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NSC Official To Testify On The Ukraine Scandal; President Trump Heard A Familiar Chant At The World Series; Democrats To Vote On The Formal Impeachment Process; President Trump Gets Cheers, Boos And "Lock Him Up" Chants At World Series; President Trump Calls Chicago "Embarrassing To Us As A Nation"; Biden Ramps Up Attacks Against Trump. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired October 28, 2019 - 23:00   ET





There's a lot going on tonight. And we're going to catch you up on five big headlines. And we'll begin with that bombshell breaking news story.

A top national security official at the White House who is an army officer and an expert on Ukraine expected to tell Congress tomorrow that he heard President Trump pressured Ukraine's president to investigate Joe Biden.

According to his opening statement obtained by CNN, Lieutenant Alexander Vindman twice reported his concerns out of his sense of duty.

Also, a major move by House Democrats in its impeachment inquiry. The full House will vote Thursday on procedures to formalize the investigation.

President Trump goes to Chicago. Rips into the city claiming its crime rate makes it embarrassing to America and less safe than Afghanistan. We're going to see if there is any truth to what he is saying.

Plus, the president getting a chilly reception at the World Series.





LEMON: Well, is this the president's own fault? He heard lock him up.

And Joe Biden ramps up his attacks on Trump calling him an idiot for saying Russian election interference is a hoax. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How concerned are you about foreign interference in this election?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm very concerned about foreign interference beyond me. Everybody knows what's going on. Trump not only doesn't want to do anything about it, he's going out and asking for help. Come help me. Come help me defeat and keep Biden from being the nominee.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But President Trump says Russian interference is a hoax.

BIDEN: He's an idiot, in terms of saying that. Everybody knows this. Everybody knows it. Nobody doubts it.


LEMON: Let's get right to our breaking news. National Security Council's top Ukraine expert testifying to Congress tomorrow about the president's July 25th Ukraine call, a call he was listening in on.

Joining me now, Elie Honig, Max Boot, Juliette Kayyem.

So glad to have all of you on. Thank you so much. Elie, more bombshell testimony expected tomorrow by this national security council this top expert, Ukraine expert.

He's part of his opening statement. OK? I'm going to read some of it. He says, "I was concerned by the call I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen. And I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government's support of Ukraine."

President Trump argues, Elie, that this phone call was perfect. Vindman who listened to this call disagrees with that.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's devastating testimony. And it overlaps with what we've already seen from so many other witnesses. And I'm starting to look at this like the way I would a witness list getting ready for trial.

This witness list is a prosecutor's dream. Usually when you're getting your witness list ready you have people that have some credibility problem or maybe some baggage. This is just a succession of career military and diplomatic non-partisan public servants.

I don't know how Donald Trump is going to try to smear these people. He's already tried to smear Bill Taylor. I think that's going to backfire. And I don't think he's got anywhere to turn here.

LEMON: Yes. But isn't that what you do to people underline -- undermine the credibility of a witness? It's hard to do with this.

HONIG: It's what people do when they're desperate and they know the evidence is mounting.

LEMON: The New York Times reports that Vindman at the direction of his superiors including Bolton drafted a memo in mid-August that sought to restart the $391 million in aid, the aid package being withheld from Ukraine. But Trump refused to sign it. That's according to the documents reviewed by the Times.

Could we end up learning from Vindman how exactly the decision to withhold money was made? Because it sounds like that's where they're going.

HONIG: It sounds like he would have that information. Also, this underscores the importance of John Bolton as a witness. Clearly, he knew this was going to be a big issue. The fact that he wrote a memo shows me he's trying to paper it up and make a record. And Bolton is going to be potentially a really explosive witness against Trump.


LEMON: Yes. Juliette, let me bring you in. Here's more. He says, "I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation to Bidens and Burisma it would be likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far and maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security.


Following the call, I again reported my concerns to NSC's lead counsel."

He's saying President Trump's pressure campaign that Ukraine investigate the Bidens actually undermines U.S. national security. That is remarkable.

KAYYEM: Absolutely. And it's actually consistent with Fiona Hill and most importatly with Taylor's testimony which so eloquently at the end of his testimony talks about this bipartisan support for the Ukraine. Because it is an emerging democracy and because we needed to support it.

So, putting it just in the national security realm what I found so interesting about this testimony is, here is a decorated war hero, someone who is still in the military who's -- who originally went up the chain of command.

