Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

President Trump Faces Tough Questions From Voters On Pandemic, Health Care, Policing And Race; President Trump On Coronavirus: I Didn't Downplay It; Fact-Checking The President's Town Hall Tonight; President Trump Still Claiming Virus Will Disappear; Trump Challenged At Town Hall: Voter Asks "When Was America Great For African- Americans?"; Hurricane Sally Continuing Slow Crawl Towards Gulf Coast. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 15, 2020 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[23:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. It's 11:00 p.m. here on the East Coast. 49 days until Election Day and we're following these breaking news stories for you, stories that could impact how Americans cast their votes in the 2020 election.

President Trump completely contradicting himself tonight on his handling of the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Now claiming that he, quote, "up played the virus in terms of his actions," despite telling journalist Bob Woodward that he downplayed COVID-19 so as not to create a panic in the country, and claiming, again tonight, that the virus is going to disappear.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will go away without the vaccine, George, but it's going to go away a lot faster --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will go away without the vaccine?

TRUMP: Sure, over a period of time. Sure with time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With many deaths.

TRUMP: And you'll develop, like, a herd mentality. It's going to be -- it's going it be herd developed and that's going to happen. That will all happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Herd mentality and herd development. OK, whatever that means. Also listen to his exchange with Bob Woodward about how the president views his role during the pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Was there a moment in all of this last two months where you said to yourself, you know, you're waking up or you're, you know, whatever you're doing and you say, ah, this is the leadership test of a lifetime.

TRUMP: No.

WOODWARD: No?

TRUMP: I think it might be, but I don't think that. All I want to do is get it solved. There are many people that said that to me. They said, you're now a wartime president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who said that first to you?

TRUMP: Many people have said that.

WOODWARD: Well, help me. Make it -- I'd like to make it concrete.

TRUMP: I don't like to sit back and think about that kind of thing.

WOODWARD: Why?

TRUMP: Because I don't have that much time to think about it, Bob. I'm busy as hell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, here's what the president said back in March about being a wartime leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm really happy with the job we're doing, and I'm glad that this team and me are here for this horrible thing. I mean, it's -- a number of people have said it, but, and I feel it, actually, I'm a wartime president. This is a war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: At a town hall tonight the president was challenged about what the phrase, make America great means to black Americans and whether he feels there's a race problem in this country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under your administration, under the Obama administration, under the Bush, under the Clinton, the very same things happened in the very same systems, the cycles continue to ensue and we need to see -- because you say, again.

We need to see when that was great because that pushes us back to a time in which we cannot identify with such greatness. And I mean you said everything else about choking and everything else, but you have yet to address and acknowledge that there's been a race problem in America.

TRUMP: So if you go -- well, I hope there's not a race problem. I can tell you, there's none with me because I have great respect for all races, for everyone. This country is great because of it. But when you go back six months and you take a look at what was happening, you can't even compare that with past administrations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Never answered the question. We are fact checking what he said at the town hall. That happened just over an hour ago. We're going to continue to do that for you, fact check what he said at that town hall over an hour ago.

And while President Trump shrugs off the impacts of the climate crisis on America's environment, hurricane Sally battering the Gulf Coast, especially Alabama and Florida with heavy winds and drenching rains. Sally moving very slowly, only 2 miles per hour.

That could cause historic life-threatening flooding. We're going to go live to both Alabama and Florida in the hour ahead. So make sure you stay tuned. We have a big show for you this hour.

Joining me now, CNN White House Correspondent, John Harwood and our resident fact checker Daniel Dale who no doubt has been very busy this evening, so just to give him a moment to even just do some last-minute checking, I'm going to start with John. So, John, tonight's ABC town hall, the president, he had to face serious questions from voters. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm conservative, pro-life and diabetic. I have had to dodge people who don't care about social distancing and wearing face masks. I thought you were doing a good job with the pandemic response until about May 1st then you took your foot off the gas pedal. Why did you throw vulnerable people like me under the bus?

TRUMP: Well, we really didn't, Paul. We've worked very hard on the pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why don't you support a mandate for national mask wearing and why don't you wear a mask more often?

