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Reaction Of James Comey To President Trump's Outrageous Twitter Charge; President Trump Signs His Revised Travel Ban Today Behind Closed Doors; Why Ben Carson Calls, The Secretary Of Housing And Urban Development Today Calls Slaves Immigrants. Aired 11p-12mn ET
Aired March 6, 2017 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Incredulous, a source says, that's the reaction of James Comey to President Trump's outrageous twitter charge.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
The president claiming that former president Obama ordered a wiretap of his phones during the campaign, without the slightest bit of evidence.
Meanwhile, President Trump signs his revised travel ban today behind closed doors, a ban that critics are already preparing to challenge.
Plus, why Ben Carson calls, the secretary of housing and urban development today calls slaves immigrants and went on to say, those slaves had a dream that they, his words, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.
Let's get right to Jessica Schneider, though, with more on President Trump's shocking wiretap charge - Jessica.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, people on both sides are asking for proof, and it's really bipartisan be wilderment. Members are saying that haven't seen any evidence to back up those wiretapping claims from the President. And now it's the FBI making the most public push for clarification.
SCHNEIDER: Tonight FBI officials are demanding a flat out denial from the justice department, but not yet getting one, this after President Trump went on a twitter tie rate Saturday, tweeting terrible, just found out Obama had my wires tapped at Trump tower just before the victory. Nothing found. How low has President Obama gone to tap my phones. Bad or sick guy.
Sources tell CNN, the FBI asked the DOJ to refute the claims because as a matter of law, the president cannot unilaterally order (INAUDIBLE) of U.S. citizen's phone. Only a court can order a wiretap.
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY FOR JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: The process to obtain a FISA application involves many levels of operational, legal, management and senior leadership review, both within the requesting agency and within the department of justice, and ultimately the court.
SCHNEIDER: So far, the justice department isn't commenting on Trump's twitter accusations. But some are asking why FBI director Comey is refraining from issuing his own statement since he didn't hold back during the 2016 campaign, commenting three times about the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server.
Former President Obama vehemently denying Trump's charge. His spokesperson saying neither President Obama or any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.
James Clapper, president Obama's director of national intelligence also denying the allegation.
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the President-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS: And at this point you can't confirm or deny whether that exists?
CLAPPER: I can deny it.
TODD: There is no FISA court order?
CLAPPER: Not to my knowledge.
TODD: Of anything at Trump tower?
SCHNEIDER: Trump's team isn't buying it. Press secretary Sean Spicer speaking extensively off-camera, defending the President's tweet, there has been enough reporting that strongly suggests something occurred continuing by saying lawmakers have a lot to look into. There is obviously information that affects national security that has been leaked out, that concerns him.
And late today, Homeland security secretary Kelly in an interview with Wolf, backed the President.
JOHN KELLY, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The President of the United States said he has his reasons to say he has some convincing evidence that take place.
SCHNEIDER: But members of Congress are calling for outside investigations.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: A special prosecutor is a way to ensure that an investigation proceeds impartially for several reasons. SCHNEIDER: In the ongoing house intelligence panel inquiry,
Republican and Democratic leaders are setting an aggressive timetable sending this letter to the acting director of national intelligence, requesting the release of documents and in it person interviews by March 17th. The material to reveal any links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns.
SCHNEIDER: And the President is also renewing his calls to probe what he terms quote "pervasive leaks that are undermining national security," that's all accord his press secretary Sean Spicer. But Spicer still not offering up any proof from the President when it comes to those wiretapping claims - Don.
LEMON: All right, Jessica. Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
I want to turn now to CNN's senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter.
Brian, good evening to you. Allegations from the President like this are explosive. We understand that he was furious about this Breitbart article that was passed around the White House. Could that lead to the President tweeting such unfounded information, falsehoods on Saturday?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I think so. It's the most logical explanation we have all starting Thursday. Mark Levin's radio show.
LEMON: Call that logical.
STELTER: He then described as silent quo. This was the allegation over then on his opinion how, radio show. Then on Friday, there it is on Breitbart. Picking up on what Levin said, they amplifying it further, adding more detail, to picking up on news accounts from months ago, trying to connect the dots in ways that may or may not actually connect. And that article did land on the President's desk and on the desks of other White House aides on Friday. It's the best explanation for why Trump lashed out on Saturday.
