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OMB Official to Testify on the Hill; President Trump's Media Backers Cheering for Him; Trump's Lawyers Blocking the Release of Trump's Tax Returns; President Trump is Facing Storm of Legal and Political Challenges; Fox News Attacks and Undermines Witnesses in Impeachment Inquiry, Parrots GOP Talking Points; California School Shooting. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired November 14, 2019 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

We are now just hours away from the second round of historic public hearing in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump.

Marie Yovanovitch, a former ambassador to Ukraine who was ousted a few months ago set to testify in the morning. And testifying behind closed doors tomorrow, the aide to Bill Taylor who, right in the middle of the Kiev restaurant, overheard a cell phone conversation President Trump asking Ambassador and million-dollar Trump donor, Gordon Sondland about the investigation.

Then Saturday behind closed doors, newly announced testimony from an official with the budget agency responsible for releasing military aide to Ukraine.

President Trump insists he did nothing wrong on that July 25th phone call where he pressured Ukraine's president to investigate the Bidens and a debunked conspiracy theory.

Well, tonight, we're going beyond the call to examine other key events here. The impeachment hearings are hardly the only legal troubles for the president. We're going to look at why he is asking the Supreme Court to block the release of tax returns and we'll see why his name has come up in the criminal trial of his former adviser Roger Stone.

Fox News, one of the president's favorite news organizations with this its incessant cheerleading for him, ramping up its blind support even more now than the historic public impeachment hearings are underway. Attacking witnesses, spitting out GOP talking news.

And then we have tragic news. A deadly school shooting. This time at a high school in Southern California.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard the first shot. And everyone thought it was a balloon. And it got really quiet and then two more shots when -- and then everyone just started running out of school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were waiting outside of the locker room because it wasn't open yet. And all of a sudden like we just -- we were with all of our friends and we heard the gunshots and we just let's go, like, let's run.


LEMON: We're going to get to all of that in just a moment. But let's get to today's impeachment headlines. Here to discuss, Catherine Rampell, Nicholas Kristof, and Susan Hennessey. Good evening to one, and all.

Nick, tonight at rally the president claimed the GOP is happy with the impeachment inquiry. I want you to take a listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: But you know what they're doing now? The Republicans are coming. Sir, our poll numbers are going through the roof. Do you think we could keep this going? I said, do me a favor, let's get it ended. They said, but let's keep it going, president. It's so great. Because we've never had a time like this. They actually said, let's keep this sucker going for a while, Mr. President.


LEMON: All right. Keep this going. Really?


LEMON: Nicholas Kristof is at a loss for words.

KRISTOF: Look, I mean, it seems to me pretty self-evident the witnesses yesterday were very compelling that they drew blood. We now have a second witness. But I must say that it is astonishing to watch Fox TV. And to talk to Republicans and they -- I mean, it's as if they're watching a completely different drama. Just like when they look at the transcript or the quasi transcript or that conversation. They draw completely different conclusions.

I mean, I was struck on watching Fox News. The degree to which there was kind of cackling over how the Democrats had fallen on their face. When it seemed to me that any reading of what went on unless you were incredibly partisan at that time, was that Trump looked like he abused power for private gain.

So, you know, I think that if you're following that narrative you may come to that conclusion that it's going well. But I would not bet on that horse.

LEMON: That is complete and total spin right there. Susan, you now, it's a big day on Capitol Hill tomorrow. We will hear directly from the ousted ambassador to Ukraine. Why is Marie Yovanovitch testimony important to this case? SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think Marie Yovanovitch's

testimony is going to be really important first because she can speak to the view from the ground about what was actually happening in Ukraine whenever Giuliani was essentially under taking this freelancing effort on behalf of the president of the United States as private political interest. An effort that eventually actually forced her out of her job.

