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Frustration Within the White House Over Reince Priebus; National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster Breaking with President; Keith Ellison Running To Be DNC chair; Certain Media Outlets Blocked From Off-Camera Press Briefing Today. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired February 24, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:19] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: It is a distraction that President Trump does not need right now.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
That word from a source close to the President who is telling CNN there is frustration within the White House about chief of staff Reince Priebus asking the FBI to speak out against reports of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians. Still the administration is pushing back hard on CNN's exclusive reporting, denying any wrongdoing in those conversations.
Let's begin tonight with CNN's White House correspondent Sara Murray -- Sara.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, the White House has been downplaying the CNN reporting today saying that chief of staff Reince Priebus did nothing wrong. But I'm told by a source close to the President that there is some consternation from heartburn in the White House about these conversations between Priebus and a senior official at the FBI, the source tells me this is really not the kind of distraction that the President needs right now. He is really been hoping to focus on his top line agenda items and he been going frustrated by the amount of the negative coverage he has been getting particularly around these staff story, and this was just another blow on that front.
Now, it was very clear today at White House in peculiar incident that the White House really didn't want to discuss this with CNN any further. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was holding off camera gaggle. And now, at times when they would do something like this, they may just invite the pool in or small group of reporter. So what they did today was bizarre because they sort of handpicked, cherry picked the news outlets they are going to allow in this briefing. So the White House allowed a number of news outlet that are more conservative leaning, more favorable to the President to go in to this briefing. But I was blocked when I tried to attend for CNN. And it is worth noting that a number of other major news outlets including the "New York Times," including "Politico," outlets the President has been very vocally criticizing were also blocked in this gaggle. And I reached out to a number of folks in the White House communications department to ask why they decided to hand select which news outlets they were going to let in to this briefing which means I was the reporter block. They didn't respond today -- Don.
LEMON: Sara Murray, thank you very much for that.
I want to bring in now CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston.
Hello, Maeve. I want to ask about this "New York Times" reporting. Again, this "New York Times" reporting tonight that the national security adviser H.R. McMaster breaking with President, not calling terrorists radical Islamists and signaling more moderate approach to the Islamic world. What's your reaction to that?
MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I just think it is so interesting now. We have seen, you know, top adviser after top adviser breaking with Donald Trump. It's hugely significant because Donald Trump was so intent on using that phrase on the campaign trail last year. Radical Islamic terrorism and would make a big deal in front of his crowds as big crowd pleasing moment. Si interesting break there.
LEMON: Maeve, let's move on and talk about something else. I want to get back to what happened today. Do you think President Trump is attacking the media as distraction from the CNN reporting, this incredible reporting that we have been doing?
RESTON: Well, I think it's certainly -- that may be one of his motivations. But I think that, you know, Steve Bannon and Donald Trump have made it very clear that their strategy in the first 100 days is have a very hostile relationship with the media. I believe Bannon said earlier this week at CPAC that, you know, things would only going to get worse. And so, what happened today with our Sara Murray at White House and other news organizations is really unfortunate. But that is the game that the White House wants to play. And they think that it's going to work in their favor in terms of helping to gin up the base and making the media the enemy.
LEMON: Maeve, the former vice President Dick Cheney just introduced the current vice President Mike Pence at Republican Jewish coalition of Venice in Las Vegas now. This is happening now. What can you tell us about this event, Maeve?
RESTON: Well, this is a really interesting and powerful gathering that Cheney and Pence both addressed tonight and Pence is actually speaking now right now. The Republican Jewish coalition, obviously, is hugely powerful donor network for the Republicans. Mike Pence is there tonight to offer his thanks from both him and Donald Trump for standing with them throughout the campaign last year and being really powerful donors. He gave a special tribute also to Sheldon Adelson, who of course, is one of the most powerful donors in the Republican Party, you know, giving over 80 million to conservative causes last year.
But he also made a tribute to Dick Cheney. This is a very rare appearance to see the former vice President out there and Pence is often talked about him as role model. And, you know, tonight Cheney was joking that he had never met a vice president who was happy. And he was that he so glad to see Pence, you know, filling those shoes and that role. So a lot of back and forth affection between the two on stage tonight.
[23:05:28] LEMON: OK, Maeve, thank you very much. I appreciate that reporting.
I want to bring in now defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, the author of "Electile Dysfunction, a geode unaroused voters." CNN political commentator Matt Lewis, a senior columnist for "the Daily Beast" and Nomiki Konst, an investigative reporter for the "Young Turks."
