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President Trump Cancels His Meeting At Camp David; NOAA Has No Choice But To Disavow Alabama NWS's Statement; Secret Mission Made Public; President Trump Lashing Out On Twitter; Power Struggle Within The First Family; Fact-Checking President Trump's Rally Speech. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired September 9, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT" with D. Lemon starts right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: You really think we're a majority-ruled country when you look at - when you look at the Electoral College, you look at the polling, when it comes to guns, when - if you look at what happens in social media.
And part of my conversation I'm going to have as I said with Charlamagne, it's the smallest group, the loudest or most influential.
CUOMO: I think that you have to separate what happens in elections and what happens in certain discreet cultural issues and debates that get picked up by the media.
Yes, I think the majority matters a lot. I think it's what the majority wants in this country that you have to consider. I think we have fallen into a pattern of rewarding opposition.
CUOMO: And we have fallen into a pattern of negativity.
LEMON: Or being afraid of opposition as well, too.
CUOMO: As long as it happens -- look, fear is one of the biggest drivers of animus. As long as it stays that way, you will see inaction as the main thought in Congress because they think they're going to get to stay there because of what they're against and who they oppose.
And so, yes, I agree in it. Can fringe voices manifest something that is not commensurate with their number? Of course. Look, the media drives it all the time. The reason that the fringe is so loud is because we amplify their voices.
CUOMO: You know, I mean, we like the provocative.
LEMON: Yes. CUOMO: We like things that push things, that make people have to have a feeling about it. Often that takes you to the extreme.
LEMON: Yes. Well, we got to stop that. I mean, listen, I agree with you. We have to hold our elected officials accountable. Maybe we should call their offices, but we have to hold ourselves accountable as well, and we should not be driven by so much fear.
This is a country that it's supposed to be about all -- not just the majority, but about everyone, right? And about redemption and about listening to each other, and about common ground and about diversity. And it doesn't seem like we're moving in that direction at this particular time in our history.
CUOMO: As long as you allow the situation to fester and to be about toxic negativity, it can only get worse because, see, we don't have the advantage -- and I call it an advantage only in this context -- of a homogenous place. A homogenous place, they find their sectarian battles. They're always finding some ways to divide us, people in power, right?
CUOMO: Or people who want power. But it's easier here because we have less. We don't all look the same. We don't all have one collection of ethnicities. We don't all have one collection of faith. And it's easier here to do us versus them. But as long as we reward that, as long as we make that OK, it's going to get worse, not better.
LEMON: Thank goodness I don't look like you.
CUOMO: That's true. You're a good-looking guy. Your looks are not your problem.
LEMON: I know. It's this, who?
CUOMO: No, You're not dumb. That's what makes you so dangerous.
LEMON: You got me down. It's that aw, shucks, really? I didn't know.
CUOMO: I'm a big fan, Don.
LEMON: That's a southern thing.
CUOMO: Just, you know, you just can't -- no, you're smart. You're as smart as they come. You've been all over the business.
LEMON: Country lawyer.
CUOMO: You're a good man.
LEMON: You're a country lawyer.
CUOMO: And look, you're not wrong to feel that there is a cynicism that has taken root.
CUOMO: And that the minority and concentrated power and money and special interests have done it, and everybody talks about it, and nobody does anything about it.
CUOMO: It's true. But it's also true that everything that matters in this country has bubbled up, has not come top down. People will get it done when they want it done.
LEMON: You know what else is true? I got to go. I got a big show ahead.
CUOMO: Hey, when you've had enough wisdom, you just say so, and now you go on your merry way and say whatever you want to say.
LEMON: You don't have to go home, but you've got to get out of here.
CUOMO: I know. I know. I've been told that many times.
LEMON: I'll see you tomorrow. Have a good night.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you so much for joining us.
And you may have thought that this president's Twitter meltdowns, his anger, his demands for loyalty no matter what, you know, loyalty no matter what to him, that it couldn't get any worse, right?