[23:05:04]

TRUMP: Well, I do wear them when I have to and when I'm in hospitals and other locations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, you said everything else about choking and everything else but have yet to address and acknowledge there's been a race problem in America.

TRUMP: So if you go -- well, I hope there's not a race problem. I can tell you, there's none with me because I have great respect for all races, for everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should pre-existing conditions which Obamacare brought into -- brought to fruition, be removed? TRUMP: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Without -- please stop and let me finish my question, sir. Should that be removed within a 36 to 72-hour period without my medication, I will be dead and I want to know what it is that you're going to do to assure that people like me who work hard, we do everything we're supposed to do, can stay insured.

It's not my fault that I was born with this disease. It's not my fault that I'm a black woman and in the medical community I'm minimized and not taken seriously. I want to know what you are going to do about that.

TRUMP: So, first of all, I hope you are taken seriously. I hope you are. And we are not going to hurt anything having to do with pre- existing conditions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. There's a lot there, so, listen, John, the president has been limited to his cheering supporters at rallies and then, you know, sometimes a press corps who he can mostly bully around or walk away when he doesn't want to answer a question but tonight he had to face reality.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did, and he's not very good at coping with it. What we see is he's not really capable of intellectually addressing serious questions. And so the value of exchanges like that is to have people put the questions directly to him and then see the president not really be able to engage with them.

What's the consistent message we've gotten from former top aides, from family members, from Bob Woodward in the conclusion of his book, Donald Trump is not up to the job and he keeps showing that. On pre- existing conditions, for example, pure nonsense that he offered on health care. He kept talking about how we have a plan. He's been talking about having a plan for a very long time. Two weeks, three weeks from now, never comes.

Talks about, well, I essentially ended Obamacare. No, he didn't. But he is trying to end it through the court system. And then he says, well, we're going to protect pre-existing conditions. No, he's not going to protect pre-existing conditions because to protect pre- existing conditions, you need a mandate to get everybody into the health care system to share the risk.

That's how you make it inexpensive enough for people with pre-existing conditions to be able to buy on even terms. He -- he cannot accept, confront, engage, with those ideas and so, he just kind of babbles.

LEMON: Daniel, let me bring you in because you've been busy fact checking this town hall. What stood out to you?

DANIEL DALE, CNN FACT CHECKER: There was just so much lying, Don. I'm going to go quickly here. He said literally to stop me whenever you need to. He said again, Democrats won't protect people with pre- existing conditions. That is nonsense, as a voter told him, Democrats created those protections.

He insisted he didn't praise China on the virus. He did so repeatedly. We know that. He claimed that nobody knew at the time he was praising China that seniors were especially susceptible to the virus. That's one of the first things we learned out of China, and out of Italy, and the U.S.

He claimed Biden said in March that the pandemic was, quotes, totally over exaggerated. I can find no evidence that Biden ever said that. He said at Winston Churchill was kind of like him playing down stuff because he went on rooftops in London during the Nazi bombing and told people everything is going to be good. Churchill did not speak from the rooftops and did not say everything was going to be good. He warn of suffering and danger.

Trump said that he fired James Mattis, Mattis resigned. He said that protesters took over 20 percent of Seattle, it was a six block area. Nowhere close to 20 percent. He took credit again for sending in the National Guard in Minneapolis saying this happened after a week and a half of violence there.

It was not even close to a week and a half. It was days and the Democratic Governor is the one who activated the guard. He said he essentially repealed Obamacare by getting rid of individual mandate, not even close to true with the Medicaid expansion, pre-existing conditions protections, other stuff remains.

He said the coverage were empty of ventilators. His administration admits he inherited about 16,000 from Obama. He did his usual false boast about so-called bans on travel from China and Europe. They were not complete bans. He said stocks are owned by, quote, everybody. Just about half of Americans own stocks. He repeated his nonsense about testing causing cases, testing merely reveals and helps fight cases. He said that Biden has agreed to a Bernie Sanders style of socialized health care.

He fought Sanders on that issue. He has very much not agreed to a Sanders-style plan. And, Don, this is a preliminary list. I have hours of fact checking tonight to do because there's even more than this. So this was just a firehose of lying, again, from the president.

LEMON: Do you need a drink of water?

