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Polls Tightening In Key Battleground States; President Trump Holds Rally In North Carolina; Michael Cohen's Book Contains Revelations On Trump; Trump Supporters Ignores Health Guidelines; AstraZeneca Pauses Phase Three Trials. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 8, 2020 - 22:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: I gave D. Lemon a little bit more time to get his make up straight. "CNN TONIGHT" starts now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: You're a minute late.

CUOMO: I was waiting for you.

LEMON: No, you weren't.

CUOMO: I saw you look a mess when you came in here.

LEMON: All right. Don't try to get wait. Don't be sorry.

CUOMO: They're the stretch.

LEMON: Just don't do it again.


LEMON: Your last conversation man, man, man. Let me tell you something.

CUOMO: That is the conversation.

LEMON: It is the conversation. But let me -- when you go home tonight or when Mr. Santorum goes home tonight, go home and tell his wife that there isn't systemic sexism built into the United States of America. That men don't have it better pretty much. Not that so many women are doing very well.

CUOMO: Look, she may believe that.

LEMON: Yes. Or go to --


CUOMO: But it doesn't make it true.

LEMON: All right. Go tell Christina that and see what happens. (CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Listen, I got enough trouble as it is. I have to find somewhere to sleep. Look --


LEMON: All you got to do is look at -- let's look at compared to sexism and misogyny in the country. And if you look at let's just be honest, this isn't -- this isn't about -- you're absolutely 100 percent right. This isn't about blaming people or saying, my gosh, you are inherently terrible because this is about facing the facts, a realism. Something that is real in the society so that we can come to an agreement and then try to work together.

Because you have to admit certain things people have to admit where they are, certain things happen and then you can do it. As long as you are pretending that it didn't happen or that it's not a big deal or keep framing it in a way that is not -- that is not based in any sort of reality, it is never going to change.

And this whole idea -- I don't understand -- well, I do understand what's going on -- of critical race theory. Are we going back to the 80s? Because this all played out in the 1908s this whole thing about critical race theory in politics. It is another boogeyman --


CUOMO: Yes, we're going right to scare people.

LEMON: -- to try to scare people. We're going back to the 80s.


LEMON: There's no -- nothing new about critical race theory.


CUOMO: It still scary.

LEMON: Just go back and do a Google search --


CUOMO: It is still scary.

LEMON: -- in critical race theory and politics.

CUOMO: I'll tell you, when I talked to guys like Rick and other people about coming on the show and making their argument and going through the argument, right, what's the strong part of their argument? Strong part of the argument is fear sells.


CUOMO: And I don't want to be blamed for being privileged when I'm white and struggling. I'm not a racist. Why am I racist by saying I'm not privileged? I don't need people to tell me I'm to blame for everything that happened to black people. That sells.


CUOMO: Yes, but that's not what they are doing. But that is the strong part of the argument. That's why Rick made it tonight out of context. The focus of the memo about the training is not about making sure that white people understand that they are privileged and to blame. He knows that. But that's the argument that works.

Here's the bad side that I always mitigate in these conversations because I want them to come on the show. You know there's systemic racism, Rick Santorum.


CUOMO: You're going to say we're imperfect, we have problems with racism. You don't want to say it. Why? Because the president won't say it. You want to say you agree with me so you don't sound like a fool --


LEMON: But Chris, you had the whole thing --

CUOMO: -- but don't want to say the term because he won't say it.


LEMON: No, they don't know.

CUOMO: And that's their weakness.

LEMON: They don't know. When has anyone ever admitted that they have a problem? Have you ever known, have you ever had a family member or a friend who had an issue whether it's addiction or whatever it is who admitted to it?


CUOMO: People don't like to admit they have problem.

LEMON: Very few people. People don't -- so America has a problem with race. Rick says OK, you know, they want people to believe that racism -- yes. It's in pretty much everything.


LEMON: Look how the country was founded. Look at what's happening on the streets of American cities and not just playing out in America. Look at what's happening with monuments and statues. Look at what's happening -- look at what the president his priorities --


CUOMO: Look what happens with pay.

LEMON: -- with lending, with all sorts of things.