Good to have all of you on.
Matt, I want to start with you and ask you about this "New York Times" reporting tonight. National security adviser H.R. McMaster breaking with President, not calling terrorists, radical Islamists, radical Islamist and signaling what might be more moderate approach to the Islamic world. Do you think so?
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I will be very interested to see how this plays out. Does he walk his back? Is this reporting solid? Because this is surprising. I mean I think that calling it radical Islamism is the moderate position. You don't want to accuse all Muslims of being involved in something bad. But calling it radical, that qualifier, and then Islamism, I think is the accurate and even dare say politically correct term. But I have great respect for General McMaster and the work he did in the surge and counterinsurgency. So if anybody has the credibility to say this is the wrong terminology, he would be one of the people.
LEMON: Yes. Alan, I know you want to respond to this again. This is, and you bring up a very good point, Matt, this is "New York Times" reporting, not CNN's reporting. But go on, Alan.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, first of all, I think Trump is right to call it radical Islamic terrorism. When I represented the Jewish defense league back in 1970s, everybody called it extreme Jewish terrorism, extremist Jewish terrorism. It was. It was done in the name, in the false name of Judaism and this is done in the false name of Islam. But it is done in the name of Islam.
I actually think it's a good thing to have national security adviser, who is an expert in this, use a more moderate term. There is no reason why there shouldn't be disagreement within in the executive branch. The President can continue use his term which I do support and the national security adviser uses his term to maintain good relations with the Arab allies, the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Emirates. So I think it is a good thing to have different voices using different phrases as long as nobody uses the term Islamic terrorism without the preface of radical or extremist.
NOMIKI KONST, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE YOUNG TURKS: Well, I think that it plays into the hands of exactly what those extremists want. They want us to label them as radical Islamic terrorists so that they can amp up their base, collect more money, organize the grassroots. That is what ISIS does. They go on the internet and they use this as ammunition to grow their base of support. And that is what McMaster knows.
Now, what I'm curious about is and with all due respect Mr. Dershowitz, you know, in a real, you know, in a normal presidency, of course, you would have those differences of opinion. But this is not normal presidency. And on this third day, the NSA adviser, the new NSA adviser counters a main talking point out of the President's administration, I'm curious to see what the President will do. Is he going to fire another national security adviser? Because that will just make him look weak.
DERSHOWITZ: Not if he's smart.
DERSHOWITZ: No. Not if he is smart. He will maintain the diversity of use. And he will say this is what my national security adviser believes. This is what I believe. I welcome the disagreements. And I think it will - it will work out fine in terms of encouraging ISIS. I just never buy that argument. ISIS doesn't need encouragement. It has its recruiting methodologies. I don't see how calling something by its true name helps ISIS. And we shouldn't be making policy based on what ISIS is going to say.
LEMON: And we should do and I think Matt is exactly right. Let's see how this plays out and what the actual truth is really shakes out there before we come to sort of conclusion about exactly what this is.
Alan, let's turn now - I want to turn anti-Semitism and let's talk about that topic now. Because as you know, last night you wanted to discuss - you have some things you wanted to discuss. I just wanted to have more time to talk about it than in a three minute segment or 30 seconds left in a segment because I think it is important.
So let's talk. Vice President Pence speaking at Republican Jewish coalition event in Las Vegas, as we have talked about on the this show, the past few weeks were not great for President Trump in the Jewish community particularly after he told a Jewish reporter to sit down at his press conference last week. You say that you think that President Trump and Steve Bannon are anti-Semitic. Do you thinks that --?
[23:10:02] DERSHOWITZ: No.
LEMON: They are not.
DERSHOWITZ: No, no, no.
LEMON: They are not.
DERSHOWITZ: I have said over and over again.
LEMON: That they are not. LEMON: OK.
DERSHOWITZ: Neither of them has anti-Semitism.
LEMON: Do you think this is an olive branch though -- with the correction there. You think they are not anti-Semitic. But do you think that him going to the Jewish cemetery is an olive branch of sorts this week?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, I think its right thing to do. I think the administration has not been tough enough on anti-Semitism. I think that they have allowed things to happen. I think Bannon has allowed Jews to be left out of of the holocaust commemoration because he doesn't want to alienate the people on the alt-right. He is not anti- Semite but he is a strategist and an opportunist and he finds political support where he can get it. So I think that the Republican administration owed the issue of anti-Semitism a much more respectful approach. And I'm glad they are sending Pence out to do this. I would like to see the President of the United States stand up would say I do not want support from anyone who is anti-Semitic. I reject who is anti-Semitic. I reject your support. Go elsewhere. I hope you will say that. But short of that, what Pence is saying in Las Vegas is probably a very good thing going to that cemetery and sweeping up was absolutely wonderful.
