he comes. Let's stop talking about him, right? That's the sense of that.

ZAKARIA: That's the world right now. It's not just, you know --

LEMON: It's not just at the G7. Thank you.

ZAKARIA: Pleasure as always.

LEMON: Appreciate it. Fareed Zakaria. Make sure you tune in to Fareed Zakaria in CNN's Special Report. He's going to investigate the deep reasons why white supremacy is showing its face. "Special Report: State of Hate: The Explosion of White Supremacy." It airs Sunday morning at 10:00. And of course, at "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" on as well.

And with all of the chaos of this administration, there is the president's trade war with China. A new tariff on goods like sneakers and clothing set for September 1st, right around back to school time. What will it all mean for Americans? We're going to dig into that, next.

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The U.S. and China are expected to meet next month to continue trade talks, but is there any end in sight for the president's trade war? Let's discuss now with Catherine Rampell and William Cohan. William Cohan is the author of "Four Friends, Promising Lives Cut Short." Thank you both for joining us this evening.

Bill, let's start with you. There's no official meeting scheduled between China and the U.S. With the U.S. set to collect a new 15 percent tariff starting September 1st, where does this trade war go from here?

WILLIAM COHAN, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, VANITY FAIR: I mean, Don, have you ever seen a situation where something so important to our economy, to consumers across America, to consumers in China, is so inarticulately laid out?

I have no idea what this trade war is all about. I used to do deals for a living on Wall Street. I have no idea what the deal is that Donald Trump is trying to reach with President Xi. He's constantly talking about letting loose little ideas that President Xi wants to make a deal, and he wants to make a deal with President Xi. About what?

What is this deal all about? It seems like it's just about, you know, who's Muy Macho (ph). I just don't understand what it is that he's trying to do. He needs to articulate to the American people what this trade war that he's started is all about, and he hasn't done it.

LEMON: Catherine, do you think the president has a firm grasp from what he's actually trying to accomplish in this trade war because I talked to a former -- a farmer I should say, and a manufacturer last night. They're hurting.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think that's very much the problem here. It's that there are a lot of ways that everybody can be made worse off. It's not clear at this point how anybody, including the United States, can be made better off. And the root cause of that is that Trump doesn't seem to really understand what his own objectives are.

Is it on the one hand to completely close the trade deficit with China? Is it to get China to respect our intellectual property at last? Is it just to get China to buy more soybeans? And Trump keeps changing his mind and moving the goal post.

So if you are China in these negotiations, how do you sit across the table from someone and try to negotiate and make concessions if the person on the other side of that deal can't decide what concessions he actually is looking for, if he keeps changing his mind?

And beyond that, you know, if China were in fact to capitulate, to do something humiliating, as Trump seems eager to get them to do, to try to make some major concessions, why would they have any incentive to do that given that we have seen other countries make deals with China -- excuse me -- make deals with Trump, and then Trump immediately turns around and rips the deal up, right?

[23:20:04] He did this with Mexico, for example, just a few months after we signed the new NAFTA 2.0, Trump threatened to levy new tariffs on Mexico. He ultimately backed down of course, but China is watching this and saying, why would we ever trust this guy? Why would we ever make meaningful concessions given that we don't expect him to respect the terms of the agreement anyway?

LEMON: Bill, this is a piece in the "New York Times" and it's called, "Trump can battle China or expand the economy. He can't do both." It's by Peter Goodman.

And Peter Goodman writes-- he says, "as president, Trump intermittently escalates the moderates -- and moderates his trade war with China. His conflicting signals reflect a reality that limits his actions. He can try to sever the deeply intertwined American commercial relationship with China, or he can prod economic growth to assuage the fears of investors around the planet." Is this trade war going to send the economy right into the ditch?

COHAN: Well, I think there's a combination of things that are going to send the economy right into the ditch. Certainly, the trade war is making corporate executives all over this country very nervous. It's making consumers very nervous.

It's becoming a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy where, you know, when you are job-owning so extensively the Fed chairman to try to get him to lower interest rates, something that happens when the economy is in a tailspin especially when interest rates have been so low for so long already, it's like there's conflicting forces in his brain.

On the one hand, the economy is so great, it's the best ever, it's booming, never been better. On the other hand, he's jawboning the Fed chairman to lower interest rates when they're already so low, and it's something that's done when the economy is heading towards a recession.