By the way, Trump even used some of the exact words that are in the Breitbart story. So it's the best expansion we have for what caused the tweet storm.
[23:05:15] LEMON: There is no credible information for any of this. No - and even according to our reporting and others. The former -- I mean, the current head of the FBI is incredulous about this. All he had to do was pick up the phone. He didn't say there's no evidence, he would say, I have been told by. But go on.
STELTER: He could have avoided a weekend's worth of headlines. But perhaps these headlines benefit President Trump. You know, he gives his loyalists an explanation for what's going on, this is all Obama's fault. And every time we are on the air saying, there's no proof that Obama wiretapped Trump, we are repeating the idea that maybe somewhere, somehow, this actually happened, you know. There is a problem, almost a psychology in the coverage of these fact
checks of the President. But specifically about what's going on here, opinion versus new. And these opinion hosts, Mark Levin on radio, Breitbart and many others, it's great to have opinion journalism out there. So what they are doing is not real reporting, trying to figure out what actually happened. They are taking stories from elsewhere that have not been corroborated by the CNN's of the world. And then spending in to the, frankly, conspiracy theory. Levin has been coming after me all day saying, why don't you believe these stories from the British outlets (INAUDIBLE)?
STELTER: Why don't you believe on the stories about FISA applications?
STELTER: Well, I don't believe them, because CNN, "The New York Times," "Washington Post," reporters have been trying hard to confirm it, and haven't been able to.
LEMON: And then they are taking a headline intercepting Russian communications as part of anchoring into Trump associates saying that's proof. But no, that was part of the ambassador who is often monitored, and that's how Flynn got caught.
STELTER: It's always fun to go cherry pick, isn't it?
LEMON: It is. But as not to say that is not saying that president Obama or the wiretap on Trump tower, that is two different stories but somehow they're twisting that --
STELTER: And that's what is going on all day long. (INAUDIBLE). Picking out convenient information and omitting inconvenient information. And that's fine if you are an opinion host or a columnist. But it doesn't work in the news business.
The broader problem here, what are we taught in grade school in the President is the most powerful person. That there is pre-disposition to trust the president. When we have a President who is this reckless on twitter, it breaks that normal mold.
LEMON: His words need to be precise. Thank you. I appreciate it, Brian Stelter.
Here to discuss all of this Robert Ray, a former federal prosecutor in an independent council for white wire investigation. Also John Flannery, a former federal prosecutor for the southern district of New York.
It's so good to have both of you on this evening.
John, sources are telling CNN that the FBI director Comey, his word, incredulous, when he heard President Trump's unsubstantiated allegations against President Obama. The director of the national intelligence, James Clapper says it's not true. Michael Hayden, a former director of the NSA says the President put his own reputation at risk as well as president Obama's and the nation. So why do you think the President is making these accusations.
JOHN FLANNERY, A FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, I think it's typical. And he is kind of a one trick pony. He always does the same thing. That is he tries to cover up what is bad news, by making an outrageous statement, a thread, some trash talk, and he hopes that drives us away. And this time he is the victim, he had this search. Well, but there's no proof of it. And so then he attacks the President basically accusing him of a crime that is impossible for him to commit because of the procedures, the way they do it.
And when his spokespersons come forward, no one will own it, and he is gone underground. You can't be -- nobody can talk to him today. And it's an administration full of liars. We have the President that is lying. We have the attorney general lie to the Senate, and we got rid of our national security advisor for lying to the vice President. If we really believe he lied to the vice President then it wasn't prior of another scheme.
This is -- to borrow John Dean who was on earlier, there's a cancer on this President and he is spinning out of control trying to conceal whatever deal they had with the Russians, whether it was to give them a buy on the sanctions or it was to make some business deal of his own. And that's what the hypothesis should be for an investigation by special prosecutor, why is this happening. And this is critical to our democracy. Luckily, this guy is a bad liar. There have been better liars in the past who became successful (INAUDIBLE). And that's what we have to guard against (INAUDIBLE).
LEMON: None of it. There's been no credible connection between the collusion with I should say the Trump campaign at this point. I know that -- what you said, but that's your belief. That's your belief.