Think about it. I want you to think about this. Over the last few days, he has really hit a new low. Everything now is about this president's ego. Everything. Listen to what he says about his decision to invite Taliban leaders to Camp David for talks just days before the 18th anniversary of 9/11, and his decision to abruptly cancel that meeting. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a meeting scheduled. It was my idea, and it was my idea to terminate it. I didn't -- I didn't discuss it with anybody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So, here's the thing. No one knew about that meeting in the first place, and it's undeniably not a good look to invite the Taliban here as the nation is about to observe the anniversary of 9/11. The president could have canceled it without anybody being the wiser, especially since sources tell CNN there was intense disagreement behind the scenes.
Multiple advisers, including Vice President Mike Pence and national security adviser John Bolton. They were opposed to the idea. But the president says he didn't listen to them even though he did cancel the meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: No. Actually, in terms of advisers, I took my own advice. I liked the idea of meeting. I've met with a lot of bad people and a lot of good people during the course of the last almost three years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Yes, he's right. He sure has met with some bad people, people like Kim Jong-un, who reportedly launched two as yet unidentified projectiles just a few hours ago, not to mention Mohammed bin Salman, Vladimir Putin. But I digress.
A spokesman for the vice president says anyone claiming to know his thoughts on the matter aside from the president is mistaken, which sounds an awful lot like a subtle way of making it clear Pence disagreed with the boss.
And then there is this. This is from Congresswoman Liz Cheney, tweeting that the president was right to end the talks. And that is exactly how to talk to this president if you're a Republican. She's got it down. Tell him he's right even if he's actually wrong.
And the president, well, he's got a pretty consistent refrain when there is something he doesn't want to talk about. There's CNN's exclusive reporting on a previously undisclosed mission to extract the highest-level covert source from inside the Russian government.
The mission driven in part by that Oval Office meeting where the president revealed highly classified intel to Russians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I know nothing about it. I see the CIA responded perfectly. So whatever the CIA said is fine with me, but I heard they responded perfectly. I know nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He knows nothing. He also tweets he knows nothing about Air Force planes directed to refuel at an airport in Scotland that just happens to be near the president's own Turnberry resort. And he says it has nothing to do with him when those crews stay at his resort even though the Air Force, which defends the practice, admits it, quote, "might be allowable but not advisable."
When Mike Pence, the vice president, stayed at the president's Irish resort in Doonbeg, he doesn't know about that either.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don't need to have somebody take a room overnight at a hotel. Mike Pence, as an example, his family lives in Doonbeg, Ireland. And he's actually told me that he stayed there many years ago. He was in Ireland, so he said, you know what I'll do? I'll see my family. I didn't know about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He tweeted the same thing this morning. Nothing to do with it. Nothing to see here. And if there's one lesson the members of team Trump have learned, it is this. Defend the boss at all costs, no matter what, even if it means firing people just for contradicting him.
And of course, there's no better example than their kerfuffle -- or should that be covfefe (ph) over Hurricane Dorian.
We're learning tonight that this administration was reportedly willing to fire top NOAA employees to hide the fact that the president was wrong, that after he sent -- he spent much of the past week tweeting, anger-tweeting, but he was absolutely correct that the storm was on a path to hit Alabama, it wasn't true.
From the moment he tweeted Sunday morning that Alabama would be most likely to be hit by Dorian, it wasn't true then. That's why the Birmingham, Alabama, branch of the National Weather Service tweeted minutes later that Alabama would not see any impacts from Dorian.
It wasn't true when the president doubled, tripled, quadrupled down days -- for days later. It wasn't true when he whipped out a map with a sharpie scrawl over Alabama, a scrawl that he reportedly put there himself.
But the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, reportedly threatened to fire top NOAA employees if the agency didn't disavow that tweet from the Birmingham office, that according to "The New York Times." And remember, NOAA did disavow that tweet on Friday. But a Commerce Department spokesman denies the whole thing, calling the Times story false.