DALE: Yes. I think I'm (inaudible) on my camera here, I apologize to the viewers.

[23:10:03]

LEMON: It was like just went an hour, about an hour and a half town hall and --

DALE: Yes, like, every -- like every other line --

LEMON: Oh, my gosh.

DALE: Like every other line was false or misleading. It was crazy. LEMON: OK. And then -- well, let's talk about what he said about

crime. Listen to what the president said about crime tonight. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If you're going to stop crime, we have to give the -- the respect back to the police that they deserve. They've done a fantastic job in so many locations but then bad things happen. Look at New York. New York was a very safe city. Rudy Giuliani did a fantastic job. The city was safe and then all of a sudden we have a mayor, he starts cutting the police force and crime is up 100 percent, 150 percent. I saw one form of crime up 300 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What are the facts, Daniel?

DALE: So, there have been spikes in certain kinds of crime in New York City this year, particularly shootings where there's been a more than 100 percent increase. Not a 300 percent increase, but substantial. The thing to remember, though, is that crime has fallen hugely since even Giuliani's final year. So, Guiliani presided over decrease, then there's been a subsequent big decrease.

So, last year in 2019 there were fewer than half the murders under Bill de Blasio than in were in the last year of Giuliani, so, yes, this year has been an increase. But the city is still way safer than it was in Giuliani's last year in 2001.

LEMON: Well, there you go, don't let facts get in the way of a good story. So, John, let's -- I want to play another moment from the town hall where the president addressed a potential stimulus package. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: What they want is a bailout of Democrat-run states that are doing poorly and, you know, I don't think this is the right --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you keep talking about Democrat states?

TRUMP: They are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're American states and American --

TRUMP: Democrat-run states are the ones that are doing badly, George. If you look at New York, if you look at Illinois, if you look at a lot of different places, they're doing poorly. And cities, in particular, cities, I mean, these cities are being run so poorly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you have a responsibility for those states and cities as well?

(CROSSTALK) TRUMP: Largely because of the crime. They don't want to do anything

about crime. Sanctuary cities, they have sanctuary cities where they're protecting criminals. They have things that the Republicans don't have. So they are, I mean, I don't want to say -- look, I'm the president of everybody, but I don't want to say it, but they're Democrat-run cities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, is he the president or is he not? Does he represent the people in all of America? I mean, does he not get what it means to be president?

HARWOOD: Donald Trump represents himself. We've seen and we talked about this last night, a consistent of pattern with the president is he is focused on himself, his own wellbeing, politically, financially, his ego, otherwise.

So, he is trying to slough off the responsibility for dealing with those cities by ascribing their problems to Democrats. The cities and states that Democrats are trying to help in the stimulus relief legislation is to make up the collapse in revenues they suffered when the economy shut down. The federal government suffered similar revenues, but the federal government can run huge deficits and we are running huge deficits right now.

States cannot do that. They need money to provide services and so he is not willing to confront Republicans in Congress, push them to make a compromise with Democrats and so he is -- he's basically saying, well, this is all the fault of Democrats.

That's not really the case that most big cities are run by Democrats, but the problem that the Congress is trying to address right now is the collapse in revenue generated by the COVID shutdowns and that the COVID shutdowns are something that he has failed to control when -- bring into line.

LEMON: Of course, it's going to affect more people and because there are more people in urban areas, which tend to be Democratic. Right? So, listen, John, I want to get this in, if you can move quickly on it, I would really appreciate it because we got a lot of show to get to. Daniel had a lot of fact checking here. We're going to get -- I want to play -- we're getting some more new recordings from the president's interview with Bob Woodward. This is from July 21st. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Oh, people don't want me to see --

WOODWARD: No, no, but if you succeed, they succeed.

TRUMP: Even the rhinos don't want me to succeed. They'll end up with a Supreme Court and lots of things that they're not going to be too happy with.

WOODWARD: Yes, you know --

TRUMP: I have opposition like nobody has. And that's OK. I've had that all my life. I've always had it. If this has been -- my whole life has been like this. In the meantime right now, I'm looking at the White House, OK? I'm staring right at the walls of the White House. I was unlucky with the virus because it came in and (inaudible) with me --

WOODWARD: Sure.