CUOMO: Employing. Housing. Adoption.

LEMON: Housing. All of it. And so, to pretend that it doesn't exist and to come up with some boogeyman about critical race theory, there are people who are out there. I'm sure young people or people who haven't been involved in the political conversation who think that this is something new. It is not. It's another boogeyman. You have the, you know --


CUOMO: But it works.

LEMON: Every time some sort of Willie Horton s-thing comes back every four years or in political battle.

CUOMO: Willie Horton was George H.W. Bush and Dukakis --

LEMON: Yes. Yes, but --

CUOMO: --where Roger Ailes made Horton extra block to scare white people. Scaring white people works.


LEMON: But don't. But listen, here's what I had to say. And you -- if you talk to women, honestly, they will tell you if you're a man, and you haven't taken a -- you haven't taken advantage of the privilege or the advantages you have in the society, then maybe you are doing it wrong.

If you speak to some people of color, they will tell you the same thing. If you are a white person and you have not taken advantage of being able to always get loans, always get an education, always vote, always have every priority. Even if you are poor, if you haven't been able to take advantage of that, then maybe you are doing it wrong.

But you should not be blaming the people who don't have agency in society along with you. There's another blame for it. But it's not those people. You're being pitted against those people because someone is taking advantage of you. Some -- you are the mark. You're the person that keeping the other people rich, keeping the other people in power.


CUOMO: They're playing you for a sucker.

LEMON: They are playing you for a sucker. You are the mark to the con that is going on.

CUOMO: Yes. LEMON: So, this whole idea about there is no privilege in society for white people. That's bullshit. There is a privilege. There is no privilege in society for men. That is bull. There is a privilege. There is no privilege in society when -- if you are a Christian there is privilege in the society because we prioritize Christianity even though we're supposed to be a country that believes in freedom of religion. But yet, what do we do?

CUOMO: And separation of separation and state.

LEMON: We demonize Muslims. We demonize Islam. We demonize anybody who is pretty much not a Christian or even --


CUOMO: But Islam hates us.

LEMON: -- if you don't believe in religion.

CUOMO: Islam hates us though.

LEMON: But that's the whole point. You're making my point. So, to believe that there aren't certain privileges in the society, this American society, you are not unique to America --


CUOMO: No, you are right.

LEMON: -- is just plain old absurd.

CUOMO: You are right. But only the president makes that grotesque argument.

LEMON: No, no. Other people make the argument.


CUOMO: The wicked thing --

LEMON: He is just using it to his political advantage.

CUOMO: No, but what I'm saying is the tie -- the top of the food chain, the fraud food chain. You have the president.


CUOMO: He says no systemic racism. Just some bad apples.


CUOMO: I say you got to look at the whole orchard. OK?


CUOMO: He says it. So, Rick Santorum who knows that everything you just said is true, he might argue degree.


CUOMO: But it's true. But he can't say there's systemic racism because Trump says there isn't.


CUOMO: See, the problem for Rick Santorum is he is smart enough to know the truth and intentionally not saying it to protect Trump.


CUOMO: And that is a political sin.

LEMON: I don't know if he's that smart. I think he probably believes what he believes. But I think that people who believe the similar way --


CUOMO: Well, he says he agrees with me. That each of the problems exist.


CUOMO: What is it in the collective if they each exist except systemic racism?


CUOMO: That's what it is. He doesn't want to say it because Trump won't say it. And they fear him. And they have something the left doesn't have. Cohesion, baby.


CUOMO: They are all in it to win it.

LEMON: Let me tell you something. They're not afraid of Joe Biden. They are afraid of what Joe Biden represents. They are not afraid of being -- of Trump being replaced by Biden. They are afraid of what may replace them as the preeminent voice. Or maybe the voice that is not so strong --


CUOMO: yes, it's a good fear.

LEMON: -- and doesn't have the advantage that it does in society.

CUOMO: Powerful fear.

LEMON: That is what it is.

CUOMO: And that's what they overlook all of Trump's obvious failings. They support Trump despite Trump --


LEMON: They're not overlooking it. They're agreeing with it. There is no overlooking. You cannot overlook Trump. He is in our faces every day saying exactly what he's saying.


