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Don Lemon Tonight

Trump Team Responds To Bombshell DOJ Filing; Photo Shows Classified Docs Seized During Mar-a-Lago Search; Serena Williams Advances To Third Round Of U.S. Open; Democrat Mary Peltola Flips Alaska House Seat; Black Pastor Arrested While Watering Neighbor's Flowers. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 31, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So, team Trump is responding tonight to the DOJ's damning new court filing about the Mar-a-Lago search. They are admitting sensitive documents were found at Mar-a-Lago, but argue it is not a big deal.

I want to bring in now CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen. He was the House Judiciary special counsel in Trump's first impeachment trial and former White House ethics czar under President Obama. Yesterday, Norm filed a brief on behalf of other former federal and state officials in opposition to Trump's request for a special master. Also with us, Tara Palmeri, she is a senior political correspondent for Puck, and CNN contributor Michael D'Antonio, the author of "The Truth About Trump."

So good to have you on. Good evening. Let's get in to it. What is your reaction, Norm, to team Trump's response to the DOJ? How do think it was received by the -- it will be received by the judge tomorrow?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, my reaction and how it would be received by the judge are probably two different things, Don.

LEMON: Two different things.


EISEN: My reaction was that it was a word salad, and they threw everything in there that they possibly could, a little bit of everything. But Don, they don't really respond to the two key arguments that the Department of Justice made and that we made in our brief on behalf of former -- that I be filed on behalf of former -- all senior Republican law enforcement officials.

Number one, executive privilege belongs to the executive. This isn't like an attorney-client privilege dispute where somebody comes and takes your attorney or your client documents. These are the executive branch's documents.

So, and number two, that is why there is no special master case in history, and they don't cite any here in their papers filed tonight, where a special master is appointed to mediate a dispute within the executive branch.

So, I just think that the motion is beside the point, but the judge has said she is preliminary inclined, so we can't predict what the outcome should be -- will be. It should be to reject Trump's request for a special master with one narrow little exception.

LEMON: Okay, so listen, I know what I wanted to say because I have a quote, but you said there is something -- as you sat down, you said, this is the most important part, and what do you said was the most important part of it?

EISEN: You know, there were two things in what DOJ filed last night that really jumped out at me. One was that photograph, attachment F, which we've all looked at pretty much nonstop for the past 24 hours.

But I really noticed and I marked the bottom of page 10 of the brief where it is clear to me that DOJ is very likely working with multiple informants. And they describe not only these terrible documents so dangerous, each one of which these top-secret documents could harm lives, but they were concealed, they were removed, efforts were likely taken to obstruct, boxes formally in the room were not returned.

That is active obstruction of justice, Don, and I think that that is -- you know, we say in Washington, the cover-up is worse than the crime. I think page 10 nails that.

LEMON: What do you think, Michael, because this Trump filing acknowledges that classified documents were at Mar-a-Lago. They have been saying, oh, you know, they were all gone, they weren't there, that he declassified them, yada, yada, yada.


MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, the person who signed off on saying that that's what happened is someone who used to be a pseudo- journalist and is now an almost attorney. This is testimony to who Donald Trump is relying on now.

And I think one of the things that Norm said that really deserves underlining is that he doesn't care who is harmed. He doesn't care that people might be killed based on his abuse of these documents because he has never cared. This is not a person who has ever cared about anybody else's life.

And his shout out to QAnon is profoundly dangerous. This is a group where there have been kidnappings, there have been murders based on QAnon beliefs and it's worse than what Lindsey Graham said about how they will be rioting on the streets. This is a guy who is completely unhinged. I think that the legal arguments are reflecting that.

LEMON: Tara, listen, there are a lot of people who are not buying excuses from team Trump, including Karl Rove.



KARL ROVE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY OF STAFF: Let's be clear on this. None of these government documents are his to have taken. I agree with the deputy director, who has said that a lot of the former president's problems are of his own creation.

You can't -- under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, you cannot take original documents out of the White House with you when you leave the White House. Whether you're the president of the United State or any of his aides, no -- you know, that's forbidden.


LEMON: So, I feel like I'm in the twilight zone. When -- when they executed that search warrant on Mar-a-Lago, I was away on vacation, and I was sort of watching it. Am I in the twilight zone?