DERSHOWITZ: Now, can I also make my point about the Democrats?
LEMON: Yes, you can. But I'm going to get other folks' reaction and then you and I going to talk about that. So - and again, we are looking earlier that Republican Jewish coalition and vice President is speaking again. Those are slip of the tongue. Alan has said that the president and the vice president are not anti-Semitic. That was just my mistake in speaking.
So listen, Nomiki. What do you make of the outreach of vice president Pence made this week?
KONST: Well, I think that there is a careful balance here. I mean, it would be irresponsible not to recognize that there is a base of anti-Semitic voters that do support Donald Trump. And they need that base right now. They need an angry, they need an engage. They need them, you know, criticizing the media for not doing its job. That's their shtick. That they also need to appease their donors. And that's the same problem that the Democrats have which we will talk about in a second. But the Republican Party has that problem. They have to appease their base which is some of them are anti-Semitic, not all but there are some, and there are donors who, of course, are pro- Israel voters.
LEMON: OK. Matt, you say President Trump denounced anti-Semitism and that should be enough. But what about the rise of anti-Semitism across the opportunity?
LEWIS: Yes. I mean, I agree with everything that has been said here so far. And I do think it's concerning that we have seen, you know, these incidents and that's problematic. My point though is, a couple days ago President Trump was very clear in denouncing anti-Semitism. And then I saw, you know, another 24 hours of the press saying - but, was he passionate enough? But did he denounce it strong enough?
LEMON: I don't think that was it, Matt. Matt, I think you are being hyperbolic. I think they were saying is why didn't he -- what took him so long to do it? Because if you ask someone a question about anti-Semitism, about racism, about xenophobia, about misogyny, about anything, all you have to do -- it's an easy answer. We have no place in our culture, in our society for it. And it will not be tolerated. Boom. End of story.
LEWIS: I think this plays into what a lot of people don't like about the press and the sense that they are brow beating him. He was very clear. I think he gave a very responsible and appropriate comment --.
LEMON: I think the press did say that.
LEWIS: And there was a lot of follow-up commentary in the press like, yes. But he should have said it stronger. He should have.
DERSHOWITZ: He should have.
LEWIS: And look. I just think that's part of what people don't like --
KONST: Imagine if he said --
LEWIS: It appears that they are going after Donald Trump.
KONST: Imagine if his words as strong as his words are against the press were to counter these statements.
DERSHOWITZ: Or against "Hamilton," the cast of "Hamilton." He hasn't been able to generate as much opposition to anti-Semitism he has on his tweets.
LEMON: So Alan, let's get to what you wanted to talk about. And if we don't finish in this block, we have another one after this, OK.
Because, again, you know, I didn't want to give you short trip last night. I want to move on and do something we want to talk about last night. And you -- Keith Ellison, vote for a new DNC chair, taking place Simone Atlanta. You don't support Keith Ellison. You think that -- I don't know if you think he is anti-Semitic but you think some of his views and some of the things he has said in the past are anti-Semitic.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, I think there is no question that he has made anti- Semitic statements in the past. He has associated with virulent anti- Semites. And for me, the greatest disqualification is after working closely with Farrakhan who called Judaism a gutter religion, who has attacked Israel. Said that the Jewish were major involvement in the slave trade. Ellison gets up and says I didn't know he was anti- Semite until I decided to run for office in a neighborhood that has a lot of Jewish voters.
It was opportunistic. It was calculated, then he votes against the iron dome. How do you vote against the iron dome? The iron dome is a methodology of protecting civilians from terrorist rocket attacks. Why are the Democrats thinking of picking somebody who is so extreme? They are going to turn the Democratic Party into the labor party in England with Forman (ph). Remember, the last time the Democrats tried this with moderate leftist people with McGovern and with people like Dukakis. They got so few electoral votes. I think the Democrats --.
[23:15:36] KONST: How could they be diverse than they are right now?
LEMON: Go ahead. Let Nomiki get in.
