Return to Transcripts main page
President is considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller; U.S. Supreme Court opposing the justice department's request to put President Trump's revised travel ban into effect; Theater producers do a modern take on Shakespeare plays; Runway to Hope for cancer patients; Aired 11:00-12:00mn ET
Aired June 12, 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: We will discuss all of this. But I want to begin this hour ahead with the former U.S. attorney Matthew Whitaker, also the former federal prosecutor John Flannery, and former White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter, and political analyst April Ryan.
Thank you all for joining me this evening. We have a lot to discuss.
April, I'm going to start with you because according to Christopher Ruddy, the President is considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller. The reaction tonight has been swift. Why do you think this is coming out tonight, April?
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, one, this President has never left us unexcited and anticipating his every move. He likes this, number one. Number two, this President really is not a President of governance. He is a President who goes with a knee-jerk reaction in a lot of instances, but he is also a man who feels that his base is with him. He is not the establishment. He is pushing the envelope. And this might just push it too far, if he does indeed fire Robert Mueller as special counsel in this probe into the Russia investigation, that's dealing with issues of obstruction of justice possibly as well as collusion.
It seems like, Matt, with all of this that we are dealing, is making the President's own making, these problems. Because he, you know, he is the one who started tweeting about these things. Rod Rosenstein chose to, you know, I guess, fire him. But, I mean, to hire Mueller after the President fired Comey. This is the President's own making, correct?
MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Right, it is. But the thing that I think we need to understand is that some of this continues to be within his power. The attorney general can, you know, and the deputy attorney general still report to the President. If the President wants to, he can put the -- tell the attorney general, who is now the DAG, because of the way Sessions had recused himself from the Russia probe, that the deputy attorney general could terminate by President's orders, I think it would be a complete --
LEMON: So why would he do that?
WHITAKER: Well, he wouldn't and he shouldn't, but he can.
LEMON: You don't think he would?
WHITAKER: I don't. It will be a spectacular. We will spend a lot of time talking about this, if and when he does. But I think this President puts these things out there into the ether of politics to see what the commentators and the rest of the folks think and respond and then ultimately makes his decisions, I think, based on that feedback. I don't think there is a single person that has heard this today hasn't been that is a little ill advised, if it would be a proper term.
LEMON: John, you are rearing to get in. Go ahead.
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Thank you. I'm sorry that I couldn't suppress myself.
LEMON: I know, I could hear you. Every time I made a comment or someone else you are like -- go on.
FLANNERY: Yes. It is nothing against Matt, but I think the characterization is fair of Mr. Trump, as a man child. I mean, on the one hand on Friday he say, I will testify a hundred percent for the special counsel, and now he is having remorse and afraid to do it. Because I think he is a coward at heart. And the only way around doing what he said is to fire him. And so, I think that he doesn't listen to anybody. He is not floating this to hear what we say. He doesn't even listen to his own staff. This guy doesn't know what he is doing. And he doesn't know how to commit a crime and we all see it. And we need an intervention. And it's not an impeachment, we need him to resign and we need this lawsuit to go forward in Maryland.
LEMON: John, we will talk about that. But may I ask you another question, please? Because according to a CNN analysis, a federal election commission record, three members of the legal team known to have been hired by special counsel Robert Mueller to handle the Russia investigation, they have given political donations almost exclusively to Democrats. Is this a troubling sign to you?
FLANNERY: No, it's not. You know, if I go back to my own appointment as assistant U.S. attorney, I was appointed from a clerkship that was held by Eisenhower, and then I became an assistant U.S. attorney by a U.S. attorney Paul Karyn (ph) who was appointed by Nixon. And I was succeeded by Robert (INAUDIBLE) appointed by Nixon and I was still very visible Democrat having worked on Ted Kennedy's campaign when Strom Thurman appointed me his special counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. And after that Orrin Hatch appointed me special counsel to the Senate labor committee.
We used to be able to recognize if someone had a talent or not and whether or not they would go by what you are saying in the ad (ph) which is the truth. That is following the fact and the law. And that's what public service is about. And how you vote or how you may in your spare time be a partisan is not a disqualifier as a public servant to do what's in the best interests of the nation.