LEMON: Why is this even an issue? The documents are not his. They're the government's documents. They belong to the American people. So, then, why is this even an argument?

PALMERI: I think you are right. I mean, if it belongs to the government and you take it, it doesn't matter what level, who you work for, you can be, you know, the janitor, you can have top secret security clearance, if it doesn't belong to you and you take it, you have stolen it, correct? Especially a top secret.

I just think about the kind of rigor and the kind of betting that it takes to even get the lowest level of security clearance in our government. You can have committed even some of the smallest crime.

I remember early on, in the Trump administration, a bunch of his aides were walked off the White House lawn because they had admitted that they had taken drugs at some point in their lives, like marijuana or light substances, et cetera, and they were hauled off as lower level aides.

I mean, to get a security clearance, it requires extensive vetting, and these are, obviously, documents that not everyone can read. So, why would you think that you can just take these, almost -- these secrets -- American treasure in some way, right, and to take them? It's not surprising that they would fight for them back.

LEMON: To your point, in this 19-page response from the Trump folks, they don't mention, as you said -- I don't think there is a mention of obstruction of justice charge and there's no mention of declassifying documents. What does that say to you, Norm?

EISEN: Well, they actually concede contrary to Trump's arguments that he waved a magic wand, that they were declassified or automatically declassified when he went up to the resident state, concede they want a special master who has the highest security clearance. So, there is a concession there. Look, Don, this is not a real legal paper. In the law firm where I work, if I turn this brief in (INAUDIBLE) go back and start again.


EISEN: So, they're not dealing with the issue that Tara talked about, these documents belong to the government. They are not dealing with issue that Michael talked about, the danger and the harm. I don't see documents when I look at that picture on attachment F. As somebody who himself had the highest security clearances, I see people, because behind each one of those pieces of paper is a human being.

You don't get any of that concern. Instead, you get a misreading of the Presidential Records Act. They should not be closed, but we have a judge who said she is preliminary inclined. So, we need now to see if she will listen to legal arguments, listen to fact.

That's why these seven senior former Republicans asked me to help them put together that in, this brief, to explain to her, Republicans or Republican-appointed judge, hey, this is not okay.

LEMON: So, when you look at this as someone who is an attorney, what did you think? Were you like, what the hell is this?

EISEN: I thought it was, you know -- I thought it was another example of the very shady lawyering --


EISEN: -- that Donald Trump is increasingly foisting upon the world. He can't get good lawyers anymore, Don, because they get in trouble.


And one of the interesting things about this government's filing yesterday was, if I were Donald Trump's lawyer -- lawyers who made these false -- alleged false representation, I would feel like I had to get my own lawyer now. So, he gets his lawyers in trouble and, yeah, that means that he doesn't get very good lawyers.

LEMON: Oh, my God!

D'ANTONIO: And he doesn't pay them. So, that's a serious problem.

LEMON: Michael, Trump posted about this photo, the one that, you know, was in the DOJ brief last night, on the response, multiple times today. Why do you think he is latching on to this photograph?

D'ANTONIO: Oh, he is obsessed with "Time" magazine covers. This is what is so strange. So, he sees the "Time" magazine covers, he is -- it's like, oh, that's mine.

But he also wants people to think that he is (INAUDIBLE) that these people were throwing these things around and that's not how he keeps his office. But it's not clear that that is his office at all. And having been in his office at Trump Tower, I can tell you, it was a mess.

LEMON: Uh-hmm.

D'ANTONIO: So, I am not sure that it is in his office, and this isn't how he would've kept things.

LEMON: It's been out -- I was there I think maybe two -- maybe three times, I don't remember, but I remember going there and there was a lot of memorabilia, a lot of tchotchkes everywhere and a lot of paperwork.

D'ANTONIO: All on the floor. Mike Tyson's championship belt thrown on the floor. Just awful.

LEMON: A lot of that stuff. Tara, I also want to get your take on this. The DOJ exposing multiple Trump lies. We now know that there was -- he wasn't fully cooperating. Timeline showed this, right? He wasn't fully cooperating with the FBI. There was no claim of executive privilege originally. And there is never any mention, there is not a mention or there was never a mention of classifying documents here. Do you think that Republicans are following along on this?