So, I think he's going to literally talk us all off an economic cliff here. And frankly, I mean if you don't like Donald Trump and you don't want him to be re-elected in November 2020, it's possible that the best thing that you could hope for is a recession as painful as that might be for the American people, but it might be less people than four more years of Mr. Chaos theory.

LEMON: Yes. Catherine, listen, the president recently tweeted that, "My stock market gains must be judged from the day after the election, November 9, 2016, where the market went up big after the win and because of the win."

He's not going to like this, Catherine, because our very own Christine Romans looked into this. If you judge Trump's economy from his Inauguration Day, it's big, but it's not the biggest -- 29 percent for Trump compared to 46 percent over the same period for President Obama. So, if you use Trump's preferred criteria, his numbers jump to 33 percent. Obama's drop to 23.5 percent. He's trying to move the goal posts, right?

RAMPELL: Well, I think there are a few things to keep in mind when you're thinking about these kinds of comparisons. Of course, presidents don't control stock markets as you and I have discussed many times before. But also the stock market's basically been moving sideways for about the past year.

And beyond that, to the extent we have seen stock market gains net under Trump. You also have to bear in mind that stocks are ultimately a claim on the after-tax profits of a firm, right? And Trump cut tax rates. He effectively transferred about $2 trillion of wealth away from future taxpayers and to today's shareholders. So, yes, of course, just as a matter of arithmetic, that should

automatically get stock values to go up because the after-tax profits of those firms with lower taxes will be higher.

And even taking into account all of those factors, including that tax cut, he still doesn't look so hot on his own preferred metric, of course, which once upon a time was how he judged the success of his administration, which arguably is not the right way to judge either an administration or the overall economy.

But, you know, taken as a whole, it doesn't seem that impressive of a record despite the many times that Trump has touted the market going up, of course, when it has gone up while he's been in office.

LEMON: Listen, it should not go -- it should not be forgotten that President Obama inherited a financial crisis when he took office. President Trump inherited a growing economy from President Obama. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

Tropical Storm Dorian is barreling towards Puerto Rico. The brand-new forecast, next.

[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Puerto Rico bracing for Tropical Storm Dorian, which is expected to make landfall sometime tomorrow. That as the White House says President Trump has approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico. Let's get the new forecast from CNN Meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri. Good to see you, sir.

So, listen, Puerto Rico has not even recovered from the last storm that ravaged the island. What is the latest with Dorian? Are they going to get slammed again?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, the latest forecast came in, Don, just a few minutes ago and the track really has shifted quite a bit in the past 24 or so hours, some 60 miles to the north and east and that does put Puerto Rico in the direct path of Tropical Storm Dorian unfortunately.

And here's what it looks like, not an impressive depiction here on satellite imagery. Very compact storm system and as is the case really the interaction with land plays a role into the storm being able to maintain intensity.

You look further ahead of the track here. We do have quite a bit of dry air, quite a bit of wind sheer.

[23:29:29:00] With all that said, you think the storm could potentially strengthen just a little bit more here and get close to a Category 1 as it makes landfall sometime Wednesday afternoon right across Puerto Rico.

Just about every single model does bring it ashore over Puerto Rico now, and that's why the government across this region had issued a hurricane watch because of this concern of the storm system. A tropical storm watch is also scattered about these islands including the U.S. Virgin Islands as well. The rainfall really becomes a significant player with the storm system.

When you take a look at the winds, only 60, 65 miles per hour potentially on landfall, but when you're talking about six to 10 inches of rainfall inside of an eight-hour or so period, that is going to lead to significant flooding.

Of course, Puerto Rico is a very mountainous island. Some of these mountains rise well over 4,000 feet. So you put that together, you're going to have some runoff and some flooding as well. But model guidance on this has been pretty spot-on when it comes to the track right over Puerto Rico sometime Wednesday afternoon.

And then notice the track. Once we get through this, the kind of resistance we had with the storm system, drier air and also the wind shear that was in place, that is really reduced and the water temperatures in fact go up as it approaches areas such as the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas. We're talking about 85-degree water temperatures.

Model guidance at this point has been inconsistent in every few runs that we get. So 5:00 p.m., it comes in, tracks shifts well to the south, 11:00 p.m. in the last few minutes takes it well to the north. They're all together, but they're still kind of shifting back and forth within every single run, Don.