TRUMP: -- or anybody else --

WOODWARD: But you got it, you got it. The country's got it. And the world's got it. But you're in charge of this country. And you know --

[23:15:07]

TRUMP: We've done better than any other country, just about done better than any other country in handling it and it's a bigger, more diverse, more difficult country and we've done better than -- other than with the press, other than with the press, I've done a great job. With the press, I can't do a good job because it's fake. It's fake news.

WOODWARD: Well, but --

TRUMP: It's a fake group of people and you know it and you won't write it.

WOODWARD: OK, are you good --

TRUMP: You are better than things, Bob --

WOODWARD: Are you going to acknowledge that in the last six, seven, months you made some mistakes in judgment on the virus?

TRUMP: I'll see how it all turns out. Let's see how it all turns out. I took a big chance on vaccines. I upped the program. You wouldn't be looking at vaccines for three years. We're looking at them next week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I mean, it sounds like paranoia just, I mean, look, Woodward is trying to engage him on coronavirus and leadership, but the president is consumed with his grievances that everyone is out to get him.

HARWOOD: He can't cope with his own failures, Don. What we're seeing is that the president sees himself as the victim of coronavirus. Himself as the victim of coverage of the problems with the coronavirus. Rather than thinking of himself as the person in charge of the country, the person responsible for dealing with the country.

He calls the news fake. Of course, the news is not fake. He doesn't like the news because the news is exposing problems with his administration. And that sense of grievance propels him and drives him and it's constantly in his mind but it doesn't do the American people much good. LEMON: Thank you, both. I appreciate it. Daniel, get some rest. We'll

see you both soon.

DALE: I'll try, thanks, Don.

LEMON: So let's talk about this a bit more. Dr. Jonathan Reiner is here, he is the director of C ersity Hospital. Doctor, thank you for joining us again. I want you to take ardiac Catheterization Program at George Washington Univ a listen to what the president said about the coronavirus tonight. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It is going away, and it's probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccine.

TRUMP: It will go away without a vaccine, George. But it's going to go away a lot faster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would go away without the vaccine?

TRUMP: Sure, over a period of time. Sure with time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With many deaths.

TRUMP: And you'll develop a herd like a herd mentality. It's going to be herd developed. And that's going to happen. That will all happen, but with a vaccine, I think it will go away very quickly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Listen, I'm assuming this was a misstatement and he's always highlighting, you know, if Joe Biden misspeaks. OK. What is herd mentality and herd development?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes, so I think he was -- what he was trying to get to is the concept of herd immunity.

LEMON: OK.

REINER: And what's disturbing about that, besides the fact that to get to herd immunity, we would need 60 percent to 70 percent of the population to actually acquire the virus which would mean at best-case scenario one to two million people dead. Well, what's really disturbing beyond the horrible death count is that he's parroting Scott Atlas.

That Scott Atlas' tune. Herd immunity. He doesn't get that from Tony Fauci or Deborah Birx. Scott Atlas, who went with him to California? Scott Atlas. That's who has his ear now, the guy who advocates for opening schools, let kids get sick, let them spread the virus around. He testified to this before a Senate committee hearing in May. And that's what the president parrots now. That's actually really creepy to me.

LEMON: Yes, but that is a thing among Trump supporters. They -- that whole --

REINER: Yes.

LEMON: -- they don't know the facts when it comes to herd immunity. They just don't really get it and understand it. They think it's something different than what it is. The president also addressed --

REINER: Have they have heard a herd mentality.

LEMON: So maybe it's a thing with them. They do have a herd mentality.

REINER: Right.

LEMON: Thank you for that. Thanks for explaining it. Masks. Here it is.

REINER: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Now, there is, by the way, a lot of people don't want to wear masks. There are a lot of people think that masks are not good. And there are a lot of people that as an example --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who are those people?

TRUMP: I'll tell you who those people are. Waiters. They come over and they serve you and they have a mask. And I saw it the other day where they were serving me and they're playing with a mask. I'm not blaming them. I'm just saying what happens. They're playing with the mask so the mask is over and they're touching it and then they're touching the plate. That can't be good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, OK, go on. This is not a way to conduct public policy.