And so Yovanovitch is going to be able to speak both to what was actually happening in Ukraine. What the president was attempting to pursue through Giuliani, and then the second sort of smear campaign that was aimed at her. Recalled that one line in that sort of transcript call memorandum the White House itself released was whenever the president of the United States referring to Yovanovitch said she is going to go through some things, though.

Something that could be reasonably read to be a threat of some form of retaliation. And so, certainly lawmakers are going to be interested in digging deeper into what she thought the president might have meant by those types of statements.

LEMON: Catherine, I want to bring you in now. Because also tomorrow that aide who overheard Trump ask the ambassador to the E.U. about the status of the investigations during a cell phone conversation at a restaurant set to testify behind closed doors.


So, Republicans can't use that sort of made up defense that this is all hearsay.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, they've been trying to move the goal post from day one. First, the claim was about process. That we wanted these witnesses to testify publicly. Now they're testifying publicly. Now the problem is well, they didn't talk to the president directly. As if, you know, the president really needs to micro manage every single person in the executive branch who is following his orders.

And now of course it's that -- something new. I don't know what it will be at this point. I don't know what it will be. And presumably when this person testifies and says I heard this on the call. They'll still claim, well, the discussion wasn't directed at you.

But even that argument of course is risky. Because Bolton could still, at some point, come forward. If he decides to comply with the subpoena. We'll wait to see whether that happens. And then what's the argument going to be then? I'm sure that they'll find a new place to position those goal posts but it will require a lot more creativity.

LEMON: Someone else let's talk about --Susan, let me bring you back in. We're learning tonight that Mark Sandy, Mark Sandy is an attorney for OMB, he is going to testify on Saturday if subpoenaed which will almost certainly happen. So, he would be the first OMB official to testify. Is that significant and how significant is it if it is? HENNESSEY: Yes. So, this is really, really significant. Because one

critical element of the charges against Don -- or against President Trump are the allegations against him, is that he misused congressionally appropriated funding.

Essentially, he used congressionally appropriated funding as his own political opposition research fund. OMB plays a central role in actually releasing funds that have been appropriated by Congress. So, one unusual thing that happened here is ordinarily the final person who signs off on those funds being released is a career official. Someone who is not a political appointee.

In this particular case, and apparently in only this particular case, OMB actually changed its procedure on how a political appointee initially refuse to sign off and then eventually signed off on the release of this aid.

And so, having this career OMB official come forward and actually talk about what was happening at OMB, why the ordinary procedures weren't being followed. That's going to be really, really critical because members of Congress, at least on the Democratic side are and Republicans should be as well really concerned about the extent to which there particular abuse of power was also the president of the United States reaching out and misusing and abusing, you know, constitutional functions that are designed to a different branch of Congress -- a different branch of government, namely Congress.

LEMON: Nick, the former Republican, he's now an independent, you know, Congressman Justin Amash tweeted this today. He said. "This is simple. Keep it simple. The White House released security assistance to Ukraine only after Congress started asking questions. Why? Considering that Bolton, Giuliani, Mulvaney, and others may have firsthand testimony. Why won't President Trump let them testify?"

Do you think Democrats are making a big mistake by not getting these witnesses under oath?

KRISTOF: Look, I mean, there are tradeoffs in term of time. I think they want a speedy operation as well. But I do think that, a, look, it's incredibly disingenuous for Republicans to complain about having hearsay when they won't allow the people who were in the room, like John Bolton, come and testify.

And I think that it would certainly be useful if one could to the extent possible one could try to bring in more people, Bolton in particular. Look, I disagree with John Bolton in any possible foreign policy. But I have known him a long time. He is smart. He has real convictions. He's not a weather vain. And I think it would be useful to have him testify.

LEMON: Yes. Speaking of John Bolton, who by the way, is the president's former national security adviser. He wanted nothing to do with what he said this drug deal that Trump advisers were cooking up in Ukraine. And his lawyer teased to House investigators that he had some pertinent information some very important information and knowledge about it. So why isn't he talking? Why isn't he testifying? RAMPELL: Well, he has said that he's caught between two coequal

branches of government. He's been giving conflicts directives. One from the executive branch asserting executive privilege, saying don't testify, we're preventing you. One from the legislative branch, saying, no, we want to hear what you have to say.