So, at this point, quite a bit of margin of error there looking at Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Puerto Rico unfortunately looks to be a sure bet here for landfall sometime Wednesday afternoon, but beyond that into Florida, we're going to follow that carefully.

LEMON: Yeah. We will be following it. Pedram, thank you so much. I appreciate that.

JAVAHERI: Thanks for having me.

LEMON: Popeyes or Chick-fil-A? How one teen took that debate and turned it into an opportunity to get people out to vote. He's going to tell me all about it, next.

[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The great debate in this country. Which fast food franchise has the greatest fried chicken sandwich? Well, we probably won't settle that tonight, but my next guest took advantage of the frenzy and showed up at his local Popeyes in Charlotte, North Carolina to encourage people waiting in line to make a difference in their community and register to vote.

He's 17-year-old David Ledbetter, and he joins me now. David, thank you so much. You were reading my mind. I put on Instagram, I said, "All these lines of people, is anybody registering?" Sure enough, everyone said, "Yeah, there's this guy in Charlotte and he's doing it." DAVID LEDBETTER, REGISTERED VOTERS ON LINE AT POPEYES: Yeah.

LEMON: So tell me how you came up with this idea to register voters at Popeyes.

LEDBETTER: OK. So, it initiated when I was working on a campaign with Ms. Stephanie Sneed. I was just trying to get engaged with the community, specifically in politics. And so we came with the idea of, you know, trying to get, you know, more voters and more people involved.

And so I attended a caucus meeting, like a political caucus meeting here, you know, locally in Charlotte. I've seen it was like -- there weren't enough young people in there. So, I looked around. There were older folks. You know, I was just wondering, like, why was that?

And so we've been seeing like the trend of, you know, Popeyes, you know, the debate, and individuals just going up and in the lines, you know, massive, and the waiting times are very long. And so I thought -- we thought that, you know, we should engage them. We should engage the community.

LEMON: Captive audience.

LEDBETTER: Right, yeah. It was a good audience because I saw a lot of my peers and just a lot of younger folk, you know, going there. And I thought, you know, we should follow the trend, just register individuals to vote.

LEMON: Were they receptive to the information you were giving them?

LEDBETTER: Yeah, like majority of them were, or they were either registered to vote, which I found was very good. But, you know, some individuals, they weren't as receptive. They were just like, "Nah, I'm good. I'm fine with it."

A lot, you know, they were interested. We handed out a lot of information on early voting, you know, who is running for ballot here in Charlotte. And so, yeah, it was a good. It was good, positive feedback.

LEMON: How many people were actually registered to vote, and how many did you sign up? Do you remember?

LEDBETTER: OK. So we didn't exactly, you know, tally up who we registered. It was more like -- it was more than 10 individuals, I believe, but we didn't exactly tally up the amount of people that, you know, we registered. So we don't have that exact count.

LEMON: You're only 17, David, but you are -- you're pre-registered to vote when you turn 18.

LEDBETTER: Yes, sir.

LEMON: What are you looking for in a political candidate? LEDBETTER: What am I looking for? That's a good question. I'm looking for a candidate who is, you know, able to advocate for, you know, the less fortunate, all masses of people, every individual in America specifically and all over the world as well.

I think just providing that extra support for those individuals who don't have the same opportunity as other individuals around or just other individuals like me. I think, you know, candidates who are, you know, for the betterment of society as a whole.

That's what I look for in a candidate, someone who is willing to improve the economy, stimulate the youth, especially the youth because the youth is the future. That's what I stand on. That's what I firmly believe.

I feel like we should be putting things in place to allow younger individuals to grow, be successful, and provide them with these resources and opportunities, you know, just to be great. And so, yeah, I look for candidates who are willing to stimulate people who don't have --

LEMON: The young folks, the young folks and the people who are disenfranchised. But listen, you're already doing great things --

LEDBETTER: Right.

LEMON: -- in your community.

[23:40:00] I mean, as I said, you're 17 years old, you co-founded an organization called "Imagine This."

LEDBETTER: Yes, sir.

LEMON: Tell me about that.