REINER: No. I mean, this -- there's no one that thinks a mask is, you know, is a bad idea. Waiters don't think masks are bad ideas. Look, the president never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to reinforce the importance of masks.

[23:20:04]

You know, he always looks for something to say that somehow casts some doubt to the efficacy of this. And it's so foolish. This was his ticket to a re-election. Getting the country to mask up, keeping the death count down. That's all he had to say. But yet, still, he can't get over himself. It's mind-boggling. Psychiatrists will debate this for years.

LEMON: Doctor, thank you, I appreciate it.

REINER: My pleasure, Don.

LEMON: Make sure you tune in, Joe Biden takes questions in a special CNN presidential town hall. It's going to be live from Pennsylvania. Thursday night, 8:00 p.m., only here on CNN.

We're going to go live to the storm zone as hurricane Sally takes aim at the Gulf Coast.

Plus, his life has never been the same since this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Look at my African-American over here. Look at him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: The man Trump pointed out as his African-American responds to the president's comments on race. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:25:00]

LEMON: The president ramping up the rallies in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic but who can forget this moment from the 2016 campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Look at my African-American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest? You know what I'm talking about?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, that man was Gregory Cheadle and now he says his life hasn't been the same since. He says he has lost friends, had to go into hiding and even had his love life disrupted by Trump's infamous shout-out. Gregory Cheadle joins me now. I'm sorry that all that happened to you, I really am. But I want to thank you for joining us this evening. And I hope --

GREGORY CHEADLE, MAN TRUMP POINTED OUT AS MY AFRICAN-AMERICAN AT 2016 RALLY: Thank you for having me, Don. It's so good to be here and see you again.

LEMON: It's good to see you again. So let's talk about some of the comments that you just heard from the president tonight about race and about black people. But at first I want to hear from you about what your life has been like since that comment and what has changed for you.

CHEADLE: I mean, basically, I love my anonymity and now I really don't have that, so in order to get it I have to just keep a very low profile. Those who know me and those who know of me tend to give me a headache sometimes because all the conversations tend to center around either that event or some aspect of Trump or whatever. And my life is far more than Trump. And so those are the things that have changed, you know, I like my privacy. I don't have that much anymore. And I tried to get it back. LEMON: You know, something just happened in the town hall with

President Trump when he was asked when has America been great for African-Americans. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You coined the phrase, make America great again.

TRUMP: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When has America been great for forever African- Americans in the ghetto of America? Are you aware how tone deaf that comes off to the African-American community?

TRUMP: Well, I can say this. We have tremendous African-American support. You've probably seen it in the polls. We're doing extremely well with African-American, Hispanic-American, at levels that you've rarely seen a Republican have.

If you talk about make America great, if you look at just prior to -- and I'm talking about for the black community -- you look just prior to this horrible situation coming in from China, when the virus came in, that was probably the highest point, home ownership for the black community, home ownership, lower crime, the best jobs they've ever had, highest income. The best employment numbers they've ever had.

If you go back and you want to look over many years, you could just go back six or seven months from now, that was the best single moment in the history of the African-American people in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What do you think of that answer?

CHEADLE: Not much. You know, what he's getting at is -- what he is refusing to get at, actually, is that America is a racist country. America was built on the white -- what I call the white superiority complex, when Lincoln and Douglass had the debate, Douglass said this is a white country and white people should make the rules. That's what they've done.

You know, white people, they make the laws. They make laws that absolve themselves of wrongdoing, they make laws to enrich themselves and they make laws to retain power no matter what. And with respect to Trump's unemployment numbers, you know, that's interesting because when you look at it realistically, what happened was black female unemployment dropped but black male unemployment went up.

But even beyond that, how in the world can black people be satisfied with an unemployment number that is double that of whites? If whites have the unemployment numbers that blacks had then you would have no shortage of funds coming out of Washington, D.C., and the state level to correct that.

But for some reason, we're content to say that we have the lowest unemployment numbers and the thing is also that only lasted for maybe a nanosecond. So we're back to where we were before.

LEMON: Well, and also remember the biggest drop came during the Obama administration, who went into the office with -- during the great recession. So, you know, he was -- he inherited some really good jobs numbers. Listen, I want to -- let's talk about you no longer support President Trump, but you also say you're skeptical of Democrats and haven't decided who to vote for in November. At this --

CHEADLE: Right.