And he wants it to go before a judge. And I would like to think that this is a good faith effort to get a neutral ruling. Because sure, maybe you are -- you are in a quandary. And you don't actually know which branch of government to follow.

I would argue, I'm not lawyer, but I would argue that the argument that the administration is making doesn't really seem to hold water based on the discussions that I have had with lawyers. But look, if this can be resolved speedily and the judge says sure, go ahead and testify, I think he will testify.


LEMON: Thank you, everyone. I appreciate it.

There are two absolutely crucial days in the Ukraine shakedown. The day of the infamous call and the day after. But there's a lot that happened on those days on two days that you may not know about. We're going to break it down, next.


LEMON: President Trump and his defenders would love to have you believe that the impeachment inquiry is all about one phone call and nothing else. His rally cry, "read the transcript." Spoiler alert. It does. That's the problem for the president.

But there's a lot more than we have learned and to fully understand what happened we need to dive deeper into the events of the day the call took place and the day after. So, let's do exactly that.

Joining me now, Philip Bump, and Guy Smith. Gentlemen, good evening. Philip, I'm glad you're with us because your piece was really great. I read it today. And it lays out the time line -- it's in The Washington Post. It lays out the time line of the day of the call and the day after.


Starting on the morning of July 25th we know that that day actually started with call from Ambassador Sondland to Trump because Sondland said so.


GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: I actually spoke with President Trump just a few minutes before he placed the call. And not only did the president call to congratulate President Zelensky but also to begin the collaboration of charting the pathway forward with the U.S.' support of Ukraine and a White House visit that's upcoming for President Zelensky.


LEMON: Why is that such an important reveal as you quote, as you say in your piece?

PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: Right. That comment from Sondland there by itself which came the day after the Trump/Zelensky call on July 25th is remarkable. Because it's Sondland reinforcing this idea that this meeting was something that was of primary value to Zelensky in that call.

But it also tells us that Sondland and Trump had this conversation which Sondland asked about during his testimony and he sort of tried to play off, like, it was a quick call between myself and Trump. But it really helps establish that he had that point of contact with the president that morning.

LEMON: Interesting. Guy, I want to bring you in now. So, after Sondland speaks to President Trump, right, he texts Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special enjoy to Ukraine to set up a phone call. Volker then text Andriy Yermak, Zelensky's aide. And he says, "I heard from the White House, assuming President Zelensky convinces Trump he will investigate and get to the bottom of what happened in 2016. We will nail down date for visit to Washington."

Is that -- is that the ground work being laid for a quid pro quo right there?

GUY SMITH, FORMER CLINTON IMPEACHMENT ADVISER: I think the ground work already had been laid. And this is confirming that everything is in place. Because of the way he worded that. And if you look at the -- his testimony later and you look at the text that have come out, what it shows us is that Sondland is deep into this. And he hadn't been as forthcoming. And you know, and he also -- we know wasn't forthcoming because he suddenly changed his testimony.

LEMON: Yes. We're going to get -- we're going to get to that. OK. So then about 30 minutes later, Philip, Trump and Zelensky had that infamous phone call. This was -- it does tell you don't read too far ahead in the text book.

Phone and the transcript released by the White House and then we learned that Zelensky tells Trump, "I also plan to surround myself with great people, and in addition to that investigation I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly. That I can assure you."

Trump, apparently satisfied with what he heard from Zelensky responds. He says, "Good, whatever you would like to come -- whenever you would like to come to the White House, feel free to call. Give us a date. And we'll work that out. I look forward to seeing you."

So, he wants everyone to read the transcript? But that's when the transcript and that doesn't sound good. BUMP: In the transcript by itself. If you read what you just read. It

seems like Zelensky says, hey, I'm going to do this investigation. Trump says hey, cool, why don't you come to the White House sometime.