CUOMO: People over --

LEMON: There's no way of overlooking.

CUOMO: People will tell you all the time when they're not yelling at them in private life, I know he lies. I know he's a bad guy.


LEMON: But I hope you correct them and say you're not, there's no way you can overlook him. You can't overlook a bully.


CUOMO: No, they're saying I'm ore scared --

LEMON: A bully punches you in the face.

CUOMO: -- of what will follow him.

LEMON: I'm telling you. There are -- yes. There are more scared of what will follow him. And what will follow him, it's not Joe Biden. It's what Joe Biden represents. It is what it represents for them as a person or as a people.

CUOMO: Or cookie --

LEMON: That you no longer have --

CUOMO: -- cookie lefties and crazy blacks --

LEMON: Will you let me finish?

CUOMO: -- coming to burn down their neighborhoods.

LEMON: Will you let me finish? That you no longer have the advantage or the privilege that you have once had in this society. That's what the fear is. The fear is not Joe Biden. It's not Kamala Harris. It is what the fear is the inevitable no matter how much they fight it. It is the inevitable.

Trump may hold back what they think is going to happen for a moment. But he's not. It's AstroTurf. It's not going to happen. This country is going to move on. The more people who like me and you who will talk. The people who are in mixed inter-racial relationships. The more people who will overlook that B.S. as this country as the world continues to grow, this is not going to be the same society where the same people have a preeminent voice. It's just is what it is.

CUOMO: Well, maybe for this election.

LEMON: So, you are just prolonging the inevitable.

CUOMO: Maybe. But that's --


CUOMO: -- we're going one election at a time.


LEMON: I got to run.

CUOMO: And --

LEMON: Because I should be in segment four of the show.

CUOMO: -- there are a lot of white people who are scared. They have to -- well, do it again.

LEMON: Fear not.

CUOMO: Do it again.


LEMON: What if -- let's say, OK, let's put it this way.

CUOMO: Do it again.

LEMON: As -- if you're a Christian in society and that you believe in what Trump believes in. He says he's a Christian and whatever. Fear not. Isn't that what it says? So, don't be afraid.

CUOMO: Isn't all that the Corinthians 2 thing?

LEMON: Yes. No. Two Corinthians.

CUOMO: It no matter whatever you believe in --


LEMON: Fear not.

CUOMO: -- just keep believing. I have a power crystal on my desk.

LEMON: I'm not going there.

CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon.

LEMON: All right. You too, buddy. That was great, for us. Not for the people in my ear though, in my head.

CUOMO: But for the audience. LEMON: This is --

CUOMO: This is why they watch. I'm going.

LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'll see you. I'm Don Lemon.

Got you all stirred up on a Labor -- right after the holiday. Yes.

We have some breaking news for you on this Tuesday after Labor Day. Our breaking news a packed non-socially distanced -- another excursion into not reality. At a Trump rally, at a crowd in North Carolina tonight.

And take a look at this. Only a handful of people wearing masks at the president's rally. Not at all, coincidentally. About 15 people who are right behind him in the shot. The one in the camera, the camera has framed on, well, they've got masks. OK? But when you look at a wider shot you see just how few masks there were in the rest of the crowd. It doesn't matter to them.

You'd almost think that this pandemic was over, of course, to believe that you'd have to ignore the deaths of nearly 190,000 Americans. Like the president did tonight, eight weeks and counting until an election that will take place in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Joe Biden has consistently held the lead. But some new polling shows the race is tightening in some of those battleground states. We all thought that that was going to happen. But keep an eye on this. Some battleground states like Florida. Look at that NBC/Marist poll as Biden and Trump neck and neck.

So, it is no surprise at all that the president started out in the battleground state of Florida today. Turning an event paid for by your tax dollars. I thought about this as I was watching this today. Who is paying for this? You are.

This, what happened here sounded an awful lot like a campaign rally. You are paying for it followed by the main event in North Carolina. That non-socially distance rally full of his usual pack of lies. Claiming Mexico will pay for his promise border wall. They won't. They haven't. Little of it -- little has been built.