LEMON: But I'm still always surprised on people who are in public life or anything that has anything to do with politics even touching politics would give to -- would donate to, you know, a particular political party.
[23:05:02] WHITAKER: I agree.
LEMON: It shocks me every time I hear that. Why would you do that?
WHITAKER: Well, it does - it lends to these types of attacks. And what you see is a case being made right now by the White House, and others, that Bob Mueller is somehow, you know, partisan, and can't conduct this investigation together with his assistants in a fair and equitable manner. Because remember, the symbol of justice is way to justice who has a blindfold and should not see Republicans or Democrats, should only see the laws and facts.
LEMON: Richard Painter, you are awfully quiet tonight. So I have to bring you in here. The attorney general Jeff Sessions testifying tomorrow at a public hearing at the Senate intelligence committee, 2:30 p.m., by the way. We will be here on CNN.
There are two key questions. How many meetings did attorney general Jeff Sessions actually have with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and why did the attorney general leave the room on February 14th on Valentine's Day leaving the former FBI director Comey alone with the President? Do you think we will get answers to those questions?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, we will see whether we get answers, whether he just wants to claim executive privilege. And I would hope if he gives answer he will give truthful answers. Because we had some problems with his testimony the last time around in his confirmation hearing when he said he hadn't had meetings with the Russians and he had had meetings with the Russians. So I hope he can sort out that under-oath business a little better this time around.
And I have got to say, these attacks on Robert Mueller are ridiculous. He was a Bush appointee in the FBI. I was in the Bush White House when he was at the FBI. He was an excellent FBI director. And the idea that he is a partisan liberal is ridiculous. The people he was hiring, some of them may have given some money to Democrats, but we have a lot of people appointed, United States attorneys who have given money to the President's political party and they then have the power to prosecute anybody in the United States.
So, you know, we want to clean up our campaign finance system and get rid of the big donors. I'm all for it. But then to turn around and say, well, someone gave a few thousand dollars to a political campaign, and that makes them unable to be an impartial prosecutor and do their job professionally, that is an utterly ridiculous argument.
Once again, Bob Mueller is a class act and he is going to do a good job. If the President were to choose to fire him, I think we would have to be looking for a new President very quickly. It's not going to work that way.
LEMON: April, I want to ask you, because you know, you are there at the White House every day, about --
LEMON: -- sort of impugning the reputation of Robert Mueller. You know, it happened with Comey. This is a deliberate strategy on the part of the White House and the administration.
RYAN: It's no longer the politics of politics, it's the smear campaign now. You know, with this administration, if they don't like you, they will let you know, and let the public know. They are not afraid of playing the partisan game. You know, if you are considered a Democrat, or there's a thought that you're a Democrat, that is an ugly word. It's a pejorative now. If they don't like you for something that you are doing, they will go after you. The talking points, we have heard it today, against Mueller. The issue is, again, the politics of politics are gone. It is a smear campaign now.
LEMON: We also know that the President has been angry at the attorney general Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. I want you to listen to what the attorney general said today during a cabinet meeting, this praise-a-thon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are receiving, as you know, I'm not sure the rest of you fully understand, the support, with law enforcement all over America. They have been very frustrated. They are so thrilled that we have a new idea that we are going to support them and work together to properly, lawfully fight the rising crime that we're seeing. It's an honor to be able to serve you in that regard. You sent the exact right message, and it's being responded -- the response is fabulous around the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Richard, what do you think of that? I mean, all joking aside, it has been reported that the President and the attorney general's relationship has been on thin ice. What do you make of this exchange today?
PAINTER: Well, I don't know what to make of that. Everybody in the room was busy kissing up to the boss there. That was really quite a show. But, you know, I support the stepped-up law enforcement. I would start with obstruction of justice and collaboration with Russian spies here in the United States, go after those people. I think we should start putting people in jail. We wouldn't have this type of stuff going on, corruption and obstruction of justice. And we don't know yet who is guilty of what, but that's what Bob Mueller's job is going to be, to figure that out and prosecute them.
And I also think the House and Senate Judiciary Committee need to have hearings on obstruction of justice and abuse of power. I have been involved with the Republican Party for 30 years, this is not a partisan issue. This is about our democracy. And whether the people in power are using it the way they are supposed to or whether they're abusing it. So the house and Senate Judiciary Committee need to go to work.