And then there's this. Just listen to what the president had to say about all those judges that he put on the nation's courts, reshaping the judiciary and moving it to the right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: President Obama gave me a beautiful birthday present when he gave me 138 judges that weren't approved, and frankly, how do you consider that being a great president when you hand to the opposition 138 slots of federal judges, including appellate court judges and one Supreme Court judge?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, wow, let's talk about judges. But blaming his predecessor for leaving vacancies on the bench when it was -- remember, it's Mitch McConnell who refused to even consider Barack Obama's Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, insisting on waiting until after the election. The same Mitch McConnell who now says if there's a Supreme Court
vacancy next year before the election, he'll fill it. And then there's the president's Twitter tear about the criminal justice reform bill. It's a worthy bill. He did sign it into law. But it seems what he really cares about is getting credit for it, getting credit for everything, accolades.
Look at that. He called out John Legend, Chrissy Teigen -- that's his wife by the way. They're a married couple. Even NBC's Lester Holt, not married to them, which it's got to make you wonder does he think people of color owe him praise? And does he expect them to give him a pass for all the other things he said?
Well, tonight, we have a CNN exclusive. It's great reporting coming up. The extraordinary secret mission to extract the highest-level convert -- or covert, I should say, source in the Russian government, partly because of the way the president mishandled classified intelligence. That story and the response from the former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, that's next.
LEMON: We've got breaking news on a CNN exclusive tonight. Jim Sciutto has new reporting on a highly secretive intelligence operation by the U.S. It involves a top asset inside the Russian government, and Jim Sciutto joins me now with more.
Jim, hello. This is fascinating. What have you learned?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Don, thanks. We've been working for this in a long time.
Multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge tell me that in the previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the U.S. successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, a person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven in part by concerns of President Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence, which could contribute to exposing the cohort source as a spy.
The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which you may remember Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.
That intelligence concerning ISIS and Syria had been provided by Israel. The disclosure to the Russians by the president, though not about the Russian spy specifically, prompt the intelligence officials to renew discussions about the potential risk of exposure according to the source directly involved in the matter.
At the time then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo told other senior Trump administration officials that too much information was coming out regarding the asset. I should note, Don, that those concerns did not begin in those early months of the Trump administration.
At the end of the Obama administration, there had been concerns about the safety of this source because intelligence from this source had contributed to that 2017 assessment about Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.
You'll remember that assessment was that Putin himself had directed that interference and that his preference was Donald Trump. The inclusion of that intelligence sourced to this highly placed Russian spy has raise -- had raised initial concerns about his safety. They did not take this source out at the time. Later, after a combination of concerns, made the decision to extract.
LEMON: Can you -- you said high-level. Can you tell how high a level? How high up did this person go? What do you know?
SCIUTTO: Well, very high. Hard to go higher. These are details that we withheld from our initial story to help prevent the person's identification. Since then, "The New York Times" has confirmed our story and reported some of these details. So, it's public now.
Let me tell you what I know. This was a Russian national who had served as an informant for U.S. intelligence for more than a decade. So, for many years providing important information, this person had access to President Putin, including -- listen to this -- the remarkable ability to take photographs of presidential documents. This is how high we're talking about here.
This person had reached the highest levels of the national security infrastructure in Russia, really a source extremely hard to replace, of course, after extraction.
And I should note this as well, that in the waning weeks of the Obama administration, U.S. intelligence had offered this asset the ability to be extracted. It said, listen, hey, we want to get you out. And at the time the source refused that. It was only months later, months into the Obama -- into the Trump administration, rather, when the offer was made, the asset accepted, and the ex- traction was carried out.
LEMON: Is the administration responding to this story?