Claiming he built the greatest economy in the history of world. He did not. He inherited that economy from the person he is jealous of the most. And that is the former President Barack Obama and demanding that states re-open during the pandemic falsely insisting that those governors are keeping their states closed to hurt Trump politically.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We built the greatest economy in the history of the world. We were forced to close it because of the China plague that came in.


TRUMP: And now we've opened it, and by the way, your state should be opened. Your state should be opened.



LEMON: Whatever the China plague is. Not one word there about the nearly 19 190,000 of our fellow Americans dead in the pandemic. This president trying to blame the Obama/Biden administration for not protecting public health when his own neglect and incompetence has done exactly that.


TRUMP: As the last administration pursued its globalist agenda abroad, they were all over the place. They were everywhere but here in our country. They were taking care of other lands. Countries that you never heard of were taken care of. And they didn't do a good job there either. They neglected the fundamentals of public health right here in the United States. Right here in our home.


LEMON: So, here's the truth. Big old truth shot for you. The Obama administration left a pandemic plan. They passed a healthcare plan. The president dumped the pandemic plan. He's been promising and failing to deliver his own healthcare plan since he took office. Where is it? Hasn't delivered it just like the wall.

And he's allowed a deadly pandemic to ran wild while he fails to follow the most basic public health guidance at this own advance, to wear a mask and to socially distance. And then there's Donald Trump former fixer and keeper of secrets, that is Michael Cohen, reemerging with a new book. It's called "Disloyal: A Memoir." That comes out tomorrow.

I'm going to be sitting down with him in an in-depth interview that you can see right here tomorrow night. I've been reading the book weekend. By the way, it's actually really readable. It's a good read. I'm not here to sell books for him, but I would read it. I think you'll learn a lot about him and a lot more about the man we call the President of the United States.


It is no secret that the former President Barack Obama lives rent free in this president's head. And he has for a long time. Here's exhibit A, Donald Trump's years long false racist birther attacks on the president.

Trump was so obsessed that he, according to Cohen, he hired what you could call a faux-bama (ph) to appear in a video that was produce for the 2012 convention but it didn't end up being shown, a video in which Trump berates and fires his faux-bama. But the reasons that he gives for firing the fake Obama. Well, those reasons sound awfully familiar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I love the way you speak. But talk is cheap. We've got to get

results. Without results it all doesn't matter. There's no reason for keeping important information away from people that hired you. Frankly, it makes us worry whether or not we can trust you at all.



TRUMP: There are fewer people working today than when you took office. And certainly, that is a change. So, you are right about that. You have run up almost as much debt as every other president combined. I know, I know it wasn't your fault. It's never anybody's fault. You've inherited it. Right?

The bottom line is we want results. China and virtually every other country throughout the world is laughing at us. They take advantage of us. They think we're run by a bunch of fools.


LEMON: Gosh, it sounds like he's lecturing himself. Maybe the person sitting in the -- maybe it's a mirror in the other seat. Talk is cheap. Because, again, these are the facts. Fewer people working today than when you took office. You have run up so much debt. Every country is laughing at us. They think we are run by a bunch of fools.

Every one of those things is true of Donald Trump today. Eight years later, the facts. And nothing but.

So, the president tonight encouraging his supporters in North Carolina to cast two ballots. What's he really up to with all of this? CNN's Kaitlan Collins is here, next.



LEMON: The President of the United States tonight encouraging his supporters in North Carolina to vote twice even after the uproar when he said it last week. I want to bring in now CNN's White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Standing by as I go back and forth with my colleague Chris Cuomo.

Kaitlan, thank you for your patience. Good to see you. So, the president is down in North Carolina tonight, and he is once again encouraging his supporters to cast two ballots. What is going on here?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, despite the pushback we saw from state officials even from Republicans saying do not go and try to vote twice, the president is continuing up with this encouragement for his voters, explaining it once again tonight in North Carolina, the state where he first made these remarks.

Where he is basically telling people if they fill out an absentee ballot, they should also go to the polling place on election day to check to make sure their vote is counted. And of course, that can cause complications in states where they don't start counting those votes until election day. So, you wouldn't necessarily know.