LEMON: Well, there you have it. Richard, thank you. Thanks to the rest of my panel as well. That's the last word.
When we come right back, more on the ninth circuit's decision to block President Trump's travel ban. Hawaii's attorney general now urging the Supreme Court to reject the ban yet again. He joins me next.
[23:14:30] LEMON: Some breaking news tonight, Hawaii attorney general Doug Chin files a briefing in the U.S. Supreme Court opposing the justice department's request to put President Trump's revised travel ban into effect. And this morning, the ninth circuit court of appeals upheld the block on the ban.
And Douglas Chin, the attorney general of Hawaii, joins me now.
Good evening to you, sir. You are all smiles today. What's your reaction to the decision?
DOUGLAS CHIN, HAWAII ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, we were very encouraged by the decision that came out from the ninth circuit court of appeals. That was a decision that confirmed that our injunction against the travel ban should stand, and the reason for it was entirely new reason, that had not been really raised by the courts before.
We have been raising it in our briefs from the very beginning. But essentially what they were finding was that the problem with the travel ban is that it violates our federal immigration laws. And specifically, the immigration and nationality act. So there is this provision that's in the immigration and nationality act that everybody focuses on where they say that the President does have the authority to ban entry of certain people, when he finds that it's detrimental to the interests of the United States.
And so what the ninth circuit did is they actually said, you didn't satisfy that standard. What you came up with in your executive order, even the revised one, was very flimsy evidence that doesn't justify of blocking 180 million people from the six Muslim majority countries and nations from coming into the United States.
[23:16:08] LEMON: Why do you think this has happened? Do you think that that's just their ban, you know, on its head, it's just unconstitutional? Because it keeps getting -- you know, it keeps getting upheld.
CHIN: Yes. So what you have is you have the fourth circuit court of appeals as well as several lower federal courts, not just Hawaii, that are saying, look, there are so many discriminatory statements that have been made by President Trump. He is the one who first called it a Muslim ban, you know, in the first place. But then even beyond that, there were so many tweets and comments and statements that were made by President Trump and his surrogates, not just when he was a candidate, but as recently as last week.
LEMON: Let me read some other and get your response because the President, he tweets -- the tweets used against him, the three judges responsible for the current the ruling cited the latest tweets regarding the travel ban. This was on June 5th. I'm sure you remember that, after the London terror attack.
He tweeted, that's right, we need a travel ban for certain dangerous countries, not some politically correct term that won't help us protect our people. The justice department should have stayed with the original travel ban, he called it a travel ban, not the watered- down politically correct version they submitted to the SC, so to Supreme Court.
His inability to stop tweeting, is that hurting his case?
CHIN: Absolutely. And what's very impressive about the ninth circuit court of appeals, and I guess not surprising, is that they read the papers, too. Or at least they're on twitter. But because they quoted those exact statements that were made by President Trump as recently as a couple weeks ago. And so that was all part of the decision. And of course, what we all can argue, and understand, is that he is not the candidate anymore. You know, what he says as a candidate to my mind is actually very important. But even to people who think that it's not, he is the President now. And even Sean Spicer had said that the President's tweets are official statements of the President. He said that the day after President Trump tweeted that.
LEMON: Do you think that played into it? Because they cited, right? They cited Sean Spicer's confirmation of the President's tweets are considered official statements.
CHIN: Yes. Yes. You know, and I think that's what's actually very -- like I said, what's very impressive about the ninth circuit panel is, usually you think of judges as if they are so intellectual, so much in an ivory tower, that they are not going to start talking about a tweet. But instead, they are right there noticing exactly what the President is saying. And now, they are not just saying it's a constitutional violation, they are saying that those statements are actually showing that he is violating the statutory immigration laws that were set up by Congress.
LEMON: Do you think it is interesting because they say it was a temporary ban in order to sort of get a handle on people who were coming into the country, and they needed to study it. Had it gone into effect, it might be over by now. Don't you think in this time they should be studying that? We have seen no study of this.
