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Don Lemon Tonight

President Trump Cleaning His Mess; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) Rising In The Polls; Justice Department Backs Steven Mnuchin In Fight For Trump's Tax Returns; Pride Month; From Beer-Fueled Brainstorm To Life's Work Of Helping Others. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired June 14, 2019 - 23:00   ET




Sources at the White House acknowledging to CNN that President Trump messed up in his interview with ABC News that he bungled his answers when he said that he would accept dirt on political opponents from foreigners.

Those clips have been playing over and over for the past 48 hours with one Trump advisor saying last few days have been tough. The president tried walking back his comments today but he never out right acknowledged that it's illegal as the Federal Election Commission flat out says it is.

But Trump's sides -- Trump's aides, excuse me, say that they don't believe the fallout will be significant. That his supporters likely don't care. That as White House staffers appear to be ready to throw Sarah Sanders under the bus as she's on her way out the door.

She's being blamed for giving ABC access to the president. Though they admit the decision to grant the interview was ultimately the presidents.

A lot to discuss tonight. Susan Glasser is here. Peter Wehner is here as well, who by the way worked in the last three Republican administrations. And Juliette Kayyem joins us.

Good evening to all of you. I appreciate you being here. Very interesting news week. So, let's discuss.

Susan, the big picture, OK. Your latest piece in the New Yorker helps to, helps us to do that and to understand that. And here's the headline. It says, "Forget no collusion, Trump is now pro-collusion."

Is that the message after the president's stunning comments this week?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you could say that was the message after his comments now. That was before his effort this morning on "Fox & Friends" to walk back his comments. I'm frankly confused as to where we've landed.

But I found it particularly kind of comical the idea that White House sources are saying that the president bungled his answerers because he clearly said what he thinks.

So, it's a classic kind of Washington gaffe of saying what you actually think and getting in trouble for it, it seems to me. You know, the president was very off the cuff and direct and sounded very much like Donald Trump, didn't he, when he said well, you know, sure, I'd listen to them and you know, I wouldn't bother to call the FBI.

Of course, he did lie about the fact when he said I've never called the FBI in my life. It turned out he actually was an informant for the FBI earlier in his career. So yes, it's all very confusing, right, Don.

LEMON: My God.

GLASSER: It's Friday night. And -- can you remember it was just Monday that president had his secret deal with Mexico. Doesn't that seem like an eternity?

LEMON: Yes, it does. I mean, it does. And if you -- at the top of the last hour we played what he said on ABC News and juxtaposed to what he said on Fox and Friends in subsequent interviews and none of it makes sense. It's like a Saturday Night Live skit.

I mean, listen, you also write this, Susan. You say "Trump is a political octopus squirting so much diversionary black ink at us that diversions is the new normal now." A political octopus?

GLASSER: You know, I wasn't sure if I should say squid or octopus but I wanted to say octopus because I thought that seemed more like it with all of many different tentacles. Right?

Like on every given moment there's at least eight different Trump arms throwing a story at us, right? And so, I don't even know which story we're talking about half the time because it's all just sort of, one big blob.

LEMON: OK. So, Susan and I are going to stop pretending that we're the only people here and we'll bring in the other guest. So, Peter, listen, CNN -- a CNN source says that White House aides are frustrated with Sarah Sander over her handling of the ABC interview.

Why is she being thrown under the bus when the president should be able to say no, you know, I would not accept foreign dirt. Yes, I would call the FBI. Why would they throw her under bus when it was actually him who answered the questions?

[23:05:07] PETER WEHNER, FORMER ADVISER TO GEORGE W. BUSH: Because in Trump world he's never wrong. It's always somebody else's fault. You know, he said what Susan indicated which was he was revealing what's in his mind and in his heart.

It was striking. I mean, when I heard the interview, I thought this is a moral narcissist. This is a person who has no objective moral standards. He's a person who believes that whatever helps him is by definition right and whatever hurts him is by definition wrong. And that's a kind of moral anarchy and it's a person who doesn't have any moral guardrails. And when you see it, you kind of stunned by it and it's hard to follow, right, from day to day and week to week what he says.

But there is something consistent about him. And it is that sense that everything revolves around him and there's no outside objective sources of morality or ethics. And that's just a very, very dangerous thing. In the human life it's problematic enough. In a president, it's corrupting to a country and it can be outright dangerous.

