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CNN TONIGHT

Big Week for President Trump; President Trump Invited Members of the Conservative Media to a Reception at the White House; FBI Director James Comey Shakes the Election; Former President Barack Obama Speaking Out Today. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 24, 2017 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Have a great night. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. CNN TONIGHT starts right now.

[23:00:28] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Thank you, Anderson.

If you think President Trump has had it tough so far, you isn't seen nothing yet.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

It's a daunting list for any President as the clock ticks down to the first 100 days. Keep the government from running out of money and shutting down. Bring the healthcare bill back to life. Roll out a promise big announcement on tax reform. And do it all with the lowest approval rating of any newly elected President in recent history. No, pressure, Mr. President.

And then there is the interesting timing of the return of the 44th President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So what's been going on while I have been gone?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Boy, we live in some strange times, don't we?

Let's get right to CNN's David Chalian, Mark Preston, Nia-Malika Henderson and Jim Scuitto.

And there's lots to discuss. Good evening to all of you.

Mr. Chalian, I'm going to start with you. Big week for the President, 100 days. On Saturday is looming. It is getting close. Sean Spicer reflecting on that today. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think when you look at the totality of what we have accomplished on job creation, immigration, on trade, this is unbelievable what he has been able to do. And so it's not -- you can cherry pick any couple of things and say, OK, what about this or that. But I think when you look at it overall, in terms of the drop in border crossings, if you look at consumer confidence in the relationships that we have developed around the globe and the accomplishments this president had on protecting the country, on bringing back jobs and starting. Those have been unbelievably significant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So Spicer may think those accomplishments are significant. But he is historically, as I said, historically low approval ratings, David. Only 42 percent. It's not as grim, though, for the 96 percent who voted for him. They say they would do it again. But for, you know, this first 95 days for the president, has he done anything to expand his base?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: He hasn't. And I think that's the story of the first 100 days is that you talk about now historic lows at this point of presidency. He was at historic lows on the day of his inauguration when we compared to what other presidents were when they took office. But he did nothing between then and now to expand that reach, to broaden his base.

It is a President that entered with no honeymoon, did nothing to broaden out and that's why the list of big legislative accomplishments is not very long. That is why you haven't been able to see him move on some of the biggest promises he made in the campaign.

So Sean, certainly, Sean Spicer can put a list together. There's no doubt he has done some executive orders. He has some job numbers to tout. He certainly put a conservative on the Supreme Court, but did nothing to grow beyond his base, to bring the majority of Americans along to where he wants to bring the country.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: I also think that he was not very strategic on how he has pursued his first 100 days. He went right out of the gate and tackled health care, something that even though his party has been talking about for like several years right now. They have really had no plan in place. He didn't do something that was a uniting factor where he could try to grab perhaps some of these red state Democrats to come to him. And to David's point, look, never reached out throughout the country to try to build support because you need that support now to get the hard things done when you attack with that.

LEMON: Well, first 100 days matter. He touted it on the campaign trail and then all the sudden now, the first 100 days don't matter so much and in addition to this, you know, this milestone, there is a government shutdown looming. And tonight, a White House officials signaled the President won't insist on funding for a border wall with Mexico. And then there is a tweet from the President that said eventually but at a later date so we can get start it early. Mexico will be paying in some form for the badly needed border wall.

I mean, I don't think that's quite how he put it during the campaign, correct.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. I mean, and that was a big refrain, right, at those rallies that he would ask the audience who would pay for the wall, they would say Mexico. His tweet there, Mexico at some later date doesn't have quite the same ring to it. I think we are seeing that Donald Trump never really had a great sort of argument for the wall. His base certainly believed there should be a wall. But he never really had anyone else in the party who believed that there should be a wall and he talks bouts preventing drugs from coming across the border. That's not really something that people who live on the border would think that helps with that problems. So he hasn't been able to bring peopling along, even those border state governors and border state Congress folks.

It is also I think this idea of waiting at this point and kicking it down the road and saying we will wait until September. It's not clear he is going to have any more leverage come September. He is not going to have any additional senators who also agree that they should spend billions of dollars on the wall. He estimated the cause $25 billion. He said he would get $10 billion. So, you know, I think again, this is sort of how do you turn a campaign chant into actual governing It's been the weak point, I think of his entire 95 days so far.