FLANNERY: Well no, I think there are facts. I'm sorry, Don. But I think there are facts. And the facts are, the meeting that we had for the attorney general at the Republican convention, also corresponded to a change in the platform proposed for Senator Cruz, which was to enhance the sanctions. And the Trump campaign --.
[23:10:04] LEMON: It is to say that that was already in the works, but go on.
FLANNERY: Well, already in the works. Well, why was the national security head of his campaign present at that meeting and talking to the ambassador? Those are the hypothesis we should be testing. And we are not doing it now because they have us talking about this nonsense.
LEMON: I agree with you. And again, we are going to stick to Russia, and that is our mission here.
Robert, wherever the story leads us, by saying President Obama ordered his phones tapped at Trump tower illegally, isn't he insinuating that the intelligence community broke the law too and included against him by doing that?
ROBERT RAY, A FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, INDEPENDENT COUNCIL FOR THE WHITE WIRE INVESTIGATION: Well, all of these things are dangerous inferences. What you just heard from Mr. Flannery is the -- an attempt to try to argue proximity and draw inferences from proximity to the fact that there was collusion.
Look. I don't know what happened or what didn't happen. But it's a little -- it's no more ridiculous to argue that, than it is to argue that, you know, President Obama authorized wiretaps of Trump tower.
FLANNERY: That's wrong.
RAY: Who knows whether or not that happened? But I do know about investigations are that's the type of investigations to do to find out. And you often encounter during the course of investigations the ridiculous, you know, the implausible, the possible and you sort out fact from fiction.
I do think an investigation is warranted. There seems to be a bipartisan consensus for that, but it should be handled in the political process, which why Congress should do it. The calls for a special counsel at this point are ridiculous. I'm not sure what a special council would be doing. There hasn't been a suggestion at the moment that there's credible evidence to believe a crime has been committed.
LEMON: But isn't the President saying that if someone did in fact order wiretaps, which means they would have to get a FISA warrant which meant there would have to be some sort of evidence that shows that either the Trump, either President Trump or someone associated with President Trump may have been -- had some untoward relationship or dealings with a foreign entity?
RAY: Not necessarily so, right. You could be legitimately investigating to determine what the efforts were by foreign powers, including Russia, to influence the United States, without necessarily believing that a crime was committed by either the campaign or members of the campaign. So I'm not sure that necessarily follows.
I don't think you are going to have to wait long before you find the FBI director is going to -- unless the department of justice says something that he is likely to come forward and issue a statement on his own. I mean, I think based upon the person that I know, and I know him quite well and his reputation as well as --
LEMON: James Comey.
RAY: Yes, the director Comey.
LEMON: I want to play this and because you mentioned it. The FBI asked the justice department, you are saying is probably going to come forward. The FBI asked the justice department knock down the allegations allegedly and extraordinary rebuke of a sitting President. And tonight CNN Sara Murray asked the press secretary, Sean Spicer about the President's reaction, watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: What's the President's view of James Comey right now? Does he have the President's full faith and confidence to stay on as the FBI director?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I'm not, I don't think - we have only heard unsubstantiated anonymous sources make those claim. I don't think director Comey has actually commented on anything he has allegedly said. So I'm not going to comment on what people say he might have said. I think the director is more than capable of speaking for himself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So John, if the director comes out and makes a statement, do you -- do you think he'd be fired?
FLANNERY: Well, you see this president has a pattern of people that don't do exactly what he wants getting cashiered. But you know, it's very interesting. And we have a President who is concerned about anonymous sources and fake news. And he is the author of the very thing we are talking about today, which is his smoke screen to avoid the underlying question about Russia. And that's the kind of consciousness of guilt.
And, you know, we have to emphasize time and again why would Russia interfere with an election that helps only him, and conceals whatever negative information they may have had about the President?
When you conduct an investigation, you begin with a hypothesis, and we have one here that's serious that resulted in a Presidential ban against Russia, throwing some of its representatives out of the country. And then, you know, it appears there was an effort to compromise it by a citizen at the time.
LEMON: Maybe they did it because they disliked Hillary Clinton and not necessarily liked Donald Trump? Maybe they just dislike the opposition more the other person.
