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CNN TONIGHT

Whistleblower Files Complaint On Trump's Promise To Foreign Leader; Pelosi Says Corey Lewandowski Deserves To Be Held In Contempt; Bolton Slams Trump At Closed-Door Event; Joe Biden Has Wide Lead Over 2020 Democratic Field. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 18, 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 have five big headlines in the hour ahead and we begin with the breaking news. The "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight that anonymous whistleblower, the one who set off a showdown between the intelligence community and Congress with a complaint that was deemed by the I.G., Inspector General, to be credible and urgent.

That compliant reportedly involves President Trump's own communications with a foreign leader. We're going to have more on that in just a moment.

Also, why are the president and his top aides apparently incapable of telling the truth? A discussion is straight ahead.

Also, a brand-new poll out tonight on the 2020 race. We'll see what it says about Joe Biden and the Democrats and about the president.

And then there is the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that she believes that Corey Lewandowski could have been held in contempt then and there for his testimony to Congress yesterday.

Plus, Justin Trudeau apologizing tonight after a photo emerged of him wearing brown face during a school event in 2001.

But let's get straight to our big breaking news on that anonymous whistleblower who set off a showdown between the intelligence community and Congress with a complaint that was deemed by the I.G., Inspector General, to be credible and urgent.

That complaint reportedly involves President Trump's own communications with a foreign leader. That is according to the "Washington Post." So joining me now by phone "Washington Post" National Security Reporter, Ellen Nakashima who broke the story.

Ellen, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining us. This bombshell reporting you say that this interaction involved a promise to a foreign leader, White House records indicate that the president had conversations or interactions with at least five foreign leaders in the weeks before the complaint was filed on August 12th. Who are those leaders?

ELLEN NAKASHIMA, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): Well, on July 31st, he had a phone call with Russia President Vladimir Putin. The White House also initiated. And then he also had communications with the North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un. And he described some of his letters having beautiful relationship and beautiful message.

Then he met with other foreign leaders at the White House in July including the prime minister of Pakistan and the prime minister of Netherlands and the Emir of Qatar. We don't know who for sure who the foreign leader was, but certainly Putin is of high interest.

LEMON: So what is the concern about the promise that he may have made to one of those leaders, Ellen?

NAKASHIMA: Well, we don't know the nature of the promise, but it was of sufficient concern. It was troubling enough that the intelligence community official learned of it, felt compelled to lodge a complaint with the inspector general of the intelligence community. And he did this in August. So, you know, it wasn't too long ago, and if it was Putin, it was only a couple weeks after that.

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LEMON: So what role did the Department of Justice potentially play here? Is there a suspicion that DOJ told the DNI not to release this to Congress as they would be obligated to do?

NAKASHIMA: Well, we do know that the DNI went to the Justice Department, presumably the Office of Legal Counsel and got some legal advice which resulted in this letter that DNI sent back to the Hill.

Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, in which he basically said that he did not feel that this was a complaint that could be transmitted to the Hill because it did not rise to the level or threshold of an urgent concern as defined in the whistleblower statute.

It's a little -- it's a little (INAUDIBLE), but one of the elements of that he says and he cites the statute, is that the intelligence activity in question has to be under the responsibility and authority of the DNI.

And evidently the DNI is claiming that this activity did not fall under this purview and as such, this was not a valid complaint and could not be transmitted to Congress.

LEMON: Ellen Nakashima of "The Washington Post," breaking this story in the "Post" and being kind enough to join us tonight. Thank you so much, Ellen. I appreciate your time.

NAKASHIMA: Thank you.

LEMON: Joining me now is Jim Baker, Laura Coates and Shawn Turner. Thank you so much. So let's discuss this. Good evening, everyone. Jim, this new explosive news from the "Washington Post," a promise

made by President Trump to a foreign leader so disturbing that a whistleblower reported to the inspector general. Give me your reaction, please.

