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Don Lemon Tonight

President Trump Seems Obsessed With The World's Strong Men; Trump Administration Has Released $1.5 Million Ad To Highlight Its First 100 Days In Office; Trump Administration Saying It Is Considering Changes To Libel Laws; President Trump Criticizes Andrew Jackson. Aired 11:00-12:00mn ET

Aired May 01, 2017 - 23:00   ET



[23:00:49] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Is President Trump obsessed with the world's strong men?

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

The President has made a habit of praising the leaders of some of the most oppressive regimes, calling Kim Jong-Un a pretty smart cookie issuing a surprise White House invite to the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte who was - has bragged about personally killing suspected criminals when he was a mayor. And famously defending Vladimir Putin again and again and again and planning to speak to the Russian president in just hours. We will talk about that in a moment. So, is this a deliberate strategy or is the President just not up to speed?

Plus, President Trump has said he wants to make it easier to sue the media for libel, but we are going to ask a first amendment attorney, any first amendment attorney who says the President's own tweet could work against him in a court of law.

Let's get right to CNN's senior political analyst Mark Preston, political analyst David Drucker and global affairs analyst David Rohde.

Good evening to you gentleman. Thank you so much for coming on.

Mark, you first. What can you tell us about the president's call with Vladimir Putin tomorrow?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, we know that it is going to the third time that he has spoken with to President Putin since he became President. But it is the first time that they spoke since Russia was very critical of the strikes in Syria, Don.

Now, you know, President Trump has been very laudatory of President Putin in the past. But we have seen some very harsh words out of his ambassador to United Nations Nikki Haley. She has been very critical of Russia.

Now, given everything that is going on right now which what we have seen in North Korea and of course what is going on in Syria, it's really not that much of a surprise that we would see these two men actually get together and have a discussion.

LEMON: All right. So now, let's talk again. Let's talk about North Korea. Kim Jong-Un, what the President has said about him in the past few days.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that's not easy, especially at that age. And I'm not giving him credit or not giving him credit. I'm just saying that's a very hard thing to do.

At a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people I'm sure tried to take that power away whether it was his uncle or anybody else and he was able to do it. So obviously he is a pretty smart cookie.

If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely -- I would be honored to do it. If it's under, again, under the right circumstances.


LEMON: So he is talking about the ruthless dictator. What do you make of his kind of praise for the President?

PRESTON: I think he is careless. In couple of words that he would be honored to meet with him. And he absolutely would meet with him, you know, what he is doing is that he is giving some heft now to a dictator, someone who is terrible to his own people right now and has really caused a lot of instability in that part of the region. Having said that could diplomatic relations help this cause, perhaps. But having Donald Trump go out and say it in an interview, I don't think it is necessarily the way to get there.

LEMON: At the very least, he maybe could have chosen his language a little bit more careful. I think David Drucker, you may agree with that. You say the President should be commended for trying to find a new strategy in North Korea. Do you think praising Kim Jong-Un is strategic?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. Well, I think what the President may look at it as strategic. Look, I think what the Trump administration has done so far that I think deserves some latitude and some room to see if it can work is they are bringing a nuisance of urgency to the North Korean crisis. And they are trying to use both military pressure and diplomatic pressure. They are trying to bring about the international pressure to bare to get this guy to change his behavior.

I think what we have learned, however, is that the way to do that is not by elevating the dictator in North Korea with a presidential visit or even presidential respect. How do we know that this can't work? Because President Clinton tried it. And I think that it is not a criticism of President Clinton but everybody has tried many different avenues to try and get North Korea to behave. I still remember the front page of the "L.A. Times" in the late 90s with the picture of Madeleine Albright toasting with Kim Jong-Il, the current dictator's father. It didn't work. They kept bribing the international community. They have continued to develop nuclear weapons. And if the president were to meet with the leader of North Korean, the message that he would get is nuclear weapons gets me legitimacy and respect and there's no way I'm giving them up.