And then there are other states like in North Carolina even where you can track your absentee ballot to make sure it's been received by the county office. And of course, election officials in North Carolina have said do not go to the polling place on election day because that really just defeats the purpose of voting by mail, which is to prevent you from being in these long lines and potentially spreading COVID-19. And that's really part of their entire effort here and the president's argument is really disrupting that they say.

LEMON: Kaitlan, listen, you know, we have been talking about this Atlantic story. But three Trump advisers are telling CNN that they think the Atlantic story is losing punch unless the sources go public.

But you're reporting that President Trump was visibly distressed over the fallout from the story that alleged he disparaged war dead. What do you know about that?

COLLINS: Yes. It's a story that resonated with the president and something that we are told he spent a good portion of the weekend talking about. Leading up to that Labor Day press conference where he made the comment saying that he believed top Pentagon leaders are beholden to defense contractors.

And basically, the concern over all was that the president was worried that it could erode his support with the military. And the reason he made that comment on Monday in part I was told, is because he didn't feel like enough senior people at the Pentagon were speaking out in his defense after that Atlantic story came out.

And that's what led him to make that insult saying basically that they're in the pockets of these defense contractors and that's why they want to start all of these wars. Now, of course, the chief of staff tried to clean that up, say that he was not talking about the defense secretary. Though, of course it's notable the defense secretary is a former top lobbyist for Raytheon, which is one of the biggest defense contractors in the world.

But, Don, we're going to be getting some more news on this tomorrow. Because we were just told by a senior administration official that the president is expected to announce a further troop draw down in Iraq tomorrow, another one in the coming days on Afghanistan. And both of these moves have been in the making for a while now. We've been talking about it. The president has even talked about it in interviews.

But it's notable that it's coming tomorrow and that the other announcement could come this week because it comes after the fall out from the story and the president being worried about his support.

LEMON: He's got a new line of attack I understand against vice president -- vice president -- excuse me, vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris. He said if she got the job it would be an insult to our country? What's up with that?

COLLINS: Yes. This is a remark he made today while he was talking about what would happen if she was -- if Biden was elected and she became president ultimately. And he was saying he wants to see a woman president but it shouldn't be her. He said she would be an insult to our country. And of course, he did not elaborate on that, Don. But I think most people can assume what the president is saying when he is making that comment.


And this comes as he has struggled to land any kind of line of attack on Senator Kamala Harris. Something that he's been trying to do ever since Joe Biden did picked her as his running mate. And now he is saying that if she became president eventually someday that it would be an insult to the United States.

LEMON: So, he goes for the least common denominators and then he relies on the media to spread his venom. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: I mean, that's the president at this rally tonight. You're seeing him ramp up these stops that he's making. He did two today. He said he's going to start doing this more. And this is coming, you know, this part of the campaign where the president is worried about what his numbers look like. So he's going after the people and personal terms.

We saw it in 2016 how he did it even during the Republican primaries. And now the president is trying to land this line of attack on Senator Kamala Harris. Though we should note, remember in about a month from now we've got that vice-presidential debate with her and the Vice President Mike Pence.

And we are told that Mike Pence is already started debate prep for that. About six weeks out he started debate prep. Getting ready because he is going to be on the stage with her and the Trump campaign is not really sure what that's going to look like.

LEMON: Interesting. Thank you, Kaitlan. I appreciate that, always a struggle here. Should we amplify the bigotry. You saw the pictures that packed Trump rally in North Carolina tonight. No social distancing. Some people not wearing masks. Is it a potential super- spreader event? Is that a question? Dr. Reiner, Dr. Jonathan Reiner is next.



LEMON: Tonight, the death toll in the United States from coronavirus is nearing 190,000. More than 6.3 million Americans have contracted the virus. President Trump holding a big crowded campaign rally in North Carolina tonight, very little social distancing, very few people wearing masks.