CHIN: Right. And so that was actually an argument that they have made all along is they said, you know, this injunction, it's so harsh because it is not allowing us to be able to do our studies. We argued that from the very beginning. We said, look, we are not trying to stop the department of homeland security from doing whatever studies, whatever actions they need to do to be able to implement the policies of the administration. But they just cannot do it under the auspices of this Muslim ban. And I think the other problem with this is that, people talk about how
this is just a temporary suspension, and I think the statement that I have seen gets the most reaction from people when I talk about this is that the constitution is available to us 365 days a year. You don't suspend it for 120 days or even one day. It's there for all of us every single day.
[23:20:20] LEMON: Douglas Chin, thank you so much.
CHIN: Thank you.
LEMON: When we comeback, President Trump assembling his cabinet today and they went around the table giving lavish praise to the President. For example, here's Reince Priebus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you've given us to serve your agenda and the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Much more after this.
[23:24:37] LEMON: President Trump met with his entire cabinet for the first time today, but what caught everybody's attention is how they went around the table, taking turns praising the President.
Here to discuss CNN political analyst David Drucker, political commentator Jason Miller, political analyst Tara Palmeri and contributor Jason Kander.
Good evening to all of you. So good to have you on.
David, the President met with his cabinet today. Here's what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[23:25:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, I have strike be and celebrate this group.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, it is a privilege to be here. I'm deeply honored. And I want to thank you for keeping your commitment to the American workers. I can't thank you enough for the privilege that you have given me, the leadership that you have shown.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to thank you for getting this country moving again, and also working again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you've given us to serve your agenda and the American people. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What's going on here, David?
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Don, first of all I'm honored to be associated with your broad shoulders and abilities.
LEMON: Thank you very much.
DRUCKER: I don't know what's going on exactly, but I will tell you that it's a part of a pattern with this President. And look, that's just the way that he likes to do business, when I think it comes to his ego, and how he sees himself as a leader. And I think his staff obliges him.
And let me say that we are focusing on this particular event today, because of -- obviously, it seemed like so much. But if you look at different news conferences where members of the President's senior team would come out and discuss elements of his policy, there have been hints of this all the way along. I'm thinking of Nick Mulvany's after-the-fact discussion of the President's budget that was signed, the continuing resolution omnibus. And over and over Mulvany made it clear that the President wanted the negotiation. That the Democrats lost. That the President is a great negotiator. And recently they were talking about the foreign trip and how courageous the President was. So this is just how this administration talks about their boss.
LEMON: So they are doing it for -- on the boss' behalf. Because almost like he wrote it, right. If I wanted to write something, here is how you should address me.
But let me guess, Jason, you disagree with everything he said?
JASON MILLER, FORMER TRUMP SENIOR COMMUNICATION ADVISER: Look, I mean --.
LEMON: You didn't think that was a little odd?
MILLER: David's great. I'll subtly disagree. Here's the thing. This White House, this administration has been so under attack ever since they came in on day one. I think there's a bit of a rallying cry going through the administration. But I chat with a number of these cabinet officials and people throughout the administration. I mean, you have successful people like billionaires, like Wilbur Ross and Stephen Mnuchin, people like, you know, Rick Perry or Linda McMann. And I think what everyone wants to show is that there is this unification. They are supportive of what is going on with the agenda. And the only thing that really gets presented for many of their agencies is the negative attention. Whether I mean, fill in the blank, Russia, or Comey, or these other things.
LEMON: So let me ask you this --
MILLER: We might be under attack but we are united here.
LEMON: Why are they saying that to the President? Like why are they saying, hey, Mr. President, we are happy to be here and work with you. You have to stop tweeting. Hey, you have to stop being hyperbolic. Hey, we want to get your agenda passed, but you have got to stop doing this. Because he is bringing all of this on himself. He is bringing all of this on himself. Why wouldn't they say that to him instead of saying, you know, hey, my God, you are great. You didn't think that was odd? Come on, Jason. You are smart.
MILLER: Look, it was a little bit of selected clips that were put together. And I thought Senator Schumer I'm sure you have this clip teed up. I thought it was actually very funny and the --.
LEMON: You have the President's ear, I think. I don't know if you are still in communication with him. But at least people who work there. And you are here because you are a Trump supporter. Wouldn't he be better served if people were honest with him about the things he is doing, instead of just praising him because they want to get on his good side? Maybe in order to serve him better, they need to get on his bad side.
MILLER: I think plenty of people will go and voice their honest opinions directly to him, or even out in the public. But I think in these moments when they have the cameras on them, I think there is a realization that if they don't go and say it, then nobody else is going to say it for them whether that be the partisan opponents that are coming after him, I think they are taking the opportunity --
LEMON: Hold on, hold on. I'll get you guys in. Don't worry. I'm so happy to have all of you on the show. But that also does not serve his -- the people -- his supporters. Because they are actually not being informed. And they are thinking that his behavior is OK, and that it plays well. And that actually gets his agenda across. It does the exact opposite. Do you understand what I'm saying?
MILLER: I think you're talking about two different things.
LEMON: No, it doesn't help his support. For them to sit there and lavish all this praise on the President, it doesn't help people who support him because they are not getting the full -- no, no, hold on -- they don't get the full picture. They think it's OK for him to be hyperbolic, for him to tweet out things that aren't true, for him to say that he has accomplished all these things when he really hasn't. I will show you the fact check when he said and that thing today about we have accomplished more, we have done this, it is not true. So shouldn't someone be sitting there saying, look, Mr. President, instead of heaping praise on him in public, right? Maybe they shouldn't say that, but in private you say, you need to get your act together.
MILLER: I think they are also heaping praise on the work that their own agencies and the hard working people that report to them are going out doing every day as well.
LEMON: They should be saying it to them, then.
[23:30:02] MILLER: Don, they're not going to come out there and start blasting the President when they are working hard. (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: They are presenting a false image. And they are not being honest with the President. They are actually hurting him by -- you tell your kid - if your kid does something wrong, constantly, constantly, and you reinforce the behavior by telling him he is great, that doesn't help your child. How is that helping him?
MILLER: I think they are presenting the image of how they feel in their department, and the work that they are doing. Again, if they are not saying it, no one else is going to say it.
LEMON: Look. If he actually accomplished something and did what Ivanka Trump said, which she said on television this morning, I try not to listen to the noise, whether you agree with her or not, I keep my head down and I do the work. That is great, great advice for her father who should do the same. Why does he care what the --?
MILLER: But she was also right when she made the comment about the viciousness of the attacks and the way those are coming. I mean, look --.
LEMON: OK. I'm sorry, guys. I brought you here and I'm hogging it. I'm like eating all the food at my own dinner party.
MILLER: They won't get a fair shake if they don't say it themselves.
LEMON: But that is not true especially when it comes to -- Ivanka Trump is a grown woman. She knows what she has gotten into. Her father has not been the nicest, kindest person to many, many people and has said some really awful things. There's an opposite reaction. He can't expect to say things about people and then everyone be nice to him. She can't expect that either.
MILLER: I have never heard her attack anyone ever in her life.
LEMON: But she is working on behalf of the President. Go ahead, Jason, I'm sorry.
JASON KANDER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Don, isn't part of the problem that according to Jason Miller, in order for anybody to say anything nice about the President of the United States, he has to call a cabinet meeting? I mean, it is actually kind of be an indication to him that things are not going very well.
And I think this is a perfect metaphor for everything going on in the administration. Because the whole deal that Donald Trump made with people who voted for him was, you know, people said, look, I don't like this guy that much, I don't like the way he treats people, but if he does what he -- if he treated people that way and made him so successful, if he is going to do that for me and do that for the country, well then, I'm willing to give that a try.
The problem is, this is a perfect example of what he has really done. What he's really done is he never stopped doing that for himself. He never started doing it for the country. All the people he brought in there today, they have got stuff to do. They got agencies to run. They can have a meeting about helping people get higher wages, about making college more affordable. But that's not what they are doing. They are having a meeting about Donald Trump because he never has become president of the United States. He's still the President of the Trump organization.
MILLER: I would say Jason, just respectfully, they are taking advantage of the opportunity with the big stage, the microphones and the cameras --
KANDER: I'm sure it was their idea.
MILLER: Absolutely, to talk about what they are doing because they are proud of the work that they are doing. And it is, you know, look --
KANDER: Apparently what they are doing is praising the President.
MILLER: -- and I respect your ability to have a difference of opinion. But on our side of the aisle, we just disagree with you.