FLANNERY: Well, I feel better if they were citizens of the United States, instead of a foreign nation state that has an antagonistic view of our sanctions against them for invading Crimea.
[23:15:00] LEMON: All right. Stand by. We will be right back.
[23:19:06] LEMON: President Trump's accusation that the former President Barack Obama tapped his phones during the campaign, taking the spotlight off of Russia.
Back with me now Robert Ray and John Flannery.
Robert, to you, now. The attorney general had to recuse himself many part of the Russia investigation. The deputy attorney general isn't in place yet. His confirmation hearing starts tomorrow. So why not put the investigation in the hands of an independent prosecutor?
RAY: Because it sends a terrible message, particularly early on in an administration. And you know, my concern is with the institution is the department of justice. The signal that you are sending if you lift the investigation out of the department, it's essentially saying that the department of justice can't do justice. And that's not a healthy think - you know, let's put this issue aside, institutionally, that is a bad idea. It is why the independent counsel statute was not renewed.
The special council regulations envision a conflict with the department so severe that not only is the attorney general recused, but the department of justice itself is not capable of conducting a fair and independent investigation. And that's not a good idea.
[23:20:15] LEMON: John, you take umbrage to that, I can tell.
FLANNERY: Well, yes. (INAUDIBLE) might be string but I would disagree. The justice department as we now have it is headed by a person who lied to the Senate who promised them an explanation, he hasn't given them, who wouldn't even talk to the press today, when they were rolling out the new immigration policy. And does America trust that department? That's why you have an independent investigation.
There are so many conflicts here in every direction. And one of the obvious ones, as we have Comey seeking the department of justice to make an announcement saying there were no wiretaps, nobody there will take responsibility. The department is not working on that very, well, simple and complicated issue. So how can we expect them to run an investigation?
LEMON: What would you have them do, John?
FLANNERY: I would have an independent council appointed. And I think there are a variety of ways to do it. One of them may be to invoke the jurisdiction of the court. But there is -- and, you know, and it should have a charter. And the charter is pretty obvious. The charter is any and all contacts with the Russians in connection with the recent election, and the sanctions both before and after the election, and to examine the apparent false statements or outright lies that we have had from a variety of people --
FLANNERY: And to see if the data points actually coincide to criminal activity or misconduct or perjury.
LEMON: I got to go. I have got to move on to another subject because I want to get your input on this as well. Not only that I cut you off because I don't like what you are saying. I just want to move on.
So Robert, let's talk about this new travel ban. The order now bans six countries, takes Iraq out of it. It is off the list now, but it is still based on refusing entry to people from predominantly Muslim countries. Do you think this is going to make it through the courts? RAY: Well, it's not going to make it through the courts without
review. I mean, obviously, we are in an environment now with two administrations where we are essentially pursuing executive action through executive orders as opposed to appropriate legislation. That's where we are. Those executive orders are going to be tested in the courts just as they were tested in the courts under the Obama administration. I don't see any reason to think that that would change. I think this one has a better chance of addressing some due process issues. It doesn't apply to green cardholders. I think there, you know, with regard to issues involving whether or not there's a first amendment question, I imagine that those issues will be dressed by the court in an appropriate fashion as they should be.
LEMON: Green card and visa holders are exempt. The preference for Christians is gone. Syrian refugees no longer indefinitely banned. But the government has made a case that the ban is needed to prevent terror here.
RAY: So it doesn't give a clean bill of health because there is still going to be issues raised that relate to due process.
RAY: And relate to the first amendment about whether or not, you know, they are free exercising religion issues. But they will be challenged in the courts and the courts will win.
LEMON: John, people still don't like it, but this is a very watered down version. And I think the President makes -- feels this makes him look weak because he had to water it down.
FLANNERY: Well, I think he probably thinks that. But I think they should have read the decisions that we already had from across the country in the ninth circuit before they wrote this.
For one thing, no one has said exactly why what we were doing for extreme vetting before this didn't work. And this proposal still has an attack on Muslims. It's a ban on Muslims. It basically admits they were wrong about --.
LEMON: You think it's going to hold up in court?