[23:05:38] LEMON: And Jim, of course, there's Russia. So let's talk about Russia now. You have new reporting about the pace of the investigation to the Russia and interference in the U.S. election. What can you tell us?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This relates to the Senate intelligence committee investigation, the other Senate in the House. But Senate was really meant to be the leader on this. You have a more even balance between Democrats and Republicans, the very public issues of the house investigation. Devin Nunez and his recusal, etc.

But now we are hearing from several Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee expressing the frustration, unhappiness with the pace of getting access to the documents they need calling witnesses to testify people like Carter Page, Paul Manafort, et cetera. They want to see that happen more quickly.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Senator Mark Warner. I spoke to people familiar with his thinking. They say he is very unhappy. Now, to be clear, I have spoken to Republicans as well and independent angus king on the committee. They say it's still a bipartisan effort. But these frustrations. But now bubbling up in public and showing divisions in this committee where there weren't before. Is this a message to say let's pump the gas a little bit here? Some quite strong words coming from Mark Warner, Ron Wyden and others. And if the Senate intelligence committee doesn't have that bipartisan feel, let's hope with the house intelligence committee. It's a real problem going forward. Because you need a bipartisan effort to have credibility.

LEMON: Is this like a vicious cycle? Is it going to circle? Or is anything being done to remedy this, Jim? SCIUTTO: Well, right now, I mean, we heard later today that two more

staffers are going to be added at the Senate intelligence committee staff. That really keeps it into double digits or so. Staffers who are working on this. And I have spoken to staffers. They say that they are spending ninth-tenth of their time on this issue. But if you compare to other committees, the House Benghazi investigative committee had four times as many staffers. If you go back to things like the investigation to the Iran contra, you are looking at a couple of hundreds staffers. So it's a relatively small team.

LEMON: Is this rearranging the deck chairs?

SCIUTTO: Well, I don't think -- I think it is too early to say that. Listen. You speak to the chairman senator Richard Burr (ph), Republican. You speak to Mark Warner. These are serious people. They want to get to the bottom of this but we are seeing now the first fishers in that committee if they expand that's a problem going forward.

LEMON: Hey, David, I want to talk about, this is an eye opening interview the President gave to the AP. And this is a small part of it. He says it's massive and every agency is like bigger than any company. So you know I really just see the bigness of it all but also the responsibility and the human responsibility. You know, the human life that's involved in some of these decisions. And he also talked about heart. And how in business that you don't have to have a heart, but when you're President, heart is involved in every single decision. Is he suddenly now realizing that being President is a lot different than he thought, than being CEO of his own company?

CHALIAN: Well, he is new to this. And in fact, John Kasich was just talking about this in the town hall with Anderson Cooper. He sort of delivered a message to the president. He was saying about how you have to have some heart in this kind of job. He has never held a position like this. He has never done public service so there is certainly some learning about this.

But this is not the first time. This is a theme we have heard again and again. Health care, he said, you know, I don't know that -- who knew it was so complicated? I think we are seeing somebody actually learn the job while he is on the job.

LEMON: Yes.

Nia, the President had dinners tonight with Lindsey Graham and Senator John McCain, two of those really vocal Republican critics. Do you know anything about that?

HENDERSON: Well, we are still waiting on a readout from the White House on this. I reached out to the McCain's office and Graham's office as well to see if can get a read out. We haven't gotten one yet.

But you are right. These are two critics who haven't in some ways over the last couple of days come around because of those serious strikes. They very much praise this President for acting decisively, to strike back against Syria after the chemical weapons attack, those videos came out. So you imagine that is part of this discussion.

You remember also McCain and Graham obviously the hawks of the party, neoconservatives, very much so and looming obviously, not only the Syria crisis but North Korea. You imagine that probably came up in that discussion with the two senators, again, representing the hawkish wing of this party. And so far seeing the Trump that they like, at least when it comes to Syria.

And it's also, I think tomorrow we will see more senators go up to the White House and get briefings on North Korea. There are some reports about that coming out now. So you imagine that those were part of conversations. But again, this is Donald Trump trying to make good and trying to kind of reach out to people who had been against him and we know that for instance more recently McCain had said he hadn't even met with Donald Trump since he had been president. So that maybe happening tonight.

[23:10:39] LEMON: Hey, Mark, on Saturday, is that going to be a good day or bad day for the administration (INAUDIBLE)?