DERSHOWITZ: They won the popular vote in this election.
KONST: And that's how we win elections?
KONST: OK. But the reality is - hang on. Hang on. The Democrats have lost over 1,000 seats in eight years. They have raised more money than ever. The fight right now in the DNC is not about anti- Semitic comments. And to be fair you have Chuck Schumer, Randy Weingarten (ph). You know, this is the man who supported only Jewish candidate for President. He is the man who has voted for hundreds of millions of dollars to go towards Israel. The list goes on and on. But --.
DERSHOWITZ: No, it doesn't.
KONST: Yes, it does.
DERSHOWITZ: It stops right now.
KONST: And there was also a smear attack. DNC numbers have been sending me emails that they have been getting some slanderous emails about Keith Ellison, about his voting record which I fact checked and is false. I posted it n twitter. You can check it out.
DNC numbers right now are fighting over one thing, how to win back these seats. And it is not because - it is not about a policy decision or some sort of smear tactic. It is about the money going to major contracts at national level. Hundreds of thousands -- millions of dollars have gone to national contracts for eight major firms. Many of which are DNC members.
Now, you are an attorney. You are a professor of law. It is a conflict of interest for voting members of the DNC, executive members of the DNC, to be taking hundreds of millions of dollars from the DNC and it is not going to the states.
DERSHOWITZ: So let them vote for a candidate who will undo this but not someone with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel background. LEMON: Alan, hold that thought. I got to get to the break. We will
finish on the other side. We will be right back.
[23:20:51] LEMON: Back now with my panel with a fascinating discussion.
So Alan, the question is, to pick up on where were, how is - we were talking about Keith Ellison. He is running to be the DNC chair. How is opposing some of the government of Israel's policy? How is that anti-Semitic? Isn't that what we do in this country?
DERSHOWITZ: It's not. No, I do that myself. And favoring the two state solution is good for voting against the iron dome is unacceptable. Voting to -- supporting the U.N. resolution that says that Israel has no control over the western wall and access road to Hebrew University.
But let's go back to the time when he was with Farrakhan or when he spoke to somebody when he was a law school student and said I can't respect you because you are woman and you shouldn't be in law school and because you are Jew. He hasn't deny that.
And I would like our guest to show me anything that I have said about in my written two articles about that today that is not documented. I'm quoting his own words when he said Jews have too much power over American foreign policy. There are so many good candidates for chairman of the DNC, why pick somebody who is going to make me quit the Democratic Party, who is going to stop contributions from (INAUDIBLE), who is going to alienate so many of the base of the Democratic Party. Why hit somebody who is going to ruin the Democratic Party and make turn into Corbin's labor party and push it so far to the left.
KONST: I hate to break the news to you Mr. Dershowitz but the Democratic Party has been hemorrhaging membership. The majority of those under the age of 40 re registered as independent. So the base of the party has been lost for over a decade.
The question here is, you know, the Democrats that are voting members, they are going anywhere. They have nowhere to go. It is the new generation. Where are they going? They have no leadership. They literally have no leadership at state levels. They are at the lowest point since 1920 and we are having a conversation about some quotes from a newspaper and college newspaper and an association that Keith Ellison had with someone and he is guilty by association. Now, you made an accusation of him and he didn't respond, I didn't know that you had to respond to every single accusation out there.
DERSHOWITZ: Good serious ones.
KONST: Well, (INAUDIBLE). You bring up (INAUDIBLE). That's an interesting point.
DERSHOWITZ: You know, you can't compromise with anti-Semitism. LEMON: Let her answer. Go ahead.
KONST: I think, you know, you mentioned (INAUDIBLE). And that is exactly what is indicative of the problem with the DNC right now and what people are debating. They have been beholden to few major donors. Now, he funded the actual structure of the Democratic Party. So that is why people are freaking out. They are afraid of losing his money.
And the other conversation being had is why do we have to donate, for members, to why do we have to donate so that we can just fund all these consultants who have been losing us elections? None of the states have money right now to organize, recruit, train, activate, encourage new members to join and we are having conversation about a slanderous attack.
LEMON: OK. Matt --.
DERSHOWITZ: We are having a conversation about anti-Semitism or asking why Obama doesn't support Keith Ellison, why Joe Biden doesn't support Keith Ellison.
KONST: Because he worked for - talking about work for them.
DERSHOWITZ: Doesn't support. And why Paris (ph) doesn't satisfy all of these criteria without introducing this element of anti-Semitism.