LEMON: Juliette, I mean, isn't it also clear the president meant what he said the first time because he is now thanking --


LEMON: -- the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who is blocking legislation on election security. Where he is like, you know, don't fall for the Democrats' hoax or whatever. It's clear he meant what he said the first time.

KAYYEM: Yes, I had no doubt. And I know we know he meant what he said because the whole team had been hinting that this was where the strategy was going to go for a couple of months.

Remember, we're a long way from there was no interactions with the Russians to we were talking about adoptions to well, the help we got didn't really mean anything. And now to we actually welcome the help in 2020.

And you know, just to pick up on both point because I just couldn't agree more with the other panelist. I think, you know, the White House believes that there's never any consequences for anything that Trump does. If they could just sort of try to fix it and maybe put the genie back in the bottle because of the reaction.

I'll tell you, two people, two groups said that we have longer memories. One is the agents and the lawyers and the FBI agents and the CIA assets who hear that know exactly where they stand in the pecking order for Donald Trump, which is he will throw them under bus. He does not want to protect the United States.

The second is of course our allies and our enemies who, whatever the White House tries to spin this will know what the president meant and will react accordingly. Our allies, knowing that this is a president with of course no moral code and our enemies trying to figure out ways to assist the president in his, you know, flirtation to get bad -- to get bad information about whoever is the Democratic nominee.

LEMON: Yes. You know we were just talking, Juliette, you know, in the other show about -- he said well, there's no collusion. And if you are to interpret any rational person interpret the words that he has said in the interviews, it seems like he's willing to collude. This is collusion.

KAYYEM: Yes. And I want to be clear here. The president is actually inaccurate -- I mean, he's wrong to say that there was no collusion. Volume one of the Mueller report is rampant with evidence of collusion between this family and the campaign and the Russians. But the way that Mueller --


LEMON: Can we show all the heads nodding? Everyone. Wait, hold on.


LEMON: Say that again so we can --

KAYYEM: It is rampant with evidence of collusion. What Mueller did not come to was a criminal finding of conspiracy. But the collusion, the interactions between the Trump campaign and the Trump family and the Russians is clear.

All you need to do is read volume one. You just read it and it's -- I've always said it's like, to me, that is the most important piece. It is mind boggling. But also, just to raise, we don't know if collusion is happening now. The reelect campaign is in place. It's mostly the same people and I do wonder if Donald Trump was trying to sort of not throw what's going on.

Now I don't can know what the Russians are doing. I don't know what other countries are doing. So, the president wants to collide. Whatever the White House says he meant, you know. He is the president of the president of the United States, he's an adult, right? I mean, what he meant what he said.

LEMON: Yes. And then he brings Norway. He's always -- Norway is always on his mind. But Susan, listen, the president is saying that he'd accept foreign dirt.

He also, he is standing by Kellyanne Conway despite an agency saying -- a government watch dog agency in which he appointed the head of the agency. They're saying that she violated the Hatch Act. Do all these examples show that there was an ethical vacuum at this White House?

[23:09:56] GLASSER: Well, Don, I'm glad you brought that up. Because I've been thinking a lot about that today. There's a very striking comment that the president made actually when he was asked about the allegations about Kellyanne Conway.

First, he said well, I don't know anything about it but it sounds like they're trying to infringe upon her free speech. But then he said I don't like that act. It's really not something that I'm in favor of. I don't like it.

You don't get to pick and choose which laws you're going to obey if you're the president of the United States. And I think for me that comment really crystalized an overall attitude. It's the same attitude that you've seen on the part of his White House when it comes to congressional subpoenas, well, I don't like that. I'm not going to, you know, I'm going to pick and choose. And I think that is actually their attitude toward the law, that it's

something fungible, it's something negotiable, it's something that depends in anyway upon the personal whims of the president.


LEMON: It's like saying the FBI director is wrong. Right?

GLASSER: Yes. Well, there's that, too.

LEMON: Right.

GLASSER: But you know, you can, even that is an arguably in the realm of opinion. Saying I don't like the Hatch Act.


GLASSER: Right? It encapsulates the idea of why we have a system that is a rule of law and not of men. And the president essentially deep down is antithetical to that.