LEMON: You know what, most people I hear say, I mean, come on, who's undecided at this moment, Gregory? But why is that? Why are you undecided?

CHEADLE: Well, I'm undecided because I have yet to hear from both camps. You know, starting next week I'll be sending out what I want from both camps and whoever responds best wins. But here's the thing.

[23:29:59]

You know, for black people, it's a no-win situation, you know, because again of the white superiority complex. Donald Trump is not going to lose the white vote for the black vote. And Biden, you know, Biden -- the good news about Biden is that he has Harris as his V.P., and that's where I would be leaning if I were to vote a Democrat. I'm also looking at the libertarian parties, as well.

And so I am undecided. I want to take my time. I want to see who's going to do the best for black people because black people need so much help because we have been screwed historically in this country --

LEMON: OK. Just --

CHEADLE: -- from day one.

LEMON: OK. Listen. I got to -- I've got to move on because I have someone very important on the other side of the break. Just as important as you are because --

CHEADLE: Thank you for saying that.

LEMON: No, no, no. I just want to explain it because you said by African-American but it's actually the person who questioned the president tonight. I want to make sure that I at least have some time for him. But I want to also understand when you said that you're not supporting President Trump, right?

CHEADLE: Right.

LEMON: But yet you're undecided and you're possibly going to vote libertarian. You haven't heard from both camps. But you've had four years to hear from candidate Trump and President Trump and --

CHEADLE: Mm-hmm.

LEMON: -- I don't know what else there is to hear, and then a libertarian vote. Is that not a vote for Trump?

CHEADLE: Well, you know, here's the thing, Don. I get throwing your vote away, but I vote my conscience.

LEMON: Amen. That's your right. That's your right. I cannot argue with that.

CHEADLE: Yeah, it is my right. Yeah. I don't play the game. The voting game, I don't play that. I vote from -- I vote from my heart.

LEMON: Gotcha.

CHEADLE: And if I happen to feel the libertarians, that's the way I go. If I happen to feel that, you know, Harris is the way to go, that's what I'll do.

LEMON: Yeah.

CHEADLE: But I -- I try to be as objective as I can because this is an important election.

LEMON: Yeah.

CHEADLE: And I just want the best for -- I want the best outcome for blacks. I have yet to hear from either camp if they're --

LEMON: With that --

CHEADLE: I'm not satisfied at all.

LEMON: Again, that's certainly your right to vote for whoever you want or not to vote, but I'm sure you would suggest that everyone go out and vote. But thank you, Gregory. Listen.

CHEADLE: Oh, I would. Yeah.

LEMON: Yeah.

CHEADLE: For sure. Please vote.

LEMON: I appreciate you joining us. I want you to be safe. I want you to come back and talk to us when you've made up your mind, no matter who that is --

CHEADLE: I will.

LEMON: -- and talk to us about that. I really appreciate it. Be safe.

CHEADLE: Gladly.

LEMON: Absolutely.

CHEADLE: Me, too.

LEMON: So, as I just said, the pastor who asked the president one of the toughest questions at tonight's town hall, there he is, next. And plus, we are going to talk about Hurricane Sally. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:35:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Well, there he is. That is Pastor Carl Day. He's -- the president got a lot of tough questions from voters at this town hall tonight. Maybe the toughest came from this gentleman. He is the pastor of Culture Changing Christians Worship Center. There he is on your screen live now

Pastor, thank you. I appreciate it.

CARL DAY, PASTOR, CULTURE CHANGING CHRISTIANS WORSHIP CENTER: Thank you.

LEMON: Why did you want to ask him that question?

DAY: Man, it was something that was really, really on my heart for a long time, pretty much my entire life, to be honest you. So, that was just me really articulating, sharing my truth, sharing my heart, sharing what I grew up around, pretty much our experience here, you know.

Just hearing the "make America great again," you know, just consistently seeing it so much, I would always have that question in the back of my mind, you know, like, what does that even mean, you know. So, when posed the opportunity to ask the president a question, I just felt like there was no greater question to ask than that.