But when we look at what happened that morning, we know Trump and Sondland spoke. Sondland texts Volker. Volker text Yermak who works Zelensky and the message he sends to him is you say hey, we're going to do the investigations and we'll give you the meeting.

If you know that context when you read that transcript, all of a sudden you understand, OK. This is exactly what they had set up. This exchange of yes, I will do these investigations for you. Cool. In that case, we'll invite you to the White House.

LEMON: OK. Now, Guy, now there's -- this is July 26. OK? Ambassador Sondland is in Ukraine where he meets with President Zelensky and other officials. Ambassador Bill Taylor is also in Ukraine for the meetings with Zelensky. And here's what he testified to it.


WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: President Zelensky told Ambassador Volker and me that he was happy with the call but did not elaborate. President Zelensky then asked about the face- to-face meeting in the Oval Office as promised in the May 29th letter from President Trump. We could give him no firm answer.


LEMON: So, the Ukrainians said that they didn't feel pressured by Trump. But does it seem clear that they knew what they had to do in order to go through, or whatever to get that White House heating?

SMITH: I think it does. And I think that the prior conversation that Phil was just discussing is what set that up. And then if you, if knowing those prior conversations, and then reading the transcript, it illustrates that they did know this.

And if you also, if you read Zelensky's effusive talk about the investigations. That's way over the top. So, he clearly was saying yes, I'm going to do this. Don't want to, but I'm going to do this.

LEMON: Later that day Sondland meets with Zelensky's adviser, Yermak. And this is a bombshell that Taylor dropped yesterday. Watch this.


TAYLOR: Following that meeting in the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kiev. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone asking Ambassador Sondland about the investigations. Mr. Sondland told President Trump the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.

Following the call with President Trump the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden which Giuliani was pressing for.


LEMON: So, Philip, you say that by expanding, right, how we look at this, it gets to the heart of it. Because the president keeps saying, you know, look at the, read the transcript.

BUMP: Right.

LEMON: Read -- it's a very small minute thing, even the transcript I think is pretty damming. Right? Most people. You said by expanding you really get to the heart of what, if you take a bigger picture look.

BUMP: Exactly. So, when we have that conversation between Sondland and Trump on the 26th in which it's made very clear that what President Trump is interested in here is the investigations. And there were two more text messages after that call on the 25th itself in which Yermak went back to Volker and said hey, we did what we were supposed to do essentially, let us know when this meeting can happen.

And Volker test to Sondland said, hey, I passed your message on to Yermak. So, there's all these threads that just outside of the transcript where there's communication between Volker and Sondland and between the Ukrainians and Americans in which exactly what's being laid out in the transcript is this exchange. By meeting for these investigations which we again see reflected in that call between Sondland and the president.

LEMON: Gentlemen, thank you both. I appreciate it.

BUMP: Yes.

LEMON: Well, as this going on the president has a lot of legal trouble from the emolument with his hotel, to his taxes, to Roger Stone, next.



LEMON: A historic week in Washington as all eyes are on the impeachment hearings. But the president's legal troubles don't end there.

CNN's Athena Jones has the story.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Capitol Hill, just one front in the many political and legal battles swirling around President Trump.


MICHAEL GERHARDT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The pressure that the president feels himself under is quite unusual. The lawsuits along with the congressional hearings together are unprecedented. They're all trying to seek one thing, which is greater accountability in the president for his deeds. (END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: The first public impeachment hearings in two decades are taking center stage in a process that presents an existential threat to Trump's presidency.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I will begin by swearing you in.


JONES: Day one of testimony from two diplomats who spoke about the president's efforts to use a coveted Oval Office meeting and nearly $400 million in critical aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals left Democrats pleased.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I thought it was a successful day for truth.


JONES: With Trump and his defenders insisting he has nothing to worry about.


TRUMP: I hear it's a joke. I haven't watched. I haven't watched for one minute.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Based on what you --



REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I think this is a sad chapter for the country.