FLANNERY: No, I don't think so. And one of the - it is very interesting. In the report, it says we don't want you to have a TRO, basically. We don't want you to temporary restraining order. We don't want you to stop it the day it starts. We are all going to be at the airports again. We are all going to protest it. And we are going to be in court, and it's going to be frozen again for similar reasons of the first one.
LEMON: And I will be here, you know, moderating a discussion between you two, gentlemen when that happen.
FLANNERY: That will be fun.
RAY: I don't think so. Hello, it's a new administration. It will be tested. It will be found to be just fine.
LEMON: Thank you, guys. Thank you, gentlemen.
LEMON: I appreciate it,
Up next, Dr. Ben Carson, the new housing secretary defending explosive comments he made today about slavery.
[23:28:41] LEMON: President Trump lodging a very serious accusation at his predecessor. Is the 45th President obsessed with the 44th?
Let's discuss now. Michael Eric Dyson, he is the author of "Tears we cannot stop, a sermon to white Americans." Thank you so much.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, AUTHOR, TEARS WE CANNOT STOP: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: Let me just get your overall reaction to this story of what happened on Saturday. I started my newscast by saying let's not sit here on television and pretend this is normal. And people at home pretend it's normal. And they tried to puts a logic. This is not normal. The President of the United States does not usually do something like this.
DYSON: Not by any measure. This is bipartisan craziness in a sense. But people from the left and right have said, this is not normal. This is not what we expect of a leader, the most powerful man in the world. The inability to have deferred gratification or the discipline to impose on oneself. You know what? Don't say everything you think.
Now, a lot of people have thought crazy things. So Donald Trump is channeling what their inner ego, their inner self is about. But the problem is there is no facts - there are no facts to match what his suppositions are, and his assertions. So when he just spews this, he is just using twitter as a means to display his paranoia, his presumptiveness and his obsession with Barack Obama. He can't let him go.
LEMON: That's what I was going to ask you. What does he said -- he claims that, his words were, that the former President wiretapped Trump tower. They are spinning it now saying, no, it was the administration, he said, the President. And then the evidence to that, that he didn't mean the administration, he said sick, right, sick. This is like Watergate. So he was talking about comparing the former President to Nixon, saying explicitly that he was sick.
He also said that the former President ordered the raid on Yemen when the Navy SEAL that was killed when president Trump ordered himself. Why can't he get -- this President is like under the bed. He thinks he is going to grab him in the middle of the night.
[23:30:40] DYSON: What is going on is that he is the boogey man. But here is a man who made us believe that Barack Obama was the Boogey man. Here is the man who spent years of his life trying to convince America this guy is illegitimate, he is ill-informed. He is ill- concede. Ad he tried to retroactively abort him from the womb of democracy. Now he is calling him Richard Nixon? That's the sheep calling the rise white.
Here is a guy who is incapable of acknowledging that the paranoia is his own. Richard Hoff (ph) has talked about it in the '50s. The paranoia out when American politics. And this is the living embodiment of what he is speaking about, and Donald Trump's obsession with the very man he thinks is inferior. If he's so bad, if he is so messed up, if he is so illegitimate, why you obsessed with him, as the streets might say? And the preoccupation with him, is the ruin of American politics.
LEMON: Yes. This is what I said - think I said about him under the bed, a piece in "Politico" about President Trump's Obama's obsession. There seems to be a true sense in Trump's mind that Obama is practically sitting beneath the floors of the west wing chipping away at his presidency and Steven King has this to say after the weekend, this twitter storm. He said Trump should no Obama, never left the White House. He's in the closet. And he has scissors.
DYSON: Well, that's Steven King, who was gracious enough to give me a nice word for my book.
Here's the thing. He is not under the floorboards. He is in his mind. He is Mohammad Ali. In his mind, he is already rattled the case of Donald Trump. And now the guy he claimed to be inferior and illegitimate is now at the center of the American political imagination according to Donald Trump. And the paranoia has only grows and the delusions that are attached to that paranoia are scary.
But here is the problem. He is the president of the United States of America. He is castigating his own intelligence community. James Comey has begged for the department of justice to say, this is not true. While the White House is begging the FBI head to say there was no collusion between Russia and the campaign.
LEMON: And general Hayden who was served under Democratic and Republican Presidents has said, you know, this is -- I have seen nothing like this. The intelligence agencies are there to serve the President. And he is basically --
DYSON: Undercutting them.
LEMON: Undercutting them, yes.
DYSON: But here's what people meant when they kept begging us at the beginning, don't normalize this. They didn't have to worry about this. There's no fear of normalization. Even those who begged for the sake of American unity, for this normalization to take place, acknowledge this isn't real and this isn't normal.
LEMON: Why do his supporters make excuses for him?
DYSON: Well, because they are complicit. Because he is not the product of himself. If we are sticking to horror, Frankenstein is the name of the doctor not the monster. So the people who produced him - there is a relationship organically between Donald Trump, and believe it or not, some of the previous existing incarnations of Republican ideology. So when Mitch McConnell said, we want to make him a one term President and everything he does will stop. That's organically related to what Donald Trump did. So Mitch McConnell is Dr. Frankenstein. And Donald Trump is the monster.
LEMON: Ok. So speaking of doctors, I want to get this right. Housing and urban development secretary Ben Carson referred to slaves as immigrants. He was talking about immigrants coming from Ellis Island while speaking to department employees earlier. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN CARSON, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: That's what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here on the bottom slave ships worked even longer and harder for less. They too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great grandsons, great granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What do you think of it?
DYSON: Who knew that Martin Luther King Jr. was enslaved in America, and speaking about his dream? This was one of the most atrocious acts of historical revisionism that one might imagine. Again, from a man who was at the height of the American political power at the APEC, as the secretary of HUD.
It's astonishing, first of all, these are forced immigrants at best. These are people who were compelled to come here. They didn't come over, (INAUDIBLE). They came over on slave ships where they were conscripted to serve not as indentured servants but as enslaved people in (INAUDIBLE). They didn't have a dream. Their dream was to stay in Africa. They were rudely extricated from African soil and brought here in 1619, forcibly against their will to serve the legacy of American slavery. And Dr. Carson has turned them into willing immigrants who came here in search of a dream.
[23:35:19] LEMON: You know of one of his advisers, personal advisers is Armstrong Williams. And when I read this, I texted Armstrong. He called me back. And he said, Don, he is referring to involuntary immigrants. And then he also directed me to his radio show tonight, which Dr. Carson was on, and he explained it this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARSON: I have seen people need to actually look up the word immigrant. Whether you are voluntary or involuntary, if you come from outside to inside, you are an immigrant. Whether you are legal or illegal, you come from the outside to inside you're an immigrant. Slaves came here as involuntary immigrants. But they still had the strength to hold on. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Does this clarification change anything for you?
DYSON: Not at all. I mean, let's give him the positive recognition there. It is true, that the enslaved people did have the forbearance and the fortitude to hang on. But again, to confuse the matter by suggesting there was a relationship between immigrants who came here from eastern and Western Europe and Africans, Jews, Italians, Lithuanians, and the like. And Africans who were brought here in chains is as the great philosopher Mike Tyson would say, ludicrous. It is just astonishing that Dr. Carson, a well-known neurosurgeon of the highest order would then try to work a kind of surgery on us, where he confuses us with terms. And if terms mean nothing, then they have no meaning.
And to say they are involuntary immigrants, to be sure. But immigrants suggest a kind of willfulness, an agency exercise toward a particular goal, they were not engaged in the act of coming here, with their own, if you will volition. It was against their will. And I think Dr. Carson has distorted the entire process.
LEMON: They weren't looking at the statue of liberty going, things are going to be great for us.
DYSON: Exactly right.
LEMON: Thank you.
DYSON: Thank you, sir.
LEMON: Always a pleasure. What's the book again?
DYSON: Tears we cannot stop.
LEMON: We cannot stop. Yes, sir, thank you.
DYSON: Thank you so much.
LEMON: We are going to continue this conversation and more with our group of panelists when we come back.
[23:41:37] LEMON: Ben Carson beginning his first full week as housing secretary. It may not be going exactly as he planned.
So let's discuss now. CNN political commentators Kayleigh McEnany is here, Symone Sanders and Kevin Madden as well as Republican political consultant Shermichael Singleton.