PRESTON: It is going to be a great day for the administration when they reach out to their supporters. It is going to be their 100 days in the sense that he is going to out and do a rally. He is going to get agilation. But the fact is it's going to be short lived because it's been 100 days that have been really dictated by the powers that he had been able to use on to get things done and those powers are eventually going to run out of gas and he's go having to legislate and that's when the hard work starts.

LEMON: Maybe 200 days will be a marker this time.

PRESTON: Yes.

LEMON: Thank you, all. Appreciate it. When we come back the relationship between President Trump and his TV. Is his obsession with cable news up ending the White House?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:14:51] LEMON: President Trump invited members of the conservative media to a reception at the White House tonight. But just because the rest of us weren't there doesn't mean he stopped watching us.

So let's discuss now. Brian Stelter, CNN senior media correspondent. Also two people who were at the White House tonight, John Fredericks, syndicated talk radio host, former co-chair for the Trump campaign in Virginia and Katlain Collins, White House correspondent for "the Daily Caller."

Good evening. I hope you guys got fed and, you know, got some good drinks and some good information because we want to hear it.

John, you were at the president's reception tonight with conservative media groups. What did he say?

JOHN FREDERICKS, SYNDICATED TALK RADIO HOST: Well, the breaking news coming out tonight is the party with NAFTA and the globalist elites are over. The president announced ahead of time that he along with commerce secretary Wilbur Ross would put a 20 percent tax on soft lumber, a tariff coming out of Canada. They are underselling us by $5 billion.

Now, this is the first time we are going to have evidence of this President following through on the fact that he said that he would protect U.S. jobs by putting a tariff on materials and goods coming into the United States that are being undersold. And he said he is going to start there then after that, they are going to look at the same thing for milk and dairy which are our farmers are not getting a fair deal on. And so what this means is jobs for the timber industry, jobs for the dairy farmers. He is going to be following through on another promise and he is going to be attempting to break up NAFTA, which is a big deal.

LEMON: All right, Katlain, what do you think? What was your take away?

KATLAIN COLLINS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, DAILY CALLER: Well, I think, you know, the President took questions and a lot of reporters there asked some really good questions that made news. I think some reports asked questions that the President wanted to hear. But a lot of us were there to ask question and we would ask anyone else. I asked him the same question I asked Sean Spicer in the briefing today when they were cameras around and all of my colleagues in the room.

LEMON: And can you tell us what some of those questions were? You say you didn't ask - you ask hard questions that he may not have wanted?

COLLINS: Yes. I think there were good questions out of that. We know, we talked about North Korea. We talked about DACA and how the President has shifted his position on that. And we may not have got the answers that we wanted but we at least posed the questions to the president.

LEMON: Did you talk about the first 100 days and accomplishments and legislative agenda and any of that or any of the polls that came out today?

COLLINS: We didn't talk about the polls, shockingly enough, we did not.

LEMON: All right.

Brian, "The Washington Post" is out with the new report. And a lot of details about the President's obsession with cable news. The reports has said he uses it as a governing tool, a way to evaluate staff and as two-way conduit with law makers and aids. Have you ever seen a President rely on TV like this?

STELTER: (INAUDIBLE) is very much the first cable news President (INAUDIBLE). It is really a cable news and social media presidency. And Don, now the President's saying to the AP, does not watching CNN. He is not watching MSNBC. He is only watching Fox. You might say it's a FOX News presidency.

I don't think a lot of folks believe him, though, when he says he is only Fox News. And by the way, that would not be a healthy media diet. The media is like food. You want to have a bit of everything. You don't just want to eat chocolate cake. You want to round out your plate with all sorts of media, just like all sorts of food.

I don't think it is conservative media - meeting was very interesting, though. You have got a lot of different websites represented, some radio stations, television stations as well. Other Presidents used to do this. Bush used to bring radio shows. But now it's really digital media. Websites like Katlain's website, "the Daily Caller" that are represented.

Conservative media play as crucial role holding this president accountable. I think Katlain has been doing that in the briefings, for example. It's because the President pays attention to the Fox's and "the Daily Callers" that it's important for them to be asking these hard questions and hold them accountable.

LEMON: I think you are right. And I think if you are the leader of the free world, you should watching, as you have said, a number of different - and I don't believe that he doesn't watch CNN.

STELTER: You think he is watching right now, Don?

LEMON: Of course. Yes, I absolutely -- I'm sure he does. I'm sure he is watching on. If he isn't, he is going to get or maybe he DVR'd and he will get the readout.