[23:05:18] LEMON: David Rohde, I would go to you now because White House press secretary Sean Spicer said North Korea would have to clear conditions before a meeting with President Trump could happen. He said the U.S. would need see less provocative behavior, his words. Could this offer cause North Korea to change course, to be less aggressive?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I doubt it. I agree with David Drucker. You know, this is absolutely North Korea is where the Trump administration has been most effective in terms of its foreign policy. They have put a lot more pressure on North Korea. They, you know, talked up these military force. He says he had this effected meeting with President Xi of China. And the remarks today just don't make any sense. Why, you know, say you would be honored to meet with this person you are trying to ostracize, this person you try to put so much pressure on? So, you know, a bad day, not disciplined statement. It doesn't make any sense. It does elevate, you know, Kim Jong-Un to a level he should not be elevated to.

LEMON: Mark?

PRESTON: I think it is worth noting too, Don, a couple of things. One is you are still American citizens right being detained over in North Korea, being held against their will. So you know, that's one thing to keep in mind. The thing to keep in mind, too, is that it was just a few days ago where President Trump wouldn't rule out some kind of military action against the North Korea.

LEMON: Yes. He said we could see a major, major conflict. And that was our breaking news here on CNN with North Korea. But the question is how, you know, now he is praising Kim Jong-Un. He is saying he would be honored to meet Kim Jung-Un. Do you think the President believes his negotiation skills could have, you know, solve his conflict in North Korea just by negotiating as he, you know, this businessman negotiating?

DRUCKER: Well, you know, the one hand, I think the President gives those kinds of signals all the time. That he is going to bring a new level of negotiation prowess to many of the problems that past presidents haven't able to solve. On the other hand, he has said very candidly that he has learned a lot about North Korea and China and the problems in Asia that he didn't understand before he was President.

I think a lot of what happens is that the president has actually put together pretty solemn national security team. Mattis at defense, H.R. McMaster now running the National Security Council and they have done a very good job strategically on trying to put together a strategy and then the President at times will undermine it unnecessarily and I think Duterte in the Philippines is a good example.

Look. We have naval base in the Philippines. Our military relationship with them I think is important for our strategy in Asia and being based there and being able to counter China and North Korea. It's however unnecessary for the President to invite Duterte to the White House with all the respect and legitimacy that infers even though at the same time, it's not necessary for him to completely call him out in a phone call and (INAUDIBLE), understanding how delicate a relationship can be with a hot head like this who has indicated he is not that interested in the United States.

LEMON: I need to move on because I want to talk about Wilbur Ross. I'm going to give this to David Rohde. President Trump isn't the only one saying something questionable today. Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross just spoke at a conference and said this about President's strike on Syria while was at the Mar-a-Lago resort. And this is from "Variety." He says just as dessert was being served, the President explained that Mr. Xi, he had something he wanted to tell him, which was the launching of 59 missiles into Syria. It was in lieu of after- dinner entertainment. The thing was, it didn't cost the president anything to have that entertainment.

After dinner entertainment at Mar-a-Lago? Do you think Secretary Ross is regretting his choice of words?

ROHDE: Look. I think he is. And look, you know, the American people are tired of Washington and tired of the niceties and the nice talk of diplomacy. When you make these remarks, you undermine the credibility of an American threat. So when you joke about military action, when you, you know, praise Duterte, you know, a brutal ruler in the Philippines, it undermines your credibility with foreign leaders. And you know, this is again, it's a lack of discipline. It just doesn't -- there is a good strategy here in North Korea but they are not implementing it well. And you know, Ross' comments, it is the same problem. They have got to hone their message and stop I think saying things like this.

LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

President Trump's recent comments about the world's strong men have his press secretary scrambling to explain. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the President have a thing with these totalitarian leaders? Does he admire something about the way these conduct themselves?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. The President clearly, as I have said, understands the threat North Korea poses. So I think someone with the potential nuclear capability to strike another country and potentially our country at some point in the future is something our President takes seriously. So the idea that he is doing everything diplomatically and economically and militarily to consider every way to prevent that threat from taking on the United States -- I understand. Unfortunately, those are the countries in the region. Those are the currencies that can be helpful as we move forward.


[23:10:26] LEMON: So let's dig to this a little bit more. I want to bring in Garry Kasparov, the chairman of the human rights foundation, Russian pro-democracy leader and the author of "Deep Thinking."