KANDER: Look. I think --
Let me just say, my issue is not with the cabinet meeting. This is what they have to do all the time. They can't do any work for anybody, because everything is about what is the President's mood today. That's not a stable leadership strategy.
MILLER: I don't think (INAUDIBLE). You look at -- they put up a number of accomplishments. And I think they are doing some great things. I mean, heck, this is work force protection week. They are doing some good stuff. They got tech coming up next week and then energy the following week. I think this administration is pretty excited with what they are doing. And hey, the fact they are able to fight a two-front war here knocking away these distractions that are coming out and it is still running the fact that government making good on these campaign promises, good for them.
LEMON: So -- I took up so much time. So I'll just say, Tara, go.
TARA PALMERI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, it was interesting to see chief of staff Reince Priebus to say it was such a blessing to serve the President. And as I reported this morning for "Politico," when President Trump returned from the foreign trip, he actually eviscerated Priebus in front of two former campaign staffers and told him, you have to clean up this organization. I'm giving you until July 4th. And I'm not going to do a shakeup until then because I want to bring in fresh blood if this doesn't work out. And it is just, you know, just another example of Trump giving another deadline to Priebus. This is the third time that he said to him, you need to clean up the shop or you are out.
And it also just kind of shows you what kind of manager he is. And how he thinks this brings out the best in people. Now people inside the White House tell me they see Reince as an example as someone on the President's bad side. And someone they don't want to be like which might explain why you are seeing so many cabinet officials and staffers, you know, pouring flattery on him and being effusive, because they don't want to be in the same place as Priebus is in and some of the others.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, I don't want to keep beating up on him. But the reason I asked because I know that you are a supporter. And I know that you are a good guy. I'm just trying to figure out what in the world is going on here.
We are going to continue to talk about this. We will be right back.
[23:38:47] LEMON: All right. We are back.
Even a stroll in the park is filled with drama these days. At least if you are taking in a performance of Shakespeare in the park right here in New York City.
Back now with my panel. You guys all know what I'm going to discuss. Shakespeare in the park, an institution, Tara, in New York City, producers do a modern take on Shakespeare plays. But in their production, Julius Caesar, they portrayed Donald Trump as Caesar, and, of course, as in every production, you know that's how it ends, Caesar gets murdered. Do you think they crossed the line in portraying a sitting President this way?
PALMERI: I think more than crossing the line, I think you see a real mobilization by the right wing activists right now. Traditionally, it's been the left that's been really great at organizing and boycotting against corporations that tend to offend people politically, like what happened with chick fillet and the boycott there. This time you are really seeing a group of activists who are mobilizing to defend Trump. It's like they have a new purpose and a new reason. And if you look on the internet, you are seeing tons of these people on twitter. I mean, there is obviously push by BreitBart and Pop News (ph). But they put enough pressure that corporate sponsors like Delta and Bank of America said that they are going to back out of the sponsorship of the show. So I think that is just enlightening the base in another way.
[23:40:03] LEMON: Yes. A lot of those are bots, too, by the way. So yes. It's not real people.
Jason, tonight the public theater's artistic director spoke to the crowd before the performance. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSKAR EUSTIS, ARTIST DIRECTOR, PUBLIC THEATER: Anybody who watched this play tonight, and I'm sorry, there is going to be a couple of spoiler alerts here. But will know that neither Shakespeare nor the public theater could possibly advocate violence as a solution to the political problems (INAUDIBLE). This play, on the contrary, warns about what happens when you try to preserve democracy by nondemocratic means. And again, spoiler alert, it doesn't end up too good. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He means that Caesar's murders eventually all die in battle or by suicide. Does that satisfy you, Jason?
MILLER: Look. I think this is terrible and inappropriate. I mean, whether it's this -- whatever it was in the park, or whether it's Kathy Griffin with the chopped-off head of President Trump. And you know what, frankly, even when people on the right do it, whether Ted Nugent has said some pretty offensive things over recent years, when you are talking about actually killing people or creating images that lend people to think about killing people, that goes beyond art. I don't think that's entertaining. I think it is just downright offensive regardless of who the target is.
LEMON: You guys realize that there was one about Obama in 2012 as well, right? And the same ending. Do you think that we should be boycotting art -- I'm not saying it is right for them to do it or not do it? And he was doing a Caesar, and guess what, he dies.
