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Don Lemon Tonight

Stormy Daniels Suing Trump's Lawyer For Defamation; Who's Next On The White House Chopping Block?; Trump Talks About Bringing Back Rob Porter, Former Aide Accused of Domestic Abuse; Porn Star And Playboy Playmate Share Similar Stories Of Alleged Trump Affairs; What Melania Trump And Hillary Clinton Have In Common; Battle About Diversity At Interior Department; Marching For Their Lives. Aired 11- 12a ET

Aired March 26, 2018 - 23:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST: In the latest sign that Stormy Daniels is just not going to back down, she is suing President Trump's so-called fixer, Michael Cohen, claiming he defamed her when he insinuated that she lied about her alleged affair with Trump. But does she have a case? And what about her friend Alana Evans? She tells me, she wants to sue, too.

Lots of new developments tonight on Russia. President Trump kicking out 60 Russian diplomats in the wake of the poisoning attack on a Russian former double agent living in the U.K. Let's bring in CNN contributor, Frank Bruni, of "The New York Times" to discuss Russia and a whole lot of things. We're going to get to Stormy Daniels and other things.

Are you surprised the President took the action against Russia with the diplomats?

FRANK BRUNI, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, I am a little bit surprised, because it's not consistent with his, kind of stand away from Russia attitude to date, but I think he had to do something. And so, this is inconsistent. This isn't match with tough words about Putin. There are still a big silence there, but I think he probably felt compelled to do it.

LEMON: Are you surprised that we haven't heard directly from the President? I remember, he didn't even bring this issue up when he spoke about meddling or anything, when he spoke directly with Putin last week on the telephone.

BRUNI: Well, he advertises those things they really want to draw attention to and he is not drawing attention to this. He is falling in line with what is correct, with what's expected. For once, he is acting in concert with allies, if a little bit kind of later than some of them as opposed to kind of saying, you know, we don't need them, we stand alone. But I don't think this is something he did or the administration did with enormous enthusiasm.

LEMON: Yes. According to General Michael Hayden, it was done in coordination with European Union --

BRUNI: Right.

LEMON: -- and -- kind of --

BRUNI: Which is a very heartening sign.

LEMON: Right.

BRUNI: Because he has shown a lot of kind of contempt with the European Union.

LEMON: He is -- he is working with them now, so that is --

BRUNI: And that is good for us.

LEMON: Yes. So, I want to play this exchange. This is from the White House deputy press secretary, Raj Shah, today. And he was asked about the White House's credibility. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you talk or speak to the White House's credibility, why should we in this room, more importantly the American people trust anything this administration is telling us?

RAJ SHAH, DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: Well, you know, our job as a press office and as the administration is to give you the best information that we have available to us, most accurate information in a timely fashion. Sometimes the dynamics of fluid in any given situation. You mentioned some personal matters. Facts and circumstances change. We continue to give you guys the best information that we can as quickly as possible.


LEMON: So there are many examples, a number of examples of the ones I'm about to give, but I'll just give you a few.


LEMON: They said that the White House said that the President had McMaster, you know, confidence -- McMaster had the confidence of the President. The next minute he is out, right?


LEMON: And then they say Trump is going to sign a spending bill then he threatens to veto it. Can you believe anything coming out of the White House? How can you believe it?

BRUNI: Well, Don, I don't say this lightly. I don't think you can and I think the keyword to what he just said was the best information available to us. If the information available to you is subject to change at a moment's notice, if it is subject to the President's whim, if you're not getting complete information, if everything is shifting sands, then what is the meaning of what you're telling the press at a given moment in time? I think he gave away the game right there when he said the best information available to us which in this instance is terrible information.

LEMON: Didn't -- I think Sarah Sanders said something, I could be wrong. I thought she said something similar about the best information that was available to them. You were a White House reporter.

BRUNI: I was.

LEMON: At what point is a press secretary obligated to resign, if they know that they are telling lies on behalf of the President of the administration?

BRUNI: Well, there is no legal obligation. That is certain impossible question to answer. That is really between a Press Secretary, Communications Director and his or her conscience. I would think that at a certain point, if you know you're pedaling falsehoods or you're getting information that is so terrible that you wind up saying things that are instantly proven false or the change, you know, a moment later, I would think at a certain point you become so demoralized, you become so worried about the degree to which you're serving the country that you go away. But, you know, I don't think we have the highest moral caliber of people around Donald Trump. I mean, that is the fact.

LEMON: Did you see my Facebook, because -- they continue to stay there and do it. So obviously --

BRUNI: Right. Part of the --

LEMON: Maybe it's just a job. Maybe this is a job and my job is to say what the White House says.

BRUNI: Well, yes. And there is probably in some a sort of corny belief that every President deserves to be served and served faithfully and that is what I'm doing. And maybe the bigger question shouldn't be asked. But the other important thing to remember here, I think is we live politically in an intensely, intensely tribal country.