I want to bring in now CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner. Doctor, thank you for joining. So, I asked you, I said is it a super spreader event? Was that really a question? Is it?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: No, no. I mean, this is a pandemic, you can't just put people shoulder to shoulder and expect that nothing is going to happen. The president likes, you know, to put on this tough guy facade whereof in purpose that the virus doesn't affect him. And then he likes this tableau behind him of unmasked people who follow along, but when I see that it really makes me sad because what you are really seeing our lemmings heading for the cliff.

We know that -- if you -- there's actually this interesting online tool from Georgia tech that enables you to estimate in any county in the United States in a crowd of any size what the likelihood is that there will be at least one person, one COVID positive person in the crowd.

So, if you look at Forsyth County in North Carolina where the president was this evening and with a crowd that size there's a 99 percent chance that someone in that crowd is COVID positive. So there -- it can be a super spreader event like the Sturgis event. If you look a week out from Sturgis, the number of cases in South Dakota skyrocketed. The curve is vertical.


REINER: So. But the president has this blatant disregard for the welfare of his supporters. We've seen it time and time again.

LEMON: It's good that they're outdoors, that helps. It's hot and humid, and I'm sure that helps. But they're all yelling and we know when you yell you project and those particles, right, they -- it spreads further.

But let me -- I want to ask you about this because everyone wants to know what's going -- when there is going to be a vaccine. AstraZeneca is pausing their vaccine trials globally after an unexplained illness in one of their U.K. patients. How concerning is this?

REINER: I don't think it's concerning at all. I think that's due diligence. That's what you want to hear. I'd be concerned if they had an illness that they did not stop the trial for. So, they're doing their due diligence. You want to see this. This is how the system is support to work.

We -- it's desperate that we have a vaccine that not just works but it's also safe. We're going to vaccinate, you know, in this country, 330 million well people, so you can't give them something that's got to make them sick. Even a very small percentage of side effects is magnified to a lot of folks when you give it to 330 million people.

It's very interesting. You know, the statement that the pharmaceutical companies, the non-pharmaceutical companies came out with, you know, they hit the right notes. You know, they say that the FDA should maintain their historic independence and they say that political considerations should be put aside.

That's what we want to hear. So, I'm not worried about the AstraZeneca trial being put on hold. Let's see if we see this in more numbers. You know, we need to know that vaccines are safe, that's why we do the trials.


REINER: So, we'll see.

LEMON: Yes. It's interesting because now I see the Trump apologist on TV now making a talking point out of people saying listen, we should just, we need to proceed with caution when it comes to vaccines. And now they are saying well Democrats are downplaying and talking down a potential vaccine, and I've only heard people say we want a vaccine as quickly as possible, but we want it to be as safe as possible and somehow that has turned into Democrats don't want a vaccine and that they're talking down a potential vaccine.

I've got to -- before I lose time, though, before we run out of time, I want to ask you about this. There is a new report half a million children in this country have been diagnosed with coronavirus. That is according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.


This is between August 20th and September 3rd there was a 16 percent increase in new child cases. What does this mean? I mean, children are going back to school right now in person and hybrid learning. What does this mean for that?

REINER: Well, we're going to find out. If you think about, the people who are probably most sheltered over the last six months were the little kids. All right. The people who can't get in their car and can't, you know, go to Trump rallies. The kids really have been mostly at home. So now we are exposing them to other kids in the community. And now we are going to see how quickly the virus spreads in them.

It's scary, and these are difficult times for parents. Everyone wants their kids in school. You know, the desire to put your kids back in school and open school is real and valid. No one needs to explain why we want kids back in school. But kids are going to get infected and now we're going to learn how many kids get infected, and we're really going to learn the health impacts because it's a real-life laboratory. It's concerning and everyone's eyes are wide open to this.

LEMON: Yes. And everyone will be watching closely. Thank you, Dr. Reiner. I'll see you soon. I appreciate it.

REINER: My pleasure, Don.

LEMON: We've heard it time and time again Trump aides thinking that they are the adults in the room there to keep the president in line but then they can't. Michael Schmidt is here with his in-depth reporting about the, quote, "struggle to stop a president."



LEMON: President Trump tonight denying a report that first appeared in the Atlantic, one that quotes him as calling American war dead suckers and losers.