So, the idea that these people are rogue is ridiculous. He goes up twice to the National Security Council lawyers, and clearly, what they do is not satisfactory because he now has come out with testimony.

I think the other important thing that's important coming out of this is it does show that that transcript that was released originally really something was wrong with that transcript. I don't know if it was edited, I don't know if it was paraphrasing.

But the disconnect between the transcripts which I would say was bad enough about what Trump said to Ukraine. And what the sort of anger and fear and concern coming out of people like Fiona Hill and Vindman and Taylor and who else. You know, there's others down the pike.

I think that disconnect clearly shows that the transcript was however bad it was. It was not bad enough.

LEMON: Max, I want to bring you in. Vindman calls himself a patron. He adds this, he says, "For over 20 years as an active duty United States military officer and diplomat, I have served this country in a non-partisan manner. I have done so with the utmost respect and professionalism for both Republican and Democratic administrations."

He's credible. He's driving home this point. This is about country over party.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. An incredibly powerful witness, I think. Not just because he is a serving military officer and a combat vet of the Iraq War. But also, because he is an immigrant. And I can empathize with him. I'm an immigrant as well, both from the Soviet Union. I have immigrants have a kind of starry- eyed sense of American idealism and want this country to live up to its best self.

He was clearly shocked when he saw what was going on behind closed doors in the Trump White House. And I think he is one of a number of these dedicated public servants who felt compelled to come forward in this.

You know, I was actually asked, Don, recently when I was giving a survey of what's going on in the world in the U.S. today. And it was a pretty bleak picture, right? And then somebody said isn't there any good news out there? isn't there something hopeful that we can point to.

And this is actually what I pointed to, is the fact that I am very hopeful because there are so many dedicated public servants. These folks are not part of a, quote, unquote, "deep state."

They are part of the U.S. government. They are dedicated to the Constitution. They are serving our ideals and they are doing things that are very hard and very dangerous for them to do including going against their commander-in-chief. But they are doing it because they felt they swore that oath they feel that sense of duty and obligation to protect and defend the Constitution and that is exactly what Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is doing.

LEMON: Well, Max, it talks about in here as well, that he was often sought out because of his background, because they figured he would be the best expert. He knows Ukraine. But also, I mean, among the least of the things we should not -- this should be, the guy is a Purple Heart.

BOOT: Right.

LEMON: I mean.

BOOT: Yes.

LEMON: You know, come on.

BOOT: I mean, they can try, you know, calling him a, you know, --

LEMON: Deep state or --

BOOT: -- deep state scum or whatever. But it's not -- nobody who has any objectivity can possibly believe that.

LEMON: So, Elie, he didn't just raise concerns about the call. He also raised concerns about the July 10th meeting with Ukrainian officials that included Ambassador Sondland, the Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, and the national security adviser John Bolton.

And here's what he says. "The meeting proceeded well until the Ukrainians broached the subject of a meeting between two presidents. The Ukrainians saw this meeting as critically important in order to solidify the support of their most important international partner.

Ambassador Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the president. At which time Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short."


LEMON: Quid pro quo. What do you --

HONIG: Yes. I this it is a quid pro quo. And it's two themes that we've seen repeated over and over again. Number one, the only thing Donald Trump wanted and his group of sort of shadow pretender foreign policy people, Perry, Rudy, Sondland wanted, was investigations of the Bidens and Democrats.

And by the way, Sondland is in trouble here. Because Sondland said well, I knew that there was talk about Burisma --


HONIG: -- but I didn't know that it had anything to do with the Bidens. Right? I mean, that was doubtful to begin with. And this testimony blows that out of the water as well.

LEMON: Yes. So, Juliette, I want to bring you in here too, because in the debriefing after that meeting Vindman says that Sondland emphasized the importance of Ukraine investigating the Bidens. Vinland told him that it was inappropriate. So why is that so important?


KAYYEM: Yes. So, I think it's just the -- I think it's the consistency aspect to it. So Vindman talks about outside influencers. he uses that term where clearly that's the Giuliani's, the people who are pushing the Bidens.

Remember Taylor talks about an irregular diplomatic lane. So, you could call it outside influence irregular. Clearly, both of them have set up a -- have set up a reality in which the professionals are trying to support Ukraine with the bipartisan effort. And there is this thing going on around them that they can't control because it has access to the president.