And so, there is a belief in a lot of these people that even if in a moment, even if at a given moment I'm telling a falsehood, even if I'm bending the truth to flatter this President, I am keeping the Democrats at bay. I am doing what is necessary for our team to win. That is a lot of the thinking in politics today and I think that thinking is really prevalent among the people who decided to stick with Donald Trump.

LEMON: All right. Stormy Daniels, that saga, headlines like the President, the porn star and the play mate, is this a new normal?

BRUNI: Well -- for the Trump administration it is. I mean, the ratio of "melodrama" to governing since he took office is completely out of whack and like nothing we've seen certainly -- we have to go back to the Clinton days.

[23:05:03] And I'm not sure it's even fair to bring those up, but we should, because if we are being reeling out of truth, there was a period of Bill Clinton's presidency, that we were talking about stains on blue dresses and stuff, that was just as tottery as this. It's just Donald Trump got here a lot faster. And it has a feeling in this case of defining the very man and administration in a profound way.

LEMON: Did you find her story credible? You watched I'm sure.

BRUNI: I did. I watched several times. No, I watched it once, I watched it again. I found her much more credible even than I expected to. For a bunch of reasons. If you had read right beforehand, which I did, the 2011 in touch interview, she never contradicted herself. Where she went to the same details, they were consistent.

But more important, in an era when people are so quick to play the victim card, she refused to define herself as a victim. There was nothing politically correct about her interview. She refused to present herself in a flattering light. I mean, she made clear that there are many flaws in her character. She made clear that she was sticking this out and keeping in touch with Donald Trump for totally selfish reasons. There was nothing about that interview where she was saying, you know, I'm wonderful, I'm a victim, et cetera. And I think that lent her enormous credibility.

LEMON: That gave her credibility.

BRUNI: I think so, didn't you?

LEMON: Because people were comparing the interview between her and McDougal and they said, Karen McDougal is maybe a much more sympathetic -- I shouldn't say sympathetic, much more relatable character, right?

And Stormy Daniels I found, listen, both women, they said it happened. I believe them. But I thought that she had more credibility, because she didn't make herself out to be some victim or she didn't want you to make her some sort of -- that she was Pollyannaish in anyway. She knew what she was getting into.

BRUNI: I agree with you. There was a real frankness to everything she said. That I -- yes, I didn't find myself saying, wow, I really love this woman, or I feel badly for her, any of those things, but I did find myself saying, I don't think this is made up. And you look at -- who post details like spanking and shark week out of thin air. --

Those have the feel, I know, I can't believe we're talking about this, but this is 2018, United States of America under Donald Trump. Those have the feel of authentic details to me.

LEMON: Yes. And the phone calls?

BRUNI: And the phone calls.

LEMON: And that match what Karen McDougal say and apparently the two woman don't know each other.

BRUNI: Right.

LEMON: And the thing about the daughter.

BRUNI: Oh, you know -- to this day, I just -- I just can't get past the way he talks about Ivanka, both the way he talked about her to Howard Stern in the past and the way he talks to other women about him, it's just not normal.

LEMON: Why do you think it doesn't register to those a panel on with women who were Trump supporters and they were making excuses for his behavior like it's -- he's changed somehow?

BRUNI: I watched that segment. And my jaw was on the ground, because they did not seem to be talking about the Donald Trump whom we have all been reading about and reporting on and getting to know over the last two years.

LEMON: We know Goodlatte --

BRUNI: yes, I mean -- I chalk it up to the tribalism I mentioned before. They have made a decision that they are on team Trump. They're probably lifelong Republicans. They probably have issues with the Democratic Party and so they are going to see everything in the most positive light possible and they're going to rationalize and explain away any evidence that doesn't fit what they want to believe. And that was an absolutely stunning, stunning couple of minutes of TV there.

LEMON: Well, listen, people believe what they want to believe but I also think a lot of it is cognitive distance. And people just don't want to be proven wrong --


LEMON: -- that they made a decision that maybe was not the best for them or someone is not who they want them to be.

BRUNI: Right. But in this -- you're totally right. But in this case they are having to ignore such an avalanche of evidence. How many women have come forward? How much of the story similar depending on the different category of cases? It really takes an enormous force of will to continue to believe that all of this is just a phrase you've never heard before, fake news.

LEMON: Yes. What Bill Clinton did was awful and it was. And he paid the price for it. He was impeached. But it's not the same with him and somehow they rationalized that which is to me just beyond anything.

I want to ask you, this is about Rob Porter, because "The New York Times" is reporting the President still talks to him. That he wants to bring him back. That is his former aide who's accused of, you know, the terrible things, abuse of his wife -- of his girlfriends and wives. Do you think that -- is there still trust inside the White House that he is speaking to -- what is happening here he wants to bring back Rob Porter, a character like that?