Thank you so much for joining us. I know that you are a strong critic of Vladimir Putin and you are an advocate for human rights. You know about a lot of dictators. You have studied a lot of dictators and you have been noticing how President Trump has been, you know, flattering the world's strong men? Why do you think the President is so fascinated with these dictators?

GARRY KASPAROV, CHAIRMAN, THE HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION: When I hear President Trump praising Erdogan or Duterte, it sounds like envy. I think after failing with his many of his promises, domestically, President Trump was fed up with checks and balances and he could Duterte or Erdogan or other dictators, they can crush the press, they can jail judges, they can eliminate critics. And it looks good to him because he is now looking more and more internationally since he realized that his domestic agenda is not going to work out.

LEMON: Yes. You -- the White House says, the President and this is their quote from a very friendly conversation with Philippines President Duterte, Rodrigo Duterte. He is over seen the killings of some 7,000 people as part of his so-called war on drugs even. So inviting him to the White House, what would be the consequences if that happened?

KASPAROV: He is legitimizing what just he described. His genocidal acts -- what needs Duterte, what is someone else? All the dictators in the world, they could see Trump's words and even action like inviting Duterte to the White House, not as an invitation but as a permission to go on with what they have been doing. It's kind of legitimacy. And Trump doesn't understand he is more of carrying all the power. Defending freedom of press, defending human rights he could have one effect. Ignoring it completely, he gives green light for dictators authoritarian of the world to move on with their horrible agenda.

LEMON: According to White House official we have been reporting that the President will have a conversation with Vladimir Putin tomorrow. As a Russian dissident, what do you think of their relationship?

KASPAROV: Look, we know that while Trump criticize almost everybody and every single in the world, he never said a word, negative word, about Vladimir Putin, even at a time when Nikki Haley was very critical and some other U.S. officials like secretary Mattis. They are harshly criticized Russia for its support of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Trump was always silent. Always positive about Vladimir Putin. I don't know what the substance of this conversation tomorrow but I'm afraid that a Russian propaganda will use it again to propped Putin's position and to demonstrate that Putin is isolated but he still very much working with other powers and he could even defy the free world and even President of the United States.

LEMON: How would you describe that again? Is it Russian (INAUDIBLE)? Is it insulting? What is it mind-boggling?

KASPAROV: No, it's a problem that this President doesn't understand that for regimes like Vladimir Putin or North Korea or few others, confrontation with the free world is the core element of domestic propaganda. And anything that you do by legitimizing these leaders, giving them an opportunity to go back to their people, selling them as equals to the President of the United States hurts our cause and allows them to step up with more confrontations to free world and also with more oppressions inside our country.

LEMON: What do you think the conversation's going to be like?

KASPAROV: I have no idea. I think it is no matter what would be the conversation, Vladimir Putin, his propaganda machine will use it as a demonstration that Putin is still a big world player.

LEMON: So here is President Trump brought up those unsubstantiated wiretap claims going to be tweeted about that. Here is what he said to CBS News. Listen.


TRUMP: You saw what happened with surveillance and I think that was inappropriate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does that mean?

TRUMP: You can figure that out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is an answer. You said you called him sick and bad.

TRUMP: Look, you can figure it out himself. He was very nice to me with words and when I was with him but after that there has been no relationship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you stand by that claim about.

TRUMP: I didn't save Miami thing. I just -- you can take it the way you want. I think our side's been proven very strongly and everyone's been talking about it. And you don't have to ask Mike Flynn because I have my own opinions. You can have your own opinions.

[23:15:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I want to know your opinions. You're President of the United States.

TRUMP: That's enough. Thank you. Thank you very much.


LEMON: What do you think? KASPAROV: It is music to Putin's ear because basically Trump doesn't

separate opinions from facts and that's what every dictator wants. So it is all about my opinion and we don't care about the facts. So in America it's not as deadly because your first amendment you have all the law protecting CNN or "New York Times." But in terms like Russia or Philippines, Turkey, that's a matter of life and death. And for instance, you know, Trump is silent in the administration about Venezuela where another dictator has been dismantling the remaining pillars, (INAUDIBLE) constitution. Maybe one of the reasons that middle state owned company donated half a million dollars to Trump inauguration.