MILLER: Well, there are two separate issues.
LEMON: There's a scene right there of him dying.
MILLER: Should art be boycotted? Should art be censured? No. But we live in a very tribal politically sensitive time. Meaning, tribal politically. And people are very sensitive about this sort of thing. And corporations, which just want to make money, and don't want to be in the business of offending anybody ever, are not going to want to have their names associated with anything that could get them into hot water, and bring them unnecessary, unflattering press. And that is the entire reaction to this.
LEMON: Jason Kander, don't you think that's an impossible standard, though? Because listen, if you want - if you don't believe in what Shakespeare in the park is doing, then don't do it. All of these boycotts, I just think it's really dangerous. Yes, freedom of speech, you have to pay the consequences if people don't like it. But all this boycotting and all this stuff, I think it is a bit dangerous. If you don't like Shakespeare in the park, don't go see it. If you don't like watching this show, don't turn it on. But don't boycott because it's just not what you like.
KANDER: I think it's amazing how eager everybody in the Trump administration is do constantly put themselves in the position of victim considering the facts that they spent years building a political philosophy around criticizing people for being politically correct.
I mean, let's start with what is really happening here. I don't think that the President of the United States or anybody in his administration, is actually offended by this show going on. I think it's in New York. But the reality is, if you don't want to go see the show, then don't buy a ticket. Don't go to the show.
Meanwhile, what's going on in Washington is something that Americans can't cash in their ticket to and not attend. If you are on the edge of your seat right now worried about whether or not you're going to lose your health care, because 13 Republican men in Washington are plotting against you and not telling anybody the details, well, that's not something you can just give your ticket away for.
And by the way, this is what the Trump administration is upset about. Two sergeants and a corporal died in Afghanistan yesterday.
LEMON: Yes. I do think it is sort - it is going to make a controversy. I have to go, though, because I have to get something else on the air.
And I do have to say thank you all very much.
By the way, Christopher Ruddy was supposed to join us. There was some confusion about timing and him getting here. So we will try to get Christopher to come on as soon as possible. President Trump's friend who made some remarks today about the President, maybe firing getting rid of the special counsel.
When we come right back, though, a cause close to my heart. Plus, more from this guy who might be after my job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Grayson here today. I'm with Don Lemon. What is your favorite part of this event so far?
LEMON: My favorite part is getting to hang out with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[23:48:22] LEMON: All this week, CNN is running a special series called champions for change featuring charities we think are doing spectacular work. I chose Runway to Hope founded by Mark and Josie NeJame of Orlando, Florida.
Runway is dedicated to raising money to help fight pediatric cancer in a very special way. They bring together thousands of people in the community for a fashion show starring the children. Pediatric cancer is particularly tragic because it attacks the most vulnerable and innocent. But I learned that these kids aren't victims, they are fighters, no matter what their age.
LEMON (voice-over): At three years old, it's hard to imagine anyone more innocent than Alana.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is so full of life. She is a talker. She doesn't ever stop talking even when it was the worst, you know. She is always smiling.
LEMON: Alana's mom, Jenny, is a pediatric nurse. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three!
LEMON: She and her husband, Ron, started noticing bruises on Alana, it became alarm on a family vacation.
She bumped into a wall and immediately her head just went black and blue like within 30 seconds. And he has gone to take her to the doctor. And they drew her blood and he looked at the slide and he said, I don't have to tell you what this is. You know that this is leukemia. So she gets chemo every single day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going to give you some juice.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She also have I.V. chemo once a month.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of times as a parent and a mom and a dad, your first concern is like what can I do to fix it? And there's nothing I could have done.
LEMON: But Mark and Josie NeJame decided there was something they could do. Seven years ago they launched Runway to hope, a charity that raises money for pediatric cancer, for research, new technologies and to help families with needed cash.
[23:50:13] MARK NEJAME, CO-FOUNDER, RUNWAY TO HOPE: You can't appreciate what they go through until you see it. And then you still are not experiencing it. So you do the best you can to empathize. So many families are in economic chaos anyway. It is hard to balance their budgets and their checkbooks and their bank accounts all that. And so, it really the dynamics are just something you never really can imagine until you see it and experience it. And that's why the dollars do make a difference.