And here we are back to the fun and games, everyone. Good evening. Thank you for coming on. I'm sure you heard the conversation I had with Michael Eric Dyson just now. And you see what happened. But I want to play the comments from the HUD secretary Ben Carson, addressing his department employees where he appears to compare slaves to immigrants. He begins to talking about the photos of people who came here to Ellis Island.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARSON: Not eight hours a day, but 10, 12, 16 hours a day, no such thing as a minimum wage. They worked not for themselves but for their sons and their daughters, their grandsons and their granddaughters that they might have an opportunity in this land. That's what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here, on the bottom of slave ships who worked even longer, even harder for less, but they too had a dream, that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, grandsons, great granddaughters, great grandsons might pursue happiness and prosperity in this land.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Shermichael, I have to go to you first because you used to work for Ben Carson.
SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: That's right.
LEMON: Can you give us some insight as to what he meant here and why he would say that?
SINGLETON: Look, Don, you know, Dr. Carson has released a statement that was posted to his Facebook page about an hour ago, where he did clarify the remarks that he made earlier today, when he was addressing the staff, the career staff at the agency. And in those remarks, he made it -- in that clarification, he made it very clear that in no way was attempting to compare the slave narrative to the immigrant narrative, the two are extremely desperate. And the fortitude that our ancestors displayed when being forced into this country is not something anyone would attempt to challenge.
LEMON: But Shermichael, I understand what you're saying.
SINGLETON: Hold on, don. Hold on.
LEMON: No, no, no, no. It doesn't work that way.
SINGLETON: Go ahead.
LEMON: Because you said that he wasn't attempting to, but that's exactly what he did, by comparing people from Ellis Island. By the way, slaves were couldn't even come through Ellis Island or see the statue of liberty, because it wasn't during that time, that's the whole point. There were two different experiences. He himself he was comparing it, maybe in his explanation he said that. But if you listen to it, that's what he said.
SINGLETON: Don, I'm not disagreeing with the facts as it pertains to slavery and immigrants coming from European countries into America. That's not what I'm attempting to do. What I'm saying is that Dr. Carson made a statement. Clearly, Dr. Carson has recognized that his statements were not the best statements at that time, and he clarified those statements, once on Armstrong Williams show. LEMON: OK, I get what you're saying.
SINGLETON: Don. He provide further clarification on Facebook.
LEMON: I played the sound bite from the Armstrong -- I get what you're saying. You're saying you think he misspoke. He didn't say it properly and he went back to clarify.
[23:45:05] SINGLETON: He clarified. We have to give him credit for clarification.
LEMON: Simone, go on. What do you think?
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think this is absolutely ridiculous. I think what Dr. Carson did today should not be overlooked or cast aside as misspeaking. This was an attempt at revisionist history that the Trump administration has done before. We can look at Betsy DeVos trying to compare of the status (INAUDIBLE) colleges and universities as school choice.
So I think we definitely have to be careful here and say that Dr. Carson cleaned this up and he made it clear. I am more confused by Dr. Carson's statement. I don't think he understands the grave, grave -- just egregious misstep he made today.
LEMON: I mean, do we have --?
LEMON: Hold on Shermichael. If we have the thing from the Armstrong show, let me know, and we'll play it. But go ahead, quickly, because I want to get Kayleigh in here. Quickly Shermichael.
SINGLETON: Yes, sure. I don't think it's fair to say that Dr. Carson doesn't have an understanding of slave history. I can't find any African-American who doesn't understand the --
SANDERS: Well, as --
SINGLETON: Hold on, Symone. Hold on, hold on Symone. I can understand why people found Dr. Carson's statement to be problematic. And clearly Dr. Carson recognized that, which is why he has corrected his original statement Symone --
LEMON: OK, you said that, you said that. You said that.
SINGLETON: The point he doesn't understand --
LEMON: There are a lot of people who may not -- just because you're black doesn't mean you understand slave history. People go to schools just like everyone else. People go to schools, sometimes they are not taught black history. They don't understand black history. Just because you are black doesn't mean you understand black history.