SCIUTTO: It is. The administration, I spoke to a number of officials, asked for comment, Brittany Bramell, the CIA director for public affairs told CNN that CNN's narrative that the Central Intelligence Agency makes life or death decisions based on anything other than objective analysis and sound collection is simply false.
Misguided speculation that the president's handling of our nation's most sensitive intelligence, which he has access to each and every day, drove an alleged exfiltration operation is inaccurate.
A spokesperson for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo decline to comment for the story. White House press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said, quote, "CNN's reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger." But keep this in mind, Don. The removal happened at a time of wide
concern in the U.S. intelligence community about the president's handling of the nation's most sensitive secrets. I spoke to five officials who served in the Trump administration, the intelligence agencies, and on Capitol Hill handling intelligence, and they all tell a common story about deep distrust in the intelligence community for the president's handling of this.
And if I could note one final thing. It did not end with that May 2017 Oval Office meeting.
In July 2017, President Trump met with Vladimir Putin. You'll remember the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. This was the private meeting where he confiscated the interpreter's notes afterwards, very unusual.
I'm told by an intelligence source with knowledge of the intelligence community's reaction to that meeting that they were concerned that then again, the president improperly discussed classified intelligence with Russians.
LEMON: This is fascinating. And, again, the White House denying all of it -- or the narrative that they claim that the media is portraying you and "The New York Times".
SCIUTTO: They are. But keep in mind, I spoke to a number of sources for the story. It included sources directly involved in this decision- making and the discussions around this decision.
LEMON: Jim Sciutto, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
I want to talk more about CNN's exclusive reporting now. Let's bring in James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence. Director, thank you so much. I've got to get your reaction to Jim Sciutto's reporting that the United States extracting a highly placed covert source from inside the Russian government, in part because of concerns the president could have exposed the asset. That's really shocking.
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, Jim, first as an intel guy, I can't sit here with you and confirm or deny anything that Jim just said. And the problem here, of course, is not just one person but apparently a group of people felt strongly enough about their concerns about President Trump's keeping secrets that they thought that the public needed to know about it.
Now, this is another classic example of one man's leaker is another man's whistle-blower.
And so for whatever reason, the people involved here felt compelled to make this public. And this is in no way a criticism of Jim and his reporting. We've discussed this, and, you know, as a journalist, he's done exactly what he should do.
But from as an intelligence guy, I spent a lot of time in the intelligence business, I have to point that out.
CLAPPER: I will tell you further that there was great concern about then-candidate Trump when he became the Republican nominee, at which time typically and historically we've always briefed presidential candidates from both parties. And I was implored by many intelligence community seniors not to do that, just as I was implored in writing by then-Speaker Ryan not to brief Hillary Clinton.
So, a lot of -- there's ambient, latent concern even before the president was inaugurated about his tension to protecting sensitive sources and methods. And it's hard to envision, again not confirming or denying here, a more sensitive source.
I also will tell you that as a result of this, it's going to become even harder to collect human intelligence in Russia. It always has been going back to the Soviet Union days because of the oppressive surveillance.
If the asset in question, as has been characterized, this is not something you're going to replace overnight or in a week or a month or even in years. It takes years to recruit and develop a source like this. Again, I'm not confirming or denying anything.
LEMON: I want to move on now. Thank you for responding to that reporting. The president announcing that he canceled a plan to bring Taliban leaders to the U.S. for a meeting at Camp David the week of 9/11, by the way, a meeting that he insisted, you know, on this meeting over the advice of top national security advisers and even the vice president, Mike Pence. This is what the president said about it earlier today, and then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: No, actually in terms of advisers, I took my own advice. We had a meeting scheduled. It was my idea, and it was my idea to terminate it. I didn't even -- I didn't discuss it with anybody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, you know, it's hard to believe that the president wouldn't understand the sensitivity here. Why would he think that this meeting was a good idea, director?
CLAPPER: Well, I don't know, especially given the sensitivity. My problem with this has been the whole business of negotiating with the Taliban in the manner in which we have.