STELTER: Well, that is the thing. And the White House --.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: You have got all those TV sets with all the channels on them. Obviously, you could make the case as president, he cares too much about what is said on television about his administration. But he and his aides are constantly paying attention.

LEMON: He should care. And I think that's one of the reasons he won is because he used the media to his advantage. And that he is aware of what the media was doing. So I think he should be watching all of us.

So Listen, John, Republican strategist Rick Wilson who is a long time never-Trumper and reports are saying a number of Republicans in Congress and the establishment party circles find the President's cable habits quote, here is quote. "Bizarre to the point of alarming. What do you think of that?

FREDERICKS: Who cares what Rick Wilson says or any of these other never Trumpers who still haven't figured out how this guy got elected President. The hypocrisy here is beyond the pale. John F. Kennedy Camelot read six daily papers a day and he was celebrated for that for being in touch. We have a different medium now. When President Clinton was president, he attempted to start -- he

attempted to start Clinton TV. That was celebrated and applauded. All the President does is want to stay in touch with real people and everything that's going on. We have a different medium today. It's TV, it is social media. It's no different than Clinton or JFK or anybody else. Because they were liberals, they get celebrated. Trump gets attacked for it. The hypocrisy beyond --

[23:20:28] STELTER: If you go to the buffet, if you stuff your face full of the fattiest foods of the buffets, it's not good for you. It is not good for your family. The same is true for the president. If he is only watching media that tell him he is the best, and he is doing the best, it's not good for him and it is not good for the country.

LEMON: Yes. And to that point I hear -- and it was quoted in the article not that I hear, it was quoted in the article that and I don't have the quote right here. But they only provide him with mostly local news clips in the morning because they are more favorable of him.

STELTER: Maybe they have been trying to put in front of the president more of a diverse collection of clips, you know. And normally you get these clippings from local TV stations, local newspaper. Let's remember how the wiretap controversies - it was this president sold Breitbart story that was put in front on them.

So I think it's important to get a wide variety. But like I said conservative media, you know, with websites that are either pro Trump or sympathetic to Trump, they play a really vital role right now, I think, in trying to show the President and his supporters what's really going on. What are not promises delivered and what are works in progress.

LEMON: Hey, Katlain, you said you guys didn't talk about the polls tonight. His approval rating though is 42 percent I this new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll. His approval rating among those who voted for him, though, is in the 90s, right, up to I think it's 96 percent but that says 94 percent in that poll. Do you think that conservative media is part of that and now supporters seeing different coverage than the rest of America?

COLLINS: No. I actually think that the negative coverage of Donald Trump's presidency is the reason his approval rating is so low because as we seen from other polls, a lot of the media coverage is really negative. So when you poll a thousand people nationwide, they are going off what they read in the morning and what they see on the news at night and that's why they think he has had such a failed presidency.

Now it is balance. There's been a lot of wrongdoings and a lot of shifts on campaign promises but he has also made some headway in certain campaign promises he made. So it goes both ways.

LEMON: And 94, that was the right number, 96 - that was the number, the percentage of people that would vote for him again. Brian, for President Trump, it's all about ratings again. So what do

you think when it comes to the ratings and the polls? He seems to want to cherry pick the good parts of the poll and then the bad parts of the poll he says are the fake news.

STELTER: Yes. And I think our viewers see through it. He was back on twitter again, saying these most recent approval rating polls are fake. Although he also said there are some positive silver linings to them. I think most Americans see through that. They know what he is doing. No different than folks in high school, you know, saying well, that girl won't date me but at least that one will. I mean, this is pretty basic human behavior. Not that it ever happened to me in high school, but come on. I mean, this is basic human behavior.

LEMON: Katlain, why are you laughing?

COLLINS: I love Brian's comments.

LEMON: All right. Well, you guys are great. And thank you very much.

John, it's always a pleasure. Good to see you. I will see you soon. Thank you.

When we come back, how James Comey shakes the election. Why the FBI director went public with Clinton's emails but stayed quiet about the investigation to Donald Trump's campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:27:25] LEMON: What the director of the FBI did and didn't do in the days before the election shaped one of the most contentious contest in our history. It is the subject of a fascinating in-depth report in "the New York Times." And joining me now two of the reporters who broke that story, Matt Apuzzo, reporter for the Times and Eric Lichtblau who is the new head of the CNN's Washington investigative team. Welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks so much.