BRUNI: I doubt he ends upbringing him back, I mean, for a whole host of reasons including the fact that he didn't have a security clearance. He was in a job where it's best served by one. That he is talking to him makes utter psychological sense. Donald Trump is a very isolated President. He doesn't have that many people who he was -- who he is close to who are still in his service.

Rob Porter was someone he was comfortable with. He takes emotional comfort from him and so he reaches out to him. That is been consistent in Trump, you know, over time, certainly since he got into the White House. He wants and needs to be comfortable. You know, we've heard him constantly -- we constantly heard that he met with someone who he was considering for the job, that he didn't have personal chemistry, or he didn't kind of feel the right way about them and that was a big drag on it.

[23:10:08] He really, really prizes and values his own comfort. And if it's going to make him feel more comfortable to reach out and call Rob Porter, even though Rob Porter, left the White House, in such dark circumstances and its hardly someone in public favor, Donald Trump will call Rob Porter.

LEMON: Thanks Frank.

BRUNI: Thank you.

LEMON: When we come back, Stormy Daniels now fighting back, the porn star suing the President's attorney and so-called fixer. Does she have a case? And what about her friend who tells me she wants to sue Michael Cohen, too?


LEMON: In case you had any doubts, here's a pretty clear indication that Stormy Daniels is not going to back down any time soon. Just hours after millions of people heard her tell her story on "60 minutes," porn star is suing the President's attorney for defamation, and now one of her friends wants to sue Cohen, too.

I want to bring in now CNN legal analyst, Mark Geragos, and CNN legal analyst, Areva Martin, the author of "Make It Rain."

Mark, you have to get a book so I can promote it here on TV.

MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Mine has been out for five years. Let's promote Areva's.



LEMON: So, it's been a busy 24 hours. Mark, this is for you. Especially in this Stormy Daniels saga, we are now learning that she is suing President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen for defamation. Does she have a case? [23:15:00] GERAGOS: Yes, she probably does have a case. I don't

think that it's going to get thrown out on a demur, but it may get compelled into the same arbitration. Remember, judges, when they get these cases and understandably they're over worked, so the simplest thing is when you've got an arbitration agreement and anything that arises out of the arbitration agreement, especially here where the other party has already compelled you or tried to compel you to arbitration, I think that is where it ends up. I mean, it's great for prolonging the story, but ultimately it's going to end up in arbitration.

LEMON: And I just spoke to Stormy Daniels's friend just a little earlier in the show, Alana Evans, who says, she too is planning a defamation suit, because of an article in the Independent, which Cohen denied Alana's story, Alana's says from then on he has laid the path to call her a liar. Does she have a case, Mark?

GERAGOS: Yes, Maybe, if she can show that they demanded it and that they can literally trace the fact or the quote to him and he is, in essence, calling her a liar, she is got an arguable case. Part of the problem is, though, what are the damages at this point and then that is something that you have to focus on whether it's a lawyer or the client. You've got to run through and say, look, anybody can sue anybody for anything, but what ultimately at the end of the day are your damages? What damage did you suffer, how do we quantify it and that is always a -- I think something that people tend to ignore.

People love to say I'm going to sue somebody, I want $10 million, and then you ask them, well, what are you basing that on? Well, I saw my brother's gardener who got $5 million for this, that or the other thing. None of that matters. Still, judges are the gate keepers. You have to be able to prove that you were damaged and be able to quantify it.

LEMON: Well, for me that means two hours every night of talking about this stuff. So, Areva, during the Stormy Daniels interview on "60 minutes," Daniels claimed she was threatened by an unknown man, this was in 2011, who told her to drop the Trump story. I mean it's scary, but what if anything, is there a legal significance of this claim?

MARTIN: Well, she doesn't really know who that person was. So it's going to be difficult for her to make any kind of criminal charges. She can't really go into a police station and say, I was threatened by someone, because she doesn't have the person's name. It's not clear that she can even identify the person. And it's not clear that she could even go into civil court or do anything. I think what we're seeing here today is just this story that Trump says is false, mushrooming and growing and the President and his team is giving this story life.

Why is Michael Cohen saying he is going after Stormy Daniels and he is going to take a vacation on the money that he is going to get from her? I don't understand what the Trump's end game is. If this didn't happen, why are you hiring lawyers, filing lawsuits and going to great lengths to protect something that didn't happen in the first place? And even the White House said, well, look, lawsuits get settled all

the time when there's no underlying action. That is true, but rarely -- you know, rarely do lawsuits get settled for $130,000. That is not nuisance value. That is not $2,000 or $5,000. That is a substantial amount of money to settle for something that didn't happen. And who knows where this goes from here. We keep -- now she is filed for defamation. There is a cease and desist letter from Trump's lawyer. So, this just seems to have no end in sight.