From what I can tell, the negotiations, these nine sessions of negotiations by our former ambassador there is simply window dressing for getting out of Dodge City. And if anyone believes -- you know, we should -- there's no reason for anyone to believe the Taliban or to trust them any further than you or I could throw a grand piano.
[22:24:55] The Taliban have had two objectives, and they've held these objectives for years. And that is, a, to get the United States and other NATO represent -- contingents out of Afghanistan, and having accomplished that and looked like they were on their way to doing that, the next thing was of course was to get rid of the current Afghan government, which we have supported, and its predecessors for 18 years and poured a lot of money into the country trying to support that government.
So, the notion that we could -- we're going to rely on them to abide by any agreement is crazy. They won't abide by it, and their leverage, by the way, is violence. And we've seen recent examples of that. And that's how they exert leverage, and our only leverage really is our presence. Once we give that up, we don't have any leverage.
And I don't know how we would verify let alone enforce such an agreement. And if anyone thinks that the Taliban will then police up Al Qaeda or ISIS, they've got another thing coming. And they certainly wouldn't change their attitude towards women.
So, to me, the substance of this whole business is more bothersome than the meeting. And why the president chose to publicize that, even if we are negotiating with them, because he's going to make it harder once we do negotiate. And my other big hang-up, of course, has been excluding the Afghan government and thereby marginalizing them.
LEMON: Director James Clapper, thank you, sir.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Well, my next two guests describe the state of the President Trump presidency this way. Meltdown mania, unhealthy. Anthony Scaramucci, Peter Wehner. They have more to say next.
LEMON: President Trump's Twitter rants and a growing disregard for the opinions of his own advisers are leading to new concerns about his fitness for office. Let's discuss now. Former White House Communications Director, Mr. Anthony Scaramucci and Peter Wehner, who worked in the last three Republican administrations and is the author of "The death of politics, how to heal our frayed republic after Trump."
Gentlemen, good evening. Anthony --
ANTONY SCARAMUCCI, DIRECTOR/MANAGING PARTNER, SKY BRIDGE CAPITAL: Good evening.
LEMON: Anthony, I'm going to start with you. The president is continuing to act as his own P.R. machine today, saying that he took his own advice on talks with the Taliban. You say that he is in full- blown meltdown mania, and it's only going to get worse. How so? Where is this all going?
SCARAMUCCI: You mean like how much worse could it get, Don? Is that what you mean?
LEMON: Why do you say that?
SCARAMUCCI: It's going to get worse because what he said today. He takes nobody's counsel. There's nobody in the White House, you know -- if you remember Chief of Staff Kelly at least had the strength, the personality to sometimes say, hey, that is probably not the best thing to do. Don't do that. And so he probably curbed some of the exigencies of his personality.
LEMON: There's no one there?
SCARAMUCCI: Well, you tell me. Look at what's going on over the last five or six weeks. I mean, maybe you're saying that it can't get any worse than this, but I predict that it will. It will get a lot worse. He almost looks sedated tonight. I don't know if you were watching the rally. I mean he looked sedated. He was using words that he typically doesn't use. He was reading off the prompter. He is got a loss of confidence going on, and he is got a loss of personality at the same time.
LEMON: All right. Before I bring Peter in, people are going to say, Anthony, you're not a psychiatrist. You're not a psychologist.
SCARAMUCCI: I'm not allowed to make an observation about how he looks on a television? I'm not a psychologist, but I was around the campaign, and I was with the guy. You get a sense for a person's personality. I mean you're allowed to armchair that and look at it clinically and critically.
LEMON: Yes. Peter, you had a piece today for the Atlantic and it is entitled Trump is not well. And you write this. You said Donald Trump's disordered personality, his unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning and behaving has become the defining characteristic of his presidency. You know, the Taliban meeting, the false story about Alabama getting hit by hurricane Dorian, is this more of the same, you think?