LEDBETTER: So "Imagine This" is a non-profit organization geared towards high school students, and its main focus is on students from disenfranchised communities. And so me and co-founder, Jamie Bins (ph), we founded it on four pillars: community engagement, health and wellness, peer mentorship, and education. So around those four pillars, we design activities and program activities for the students that, you know, we give them for them to engage on, you know, ultimately give back to the community.

And so the mission of our program is to, you know, develop these students and to, you know, college-bound individuals and have them, you know, go to college, experience, develop their passions, and then come back to the community they're from and begin to serve it. And so that's, you know, the initiative of our organization --

(LAUGHTER)

LEDBETTER: -- and so that's the mission that we try --

LEMON: You're a high school senior. You're going into your senior year right now, right? You're a senior?

LEDBETTER: Yes, sir. I just started.

LEMON: So you'll graduate in May of 2020?

LEDBETTER: Yes, sir.

LEMON: When I --

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: When I was a senior, I don't know -- I was -- who knows what I was doing. Probably just -- I don't know. So what do you plan to do after you graduate?

LEDBETTER: So after I graduate --

LEMON: Politics? Are you going to have politics in your future?

LEDBETTER: I do, but that will not be my main focus. So my main focus is helping individuals, but I have a passion for science. So I want to go into medicine. Me personally, I just love science, and I think medicine and, you know, being a doctor is one of the best ways I could help people while still being engaged with my passion.

I do plan on, like, you know, having some type of authority in politics. I don't know if that will be like my main career, but, yeah, I do plan on having a presence in that industry.

LEMON: So, when you're president one day, just make sure you invite me to the White House.

LEDBETTER: I will. That will be -- yeah, I'll make sure I invite you to the White House.

LEMON: All this over a -- as we say, sandwich. By the way, did you get a sandwich?

LEDBETTER: I did get a sandwich.

LEMON: And?

LEDBETTER: A spicy chicken sandwich. You want me to tell you which one was better, don't you?

LEMON: Just tell me if you liked it. What did you think?

(LAUGHTER)

LEDBETTER: Pardon? I'm sorry.

LEMON: Just tell me if you liked it.

LEDBETTER: I liked it. I definitely did like it. I enjoyed it.

LEMON: You didn't think it was the best?

LEDBETTER: No, it was. It was the best out of the two. It definitely was the spicy one.

LEMON: All right. David --

LEDBETTER: How do you feel about it?

LEMON: I haven't had it. I've gone to like five or six Popeyes and I can't get my hands on it. So, I'll let you know when I know.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Thank you, David.

LEDBETTER: Yeah, let me know.

LEMON: Best of luck to you.

LEDBETTER: No problem.

LEMON: You're a good guy and be in touch, OK? Thanks so much.

LEDBETTER: Thank you.

LEMON: We'll be right back.

[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The Obamas have officially made the jump into the movie business. Barack and Michelle Obama's production company, Higher Ground Productions, has put out its first film on Netflix.

It's called "American Factory" and it focuses on a former General Motors plant, a former General Motors plant that closed in 2008, reopened in 2016 as an auto glass company under the leadership of a Chinese billionaire. With the reopening come a lot of promise and the hiring of hundreds of local workers. It starts out all smiles, but harsh realities soon set in.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Where you sit today used to be a General Motors plant, and now there are over 1,000 employees working here.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Is this a union shop?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): It is our desire to not be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There must be flaws if the glass exploded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What is our slogan?

CROWD (through translator): To stand still is to move back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): We hope someday to get this good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): They're pretty slow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We keep training them over and over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): American workers are not efficient. Output is low. I can't manage them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There have been 11 complaints filed. Some workers claim unsafe working conditions and unfair treatment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Joining me now is Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, the directors of "American Factory." I'm so glad to have you on. Thank you so much. Julia, I'm going to start with you.

JULIA REICHERT, DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER: Thank you.

STEVEN BOGNAR, DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER: Thanks, Don.

REICHERT: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: The fact that the Obamas -- absolutely. The fact that the Obamas chose this project first is garnering a lot of attention. You and Steven asked them what was behind that decision. Let's listen and then we will discuss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Those first scenes of those folks on the floor in their uniforms, that was my background, that was my father. And that was reflected in this -- this film.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yeah, we all have a sacred story in us, right? A story that gives us meaning and purpose in how we organize our lives. If you know someone, if you talk to them face-to-face, if you can forge a connection, you may not agree with them on everything, but there's some common ground to be found, and you can move forward together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What was it like working with them?