LEMON: Eric, welcome to CNN, by the way. That's what I meant.

So listen. So Matt, you guys have some incredible reporting to the FBI director James Comey's decision making deciding to speak out on the Clinton investigation but not the Trump investigation. What's the inside scoop because he shaped the election based on how differently he treated these two investigations.

MATT APUZZO, REPORTER: NEW YORK TIMES: Sure. I mean, I think the real discrepancy was that he played the Trump investigation by the book. The FBI doesn't typically confirm investigations. They don't talk about an ongoing investigations. And you know, when asked repeatedly on Capitol Hill and by others to confirm the existence, he, you know, said we are going to go by the book and not do that. And at every turn, you know, he then tossed the rule books out. And you know, when it came to Hillary Clinton.

So I think that's the big disparity. And one of the factors we found out is that like a lot of us the FBI and Jim Comey thought that Hillary Clinton was going to win and was really concerned about what the fallout would be if it looked like the FBI was, you know, were covering up for her, was helping her secure that victory.

LEMON: Let's talk more about that, Erick, because you write this. You say in the case of Mrs. Clinton, he rewrote the script partly based on the FBI's expectation that she would win and fearing the FBI would be accused of helping her. In the case of Mr. Trump, he conducted the investigation by the book with the FBI's traditional secrecy. Is it fair to say that so many of the decisions made were because they assumed Clinton would win?

ERIC LICHTBLAU, HEAD, CNN WASHINGTON INVESTIGATIVE TEAM: I think that was the subtext for many if not all of the decisions. It was never stated explicitly but in our reporting, certainly that was the undercurrent. That, like the rest of the country, Comey and the FBI thought that Hillary Clinton was going to win and that fed him to the narrative inside the building and the different treatments that we found in the Hillary email investigation on the one hand which was done in a very unusually public and aggressive way. And the Russia investigation on the other hand which was really tamped down more important to the book.

[23:30:11] LEMON: I want to go back to that extraordinary moment when Comey decides to publicly announce that he won't be recommending charges in the Clinton case. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: There is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive highly classified information. As a result, although the department of justice makes final decisions on matters like this, we are expressing to justice our view that no chargers are appropriate in this case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Matt, what is the real reason Comey spoke out because it was more than JUST Loretta Lynch's combat meeting with Bill Clinton. It went to how Comey felt the justice department was treating the investigation. I quote, as he said, matter.

APUZZO: Yes. There were a number of instances right from the very beginning when, you know, the first story came out there was a criminal referral into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server and then the justice department said no, it was a security referral.

You know, that was really distinction without a difference. There was an ongoing criminal investigation underway. And the FBI, that was kind of read as people that justice department keeping kind of talking points and space to Hillary Clinton.

There was concern that, you know, there had been this bizarre documents that had been hacked by Russian hackers and obtained by American intelligence officials that -- in which the Democratic operative seemed to express confidence that Loretta Lynch, the attorney general, would keep the Clinton case from going too far and, you know, read one way, that's just typical Washington BS, you know, baloney. Read another way.

Well, if we let the justice department, you know, close this case out, then if Russia leaks that document out, then it could undercut, you know, the independence of the investigation. So there was this growing sense at the FBI that only Jim Comey could be the one with the credibility and the gravitas to close that investigation. And that was consistent with learned behavior with James Comey who is, you know, has always succeeded at taking, you know, center stage in these big moments.

LEMON: And Eric, you can't make this up because just weeks after Comey announces Clinton investigation is close, the FBI opens an investigation to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia but says nothing about it.

LICHTBLAU: Right. But back to back, I mean, what you got to remember here is that the FBI in the 2016 election was more deeply involved in the Presidential campaign than really any time since Watergate. And no sooner had Comey thought he had pretty much closed the door on the Hillary investigation in that July press conference that you played. And here he has all these new accusations that are surfacing secretly at the time over Trump and Russia. And he is back in the middle of things. And then of course he'd reinsert himself back to Hillary on October. So, try as they might to get themselves out of the politics business, they were deep into it.

LEMON: Matt, do you think that Hillary Clinton also thought that there was a double standard between the way she was treated with the FBI and so on as she felt it was double standard the way she was sort of treated with Trump and what people thought about her verses Donald Trump?