LEMON: Who are you telling? I'm like, as you are saying, I'm trying to keep up with it, I mean, just the new developments tonight. So, I want to play this. This is Stormy Daniels's attorney Michael Avenatti calls this a smoking gun. Watch this.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIEL'S ATTORNEY: It's an e-mail that Michael Cohen sent to my client's former attorney and Michael Cohen inserted the subject, as P.P. versus D.D., NDA. Now, why is that important? Well, first of all, your viewers already know that P.P. basically were the initials for the alias of my client and D.D. are the initials for the alias for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen in this document that he drafted listed the subject as P.P. versus D.D., meaning my client versus Donald Trump, NDA. I'm confused. I thought what Mr. Cohen has told the American people and what Mr. Schwartz has told the American people for weeks now is that Donald Trump was never a part of the agreement. Donald Trump didn't know anything about the agreement.


LEMON: So, Mark, is he right? Does this prove that Donald Trump knew about the hush agreement?

GERAGOS: There is something in the law called an adoptive admission where if your lawyer goes out and says something that you can arguably say that the -- that is inferred to the client or that is adopted literally to the client. I don't know that this rises to that level, but I can see the argument.

[23:20:00] I -- frankly was more intrigued by the argument back and forth between Michael Cohen's lawyer and Michael Avenatti, earlier tonight, which I was hoping you were going to play a clip of. I've been sending that to anybody who wants some entertainment value tonight, because that surely was one of the better things on CNN.


LEMON: Well, I said that we've seen the show before when the -- remember last week when he brought out the picture and they started arguing? I just felt sorry for Jeffrey Toobin sitting in the middle going, --- then he made the testosterone comment, that was like -- right on, buddy.

So, listen, there are a number of similarities, Areva, in the stories between Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. You know, talking about the daughter, comparing the daughters and all sorts of things. What did you -- does that lend credibility to either of these women?

MARTIN: I think the level of details that both of these women gave gives credibility to both of their stories. But what was interesting to me, Karen McDougal told this very personal emotional story. It was clear that she was in love with Donald Trump and she believed that he was in love with her. There was this 10, 11-month relationship where she said they saw each other multiple times every month. I didn't get that from Stormy Daniels.

Stormy Daniels had this kind of bad-ass attitude. We had one sexual encounter. I wasn't attracted to him. It wasn't very good. He wanted to do it a second time, but I wouldn't allow it to happen. And she seemed really emboldened to fight back. And it was clear they didn't have the kind of emotional connection that Karen McDougal believed she had with Trump.

So, two different relationships, although I think both very credible, because both had details that no one would have. I don't think anybody could make this up unless you were there and unless these incidents actually occurred.

LEMON: So, Mark, real quick, because I've got to run, though. Is there any in-kind campaign contribution, what is your assessment of that?

GERAGOS: Look, if you wanted to make a case you could clearly make a case that this was a FEC violation. Having said that, as a practical matter, it's not going to happen with this -- FEC as presently constituted and with the DOJ under the President's leadership. So, they can argue about that. They can say that maybe -- Robert Mueller will deal with it. I doubt that. I just think that would be too far afield.

So, no, I don't think -- I don't think that this is a FEC violation. And building on Areva and I'll close it with this, it's interesting to me, I agree with her assessment with these two women. It is interesting to me why they spent so much attention trying to give or squash if you will Stormy who was just the one-time wham-bam, thank you ma'am, as opposed to Karen McDougal, who was a -- 11 or 12-month relationship. So, I don't understand it. It's perplexing to me, but a lot of it this is perplexing.

LEMON: Yes. If it didn't mean anything, why 130,000 --

MARTIN: Just one thing, Don.

LEMON: -- quick, quick, quick!

MARTIN: I disagree with Mark. I think the FEC is a brilliant argument and strategy.

LEMON: When I get my own production company, I'm going to sign you guys up. You're awesome together. Thank you very much. When we come back, the first lady so far silent about the lawsuits

several women are bringing against her husband, but will she be forced to address the allegations eventually like another first lady did? We're going to tell you what Melania Trump has in common with Hillary Clinton next.


LEMON: The White House says first lady, Melania Trump, is spending this week at Mar-a-Lago for a previously planned spring break stay focusing on being a mom and working on upcoming projects. But, it was just last week that she tweeted this smiling picture with the President in snowy Washington. And since then we have seen two block buster interviews with women who claim they had affairs with Donald Trump. Which gives Melania Trump something in common with another first lady, Hillary Clinton, who had to face accusations against her husband, President Bill Clinton. CNN's senior national correspondent, Alexander Marquardt has more. Alex?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Good evening, Don. Before Bill Clinton and Donald Trump became President, their wives, Hillary and Melania were well aware of the allegations concerning their husband's infidelities. In the White House, both women have had to deal with the embarrassment caused by their husband's behaviors, but for all these similarities, so far they have been treated very differently. And while Hillary Clinton was never one to shy away from the spotlight as this scandal rages around the current White House, Melania Trump has fled it.


MARQUARDT: They are two women whose lives and careers couldn't be more different. But Hillary Clinton and Melania Trump now share something few other first ladies have had to so publicly endure, their husbands as Presidents accused of cheating and sexual assault.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And you had sex with him?


MARQUARDT: As the bombshell interview with Stormy Daniels aired, Melania Trump was at Mar-a-Lago with her son. Today her spokeswoman told CNN, she is focused on being a mom and is quite enjoying spring break at Mar-a-Lago while working on future projects.

So far Melania has been spared the relentless criticism that Hillary got, largely from conservatives, for staying with Bill, after the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Bill's past behavior a regular target for Trump on the campaign trail as he took aim at Hillary.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She is married to a man who was the worst abuser of women in the history of politics.

MARQUARDT: He even invited four of Clinton's accusers to the same debate with Hillary where he claimed to have tremendous respect for women. TRUMP: I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for

women than I do.

MARQUARDT: That claim coming right after the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape whose language Melania called inappropriate, but defended.

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know that person that would talk that way. And that he would say that kind of stuff in private. I heard many different stuff, boys talk. The boys, the way they talk when they grow up and they want to sometimes show each other, oh, this and that and talking about the girls.

MARQUARDT: Now after the allegations from Stormy Daniels and Playmate Karen McDougal, silence from the tweeter in chief, silence from the first lady, silence from the Clinton critics, and silence from Hillary herself.

TRUMP: I'm very strong. People, they don't really know me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): What Melania Trump is feeling tonight is anyone's guess, but the last time she was asked what she thought about her husband's troubling behavior, she had a stark message.

TRUMP: Oh, Melania. Oh, poor Melania. Don't feel sorry for me. Don't feel sorry for me. I can handle everything.


MARQUARDT: Don, of course, it is unclear whether at the time Melania Trump said she can handle everything, whether she even knew about Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal or whether any of it would ever come to light. One good reason for her silence may be her young son.

Today the first lady's communications director tweeted, quote, while I know the media is enjoying speculation and salacious gossip, I'd like to remind people there is a minor child whose name should be kept out of news stories when at all possible. And, Don, we are respecting that tonight.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, Alex. I appreciate that. Perhaps the dad should know that, too.

I want to bring in now CNN contributor Kate Andersen Brower, the author of "First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies."

I said that because if these allegations are indeed true, it is the father who is bringing this into the spotlight and not the news media. We should keep the kid's name out of course out of the spotlight, but it's not the media's fault that it is being brought up, it's the father's fault.

Listen, a lot of people are talking about Melania and this Hillary connection. You wrote a great piece that is in and it's titled "What Melania Now Has In Common With Hillary." And you write in part, many first ladies have had to endure their husbands' infidelity although they were carried out well below the radar. But that was before cable news and social media, you write.

The glare of this media is not anything previous first ladies have had to deal with. I mean, the glare especially with the more and more prevalence of social media. How do you think she's handling it, Melania Trump?

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's interesting. I mean she's really retreating into herself. She's very private. She didn't expect any of this. I think it is especially humiliating for her because it's so personal.

And to have all these personal details out there in the open in a way that, you know, FDR famously cheated on Eleanor Roosevelt, the Kennedy is a great example of this, where there was this gentleman's agreement not to drag this out into the public realm. And now it's all there for public consumption.

As you say, President Trump kind of brought that on himself because there are charges of hypocrisy because he kept talking about the Clintons and Bill Clinton's behavior. And so now you have to point the finger at President Trump.

LEMON: But one difference -- Melania Trump has been -- she said there, and people -- she said, do not feel sorry for me. These were after some pretty strong allegations, talking about the Access Hollywood tape. So, she doesn't want people to feel sorry for her. But I think -- I wonder if it's different because she hasn't spoken out as much as Hillary Clinton did.

Days after the reports emerged about Monica Lewinsky and the sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, she stood firmly by her husband. A week after the first allegations, Hillary sat down and did an interview with NBC News where she launched a full-throated defense of Bill.

Melania, on the other hand, has not spoken so much about it.

BROWER: The irony of this is these two women could not be more different, right? Hillary Clinton even went to the Hill, talked to Democrats and pleaded with them before the impeachment vote to support her husband because she was a politician herself. And she cared deeply about his program. She had led his health care overhaul effort.