LEMON: One of the scariest things about childhood cancer it's so random. One day you are learning to walk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Arms up.
LEMON: The next, you are fighting for your life.
I met Grayson (INAUDIBLE) at Florida hospital when he came in for radiation treatment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the guys.
LEMON: He has his own You Tube channel, loves video games and most of all baseball. His cancer came out of nowhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was like mom there is a giant lump on my neck the lump of the size of a golf ball. And she is like my goodness. So we went to the ER. And they said, hey, you have Hodgkin's type of lymphoma type of cancer. My mom and dad -- it was a big shock for me because I thought, oh my, this is not good.
LEMON: Grayson taught me a lot about friendship.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My friend Kaden when I go to his house he makes me smile every day. He is just the best friend I could ever have.
LEMON: Wow. That makes you -- you love him, right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is just the best.
LEMON: You are a pretty cool kid, man. Thank you. You all right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LEMON: He is dealing with this awful thing. And what he cherished the most in life was friendship. I really sort of touched my soul in a way because all he wants is just a friend. He wants human contact. And I became his friend in that moment.
Grayson just celebrated his last radiation treatment. But survivors always fear the cancer could come back. That's what happened to Hannah Harger. She was diagnosed with well many tumor, a kidney cancer, when she was just 21 months old. Then eight years later, she relapsed. News from Hannah's doctor hit hard.
ELIZABETH HARGER, HANNAH'S MOTHER: I remember her talking to me and not hearing a word she said. The mouth is moving. I see the motions and not connecting the two. And they repeated. It's back. And at that point I was on the ground, literally on the ground.
LEMON: But as powerful and deadly as cancer can be, no one gives up without a fight.
HARGER: You have two minutes to cry, two minutes to feel sorry for yourself, and then you have no time but to get to your child, explain it, wrap your arms around them. And then it's game on.
LEMON: Game on.
LEMON: Hannah finished her chemo and is waiting for the first scan.
HANNAH HARGER, PATIENT: I feel great because all my energy is back and I can just run around and play.
M. NEJAME: We talk about the kids and parents being warriors.
LEMON: Each year runway brings together local leaders and celebrities for a fashion show starring the children.
M. NEJAME: We do over a million dollars a night with the big event and we have over 160 kids walking the runway tonight and we will have about 2400 guests.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five thousand.
LEMON: The millions rains raised by Runway have helped Orlando's three pediatric hospitals fund a brain tumor program, end of life care and new on pediatric college, even direct aide to struggling families to help with monthly bills. JOSIE NEJAME, CO-FOUNDER, RUNWAY TO HOPE: Every day working people
just, you know, living our lives and then cancer happen. And all of the sudden there is all these bills and there not enough money. And what do you do because your sole purpose is to take care of your child.
LEMON: To the children Runway to Hope is a chance to party, to put on fancy clothes, get their hair and makeup done and to do what makes them happy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give it up for Avery.
LEMON: This is the Runway to Hope where they all get on stage and they walk the runway and strut their stuff. And you can just see like their confidence building, like they get closer and closer to the stage. Once they get out there they get all excited.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Up next, our friend and fellow cohost, Don Lemon, anchor of CNN TONIGHT. He is walking Grayson and Hannah.
[23:55:07] LEMON: It's amazing to witness. And I know we throw around the phrase this is life changing and life altering, but it really is. These kids really are literally fighting for their lives and yet they are so happy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Alana, who is three years old, she is also is known as Lady Bug.
LEMON: The question I ask myself at the end of the night was what did the children teach me? I think I learned from them to be positive. At the end of the day no moment is promised to anybody. Live your life, enjoy every single moment. Be present and in that presence, be happy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was awesome.
LEMON: They were great. Folks at Runway to Hope say when you really get to know the children and their families you realize there is so much more to the story than a disease and that everyone who helps in whatever way, walks away so much richer. Do what you can.
On the next champions for change learn about the causes close toes Mikayla Feirera's heart tomorrow morning in the 8:00 a.m. hour of "New Day."
And to see more from our anchors going to CNN.com/championsforchange. Champion for change, a week-long CNN special event brought to you by Charles Schwab.