REICHERT: Well, you know, the Obamas are wonderful people. They -- we learned that they really come from humble beginnings. As the first lady said right there, her dad was a working-class guy. I could really relate to her because my dad was also a working-class guy, who went and punched a clock and, you know, brought his pay home in cash in his shirt pocket every Friday night.

They -- you know, they come from humble beginnings, and they're interested in the stories of people like me, like them, like the people in our film.

[23:50:04] Those stories -- they're very interested in those stories being seen on television.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

REICHERT: So I think they wanted to start "Higher Ground" because they believe in storytelling. You know, the president talked about the sacred story, which I was so happy he said that. We all have that story.

I do believe that if people see our film -- and I think this is the Obama's hope, too -- they will better understand the lives of people who work in a factory every day, whether they are Chinese, whether they are American, and actually whether they're management or even the owner of the factory.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

REICHERT: And, you know, we see all those points of view in our film. Remember, they call their company "Higher Ground."

LEMON: Right.

REICHERT: "Higher Ground." I love that name. That's kind of what we tried to do in our film, to take the higher ground, listen fairly to everyone.

LEMON: Let's talk more about the film, Julia, because we see from the trailer that there is an enormous culture clash between American workers and Chinese management at this factory, including tension over unionizing. Is anyone happy with this marriage?

BOGNAR: Oh, sure, Don. It had way big ups and downs during the course of the three years that we were filming in there. In early days, it was a big honeymoon. There was so much curiosity about each other. Everyone is getting to know each other.

Americans would have the Chinese folks over for honey-baked ham and Harley-Davidson rides and tuning guns in the backyard. It was a lot of just sort of wonderful connection.

What happened, the turning point came when the plant was not making a profit as quickly as everyone thought it should, especially as the Chinese thought it should. And then everyone started getting more pressure on them. That's when the sort of clash part of the cultural intersection started really taking off.

And, you know, it's hard when you're being told, "Look, you need to work longer, you need to work harder, you need to work faster." It just everyone's nerves started to fray.

LEMON: Can I jump in? I want to ask about that.

BOGNAR: Challenging environment.

REICHERT: Yeah.

LEMON: I want to ask about that. What did you learn about how differently the Chinese view work compared to Americans?

REICHERT: Well, that's where there's really a vast difference, actually in the sense of what work life is all about. Chinese folks commonly work a 12-hour day in a six-day week, sometimes even a seven- day week. And they work very, very efficiently and very fast. And that's the big difference.

They also have, we noticed because we did spend time in China, in factories there, we also noticed that they have a tremendous loyalty to the company, and they have a tremendous loyalty through that to their country.

I mean, remember, we have to remember the history here. China is coming out of rural poverty, just one generation or two generations ago. In living memory, people were starving. And now there's a booming middle class. So people are really excited about their country.

I think here, there's more of a sense that American workers are a little more disappointed and a little less enthusiastic about their company because the companies don't take care of them as well. But you asked about -- there's a management style that we noticed that the Chinese folks brought over to America that really didn't work in many aspects.

One of the big ones was there's a tendency to say, "Do this, just do it." And American workers will say, "Well, why?" or "I think I could find a better way to do that."

BOGNAR: But from a Chinese culture perspective, they're not being disrespectful. It's just a much more direct kind of culture. People don't get patted on the back there. One thing we know the film conveys is that even though you might work 12 hours a day, six days a week in China, you still miss your kids.

It's not like Chinese folks who are working thee long factory hours are any less human or have any less dreams or hopes or fears or concerns than an American person working on a factory line here. It's just a different -- it's a sort of a different expectation, a different kind of normal.

REICHERT: But it did cause -- as you say, it did definitely cause tension and clashes and tears and arguments. And it's very hard -- crossing cultures and negotiating cultural change.

It's not an easy thing. I think any culture coming, country coming to our country to establish a factory or workplace really needs to understand our laws and our culture and how we expect life to be.

LEMON: Well, it looks fascinating. I can't wait to see it. Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, thank you so much. We really appreciate you coming on.

[23:55:00] BOGNAR: Thank you, Don.

REICHERT: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: And thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)