KONST: Can I ask you a question, Mr. Dershowitz?
KONST: What is more important having conflicts of interest in the Democratic Party or responding to slanderous attacks? I can guarantee you that 100 percent of the members are concerned about conflicts of interest. And Secretary Perez is being propped but by five major consulting firms right now. And this has been verified (INAUDIBLE).
DERSHOWITZ: And they are wrong. There's no reason to compromise with anti-Semitism. There is no justification to doing it. And I will quit and others will quit to Democratic Party if you compromise with anti-Semitism.
KONST: No one is doing that.
LEMON: Matt, let me ask you this.
LEMON: Matt, there are - we have two Democrats there who are arguing with each other. And there are folks who have said this is why the Democrats lost in November because they are so busy eating each other up and fighting about anti-Semitism. It is not important -- (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: Instead of getting on board with their candidate, by the way, on the Republican side who said some pretty darn tough things, they eat each other alive.
[23:25:05] LEWIS: Well, look. Sometimes parties have to have these fights. And some of the things are worth to fighting for. And I think that professor Dershowitz is right. I give him credit for calling out his own side. This topic was about anti-Semitism. He is talking about anti-Semitism. I don't think the other side of the conversation is talking about anti-Semitism.
But look. This is unfortunate reality here. We have both sides of the political spectrum, the populist right and the populist left that are now infected with some strains of anti-Semitism. I think it would be a real shame if the Democratic Party or the party -- was it Harry Truman who recognized Israel, that party to nominate a chairman of their political party have these ties to Farrakhan?
LEMON: Hold on. This is Keith Ellison at Democratic town hall or debate the other evening here on CNN. Listen. Now we don't have it.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, can I ask my colleague a direct question? Do you believe Ellison when he said that when he worked with Farrakhan for all those years he had no idea that he had any anti-Semitic views? Do you believe that?
KONST: That's not for me to decide. I'm reporting on this. And what I'm reporting is that the DNC members are not talking about this. They are talking about how they can win elections. And this is a conversation --.
DERSHOWITZ: You are not reporting. You are advocating. You are advocating. You are not reporting.
KONST: I'm actually not. I have interviewed all the candidates. I have talked with all of them. I just talk about conflicts of interest. I'm following the money.
DERSHOWITZ: If what you said was not advocacy and I have never heard about it, you see you are advocating for Ellison. You are advocating against Perez. And I think you have an obligation to answer that question. Do you believe him when he said that he --?
KONST: Again (INAUDIBLE). I'm not under inquisition. I'm answering a question. And I am reporting. I have interviewed all the candidates extensively. You can talk --
DERSHOWITZ: Well, you haven't answered the question.
KONST: I don't have to because I'm reporting on what I am doing.
LEMON: OK. Standby, everyone. Roll this please.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- dogged by own questions about potential anti-Semitism. What do you say to your critics?
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Well, these are false allegations. And that's why I have 300 rabbis and Jewish community leaders who have signed a letter supporting me. Five of my colleagues, they said look, we don't have -- I don't have anything to say about this race but we know Keith and he is good man and always has been.
I have long strong history of interfaith dialogue, interfaith communication and that is why in my own community, I have strong support from the Jewish community. So these are smears and we are fighting back every day but we are fighting back with people who know us.
But I just want to say it is critical that we speak up against anti- Semitism because right now you have Jewish cemeteries being defaced and desecrated. Right now you have Jewish institutions getting bomb threats. We have to stand up for the Jewish community right here, right now, force where and that's what the Democratic Party is all about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I thought it was important to hear from him, but (INAUDIBLE) that doesn't satisfy anything for you?
DERSHOWITZ: No, it doesn't satisfy me because it is all tactical. He has changed his views whenever he is needed to. And he has made statements in the past that he is now renounced but he is renounced them tactically.
We can do better than Keith Ellison. We have to bring the party together. We have to bring the rust belt back. And he is not going to do anything for that. And if you think that he is going to bring independents back into the party, most of the independent, many of them were Republicans who didn't like Trump. And as far as the Green Party, Stein voters, nobody will be left enough for them. There are always going to stay in that part. So we have to go back to the Middle West and win the rust belt and he is the last possible person --
KONST: Can I say one point?
LEMON: Yes, go ahead.
KONST: One point about unity. The only candidate in the race that has not received both Bernie Sanders supporter's endorsements and Hillary Clinton's endorsement is Tom Perez. That's one thing to keep a note.
The second thing to note is that Randi Weingarten who is married to rabbi. She is the president of this AFT and Senator Schumer probably have the strongest relationship with Israel in the Democratic Party, have both endorsed Keith Ellison, have fought back against the slander. Again, this is about winning elections and Secretary Perez has never won an election or run anybody for office. LEMON: Well, Alan, I know you will come back. Alan, I want you to
come back and depending on what happens. Tomorrow is going to be interesting to watch tomorrow. And Alan may be resigning from the Democratic Party. No, I'm serious. He said it here.
DERSHOWITZ: It will be very painful.
LEMON: He said it on this show.
LEWIS: Welcome aboard, Alan. Come to the conservative side.
KONST: Here you go.
LEMON: He didn't say he is going to come to conservatives.
DERSHOWITZ: I'm becoming independent. I will still vote mostly for Democrats but I will not be a member of club that has its chairman a man with anti-Semitic.
LEMON: Well, welcome aboard to the independents, Alan. You can see the hypocrisy on both sides. Thank you very much. Have a great weekend. I will see you guys later. We will be right back.
[23:33:54] LEMON: My radio panel here with me now. Syndicated talk radio host John Fredericks and Bill Press, host of the "Bill Press" show.
John you come back here, glutton for punishment. You come back every week and we appreciate you for it.
So let's be self-indulgent and then talk about ourselves, shall we which I really don't like to do but we will do about it. Because we have been talking about CNN, John, the "New York Times," "Los Angeles Times," "Politico," "Buzzfeed" blocked from an off-camera press briefing today all by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. This came just hours after the President said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you saw throughout the entire campaign, and even now, the fake news doesn't tell the truth. Doesn't tell the truth. So just in finishing, I say, it doesn't represent the people, it never will represent the people, and we are going to do something about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: John, do you think this is what the President is talking about? What do you think he's talking about there?
[23:35:03] JOHN FREDERICKS, SYNDICATED TALK RADIO HOST: Well, I think there are still issues. What the President is saying is, look, we can't have news that is not accurate. We have got commentary and opinion masquerading as straight news within the mainstream media. That is what he is calling out. He has got a right to do that.
As far as today at a press gaggle with Sean Spicer not inviting certain people. Let me ask you this question. I guess I missed the funeral of the person who died and left the "New York Times" in charge. I mean, give me a break, Don. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen in my life. You a press gaggle after a major speech by the President at CPAC.
LEMON: So John, you think it's just a coincidence that the two news organizations that have been reporting strongly on stories that have been corroborated and panned out that they were not invited in this press gaggle, that was just coincidence?
FREDERICKS: Don, look. Sean Spicer today --.
LEMON: Come on. Answer my question. Come on, man.
FREDERICKS: You asked me the question.
BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Busted.
FREDERICKS: May I respond?
LEMON: Yes, go ahead.
FREDERICKS: You invited - Don, he invited all the press that reports to the pool, all the information. They have the audio. Second he invited NBC, ABC, CBS, McClatchy, my former company. These are not exactly --.
LEMON: They have no reporting on the Russian connections or the FBI.
FREDERICKS: Don, he invited a lot of people. He didn't invite CNN. He didn't invite the "New York Times," who cares? You got all the information. This is so ridiculous.
LEMON: Wait. Let Bill get in.
PRESS: Well, well. Can I just say first of all, I'm a member of the White House correspondents association. I go to the briefings. I have been going every day to briefings for the last eight years. We watched with just afraid of what might happen, watching during the campaign when Donald Trump called on certain reporters by name, banned certain outlets from coming to events and we have been afraid since then that that's what would happen once he got in the White House.
Two things. Number one, they would throw the press out of the briefing room, which they haven't done. And number two, they would start to cherry pick people who are allowed in. That's exactly what happened today. And I think it is appalling, it is troubling, and it is a huge, huge mistake. And let me tell you, so this was called as gaggle. I get the notice. The gaggle was in the briefing. It was change.
FREDERICKS: Bill, that was not true.
PRESS: It was true.
FREDERICKS: That's just inaccurate.
PRESS: Stop! Stop! You are wrong.
LEMON: Go ahead, Bill.
PRESS: No, you are wrong. I get the notice from the White House. I will show it to you. I will email it to you after the show. It was gaggle called in the briefing room. At noon it was changed to gaggle in Spicer's office as expanded pool. And then as certain people walked in, "Huffington Post," "Politico," "L.A. Times," "New York Times" and CNN, who just happen to be the people who have been writing about the Russian connection, by the way, and not proven false at all, it is correct. They were not allowed in. This is suppression of the media.
LEMON: This is how my colleague Jake Tapper started his show today.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Let's not make any mistake about what is happening here. A White House that's has had difficulty telling the truth and that has seemed to have trouble getting up to speed on the basic competent functioning of government and a President who seems particularly averse to any criticism and has called the press the enemies of the American people, they are taking next step in attempting to avoid checks and balances and accountability.
It's not acceptable. In fact, it's petulant and indicative of lack of basic understanding of how an adult White House functions. In fact, Sean Spicer in December seemed to completely understand this. He said the White House would not ban any media organization as the Trump campaign had. He said quote, we have a respect for the press as government. That is something you can't ban an entity from, conservative, liberal or otherwise. I think that's what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship.
The Trump White House now led by Sean Spicer's White House operation in the communication division is now targeting multiple media organizations and it seems to think it can punish reporters for sharing with you facts that they don't like. They offer rhetoric design to mislead and confuse you about this issue such as this from the President today.
TRUMP: We are fighting the fake news. It's fake, phony, fake. A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none.
TAPPER: Just simply not true. So don't misunderstand what is going on with that rhetoric and with today's action banning various media outlets including CNN and "New York Times." This White House does not seem to respect the idea of accountability. This White House does not seems to value an independent press. There is a word for that line of thinking. The word is un-American.
[23:40:14] LEMON: And by the way, this is coming from a White House where people who are there currently now have been speaking on background. They have been asking people to speak on background. They have been sources for this network and others. Donald Trump used to reportedly call reporters as John Miller for his own press. He has spoken on background before and has been the source of many stories. So John Boehner or John Miller or whomever.
So what is going on here John? Is Jake right? I think he might be.
FREDERICKS: Well it is interesting narrative by Jake and it is good commentary and he can do whatever editorial he pleases. That's editorial commentary, we allow that. In America, we have a free press and anybody can say from an editorial standpoint or commentary as columnist whatever they please. I don't agree with him.
Look. What happened today, the arrogance of some of these press people that think that, you know, they have a seat at the table no matter what happens. In the press briefings with Sean Spicer, I'm a member of the White House Correspondents crew, just like Bill Press is. I have seen him there several times.
Look. There is only so many seats in there. Sean Spicer said look, I'm not going to have this today. I'm going to invite several people to the office. He invited the pool press so that everybody knows what this means. And we got to get this clear. When you invite the pool press, that means that everything has said is On the Record and they disseminate it to everybody else. This is nothing different.
PRESS: No, no, no.
LEMON: John -- what it if was FOX News? Would you feel the same way?
FREDERICKS: You guys are mad because you didn't have --.
LEMON: Nobody is mad here.
FREDERICKS: Who cares?
LEMON: I just think you are being disingenuous. Would you feel the same way if it was FOX News, John?
FREDERICKS: I don't watch FOX News. I watch CNN. So I could care less, right. They're not interesting. I watch CNN.
PRESS: If I can.
LEMON: Quickly Bill, I got to get a break in. You want to respond on the other side longer. I will give you a longer chance on the other side.
PRESS: All right.
LEMON: We will be right back.
PRESS: All right. Ten minutes on the other side.
LEMON: All right. We will be back.
[23:46:09] LEMON: All right. Bill Press. Go.
PRESS: Yes. Just first of all. On the pool-like. Clarify that, right. Yes, the pools are a very small group of the reporters representing print and television and radio. And they come in like the oval office when the President is just meeting with foreign leader because not everyone can get in on or air force one. Because not everybody can flight on that plane. This was a pool. They expanded the pool. When they expanded it, they left out anybody who has been critical of the President, point number on. Point number two. All this talk about fake news, even from John tonight and from Donald Trump when I was on my way over here tonight, nobody has proven that any of the stories reported by "New York Times" or CNN have been false.
LEMON: And they never point out -- When you ask them, they never really pointed out.
So listen, I want to talk about this. This is today in Los Angeles, The United Town agency held a united voices rally in place of the agency's annual academy award party. Look at all the voices that have been speaking there today. Michael J. FOX, Jody Foster, Gavin Newsome, lieutenant governor. I mean, on and on and on and on. And this is on top of all the rallies that have been happening around the country at Republican rallies, all the marches. What do you think of this John?
FREDERICKS: Look Don, I have said this before. I think this is a great thing. And I think Republican congressmen that refuse to hold legitimate town hall meetings in legitimate areas and open it up in big venues are really missing the boat on this. I think they owe it to their constituents. They owe it to everybody.
Look, if I was Republican congressman in any district, I would have five of them a week when I have a week off, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I will pick the biggest venues possible and I would have it every location in the district and invite everybody to come and stand there and take the questions. This is democracy.
LEMON: It's from --
FREDERICKS: If people are upset, they need to be heard.
LEMON: Everyday voter to some of the biggest names in Hollywood. The UTA represents some of the biggest names in television and the movie industry. They donated $250,000 to American civil liberties union, the international rescue committee. Do you think that Republicans and Trump administration should be
concerned about this? The big guys getting together with the little guys?
FREDERICKS: I think it is part of the democracy process, Don. And worst thing that Republicans can do is hide from this and do a Facebook live which is absolutely ridiculous. Telephone meetings, and say afraid about security. Look, they can get security there. They need to be heard.
LEMON: Last word.
FREDERICKS: I encourage the protesters.
PRESS: Thank you, John. This is another manifestation, Don, of the resistance. It's popping up everywhere. I think it's healthy. It is democracy -- John is right about that. This is democracy in action.
FREDERICKS: It is.
PRESS: It is great. (INAUDIBLE). You notice the Democratic Party is not organizing this. This is not Democrat versus Republican. This is the people speaking up against Donald Trump agenda from top to bottom.
LEMON: Thank you gentlemen.
PRESS: It's manifest.
LEMON: Have a great weekend. We will be right back.
[23:53:04] LEMON: Police in Malaysia say one of the deadliest nerve agents was used to kill that half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.
CNN's Clarissa Ward has more.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some of the last moments of Kim Jong-Nam's life. He approaches airport security to complain that someone grabbed his face and that he is feeling dizzy. He is escorted to the airport medical clinic. The Malaysian newspaper shows of photograph of him slumped over in his chair, apparently unconscious. He dies before reaching the hospital.
In a twist that reads like the of a Hollywood thriller, Malaysian authorities now confirm that the half-brother of North Korea's dictator was killed by VX, an internationally banned highly lethal nerve agent that can kill within minutes.
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: If you get any of it on you, you are dead. There is nothing a doctor can do for you. You know, you just die. You get a microscopic dot on you of this stuff VX and you die. WARD: South Korea is pointing to the volatile North Korean state and
the leader himself is the prime suspect.
The dramatic assassination took place in broad daylight moments after Kim entered the crowded check-in hall. Malaysian police claim that two women who can just be made out here wiped Kim's face with some kind of liquid. One of the women can be seen walking off wearing a bizarrely eye-catching LOL t-shirt. Two female suspects, from Indonesia and one from Vietnam are now in custody.
And it gets more surreal. Indonesian authorities say one of the women told police she believed she was participating in a prank for a TV show, a claim Malaysian officials dismissed.
KHALID ABU BAKAR, MALAYSIA'S INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF POLICE: These two ladies were trained to swab deceased face. And after that they were instructed to clean their hands and they know it is toxic.
[23:55:06] WARD: The hunt is now on for these four North Korean suspect who left the country on the day of the attack. Among them, a senior official with the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
In yet another bizarre twist, police said someone tried to break into the mortuary where Kim's body is being kept after which they stepped up security.
ABU BAKAR: We know who they are. So no need for me to tell you.
WARD: Why would North Korea's erratic leader want his own half- brother dead? The more concern to U.S. officials is how the dangerous dictator got his hands on one of the most deadly chemical weapons in the world and what else he could do with it.
BAER: It is a nerve agent that is terrified intelligence agencies in the west for a long time because it's so lethal. Saddam Hussein was accused of having him and in fact, he didn't. They couldn't figure out how to weaponries it. What disturbs me is they have figured out how to weaponries it and deliver it. Now, would he use it on South Korea? Would he use it in the United States? There is simply no way for us to know.
WARD: Clarissa Ward, CNN, London.
LEMON: All right, Clarissa.
And late tonight, the company that runs the airport where Kim Jong-Nam was killed released a statement saying that no one else at the airport has gotten sick from the VX nerve agent.
That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching.