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Donald Trump Jr.'s 'Great Performance' At The View; Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Is Interviewed About Mike Bloomberg's Decision To Run For President; The Planned Interview That Didn't Happen; The Roger Stone Trial; President Trump's Controversial Spiritual Adviser, Paula White Joins White House Staff; Texas Set To Execute Rodney Reed Despite New Witness. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired November 7, 2019 - 23:00   ET





WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, ABC: Sorry. At least being black I recognize blackface, this I can say. OK? I know what --


BEHAR: But (Inaudible).

GOLDBERG: So now that you -- now that you -- now that you have broken this piece of ice because I guess this is the fight you want.

DONALD TRUMP JR., DONALD TRUMP'S SON: It's not the fight I want --


GOLDBERG: Yes, it is, because when you -- because when you --

TRUMP, JR.: -- but if we're talking about character --

GOLDBERG: Are you questioning my character?

TRUMP, JR.: I'm not questioning your character. I'm talking about you're questioning my father's character and I say we all have --


GOLDBERG: I'm not. I'm sorry. I didn't question anybody. I simply said that when you're talking about your father's taking more heat than anybody else, that is not so.


DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So, Tara, clearly Whoopy, you know, said that, I guess this is the fight you wanted. What did you think of those remarks by Don Junior, below the belt? What did you think? TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, it was clear that

Donald Trump, Jr. had an agenda going on The View. And he was petulant, he was perpetuating propaganda lies and it was a performance. And it was a performance for one. And we already know this.

I mean, he wants daddy's approval, so he is going to do whatever he can. That's what all of this political positioning is for Donald Trump, Jr., so he can get daddy's attention and his approval and finally feel like he's accepted.

You know, this is what happens when -- he was so obnoxious. Both of them were so obnoxious today on that show. I wish I'd been on the panel. You know, I've guest hosted many times as well. And to challenge him and fact check him because it's so difficult to do. But we need to do this.

This was an example. Sonny did a great job of trying to do that but he was overtalking and screaming at them. And you know, Whoopi was trying to maintain order. But it just turned into the Jerry Springerization of politics which is what the Trump presidency has represented from the beginning.

And I want to say something else quickly about the whistleblower. He went on and one --


LEMON: Hang on a second.


LEMON: Let me just say this. This is the top of the hour. We're going to continue this conversation.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

I'm here with Ana Navarro and Tara Setmayer. And we're talking about the contentious interview that Don Junior -- I think it's fair to say his girlfriend, I'm not sure with fiance, the former Fox News host, Kimberly Guilfoyle they were on The View and anywhere --



LEMON: Mamacita. OK.


LEMON: OK. But go ahead, Tara.

SETMAYER: When he was whining about the whistleblower and being -- and how it was unfair the way people are responding to outing the whistleblower, which is the outrage is justified versus when he had his issues with the powdery substance sent to his family, something that's very different than anybody else.

He has Secret Service protection because he's the son of the president. This whistleblower doesn't have that same luxury. And that's why we have protections for whistleblowers and because they are in the intelligence community, there is a separate set of rules and laws that protect their identity as well.

It is a despicable thing. It's a complete distraction anyway because the whistleblower complaint doesn't even matter at this point with the cascading evidence coming out from people who actually --


LEMON: And it doesn't matter that someone else printed it.

SETMAYER: It doesn't matter. It's just the fact --

LEMON: As the president's son, he should have -- right? He should be held to a higher standard.


NAVARRO: Look, I want to make something very clear. Joy Behar did not wear blackface.


NAVARRO: That is one of the many, many, many lies he told while sitting at that table.


NAVARRO: And I'm glad she corrected it immediately. Go look up the picture. And you know, it is incredibly rich for somebody who is the son of someone who wears orange face every day to go on there to wage that attack.

It was a purposeful attack because the strategy is, let me pick a fight. Let's make this controversial so that then I can go and play the victim, the women on The View were so mean to me and I stood up to them. I fought back. And then use that to sell books. Use that to, you know, have clips and things that they can use and aggregate and right- wing media and sell books. That's why --


SETMAYER: Yes, he did it tonight.

NAVARRO: -- the judge from Fox News wants to go and sell brooks. That's why Rand Paul --

LEMON: I really want to get this in, though.

NAVARRO: Because when going to The View sells books.

LEMON: I want to get in tis though. I want to get Meghan McCain in. And Meghan McCain said this. Watch.


MEGHAN MCCAIN, CO-HOST, ABC: You and your family have hurt a lot of people and put a lot of people through a lot of pain, including the Khan family, who was a gold star family that I think should be respected for the loss of their son. Does all of this make you feel good?

TRUMP, JR.: I don't think any of that makes me feel good, but I do think that we got into this because we wanted to do what's right for America.

My father has been working tirelessly to bring back the American dream who have watched politicians with no business experience send that American dream abroad to countries that hate our guts. He's brought jobs back. he's created unprecedented levels of unemployment numbers for African-Americans, for Hispanic-Americans. You can argue but it is a fact.


LEMON: He never answered the question and he didn't talk about how all of that came under the former --

NAVARRO: What is the answer he's going to give --

SETMAYER: How could he? Yes.

NAVARRO: Yes, I'm at hill. My father is a disgusting human being who attacked your father while he was dying of cancer and even after he was dead. Is that what he's going to say? Do you think that Trump is capable of doing a human and decent act like apologizing and acknowledging a mistake? God forbid, they go there just for the show, to, you know, to sell the books.

SETMAYER: That's right.



LEMON: Someone said, I think it was --I think it was Whoopi or someone who said, can someone just -- can you just apologize? Go on, Tara.

SETMAYER: Yes. Whoopi said that and Meghan gave him an opportunity to do that. And even Kimberly Guilfoyle, she didn't even really necessarily apologize. She acknowledged that Meghan McCain's father is a hero. Well, OK, thanks for stating the obvious.

But when Meghan challenged her and said, wait, you are in the White House, you can sit there and change decency. Because she was saying that, yes, I want everyone to be. It's a two-way street.

No. This is not an either/or in this case. They have set a tone that has been so despicable in this country. They're debasing the political discourse. Look at the conversations we're having on a daily basis.

And instead of getting into that back and forth, we need to continue to fact check them every time they lie. He lied about Hunter Biden. He lied about not profiting off his father's name. Donald Trump, Jr. is not profiting. They're still -- they're still doing business overseas. They're making money all the time. Ivanka Trump made $83 million.


LEMON: I've got to, Tara.

SETMAYER: She works in the White House.

NAVARRO: You think he would be on The View if he weren't Donald Trump's son?

SETMAYER: Continue to fact check.

NAVARRO: Do you think he would have written a book --

SETMAYER: Exactly --

NAVARRO: -- if he wasn't Donald Trump's son?

LEMON: Got to move on.

NAVARRO: Do you think he would be paid money by public education facilities like the University of Florida to go speak if he wasn't Donald Trump's son?


NAVARRO: Do you think if his name was Donald Smith or, you know, some other Donald he would be getting paid money? Give me a break. The hypocrisy --


SETMAYER: They accuse -- right.

NAVARRO: You know, it's just jaw dropping.

SETMAYER: They accuse everyone else of what they're actually doing. The projection is unbelievable.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you both.

NAVARRO: Lack of self-awareness.

LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. We have to move on now and talk about what's going on with Ukraine and the impeachment.

Multiple officials have testified that President Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden in the 2016 election. In fact, Trump and his personal attorney said so themselves.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If Ukraine would know something about the 2016 election, you have to give that information. I hope that they would give the information. And everybody agrees with me 100 percent.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: So, you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden.


CUOMO: You just said you didn't.

GIULIANI: And you want to cover some ridiculous charge that I urged the Ukrainian government to investigate corruption. Well, I did. And I'm proud of it.


LEMON: Seeing that so many times. Still I cannot believe that. As we have reported, Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky was in a tough position. Either publicly announce investigations into Trump's political enemies or lose nearly $400 million in military aid.

The New York Times is reporting that Zelensky's staff planned for him to make that announcement during a September interview with Fareed Zakaria right here on CNN. But those plans were scrapped once the president released the promised aid. Lawmakers started asking questions and the scandal unfolded.

Fareed Zakaria joins me now, as a matter of fact. Thank you so much. I appreciate that. So, can you give us the back story on this interview? Did you have any idea that President Zelensky what he was going to announce, what he wanted to announce?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: No. Look. Let's remember, President Zelensky was this extraordinary character who had been one of the presidents of Ukraine.

LEMON: He's a comedian, right?

ZAKARIA: He was a comedian. He was a stand-up comic. He starred in a sitcom. The story is actually incredible. He's in a sitcom where in the sitcom the character says, I'm fed up with corruption and the rant goes viral. And in the sitcom, he becomes president.

Well, the sitcom goes viral and Zelensky becomes president. So, we were interested in him anyway. We had been trying to get an interview. And of course, Ukraine being caught between Russia and the west.

So, for all those reasons we were interested. And his office was being very professional. We were trying to figure out a time when it could work. We got very close to it. And then I was in Kiev on September 12th and 13th. And I met with him, which often happens. They either want to suss you out and make sure that they feel comfortable. And we had a very nice conversation. No inkling of any of this. And then we sort of had a date set. They had essentially committed to

it. And I think the Washington Post breaks this story about the whistleblower and the whole thing, you know, suddenly radio silence from their side.

LEMON: That was when the aid was released.

ZAKARIA: Right. That was when the aid was released. And I think the aid was released -- the Post story breaks. The Trump administration -- I think I have this right. You know, the story breaks. I think it was the Post. The aid is quickly released. And then the interview is essentially canceled.

So, the way I look at it was, you know, the aid is released, so that's the end of the quid and then the interview is canceled. That's the end of the quo.


ZAKARIA: Right? Because it was the quid pro quo. It was the aid for the interview. Once the aid was released, there was no need to do the interview.

LEMON: Do you think they were -- do you think that he thought that he was playing three-dimensional chess, right? I can do, you know, we'll get them to do this, right? And then it will go on CNN, which he, you know, talks about all the time.


And he can see, and even on CNN, right, which he despises, he told them that Biden was corrupt and he should be investigated. I mean, come on, folks. It's CNN. Do you get what I'm saying?

ZAKARIA: I get what you are saying. I would love to believe that that was he does. I don't know. The thing that I don't know is and we have no indication that the Trump administration or the Trump White House said you need to go on CNN.

What we -- my understanding from just again reading the reporting is that the push was you need to do this publicly, and it needs to be in a TV interview. And then I think it seems as though there was a conversation between Zelensky's people and U.S. administration officials and they said, you know, we are thinking of doing it on Fareed Zakaria GPS.

And the Trump people -- not the Trump people, really it was the Ukrainian embassy officials said or the State Department officials said, yes, that's fine. Or, you know, that would satisfy what we are looking for.

LEMON: Let's talk about, today a current aide to the Vice President, Mike Pence who was on that Trump phone call with Zelensky testified that she was concerned about the call and that there may have been a quid pro quo. How significant is that from someone who is inside the White House, Fareed? ZAKARIA: At this point, you know, you have about five senior

officials at very high levels at various points of the chain of this --


LEMON: Which you believe.

ZAKARIA: -- who are essentially saying the same thing. Gordon Sondland said, you know, he revised his testimony to essentially say there was an explicit quid pro quo. There was a, you know, we were saying the aid will not be released unless there is a public declaration that this particular single company will be investigated.

I mean, if that isn't a quid pro quo, I don't know what is. Right? So, yes, you're right. But it is I think the fifth definitive confirmation of this story.

LEMON: OK. Let's talk 2020. Have you heard the news about Mike Bloomberg, right? Getting into the race? He's putting his name on the ballot, filing the paperwork for the Democratic primary in a ballot in Alabama this week.

You actually spoke to Bloomberg last year. What do you think his candidacy would do to this race if he actually ended up doing it?

ZAKARIA: Look, first I will say I think Mike Bloomberg is a terrific mayor. He was a terrific executive. If you -- he's sort of the anti- Trump. If you look at the way Mike Bloomberg ran New York, he gave his deputies enormous authority. He would let them make all the big announcements. He would never take the credit. Because he's run and built a serious business, not the mom and pop real estate operation that Trump has.

And so, the idea of somebody that serious, who is serious about governance, who is not somebody who is a publicity hog is enormously appealing to me, to somebody who wants to get back just the kind of serious -- we've got a lot of tough challenges ahead. We're living in an age of populism.

Look at how much, you know, how well Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders is doing on the left. Look at well Trump continues to do on the right. The challenge for Bloomberg is there is a large quiet middle in the country, in the party.

Forty percent of Democrats describe themselves as moderates, but they don't seem to be as active. They don't get as energized. They vote -- they don't vote in the primary. So, Bloomberg's challenge is going to be there is this theoretical constituency for him but can he turn it into an actual constituency.

LEMON: It's that he said to me. He actually said that on the record before.

ZAKARIA: Interesting. LEMON: But I asked him when I saw him. I just bumped into him and I said, are you going to run? Then he goes, I'll tell you, Don, here is the problem in the primary. He didn't think he could win a primary.


LEMON: But he thinks he has a good shot in the general and because of the reasons that you said.

ZAKARIA: So, Adlai Stevenson, great Democratic Party candidate in the '50s was once, a woman comes up to him and says, Mr. Stevenson, you'll have every thinking person's vote in America. And he looked at her and he said, thank you, madam, but I need a majority.

LEMON: Fareed Zakaria, thank you very much. Be sure to watch "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

More on the former Mayor Michael Bloomberg preparing to jump into the 2020 race.

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown weighs in next.



LEMON: A surprise entry into the 2020 race. Michael Bloomberg expected to file paperwork to get on the Democratic primary ballot in Alabama this week. An adviser for the former New York City mayor telling CNN that Bloomberg believes that Donald Trump represents an unprecedented threat to our nation. And notes that he is concerned that the Democratic field isn't strong enough to defeat him.

Let's discuss now Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, the author of the new book, "Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America." Thank you so much. I appreciate you joining us.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): Good to be back. Thanks, Don, for having me on your show.


LEMON: Congratulations on the book, by the way.

BROWN: Thanks. Thanks.

LEMON: So, Senator, let's start with the big news. Mayor Michael Bloomberg looks like he is jumping into the race. David Axelrod calling it a thunder clap on Twitter and saying that it's not exactly a vote of confidence for Joe Biden as the leading moderate and the durability of his campaign. What do you think?

BROWN: Well, I think it probably doesn't change much. I think that Bloomberg has wanted to do this all along, and I don't know -- I don't quite understand why Alabama. I guess that's got to do with the filing deadline. But I'm not dissatisfied with the candidates the way he is -- the way

he says he is. I think that this will play out and we'll see by January, February, March, April, by the Ohio primary and the late winter or early spring you'll see the best candidate emerge.

LEMON: I don't guess you care to venture a guess on who that -- who the candidate might be.

BROWN: I really don't. And I honestly -- people ask me privately and publicly in Ohio and anywhere else who I am going to vote for. I don't even know that yet.


LEMON: Any regrets about not getting in yourself?

BROWN: No, none, none.

LEMON: All right.

BROWN: I made the decision. I never really thought about really wanting to run for president. A lot of people do. I love the Senate, and I'm happy.

There is a quote one time about six years ago a U.S. Senate said the only cure for the presidential virus in the U.S. Senate is embalming fluid. So, I don't want to be that guy.

LEMON: Can a -- you're from Ohio. Can a democrat win Ohio in 2020 --


BROWN: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes. They talk about work and they contrast that with Trump. And Trump, the G.M. plant just shut down in Lordstown. It's clear now they are not going to put -- the G.M. is not putting anything in there. They announced the sale today. There will be jobs there. They probably won't pay as much. There won't be nearly as many.

The president of the United States has done nothing to help that Lordstown plant except say don't sell your house because we're coming back. Well, they're not.


BROWN: And that's par for the course with him.

LEMON: You remember the Senate. Will you vote to impeach this president? Do you think he has committed impeachable offenses?

BROWN: I would vote if I were voting in the House. I would vote for impeachment. It's my position. I'm not a lawyer. Understanding that impeachment is comparable to indictment in a court of law.

The Senate is the jury where there are 100 of us. We shouldn't know how we're going to vote yet until we see this trial, we hear what the prosecutors say. That's the House members that have the articles of impeachment. We hear what Trump's lawyers say to defend him and then we make that decision.

And my hope and prayer, is that members of both parties will hold their fire, will process the evidence, not listen to public opinion any more than a jury and a judge should listen to a public opinion on a murder case.

LEMON: Well.

BROWN: They should process the evidence. That's what we need to do.

LEMON: Well, I know that's very easily said, but I mean, we're in very partisan times.


BROWN: I understand that.

LEMON: And you mean that for your Republican colleagues across the aisle as well.

BROWN: You bet. You bet.

LEMON: You think that -- you don't think they've made up their minds already?

BROWN: I think too many of them have. I think it's outrageous that Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and others have said they'll barely going to even pay attention because the president is going to be let off and they shouldn't be talking that way. They shouldn't think that way and they sure as hell shouldn't act that way.

LEMON: Are they -- anybody on the other side saying things behind closed doors that they wouldn't say publicly?

BROWN: Yes. A number of them say Trump is a racist. They happen to be right in that case. A number of them say Trump lies too much. A number of them tell me privately that he has done pretty awful things, including most recently to the Kurds and what he's done with the Ukrainians.

So many of my colleagues, Republican colleagues privately will wonder about Trump's relationship with Putin and what all that means. They all know better, but they love the tax cuts Trump has given them. They love the attacks on labor and the environment and they love the young judges, young right-wing judges.

Plus, Republican members are scared of their primary voters. They help build this president up by never criticizing him. Now they realize that they've created this monster --


LEMON: They've created this monster.

BROWN: -- at home where if they attack Trump in any way, they pay a price.

LEMON: I'm holding in my hand "Desk 88," so that's talk about 'Desk 88" now, your new book. "Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America," right? We've got a picture of your desk in the Senate since 2006. It's up on the screen now.

Senator Robert Kennedy also sat there. So did George McGovern, Al Gore, Sr. sat there and many others. I mean, this desk represents really the figurative torch that you are carrying for these progressive senators that came before you. What was that like when you realized that you'd be sitting in that -- in that desk?

BROWN: Well, it was pretty - it was pretty exciting. It started off this way. The freshmen senators choose last that where we're going to sit. There were 10 desks left from the 10 freshmen. There are no bad seats. You're not sitting behind the pillar or anything.

So, I heard that senators carved their names in desk drawers so I pulled out three or four drawers. This desk I saw, it said, it said McGovern, South Dakota, Gore, Tennessee, Hugo Black, it just said Kennedy. So, I said to Ted Kennedy, I said, Ted, com here a second, when he walks over, I said which brother's desk is this? It just says Kennedy.

He said, well, it's got to be Bobby's because I have Jack's desk. So, I started thinking about what the desk represented. And it really does represent the power that my belief and the power of government to make people's lives better.

And that's what Hugo Black did, that's what T.F. Green did. That's what Glen Taylor did. That's what Bobby Kennedy did. That's why I wrote this book, to emphasize the importance of progressive change.

LEMON: It's fascinating. Thank you so much. What a pleasure to have you on. I really appreciate it.

BROWN: Thanks. And my pleasure too. Thanks for the show you do, Don. It really matters --


LEMON: Absolutely. Thank you. The book again is "Desk 88: Eight Progressive Senators Who Changed America" by Sherrod Brown.

Roger Stone on trial. And today in court. Insults, threats and the godfather.



LEMON: Federal prosecutors at Roger Stone draw highlighting the volume of conversations Stone had with then candidate Donald Trump and other top officials from his campaign throughout 2016.

Let's discuss now. Shimon Prokupecz is here, as well as Jennifer Rodgers. Hello to both of you. Shimon, you first. You were in the courthouse today. It was a rough day for Stone. What are the biggest take-aways?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Now it certainly was a rough day for Stone. It didn't also help that the judge in some ways scolded his defense attorney and said he was being sleepy during cross-examination and that she was worried that he was losing some of the jurors that's because of the pace of his cross-examination.


But quite simply, there is overwhelming evidence here of what prosecutors say are lies -- lies that Roger Stone gave to the congressional committee that was investigating Russian interference, about his contacts with the campaign, contacts with Donald Trump.

They're laying all that out. They're building out that time line. They're showing e-mails and text messages. All the back and forth that was going on between Roger Stone and the campaign, Don.

LEMON: Mm-hmm. And so his former -- Stone's former friend and comedian Randy Credico, right, he wanted -- said -- he said he wanted Randy Credico to do -- he texted, I should say -- let me get this correct -- he texted what he wanted his friend Randy Credico to do in 2017, quoting President Nixon.

Here is what he said. He said, stonewall it, plead the Fifth, anything to save the plan, Richard Nixon. I mean, Nixon actually said that on the infamous Watergate tapes. Listen to this.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): I don't give a shit what happens. I want you all to stonewall it, let them plead the Fifth Amendment, cover-up or anything else, if it will save it -- save the plan. That's the whole point.


LEMON: His favorite president. Is there any doubt, Jennifer, what he wanted Credico to do?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, not at all, because of course also part of these back and forth over texts and e-mails is what they are talking about, which is the testimony and the fact that Congress wanted to speak to Credico and was speaking to Stone.

So there is no question at all that the evidence is very, very strong here. They've laid it all out through the FBI agent. Now, we are hearing from Credico his spin and what he thought when he was getting these messages back and forth, so, so far, very strong for the government.

LEMON: Very strong for the government. Shimon, Credico wouldn't go along with Stone and texted him some ugly threats. He said, "You are a rat, a stoolie. You backstab your friends. I am so ready. Let's get it on. Prepare to die." What was the reaction in the courtroom when all of this was coming out?

PROKUPECZ: So Randy Credico has not been -- we haven't gotten to the part where Randy Credico is describing any of this. We have only seen the FBI agent, who is now a former FBI agent, talk about this. So we haven't gotten the color yet.

You know, Randy Credico, I have to say, it was funny at times and ways probably inappropriate. So I don't know how this jury is going to feel in the end. But it is certainly going to be interesting to hear Randy Credico describe this and talk about this once the prosecutor gets this. There is still a lot of direct examination left. But it's going to be funny.

But I do have to say that Randy Credico still seems to have some sympathy towards Roger Stone. He has had this long-time battle with him, this weird relationship. You know, today, I found it interesting that he really had moments where he could have gone after Roger Stone. He didn't. He was almost sympathetic to Roger Stone.

We'll see what happens tomorrow when they actually start asking Randy Credico about these text messages.

LEMON: OK. So --


LEMON: As if you couldn't add any more to this in true Roger Stone fashion and the whole circus around this. The plot to "The Godfather 2" also came up in court today with the reference in the conversation where Stone told Credico to do Pentangeli. I mean --


LEMON: -- that is in the movie where a key informant decides to double cross the FBI. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Pentangeli, were you a member of the Corleone family?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I -- I never know no Godfather. Look, the FBI guys, they promised me a deal. So I made up a lot of stuff about Michael Corleone because that's what they wanted. But -- but it was all lies. Uh -- everything!


LEMON: The judge even warned, Jennifer, the jurors not to watch "The Godfather." I mean, at home or -- have you ever seen anything like this in court?

RODGERS: No, no, sadly. It would be more entertaining if I had. But, you know, it's going to be a circus. We will see what happens. Steve Bannon is coming up. Rick Gates is coming up. There is going to be some good stuff.

LEMON: Oh, boy. Thank you both. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.




LEMON: President Trump's televangelist spiritual adviser Paula White is joining the White House staff. Will the controversial hire help the president shore up his evangelical base? CNN's Jeremy Diamond has the story.


PAULA WHITE, ADVISER TO WHITE HOUSE FAITH AND OPPORTUNITY INITIATIVE: When I walk on white house grounds, god walks on white house grounds.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER (voice-over): Pastor Paula White, President Trump's televangelist spiritual adviser, is the latest edition to the White House staff, hired to lead the Faith and Opportunity Initiative, serving as a bridge to religious leaders.

WHITE: In the name of Jesus --

DIAMOND (voice-over): But controversy comes with her. Her transactional brand of Christianity is a prosperity gospel promising health and wealth to its believers and donors.

WHITE: So you do not call that toll free (ph) number and you do not become a ministry of sustain or you will never sustainment in your life and your dream will die.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Has made her a target of criticism, including from Christian conservatives, a key voting block President Trump is relying on to win re-election.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our evangelicals are here tonight and they're all over the place.


DIAMOND (voice-over): Russell Moore, who leads the Southern Baptist public-policy arm, has called her a charlatan and a heretic.

WHITE: God said --

DIAMOND (voice-over): And Erick Erickson, a Christian conservative political commentator, says she is the wrong messenger to shore up the evangelical vote in 2020.

ERICK ERICKSON, CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Seeing a prosperity gospel minister most of these people look at as a heretic in charge of faith-based outreach sends a signal that maybe he is not taking it as seriously as some people think.


DIAMOND (voice-over): Despite a reputation as a philanderer, most conservative evangelicals got behind Trump in 2016, after he secured the republican nomination. But white's relationship with Trump goes back nearly two decades when the real estate mogul caught her sermon on TV.

WHITE: So I get on the phone and I pick it up. And he said, you've got the "it" factor.

DIAMOND (voice-over): The pair grew close.

KATE BOWLER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, DUKE DIVINITY SCHOOL: He thinks, wow, your theology sounds a lot like mine, the art of the deal, and Paula White's books like deal with it exclamation mark, are not really that far apart.

DIAMOND (voice-over): When Trump turned to politics, he relied on her to rally evangelicals around his campaign. Her reward came after Trump's victory, a prize platform on inauguration day. Unlike the pastors who quietly counsel past presidents, White has not hesitated to get political.

WHITE: First it was the Russian hoax. Now, it is the Ukrainian, the inquiry of impeachment, and it's just baseless (ph).

DIAMOND (voice-over): And goes to bat for the president, describing her relationship with him as an assignment from god.

WHITE: To say no to President Trump would be saying no to god, and I won't do that.

DIAMOND (voice-over): White's prominence is a sign of how much the prosperity gospel has moved mainstream.

BOWLER: It was considered this sort of late night TV preacher with greasy hair ripping off a widow in Florida kind of reputation. And it's honestly amazing to me that it's gotten the kind of political, social cache that it has.


DIAMOND (voice-over): And beyond the cache, there is also the financial upside to her relationship with the president. She was given her White House post just as she was promoting her latest book, full of references to Trump.

White has declined to say if she cut financial ties to her ministry, but she is already back at her church preaching and soliciting donations.

WHITE: You are going to write your checks to Paula White ministry.

DIAMOND: Don, on those ethics questions, the White House explained that Pastor White is a special government employee working part-time at the White House and entitled to continue working outside of government.

And, Don, I also asked the White House why the president feels that Pastor White is the right messenger given the criticism that she has faced for her prosperity gospel.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said in the statement, no president has done more for the faith-based community in the United States than Donald Trump. Pastor Paula White is someone who has the respect and admiration of the faith community across the country.

And as for Pastor White, Don, she declined our request for an interview. Don?


LEMON: Thank you, Jeremy. A new witness is coming forward, saying a death row inmate is innocent. And now celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Rihanna are rallying behind him. We'll have the details next.




LEMON: Rodney Reed is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Texas in 13 days for the murder of Stacey Stites. But new developments in the case have prompted lawmakers and celebrities to try to stop the execution. Ed Lavandera has more.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 1996, 19- year-old Stacey Stites was found dead on the side of the road in Bastrop, Texas. She was partially dressed, bruised, and strangled with a belt. Investigators say she was raped and murdered just after 3:00 in the morning on her way to work at a grocery store.

For months, the prime suspect was her fiance, a police officer named Jimmy Fennell, until DNA evidence pointed to another man she knew. A year later, tests confirmed Rodney Reed's semen was found inside Stites. A jury convicted Reed and sent him to death row. But the saga was just beginning.

BRYCE BENJET, SENIOR STAFF ATTORNEY, INNOCENCE PROJECT: It almost reads like a book. Hopefully, we don't execute the wrong man for this murder.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Reed's attorney says the evidence points to Jimmy Fennell as the killer. They say Reed and Stites were engaged in a consensual affair and Fennell found out about it.

Reed talked about this in an interview.

RODNEY REED: Prior to her death, there were times we were together, and she said if Jimmy found out that we were together, that he would kill me. I just took it as a figure of speech. I didn't take it literally.

BENJET: And that is clear motive for him to have killed Stacey and ultimately having Rodney Reed take the fall for that murder.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Reed's case has garnered celebrity attention. Kim Kardashian, Rihanna and others are pushing to stop Reed's execution scheduled for November 20th.

Reed's lawyers say the murder investigation is full of holes. They say the time of death is inaccurate and that police never searched the apartment where Fennell and Stites lived together, and that DNA tests were never conducted on the belt used as the murder weapon.

But Fennell's lawyer says the push to exonerate Reed is a circus that has been rejected by appeals courts and that Reed is a monster.

ROBERT PHILLIPS, ATTORNEY FOR JIMMY FENNELL: Rodney Reed is a garden variety sociopath who has convinced his lawyers and lots of other people that he's just a poor, unfairly charged black man being railroaded to the death chamber.

LAVANDERA: Prosecutors here in Bastrop, Texas maintain Rodney Reed is guilty and deserves the death penalty. They have also pointed out in court documents that Reed was suspected of sexually assaulting and raping six other women. He was acquitted in just one of those cases.

BENJET: These are allegations. They're not convictions.


BENJET: And they have nothing to do with whether or not Rodney Reed committed the murder for which they're trying to execute him.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): There is also this. Jimmy Fennell spent 10 years in prison for kidnapping and raping a woman in 2007 while he was on duty as a police officer. In a court affidavit, an Aryan Brotherhood inmate claims that when they were in prison, Fennell said to him, I had to kill my N-word loving fiancee.

PHILLIPS: The next surprise witness will be Mother Theresa appearing via epiphany. Each one of the stories is laughably lacking in credibility.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Rodney Reed also has one advocate that once lived by him on death row.

Anthony Graves, you spent 18-1/2 years on Texas death row. You were fully exonerated, released, you were wrongly convicted. Why do you relate to Rodney Reed?

ANTHONY GRAVES, DEATH ROW EXONEREE: I relate to Rodney because I know for a fact that those same players didn't give a damn about whether I was innocent or not.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Anthony Graves was wrongly accused of murdering a family of six people in 1992. The same judge, medical examiner, and court- appointed defense attorneys that worked his case also worked Rodney Reed's murder trial.

GRAVES: I was in his seat. I know his story. It just sent chills up my spine when I read and know what Rodney is going through --

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Graves has been free almost 10 years and now works as a criminal justice reform advocate.

GRAVES: A young white woman was murdered and a black man was convicted of it. That is their case. They're not listening to anything else. Rodney Reed was definitely framed. And they're taking it all the way to the execution table.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): While prosecutors who worked the case say the thought of Rodney Reed getting out of prison is absolutely terrifying.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Bastrop, Texas.


LEMON: Wow. Bryce Benjet is here of the Innocence Project. He is Rodney Reed's attorney. We thank him for joining us. Give us the latest. Thank you very much. Give us the latest on this case, 13 days now until Rodney Reed's execution.

BRYCE BENJET, SENIOR ATTORNEY, INNOCENCE PROJECT: Yes. So we have appeals pending in several different courts, and we have asked the governor of Texas to stop this execution and grant a reprieve. And we've actually asked the Board of Pardon and Paroles to recommend to the governor that a reprieve be granted and ultimately the sentence be commuted. That would commute the sentence even though he's innocent.

I've talked to Rodney about this. He does not want a pardon. He would like to be able to be vindicated in the courts. And so what we want is that the death penalty be taken off the table so that this can proceed and the evidence that he did not commit this crime can be considered in a regular way because anybody who actually looks at this case is going to understand that they got the wrong man.

LEMON: So, are you optimistic that you can change course here? And what makes you so sure -- what makes you believe him?

BENJET: Well, it's not about believing Rodney Reed although he has been consistent throughout. It is really about looking at the facts of this case. When you look at the scientific evidence, it both exonerates Rodney Reed and it puts the time of death at a time that Jimmy Fennell testified that he was alone with Stacey Stites in their apartment.

When you look at these witnesses that continue to come out, some people say that they're not credible. But look at who they are. They're police officers. They're friends of Jimmy Fennell. These people have no reason to lie. And time after time, people come forward with information that inculpates Jimmy Fennell and proves that Rodney Reed is not the man that committed this murder.

LEMON: You mentioned what you asked Governor Abbott in the last few days. Twenty-six bipartisan Texas lawmakers sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott asking for reprieve on Reed's behalf until new developments -- this is a quote -- new developments in the case are fully resolved.

More than two million people including major celebrities have signed a separate online petitioner to the governor to stop this execution as well. In your experience with the Innocence Project, how often has public outcry like this worked?

BENJET: This is unprecedented. The level of engagement in this case -- certainly we work on cases around the country. Innocence Project has been involved in over 200 DNA exonerations over the history of our organization.

But for this number of people to be coming forward and saying -- I do not think that the facts here -- and people are engaged with the facts -- add up and that we do not want the death penalty to be imposed on somebody who didn't commit the crime.

LEMON: What do you say to the family, Stacey Stites's family who believe that this will be justice after 23 years?

BENJET: First of all, the Stites family is split. We've spoken to a number of the family members who were familiar with Stacey. She lived with them for a time.


BENJET: They believe that Jimmy Fennell is the person who committed the crime. And I think that everybody involved in this case ultimately wants justice. And the question is should we convict a person and sentence them to death and execute them when the evidence shows they actually did not commit this crime? And I think that the answer to that is of course no.

LEMON: Bryce Benjet, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Keep us updated.

BENJET: Will do.

LEMON: And thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.