PETER WEHNER, CONTRIBUTING OPINION WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, it is more of the same, but what I would say is that his condition is getting worse, and the guardrails are getting less. And so, you know, I said to a friend a long time ago, when there's no bottom, there's no bottom. With Donald Trump, there's no bottom. This is like a car on a steep hill without brakes. It's just going to accelerate, and there's not going to be a way to stop it.
You know, you lose track of these. It's just an avalanche of disordered personality traits, the lying, the pathological lying, the self-aggrandizement, the detachment from reality, the extreme narcissism, the misogyny, the ruthlessness, lack of remorse. All of those things are absolutely on public display, and the idea that as citizens, we're not supposed to make judgments, reasoned judgments about those things as they're unfolding before our eyes, I think is silly and irresponsible.
I've worked in three administrations. I worked in the White House as a senior adviser for seven years, and one of the things I came away from is the belief that even more than policy -- and I care a lot about policy. I spent my life in policy. Even more than that, what matters most is the president's temperament, his disposition, his judgment, his prudence, his wisdom.
And Donald Trump is not only worse than any president that we've had, he is light years worse than anybody we've ever seen in political life. And that is just a big, big danger.
LEMON: Well, let me ask you this because you mentioned -- you said as citizens. Because Anthony said the same thing. Basically you guys have the same sentiment as an observer, as a citizen, I am allowed to, you know, look at this person and assess his behavior, his actions. But, you know, so many Americans still haven't come to terms with the fact that the president is deeply damaged, Peter. So how do you convince people to see him as he really is?
WEHNER: Well, you have to disaggregate him. I mean, there's some core group of supporters that are never going to see that. They're simply so lost in denial that they won't -- they won't let reality intrude. It's like shooting BB's against a brick wall. But, look, there's some number of Americans, a large number of Americans who are something in the middle, and I think this matters to them a great deal.
So, you know, these things do matter. Let me just say one thing to use an analogy, another analogy that may help. I don't -- if your car is -- you see smoke is coming out of the hood, you see puddles of oil underneath your car, you smell oil burning, you don't have to be a car mechanic to say, a, that your engine has problems, and, b, you're almost surely leaking oil.
And in the same way, you don't have to be a psychologist or psychiatrist to know that this man is a disordered personality. It doesn't mean that Anthony or I or you can say whether it's, you know, narcissistic personality disorder or anti-social personality disorder. Those are things that experts have to decide, but in terms of whether this man is psychologically and emotionally unwell to the point that it's almost beyond (inaudible).
SCARAMUCCI: Prima facie.
LEMON: Well, that is what I want to ask you, Anthony, because you said again -- you were there. You're a person who supported him. And I asked him, I said, how do you convince people to see him as he really is? You came around to that. What's your advice on that?
SCARAMUCCI: So I think the one issue is because he is a demagogue, if you go back through the history of demagogues, they have an ability due to that personality that Peter is describing to hold on to support longer than you think would be possible. And so there's a little bit of a cult element to that. There's a little bit of -- I can't break because I'll look like a turncoat or disloyal.
And one of the things that the president is good at, he tries to humiliate people on Twitter whether it's John Legend or people like that in an effort to silence the people that he knows really hate his guts. You know, I would say most of the Hill hates him. Members of Congress hate him. People inside the cabinet, inside the White House have a siege mentality. And so he is trying to suppress all of that through the bullying and all of that anti-social behavior.
So what you have to do is you have to create an off ramp. This is what I've been saying to you and your colleagues and other people as I go around the United States and speak about this. You've got to give people the opportunity just like when they're leaving a cult to say it's OK to change your mind. And if you're an entrepreneur like me, if you made a bad hiring decision in a company and you look at this behavior, you'd have to terminate this person and find somebody else.
SCARAMUCCI: And that is all it is. It's not a politician flip- flopping. It's a hiring decision. The guy's leading one of the greatest nations ever in history, if not the greatest nation in history, and he is failing at it.