APUZZO: Of course she thought that. And folks in her campaign think that to this day. And I understand that. I think that -- I think if I were Hillary Clinton, I would wonder why, you know, the sort of the play book was tossed out when it came to her case but not with Donald Trump.

LEMON: Do you think we will ever find out?

APUZZO: Well, I mean, I think we have a really good sense that Comey was trying to protect the institution of the FBI from accusations of partisan politics. But the truth is, is he was very aware, acutely aware of the D.C. politics. The idea that if Hillary wins and the Republicans are promising years of hearings and oversight and it looks like the FBI covered up for her or protected her or didn't tell the public about these new email in October, that the FBI would be dragged in front of Congress, there would be infinite number of hearings. This would be crippling to the FBI. And so while we didn't find any evidence of outright partisanship, the FBI was absolutely aware of the city politics and what this could mean for the FBI. LEMON: I think more specifically what I mean is, will you think he

will ever admit it, because this is your reporting I have read. But would you think that Comey would ever admit that was his thinking all along, that's the question.

APUZZO: I think at some point he will have to sit for an interview and explain it.

[23:35:04] LEMON: What do you think it means, Eric, for the Trump collusion/Russia investigation moving forward?

LICHTBLAU: Well, I think what we have seen through this story and others is that the FBI was a bit slow off the mark on this investigation. Yes, they quietly began this investigation in July but the CIA and other agencies seem to be out ahead of them. And I think that the fact that Hillary was such a public investigation and Russia was the exact opposite is more indication, at least feeds into Sinicism of at least some on the left that the FBI was not as aggressive as it should have been and it may still be a while before we come to the truth and know is there there? Was there in fact collusion by anyone associated with Trump? We don't know the answer to that even now.

LEMON: Eric, Matt, thank you.

LICHTBLAU: Thank you.

APUZZO: Great to be here.

LEMON: When we come back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, what's been going on while I have been gone?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: President Obama speaking publicly for the first time since leaving office and some of what he said may surprise you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:40:14] LEMON: He is back. Former President Barack Obama speaking out today for the first time since leaving the White House.

Let's discuss now. CNN political commentator Sally Kohn is here. Neera Tanden, former policy director of Hillary Clinton. Van Jones, host of CNN's "the Messy Truth," and CNN political commentator Paris Dennard. You have to say it like that every time you say it "the messy truth."

SALLY KOHN, CNN COMMENTATOR: Extra messy.

LEMON: Good evening all of you. Thank you. So the former President is back in the spotlight. You wrote an op-ed,

Sally. This is Sally Kohn expressing your disappointment saying that the President -- former President should have taken the opportunity to challenge President Trump. Why?

KOHN: Well, I mean what I say in the piece actually is I want him to. I understand why he didn't and that's not who he is. What is interesting about in his speech today was what he said as much as what he didn't say. He made it clear. He is not going to save us from Trump. If there are people out there who don't like what Trump stands for, don't like what he is doing, don't like the Trumpification of our politics, and our discourse, Barack Obama's message is I'm not going to be the superhero coming to save you. You all have to save yourselves. He meant that for young people especially, but really for all of us that we have to be the change we want to see in the world. I actually thought, you know, I wanted him to deliver some punches and kicks maybe emotionally, but it's not who he is.

LEMON: I never thought he was going to do that nor did I think he should do it.

KOHN: You know, again, like cathartically.

LEMON: Van, do you think he should do it? I don't think he should do it, though.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he didn't save us the first time. It's not like he forgot to say that Trump is unqualified. I think he says it, you know, multiple times a day. He did more time than he brushes his teeth. He was his that was his whole thing for an almost a year. So it's in fact up to us in a democracy and I doubt, I think it would be unwelcome and unwise for him to use that bully pulpit indiscriminately.

He did speak out when President Trump did attack Muslims around the world with the Muslim ban. And he hasn't spoken out since then. When Trump does more shameful things, and I'm sure he will do, I'm sure President Obama will say something. But I was just happy to see the brother. I got my popcorn out, like thank you, Lord.

LEMON: Wait. What do you mean, thank you, Lord? For what?

JONES: He looked tan, he looked happy, you know. He had a little bounce in his step. You know, he is talking more Chicago. I was just like, you know, it was like watching a rerun of your favorite show, you know. I'm like thank you, Lord. I was just happy.

LEMON: Paris is the only person on the panel who is not smiling.