JONES: But impeachment isn't the only legal threat in town.

Just down the hill, in U.S. district court the jury is deliberating Roger Stone's fate. The Trump ally has pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction of Congress, lying to Congress and witness tampering related to the Mueller probe and to Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Testimony during the trial reveals that Stone who was the Trump campaign's apparent conduit to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was communicating directly with then candidate Trump in the spring and summer of 2016 about the organization's planned releases of Hillary Clinton's stolen e-mails. Stone has since denied ever discussing with WikiLeaks releases with Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be immaterial.


JONES: Former deputy campaign chair Rick Gates testifying that Trump camp gleefully and knowingly capitalized on Russian meddling.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will be the next step in the fight over taxes after a lower court consistently ruled against Trump who was trying to block subpoenas issued by Congress and the Manhattan district attorney. But there's no guarantee the high court will take up the case.


GERHARDT: There's a suspicion, which is growing, that these past tax returns show the extent to which he maybe indebted to people or governments or entities that he's now doing favors for. The tax records may reveal the extent of which the president may even be compromised on certain things.


JONES: And less than two miles down the road, just blocks from the White House, the Trump international hotel is at the center of another series of lawsuits over whether the president has violated the Constitution by profiting from foreign governments who have stayed there.


GERHARDT: These proceedings are about facts. They're not about things that are just made up and pushed by Democrats. No. These are facts which have been produced through lawful means. And these facts really show the president in a either a different light or not a particular good light for him.


JONES: Athena Jones, CNN, New York.

LEMON: All right. Our thanks to Athena. Joining me now, David Cay Johnston and Elie Honig. Good evening, gentlemen. David, that is an awful lot of cases. But in a way President Trump and legal problems have always gone hand in hand, right?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Throughout his entire life he's either he's been involved in litigation, he's beaten four federal grand juries, he's lost two tax fraud trials. He has spent his whole life fending off actually quite successfully, fending off law enforcement investigations. He's quite skilled at that.

[23:29:58] LEMON: Elie, the president's legal team is asking the Supreme Court to block subpoenas for his tax reasons. His lawyer Jay Sekulow is saying in a statement, quote, "In our petition, we assert that the subpoena violates the U.S. Constitution and therefore is unenforceable. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will grant review in this significant constitutional case and reverse the dangerous and damaging decision of the appeals court." But there is no guarantee the court will even take up this case, right?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Correct, Don. Yeah, they're really down to their last straw here. They've got one shot left and that's for the U.S. Supreme Court to agree to take this case. The U.S. Supreme Court does not have to take any case. In fact, they take only a very small percentage of all cases brought before them, usually low single digits in the percentage wise.

When you look at -- the Supreme Court usually looks for cases that are close calls on the law. This one isn't a particularly close case. Both lower courts have gone in favor of Congress decisively. And supreme courts look for cases where you're getting conflicting decisions from different courts around the country. That's also not the case here.

So I think there is a very good probability the Supreme Court says, we're not taking it, and if so, that's it. And Congress gets those tax returns -- excuse me, the D.A. gets those tax returns.

LEMON: David, the Trump Organization, trying to sell off the lease to the Trump D.C. Hotel. In the brochure to potential buyers, they boast that there's millions of dollars to be made from foreign governments. President Trump is facing multiple lawsuits, accusing him of using his D.C. hotel to illegally profit off of his presidency. So, I mean, is it Trump or are they saying the quiet part out loud here? What the heck is going on?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, another thing about Donald is that he's in many ways transparent.


JOHNSTON: He just blurts out. In this case, they put out a brochure, you know. Here's what we're actually thinking. The problem with selling the hotel is the reason it's doing really well business is because of people currying favor with the president. If it's no longer his, people are going to go back to the better hotels in town like the Hyatt, for example, instead of holding events at the property that Trump has under the lease.

LEMON: Does this, Elie, raise another ethical concern about someone buying the property to curry favor with the president?