I mean, these two women are very different where Hillary Clinton was in the fight, Melania Trump didn't really want any part of it. And so I think that's why she's not speaking out. And it's remarkable really the things she's done, not moving into the White House right away, cancelling the Davos trip when these rumors started to filter out.

I think that these subtle signs reading the tea leaves, it might not be as complicated as people think it is. I think what you see is what you get here.

LEMON: But she is still standing by her man. They both stood by --she is for now.


LEMON: It doesn't appear she's going anywhere. Hillary Clinton is still with her husband. They are still married. There's no signs they are going to -- so, in that sense, and I said this on the air last week, they are alike more than they are different.

But the difference is, I don't think this is what Melania Trump signed up for. She signed up to be a wealthy wife on Fifth Avenue who can shop up and down Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue all day. Her life is fairly private. She can hang out with her girlfriends on the upper east side of New York in luncheon, go to the beauty parlor and all that, get her hair and nails done. But not this. It's out in public now.

2BROWER: Right. She rarely left Trump Tower. She was very much a creature of habit. She didn't go out and party a lot with friends and she loves to shop. Whereas Hillary Clinton, this was a partnership.

[23:34:59] And a lot of people would say that in part it hurt her a lot that she didn't leave Bill Clinton. A lot of Democrats and Republicans thought it was a mistake.

LEMON: You said that Melania Trump and Michelle Obama are a lot more alike than people realize?

BROWER: I thought -- obviously they're two completely different women. All these women are very different, so it's hard to lump any first ladies or to compare them. But I think in the ways that Michelle Obama just kind of told things like it is, and she was very up front and very kind of -- I mean obviously much more approachable than Melania Trump.

But I think that Melania Trump is radical in some ways by being defiant. By not, you know, talking about her husband in these gushing and glowing ways that other first ladies have done. She's standing by him but silently.

LEMON: Do you think she's getting a pass that Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama didn't get?

BROWER: It's a great question. I don't know a lot -- if you write anything about Melania Trump, people just come right out attacking her. A lot of people see her as this kind of empty vessel and they can kind of -- all their hatred can be directed at her, that they feel about her husband. We don't know anything about her really.

LEMON: I just think initially because Michelle Obama was not a public figure either when her husband -- and she got holy hell in the beginning.

BROWER: Oh, yes.

LEMON: People grew to -- they warmed up to her, but initially, especially one year in, they were writing horrible things about her. BROWER: Oh, yes.

LEMON: Oh, my gosh, look, she wore a sleeveless dress.

BROWER: I know. And she never sued anyone.


BROWER: I mean all that -- you know.

LEMON: I think she is getting a pass. I think this first lady is getting a pass, especially the last first lady did not get. Thank you, Kate. Appreciate it. We'll be right back.


LEMON: All right. We'll talk about some of the issues now. I want to bring in CNN political commentators Tara Setmayer, Steve Cortes who is a former Trump campaign advisor, and Symone Sanders. Hello, everyone. Good evening. Welcome to the program.

Tara, several employees at the Department of Interior have told CNN that Secretary Ryan Zinke has said on several occasions that diversity is important or I don't care about diversity. What do you say?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Why are we surprised? I mean this is the cast of characters that -- it's the C team. This isn't exactly the cream of the crop here that's in this Trump cabinet here. I mean, you know, you vote for a clown, you're going to get the circus. This is what you get here.

I mean, Ryan Zinke, not only has he made comments like this, his spending habits and other things, the "konnichiwa" comment during the hearing last week with to a Japanese-American congresswoman after they were talking about Japanese internment camps and things like that.

It's just a very -- you know, Trump supporters will say, well, you know, it's not P.C. Everyone is getting way too sensitive about these things. And, you know, yes, there are some things you can take political correctness too far but then there is also just a certain amount of professionalism that I think the American people expect from the cabinet members that they are not getting.

LEMON: Symone, Zinke reportedly said, I care about excellence and I'm going to get the best people. We will find -- we have the most diverse group anyone has ever had. Sounds like he's saying diversity is a goal that takes care of itself.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and we know that's not true.


SANDERS: Because if it was, we wouldn't need inclusion and diversity initiatives. Look, when Secretary Zinke says that with many people across the country here is that, diversity equals not having the best people. Diversity initiatives equal that. We know that's not true.

The problem here is that the folks in the Trump administration and today it's Ryan Zinke, tomorrow we don't know who it is. But clearly, the secretary believes that diversity does not -- diversity initiatives do not equal the best folks rising to the top and that's problematic.

LEMON: Steve, does the secretary get -- Secretary Zinke get that different perspective in diversity, that diversity brings different perspectives, that the experiences of many different kinds of people contribute to excellence? It's sort of what Symone just said. Does he understand that?

STEVE CORTES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, Don, I sure hope he does. His spokesman denied these comments, by the way. I hope that's true because I certainly don't agree. As a Hispanic, as a Trump supporter, I don't agree with these sentiments if he indeed did say them.