(LAUGHTER)

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, listen. President Obama was unable to deliver Secretary Clinton into the White House and so he wasn't able to do anything about President Trump. But I think at the end of the day it was appropriate for him not to try to attack President Trump. It would have been distasteful. We are still within the 100 days and I believe fundamentally he understands that President George W. Bush was so gracious to him during the transition and throughout the vast majority if not all eight years of his presidency never speaking out.

And so I think he is remembering that and trying to show deference to President Trump when, as Van pointed out, he is so moved to talk against him. I think he will but this was not the venue, it wasn't the time and it wasn't the place to do that.

LEMON: Do you think he should show deference when the President in office is not showing deference to him?

DENNARD: I think when he looked at how President George W. Bush treated him, I think somebody has to be the senior statesman and as the outgoing President, I think that's what he is trying to do. He should not wade into the swamp, if you will, like they try to say and talk about every little thing that he does not like about President Trump. Allow President Trump to lead and be his own person.

LEMON: Neera, if you will just indulge me because I want to play a sound bite and then I will get your response, OK.

This is two presidents, the current and the former. They disagree on immigration. Here's the former President talking about immigration today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: It's important for those who support, as I do, immigration reform and pathways to citizenship for folks are who are here not to assume that everybody who has trouble with the current immigration system is automatically racist. That's an example of us being able to listen. I always used to say sometimes in crowds where folks didn't want to hear it, that it's not like everybody in Ellis Island had all their papers straight, you know. The truth is the history of our immigration system has always been a little bit haphazard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[23:45:14] LEMON: Again, Neera, there was no mention of President Trump and he is sticking up for the Trump voters there who voted for him because of immigration and now just like being branded as a racist as a result. Do you think that is getting a little too far for some Democrats?

NEERA TANDEN, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR TO HILLARY CLINTON: No. I mean, I think President Obama showed a great graciousness tonight or today. I think a lot of progressives and people around the country see from some of the data coming out that his approvals are getting higher and higher. So, you are on. And I think part of that is because people kind of yearn for, an adult, a person who treats voters with respect. He treats the opposite side with respect instead of someone who just attacked them. And I have to say that graciousness --.

LEMON: Neera, I have to say though there's a "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, 67 percent say Democrats are out of touch. And I mean, if you look at the President's time in office, right? Let's see, Democrats lost 960 seats in state legislation during the Obama administration including 74 seats in Congress. And according to 5:38, at the start of President Obama's term, Democrats controlled 59 percent of state legislatures. Now they only control 31 percent. They held 29 governors offices. Now they only have 16. So, Neera?

TANDEN: yes. And I think that's exactly why President Obama is spending his time talking today as he will in the months ahead about how we can rebuild, how people need to get involved in politics, how young people need to get involved in politics, how the challenges we are seeing today are ones that new leaders have to lead, have to come forward and take on.

I think he is going to spend a lot of time trying to build up the Democratic process itself and get people more engaged in politics. And a lot of people did turn away over the last couple of years. And in fact, Donald Trump succeed because a lot of people were repulsed by politics. I think one thing that has been positive over the last several weeks and months, frankly, is a level of activism and engagement. People are calling members of Congress, people are marching, and people are going to town halls. I think Donald Trump has inspired a new generation of activists and engagement, people who care about democracy and that's --.

DENNARD: That's on both sides though, Don. That is on both sides.

(CROSSTALK)

TANDEN: And there are very few people coming out for Trump.

LEMON: Go ahead, Paris.

DENNARD: But I was going to say is that what President Trump did in the election was he was able to go to those people who felt forgotten, felt left out the system of the system, that they felt that President Obama for whatever reason wasn't talking to them and President Trump was talking to them.

LEMON: All right. Weill continue. And Sally, I know you want to jump in. We will continue on the other side of the break.

But this, you know, this President, the former President doesn't talk about the current President a lot. But the current President is certainly talks about the former President a lot, almost to the point of maybe obsession. We are going to talk about that as well. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:52:02] LEMON: And we are back. President Trump can't seem to get let go of his obsession with his predecessor. So back with me now, my panel.

So Sally, the president did an interview with the "Associated Press" about his presidency where he mentioned President Barack Obama several times. At one point comparing himself saying you have got to understand I have only been here now 93 days, 92 days. President Obama took 17 months to do Obamacare. I have been here 92 days, but I have only been working on the health care. You know, I had to get like a little bit of grounding, right? What's your response?