PALMERI: I -- from the Republicans I've spoken to, they think that this is a huge distraction from all of the things that they want to be talking about in the midterm year. That was poised to be a period for them to take back the House and to take back the Senate. And instead, they are stuck defending Donald Trump, and now they have to answer to Joe Biden saying you are in fact the party of --

LEMON: Let me ask you this, Tara.


LEMON: Then why don't they --

PALMERI: They are terrified of Trump!

LEMON: He's an anvil. He's an anvil.

PALMERI: They are terrified of Trump. Ultimately, Trump has so much power in the party. He can decide who will be the next speaker of the House, he can decide --

LEMON: Can he?

PALMERI: Yeah, he can, because there are a lot of members there that he has -- they have his loyalty. He's got the support of the base of the party. He has so much power in the Republican Party. And as long as he is there --

D'ANTONIO: I think that there is some doubt about this now because this platform, Truth Social, he has four million followers, He had 80 million followers when he was the big dog.

LEMON: And it's in trouble.

D'ANTONIO: Yeah, and I'm not sure that he can mobilize his people.

PALMERI: His favorables are really high -- his unfavorables are really high, but there is an extreme polarizing feeling about him. He still brings up crowds, he still brings up primary voters, everyone is terrified about him, the Freedom Caucus. I mean, he has got all these new --

D'ANTONIO: That says more about them than it says about Trump. All these people are afraid of this one guy? That he is in this much trouble?

LEMON: I have to go.

D'ANTONIO: I don't know.

LEMON: I'm not getting in trouble again.


LEMON: Good to see both of you. I love your response. Give me a response if you handed that brief to me. What would happen?

EISEN: Don't make me do it, Don. You're fired!


LEMON: Wow! Okay! So, one of the documents we saw in that photo from the DOJ's filing has a really rare labeling. I'm going to ask an expert what it means. He's a former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. He is here, next. Thanks guys.




LEMON: Damning new details about the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago in the DOJ filing, and new and urgent questions about the national security secrets contained in the documents that sat in Trump's Florida home.

So, joining me now to discuss, CNN national security analyst and former director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Director, thank you for joining us this evening. When you look at this photo the DOJ released and you see these documents all laid out, it is astonishing, what story does this photo tell you?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, first of all, this really makes me -- made me ill to see those documents which are designed to -- the cover sheets designed for very sensitive documents. I guess it is just more confirmation of the complete disregard for security and protecting these very sensitive documents which, you know, those are top secret, which if exposed can potentially result in great damage to the national security of the United States. This is something that intelligence professionals -- as one who spent 50 years in intelligence protecting this kind of information, it is really disturbing to those documents in the circumstance in which they were retained.

LEMON: Director, the Trump team arguing in their filing tonight that the National Archives should expect to find classified materials in the 15 boxes that Trump turned over in January because they were presidential records. Can you explain the difference between presidential records and classified material, please?

CLAPPER: Well, presidential records that are not classified, you know, calendars, speeches, press releases, all kinds of material that are presidential are classified -- that are characterized as presidential papers which are not classified.


And the cavalier manner and where Trump's legal team attempted to sort of blow this off, I wonder if that just reflects their own ignorance about the sensitivity of these documents. And the fact that this -- there is no precedent for this like it happens all the time, it does not.

And I know in the previous administration, a great care taken about appropriate procedures for the storage, the retention and storage of presidential papers which are under the jurisdiction, as we all know now, of the National Archives.

So, there is a huge difference and one of the reasons for having those cover sheets is so you can readily identify when you have a document that you are not supposed to see or you shouldn't have.

LEMON: Uh-hmm.

CLAPPER: So, to me, the defense of this was pretty weak. And again, I wonder whether it just reflects ignorance or insensitivity to how important these documents are and how protecting -- how important protecting them is.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, you said that this doesn't happen all the time just a couple seconds ago. But several intellects have flagged how rare it is to see documents labeled secret and SCI, the one with the orange border in the front. What kind of information can be in documents with that kind of classification, director?

CLAPPER: Well, in the case of SCI, that is normally the term that is used to categorize compartment, signal intelligence. That is a collection of foreign intelligence, messages and communications, HCS. Of course, that could be damaging if exposed. We only need to look at the case of Edward Snowden in 2013 and the damage that he caused by the documents that he stole and exposed principally through journalists.

And so, it has all kinds of implications in terms of our international relations. It causes problems with our allies with whom we share intelligence. If they reach the point where they cannot trust us to keep secrets and, you know, if no one is held accountable for this, this will not bode well for our foreign intelligence relationships.

So, there's all kinds of complications and implications here. We've talked about HCS, human control system, which is some compartment that governs human collections, both from a standpoint of people that recruit -- Americans who recruit foreign assets and the assets themselves. Here, potentially, lives are at stake if they are exposed.

If a sophisticated foreign intelligence service can figure out who they are talking about, that is -- you are putting lives at risk in a situation like that. So, this kind of slide gives you the heebie- jeebies, it really does.

The TK system (ph), which is a decades-old system -- caveat, is used to protect generically our overhead collection system. That makes me wonder, what is in there about that? That is extremely sensitive and if it's compromised, it allows foreign adversaries to take countermeasures to prevent us from collecting and bringing intelligence from overhead resources.


CLAPPER: So again, this is potentially -- and as I said before, we don't know the content of these documents, but potentially, they could be very damaging.

LEMON: That's why we have you here. We love having you, your expertise, your knowledge of all of this, your experience. Thank you very much, Director Clapper.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Victory for the goat! Serena Williams advancing to the third round of U.S. Open after defeating world number two, Anett Kontaveit. We are going to discuss, next.

Plus, later, a Black pastor arrested while gardening. That story is ahead.




LEMON: Tennis superstar Serena Williams victorious tonight at the U.S. Open, winning her second-round singles match against number two seat Anett Kontaveit. Here is the winning moment.



UNKNOWN (voice-over): A memorable one (ph). Serena Williams just (INAUDIBLE). (APPLAUSE)


UNKNOWN (voice-over): And the time is up, and she had to be.


LEMON: There is the twirl!


LEMON: Did you hear that crowd? My goodness! Serena will play doubles with her sister, Venus, tomorrow night, and then play a third-round singles match on Friday.


And cheering Serena on tonight along with all of her fans, golf legend Tiger Woods, watching the match in Serena's player box.

And joining me now, CNN contributor Cari Champion and Roxanne Aaron, president of the American Tennis Association. I am so happy to have both of you on. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for joining us Roxanne and Cari.

Cari, the energy tonight, three sets, and Serena didn't tire through them despite being up again -- up against, I should say, the number two seat. The announcers kept saying Serena is back! She really is?


CARI CHAMPION, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Serena said something that I thought was (INAUDIBLE). She took a year off, she has put a handful of matches since then, she said her game just wasn't coming together in the lead up to the U.S. Open. And tonight, she started to feel really good about her serve, about who she was, and she is not picky Serena. Obviously, those who watched her understand.

But what was fair to me tonight was the crowd. On Monday, there was, okay, this might be it, so let's just wish (ph) for her no matter what. Tonight --

LEMON: Did the crowd -- I thought the crowd was waiting for her to win.

CHAMPION: I felt like, Don, they were like we are here with you, we love you, we support you, but you have to do it. Serena showed up for everyone. And when her serve was on, you know, Roxanne can talk to this, when her serve was on, there was no stopping her. There is no stopping her!

LEMON: Go ahead, Roxanne. Did you think the crowd willed her?

AARON: I think so. I think so. And she -- Serena doesn't have anything to prove now.

LEMON: Right, right.

AARON: So, she's out there having fun.

LEMON: Yeah.

AARON: And she got her best game on.

LEMON: Yeah, but don't you think tonight, there was a little bit of -- you know, she wanted to win this.

AARON: I think she did. I think she did want to win it. You can see it in her face. You can see it in her movements.

LEMON: Yeah.

AARON: And I know she wanted this to win. She was to come out of this U.S. Open with grace.

LEMON: Yeah, yeah. And I was saying, you know, during part of the match, I was like, well, this is a valiant try if she doesn't. I'm like, come on, Serena. Come on, you can do it.


LEMON: All kinds of scenarios are going through my head.

AARON: Right.

LEMON: This is what -- Roxanne, this is what team USA tweeted. Exactly 24 years on this day, August 31, 1998, Serena made her debut at the U.S. Open. Now, here she is closing out her career there. Really, that says something about what Serena Williams has given to the sport. Don't you think?

AARON: It says a lot about what Serena Williams has given to the sport. And I can say this from being the president of the American Tennis Association, some people might not know. We were founded in 1916.


AARON: And we were founded because during that period, Black and brown folks were not allowed to play tennis. And a lot of tennis players -- a lot of tennis players come to our doors: Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe --

LEMON: Right, right.

AARON: James Blake --

LEMON: Right.

AARON: And Katrina Adams, the past president of the ATA.

LEMON: Right. AARON: But what she has brought in this open era, she has brought some young Black players.

LEMON: Much as Tiger, similar to what Tiger Woods did for the sport of golf.

AARON: Similar to what he did for the sport of golf.

LEMON: Yeah.

AARON: I mean, she brought in Naomi Osaka, talks about how she grew up looking at her. And also, Coco Gauff.

LEMON: Right. Yeah, yeah. Cari, Serena is saying tonight that she hasn't been able to play like this since '98. She hasn't been able to come out and enjoy it. That's kind of a bittersweet statement. And kind of goes with what Roxanne was saying. She just having fun because she doesn't have anything to prove anymore. She has won every title.

CHAMPION: Yeah, and she said it in apropos (ph). Tonight, everything was a bonus. Everything from this moment on is a bonus. There was an X and target on her back from the moment she won her very first grand slam which was at the U.S. Open.

So, what we are watching, and I hope that everyone can understand contextually what this means, what we are watching, what this means, we are watching greatness, and we are watching it with grace, as I mentioned, but we are watching the greats come and give her that (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Right.

CHAMPION: There is Tiger Woods. There is Lindsey Vonn in the audience. Bill Clinton, Monday night. It's (INAUDIBLE). I respect you, I see you, I understand what you have done, you are the great test of all time in your sport. And we can leave that for everyone else to debate, whatever it means after that, but Serena right now is really enjoying what she has been able to give.

And she talked a little -- just a little fresh tonight, Don, and she said, I'm Serena, I am Serena. She was asked, are you surprised by your level of (INAUDIBLE) I'm a good player. I'm Serena. And I love it.

AARON: And, you know, the other thing that I like about, where she is today. When Serena and Venus first came out, all the conversation was about their curves.


LEMON: Yeah.

AARON: Their hair.

LEMON: Uh-hmm.

AARON: And how she dressed. But now, the conversation is about her technique, her class, her style.

LEMON: Right.

AARON: Okay? And that's what we want to see because I think sometimes, there is a double standard --

LEMON: Yeah.

AARON: -- in sports, in life, period.

LEMON: Yeah.

AARON: So, I'm glad she is moving -- she is pushing that button to move us from that double standard.

LEMON: Yeah. Cari, you know, I almost said -- you know I don't care because I tell Cari all the time, girl, you look good. So -- and I said it last night about Serena. Serena -- Tim and I, my fiance, were watching. She didn't have any makeup. And he goes, look how good she looks.

AARON: Right.

LEMON: All natural, Serena Williams doing her thing, yeah.

CHAMPION: Flawless skin. She is coming there. She is giving you who she is. She is coming as if she had just started as a teenager. She is letting you know, I am who I am, I am authentic. Everything about the presentation is true to who she is.

LEMON: Yeah.

AARON: Right.

LEMON: So, Serena Williams, thank you. I mean, she gave us some great stuff on the court. Thank you, Serena Williams. And thank you to my guests. Thank you, Roxanne. Thank you, Cari.

AARON: Thank you.

CHAMPION: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Losing the special election for a vacant House seat in Alaska to a Democrat? This is the first time the seat has gone blue since 1972. We are going to tell you why this is a very big deal. That's next.




LEMON: Election news out of Alaska tonight, Democrat Mary Peltola flipping Alaska's vacant House eight, winning the special election against former Republican Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. That is according to unofficial rank choice voting results released by the state's division of elections.

Peltola winning 51.5% of the vote to Palin's 48.5%. This win will make Peltola the first Alaska native to serve in Congress. So, she is going to serve the remaining term of the late GOP Congressman Don Young, who represented Alaska in the House for 49 years before passing away in March.

Let's bring in now CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. Ron, good evening. I was pausing there not because for any dramatic effect. I thought I had read something wrong. So, just I just wanted to get that out there. Thank you so much for joining. How big of a deal is it that Peltola was able to flip the seat for the Democrats?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, obviously, there are a lot of unique factors. I mean, she is a very personable candidate. (INAUDIBLE) friendship with Sarah Palin and her family's friendship with Don Young. She has deep roots in the community. The rank choice voting system adds another wrinkle.

But even with all of that considered, she ran as an -- she unequivocally supports a nationwide law to codify Roe v. Wade. She really was the first politician I can ever remember who has been accurately described as pro-choice and pro-fish given her work on salmon preservation in the state. And she continues the pattern that we have seen since the Alito-led majority on the court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Democrats have consistently outperformed the 2020 results in a series of special elections in New York, in Nebraska, in Minnesota, obviously, in Kansas. This was a state, Alaska, that Donald Trump won by 10 points in 2020, 15 points in 2016.

No guarantee that she can hold the seat in November but certainly continued evidence that abortion has energized the democratic electorate and reminded some swing voters, what you need in Alaska to prevail as a Democrat, why they have been hesitant about the Trump-era Republican Party.

LEMON: Okay. So, let's talk about what happens in November because they are going to have to do it again for that seat for a whole term. Peltola is going to face off with Palin, two other Republicans, Nick Begich and Tara Sweeney. Do you think that she will be able to hold on to the seat?

BROWNSTEIN: I think it's going to be hard. I mean, I think there may be more Republican voters who will pick another Republican as their second choice than we saw in this first round, although there are many voters who simply did not, you know, fill in a second choice.

But she is the incumbent, and she is, as I said, a very personable candidate with deep roots in the community and with a clear contrast on the abortion issue that she is not afraid to emphasize. I mean, she put out a video the day of the Supreme Court decision saying that she would unequivocally supports federal legislation.

And again, that wasn't the only reason why she won, but that was a clear point of distinction, and she did win and it continues in what we have been seeing in number of these special elections since the Dobbs rule.

LEMON: All of this is coming ahead of President Joe Biden's primetime speech tomorrow where he is expected to focus on the battle for the soul of the nation and the threats facing the country's democracy. Biden has become more willing to call out anti-democratic forces. Has he found a stride in recent weeks in your estimation, and is that what Democrats need right now, is that what they want?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I think that is what Democrats -- not only Democrats want, capital D, but small D Democrats want.


We have a lot of trouble in American politics acknowledging and naming what is happening because it's so far out of the tradition of the way American politics has unfolded for throughout our history.

But the evidence, I think, is overwhelming, that Donald Trump is the leader of an undemocratic small D movement and authoritative movement. Whether the president should call it the fascist or authoritarian, he is calling out a reality.

When you look at the evidence of two-thirds of Republican state attorneys general and two-thirds of Republican House members trying to overturn the 2020 results, when you look at the polling that shows a majority of Republican voters, multiple polls say the traditional way in American life is disappearing so fast that we have to use force to save it, nearly half of Republicans describing the attack on January 6 as patriotism and more than half describing it as defending liberty, what happened today in Michigan, when two Republicans without any real plausible cause on the state candidacy board voted to deny a place on the ballot to the referendum guaranteeing abortion right, the number of election deniers that are getting nominated in the country, as Liz Cheney has pointed out, this is, you know, the biggest threat to the functioning of American democracy that we have seen certainly since the Civil War.

And I think there are a lot of people, not only Democrats, but those who are concerned about the basic health of American democracy, who, as difficult as it is, say it is important for the president to begin naming this more aggressively, and that's what, I think, we are going see tomorrow.

LEMON: Ron Brownstein, thank you. We will be looking at it, and we will talk about the speech tomorrow. Thank you so much.

A Black pastor in Alabama arrested while watering a neighbor's flowers at his neighbor's request. We are going to show you the body camera footage. That is next.




LEMON: Arrested for watering neighbor's flowers while the neighbors were away on vacation. That's what happened to a Black pastor in Alabama. Even after telling police officers his neighbor asked him to water the flowers, police say they were responding to a 9-1-1 call from another neighbor claiming there was a suspicious car parked at the house and the person that the caller -- quote -- "did not recognize."

Now, there is police body cam video from the incident, and we have more tonight from CNN's Martin Savidge.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a warm, late spring evening in the small Alabama town of Childersburg. Police responding to a 9-1-1 call from a neighbor, reporting she sees a young Black male in the car she doesn't recognize at her neighbor's home, who she knows are away. We're watching the police body camera footage. What officers find is a man holding a garden hose, watering flowers.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): What you're doing here, man?


UNKNOWN (voice-over): Is that your vehicle?

JENNINGS: It's not.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): It's not.

JENNINGS: That's the neighbor's vehicle.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): The neighbors?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Okay.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

UNKNOWN: You live here?

JENNINGS: No, I don't live here.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Okay. They're saying that this vehicle is not supposed to be here and you're not supposed to be here.

JENNINGS: Who is saying it?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): They called about it. I don't know who called it.

JENNINGS: (INAUDIBLE). I'm Pastor Jennings. I live across the street.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): You're Pastor Jennings?

JENNINGS: Yes. I'm looking after their house while they're gone.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): The scene quickly escalates when the police demand 56-year-old Michael Jennings, a pastor of 31 years, provide some identification.

UNKNOWN: Don't do this to me. There's a suspicious person in the yard, and if you don't want to identify yourself --

JENNINGS: I don't have to identify myself.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Jennings, who at one time had trained to be a police officer and has already told police his name, his occupation and where he lives, refuses.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): You're not listening.

JENNINGS: I'm not saying nothing. You have no right to approach me. I haven't done anything suspicious or anything wrong.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Moments later, when Jennings attempts to use his cell phone, he is placed in handcuffs.

JENNINGS: Who called you?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): You will not listen.

UNKNOWN: We got a call. You have to identify yourself to me.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): As Jennings continues to protest, the lead officer appears to lose patience, and the helpless neighbor is arrested, not even allowed to tell his wife across the street.

UNKNOWN: Hey, you know what, you know what, 10:15, 10:15, 10:15. I am not going to sit there and have that, dude.

JENNINGS: (INAUDIBLE) get my wife.


SAVIDGE: Despite the officer calling him Pastor Jennings, he tells his colleagues Jennings refused to identify himself.

UNKNOWN: We want to investigate a call. He won't give us his name.

UNKNOWN: I told him we try to call the owner, but still I need his name.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Jennings is charged with obstructing government operations.

UNKNOWN: Pastor Jennings was in your yard when the police showed up at the scene. Is that right?


SAVIDGE: Roy Milam says Jennings has always been a great neighbor. So, naturally, they asked him to look after their home when they went on vacation.

MILAM: It was upsetting to know that we asked him to come out, and he got arrested for that.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Harry Daniels is Jennings'a attorney.

HARRY DANIELS, PASTOR MICHAEL JENNINGS'S ATTORNEY: He was under no obligation of the law in state of Alabama to give his I.D. nor did he have any obligation to identify himself.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): In a recent interview with "Good Morning, America," Jennings said he feared for his life.

JENNINGS: I was thinking if I did something wrong, if I resist it, that I could have been shot. So, I was trying to cooperate, even though I did not understand what was going on. I was agitated, I was angry, but I needed to comply.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): In the police body cam footage, police speak to the woman who made the original 9-1-1 call. Now recognizing the pastor, she tells the officers it is all a mistake.


UNKNOWN: Yeah, he lives right there, and he would be watering their flowers. This is probably my fault.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): According to one of the officers, the woman also declines to identify yourself. But Jennings is the only one who goes to jail, even after Jennings's wife shows up with her husband's I.D.

Ten days later, after reviewing the 9-1-1 call, the body camera footage, and speaking with the officers, the chief of the Childersburg Police Department issued this statement, saying, as a result of my investigation, I've recommended to the municipal judge of the city of Childersburg that the warrant be dismissed.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): You have no doubt in your mind that this was racial profiling on the part of the officers.

DANIELS: I think if you look at the video, the evidence is clear that they believe -- what is the difference between Pastor Jennings and the neighbor? Men and women? Black and white? And they believe her!

SAVIDGE (on camera): The attorney for Michael Jennings says that his client does not hold any ill will against the woman who called police. After all, he says, she was only doing what he was doing, looking out for the neighbor's home. But that same attorney says that Jennings will be filing a lawsuit against the Childersburg police. Don?


LEMON: Martin Savidge, thank you so much. And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.