But I will also say this to Tara. You know, when you call us a circus, you know, team Trump or clowns, this man, number one, is a navy seal, all right? So, he deserves your respect. He's a cabinet member.

Number two, he's married to a Latina who I have met at several times at many Hispanic Republican events. So the idea that he doesn't have any idea about diversity or that he doesn't respect disparate voices I think is absurd just even in his own life. But again --

SANDERS: I just want to have Tara's back for a second, Steve, and say this. Pardon me. I just want to have Tara's back for a second and note that being married to a Latina does not mean you cannot be insensitive towards diversity issues and/or be diversity and inclusion problematic.

So proximity is just because you're married to someone of color --

SETMAYER: That's right.

SANDERS: -- does not equal that you can't be issued -- it does not mean that you cannot have issues with diversity.

SETMAYER: Right. That's right.

SANDERS: I just want to be clear.

CORTES: OK, well, I would say --

SANDERS: You pulled the Latina friend card.


SETMAYER: He also got in trouble as a navy seal. I appreciate his service, but he also got in trouble with the navy seal. Go ahead.

CORTES: It certainly means that you're not some prejudice bigot. If you're willing to marry somebody --

SANDERS: That's not true. Oh, my god, that's not true. That's a common misconception. Go ahead, Tara. I'm sorry, Tara. Go ahead, girl.

CORTES: Here's the point. Here's the point. Listen, I will agree -- I think I'll agree with both of you -- all three of you I'm guessing at this point.

SETMAYER: I don't know.

LEMON: Don't bring me into this. I'm just asking questions, but go on.


CORTES: That the Republican Party has been, in my opinion, too white. It has been too traditional. And we need to reach out. Now, I think we're starting to do that and I think Donald Trump made a valiant effort in 2016 in trying to reach out to black and brown Americans in saying that the Democratic Party --

SETMAYER: How is that exactly --

CORTES: For decades --

LEMON: Oh, my God.

CORTES: And we don't only care about you in election time, we actually care about your prosperity and your security overall. And by the way, black and Hispanic unemployment just hit all-time lows.

[23:45:00] So, I think we're starting to deliver on those promises which is more important to me than ---

SANDERS: Black unemployment --

CORTES: But again, if Secretary Zinke said these things --


LEMON: Hold on. Symone and then Tara. Symone and then Tara.

SANDERS: Steve Cortez, Steve, black unemployment is still twice that of white Americans. Again, I am --

CORTES: Right. There is still work to do.

SANDERS: I'm not giving cookies and pats on the back for just getting a little bit when black unemployment is still twice that of white Americans. And just because you have proximity to people of color does not mean you cannot traffic in bigotry, racism or prejudice.

LEMON: Go ahead, Tara.

SETMAYER: Also as someone who has worked with the Republican Party for 20 plus years and --

LEMON: You're a Republican.

SETMAYER: Yes, I'm a Republican, lifelong. I'm a conservative first. I don't know what the Republican Party is doing now. I'm still a registered Republican, but, you know, everyday I start to question that. But let me say something to you, Steve.

As a minority woman that worked in Republican circles 20-plus years, I can tell you that there is a major problem in the Republican Party as far as being able to properly message conservative and Republican principles to minority communities because people like Ryan Zinke and others who say things and do things like these that are very insensitive to these communities, then people look and say, you don't care about us, you only show up when it's time for an election.

And Donald Trump going out there and saying, what the hell do you have to lose, is not exactly outreach to the black and Hispanic communities. I'm sorry, it's not. And, yes, you might have gotten a couple of more percentage points than Mitt Romney or George Bush did for the black vote, a measly 8 percent. That's still pathetic compared to where the Republican Party could have been and should be.

We're working toward an actual policy prescription for minorities, not just making these platitudes and say things like that and then being racially insensitive with people who are --

LEMON: A quick break. A quick break. We'll be right back.


LEMON: We're back now. American students calling on Washington to change gun laws and make students safer. Hundreds of thousands from coast to coast protesting this weekend, more than five weeks after the high school mass shooting in Florida. But former Republican Senator Rick Santorum, a CNN commentator, criticizing the marchers.


RICK SANTORUM, FOMER MEMBER OF UNITED STATES SENATE, CNN COMMENTATOR: How about kids instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem do something about maybe taking CPR classes. They took action for someone to pass a law. They didn't take action to say how I as an individual deal with this problem.


LEMON: That's the first time I'm seeing that. Did that happen? Tara is back.

SANDERS: It's real.

LEMON: Steve is back. Symone is back. What did you think of that? Go ahead, Symone.

SANDERS: You know, I think -- I do not like to speak ill of my CNN colleagues, Don, but this just misses the mark. I hope Senator Santorum comes out and clarify his comments. This is problematic for many reasons. God forbid we ask legislators to do their job. Perhaps that's why Senator Santorum is now former Senator Santorum.


LEMON: Listen, I said -- I would love Rick to come on the show. I feel the same way. It was shocking to hear it for the first time. Listen, he responded via Twitter by the way and he said, my point on CNN's "State of the Union" is the same point I have made since the shooting, relying on more government to focus on guns is a mistake. We need to learn from those who have experienced violence and found solutions that focus on the shooter. Here is an example.

And then he attached an article about foster freeze, about shooters needing role models and contributing to certain organizations but he didn't address the CPR comment there, Tara.

SETMAYER: Let me say something about this. I think that Rick Santorum has sometimes -- is a little rough with his answers. But I don't completely disagree with him in that the discussion seems to be always the pendulum swung to one side.

And I get that people are very emotional and there was a tragedy and these tragedies happen. But it's a multipronged approach when it comes to what to do with these situations. And I think that the marchers, some of the rhetoric that it became, became very -- it was too much for a lot of law abiding gun owners in this country. And I understand that. And some of the rhetoric coming from some of the Parkland kids was a bit much.

LEMON: How is it too much?

SETMAYER: I just think that some of them -- you know, saying that the NRA has the blood of children on their hands and all of this --

LEMON: But I heard -- OK, Tara, I heard during the election, I heard woman whose son -- there was this one woman whose son had been killed I think in Benghazi and she came out and she said really horrible things about, you know, Democrats, about Hillary Clinton.

And no one criticized her because she was grieving. These kids are grieving and of course those kids are going to say those things, but also the majority of those kids --

SETMAYER: You can't criticize the rhetoric because they're victims.

LEMON: So what? They're kids. So what?

SETMAYER: They are kids but we are elevating them to a point now where they are now like making policy --

LEMON: But don't you think they feel -- they feel the same way that most Americans feel. That's how the kids feel.

SETMAYER: Most Americans don't think that we should have a second amendment.

LEMON: Those kids are not saying -- those kids are not saying we shouldn't have a second amendment. They're saying that assault weapons --

SETMAYER: Some of the kids that are getting the most attention. I mean some of the kids that are getting the most attention are saying pretty radical things. And it is difficult --

LEMON: They're not saying that there should not -- that's what gun owners are saying. That is the extreme that you're going to. Those kids are not saying get rid of the second amendment. These kids are saying that there should be sensible gun laws and that's how most Americans feels.

SETMAYER: But they're not defining what those are and this becomes very --

LEMON: They want a assault weapons ban.

SETMAYER: And assault weapons would not have prevented this. So I mean assault weapons bans -- we already saw that when they had an assault weapons banned, you didn't have -- they didn't have (INAUDIBLE) amount of violence.

SANDERS: Can I say something?

LEMON: Can you tell the kids to shut up? Steve, go ahead.

SETMAYER: I think they have a right to do this, but I also think that we -- if you criticize some of what they're saying, then all of a sudden you're the bad guy --

[23:55:00] LEMON: You are the bad guy.


LEMON: Yes, you are. You are. These kids suffered unimaginable tragedy. You let them vent and you move on. You're an adult. You let them vent. And you understand that you're an adult. Maybe you do understand more than they do, but you let them vent. Just as you let a gold star widow or a gold star father or a gold star mother vent. And you don't --

SETMAYER: -- to go by without pushing back a little.

LEMON: Those kids are not going to change the second amendment. They're not lawmakers.

SETMAYER: They're not, but we are elevating them to a point where now that they are beyond reproach.

LEMON: We are not elevating them.

SETMAYER: They are acting things that are not (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: And they deserve to have every elevation because of what they went through. We should listen to them because we -- I can't imagine what they went through. If I went through something like that, I would want people -- I would want to be able to vent as much as possible.

SETMAYER: All right. I haven't said they can't do that, but the discussion here has become whether they can be criticized or scrutinized for some of the more extreme things that some of the people have said. And I think that there is some room here for scrutiny. That's all.

CORTES: I think emotion is totally understandable for people who've been through terrible things, whatever it is. And I'm not in any way demeaning that or demeaning their right to express their emotion. But emotion also should not guide policy. When it comes to policy, when you talk about an assault weapons ban, I hate that term. All guns by definition are assault weapons, so it's really a nonsense term.

SANDERS: No, they're not.

LEMON: Come on, now. We're out of time. I got to go. I got to go.

CORTES: The so-called assault weapons ban was about cosmetics.

LEMON: I got to go. We're over. We're over. We're over. Anyway, I don't think the kids should be criticized. I think that we should allow them to vent. I think we should listen to them because we did not suffer the horrible tragedy that they did. And we should let our lawmakers do their jobs. Good night. Thanks, everyone. Good night.