HONIG: It does. There are all sorts of lines crossed here and financial entanglements. The tricky thing about emoluments is the Constitution creates a prohibition against the emoluments as they just laid it, but it doesn't really tell us what to do if it's violated. It's not a crime. There are several lawsuits making their way through the courts right now, but even the judges who are hearing those lawsuits seem to be at a bit of a loss. What do you do to issue of financial penalty? Really, I mean, another possibility is impeachment although that does not seem to be on the table right now for Congress.

So, again, Donald Trump as we discusses is sort of dodging the raindrops here and violating a clear provision of the Constitution, but so far without real consequence.

LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. Get some rest. Another big day of testimony tomorrow. I appreciate it.

HONIG: You got it.

LEMON: Fox News spinning the impeachment inquiry to make their number one viewer happy, parroting White House talking points. Who is really running the show here, Fox News or the GOP?




LEMON: Lots of evidence coming out of the first public impeachment hearing in the Trump-Ukraine scandal. William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, revealing one of the staffers overheard a phone call with the president asking Ambassador Gordon Sondland about the investigations in Ukraine.

That staffer, David Holmes, now scheduled to testify before House investigators tomorrow. But if you happen to be watching the Fox News pro-Trump shows, you barely heard about it. CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter explains why.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Watching Fox News in prime time is like watching one of President Trump's dreams come true.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Day one of this impeachment farce.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: It was such a disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A triple fold disaster for the Democrats.

INGRAHAM: Complete and utter disaster for Adam Schiff.

HANNITY: It was a Schiff show.

STELTER (voice-over): Elsewhere, news outlet reported on the explosive testimony. But on Fox, the president won, the Democrats lost, and the show is over -- even though the impeachment hearings are really just beginning.


STELTER (voice-over): And what about the witnesses?

LIMBAUGH: A bunch of professional nerds.

MARK LEVIN, FOX NEWS HOST: Two homeless guys.

CHRISTIAN WHITON, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SENIOR ADVISOR: It looked like people who sat by themselves at recess.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was kind of boring to watch on television.

STELTER (voice-over): Veteran diplomats with impeccable credentials denigrated as homeless guys. Serious hearings dismissed as boring. That's how Fox world works. So it's no wonder why the president loves these shows.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: The media went completely bonkers today.

STELTER (voice-over): Bonkers for covering new revelations about Ukraine? Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity both complained about that. They led the president's merry band of media defenders, telling Trump he's not in trouble.

HANNITY: The Republicans had a great day all the way around.

STELTER (voice-over): But Hannity also said the impeachment inquiry needs to be stopped, right now.

HANNITY: This circus, this sham, this charade, honestly, for the sake of the country, should be shut down immediately.

STELTER (voice-over): A legal constitutional process being attacked as a circus. And also on the attack, Eric Trump.



TRUMP: No one cares. This isn't going to change one person's mind.

STELTER (voice-over): Three million people watched the hearing on Fox and another 10 million plus watched on other channels. But the president's promoters don't let facts get in the way of a good fight.

CARLSON: This is stupid.

STELTER (voice-over): And this is what the president is hearing, hour after hour, and then repeating back to his followers on Twitter.

JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: This was a hearsay hearing.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Today was a joke. It was a public joke --

STELTER (voice-over): Stephanie Grisham picked up right where the T.V. talking heads left off.

GRISHAM: It was all a sham and it's going to be very easy for the rest of this week for us to fight back.

STELTER (voice-over): And Fox will be there to make it even easier.


LEMON: Brian Stelter joins me now along with Matt Lewis, Boy, oh boy, oh boy. Good evening.

STELTER: Good evening.

LEMON: A number of graphics on Fox on the screen were quotes from the president or republican talking points. Is there any pretense of objectivity?

STELTER: I think on Fox, the president still gets the benefit of the doubt even though he is lying through his Twitter teeth on a daily basis about the whistleblower and about the basic facts of the scandal.