LEMON: Anthony, that's got to be the last word. Thank you, Anthony. Thank you, Peter. I appreciate your time.
The president's campaign manager says the Trump family's quote, dynasty will last for decades, but who will be his heir apparent? My next guest has the scoop on the feud within the family.
LEMON: There's a new report in "The Atlantic." It details the battle among Donald Trump's children to succeed him. So McKay Coppins wrote the article and he joins me now. He is also the author of "The wilderness." McKay Coppins, so good to have you on. How are you doing?
MCKAY COPPINS, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: I'm good. Thanks for having me.
LEMON: So let's talk about -- there's a fight between Don Jr. and Ivanka as to who's going to succeed their father and you write this, you say, and while the president writes his chapter in history, the next generation waits in the wings, jockeying for position, feuding over status, knowing only one of them can be the heir. So Trump saw Ivanka as the heir, but that is not so. Especially -- I think you say that Ivanka is -- she may inherit the company, but Don Jr. is a MAGA star.
COPPINS: Yes, I mean, Trump always saw Ivanka as kind of the golden child, right? She was beautiful, telegenic. He wanted her to be the next face of the Trump Empire. But what happened is on Election Day 2016, the Trump family business changed. It went from being about TV and real estate and licensing deals to being about politics.
And in the political realm, Don Jr. went out and built his own grassroots fan base. He emerged as this kind of shouty, testosterone- soaked, you know, mini-Trump out there, beating the drum, while Ivanka was in the White House and kind of very quickly figured out that she was out of her depth.
You know, she is not somebody who had a lot of political or policy- making experience. She doesn't have a lot of credibility with world leaders. And so while she is kind of been stuck in the White House in this sort of hamster wheel, Don has been out there becoming this political celebrity.
LEMON: But he doesn't like criticism in general, but he really doesn't like the criticism of Ivanka.
COPPINS: Definitely not. And I do think that even today, Trump would still, if he was being honest, say that Ivanka was his favorite. He still prefers Ivanka, in part -- and this is important to this whole story -- because Ivanka travels in respectable circles. She is kind of somebody who is respected by the elites that Trump has always wanted respect from.
COPPINS: And so -- he saw her as somebody who could rehabilitate him or bring the Trump brand and the Trump name into this kind of new era, but Don Jr. is the more natural successor.
LEMON: Yes. She is with the elites, and he is with the more sort of down-home folk.
COPPINS: Yes. Right.
LEMON: Right. You have so many fascinating -- so many fascinating anecdotes, like the one about how the president privately reacted during the Trump Tower meeting, when that went public. And you say watching cable news coverage at the fiasco, from the West Wing, Trump shook his head warily. He wasn't angry at Don, a former White House official recalled, it was more like he was resigned to his son's idiocy. He is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, Trump said with a sigh. So, I mean, what a way to think of your kid?
COPPINS: Yes, and I mean, this is an important kind of insight into how Trump operates which is that I'm told by people who know him that the way he thinks about his kids on any given day is largely shaped by how they're playing on cable news. So if they are doing well for him, if they are out there representing him well and staying out of bad headlines, then Trump is happy with them.
If there's a bad story about them, then he is frustrated with them. That is entirely how he's kind of attitude toward his adult children is shaped. And so when Don Jr. had this huge kind of fiasco that dominated coverage for weeks and weeks and weeks, Trump was understandably very frustrated with it.
LEMON: Another case in point. Another anecdote. You said on ski trips when they race down the mountain, Trump would jab at his children with a pole to get ahead of them. His favorite (inaudible), maxim was don't trust anyone, and he liked to test his children by asking whether they trusted him. If they said yes, they were reprimanded. I mean they don't trust anything, anyone? I mean --
COPPINS: Well, including their own father. And Trump taught them as young children not to trust each other, not to trust --
LEMON: Is it HBO succession?
COPPINS: It is -- I mean, actually in the magazine, our story is called succession. There is this kind of Darwinian dynamic that Trump has cultivated within his family that runs through up until today.
LEMON: Do you remember he said this on "60 minutes?" Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't trust everybody in the White House. I'll be honest with you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You go to a meeting. Do you have to wonder is he wearing a wire?
TRUMP: Not so much a wire. I'm usually guarded, and I think I'm guarded anyway. But I'm not saying I trust everybody in the White House. I'm not a baby. This is a tough business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So this don't trust anyone, this theme is -- it's ongoing. Is this still a Trump maxim?
COPPINS: Oh, absolutely. I mean this is something that he is believed basically his entire life. And you know, I write at the beginning of the story about his father and his grandfather. This goes back generations.
LEMON: And building homes on swampland in Queens.
COPPINS: That is right. This has always been a family and especially kind of the patriarchs of the family have always been cutthroat, ruthless, and believed that they needed to do anything to win, and that meant throwing people under the bus, and sometimes that meant even throwing members of their own families under the bus.
LEMON: It was interesting, there's a part in the beginning, it's a long article, where you're talking about sort of they moved and they took on this new sheen of respectability, sort of, right, when they came over to this country.
LEMON: It's fascinating. It's a fascinating article. I got to run. McKay Coppins, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
COPPINS: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
LEMON: President Trump giving a lengthy speech in North Carolina tonight on the eve of a special election there. Hoping to boost the Republican candidate Dan Bishop and also trying to make the case for his own reelection in 2020. Here to fact check some of the president's claims. CNN Reporter, Daniel Dale. Our residence fact-checker. Hello, Daniel.
DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE TORONTO STAR: Hi, Don.
LEMON: You listened to his rally tonight. How many lies does President Trump throw?
DALE: Don, it was at least 20 lies. Another false claims. Almost all of which I fact check before these were the hits. I will say that me and colleagues (INAUDIBLE), and (INAUDIBLE), are still going through the list. So, the number might be higher by tomorrow morning.
LEMON: So, the president sounded a lot like a 2020 rally. He hit one of his big campaign issues immigration. I want you to listen to him once again falsely claiming that there is illegal voting going on in the areas with lots of immigrants. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You go to California which is so many sanctuary cities. They don't know what's happening out there. You have people that want to get rid of those sanctuary cities. They just aren't able to do it. With the people that get elected. A lot of illegal voting going on out there by the way. A lot of illegal voting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Daniel, there's never been any proof of that, right?
DALE: There's no basis for this whatsoever. There never has been. There still isn't. There's not much more to say, but I will add that I think this version was notable because of where the president was when he said this version. He is campaigning in a special election that was necessitated because of credible allegations of Republican ballot fraud. Election fraud. And so he didn't mention the real stuff right in the backyard of his venue. But he continued to talk about the fake stuff that exist only in his head.
LEMON: Interesting. So listen, I have to get to -- this in. The president has reason for weakening efficiency regulations on light bulbs. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I'm not a vain person. I know I have no vain people especially
these incredible ladies in the front. But I look better under an incandescent lights than these crazy lights that are beaming down on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I don't know, I guess you can't really fact check that one.
DALE: You can't. You can't really, although I will say as a human who has watched Donald Trump now as a fact-checker -- I'm skeptical to claim that he is not a vain person. But I will not be including that on my official false-claim list.
LEMON: I will say this, incandescent lighting dimmed, I think everybody looks better. So, I'll go with it. Daniel, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
DALE: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: The president says that he took his own advice about cancelling talks with the Taliban. Is this administration of one?
LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. And we're going answer five big questions in the hour ahead. Why did this president think it was a good idea to bring the Taliban to Camp David days before the 9/11 anniversary?
Also the president held a political rally tonight in North Carolina. On the eve of a special election for a congressional seat. Is he worried the Republican candidate may lose the race?