GLASSER: So, the idea that the White House is not only going to flout it but look, read the statement that the White House counsel put out. I found that to be also a remarkable document. I'm not a lawyer. But just as a document it's a remarkable document.

First of all, it's ad hominem, a very partisan attack on someone that the president himself appointed to the position and saying that actually it's somehow this Republican-Trump-appointed official is acting carrying water for Democrats for the media, you know.


GLASSER: So, it's a very telling incident.

LEMON: Peter, you want to say something on this and then once you say your piece, can we talk about your book? Go on.

WEHNER: Sure. I just wanted to say that my sense of it is that Donald Trump is brought in his ethical or unethical universe to the presidency. This is how he's lived his entire life. And a lot of people supporters, Republicans thought well, when he becomes president, he's going to grow in office and he'll be a changed man. That wasn't going to happen.

He's changed the presidency. The presidency hasn't changed him. And when we have these discussions about ethics, I'm telling you he doesn't understand it. It is a foreign language to him.

It's like trying to describe color to a person who is color blind. I think he's genuinely baffled when he gives an answer like he to George Stephanopoulos and says, of course, we would take dirt from a foreign country. Everybody would. And then it takes a day or two for people to say, you know, that's

actually not how the world works, that's not how ethics works and then they're left to scramble to try and clean it up.

LEMON: So, let's talk about your book. All right.


LEMON: "The Death of Politics: How to Heal our Frayed Republic After Trump." You know you just talked about, you know, him and you know, about ethics or you feel lack of understand of ethics. But you're offering some hope in this book it seems like.

WEHNER: I am. You know, I mean, it's "The Death of Politics" because I feel like we're at a critical juncture and a lot of what we care about in politics is dying. At the same time, I argue that politics is really important. Because while politics is about a lot of things, it's ultimately about justice and justice always matters. And there's a tremendous human cause to getting politics wrong.

I just like that there is human flourishing when you get it right. And I think one of the biggest things that I try and argue against in this book is fatalism and despair and a sense that we can't do it.

This country has a remarkable capacity for self-renewal and we have it within our power to write wonderful new chapters in the American story. It doesn't mean it's going to happen, it's not fated to happen. But this is a self-governing country.

Last thing I'll say on this is a lot of times in the life of an individual or life of a nation, there's certain qualities or virtues that you take for granted. And you forgot why they were important to you.

And when they're stripped away from you, you remember why you cherish them to begin with and then you're willing to fight for them and make the case for them and stand up for them.

And I have a feeling the Trump era is -- think of the as a virus that may create its own antibodies. And I have a feeling that by the time we get to 2020, people are going to be arguing for certain things that they took for granted that they'll now understand is really central to being a good a decent country.

LEMON: Listen, you just gave a message to the country and I have -- do have say -- and I'm sure you know him and you heard what historian John Meacham said about your back. Right? He says conservatives need your book. I think all of America need your book as well.

So, good luck with that. Thank you for coming on and thank you for writing the book. Thanks, everyone. Have a great weekend. OK. It's called "The Death of Politics" by the way. Peter Wehner's book.

[23:14:57] Elizabeth Warren has a momentum in a new Nevada poll but Joe Biden is still the front runner. We're going to dig in to how the 2020 race is shaping up. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: As the 2020 field continues to take shape a top tier of candidate is emerging, of candidates, I should say is emerging.

Here are the top five candidates. In a poll of Nevada caucus goers released this week, it's by Monmouth University. Look at that in first place commanding lead with Joe Biden with 36 percent. Followed by Elizabeth Warren, 19. And then you've got Bernie Sanders there in third at 13. And Pete Buttigieg at seven, Kamala Harris at six.

Let's discus now. Mr. Keith Boykin is here, as well as Charlie Dent, Congressman Charlie Dent, former Congressman Charlie Dent. Thank you both for joining us.

So, let me ask you, Elizabeth Warren -- Keith, you first. I mean, bumping Bernie Sanders down to third place in Nevada. That's huge. What do you think of the state of the race right now?

[23:20:02] KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the state of the race is influx right now. Warren has a lot of great ideas. She's got new policy positions practically every other day that she's coming out with and I think she's presenting a lot energy into the party.

You know, Bernie Sanders, people already they know him, they know Joe Biden. They're figures from the past so people don't really have a lot that they can learn about. But Elizabeth Sanders is somebody people haven't really been introduced to --


LEMON: Elizabeth Warren

BOYKIN: Elizabeth Warren. So many people have been actually been introduced to.

LEMON: It's Friday. It's been a long week.

BOYKIN: I haven't had a drink yet.

LEMON: Yes. Yes is the operative word. Yes.

BOYKIN: People haven't really been introduced to her in the same way they know about Bernie Sanders, for example.

LEMON: Right.

BOYKIN: And I think that she has a lot of sort advantages that Bernie Sanders does without some of the baggage that Bernie Sanders brings.

LEMON: But also, I think, Charlie, maybe, correct me if I'm wrong, you know, I'm thinking -- you know, I just heard from Peter Wehner who is saying that people are going to want something different by the time 2020 rolls around. I think they want to hear about policy. They want to hear about what

you're going to do for me. Yes, we know in politics if you're a big personality, that all plays. But I think maybe the American voter this time is yearning for something that they're not getting right now. I don't know. What do you think, Charlie?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Don, I do think the voters want something different. Certainly, they want somebody with a different style than the president, probably somebody more measured, more careful in how they conduct themselves.

But I'm not so sure that policy is going to drive the day. I think that Joe Biden isn't running a campaign based on policy. I think that Pete Buttigieg, well, he's very impressive in many ways, is really not focused on policy. Elizabeth Warren is.

I'm not convince that policy is going to drive this election. I just don't see it. It's more about style and tone and they want an anti- Trump, somebody who is going to drive up a better message.

LEMON: Interesting. Well, the crux of my question was around Elizabeth Warren but, you know, I'm picking up what you're putting down. But you think -- so then what do you attribute her rise to the polls to? In the polls, I should say.

DENT: Well, I think she's rising in the polls because she is a progressive and I think a lot of Democrats want a newer face a fresher face and somebody who is full energy and zeal. True, she has a lot of policies that she's throwing out there but she's pretty aggressive and I think maybe it's the style that they're warming up to.

Candidly, I think that she's a gift to Donald Trump on many levels and it's going to open up the center of the country that there is going to be an independent or third party candidacy if she gets the nomination, because I think a lot of people who are uncomfortable with Donald Trump want an alternative but won't be able to do that, Elizabeth Warren.

LEMON: All right. So, let's talk a bit more, Keith, about Elizabeth Warren. Came with a number of detailed policy plans as we said. It seems like every other day. She's like and you know, I don't mean that disparagingly. I think people -- I do think people like it. Whether it's going to carry the day like -- the day like Charlie says, that remains to be seen. Incredibly specific in her messaging. So, I want you to listen to what she told our M.J. Lee. That was this afternoon. Watch this.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People walk up to me and say I got $46,000 in student loan debt, I'm working a second and third job just to try to make the payments on my student loan debt. Or families that say all of one of our paychecks is just going to child care. We're sinking here. We can't build a future.

And to have real plans, to be able to change that plans supported, not just by Democrats, but also by Republicans, that's how we can make the kind of change that would -- that would make this country work.


LEMON: OK. So, I'm just wondering. You know, I've been asking the same question in 14 different ways if that is behind the attraction. Number one -- of her getting this attraction. Number -- maybe it is and number two, are we putting too much stock in maybe one poll or a couple of polls?

And number three, as you've been saying it is a long way off. And so you're going to have Elizabeth Warren here and then here, and then you're going to have Pete Buttigieg here and then you're going to have Kamala Harris here and you're going to have Joe Biden here. So, go on.

BOYKIN: Yes. You're making exactly the point I have been making for some time now. We are in June of 2019. The election is not until November of 2020. And we haven't had a primary that won't -- that won't even start until next February, I think.

So, the American people haven't yet gotten a chance to see the candidates even stand on the stage side by side which we'll see in a couple of weeks at the first debate.

LEMON: But that was -- I'm glad you said that because the important thing is, is where they place in these polls if they even get to be on those stages which is --

BOYKIN: Right. But only four candidates didn't make it in the debate. You know, 20 of them will be on the stage for the first debate, first two debates. I think what we're seeing here is that people want choices and they don't know exactly which choice they're going to make.

[23:25:03] But it's way too early to look at one poll. Nevada, or New Hampshire, or Iowa and determine if this candidate is in or out. I've heard a lot of people just a few months ago who were saying Elizabeth Warren is out of the race because of all the controversy about her Native American heritage questioning.

But the reality is here she is rebounding showing that that hasn't been a fatal liability for her campaign. So, I think she has a strong possibility to continue to do well.

LEMON: So, Charlie, let me ask you this. The Trump campaign is responding to this leaked internal polling numbers. I don't know if you've heard about this story. Caused concern. Saying that numbers represent the worse-case scenario that they say this.

They say, "In a more likely turnout model patterned after 2016 and when a Democrat is defined, the race is not only competitive, the president is leading. This is more proof that political reporters don't understand modern polling and further illustrated how deceptive it can be to reveal only tiny portions of a massive poll." What do you make of this?

DENT: Well, clearly, the president's polling numbers are not very good. That said, I have less confidence in the science of polling now than I used to. I think it's harder for them to get their samples. And then when everybody had landlines, I thought we had more accurate polls.

But the president has got a problem here. These polls, he denied that those polls existed. I guess because he didn't like what they found in them. But look, he doesn't have much margin for error, the president.

You know, he won Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes, he won Michigan and Wisconsin by similarly slim margins and he is taken his campaign to the point where all he does is double down, triple down on his base. He's alienating moderate and swing and independent voters and he doesn't have a lot of margin for error.

He -- I think he's in real trouble. His unfavorability ratings are exceedingly high for an incumbent president at this stage. And I think that's a big issue. Now can he win? It's possible but not probable based on the numbers I'm looking at.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you. You said it was better when people had land lines. I mean, if you do have a home phone --

DENT: Polling.

LEMON: I know. But if you have a home phone and it rings, don't you get like, who is it? Who's calling? Is that the alarm company? What is --

BOYKIN: I know --

LEMON: All right. Those were the days, right? Thank you, gentleman. I appreciate it.

The Justice Department sides with the president on refusing to release tax returns. What can Democrats do now?


LEMON: The Justice Department today is siding with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's refusal to hand over President Trump's taxes to the House Ways and Means Committee, a decision that surprised absolutely no one.

Let's discuss now. Renato Mariotti is here as well as Michael D'Antonio. Michael is the author of "The Truth About Trump."

Gentlemen, good evening to you. Renato, I'm going to start with you. You know, in its memo, the DOJ states that Democrats wanting to make the documents public is not a legitimate legislative purpose. Would you agree with that?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No. In fact, what it says, if you read it carefully, Don, is that it's reasonable to conclude that this is a mere pretext. In other words, they don't really have a good reason to say that this is an improper legislative purpose. They just say, well, it's reasonable to say that based upon how the Democrats are operating.

You know, that is not how courts look at it. Typically, what courts do is they do not -- they do not look and try to decipher whether or not there's a legitimate legislative purpose, particularly here because the tax of the statute says that the tax returns shall be furnished to the House. There's no hedging in that language, so it's going to be very interesting to see how a court reacts to this view by the OLC, by the Department of Justice.

LEMON: Michael, Trump promised more transparency about his taxes for years. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When the audit is completed, I'll release my returns. I have no problem with it.

I'm releasing when we're finished with the audit.

It depends on the audit. Not a big deal.

I will release my tax returns against my lawyer's wishes, when she releases her 33,000 e-mails that have been deleted.

I've been under audit for many years because the numbers are big and I guess when you have a name, you're audited.


LEMON: OK. So, first, being under audit is not a reason to not release your tax returns. Secondly, the former lawyer said that he never saw -- Trump former lawyer said he never saw evidence of an audit and doubts that it's even true. We do know that he appears to have lost more money than any other American taxpayer, individual American taxpayer. So, how did these taxes become such a third rail?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he obviously has very big secrets. Nobody fights this hard against the truth if he doesn't have something to hide. So the question that all Americans should be asking is what is the president hiding? What's in these tax returns that he doesn't want us to know?

And I'm sure that there are many things that he considers shameful, because he defines himself by wealth. This is more important to him than any other endowment that he might possess. It's his wealth that matters. So this is the same stuff, different day. He's fighting the truth. He's fighting to control the narrative.

[23:34:57] Also, if we get this data, it's raw data that he created, so he's already sworn to it. And so now we have something that he can't shade, he can't spin. It's a fact, and we'll know a lot more than we know now.

LEMON: Renato, The DOJ seems to be acting on behalf of the president's interest. What is the DOJ's response, say, about the agency's level of politicization, you think? MARIOTTI: Oh, it's through the roof. You know, frankly, I know the person who wrote this. He was my law school classmate. I'm disappointed in him, frankly, for writing this. What the opinion shows is that in fact, he first wrote a letter to the treasury secretary when the secretary was deciding whether to release the returns and now he's followed it up with this.

And really it's the sort of thing that is -- it's not even to a lawyer, you're reading it, it's barely something that you can put together and write as an excuse because you have a statute that says they shall furnish the returns and he's trying to get around the word "shall" by saying well, even though it says that they shall furnish them, Congress really shouldn't be able to do this and there should be a purpose and it's reasonable to conclude, that maybe the purpose is in this way.

Frankly, it really just goes to show that it's possible to write a legal opinion that says almost anything and it's not going to hold up in court.

LEMON: No, you don't believe. OK. So, listen. This happened today, too. I've got to get your take on this, Michael. The president was asked if VP Pence would have his automatic endorsement in 2014. Listen.


TRUMP: Well, it's far to -- look, I love Mike. We're running again but, you know, you're talking about a long time. So, you can't put me in that position. But I certainly would give it very strong consideration. He is a very, very outstanding --


LEMON: I said 2014, which was behind us, but 2024 is what I meant. So strong consideration, listen, I know that 2024 is a long time off, but I mean could have handled that a little bit better, no?

D'ANTONIO: Well, this shows us where loyalty lies with Donald Trump. It all goes in one direction. Mike is going to be loyal to him. He is not going to be loyal to Mike Pence. A lot of things can happen between now and 2024. You know, Mike Pence could wind up doing something that Trump disagrees with.

So he holds everything over everyone. He's not going to give you anything until he absolutely has to. And in this case, he's demonstrating it's my Republican Party, I own everything. Just as with his administration with the Justice Department, he owns everybody in the Justice Department now.

Everyone is demonstrating that they have fallen in line with the president. And so their professional judgment goes out the window. They write the brief that he would write if he were doing it himself. And in the case of Mike Pence, he's betraying him.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. Listen, there's a fascinating story coming up and you've got to watch it. We'll be right back.


LEMON: This pride month, a documentary explores some dark days in our history. During the 1950s, Americans who were suspected of being gay or lesbian were forced out of government jobs because of the ugly assumption that they could be easily blackmailed and turn into communist spies. Here's a look at the documentary, "The Lavender Scare."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have your friend in the next room. She's already told us that you're gay. You give us the names of others and we'll go easier on you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Homosexual must not be handling top secret material.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It started this lavender scare. It started this systematic campaign to identify and remove all suspected gay men and lesbians from the federal civil service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): I was called to the FBI office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): They wouldn't allow legal representation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): I was a scared kid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): They wouldn't reveal the evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): They said, "We have information you are homosexual. Do you have any comment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): And they would threat an exposure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I submitted my resignation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): I lost my job at the patent (ph) office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the end of it.


LEMON: Joining me is David K. Johnson. He is the author of "The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays." Josh Howard is here as well, the maker of the documentary. Thank you so much for joining us. You know, we look over the last few years. You see a sort of this evolution in, you know, same-sex marriage moving so quickly and people's mind being changed at least over the last decade as well.

But just in the 1950s, it wasn't that long ago. Even that clip gives you an idea how scary it is. Explain to us how frightening it was back then to be gay in America.

JOSH HOWARD, FILMMAKER: It was terrifying because the government was officially sanctioning homophobia. Homosexual acts were illegal in most of the country. The government was branding gay people as disloyal and a threat to security, and the government was out to get them.

LEMON: The president at the time, which was Eisenhower, actually signed an executive order to purge gay men and women from the government. His justification was that they were national security risks, that they could somehow be corrupted or blackmailed. What was that based on?

DAVID K. JOHNSON, AUTHOR: It's based on a myth. It's based on a myth that gay people were a threat to national security. It was the Cold War. There were lots of fears.

[23:45:00] People were afraid of communists. They are afraid of homosexuals. They thought that both groups were somehow a result of psychological weakness or maladjustment.

LEMON: We hear a lot about McCarthyism. Is there any equation there when you, you know, between the two? Gays can be blackmailed. Therefore, they must be purged out of government. These people are communists. Therefore, they must be purged out of society.

HOWARD: Well, absolutely. The issue was that there actually were not that many communists in the State Department and throughout the government. But when the government did want to demonstrate that they had an effective security system, homosexuals were a much easier target. And to a large degree, that's what really started the lavender scare.

LEMON: If someone were accused of being gay, what can they do? Do they have any recourse? OK, you're gay and therefore you got to -- you are bad. Do they have any recourse against that?

HOWARD: Most of the people who were threatened with being fired just resigned, just handed in their resignations. They were not allowed to have legal representation. They were not allowed to face their accusers. They just went quietly.

LEMON: And people were asked -- they were informants, right? They were asked, if you know of someone -- they were giving people up. If your name was given to authorities, what do they do with that information, do you know?

JOHNSON: Well, they follow it up with the simplest rumor. They would say this co-worker has odd-shaped lips or this man has a funny walk. And the security officers would investigate. They would go and interview neighbors and former employers.

LEMON: I want to play another clip from the "Lavender Scare." Let's watch.


FRANKLIN KAMENY, GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I was the first person to fight back out of all the large huge number of people that were fired in the '50s.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And in 1965, you led a protest outside the White House, which was both an act of conscience but also an act of extraordinary courage. We are proud of you, Franklin. We are grateful to you for your loyalty.



LEMON: The president honored him there. Tell me about his role, not to be underestimated in this. He was a real hero.

JOHNSON: Right. Frank Kameny was one of the victims of the lavender scare. He was fired in 1957. He was an astronomer, working for the federal government. He had a PhD from Harvard. It was the downing of the space race. America needed people like him.

But he was gay. They fired him. But he was one of the first to stand up and fight. He said this is not a matter of national security, this is not a matter of morality, this is a matter of civil rights.

LEMON: Yeah. David, when you look at what's going on and the time that we're in now, are you concerned? I would hope and I don't think we would ever go back to those days. I think that we're beyond that. But do you feel like there has been a regression over the last few years?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. And even the lavender scare itself was a kind of a backlash after a period of openness during World War II, for example. And I think we are seeing that again, a backlash after period of openness and visibility for gays and lesbians.

LEMON: Josh?

HOWARD: Absolutely. I think that's an important message to the film. You know, there is an ebb and flow in history and periods of progress are frequently followed by periods of regression. And as you say, we have made so much progress in the last decade and war, and I think the message of the film is it's important to protect that.

LEMON: I'm always -- listen, I know a lot about -- I think at least I know a lot about gay history, LGBT rights, LGBTQ rights, stonewall, about David Kameny (ph) and on and on, but so many of our young people don't. Do you have some advice for them? I'm not saying anything negative about them. I don't mean to put them in a harsh light.

HOWARD: I didn't know much about this. I mean, I thought I knew about American history and gay history. But until I read David's book, I didn't realize how systematically the U.S. government went about discriminating against gay people. And I think it's very important for young people to know what our history is, particularly as we go forward in what could be very challenging times. LEMON: Give us some advice, David.

JOHNSON: Well, gays and lesbians have been erased from the history backs. The last time we have been thought about McCarthyism is partial and distorted in some ways. So we're trying to put us back into the history books.

LEMON: Yeah. It's fascinating. Thank you so much.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

LEMON: I really appreciate it.

HOWARD: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. And happy pride. Thank you so much. We'll be right back.


LEMON: He hails from Scotland but Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow feeds hungry school children in 18 countries around the world through his non-profit Mary's meals. He was honored as a CNN Hero 2010 at an event where he met and befriended fellow Scotsman actor Gerard Butler.

[23:55:03] The two recently visited Haiti, where they met some of the 1.4 million children being fed every school day.


MAGNUS MACFARLANE-BARROW, CNN HERO: Greatest privilege of doing this work is just meeting those children who are eating these meals. The numbers become just mind boggling after a while but the real beauty of it is watching those children become the people they're meant to be.

GERARD BUTLER, ACTOR: I remember we went just before lunch. They were tired. Then they had lunch. And oh, my god, it was like different people.

And then you realize the simple value of this program.


LEMON: To find out more about Magnus's life changing work and his friendship with Gerard Butler, go to And while you're there, nominate someone you know to be a CNN hero.

Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.