You know, point me to a place in time, an era, an administration, where America is actually been great for African-Americans.

LEMON: Mm-hmm. What did you think of the answer?

DAY: Well, I think -- I think the answer -- he tap danced around it. I believe also he couldn't really give an answer because there is no answer to it, to be honest with you. Quite frankly, Americans in the hood, Americans growing, African-Americans in the hood and ghettos of America has not experienced any greatness throughout America.

A lot of things in which people continue to point to about American greatness, African-Americans wasn't really featured or highlighted or actually supported during those points in time.

So, he did exactly, you know, what I pretty much expected. You know, kind of tried to point to statistics and numbers, the stats that he probably had no substance behind, but really -- really couldn't point us to a time, and, you know, that's pretty much what I expected.

LEMON: America is a great country. It's great for all people. It always has been great. You know what --I'm playing devil's advocate here. I hate to say that to a pastor. But that's what people will say. But if you -- that's why I always talk about, pastor, the two different Americas, right?

Because when you talk to African-Americans, they will say, what do you mean, what was great? Was it great, you know, during -- when African- Americans were being redlined? Was it great before the civil rights movement? Was it great for Jim Crow? Was it great during slavery? What are you talking about? When was it great for African-Americans?

Listen, most people get it, especially African-Americans, but you know your question will be twisted, that you're anti-American and un- American. You understand what I'm saying. What do you say to that?

DAY: Totally do. And guess what, again, my question would still stand. People are sitting here saying that all lives matter. Again, demonstrate or, you know, let me know, just let -- point me toward a time in America where African-Americans, again in the ghetto specifically, because I'm not literally talking about the small percentage of us that may make up the middle class, the small percentage of us that may make up the wealthy portions of America.

[23:40:03]

DAY: I'm not talking about the signs or symbolism where people can point to and say, well, hey, we had a black president. Again, the things in which many people point to or try to utilize as evidence is actually more progress than it actually represents overall greatness in its totality. You see what I'm saying?

So, people will try to show us, well, you no longer have segregation. Well, they now have made affordable college tuition or now you have a president. Again, those things are things that should have been our rights many moons ago.

They tell us we had a black president. That was one out of 45. So, again, that still is not showing equality at all on any level. So, again, if that's the argument, they cannot show me where it's concrete evidence that it's been great for us.

LEMON: So, this was a town hall for undecided voters. You're undecided?

DAY: I'm undecided.

LEMON: And what are you not decided about?

DAY: Well, I tell you what, after tonight, to be quite honest, you know, I never was really sold on President Trump at all. But what I have been historically, I've been a Democrat voter, and as I stated earlier, that I voted for Jill Stein in 2016.

But this time around where I'm undecided and I refuse to on a national platform is to endorse any political party at this point where there's plan for the people in the ghettos, in the hoods in America, where my people live at right now.

And, you know, I would love to hear what vice president -- former Vice President Biden, Harris -- what's the plan? I need to hear the plan. I can't nearly just sit here and continue to push African-American voters to a party because that's what we historically -- we just do because it's our custom.

So, I need to see what's going on. I need to see it spelled out. I need to understand before I can sit right there and just legitimately sit on national TV or any platform and say, hey, this is where I'm going with my vote. So, I'm definitely not go to Trump. I'll say that. But at the same time, I need a plan or it could be the third party. That's just where I stand at.

LEMON: All righty, sir. Wow! I wish I could continue this discussion, but, listen, I got to -- you know there's breaking news happening with this hurricane. But thank you. You conducted yourself really well this evening and you asked the question that many, many people want the answer to. I'm not sure if they got it, but Pastor Carl Day, I really appreciate you joining us.

DAY: Thank you, Don. I appreciate it.

LEMON: Come back any time. You're welcome on this program.

Hurricane Sally is threatening the Gulf Coast with historic floods. We're going to be live in a moment from the storm zone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:45:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Hurricane Sally is looming off the Gulf Coast, moving at only two miles per hour. That's slower than you or I could walk. Rainfall totals are already topping six inches in portions of Alabama and the Florida panhandle.

National Hurricane Center is warning that that total could get as high as 30 inches in some spots, making life-threatening flooding a serious concern.