And so that gets to the point of how should we think about Vindman. And I think -- I think we do a disservice to the viewers if we each, you know, each witnesses the smoking gun. I think at this stage we just admit that we're smoking at this stage and that what we -- what's important about each of these witnesses is that they are corroborating each other now very specifically about a quid pro quo, about a dereliction of duty by the president of the United States, about the use of foreign government to influence an American election.

And then ultimately, about abusing and using Ukraine, a country that was struggling that needed our help against Russia. And so just putting those together I'm sort of done looking for a smoking gun. I'm just, I'm looking at all the consistent smoke at this stage. And Vindman is just another piece of that.

LEMON: You said this was, we're just smoking now. All right.

KAYYEM: We're smoking, people. I don't know what else. I mean, if this is not smoking. I'm a little bit nervous at this stage.

BOOT: The people who deny that there's evidence of an impeachable offense. They are the ones who are smoking something, I would add.

KAYYEM: Yes, as ai said.

LEMON: Thank you all. Thank you all. This isn't a vape. This is smoke. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

KAYYEM: Bye. We're going to leave -- we'll leave it there.

LEMON: Did Colonel Vindman's testimony tomorrow could be a huge turning point? Will Republicans be able to dismiss testimony from a decorated war hero? We'll discuss, next.



LEMON: So we're back with the breaking news now. Huge testimony expected in the impeachment inquiry tomorrow. White House Ukraine expert Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Vindman plans to tell House impeachment investigators tomorrow he was so troubled by the president's July phone call with Ukraine's president that he reported his concerns to a superior twice.

Joining me now is Catherine Rampell, Wajahat Ali, and also Laura Coates. So good to have all of you on. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Laura, let's bring you in here first. I want to read part of Vindman's opening statement to you and compare it to Sondland's. This is Vindman about the July 10th meeting between administration and Ukrainian officials, OK?

He says, "Ambassador Sondland stated -- started -- excuse me, to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the president. At which time Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short. Following this meeting, there was a scheduled debriefing during which Ambassador Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens and Burisma.

I stated to Ambassador Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push.

Dr. Hill then entered the room and asserted to Ambassador Sondland that his statements were inappropriate."

In Sondland's testimony about that same meeting goes like this.

"But if Ambassador Bolton, Dr. Hill, or others harbored any misgivings about the propriety of what we were doing, they never shared those misgivings with me, then or later."

These two statements are, Laura, are diametrically opposed. Someone is not telling the truth here.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, it begins with what a tangled web we weave, right, at this point in time? And remember, the idea that they're so diametrically opposed, Don, so is the policy that was espoused initially by the Trump administration and the Obama administration with respect to the congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine, and what ultimately happened in this discussion. That's why this person felt compelled to come forward.

And what you're seeing here is that there was more than one adult in the room. He's already said that he is not the whistleblower who made the underlying complaint that launched the thousand ships here. He is somebody who confronted the issue, addressed it with more than one superior, put people on notice about it in real-time. And still it progressed.

And one thing I thought that was very laudable about his statement of course, is not only is he an active duty career military official, which means that coming forward in defiance of the White House edict not to show up is already going to be, him that's going to be an issue for him.

But also notice that he was concerned about the impact of a partisan appearance for Ukraine on the ability to get bipartisan military aid in the future. Even then he was a patriot. And so, I was thinking about what would the impact be on Ukraine which already is very vulnerable to this extraordinary amount of leverage.

LEMON: Wajahat, Sondland claims that his testimony -- in his testimony that he didn't know Burisma's stood for the Bidens until after August of 2019. And here's what he says. He says, "Although Mr. Giuliani did mention the name Burisma, in

August 2019, I understood that Burisma was one of many examples of Ukrainian companies run by oligarchs and lacking the type of corporate governance structures found in western companies. I did not know until more recent press reports that Hunter Biden was on the board.

Again, I recall no discussions with any State Department or White House official about former Vice President Biden or his son, nor do I recall taking part in any effort to encourage an investigation into the Bidens."

So, House investigators don't you think they're going to want to talk to Sondland again?

WAJAHAT ALI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Sondland is really regretting that $1 million contribution he gave to Trump that made him magically the ambassador to the E.U. right now. And he's going to brush up with his lawyer and make some amendments to his official testimony because he is going to be under perjury. Because he got three people who have now essentially destroyed his narrative.


You have Fiona Hill, you have Ambassador Taylor in his mastered 15- page opening statement that I recommend everyone read, especially those who want to become public servants because it tells you why people serve this country.

That man has served for 50 years and he cares about the national security of Ukraine and United States and Ukrainians who have lost thousands of lives, thanks to Russian invasion.

And also, now you have tomorrow. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient, an Iraq War veteran who will testify and corroborate their statements that he confronted Ambassador Sondland when Ambassador Sondland made the statements alleging the quid pro quo. They have Trump dead to rights.

As Juliette said in that last segment, it's smoking, it's going to smoke. There's going to be a fire and Trump is going to burn it all down because Republicans cannot argue the facts on this one, Don. So, they are going to attack the process, they are going to attack the institutions.

And I made a prediction because coming on the show on Twitter. I said they are going to attack Lieutenant Colonel Vindman because there's no bottom. And I just heard that Laura Ingraham attacked him as a double agent. That's what we're going to see.

LEMON: Interesting. Catherine, Vindman says in his opening statement that he is not the whistleblower. That's suggests how many people were alarmed by what's going on here. There were -- it wasn't just the whistleblower. There were more people including Vindman.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. It suggests that there were some awareness that this administration was not only committing potential crimes but actively covering them up. And this whole idea that it was a perfect call, that nobody indicated to Trump otherwise, that nothing was wrong with that. It's just bogus. Right?

Clearly, there were people in the room, there were people on the call who were aware of the great inappropriateness of what was going on. Not only in that call of course, but in all of the other demands that had been made of Ukrainian officials. Not to mention of course of Chinese officials as well, now we know.

And yet we're only hearing about this now. It suggests there were a lot of people complicit. Very high up. Not just Trump. Not just the people on the call. But you know, you have to imagine that some of the other very senior leaders, Mulvaney, Pence, others had to have known.

Some of these -- some of these concerns even if people weren't in the room had to have been raised with people at the very highest level of this government. It's not just about Trump. I think that's what we need to make clear.

LEMON: Right.

RAMPELL: It's not just about Trump. If it were only about Trump if there were not all -- if it were only about Trump, our democracy would not be as risk. The reason why our democracy is at risk is that there were so many other people who were complicit at that time.

LEMON: Wow. Thank you all. I appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

The president booed at the World Series. The crowd chanting something that might have sounded familiar. We'll discuss, next.



LEMON: President Trump may not have expected the crowd's reaction at the World Series when he was shown on the big screen at Nationals Park.





LEMON: So, let's discuss now. Ana Navarro is here. Alice Stewart as well. Good evening.


LEMON: Alice, someone argued even if you don't support Trump, you should -- President Trump, you should always respect the Office of the President. And chanting lock him up was inappropriate. What do you think? STEWART: Yes, I agree that the Office of the Presidency is something

that should be respected even if you don't like the president. And I don't think saying lock her up or lock him up is acceptable. Whether it's the president saying that about Hillary Clinton or the fans at the baseball game saying that about the president. It's just not appropriate to say about a political adversary.

But it is what it is. It's the environment we're in and unfortunately this has become common place. I think the president clearly expect the crowd to boo him. I think he handled it in stride. I think he and everyone in his booth took it with a grain of salt. But that's the great thing about America. It's baseball hot dogs and apple pie and freedom of speech.

LEMON: Ana, listen, the lock her up chant about Hillary Clinton is a common fixture at Trump rallies. He laughs about it, he encourages it. Is lock him up an acceptable way to taunt a president under multiple investigations or should Americans hold themselves to a higher standard even if the president doesn't.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is in America. I think what you saw yesterday was democracy in action, it was American freedom. And you know, the freedom of speech and to express yourself. Look, there's so many countries. North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela where something like that could get you in jail at best or killed.

And here in America it can happen. But listen, you reap what you sow. Right? This is a chant that was championed and started by Trump and his supporters. It's something that he has been doing consistently for four years now. He beat Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is selling books in Costco. And he is still leading lock her up chants against her.

So, I think it's, you know, it came back to bite him. It came back to haunt him. Something that he had started and I think Alice is right, it is a sign of the times.


And as unpopular as other presidents have been at times, people like George W. Bush during the war --And as unpopular as other presidents have been at times, people like George W. Bush during the war, for example, I don't remember this kind of chants during -- during baseball games.

You know what was another only in America moment? Jose Andres, a proud immigrant, a man who was sued by Donald Trump for refusing to be part of his hotel, for refusing to have a restaurant at his hotel in Washington, was the one throwing out the first pitch.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

NAVARRO: That's an only in America moment.

LEMON: Yeah.

NAVARRO: Jose Andres was also a great humanitarian. His World Central Kitchen is helping people --

LEMON: You -- you tweeted about that. You said Washington Nationals allowing an immigrant to throw out the first pitch. You -- he even -- he even thanked the Washington Nationals. Sorry. Yeah. And I saw that you tweeted about it as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You and I have seen him a couple -- you and I have seen him a couple of days before. And, you know, he's a -- he's a great friend of mine. And he's so proud --

LEMON: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- to be an American. And he's also such an advocate for immigrants.

LEMON: Before I run out of the time, I got to get --


LEMON: -- I got to get Alice back in. Go ahead, Alice. What do you want to say?

STEWART: I think Ana makes a great point being able to celebrate Chef Andres, who not only is a wonderful chef but he does so much great humanitarian work and charity work. But also gone without saying is that at the time that the cameras went to the president, he was sitting there and it was to tribute wounded veterans. And I think we need to also make sure and give them the honor and respect that they deserve. That has gotten lost in all of this unfortunately. I think it is really important to give then the credit they deserve.

LEMON: But I got to tell you, Alice, I watched that video. When the veterans came on, everybody cheered. Every single person cheered. It went back to the veterans after the -- first it was the veterans, then it was the president and whoever was in the box with him. Cheers for the veterans, boos for him, and then it went back to the veterans and then cheers again.

So, I don't think that they weren't being disrespectful to the veterans. As I said in the hoping of the show at 10 o'clock, you can feel however you want to feel about this, whether you think it's appropriate or not appropriate. He put it out there. And as Ana said, it is -- you reap what you sew. He put it out there and now this is where we are. I got to run. Thank you both.

STEWART: I agree.

LEMON: Interesting times we're living in.

STEWART: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: The president is visiting Chicago today, saying this about the city.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's embarrassing to us as a nation. All over the world, they're talking about Chicago.


LEMON: And wait until you hear what else he said. That's next.




LEMON: President Trump is speaking in Chicago today at the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Supt. Eddie Johnson skipped his speech, saying that the values of the people of Chicago are more important than anything that he would have to say. And the president, well, was not happy about it.


TRUMP: But there is one person that's not here today. We're in Chicago.


TRUMP: I said where is he? I want to talk to him.


TRUMP: In fact, more than anyone else, this person should be here because maybe he could learn something.


TRUMP: And that's the superintendent of Chicago police, Eddie Johnson.


LEMON: So the president continued to go after the superintendent as well as the city of Chicago, once and again comparing it to a warzone.


TRUMP: Embarrassing to us as a nation. All over the world, they're talking about Chicago. Afghanistan is the safe place by comparison.


TRUMP: It's true.


LEMON: Wow. Superintendent Johnson responded to the president's words shortly afterwards.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) EDDIE JOHNSON, SUPERINTENDENT, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: This president is known for doing a lot of talking about the city of Chicago. But if he is truly ready to roll up his sleeves to partner with us, so are we, as long as that partnership reflects who we are as Chicagoans.

The national narrative that Chicago is a city on fire is just simply not true. We have our challenges on the south and west side. But I want to remind people that we also have 17 neighborhoods in this city that are safer than Manhattan and L.A.


LEMON: So here with me now to discuss are Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington and CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey. Good evening. Wow.



LEMON: That was the president of the United States saying that. Think about that. So let me give you some facts first.

WASHINGTON: You know, Don --

LEMON: Go ahead, Laura.

WASHINGTON: I was going to say, Don, you know, he has had a long hate affair with Chicago and I think it dates back to the previous president of the United States, Barack Obama. Because of his dislike for Barack Obama, everything about Obama including his hometown is something that is not going to be on his list.

LEMON: Yeah. Let me give you some facts. According to Chicago police, since 2016, the number of murders in Chicago has been steady declining. There have also been declines in crimes like robbery, burglary, aggravated battery.


LEMON: At the same time, there is no doubt that Chicago has an incredibly serious gun violence problem. The chief alluded to that. But why attack his own citizens? He represents Chicago, too, Laura.

WASHINGTON: You know, he sees Chicago -- you know, we are all Americans but his base is pretty leery of people who live in Chicago, people of color, immigrants. This is a sanctuary city. You know, the president has spent his entire presidency beating up on people like us, and he sees it as a way of giving himself advantage.

The other issue is the police. He sees policing and police as his friends, and you saw that he got a very receptive audience there. So this gives him an opportunity to shore up his base and to engage in a lot of race baiting.

LEMON: Why do you say that?

WASHINGTON: I say that because he has been relentless about attacking people of color, attacking cities like Chicago that are full of people of color, attacking immigrants. And the big question I want to ask him today is what are you going to do to help us? You can attack and criticize all day long but you have all the resources in the world at your disposal in the federal government and you haven't offered any significant help to Chicago.

LEMON: Yeah, rather than what have you got to lose? Remember that statement. So Charles, I want to bring you now. The president has attacked the superintendent, local politicians, suggesting that the crime problem could be solved quickly if it weren't for their policies regarding issues like undocumented immigrants and on and on. It is similar to what Laura -- her answer just -- you know, she answered some of that, but what is your reaction?

RAMSEY: It's just not that simple obviously. And clearly he doesn't know Superintendent Johnson. He clearly doesn't know Chicago. I know both. Eddie Johnson is one of the most respected leaders in policing today. He has done a good job. As was mentioned earlier, crime is on the decline. No one is happy about where we are. I mean, obviously, you got to continue to push those numbers down.

As far as Chicago goes, I'm a native Chicagoan, third generation Chicagoan, born and raised in this city. The people who live here, the people who work here simply do not deserve to be held up to ridicule like the president just did. I mean, this is one of the greatest cities in America.

And as Laura said, I mean, we're all Americans. The president's job is to help where ever he sees a need for help rather than just criticize. I mean, we don't take a knee to our elected officials here in the United States of the America.

If Superintendent Johnson chose not to attend the event, then he just chose not to attend the event. We don't bow before our elected officials in this country. And so I just don't get the fact that we got a president who feels free to just openly criticize and ridicule his own citizens. It makes absolutely no sense to me.

LEMON: Before I leave you, guys, I just want to put this up. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot responded to the president on Twitter, calling his performance ignorant buffoonery. And writing, "Luckily, in this city, we know the truth and will not let anyone -- no matter how high the office -- denigrate who we are as a people or our status as a welcoming city."

Thank you both. We'll be right back.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Joe Biden slamming President Trump, saying the successful military strike on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi happened, "despite his ineptitude as commander in chief." And that's not all Democratic frontrunner is saying about the president.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's an idiot on terms of saying that. Everybody knows this. You want to deal with corruption? Start to act like it. Release your tax returns or shut up.


LEMON: Wow. Joining me now to discuss are Olivia Nuzzi and Tara Setmayer, also Matt Lewis as well. That was -- I guess he said how he feels.


LEMON: Yeah, subtle.


LEMON: Good evening, everyone. Matt, I'm going to start with you first. What do you think is behind Biden's ramped up attacks against President Trump and is it working for him?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yeah. I think he had a good day. You can't really think there's not been a day in this campaign where you said, you know what, Joe Biden knocked it out of the park today. Wow, what a great speech, what a great debate. I think that might actually be the closest he's come to having a really good moment. I think he needs to do more of it, right?

The knock on Joe Biden right now is he lost a step. Maybe he's not as exciting as Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. He's not telling it like it is. Well, he can fix that by having energy and going after Trump. It's a good start.

LEMON: Yeah. Tara, Biden also jabbed Trump over his claim that Afghanistan was safer than Chicago, right, tweeting this. "If President Trump had ever visited our troops serving in Afghanistan, he would know this isn't true." Wow. He's giving it as good as he gets, right?

SETMAYER: Apparently they must have focus group this and told the former vice president that he better start jabbing back at the president or he'll going to lose this primary. This is the Joe Biden that people want to see, right?


SETMAYER: He prides himself on being middle class Joe, Joe from Scranton, Pennsylvania, scrappy, he can take on Trump. And I think there is sweet spot that Joe Biden can fill where he can take Trump on but not get down into the mud. He can still maintain his statesmanship. He can still maintain the fact that he was the vice president for eight years and remind people that he is ready on day one.

But people also need the bully to get smacked in the mouth every once in a while. And that's what Joe Biden, I think, is finally starting to do. The line about, you know, with this whole corruption deal, you know, then release your taxes or shut up. He should have said that weeks ago as Donald Trump and his minions were going after Biden and his son unfairly and inaccurately about corruption.

They should have nipped that in the bud right away. I call it the eight-mile strategy. He should have done what Eminem did at the end of "8 Mile" where he went after Papa Doc and listed all the things he was going to say at him in the rap battle and then said, now, tell them something about me that we don't already know.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

SETMAYER: That's how Joe Biden should have handled this whole situation with Trump, and he hasn't done it yet. So I'm glad to see that he's starting to finally do it now.

LEMON: Olivia, your latest piece to New York magazine is entitled "The Zombie Campaign: Joe Biden is the least formidable front-runner ever. Will it matter?"

You write that you heard from one of Biden's senior campaign advisers. It says, "There's such reverence for getting to work with the vice president that I think, for some of those folks, there's a mentality of how could we possibly lose? He's who he is. I don't think they see that that's not all it's gonna take."

OK. So, you think Biden -- the Biden campaign is clear-eyed on what it will take to beat Trump? Is this all new strategy that they're doing now?

NUZZI: I think some people internally are. I think others are not. Joe Biden, based on my reporting, understands that things have not been going well, would like things to change. But it's not clear that they are the right people around him who can tell him what he needs to change and can be honest with him. And in that way, he's a little bit like the president.

I think that what Joe Biden has wanted this entire time has been a direct fight with Donald Trump, and that's why it was perplexing when he delayed his response to the whistleblower's story and to all this. But he was saying release your tax returns or shut up during his speech in New Hampshire a few weeks ago, when he first called for impeachment.

But he came well after Elizabeth Warren had called for impeachment. He seemed to be kind of late to his own party in some respect. I think that contributes to this narrative that he is not quite agile, not quite sharp enough to compete against the president. But if he keeps performing as he did during the interview with Norah O'Donnell, then I think that perhaps things will change in his favor. LEMON: Yeah. Listen, Tara, he's leading in the polls. You and I have

talked about this. Despite what happened, sort of like, you know, Trump effect with him and that his supporters don't really care. But the polls have been consistent since he entered even though it was pretty late.

CNN's latest polling shows him at 15 percent ahead of his next challenger, which is Senator Elizabeth Warren, 10 points higher than it was in early September. Is this exactly where any candidate wants to be right now, you think?

SETMAYER: Well, yes and no. I mean that was a great poll for Joe Biden and for those of us who are rooting for him. We were like thank god because he was losing momentum to Elizabeth Warren. But we also have to remember that we don't have a national election.

How he's polling in the early states makes a huge difference. And the first three states, he's not polling as well as he is in South Carolina, where he has an overwhelming lead. That's because he has consolidated his non-white voter support, which is hugely important in a democratic primary.

So he has got to kind of bring that momentum back, and his campaign has got to start putting him in the situations where he flourishes. Olivia, you did an amazing piece on Joe Biden, and one of the --

NUZZI: Thank you.

SETMAYER: -- one of his strong points is his ability to connect with people, his story, and his realness. And people need to see more of that from him. So I hope the campaign is watching and they continue to put him in those circumstances, especially with his wife because she's an asset, too.

LEMON: Yeah. Matt, let me bring you back in here because Biden polls significantly higher than any candidate with non-white voters. But he's also a draw for white working-class voters, a group that Trump flipped from Obama. Is taking a more rough and tumble approach the way to appeal to them, you think?

LEWIS: Yeah. I think that it works for everybody actually. I think that just Joe Biden has been ambling to the White House, right? He's slouching toward Pennsylvania Avenue. He's winning every day, but it's not -- it's not exactly vigorous. He does need to step it up.

I think that a more aggressive -- within reason -- a more aggressive, energetic Joe Biden is a win/win. I think he can win with working- class whites and with minorities.


LEWIS: I don't think anyone could do better with either group. Whatever your strategy is, the Obama coalition or win back some of those working-class voters from Trump. Either way, Biden seems to be your best bet.

LEMON: All right. Thanks, everyone. Appreciate it. See you next time.

NUZZI: Thank you.

SETMAYER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.