LEMON: He has been talking about changing a live of laws. You mentioned the first amendment, the freedom of the press. How dangerous would that be?

KASPAROV: I still believe that U.S. political systems resolute enough to survive Trump. But again, it may not have deadly effect here but it will have deadly effect elsewhere because that's a signal. You have to go to at the press. And when Donald Trump calls press enemy of the people, that is, you know, that is encourages Putin and other dictators to go after what's left of free press in our country is.

LEMON: Thank you.

When we come back, President Trump releasing a TV ad boasting about his first 100 days in office. And speaking at a rally in Pennsylvania over the weekend. Is he in permanent campaign mode?


[23:20:42] LEMON: President Trump's first 100 days in office have been unlike any others in history. I think we can say that. Let's discuss now. Mark McKinnon, the co-creator of Showtime's "the Circus."

Can we say that? That's a fair assessment, don't you think?


LEMON: $150 million ad the Trump administration has released to highlight its first 100 days in office pushing back on this criticism of the presidency and how it's gotten off to a rocky start. Let's hear it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump sworn in as President 100 days ago. America has rarely seen such success. A respected Supreme Court justice confirmed. Companies investing in American jobs again. America becoming more energy independent, regulations that kill American jobs eliminated. The biggest tax cut plan in history.


LEMON: $1.5 NOT $150, $1.5 million. His first 100 days as successful as that ad?

MCKINNON: Well, there is so much irony. First of all, this is the guy who says I don't need the advertising campaign. I don't need advertising. I get my message. I'm going to soften -- my words speak for themselves and my accomplishment speaks for themselves. So just the notion that he -- they felt they needed to advertise these accomplishments. And look at the ad. I mean, the piece of the (INAUDIBLE), he said the accomplishment was the proposal of the tax plan that has not yet even been acted on by either the House or the Senate.

LEMON: We just roll this we are talking about. There it is. It's a proposal. And speaking of that proposal, most of what he has done has been through executive order and he strongly criticized the former administration for executive orders. Is that hypocritical? Is it not? How can it not?

MCKINNON: Well, sure it is. Of course it is. But he is going to govern now until Election Day. And you know, we have been in a permanent campaign for a long time. That is not something new. But to be advertising 100 days out? You know, just says that he already seems to be making calculations that whatever he is doing from the White House isn't working so I got to go out there and advertise. And you know, that sends a signal itself.

LEMON: Was Pennsylvania an advertisement you think?

MCKINNON: Well, I actually think that was a very smart strategic. I mean, for him to say, you know, he said and I'm running against the media. The media elites are all, you know, having a big black cocktail party, black tie party and I'm going to go and talk to real people. That was smart. I think the substance of the speech was a mistake.

LEMON: I want to listen to some of it. But anyway, he skipped the White House Correspondents dinner and he went to Pennsylvania to speak to his base. Let's listen.


TRUMP: And I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington's swamp spending my evening with all of you and with a much, much larger crowd and much better people, right? Right?


LEMON: So for the man that had attended White House correspondent's dinner before when there was a Democratic president, remember when he got roast.

MCKINNON: Which I think was the moment when he decided to run for President.

LEMON: People who were there at the dinner, Republicans and Democrats said there's nowhere on earth he wanted to be more than in that room. MCKINNON: That's the irony. That was the moment I think that a lot

of people think psychology said I'm going to run and get back at this guy and that was the whole point. But then the irony in fact he wouldn't show when became President.

LEMON: But it was smart for him to go.

MCKINNON: Very smart. I think it is strategically smart. I mean, it sends a right message to his base and to a lot of people. And most people -- nobody looks at that correspondent's dinner and thinks that that's, you know, where most of America lives, breathes, or thinks. So I think that was smart thing. The think that is interesting to me is that it is just clear looking at that clip how much more Donald Trump enjoys campaigning than governing.

LEMON: He likes the energy of the crowd. He likes to be loved. Who doesn't like to be love?

MCKINNON: He was learning how hard it is to be loved as President.

LEMON: But when you are a president of the United States, don't you have to win over some people who don't love you --? And that may be --.

MCKINNON: Exactly, Don. In order to win, you got to get more than 50 percent of the country.

LEMON: His first 10 minutes of the speech he spent on the media. And I was getting dressed to go that fancy thing, I was just watching him in Harrisburg and I was thinking it is just -- he just sounds like -- I was embarrassed for him. I was embarrassed the way he was speaking about the media.

[23:25:04] MCKINNON: Well, I mean, the problem is that if you keep attacking the media, you keep attacking Democrats, at some point you have got to get a coalition in order to pass legislation, in order to get for us to get sick of winning.


MCKINNON: We are not sick of winning the action.

LEMON: No, no. I was thinking about it in this way. I never think about my ex-girlfriend. I haven't thought about her in years. I don't care about her. She is the worst. And all you do is talk about her. That's what I was thinking.

MCKINNON: That's a great analogy. That's a perfect analogy.

LEMON: All right. So anyway, I told you as I, you know, heat the praise. Lavished praise upon you because I though your show was spectacular this weekend. I want to play a clip from behind the scenes of the White House briefing room. Watch this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got lot of real estate here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is this? It is Jim Acosta show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got more real estate than we do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have got four in our part of the submarine down there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Martha, by the way, makes the best brownies.


LEMON: So everyone thinks television is so glamorous. That was an exclusive behind the scene. That's down stairs, away from the briefing room. It's not glamorous and it is hard work.

MCKINNON: It is not glamorous. It is really hard work. It was a fascinating -- the briefing room itself has got the story history filed over the swimming pool Nixon built it. And it is the place where every aspiring journalist wants to go, right? If you are a journalist and want to cover politics, that's the place you want to end up. That's the super bowl, right. And yet you get there and it is the most cramped, funky, ugly, smelly, crappy place on the planet to try and do your business. I mean, the most - that's just there wall to wall. But that, you know, makes you appreciate what they do even more.

LEMON: So when you become the White House press secretary, and you have worked for years. That's like the pinnacle.


LEMON: Where do you want to be in the White House correspondents' dinner? You want to be at the White House Correspondents dinner. Actually I felt bad for Sean Spicer because he worked for his whole life --


LEMON: And he didn't get a chance to go.

MCKINNON: Yes. He should have come like a gladiator with a chariot.

LEMON: Warded by his own boss.

MCKINNON: Exactly right. (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: It was fascinating. And I appreciated the last scene the way you set it up. And I won't give it away. But I think everyone should watch for the last scene with all that. Genius. Thank you.

MCKINNON: Thank you. This next week is the last episode for this room.

LEMON: Is it really?


LEMON: Do you think you are going to bring it back?

MCKINNON: Well, Showtime would like to. Mark and John have to write a book and I have got to get some rest. Got a take a nap or two because we are pretty burn out. This show really eats you up, you know.

LEMON: As long as Mark is not dancing in the White House lawn.

MCKINNON: Yes. A "Wayne's World" moment, right.

LEMON: Thank you, Mark.

MCKINNON: Yes. But I think we will be back.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

MCKINNON: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: When we come right back, the President calling the rules of Congress archaic and saying maybe it's time for a change.


[23:32:06] LEMON: The Trump administration saying it is considering changes to libel laws. Let's discuss now, Defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, the author of "Taking the Stand, my life and the law." And also with us Floyd Abrams, the constitutional and first amendment attorney who is the author of "The soul of the first amendment." Newly out. Go buy it because Alan says it is good.


LEMON: Look fantastic.

Mr. Abrams, I'm going to start with you. Thank you for joining us. The President' chief of staff Reince Priebus says the White House is looking into changing libel laws. Here is what he said to ABC News.


REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think it's something that we have looked and how that gets executed or whether that goes anywhere is a different story. But when you have articles out there that have no basis or fact and we are sitting here on 24/7 cable companies writing stories about constant contacts with Russia and all these other matters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think the President should be able to sue "The New York Times."

PRIEBUS: I think that - here is what I think. I think that newspapers and news agencies need to be more responsible with how they report the laws.


LEMON: So libel laws, varies state by state. There's no federal libel laws, I understand. So what could the Trump administration actually do, Mr. Abrams?

FLOYD ABRAMS, CONSTITUTIONAL AND FIRST AMENDMENT ATTORNEY: Really nothing except amend the constitution. As you said there's no federal libel laws. There is nothing for Congress to do. We have 50 state libel laws. And they are all limited on first amendment in a way that President Trump doesn't like. It does make the harder for him to bring a libel suit. It's meant to make it harder for rich and powerful people to bring libel suits against the pres. It is meant to protect the press. That's what the first amendment is about. So, I don't really, you know, he can say that they are looking at this but they don't have to look much farther than the first amendment.

LEMON: Yes. You say - Alan, you say libel laws should be restricted. Why is that?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, first, there is something he could do. He can appoint four or five justices to the Supreme Court who would have a different view of first amendment than the view that has been the consensus view since 1960. He can do that.

But look, the press is irresponsible and there are too many loopholes in the libel laws today. And some of the libel laws need to be tightened up. For example, you can say anything you want defamatory about anything in the world as long as long you put it in a legal pleading and then we get to the press. And that's protected. That's a loophole. That should quirky be changed.

Now, the reason that I think President Trump is wrong is he is the major beneficiary of the first amendment. If he had lose a libel laws, he could be sued for calling people lying this and lying that. He could be sued from what he said during the campaign.

The first amendment not only protect us, as Floyd point out, the poor against the rich and the powerful, it also protects the rich and the powerful like Donald Trump whereas in some countries in the world you may be able sue the President for what he said or for inciting a crowd. So he is a major beneficiary of the very amendment he would like to restrict.

[23:35:17] LEMON: Yes. And isn't he being sued for that right now?

DERSHOWITZ: He is being sued for that. And I'm on his side of that one because I believe in the first amendment.

LEMON: Mr. Abrams, president Trump has made attacks on the media recurring part of his platform. He mentioned changing libel laws on the campaign trail after people known him say, you know, he has talked about this before, he didn't thought about running for President. Here's what he said in February 2016.


TRUMP: I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.


LEMON: So - and here is what he said. This was in March -- late March he tweeted this. The failing "New York Times" has disgrace the media world. Got me wrong for two solid years. Change the libel laws is the question mark. You say that President's twitter trail could be a gift to lawyers. I guess that someone in bane and what Alan Dershowitz are saying. What do you mean by that?

ABRAMS: What I mean is that in certain areas if the President goes to court if he has the United States go to court, his words can be used against him and very strongly. So I mean we have seen that already in the immigration case. We have seen it in the sanctuary city case. If he were to bring a libel case and he could, that Alan is pointing, and you know, he could. He is allowed to. If he were to bring a libel case, what he says about the press as an enemy can be used in the case. And anything he says can be used.


ABRAMS: Alan not wrong in saying the one thing he could do is to appoint five Supreme Court justices. But what he can't do is to get Congress to do anything.

DERSHOWITZ: That's right.

ABRAMS: And what he can't do is to get this Supreme Court or any that we have had in the last 50 years to do anything.

DERSHOWITZ: But for example, President Obama, under his view, would have the right to sue him for saying that he wiretapped him.

LEMON: Right.

ABRAMS: I think he does have the right.


ABRAMS: But Alan, I think President Obama has the right to sue him and I think he would win if he sued him.

DERSHOWITZ: Presidents have the good sense not to bring lawsuits.

LEMON: You think he would win?

ABRAMS: Sure I do. It's false. It is defamatory. And the legal question then is did he know or think it was false? That would be the only real big issue in the case. And I think that President Obama if he should ever decide to go to court on this would have a pretty good chance of prevailing on the ground that President Trump must have known. That what he was saying wasn't true. DERSHOWITZ: You might be President Obama's. I think I would defend

Trump on that one. I think where he had have trouble is on discovery. Because then you would be able to go in his mind and find out what he knew. And that is the last thing any president wants to have.

ABRAMS: I'm not suggesting President Obama.

LEMON: I have got to go, Mr. Abrams. But I'm going to put this up. And if you have the full screen. The soul of the first amendment and that's what we are talking about and we are so glad you wrote that book. And if you can, go out and buy it.

DERSHOWITZ: And Floyd is the soul of the first amendment personally.

LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

ABRAMS: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, President Trump's version of history.


TRUMP: I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later, you wouldn't have had the civil war.


LEMON: I'm going to speak to two Presidential historians about that and get their reaction.


[23:42:49] LEMON: President Trump has given several days of interview that have a lot of people scratching their heads to say the least. But wait to you hear what our next guests have to say.

Here to discuss, Douglas Brinkley, also Stephen Kennedy Smith. They are co-authors of the book "JFK a vision for America." I have a copy. I can't wait to read it.

So Douglas, you are quoted in an article published in just - just published in "Politico" talking about the President. You say it seems to be among the most bazar recent 24 hours in American Presidential history. It was all just surreal disarray and a confused mental state from the President. That's kind of harsh. What are you talking about here?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: About Andrew Jackson and the civil war. I was asked about "Politico" as a historian and it made zero sense where he is saying is civil war nobody talks about. Nobody knows that slavery was at the core of it, conflating Andrew Jackson that period.

But also, this sort of bazar inviting now going to meet with the head of the Philippines, who is a strong man and calling leader of North Korea is an honorable man and he is, you know, smart and cookie. It's just all been kind of all over the map. And then finally with the CBS News interview in the White House where he wouldn't answer about Barack Obama. Why he called Obama bad and sick for the whole wiretapping. So, it was a lot of I think bad media after he gave a strong speech for his supporters in Pennsylvania. He kind of blew it by doing too much.

LEMON: Yes. Let's dig in a little bit more on Andrew Jackson and the civil war. Here's what he said about Andrew Jackson's civil war and then we will talk about it.


TRUMP: I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later he wouldn't have had the civil war. He was a very tough person. But he had a big heart and he was really angry that -- he saw what was happening with regard to the civil war. He said there's no reason for this. People don't realize, you know, the civil war, if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question but why was there the civil war? Why could that one not have been worked out?


LEMON: Is there anything about Andrew - you know, in his record, in his history, Andrew Jackson, that shows that he could have averted the civil war?

[23:45:09] BRINKLEY: Of course not. I mean, and as it has been well talked about on your show, even tonight, I mean, he is a slave owner. He's a slave owner. He is somebody with the trail of tears is known as probably the most brutal act of extermination of native people.

Now, native people were not treated well. In America, period. But Jackson was a brutal killer about all of it (INAUDIBLE). I'm not suggesting we don't study Jackson's presidency correctly but this is not an education lesson. I have to teach history, Don, at Rice University students. High school teachers are trying to teach history.

This is anti-history, gably (ph) gook that he tossed out there for the public for no clear and apparent reason.

LEMON: It's another remark, Stephen, that leaves a lot of people wondering what the President actually knows about history and the world. What's your reaction?

STEPHEN KENNEDY SMITH, CO-AUTHOR, JFK, A VERSION FOR AMERICA: So President Kennedy gave a speech called the Politician and the intellectual at Harvard in 1956. And he said that our nation's founders were our nation's great writers and scholars. Books were their tools, not their enemies. President Kennedy was a historian himself. He wrote a review of the Adams' papers among other things. Profiles encourage which won the Pulitzer Prize. He thought history was important and a necessary tool in policy making.

LEMON: This President has been criticized for putting family members in two positions like Ivanka and his son in-law. But the former -- you mentioned JFK. He appointed - he got criticized when he appointed his brother as attorney general. What's the difference between now and then?

SMITH: Yes. So I think that there is a legitimate concern actually about appointing relatives to public office. I think fortunately for the country Robert Kennedy was one of the best attorney generals we had. He also had experience working on the rocket's committee in the Senate. He had run a Presidential campaign. So he was not someone who didn't have a significant level of experience before he was put in the job. I think that is the important thing, the performance of the individual and their capability and qualifications.

LEMON: And that is the criticism that they have no political experience at all.

BRINKLEY: I think so. That's the main one. But, look, I have never been that hard on Donald Trump because of Ivanka. I was thought if she is going to help stop him from doing tweets that disrupt the country, more power to her. But I don't know - you know, the problem is he may get more and more insular when you have a relative, it is hard with bobby Kennedy. It was hard for people to tell President Kennedy, I don't want to tell you this in front of your brother because they become the final arbitrator in some ways. So there's always that fear of nepotism. And it was the Kennedy years that created the nepotism law people try to avoid today. Although justice department stand up for Bobby Kennedy. And he was a legend in civil rights saga.

LEMON: All right, everybody, stick around both of you. When we come back, could President Trump release thousands of secret files on JFK's assassination?


[23:52:14] LEMON: Thousands of secret files about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy could be released by President Trump.

Back now with me, Douglas Brinkley and Stephen Smith.

Douglas, we know the President is fond of conspiracy theories. He is in the position to decide whether there is 3,600 secret files about the assassination of JFK to be released. What do you think? Should they become public?

BRINKLEY: I assume he will green light anything that opens up archives.

LEMON: Are you eager to see them?

BRINKLEY: We are always eager to see documents. And there is some discrepancies in the war commission. I pretty much believed of the Oswald assassination theory personally. But I am always willing to get more information. So I never want to see a President not release thing and keep things sequestered. A lot of years have gone by.

LEMON: This is not just history. It's personal because you are a family member, right. What do you think about these?

SMITH: I think it is fine to release the records for public information. I think my father and RFK believe the Warren commission report was accurate. Actually, Larry Schiller who worked on the book with me, knew Marine Oswald and knew Jack Ruby very well. And interviews Ruby and went back to Russia with Norman Mailer and went through the KGB files on Oswald. And he is very convinced that Oswald acted alone. He was a disgruntled, you know, unhappy man who felt that he needed to have an identity and the way that he found out was to kill President Kennedy. But I think Larry who knows the situation very well, never thought that there was a conspiracy around it. And I believe he is right.

LEMON: This is - I mean, the book is beautiful.

SMITH: Thank you.

LEMON: It's substantial. It's beautiful. The pictures are amazing. I don't know if we have a picture of you. What year did you say this was?

SMITH: That was 1962.

LEMON: Soft magazine and you were -- do you remember --?

SMITH: Yes. So I was five, yes.

LEMON: You were five, OK. So you were a kid. And what were you doing? That's you in the front. We have you in the far left. And you said you guys are in a golf cart.

SMITH: Yes. So I look a little concerned there because we are heading for a very large hill at a high rate of speed and overloaded golf cart driven by a guy who wrecked his P.T. boat during the war. But it was a lot of fun.

LEMON: Who else in this cart with you? So you remember?

SMITH: So I think that John is in the front seat with me, my cousin John. And then some of the RFKs and the Shriver's are in the backseat where we like them to be.

LEMON: You looked at a lot of photographs like this. I'm sure it must have emotional for you to go through. You looked at a lot of speeches and writing. What did you learn? Take us --.

SMITH: Yes. So we went through about 36,000 photographs for this book. We have about 500 photos of the greatest American documentary photographers. And then I really asked what I thought were the best and the brightest of our contemporary thinkers to comment on JFK's life. So I have two secretaries of state, John Kerry and Henry Kissinger. I have the Dalai Lama and Rick Warren in spiritual in his speech to the ministerial association. Sixth of our nation's greatest historians, Conan O'Brien, Robert Redford, Gloria Steinem, John Lewis, John McCain. I really wanted to have a dialogue about the meaning of JFK's life now. [23:55:32] LEMON: I can't wait to read all of it. Go out and buy the

book. It's amazing. This is very JFK.

Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

SMITH: Thanks. Thanks for having us.


LEMON: That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching us. I will see you right back here tomorrow night.

But before we leave you, my favorite moment from the weekend, from the White House Correspondents dinner this weekend, in the nation's capital. Here's comedian Hassan Manhaj.


HASAN MANHAJ, COMEDIAN: Don, every time I watch your show, it feel like I'm watching a reality TV show. CNN TONIGHT should be called wait a second. Now, hold on. Stop yelling at each other, with Don Lemon.