KOHN: Well, it is really hard to respond to that grammar. But, you know, if we are being fair Barack Obama did a little bit of blaming of George W. Bush during the early parts of his presidency. Now, I happen to think both ideologically, but also if I can try to distance myself, factually that was legitimate. The economy crashed under George W. Bush in part because of the wars and his economic policy. And so it was appropriate for him to do that.

You know, Trump is doing it for a different reason. He is doing it to distract from his complete failure in office and inability to deliver on any of his promises and because of simultaneously gins up his base who would otherwise maybe notice that he is completely failing them.

LEMON: Paris, I know you want to respond. Go ahead.

DENNARD: No. It is just simply he has been in there for 93 days and President Obama had a little more time than 93 days to enact Obamacare. He is going to take a little more time to get rid of it and to replace it with something else. That's all it is. And I think it is hypocritical to say that it is OK for President Obama to critique President Bush with President Trump can't have President Obama.

LEMON: You have to remember though that there were seven years of repeal and replace. They tried to do it. They voted, what, over more than 60 times. You would think --.

DENNARD: Absolutely right. You would think that they have it together. But President Trump delivered on his campaign promise to put something up there and the Congress failed to act.

LEMON: Go Van.

JONES: Hey, listen, if what Trump had said I'm going to go to D.C. It is going to be very hard. I'm going to try a bunch. It is going to be tough, then will delivered. He said is I'm going to do it. It is going to be easy. And it turns out it is not easy. That's the problem. He mislead his supporters into thinking it is something incredibly difficult and hard to do would be easily done. And he is going I think he will pay some price at some point for all of this he brought to the campaign trail. He can't deliver.

KOHN: I am not sick of winning yet.

LEMON: His supporters, it doesn't seem to matter even though he keeps pushing the goal close to himself.

TANDEN: Look, it's been 90 days. I don't expect his supporters within 90 days to say it's all a disaster. I think that is the reality is for the broad public, I mean he is the most unpopular President at this point in history. And so at this point in his presidency. And you know, as it goes this is the time he is supposed to be his most popular, his most powerful. And we learned even tonight though he threatened members of Congress yesterday about a wall, he is already given up on that because he has very little leverage because he is so popular. So I think the reality of that is it's hard to govern.

[23:55:08] LEMON: I want to play some of the clips. This is quote to Middle East in fighting ISIS. Trump has more success in eight weeks than Obama had in eight years. We have had tremendous success but we don't talk about it. We don't talk about it. OK. So he is comparing himself there.

And then he also spoke again about the election saying the electoral election is skewed in favor of the Democrats. Then he goes on to talk about the Electoral College. He still talking about his predecessor and he is also still talking about the election. What is going on here that he has to focus on his predecessor and why is he looking in the rear-view mirror so much, Paris?

DENNARD: I don't think it is so much that he is looking in the rearview mirror. I think he wants to set is record straight because there's always this undercutting of his presidency, undercutting of his candidacy. And now he is undercutting of his first 90 or 93 now 100 somewhat days. And so, I think he is --.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I'm not going to go back and re-litigate the campaign. But what's the undercutting of the 90, of the first 100 days?

DENNARD: I mean, a lot of people keeps saying he didn't deliver on his campaign promises. He didn't signed up executive orders. The legislation that he hasn't signed and all these things. You do it in comparison to others. Look, we have President Reagan, was shot JFK at --.

(CROSSTALK)

KOHN: There's Republicans on day one that said they weren't going to cooperate with Barack Obama on anything. And for eight years nothing but obstruct --

DENNARD: And you had --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I want to stick to now.

We just talked about the wall. We talked about Obamacare. And he said he is going to do these things very early on in the presidency. And the he himself put out a list of accomplishments that he wanted in the first 100 days. And most of those he did not accomplish. So how is that -- what's -- I don't understand what we are getting wrong or the media.

(CROSSTALK) TANDEN: This is goal post. This is his goal post that is failing. It is not my goal post. It is not your goal post. It's a goal post he put up during the campaign, after the campaign, just a few weeks ago. So it's not really like we are indicting him. He said he would deliver on his first day, on his first 100 days. The reason why he failed in healthcare is because he set that deadline. The Congress couldn't pass it because of what his pressure is.

LEMON: I'm over time now. Thank you guys. We will see you next time. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)