But the president's defenders on Fox, they are with him more strongly than ever before. That's really crucial to understand as we all think about this impeachment inquiry. Even though the facts are damning against the president, his supporters on television are with him a thousand percent.

That's why I think those clips are important because even though it seems, you know, you would think some of these defenders would be looking for the exits, looking for a gracious way out of this, but they are still with him a thousand percent.

LEMON: Matt, I want to bring you in, because as part of their coverage -- Tucker Carlson had on the White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham as a guest which is, you know, one should have the White House press secretary on as a guest, but here is the issue. She hasn't once held a press conference since taking the job in July, but then goes on Fox to recap impeachment hearings?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. I think that this is actually part of this weird trend where -- you know, political parties used to actually have power. They would help actually select a nominee and they would be in charge of the propaganda and communication.

And I think that really political parties have gotten weakened. It has been outsourced to places like Fox News. You asked earlier in the tease, like, is there a difference? No. Fox News is actually the communications arm of the RNC.

LEMON: Brian, there used to be a clear cut -- a clear line between Fox's prime opinion shows and then their dayside shows. Did that change? It feels like it has changed. Am I wrong?

STELTER: Yes. The line has eroded and in some case it's impossible to find. I have been working on a book about Fox and the Trump age. I've been talking to a lot of sources inside and outside Fox about this.

They say, of course, Fox has always been conservative in its brand. But there were strong journalists behind the scenes. And many of those journalists have left. Most notably and most recently, Shepard Smith headed for the exit. Others have left as well.

That's helped cause this erosion between the news and opinion sides. Frankly, the news side has been squeezed out and that is to the president's benefit. The president doesn't want journalism on Fox. He wants sycophants on Fox. He wants pro-Trump talking points on Fox. That is what he's getting. If he survives this impeachment process, it's going to be because of that.

LEMON: Yeah. Hey, Matt, quickly, I want to ask you about this, because you tweeted -- you said about the upside down nature of things. Now, our former allies, the Kurds, are bad. Vietnam vets/Purple Heart recipients like Ambassador Taylor, Robert Mueller, nerds. The Turkish attacks on Kurds in Syria now sold as peace. How critical has Fox's role become in selling narratives like this?

LEWIS: Very important. This is very Orwellian. I think, you know, look, I'll just talk as someone who is a conservative columnist. We had yesterday two men who dedicated their lives to patriotism to this country.

Ambassador Taylor, a Vietnam veteran. These men lived -- very conservative lives and they're being criticized by people like Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh. Donald Trump, a former Democrat. I think they've got six wives between them.

It is weird what happened to the conservative movement and who gets tos say that they're a real conservative and who gets called a nerd or a deep state bureaucrat. It's not the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan.

LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

STELTER: Thanks.

LEMON: Tragedy in California. Two teenagers are dead tonight after yet another school shooting, the 44th this year. We'll have the latest, next.




LEMON: In Southern California, two teenagers are dead, three wounded after a 16-year-old gunman shot them and himself in 16 seconds at their high school. That is according to police. It was the 44th school shooting in America this year. Chris Swecker, Josh Campbell, join me now. Gentlemen, thank you so much. Josh, you first. What can you tell us about this horrific incident?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Don, another day another shooting involving innocent children in the United States of America to the list of names like Columbine, Parkland, and Santa Fe. We now add Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California. This is just north of Los Angeles.

This morning just before the start of classes, a gunman arrived, opened fire, shooting five of his fellow students. Sadly, two of them were killed. Three remain in the hospital tonight. The subject then turned the weapon on himself. He is also listed right now in grave condition.


CAMPBELL: We know that there was a rapid response from law enforcement arriving within the span of two minutes. However, the incident itself lasting a mere 16 seconds is what we're told by law enforcement officials. Authorities have recovered a 45-caliber semi- automatic pistol. They believe it was used in the attack.