TRUMP: You know they make this stuff up. They make it up. They make stuff, it's called disinformation. They give a phony deal out. They did it two days ago with the military. Nobody loves the military more than me.


LEMON: Remember, everything he accuses someone else of he's doing himself. Remember that. Three Trump campaign advisers now telling CNN that they think the Atlantic story will lose its punch unless the sources behind it go public.

Joining me is Mr. Michael Schmidt, New York Times correspondent and author of "Donald Trump versus the United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President." Good to see you, Michael. Thank you for joining.


LEMON: So let's talk about what CNN is learning. That the president -- you probably heard me with Kaitlin Collins a moment ago, the president is visibly distressed or the fallout from the Atlantic report but these advisers seem to be banking on the story dying out.

The former chief-of-chief, John Kelly, has been silent on the Atlantic. You have reporting about Kelly in your book. So, talk to us about these men and their relationship.

SCHMIDT: Well, for much of American history we've looked at how presidents have used their power and what that means about the president and the time and the people around them. But with Donald Trump there is something very different then that's gone on and that's that the people around the president have tried to contain him.

And that's what I write about in the book, that unusual phenomenon that we've rarely seen in history where people see themselves standing between the president and the abyss. And what we tried to do in the book is allow you to be one of those people. To be a Jim Comey, to be a Don McGahn, and to see like, what it's like to stand up to a president. To try and stop a president from doing something that could harm the president, that could harm the country, that could harm the office that the president holds.

LEMON: Michael, if I will -- if you may, I want to get your response to this breaking news that we have tonight about the Justice Department asking to take over the defense of the president in his defamation lawsuit from E. Jean Carroll who accused him of sexual assaulting her in the 1990s, an accusation that he denies. Is main justice essentially the Trump legal team at this point? Is this unorthodox, unheard of, unusual, normal? What's going on here?

SCHMIDT: Well, as I write about in the book the president has been on a journey throughout his time in office to find his Roy Cohn, someone that will do the bidding that he wants to do. He has openly said that he believes his attorney general is essentially a lawyer who works for him. And in this case, we are seeing some of that.

Bill Barr is everything that Donald Trump has wanted. He wanted -- he was very upset obviously with Jeff Sessions for Sessions is stepping aside from the Russia investigation, he wants a loyalty from Comey. As I report in the book, he wanted John Kelly to become the FBI director and asked Kelly to give him his loyalty and Kelly refused to do that.

But in Bill Barr the president has found that person he was looking for. The president would complain in the first few years of the presidency where is my Roy Cohn? Where is that fixer? And he saw the people that work in the government as fixers for him.

LEMON: Interesting. I think he had one probably in Michael Cohen, you see what that -- how that worked out. Intel officials, Michael, are warning that Russia is once again working to push disinformation in this election. And now we have a president who is sowing doubt in the election process by attacking mail-in voting. Are we dealing with election interference that's not just from abroad but also from within now?

SCHMIDT: Well, I think at a more fundamental level the country has never reckoned with the fact that 2016 was one of the greatest intelligence failures since September 11th. And as I lay out in the book a lot has not been done to respond to it. There has not been some commission of Republicans and Democrats coming together with best practices about how to deal with this problem.


So, we're coming back into this election not really on that much different footing than we were in 2016 and someone argued in a worst place because of the president's rhetoric. As I write in the book, the FBI did not have a grasp at all on the depth and breadth of what was going on during the 2016 election, the social media, the disinformation. These are only things they were able to figure out after the fact. And as we come in, I don't think there's great examples of the government retooling itself to learn how to confront such an asymmetrical threat.

LEMON: Michael Schmidt is our guest. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.

SCHMIDT: Thanks for having me.

LEMON: The book is again is "Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President."

And the president's former lawyer and fixer warning he'll do anything to win. More from Michael Cohen tomorrow with me right here on this show at 10 p.m. Eastern. Make sure you tune in. And next, what's the biggest threat to the U.S. right now? What is it?

According to draft documents from the Department of Homeland Security, it's white supremacy. We'll get more from a former DHS senior domestic analyst, next.



LEMON: White supremacists will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the United States through 2021, and that's according to the Department of Homeland Security draft documents. The most recent draft report predicts an elevated threat environment at least through early next year. Concluding that some U.S.-based violent extremists have capitalized on an increased social and political tensions in 2020.

I know from experience that a lot of time when you call this out it's not a message that people really want to hear. Another man who knows that is my next guest. His name is Daryl Johnson. He is a former senior domestic analyst at DHS and the author of "Hateland: A Long, Hard Look at America's Extremist Heart."

Daryl, I'm so glad you're here. Thank you so much. As I said, it's tough. People don't want to hear this and then they find ways in mind to, you know, sort of point to something else. But I'm glad you're here to give folks the real news.

So, you sounded the alarm about white supremacists when you were at homeland security. You turned out to be ahead of the curve. So, talk to me about the nature of white supremacists' threat. What kind of terror tactics are we talking about here?

DARYL JOHNSON, FORMER SENIOR DOMESTIC TERRORISM ANALYST, DHS: Yes. So, the primary terrorist tactics by white supremacists is firearms, mass shootings. They also use arson as a violent crime and occasionally bombings.

LEMON: Yes. Michael, are you there? I just want to make sure. I think we lost you just for a moment. Daryl. Excuse me. I just had Michael Schmidt. Daryl, are you there?

JOHNSON: Yes, I'm here. So, the primary tactics of white supremacists is mass shootings, arson attacks, and bombings.

LEMON: So, this report also says that since 2018 they, meaning white supremacists, have conducted more attacks in the U.S. than any other domestic violent extremist movement.

So based on your time, Daryl, at DHS, is the government taking this threat seriously enough? Because this president has declined to criticize some of them even when they were carrying torches and talk about blood in soil.


JOHNSON: It hasn't taken it serious enough. Yes, they haven't taken it serious enough. And it's only until recently that we started seeing the FBI and the Department of Justice getting onboard and starting to crack down on some of these groups. So, I'm pleased to see that homeland security has acknowledged the threat from white supremacy and I hope that this strategic document gets disseminated to those who need it.

LEMON: So, what more should the Trump administration be doing right now?

JOHNSON: Well, we need training. We need more analysts and officers dedicated to this threat much like they have resources for Al Qaeda and ISIS. We need it just as many analysts and officers working white supremacist group.

LEMON: Benjamin Wittes who runs a web site Lawfare released three different draft versions of the document. I want you to take a look at this. And this is the earliest version of the document reads, white supremacists, extremists presenting the most lethal threat. But in later versions of the document that is replace with -- that is replace with domestic violent extremists.

Wittes told CNN that he thought the change was notable as a reflection of the political pressure they are under. Would politics s play into the writing of a report like this?

JOHNSON: Unfortunately, Don, it does. It's not supposed to (AUDIO GAP). This is supposed to be free of any type of politicization or political pressure. So, the reason why they diverted to the term domestic violent extremist is they're trying to get rid of the white supremacist's ideological component to the violence.

LEMON: And why would they be doing that?

JOHNSON: Again, for political reasons. I mean, you know, ideology is at the heart of motivation for these extremist groups so why not call it out for what it is?

LEMON: True. Listen, for, as much as this president downplays a threat from white supremacists, he loves to fear monger about antifa even claiming that he would designate them as a terrorist organization earlier in the year. Is there any comparison?


JOHNSON: Historically no. We are in a time period where the far-right is thriving and they are operationally active right now. (AUDIO GAP). The far-left is arming itself and more active but still white supremacy is the top domestic terrorist threat.

LEMON: Daryl Johnson, thank you for your time. I appreciate you coming. We'll see you back here on this program again. Thanks.

JOHNSON: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Next, something the president said tonight, well, it made me think that at least at some level he knows he is not in as strong a position as he claims. I'm going to play that for you, next hour.


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

The countdown to election day is on. No less than two months to go now. President Trump holding a campaign rally tonight in North Carolina. His third visit to that important state in the last few weeks.


But in spite of the coronavirus pandemic and a mask requirement in North Carolina, very few people in the crowd wore masks.