SINGLETON: Don, that's not the premise of my point, Don. What I'm saying is, Dr. Carson is an intelligent person. Dr. Carson is a good person. And throughout his career, his number one goal has been serving others, at the core, that's who he is, a servant leader. And in knowing Dr. Carson, he would never do or say anything with the intent to malign or hurt people. Because I do think he misspoke. And I think he recognized that, which is why I believe he provided further clarity on his Facebook page an hour ago.
LEMON: All right. Listen. We are going to play what he said on Armstrong's show and then we let Kayleigh and Kevin get in right after this.
We will be right back. Don't go anywhere.
[23:51:42] LEMON: Back now with Kayleigh McEnany, Symone Sanders, Kevin Madden, and Shermichael Singleton.
OK, Mr. Madden, I know you want to get in on this. I want to play - and no. Because we talk about these subjects all the time and I want to play what is Dr. Ca Dr. Carson said on Armstrong Williams' radio show. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARSON: I think people need to actually look up the word "immigrant." Whether you are voluntary or involuntary, if you come from outside to the inside, you are an immigrant. Whether you are legal or you are illegal, you come from the outside to inside, you are an immigrant. Slaves came here as involuntary immigrants. But they still had the strength to hold on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So, an immigrant is a person who comes to another country to live voluntarily for a long time, who comes. And then he, Shermichael said, he wrote about it on Facebook, but he never said, I messed up or what I intended to say was, he just said, the two, that immigrants and slaves, the narrative that the two share an entirely different experiences and they shouldn't be conflated. I'm paraphrasing here, but that's kind of what he did. What do you think?
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think it's -- it helps a lot to be trying to parse or litigant his use of the term "immigrant." I think the original remarks were disagreeable and they were wrong. They are easily proven wrong. And he should move on to that.
I thought Shermichael did as good a job as you can do in pointing out that Secretary Carson was speaking extemporaneously. He would have chosen different words if he could have, and move on. But I think that's one of the mistakes in this response, is to go round and round over the use of the term immigrant.
Look, my parents were immigrants. They came here from Ireland because they wanted to. They were not sold into bondage like so many African- Americans were. There's a big difference there. Understand that difference and move on.
LEMON: Kayleigh McEnany?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, I don't think it's helpful to parse his every word, either. And in fact, you know, when I look at someone's statement that is comes under fire, I like to look at the heart of what he was trying to say. And clearly, I think what he was trying to do, even though his comparison was inept, was to compare, you know, struggles that his ancestors went there rough and compare them to struggles that immigrants go through. And he clarified on Facebook and pointed out some of the huge differences there he wished he would have pointed out in his speech.
But I thought the last sentence he said on Facebook really is the heart of what he was trying to say. We should revel in the fact that although we got here through many different route, we have many things in common now that should unite us.
And that is what he was trying to do. And I think lambasting the guy hurt for making it an artful comparison isn't helpful.
MADDEN: And to Kayleigh's point, Don, the people who were in the room and heard these comments live, it didn't even strike them, at first. I think it's because it has gone through this whole new level of scrutiny that he's taking a hit on this.
SINGLETON: If I could just comment really quickly, his remarks in their entirety was relatively well received by the career staff at HUD. And even towards the end, there was a woman who stood up and said, you know, I wasn't too sure about you, but after hearing your remarks in their entirety, I have great comfort. And that should provide a lot of credence who those who are watching.
[23:55:07] LEMON: When you're the HUD secretary, your remarks are going to be seen further than that room. Go ahead, Symone.
SINGLETON: Absolutely. No one is disagrees with that, Don.
LEMON: I have a little bit time left. Go ahead, Symone.
SANDERS: Don, I think words matter. And we have said this over and over and over again with this administration. But whether it's the HUD secretary, the secretary of education, or the President of the United States himself, this administration has to take more care in the words that they use and under no circumstances should we gloss over the fact that today, the secretary of housing and urban development tried to equate people who were brought to this country in chains with immigrant who is voluntary come here. So this administration has some work to do.
LEMON: Yes, it's - listen. I understand when everyone says that we are -- America's a country of immigrants, but we got here in different ways.
SINGLETON: And we all acknowledge that --
LEMON: And those ways do matter in a big way. Thank you, all.
SINGLETON: No one's disagreeing with that.
LEMON: Thank you all. I will see you next time. Good night.