JIM BAKER, FORMER FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: It's very serious. It's obviously a serious matter. So what we have at least in terms of the significance of this, again, given the sort of sparseness of the information is that that intelligence official thought it was serious enough to take it to the I.G.

The I.G. thought it was serious enough that they apparently did some type of analysis and then took it to the DNI. The DNI, the director of National Intelligence thought it was serious enough to consult either with his lawyer and the Justice Department or through his lawyer to the Justice Department.

So clearly, the officials within the government are taking this very seriously. What exactly it is and why it's not being reported, we can talk about that. But on its face, it seems like a serious matter that people were alarmed about.

LEMON: So, Sean, we don't -- Sean, this is for you. We don't know who this foreign leader is, but the White House records indicate the president had conversations and interactions with at least five in the weeks leading up to the filing that whistleblower complaint or the complaint the whistleblower filed including Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong- un, the prime minister of Pakistan, the prime minister of the Netherlands, the Emir of Qatar. You heard the reporter before I mentioned all of them. How concerning is that?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. You know, when you look at that list, it's clear, Don, you know, not all leaders are created equal. And if the promises that were made were made to Vladimir Putin, then that certainly adds to the kind of long-standing, you know, lack of understanding as to why the president shows so much deference to Vladimir Putin.

Look, you know, I can't begin to speculate about the nature of the promises that were made, but what I can say is that I think it's very interesting that this whistleblower decided to of all the places he or she could go, they decided to go to the intelligence community inspector general.

Look, I spent quite a bit of time in the intelligence community and intelligence professionals understand the role of the intelligence community inspector general.

So, if an intelligence professional goes to the I.G., then what that tells me is that that individual was of the mind that the information, the behavior on the part of the president either was related to some sort of intelligence information.

The promises were related to some sort of intelligence information or they thought that the information represented some sort of national security risk or threat that should be raised with the inspector general.

Of course we don't know exactly what it was, but as Jim said, this is an extremely serious issue and I think that the way that it's being handled certainly raises a lot of questions with regard to the fact that this information isn't being passed on to Congress.

LEMON: Laura, there's been this standoff between the DNI and Congress about turning over this information. Now that we know it involved the president, does that raise questions about a cover-up here? What do you think?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I mean, my question of course is when was the last time you heard someone say nothing to see here folks and you actually believed it. The fact that somebody is saying, no, no, although it was raised up the chain, and really brought it up the chain here and said it's urgent and needs to be looked at, to be so dismissive of it immediately raised eyebrows.

But then to have the president involved in some form or fashion about his own communications more than tells you this is part of a larger pattern, that he has disregarded the separation of power.

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You should remember what the congressional role is here. The role is for oversight and the role is to be the advocate and the ears of the people. Be able to be there because you are supposed to be able to assess with equal information the president of the United States has about whether there are potential threats to the United States of America or any national security interest.

So, back at the president or whoever prior administration is trying to say, I am undermining the opportunity for the American people through Congress to get the information. It smacks of what we've seen for the last two years in this standoff. And frankly, it's one thing if it's an issue about the president and collusion and election interference.

If it was about a promise made to a national leader and no one's concerned about the Netherlands by the way, it was made by somebody else, then why wouldn't Congress have a right to know and why would that be kept from them?

LEMON: You know, Laura mentioned the last two years, Jim. Let me just preface this by saying we don't know what the promise was, but there has been lots of questions about President Trump's discussion with foreign leaders over the past couple of years, his lack of discretion. Is there -- this is another cause for concern.

BAKER: Well, yes. I mean, look. Again, I don't know exactly what was said. I'm guessing that whatever happened, either the person was in the room when this was communicated or maybe they saw some type of written report about it.

And they probably thought that the information that was conveyed or the promise that was made, whatever it is, that they would think that that would be normally classified and that most people would be prohibited from disclosing that.

The reality is though, however, that the president is the one at the end of the day who decides what's classified and what's not. And so long as he's not otherwise violating a law or doing something other that's contrary to his oath or somehow, you know, illegal in some other fashion, the president is the one who gets to decide what's classified.

But it was probably of such an alarming nature that this person thought there was something wrong or inappropriate about it. So, we don't know exactly what this is and I don't want to leap to too many conclusions.

But, look, I mean, the position that they're staking out now with refusing to cooperate with Congress is consistent with a pattern of behavior over the past couple of years that reflects a sort of maximalist thinking within the executive branch of the president's power under Article II of the Constitution.

LEMON: Shawn, I want to ask you this because --

TURNER: You know, Don, it's not only inconsistent with the law, but the intelligence committee Whistleblower Protection Act states very clearly that under these circumstances that the ICIG has seven days to pass this information on to the intelligence committees and to make sure that Congress is aware of this.

So, it is really unusual to have the DNI step in and to circumvent that and basically tell members of Congress that they're not going to be allowed to conduct their oversight responsibilities. You know, in my time in the intelligence community, I honestly have never seen anything like this.

This is really unusual. And that is what really raises a big concern here. And that's one of the reasons why I think that while we don't know what these promises were about, we have to take this serious because DNI clearly thinks that this is something that the American people shouldn't know about.

LEMON: You worked as director of communications for U.S. National Intelligence. Laura, why do you think the DNI and the I.G. agree to come forward? Is it because they were forced to by this disclosure?

COATES: Well, I mean, disclosure certainly I think prompted them to be a little more expeditious about it. But at the end of the day, there was already a process in place that provided for this method to happen.

Of course, you have people who were saying, listen, in terms of the Congress saying, listen, I could compel your testimony because I actually have clear rules in place that require you to provide information to us.

And so I think they foresaw a losing argument in the end because what you're seeing here is part of a larger pattern as well Don, is the idea of just having a spaghetti against the wall sort of privilege or classification or executive authority here.

You can't simply say I don't feel like sharing information with you and have no foundational reason to do so. That's tied to the law. And so perhaps it was already in the tea leaves that that was actually that spaghetti was going to fall from the actual wall and they were trying to get ahead of it.

Having said that, it may very well be legal nod as the American people will get the full disclosures based on whatever the actual substance of it is. But the process has already provided for there to be some vehicle for at least our representatives to get the information. And they were aware of that.

LEMON: All right. Laura, Jim, Shawn, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

We've got a lot more on this huge story including questions about whether there might be a transcript of exactly what the president said when he reportedly made a promise to a foreign leader.

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LEMON: So we're back now with our breaking news. The "Washington Post" reporting tonight that President Trump's communications with a foreign leader involving a promise sparked a whistleblower complaint. Joining me now to discuss, Samantha Vinograd is here as well as Matthew Rosenberg.

Good evening to both of you. So, Sam, we can assume that there was a transcript of this interaction given the president's every move is monitored and recorded.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: One would think so. I've been on these head of state calls. Typically the situation room connects a call and someone from the situation room monitors the call. That means there is more than one person listening, not to mention the foreign government.

After that happens, typically the situation room writes a transcript of that call, files it for the record and then a small group of officials gets to view what was said -- members of the National Security Council, perhaps the State Department and members of the intelligence community.

So, if this call followed standard operating procedure, we don't know if it did, there would have been other eyes on what was said. And to be very clear, Don, a foreign government knows what was said on that call. A foreign leader was on it.

If it was Vladimir Putin and there was a promise made whether it's Donald Trump giving Vladimir Putin some kind of comp from that on official call, the Russian government knows what was said or whomever was on that call. And at this point, the president is stonewalling Congress from knowing

what was said, again, despite the fact that that foreign government has that information.

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LEMON: Right. Even though the foreign leader has the information, we don't know which foreign leader --

VINOGRAD: Correct, we don't.

LEMON: -- or what promise was made. But, you know, I interviewed Congresswoman Jackie Speier earlier and she brought up this president using unsecured cell phones. Why do you think she raised that point?

VINOGRAD: Because these cell phones are so unsecure. So, if there was not a transcript of this call, if it was done from a cell phone, for example, that cell phone represents a major counter intelligence risk.

If you're a foreign government, you are definitely trying to surveil the president's cell phone. You are also trying to surveil all of his contacts, their personal cell phones. To hear what the president has to say, that is easy collection target for a foreign government.

At this point though, we don't know if it was the cell phone or an official call. What we do know is that someone within the intelligence community thought that a promise was made that represented an urgent and credible threat to national security.

The independent DNI inspector general agreed. The DNI also agreed and at this point the question is over privilege about what the president said, not whether it was troublesome.

LEMON: So Matthew, talk to me about a whistleblower. Is a whistleblower ever blown a whistle on a U.S. president?

MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean, not that I know of. I don't want to be -- Not that I know of. I mean, look. I think we also have to consider a bigger issue here to, which is that the self-corrective mechanisms of our government which is what the I.G. is supposed to be are working here.

That, you know, when the administration wants to stonewall Congress, the balance of power is supposed to be there -- this isn't working. I mean, do you think that's where the press comes in. So, if the whistleblower wants to calls us, I'm sure we would love to hear from him or her.

But there is a real issue here where something serious has gone on. We know almost nothing about it. It's certainly something with the election coming up I think the public would probably want to know and maybe want to consider debating and decide who they want to vote for, what kind of government they want. But right now nothing's working inside.

LEMON: The president revealed classified information of Russia in the Oval Office -- this was back in 2017. Do you fear something similar has happened this time, Samantha?

VINOGRAD: Well, it is very possible, but that would be somewhat of a different issue, Don. The president has the authority to reveal classified information that's under his discretion. The question does though come back to intent.

If the president was on a call with a foreign leader and revealed something classified in exchange for something in return, we know that he loves quid pro quos.

LEMON: That's a different -- whole different --

VINOGRAD: That's a whole different issue here. And that raises counter intelligence concerns. That would lead members of the intelligence community, perhaps, to wonder whether the president was offering that information in return for, say, foreign dirt or foreign election support.

Again, we don't know what it was. But the president can declassify information to whomever he wants. We don't know if that's what happened on this call. We may find that out.

We also don't know if the president for example discussed lifting sanctions on a foreign country, say Russia, in exchange for something else.

So a lot comes back to intent here. And that's exactly why Congress needs to be able to do their statutorily mandated responsibility to review what happened.

LEMON: I'm wondering if this is an excuse to protect the president, Matthew, because the DNI has refused to give this whistleblower complaint to Congress because he says it involved conduct by someone outside of the intelligence community. What do you think of that? Is this an excuse to protect the president?

ROSENBERG: I mean, it certainly feels that way. You know, the DNI is in an acting capacity. It seems like a terrible position to be in. You know, they went to the Justice Department. The Justice Department said, oh, no, you don't have to do this.

So, it certainly looks like they are trying to protect whomever is the subject of this complaint. But again, it comes back to, you know, there's a lot we don't here. And, you know, we need a government that kind of these mechanisms work and we're not seeing that right now.

LEMON: All right. Matthew, Sam, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

Corey Lewandowski admitting that he lies to the media and by extension, to the American people. And he's just one of the many in Trump world that do so. The trouble with the truth, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[02:25:00] LEMON: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is saying in a meeting today that she thinks Corey Lewandowski could have been held in contempt when he testified before the judiciary committee. Let's bring in Ana Navarro and Mark McKinnon. He is the executive producer of Showtime's "The Circus."

Mark, I want to start with this new development seeing this reporting tonight. According to a spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi, she said in a private meeting tonight that after his performance yesterday, Corey Lewandowski could've been held in contempt and she says right then and there.

That did not happen. Is she signaling, you know, if you're going to do it, you need to be tough? If you're going to do this and go through this whole investigation or inquiry, you got to be tough.

MARK MCKINNON, HOST, SHOWTIME'S "THE CIRCUS": Well, Don, you know, in a party that's famously disorganized and lacks strategic coherence, Nancy Pelosi has got it. And, you know, she's smart about the impeachment process. She is smart about what happened yesterday.

She's just been very strategic all along. She's really one of the most strategic person in the party and of course that's why she's speaker. But she's right. They should have and the farce was that that hearing did more for Corey Lewandowski and more for President Trump than it did for the Democrats.

And so, you know, I don't think they should've had the hearing at all in the first place. Listen, I've been out on the trail for the last week. There are two words that I haven't heard at all, impeachment or Mueller, not once.

LEMON: Right.

MCKINNON: The public has moved on. Congress needs to as well.

LEMON: What's interesting because I think the Democrats think that they -- there were important points that were made and there were some important points made about --

[23:29:59]

-- you know, first admitting that he lies, and then admitting that the president did something that was possibly an impeachable offense or obstruction of justice. But that all got -- who saw that?

MCKINNON: Yeah, no, exactly.

LEMON: Yeah. Who saw that?

MCKINNON: Of course he said out loud which is what a lot of what we thought which is that they not only lied to the media, they are proud of it.

LEMON: And let's bring Ana in because, Ana, you remember this moment from Corey Lewandowski. He told us that he embraces lying when it suits him. This is what he said to Congress yesterday and CNN this morning. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you said the president never asked you to get involved with Mr. Session --

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, LOBBYIST AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I have no obligation to have a candid conversation with the media whatsoever.

I am as honest as I can be, as often as I can be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Hmm. So, we know people around this president, they lie. Is this part of the White House -- the job description at the White House now?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look, you know, Mark and I have worked with many principles. I've seen Mark worked with many of them. And I would tell you with very few exceptions staff is a very accurate reflection of that principle.

So if you've got a president of the United States, if you've got a Donald Trump who has lied over 12,000 times in the time that he has been in office, yes, you need people who enable your lies, who justify your lies, who strengthen your lies, who repeat your lies, who are an echo chamber for your lies, who make you believe your lies and who pretend to believe your lies and go out and spout them, absolutely.

Look, what we saw yesterday from Corey Lewandowski was -- I can't even believe I had to learn how to pronounce that guy's name -- was a performance. He could have been -- he could have been found in contempt. But should he have been is the question. And probably not because all they are doing is making him into a martyr, giving him more relevance, giving him a platform to spew out more lies and to put on this performance for the Trump people and the Trump base.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

NAVARRO: And it all works to his advantage. And I frankly don't think it moved the ball whatsoever when it comes to holding Trump or the people around him accountable.

LEMON: OK, Ana, you first, because I want to switch gears now. I want to talk about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologizing after a photo popped up of him wearing brownface during a school event in 2001 when he was a teacher. He said he didn't think it was racist at the time. Now, he says he know it was. He is apologizing for it, also saying, you know, it wasn't the first -- he's done it before. What do you think, Ana?

NAVARRO: Look, you and I have friends who have worn blackface. You and I, you know, know people who did this in the past and there is now a different standard than there was in the past. I think it was a pretty horrible thing to do, a pretty stupid thing to do. To me, the entire idea of, you know, putting on dark makeup seems like a really lazy attempt at costume. Surely you can be more creative than that.

That being said, to hear the words, I am sorry, I made a mistake, come out of a government leader's mouth is so refreshing and it's so shocking that -- you know, I'm shocked we all haven't gotten into some sort of conniption from -- because I have forgotten what it's like to have a leader that can express some level of remorse, regret and humility to accept it and say it out loud.

LEMON: I was stunned when I heard it. It was so refreshing to hear. Listen, I'm not talking about what he did, how egregious, whatever you think. You can think about that but to hear a leader apologize and seem contrite, to have some level of contrition was -- it's such a -- pun intended, foreign --

NAVARRO: Did that really happen? Does that actually happen?

LEMON: What do you think, Mark? We will get to "The Circus." Quickly, I want to know what you think about this.

MCKINNON: Well, I agree. It was the right thing to do, to just own up to it and apologize for it. He seemed to do it in a very straightforward manner. So, I mean, saying it wasn't racist at the time. I think what we're learning is you've got to recognize it at the time for what it is --

LEMON: Yeah.

MCKINNON: -- and learn a lesson from it.

LEMON: Let's look at this. This is a clip from Sunday's "The Circus."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): What's happening in America today?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (voice-over): We are at an inflection point in the history of our nation.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Listen up, Mr. President: Tick-tock, tick-tock.

MCKINNON (on camera): Do you feel like you've taunted the prosecution?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I refuse to be destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republicans talk more about impeachment than the House Democrats do.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How do you impeach somebody that's doing a great job?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Oh, 2020 campaigns are in full swing. "The Circus" is back. What can we expect on Sunday?

MCKINNON: Well, once again, no lucky (ph) material. We were out there covering all the Democrats. We were covering all -- you know, the interesting thing is that the number of Democrats is going down and the number of Republicans is going up. We got more Republicans now running which is an interesting development. We are going to talk about that. We were at the debates.

[23:34:59]

MCKINNON: I was just down in South Carolina at an old tobacco plantation where they've been doing stump speeches since the 1880s. Saw Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar. And then I went and talked to Mark Sanford.

LEMON: South Carolina tobacco.

MCKINNON: Yeah. I got some shrimp and grits.

(LAUGHTER)

MCKINNON: Got some low country food.

LEMON: Good to see both of you. Thank you, Ana. Thank you, Mark.

MCKINNON: Thank you.

NAVARRO: Thank you.

LEMON: John Bolton is slamming his old boss tonight. We are going to tell you the scathing things he is saying about President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:40:00]

LEMON: Ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton speaking at a closed door event tonight here in New York and taking the opportunity to bash his former boss.

Let's discuss now. Jeremy Diamond is here, CNN's Jeremy Diamond.

Good to see you, sir. So, Jeremy, before we get to Bolton's comments, I've got to ask you if the White House is responding to all the breaking news from The Washington Post about a whistle blower in the Intelligence Community. Are they saying anything?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: You know, Don, we have reached out to the White House for comment on that. So far, they have not responded and the Office of Director of National Intelligence has declined to comment to us at this hour, Don. But obviously, we'll be following that story.

LEMON: All right. Let's get back to Bolton now. So the one person who attended that event that Bolton was speaking at, he characterized his remarks as scathing. Can you tell us?

DIAMOND: Yeah, that's right. You know, this is interesting because John Bolton is really only just days away from having left government service and he's already dishing apparently on the president of the United States, his former boss. He didn't name him directly.

But according to one attendee who spoke with CNN, John Bolton was extremely critical of the president's diplomatic endeavor with North Korea, critical of his invitation to the Taliban to come to Camp David which was ultimately scrapped at the last minute.

And according to that attendee, Bolton didn't have anything positive to say about the president. Why is this interesting? Because it shows that, obviously, John Bolton is willing to criticize his former boss, something that not every former White House official is willing to do, and it means that perhaps we will see him do so in public as time goes on.

LEMON: So the president named a new national security adviser today. What do you know about him?

DIAMOND: That's right. Robert O'Brien is currently or was until earlier today the U.S. envoy for hostage negotiations. He's been in that position for about a year and a half. He is a lawyer by training. Now, he doesn't have quite the same level of national security credentials, foreign policy government experience that past national security advisers have had.

Again, this is a position previously held by Colin Powell, Susan Rice, Brent Scowcroft, you know, big folks in foreign policy. So, Robert O'Brien is not quite of that caliber but he is somebody who has been in and around foreign policy in republican circles, in particular, for years.

But one thing of course does go a long way with this president, Don, as you know, and that is flattery. And certainly Robert O'Brien seems to have laid it on the president on a number of occasions. The president, a day before he named Robert O'Brien to this position, here's what he said. Let me read this to you. This was remarks from the president to the pool.

"Robert O'Brien said, 'Trump is the greatest hostage negotiator in history.' He happens to be right," Trump said. "We are 38-0. Thirty- eight and 0, ask Robert. In fact, I had never heard the term. Robert O'Brien said, 'Donald Trump is the greatest hostage negotiator of all time.'"

Now, we have not confirmed that 38-0 figure there. But clearly this was something that motivated the president and one of the reasons why the president came to like O'Brien and named him to the national security adviser position.

LEMON: Jeremy Diamond with the reporting for us tonight. Jeremy, thank you. I appreciate that. A brand-new poll has Joe Biden still firmly in front. We are going to dig into the numbers and what this could mean for the rest of the field, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:45:00]

LEMON: A new poll from Fox News tonight shows Joe Biden with a considerable lead over the rest of the democratic field. Former vice president at 29 percent, Senator Bernie Sanders at 18 percent, Senator Elizabeth Warren at 16 percent.

Joining me now to discuss, Jennifer Granholm is the former mayor of Michigan and Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans. I can say that because I am from Baton Rouge, as they say. Now Baton Rouge is Baton Rouge.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was pretty good.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Good to see both of you. So, mayor, I'm going to start with you. Listen, this new Fox poll that is out tonight, strong lead over Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the only other candidates in double digits at the same time. He faces these consistent questions about how long that lead will last. Why is that? What's going on here?

MITCH LANDRIEU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, I don't know. Actually, his lead has been pretty consistent from the beginning. Everybody is programming the fact that he's going to fall and he never seems to. We have now been through a couple of different debates.

It seems as though given what the public is saying about them, that this is turning into a two-person race at this time, it looks like a Joe Biden-Elizabeth Warren race. Something may change during the next debate. Something could dramatically change after Iowa and New Hampshire.

But my guess is after you get passed the next debate the field is going to (INAUDIBLE) a little bit more. And then it's, you know, Katy bar the door for the primaries and the caucuses come January.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, it's interesting because everyone keeps saying, as you say, he's going to fall. Can you call it the Trump effect where everyone predicts something and then people just say, no, he is the guy --

LANDRIEU: Well, it's kind of part of the deal. You heard them after the debate the other night, after the Julian Castro attack, and then you saw Cory Booker actually completely changed tag from the moment the debate ended until his after interview about well, you know, maybe Biden is not really stable.

He's performed pretty well and Elizabeth Warren performed pretty well. The polls indicate that they're both doing a little bit better than everybody else. I mean, who knows whether it's going to last or not. We'll see. LEMON: OK.

[23:49:59]

LEMON: Governor, let's look ahead to the head-to-head matchups in this new Fox poll. Biden beats Trump by 14 points. Sanders beats him by eight points. Warren beats him by six points. Senator Kamala Harris runs about even with the president. This is 42 to -- there you go, 42- 40.

So, I don't know. What do these numbers do to this conversation about electability, I should ask, if I can get my mouth to work?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's so hard to know what electability means because it means different things to different people. But I will say -- I mean, Joe Biden's lead has been solid. It's been secure. And there is this conversation, I think, you know, over who's going to be the second person.

I mean, this poll is kind of interesting because it has Bernie Sanders in the second spot, and the other poll that was out earlier today had Elizabeth Warren in the second spot. So right now, the battle is over that second spot.

LEMON: So whose shoes would you rather be in? Would you rather be in the battle over the second spot or in the lead like Joe Biden?

GRANHOLM: Oh, no, I'd rather always be in the lead. Not a question.

(LAUGHTER)

GRANHOLM: Although -- I mean, I'd also like to be the person who's on the rise and close to the lead, but in these polls, they're not quite close enough yet to make me choose to be the second. I always want to be number one. I think Joe Biden, you know, there is this notion that he is comforting to people.

When you've got a crazy person in the White House who is making us not just insecure domestically but internationally as well and all of this stuff that comes out every day and people just say, I just want sanity, I just want -- you know, in normal times, I think you say --

LANDRIEU: Yeah.

GRANHOLM: I want the inspirational person. Now, I think a lot of people are just saying, look, I just want to be sane.

LEMON: Yeah.

GRANHOLM: I want to sleep.

LEMON: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: We can all -- can't we all just agree to that?

GRANHOLM: Can't we agree, yeah.

LEMON: Mayor, sources are telling CNN today that Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her caucus the most important thing is beating Trump in 2020. Are Democrats too focused on fighting each other instead of focusing on taking it to this president?

LANDRIEU: I would just say a couple of things. You know every campaign and when people govern, there are a couple of things, what you want and dream for, what you need and then what you can get. And there's a difference between campaigning and governing.

Governing, you have to govern in reality. I think the speaker is giving the House wise advice. There's no doubt that the president has engaged in what appear to be impeachable offenses. But the fact of the matter is given where we are and given the timing, the best way to beat Donald Trump in a decisive way is in the election.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

LANDRIEU: And I think that Nancy Pelosi has proven to be a shrewd strategist and a negotiator. She has led the party well out of a really very difficult time. I think that her fingers are on the pulse and she's got the right idea here given the complexity of the issues before them.

LEMON: Yeah. Did you want to weigh in on that? Go on.

GRANHOLM: Yeah, I do. Can I do that? You know, I chair this group called American Bridge which does a lot of work for Democrats in research. We are in 60 counties, in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida. We are talking to people who were Obama-Trump voters, hoping to be able to get them back, right?

And in the umpteen conversations we've had with thousands of people, we have found 2,000 people so far that voted for Trump and are saying, I can't do it. But in all of these conversations, only one time, one person used the word "impeachment," raised the issue at all. Everybody else is focused on is there a family member that's dying of opioids, what's the cost of prescription drugs, are there factories that are closing.

LEMON: We had Mark McKinnon on just a minute who said the same thing.

GRANHOLM: I heard him. He's right on. It's just out in the real world. It is just not the issue. Now, if I were in Congress, I get the oversight issue. But you're going to do it, do it fast. Don't drag it out and then focus on the other issues that people really care about.

By the way, get Barry Burke (ph) to do the questioning. If you're going to focus on it, figure your issue out, is it emoluments, is it obstruction. Get him to do the questioning. Make it quick because I think a lot of people out there still think if you vote for impeachment, that means he's out, and it's just not true. It's a deceptive thing. I think people don't realize. So, if you're going to do it, do it, make it quick and move on. You've got to move on. LEMON: Mitch, I've got 20 seconds. When you look at the polls and what we've talked about, is it the president to lose or is it Democrats to lose, right, this next election?

LANDRIEU: Well, it appears that way right now. I think the president abused his presidency and hurt people and divided the country. I think as the governor said, people want stability and they want balance. They want to get on with the business of governing. And so I think the Democrats can win it, but you know, we've snatched defeat from the jaws of victory before.

(LAUGHTER)

GRANHOLM: Yes.

LEMON: Yes.

GRANHOLM: Please, no.

[23:55:00]

LEMON: Yes, you have. Your party, I should say. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Good to see both of you. Hey, I got to run.

LANDRIEU: Thank you.

LEMON: Mayor, how is the weather? I know that there's a storm. Everything is good down there, right?

LANDRIEU: Yeah, it's OK right now. It's hot.

LEMON: OK.

LANDRIEU: But, you know, storm is always out there.

LEMON: I've been talking to my family.

LANDRIEU: Yes, no question.

LEMON: See you later. Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.

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