Let's talk now to CNN's Polo Sandoval. He joins us from Mobile, Alabama. Polo, hello to you. So, this Hurricane Sally is making landfall over the next few hours. Look at you. What's going on? Look at the conditions.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Don. You've stood out here before. You know that. Usually those storms that are slow to arrive, those are usually the ones that pack the biggest threat.

Yes, we see those windy -- windy bands that sweep through the mobile area, but it's the rain that we've been seeing since this afternoon that's sort of the biggest concerns here because consider, obviously, the storm surge that we're expecting mainly here in Alabama and then add that rain that we're going to see well into tomorrow, and that's what's leading to the flash flood threat not just along coastal areas but also inland. We're actually looking over the Mobile River right now. So, if you go about a mile down, this actually empties into the Mobile Bay, and then eventually, obviously, into the Gulf of Mexico.

The last update that was just released by the National Weather Service is scaling down a little bit that surge. Before, it was about nine feet that we could see. Well, now, the latest forecast is showing about five feet.

Nonetheless, Don, people not only here in Mobile but obviously east of here in the Florida panhandle are very concerned, mostly are hunkering down right now, very well aware that the worst is still ahead.

LEMON: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you very much. We'll check back in with you. We'll be right back.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, Don.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All this week in a special series called "Champions for Change," CNN brings you inspiring stories of average people doing extraordinary things.

Tonight, a trailblazing civil engineer, who is changing the way her hometown of New Orleans deals with flood water.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MEAGAN WILLIAMS: It is the only home I've ever known. It is my rock, my foundation. It is my grounding point. I've never known anything else. I was 16 when Katrina hit. My dad drove my brother, myself, and my mom around the city and just showed us the devastation. It was unrecognizable.

And now is the moment that I knew that I wanted to be a part of what the city could become afterwards. I went to the University of New Orleans. I graduated in 2012 with the degree in civil environmental engineering.

New Orleans release of flood water is tumultuous at best. We literally sit at the bottom of the wall (ph). We pump all of our water out. We saw the effects of trying to pump out too much water too quickly not just in Katrina but with regular thunderstorms.

GRETCHEN BRADFORD, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: I have lived in Pontchartrain Park my entire life. When it rains, we do experience flooding.

WILLIAMS: The roads will be completely inundated.

BRADFORD: It is important to me, as well, because it sits right behind my home. WILLIAMS: Some of the leaders in the neighborhood beg and pleaded to do something different here. We have to change the way that we have historically done, things from the very inception of a project. As an engineer, I'm a problem solver. So I see a problem and I immediately go to solution.

This is my baby. This is the project that I am most proud of and most excited for. This is the Pontilly Project. This in and of itself can hold about 950,000 gallons of water. This is water that is not in the street and also not in people's houses.

The idea of all the green infrastructure and storm water management projects is to either retain or detain water before it gets into the system. So, when you can hold a couple hundred thousand gallons of water or even tens of thousands gallons here, you get to see a bigger relief on the system.

DARYL MOREAU, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Free rain garden. If we had any kind of even moderate rain, we were going to get standing water anywhere from six to 12 inches of water and it would stay there.

[23:55:00]

MOREAU: It could stay there for 24 hours. It has absolutely been a god send to have this. It's been wonderful.

WILLIAMS: It is often, we figure out a solution to the problem, we do the solution, and then we tell people about it. I realize that we have to make more of a push to make sure that we are talking to the people who will be using these products. I can't put something in front of somebody's house and just expect them to be OK with it.

BRADFORD: About a month ago, we had one of those downpours. It was really quite something to see because at first, I was like, oh, Lord, it's raining. And then all of a sudden, the water slowly, gradually went away.

WILLIAMS: To see a project like this come to fruition and just really serve a much-needed purpose for a neighborhood that does not often get things like this is -- it's something I'm really proud to be a part of.

BRADFORD: Girl, you are --

WILLIAMS: Thank you for talking to us.

BRADFORD: You are our hero.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Wow! What a great story and a great project. Congratulations. We're going to continue to share these inspirational stories all week and make sure you watch the "Champions for Change," one-hour special, this Saturday, 10:00 p.m. Thank you for watching, everyone. What a crazy two hours, huh? Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)