There are a lot of unanswered questions tonight about motivation. That is something that authorities continue to look at. The FBI's top agent there in the Los Angeles area is telling us that at this time, although they don't have a motive, they do not believe that he was part of any radical ideology and they do not believe that he acted with any accomplices. However, the investigation continues, Don.

LEMON: A quick follow up here before I move to Chris. You say significant planning went into this attack. What do you base that on?

CAMPBELL: Yeah, that's right, Don. If you look at the characteristics, we're told by law enforcement officials that the weapon that was recovered was empty. He expended all of the rounds in that weapon, leaving the final round for himself, which tells me that he was essentially counting his rounds as he went about shooting his victims.

And again, before the incident was over, he turned the weapon on himself, firing the last round at himself, why he is in grave condition. We don't yet know, Don, whether he was there targeting specific students or if he simply arrived trying to kill indiscriminately. That is part of this ongoing investigation.

LEMON: Chris, I want to play for you some students describing what happened and their reactions.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard the first shot and everyone thought it was a balloon. It got really quiet. And then two more shots went. And then everyone just started running out of school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were waiting outside of the locker room because it wasn't open yet. And all of a sudden, we were with all of our friends and we heard the gunshots. We were just like, let's go, let's run.


LEMON: It's interesting because students now have to be trained. I would imagine -- I wasn't trained in school. I don't know if you were, Chris. But a number of students made a run for it. What are they trained to do in active shooter drills?

CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DIVISION: The current training is run, hide, fight or some variation of that. We've gone away from the bunker down, hunker down, barricade, that sort of thing, unless your judgment tells you that you're far enough from the shooting that you have the time to do that.

So, there's a cottage industry now that is built up around training that in schools and churches. I've done some of it myself and done security assessments.

So, the interesting part of this, Don, is how did he get the gun and what kind of red flags were manifesting themselves prior to this incident because in most of these incidents and the studies are showing this, they're flashing red, they being the shooter. They're manifesting something that other people can pick up on.

If the school has an assessment team to to assess the suspicious activities, then they can take action. In this case, it will be interesting to see if that happened.

LEMON: So, you know, back in the dark ages when I was young, we would have fire drills, right? And, you know, other things like tornado drills in the south. And now, do kids have active shooter drills just randomly? Just randomly throughout the day the fire bell would go off and we would have a drill. Chris, does the same thing happen now?

SWECKER: It does in every school across the country right on down almost to preschool. I've actually done security assessments down to the preschool level where there you do a barricade and lockdown because you can't herd the little ones out. But it happens in every school and sometimes even churches in America.

LEMON: Yeah. Unbelievable. Josh, law enforcement will continue to work throughout the night on this investigation. What's going on now? What are they doing?

CAMPBELL: Well, right now, as I mentioned, the suspect is listed in grave condition so we don't believe that they were able to interview him. That leaves a lot of unanswered questions. We know that authorities have executed a search warrant at a residence believed to be identified with the shooter. They'll be talking to family members, associates, friends.

We are also told that they're interviewing the students that were there in the vicinity of the shooting, everyone one of them is a potential witness, trying to determine whether he uttered something before the shooting that may help them determine what the motivation was. But again, a long road ahead in this investigation will be continuing throughout the night.

LEMON: In the final short moments we have, Chris, listen, how do we stop this? Other countries don't have this problem.

SWECKER: I'm a conservative, Don, but first and foremost, we've got to get at these assault weapons. I mean, this was a tragic incident. But if it were a shoulder weapon, an assault weapon where you can kill 50 people in a matter of minutes, this would have been even worse.

So, I think you have to take this in small bites and the first bite here is assault weapons, get them off the streets. Second, fix the National Instant Check System, Fix NICS. It is a broken system in many different ways, too many to name here tonight. It needs to be fixed.

LEMON: We've got to do something. I'm sure everyone agrees to that.


LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. Hopefully, I won't see you any time soon talking about a similar situation. And thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage -- our live coverage continue with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto.