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CNN TONIGHT

North Korea Launches Missile Over Northern Japan; President Trump Defends his Charlottesville Comments. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 14, 2017 - 22:00   ET

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


(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: Well, Tim, I appreciate what you're doing and I wish you the best. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, thank you. I appreciate it.

COOPER: That's it for us. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts right now. See you tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news on multiple stories across the country and around the world.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you for joining us.

North Korea launching a missile over northern Japan tonight. President Trump briefed on this latest provocation from Pyongyang. That just hours after the president flying back from the storm zone, weighs right back into the political storm over the Charlottesville neo-Nazi controversy, insisting there were, his words, "bad dudes on both sides."

But also signing a joint resolution on Charlottesville that condemns white nationalists, white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups.

Plus, the New York Times reporting tonight President Trump called Attorney General Jeff Sessions 'an idiot' and disloyal to his face back in May. Sources tell CNN Sessions offered to resign. Conservatives furious tonight on the wake of news that president -- the president is moving closer to a deal with democrats on DACA.

Trump insisting today his promised border wall will be built.

There's a lot to get to but I want to get to CNN's international correspondent Will Ripley. He is live for us tonight in Tokyo. Will, good evening. Thank you so much for joining us. You just arrived in Tokyo from Pyongyang. What's the very latest?

WILL RIPLEY, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Hey, Don, yes. Certainly, lots of fast moving developments. I woke up yesterday in North Korea. Woke up today in Tokyo to the news that air raid sirens were once again going off in northern Japan. People receive alert messages on their cell phones telling them to take cover.

This is like deja vu from two weeks ago where North Korea launch an intermediate range ballistic missile over Hokkaido.

They have now done to again. A highly provocative act, threatening a U.S. ally but not directly firing their missiles over U.S. military instillations which are farther south no Japan which I think is noteworthy, Don.

Also noteworthy that South Korea, just seconds after the North Korean launch, they fired their own ballistic missile that they say would have the capability of taking out the North Korean launch site. So, clearly, things continuing to escalate in this region.

LEMON: Well, North Korea has fired 22 missiles during 15 tests, all of that since February. Compare the range and trajectory of what we saw tonight to others this year, if you will.

RIPLEY: Well, this is an intermediate range missile that they unveiled at their military parade back in April. They tested in May. They launched over Japan two weeks ago and now they've launched it again.

This is a missile that theoretically could have the capability to fly as far south as the U.S. territory of Guam. Here in Japan officials are actually calling this an intercontinental ballistic missile though the exact missile that was fired has yet to be confirmed.

But obviously this is a serious provocation. North Korea, what they did by firing it in northeastern direction and not in a southerly direction is they didn't cross that red line that President Trump laid out where he said if they were to threaten the U.S. territory of Guam the U.S. May be forced to intervene.

What North Korea did instead was fire it in a trajectory still threatening, but it didn't cause the U.S. or Japan to try to shoot this thing down. They didn't feel it posed any danger to civilians.

LEMON: Will Ripley in Tokyo for us. Will, thank you very much. I appreciate that. Now I want to bring in CNN national security commentator Mike Rogers, and CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us.

Serious stuff here. We know that president -- the president has been briefed on North Korea, Jim, but he did not comment tonight during a dinner reception this evening. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just released a statement. What did he say?

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, CNN: This is a real challenge to U.S. policy here because Trump has come in with a tougher position, right, saying that we will not tolerate. He promised fire and fury several weeks ago. And the question is what does this mean for U.S. policy going forward, because it is based on stronger sanctions. You had a unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution just this past

week, but North Korea in effect with this test standing up not just to the U.S. but to the international community, including New York's closest ally, which is China, and the threat of greater economic sanctions.

It raises a question which is raised by the administration can North Korea be deterred on its nuclear program, its missile program. It's not clear, frankly, Don, if they can be.

LEMON: Yes. And listen, you may not have the statement there in front of it, so I'll read it for you. I happen to have it. This is what Rex Tillerson says. He says "United Nations Security Council resolution including the most recent unanimous sanctions resolution represent the floor, not the ceiling of the actions we should take. We call on all nations to take new measures against the Kim regime. China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean force labor. China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own."

[22:05:04] What do you make of that statement, Mike?

MIKE ROGERS, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: I think what you're going to find is pressure being put on Russia and China to start ratcheting down. So there's been a lot of sanctions put on. They don't have a lot of room left.

If you start cutting off oil to North Korea and the fact that Russia pays cash for labor in North Korea, really hurts them. And now we're down to about four different choices that have been talked about. One, decapitation, taking out Kim Jong-un, bad option.

The second one is taking out the nuclear sites, specifically militarily. The next one is full-on invasion. And the last is a combination of diplomacy, unilaterally with allies and also trying to bring in China and Russia. And they're all working on that fourth one because the other options are really so bad.

LEMON: Yes. I mean, is any of that -- is any of it going to work? I mean, Jim, I mean, those are options, but you remember, you recall Steve Bannon really let on, he said there are no real viable option when it comes to North Korea and that they have the U.S. over a barrel.

SCIUTTO: The Trump administration is facing the same quandary that the Bush administration and Obama administration faced as well, which is that you can squeeze North Korea economically. You can pressure China to put more pressure on North Korea. Does that work? Is North Korea deterrable on its march towards being a nuclear state? It's an open question.

I spoke recently with a senior administration official and he raised the question, is North Korea deterrable? You speak to folks like James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence and they say, you know, from North Korea's perspective, this is about survival. And nuclear weapons, with a credible nuclear deterrent, is their only

way to ensure they will not be invaded, decapitated by the U.S., South Korea, U.S. allies in the region. You know, trying to find the way forward with this country has been a challenge for administrations of multiple administrations from both parties. They haven't found the way forward. It's a fair question. Mike knows this better than me.

LEMON: And Mike, you just returned from South Korea where they're conducting their own military drills where officials are -- what are they saying about these provocations?

ROGERS: Well, there's really two schools of thought. If you are in the general population, they think, hey, we've been putting up with this for 65 years. They are going about their daily lives. There's no sense of panic.

The government officials are very, very concerned, because everything is getting ratcheted up. Military presence, I think you can see that Secretary Mattis is increasing show of force. They've announced that we had our own navy SEAL decapitation team meaning somebody was training to go and kill Kim Jong-un. That was a very publicly thing, not normally done. Clearly designed to send a message.

LEMON: Is that the decapitation unit you...

(CROSSTALK)

ROGERS: No. There's two. So we have said that our U.S. Navy SEALS publicly they talked about the fact that there's a unit training to go in to Kim, basically to kill Kim Jong-un. The South Koreans said we're going to set up a brigade of folks that would go in to Pyongyang and take out him and leadership. All of that is ratcheting up the rhetoric.

And what people are worried about is that at some point you run out. The North Korea runs out of other options. Can't scare you anymore by far in a missile. Maybe they do something more aggressive. And the same thing with the United States and our allies.

So what we're going to have to do here, Don, is find out what China and Russia don't want to have happen. Let's all agree on what we don't want to happen. Nobody wants conflict in North Korea. China doesn't want it. They don't want U.S. combat troops fighting in North Korea. Bad for them.

So maybe we go to what we don't want to happen we can get to a better place and through some concessions and some further diplomacy and really getting to the heart of the finances of Kim Jong-un. You've got to starve the beast that's in Pyongyang. Oil and labor, cash for labor from Russia is a way to do that.

LEMON: Let's listen to what the president said about North Korea earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are working on different things. I can't tell you obviously what I'm working on, but believe me, the people of this country will be very, very safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Jim, obviously he was aboard Air Force One returning from Florida visiting the hurricane zone, the storm zone down there. You've been talking to a senior administration official. What are they telling you?

SCIUTTO: So it gets to an essential conflict here, right, because for China the U.S. needs China to pressure North Korea. But for China, they have different priorities than the U.S. has on North Korea. Yes, China does not want a nuclear North Korea, but in China's death chart, more threatening to them is a collapsed North Korean regime, one, or two, a unified North Korea where you have a U.S. ally with U.S. forces on China's border.

[22:09:58] So, you know, the U.S. and China have some interests that align, but they have other interests that do not align, and those will not change. You can pressure China. You can tweet about China. You can threaten trade -- you know, trade penalties, but at the end of the day, there are different national security priorities, and it's impossible to rectify those or reconcile those very quickly.

It's an essential problem and, again, I'll say Mike knows this better than me. It's an essential problem when the U.S. and China approach this national security threat coming from North Korea.

LEMON: Yes. And I want to talk to Mike about something else. I want to turn now to your program declassified. It's a clip from this week's episode. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For years the intelligence community had been monitoring transmission being sent by the Cubans up the East Coast of the United States.

MATTHEW RADER, SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: Most of their broadcasts to their agents are in voice transmission, numbers that are read out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This transmission led to the arrest of (Ph) Ana Belen Montes in 2001 and the intelligence community was quite proud of Ana Montes' arrest. But unfortunately, following her arrest they were horrified to learn that the transmission had not ceased.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Wow. What more can we expect?

ROGERS: Well, the Cuban intelligence services are very, very good. So they recruited Ana Montes. She was a spy for her whole career as she worked in the Department of Defense. And come to find out you're going to find out on Saturday they had another set of spies working in our State Department giving some of the most sensitive information that we had.

And by the way, that information was being packaged and brokered to the Russians for cash payments. If you love a good spy story, Don, you're going to love Saturday night's story.

LEMON: It's always fascinating. I love watching it. Kind of scarce me too a little bit. But I like it.

ROGERS: It does show you what these folks go through to try to catch people who are trained to not get caught spying for another country and betraying the United States.

LEMON: It's very intriguing. Our thanks to Mike Rogers, and also Jim Sciutto, and also Will Ripley. Don't miss Declassified with Mike Rogers. It's Saturday at 9 right here on CNN. And Will Ripley's exclusive journey to North Korea. Secret state, inside North Korea. It's tomorrow night at 10 eastern. Again, thanks to all of these gentlemen.

When we come right back, the president again blaming violence in Charlottesville on both sides. Why he just won't move away from this divisive language.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The president doubling down on remarks he made after the deadly riots in Charlottesville last month saying again that there were bad people on both sides.

I want to bring in Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor at large, political analyst April Ryan, white House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Networks, and political commentator David Swerdlick, assistant editor at the Washington Post. Hello, every one. Doing OK?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNN: Hey, Don.

APRIL RYAN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Yes.

DAVID SWERDLICK, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Sure.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Mr. Cillizza, I'm going to start with you. Great. President Trump is defending his response to Charlottesville yet again. He took questions from reporters aboard Air Force One on his way back from Florida. And he was asked about his meeting with South Carolina Senator Tim Scott. By the way, the only black republican in the Senate. Here is the president.

(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)

TRUMP: We had a great meeting. Tim Scott has been a friend of mine for a long time. I've been a supporter of his when I was a civilian. I was one of his earliest supporters. And I supported him when he ran. And we had a great talk yesterday.

I think especially in light of the advent of antifa, if you look on what's going on there, you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also and essentially that's what I said.

Now, because of what's happened since then with antifa, you look at really what's happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying, in fact, a lot of people have actually written, gee, Trump might have a point. I said you've got some very bad people on the other side also which is true. But we had a great -- we had a great conversation.

(END VOICE CLIP)

LEMON: Chris, why? Why?

CILLIZZA: I mean, that -- well, OK. I've spent some time thinking about this. The only possible answer, Don, is that he is extremely driven to prove he is right in virtually -- well, take away the virtually. In every circumstance, because politically speaking, this makes no sense to relitigate this.

The question of how was your meeting with Tim Scott is really a very easy question to answer if you're Donald Trump. This is not a got you question. You say the senator and I had a very productive meeting. We talked about the need to celebrate diversity both in the country and in my administration and we're going to work toward that. Like, I just thought of that. It's not that hard.

The fact that he spent the whole answer essentially saying I told you so, and see, I was right all along, even though they said I wasn't, it just -- it affirms what we have talked about before on your air and on the channel CNN more broadly, which is in Donald Trump's heart of hearts, he believes his response to Charlottesville was the correct response and the right response.

When he is not on the teleprompter, that is the response that comes from his heart. He believes that there is violence on both sides. He believes that he did the right thing in the wake of Charlottesville. There's no -- literally no other conclusion reasonable people can draw.

LEMON: Tim Scott, I have great respect for Tim Scott and as the only African-American in the Senate, I took what he had to say to heart and what we spoke about is between us. But I thank him for coming over. It's just really easy stuff. You're right, Chris.

CILLIZZA: Right.

LEMON: I mean, April, listen, Phil Mattingly caught up with Tim Scott and here's his response. He said, "That's who he is. It's who he has been. And I didn't go in there to change who he was. I wanted to inform and educate a different perspective. I think we accomplished that. And to assume that immediately thereafter he's going to have an epiphany is just unrealistic." [22:20:02] Well, say what you want, I mean, he could have reacted wherever. But it was a classy way of saying it. That's who he is. It's who he has been. Is that the realization a lot of republicans are having now in Washington?

RYAN: Yes. It's the realization of many people, but it doesn't make it right. This is the sixth time this president has spoken to reporters and to the American people on Charlottesville. He's back and forth, back and forth. And to once again double down on both sides and to say there was some really bad dudes on the other side, so I guess fighting for what's right makes you a bad dude. A lot of people are bad dudes.

And interestingly enough, from my sources, when Tim Scott was in the Oval Office with the president, you know, knowing this president a little bit now, you know, he doesn't take well to people telling him what they really think that's against the contrary or against what he may think.

He listened from what I was told. He didn't necessarily like it, but he listened. But you have a lot of people, Don, who are wondering, you know, on one hand he says some of the white things, you know, meeting with democrats and talking about doing some things possibly to fix some things, even though there's still a dispute about an agreement or not from the other meeting.

But then you have this. This is going back and forth. You're wondering if he's trying to pan it to the David Dukes who were upset with his statement, the original statement and then -- it's just...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: No, no.

RYAN: You wonder who is he trying...

LEMON: No, no, no. One is what he believes, the other is for a win.

RYAN: I don't know. I'm watching.

LEMON: It's that easy. One is for a win.

RYAN: Don, we know this. We know this.

LEMON: He needs a win.

RYAN: We understand this. We understand this.

LEMON: And what he believes it's wrong. Again, he's 70 something and you cannot convince him...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: When there's a telepromter it's scripted and it's coming from the White House staff.

LEMON: It's not even that, April.

RYAN: Well, it's coming from the White House staff when it's teleprompters.

LEMON: It's simple.

RYAN: But when he speaks on his own...

LEMON: It's simple. That's what he believes.

RYAN: ... it's from his heart.

LEMON: Yes.

RYAN: And there are people who say it's an Archie Bunker moment. So I'm trying to be objective, Don.

LEMON: Yes. It's not being -- it's the objective truth. It's what all the evidence shows.

RYAN: It's the objective truth. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt that he may not understand truly about race.

LEMON: Yes.

RYAN: He's travel to the African-American museum of history and culture and he still didn't get it.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: It's not even -- you've got to do more than that. You don't know what you don't know.

RYAN: And he's talking to John Lewis. He's got to -- he's talking to John Lewis and he's still not getting it.

LEMON: Yes.

RYAN: He's met with the CBC and he's still not getting it.

LEMON: OK. I got...

RYAN: He got on NAACP...

LEMON: I got to bring David in.

RYAN: Yes.

LEMON: But I got to say, April. I mean, and you'll a chance to response to something else. But you don't know what you don't know and sometimes you just have to say, you know what? I don't know. I'm not an African-American.

RYAN: Exactly.

LEMON: I'm not sure of the experience. I don't know about these things.

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: But as president of all people it's his duty to know, isn't it?

LEMON: Yes. David.

SWERDLICK: Yes.

LEMON: But you've spoke -- you talk to me about the meeting and just your response to what we've been talking about. I know you've been...

(CROSSTALK)

SWERDLICK: Yes, so to the point that -- to the point you just made, Don, a little earlier today I talked to a former senior adviser to Senator Scott and he underscored for me the point that you're just making, which is that Senator Scott's aim in going into this meeting was to underscore for the president that there are some painful episodes in American history that affect African-Americans in a particular way and that he needs to know this.

Affected all people but African-Americans in particular, and that the president needs to know this and factor this and take this into account when he addresses situations like Charlottesville.

Going back to Chris's point, if the president really respected Tim Scott in the way he said he did in that press gaggle, that's what he would have talked about.

CILLIZZA: Right.

SWERDLICK: Instead of talking about the antifa. He would have said Tim Scott came in, gave me a little, you know, primer on some things that I had not thought as deeply about as maybe I should and this is a good basis to move forward. He didn't. That's not respecting whatever Tim Scott went there to do.

CILLIZZA: And just quickly, Don, to pick up on David's point. That clip you played, how much of that clip percentagewise is about Tim Scott and how much of it is about Donald Trump?

LEMON: Right.

CILLIZZA: I mean, it's 95 percent about Donald Trump because even when he's talking about Tim Scott in the beginning, what does he say? You know, I endorsed Tim Scott very early on, right. The entire universe is centered on him. And I think the danger as Dave points out -- and his base. The universe is him and his base.

He needs to listen, right. If you're going to bring Tim Scott in there, who has a story and a past and an experience that Donald Trump does not have. Remember, Donald Trump was raised in New York City to a wealthy family. Not as wealthy as he is now, but a wealthy family.

This is not the experience that he has. If you're going to bring someone like Tim Scott in and say that this is on the agenda, you need to listen.

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: Chris. Chris and Don.

CILLIZZA: Sorry, April. Very quickly. You can't the next day say well, you know, I was basically right. That's the lesson that you took from talking to Tim Scott?

SWERDLICK: Right.

[22:25:03] LEMON: Go ahead, April.

RYAN: But you guys, you guys, I'm going to say this. You know, all of this talk about this moment and everybody still so hypersensitive about it, someone died and it should be a major issue, and that's the piece.

LEMON: Amen.

RYAN: That should be dealt with as well as the reason why it happened. But let's go back even further. When you see it, you need to believe it. When you hear it, you need to believe it. We heard this before. So I don't understand why people are acting like, my God, it's just amazing that he didn't talk about Tim Scott more so than the other issues.

We saw this on the campaign trail. We saw code words. We saw all of this. We made America great. You know, is this really a shock? Is this really a surprise? Honestly.

LEMON: Yes. I want to get your response to this, because tonight the president signed his joint resolution condemning the Charlottesville violence. And here's what he says.

"As Americans we condemn the recent violence in Charlottesville and oppose hatred, bigotry, and racism in all forms no matter the color of our skin or ethnic our heritage. We all live under the same laws. We all salute the same great flag and we are all made by the same Almighty God.

We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal as one people. Let us move forward to rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans."

So how do you reconcile what he said and what he wrote? David?

(CROSSTALK)

SWERDLICK: So here's the thing.

RYAN: We will be talking -- I'm sorry.

SWERDLICK: No, real quick, April. That's a statement that almost any president, including President Obama, Bush, Clinton, could have given. There's nothing wrong with that statement. It covers the basics. Here is the problem, I think, for President Trump.

He has such low credibility coming in on issues of race and gender that he really -- if he wanted to show to people that he was not the guy from the campaign, that he was going to reach out and expand his tent to a broader range of people than the people who maybe voted for him, this was his opportunity either right when Charlottesville happened or now to give a more full-throated statement.

RYAN: Exactly.

SWERDLICK: Saying that he understands what people are going through in this country from different walks of life and that he wants to learn about it and address it. Instead he gave that statement. That statement was the equivalent of putting on a flag pin. It's a good thing to do, but any president could have given that statement.

LEMON: Absolutely. Listen...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: The statement should have been made at the beginning of August and that was it.

LEMON: Yes. I condemn those guys, it's terrible.

RYAN: And then maybe a discussion after that. Yes.

LEMON: Yes. But I understand also that there were people who were there who were opposed to the bigotry and the racism and they may have been violent. I don't condone that, but there is a difference between the two groups. It's so easy.

CILLIZZA: And again, that's not -- you know, look.

LEMON: I've got to run, though, Chris. Quickly.

CILLIZZA: It's been racism in the country, very complex. Giving a statement that simply says, look, one side was peaceful protesters, the other side were white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Not hard. He messes up the easy things here, not...

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: It's hard for him.

LEMON: Yes. OK. Thank you.

RYAN: It's hard for him, apparently.

LEMON: See you next time.

SWERDLICK: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, more on the president's Charlottesville blame game. Are his tone-deaf comments part of a strategy? Should they be? Should they be? And we're going to dig into that and reveal what they reveal about the president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:30:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: President Trump insisting again today that both sides were to blame for the deadly violence in last month in Charlottesville, Virginia. So he's continuing to blame those who protested against white supremacists, as well as white supremacists themselves.

Let's discuss CNN political commentator Amanda Carpenter is here. Syndicated talk radio host, John Fredericks, and political commentator, Symone Sanders. Three people who may be a little bit shy, so I want you all to come out of your shells tonight and speak your mind.

But seriously, John, I want to play part of the president's comments again aboard Air Force One. Here it is.

(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think especially in light of the advent of antifa, if you look at what's going on there, you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also and essentially that's what I said.

Now because of what's happened since then with antifa, you look at, you know, really what's happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying, in fact, a lot of people have actually written, gee, Trump might have a point. I said you've got some very bad people on the other side also is true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So why is he doing this? Why is he so obsessed with antifa and not white supremacists or neo-Nazis.

JOHN FREDERICKS, SYNDICATED TALK RADIO HOST: I think they're two separate issues, Don. And as far as antifa is concerned, they've not really gotten the sort of coverage they should as a violent gang-based organization. You know, the mayor of Berkeley came out and said they need to be classified by DHS as a violent gang. They've been disavowed by both Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco.

This is a very violent group of people. And I think the president is frustrated that that has not been played up in the legacy media. These are dangerous people that are going now to other protests and allies and beating people, and they're dangerous. And they should be classified as a terrorist group.

LEMON: So what about the...

(CROSSTALK)

FREDERICKS: That is not...

LEMON: What about the white supremacist group? FREDERICKS: That has nothing to do, though.

LEMON: This is not, but, John, this is not about antifa.

FREDERICKS: That's what his comments were about.

LEMON: This is not about antifa. And no one is condoning violence here. I know. But why?

FREDERICKS: Nobody is condoning violence.

LEMON: Nobody is condoning violence.

FREDERICKS: But he's trying to bring attention to this other left- wing violent group that seems to be getting a pass. Nobody is excusing the...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: They're not getting a pass. Do you watch television?

SYMONE SANDERS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: No one is embracing...

LEMON: Do you see CNN has reported on antifa extensively.

FREDERICKS: I watch CNN, Don. They're not getting -- they're not getting the coverage.

LEMON: That's not true. Go do a Google search and you'll see the reports that CNN has done.

FREDERICKS: You know they're not getting the coverage, Don.

LEMON: They are getting -- we're talking about -- how many times have we talked about it with you, John? That's a talking point.

FREDERICKS: Well, they're a very violent group. OK?

LEMON: I just want to -- I just want to -- let me remind people what this is about, OK.

[22:35:00] Let me just remind people. Let's go back to that vice video of the protesters. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD CHANTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. So those comments basically mean that they're saying that only white people are entitled to the American dream or to live in America, basically insinuating everyone else should be exterminated. Jews will not replace us. And the people who are on the other side, as he says, they were there protesting that. So I'm wondering, Symone, why is he unable or unwilling to move on

from making a comparison between white supremacists and those who protest against them? Again, antifa, the violent tactics are wrong. No one is condoning that. But it is different.

SANDERS: It's absolutely different. I think part of this is Donald Trump has a real problem acknowledging when he's been wrong. I don't think that we've seen in the short life of this president, in the short of this presidency that we've seen Donald Trump fully acknowledge and take responsibility for being wrong and then move forward.

And so, it's really hard him to let up on this point of both sides. One, maybe because he actually believes it, but also two, because that's just not what Donald Trump does. He doesn't quote, unquote, "go back on his word." But it's dangerous and let me tell you why, because under the guy of being quote, unquote, "not politically correct," it's very dangerous to sweep white supremacy under that umbrella because white supremacy has literally killed people in this country.

Heather Heyer died at the hands of white supremacists. So this isn't just about being politically correct. This is about the lives of millions of people in this country. And no one is trying to defend antifa, but these are two separate things that the president continues to conflate.

LEMON: Amanda, I want to get your response to that. But also it struck me in his comments today when he said a lot of people are saying. I mean, you know, that maybe Trump had a point. I haven't heard a lot of people say that. Maybe Fox News.

(CROSSTALK)

AMANDA CARPENTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, he's right and that reflects. Yes. He's gotten a lot people, a lot more people to pay attention to antifa. That is true. And let me just talk as a very crass political operator here. He is missing a home run opportunity to send the message violence is bad. Period.

KKK is really bad. Republicans have more of an obligation to call that out because those are some of his supporters in that crowd. And I think Trump should be able to give a speech that does ultimately talk about violence on both sides, but the white supremacists are different because they are mimicking a movement that is responsible for the murder and extermination of an entire people, millions of people.

The antifa crowd is not mimicking a movement that is responsible for an ethnic cleansing. That is what makes it different. And so if he's unable to distinguish that point, he's never going to be able to send an effective message which I think is a shame, because I don't think anyone -- I haven't seen a single democrat support antifa and say hey, that was awesome when they were smashing up the nation's capital during his inauguration.

He is missing a golden opportunity because he can't get out of his head and understand why he has to make a difference on that point. LEMON: For all those people who are watching, Amanda at home and

clapping and standing up in front of the television, I'm with you. I just didn't do it. Thank you. You articulated that better than anyone that I have heard.

There's -- I mean, if you look at all the things that Trump has said about Charlottesville, here is what happened. First, he took it easy on neo-Nazis and white supremacists saying there was violence on many sides. Then he condemned them in that pre-written speech. Then he went back off the rails in that wild press conference. And then now he says there's bad dudes on both sides.

Why does he think there's wiggle room when he's talking about white supremacists? What is he not getting? Is i exactly what you said or I'm a little dense. Explain it to me more.

CARPENTER: I think he is very loyal to his supporters. And listen, a lot of people in that crowd, there were people dressing up in Donald Trump golf uniforms with the kakis and the hat. I think he really doesn't want to alienate that base and while he thinks there's bad dudes on all sides, I think he does recognize there's people in the fringe elements on both sides that do provoke each other, but he can't bring himself to understand why KKK people walking around are different than people in black masks walking around flowing bottles, mazing comes, which is really bad.

And it saddens me that he can't make that point to condemn violence on all sides because he doesn't have it in him to understand or message why dressing up like neo-Nazis is different.

LEMON: Yes. John Fredericks, you can respond on the other side of the break. We'll be right back.

FREDERICKS: Well, look.

[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So back now with my panel. So, John, I want to get your response to what Amanda just said, her perfect summation of what the president is not getting in this situation.

FREDERICKS: I agree with what half of Amanda said. The first half, Amanda, you're spot on and I congratulate you for that. But the second half, we have this false news narrative that somehow says these crazy skin heads, neo-Nazi, KKK members that are a crazed group of a tiny little bit fraction of society that belongs in strait jackets somehow represents the Trump base and they voted for Trump and so he doesn't want to offend them. There are about 10,000 people in the entire country...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: They're not part of the Trump base?

FREDERICKS: That doesn't make any sense. That's like they say...

SANDERS: Who voted for Donald Trump is not...

FREDERICKS: Absolutely not. That's what he think...

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: I never said they were represented that will be Trump base.

FREDERICKS: Wait a second. Let me finish. That's like -- that's like me saying well, the radicals and antifa that are banging up automobiles and destroying property, they all voted for Clinton. That's part of the democratic...

(CROSSTALK)

[22:45:05] LEMON: They're not wearing Hillary Clinton pant suits.

FREDERICKS: Both of these people are nuts.

LEMON: These guys are wearing Donald Trump golf khakis and shirts and make America great again hats. I mean, what part of not supporting Donald Trump are we missing when it's right in front of our eyes.

FREDERICKS: Don, there's crazy people -- Don, there are crazy people in any free society on all sides. These people are such...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So then why defend them -- then why compare them to a group...

FREDERICKS: ... a tiny list of fraction of society. There is no defense. They're nuts. They're nuts, Don.

LEMON: Then why then compare them to -- OK. So then you're saying they're nuts but he's not saying that.

FREDERICKS: They're absolutely nuts. They ought to put in straitjackets these people. They are such a tiny fraction of what this country represents and it's unbelievable that we shouldn't...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Wouldn't it be great if Donald Trump said what you just said?

CARPENTER: Yes.

FREDERICKS: He should say that. He should get right on camera and said what I said.

LEMON: OK. All right.

FREDERICKS: I said on your show the first day this happened, he needs to completely disavow these people, look in the camera and say I don't want your vote. Go away.

LEMON: OK. Symone, jump in here. SANDERS: Don, the only thing, I mean, I think Amanda did lay out what

was specifically wrong with Donald Trump reaction. But I take issue with the fact that these folks were dressing up as neo-Nazis or dressing up as white supremacists, because there were plain clothes folks carrying torches as well.

And it's not that people are dressing up as neo-Nazis or white supremacists, they are members of the Ku Klux Klan, this is who these folks are. And we have to understand that we don't live in some post racial America where the KKK is just white hoods and torches.

Like white supremacy lives in various parts of our society that we don't necessarily see blatantly every day. And my issue with folks who are excusing this like the president who is literally refusing to forcefully denounce these people every single chance that he gets is that he is emboldening them with every single time he is vague with condemnation.

LEMON: It isn't just that, Symone, I mean, and Amanda, is that there's always a comparison. Like sometimes there is just no comparison. Yes, but these guys. His obsession with antifa. I don't -- I don't understand he has an unhealthy obsession with antifa and maybe it's because Fox News has -- does he need an enemy because he makes an enemy out of...

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: Well, I think that is part of it, right.

LEMON: Yes.

CARPENTER: I mean, this goes back to his campaign methods in which he would always point out the protesters, always point out the us versus them narrative. And then, you know, antifa did kind of resent it, though.

LEMON: So do you think, Amanda, that the president is being manipulated to by reports? Because I watch Fox News and I've been watching Fox News for years, but lately they are obsessed with antifa and with stories about race and pitting.

CARPENTER: Yes.

LEMON: Is the president then being manipulated by Fox News on these stories because he doesn't understand that they need an enemy and that they are playing to their base as well and riling their viewers up to watch and go yes, yes, you're right.

CARPENTER: Yes. Well, let's be clear. Antifa is sort of presenting itself as an enemy. You can look at what's happening in California now where a conservative speaker is trying to speak at the University of Berkeley and they're trying to put up, you know, concrete barriers because they're so afraid of the riots that break out.

And so, I didn't think it was this bad during the campaign, but there is a heightened atmosphere that's presented itself on the left that may be in reaction to what Trump has called for.

I mean, go back to the campaign trail. Punch them in the face, hall them out on stretchers. Once you start riling people up like that and creating that climate and I'm not saying he's responsible for antifa actions. I'm saying there is a heated climate right now and you do have people, the neo-Nazis fighting antifa in the streets. And that is a very scary prospect.

You know, there hasn't been a death caused by antifa as we all recognize, but I do think Donald Trump does play up this element because it does play into his advantage as it did during his rallies.

LEMON: So far the only death has been caused by the Jews will not replace us crowd marching in the streets with tiki torches.

Thank you, everyone. Fascinating conversation.

When we come back, a new report from New York Times detailing President Trump's demeaning outburst against his attorney general and how the president's temper led to what Jeff Sessions reportedly said was the most humiliating experience of his career.

[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: For the president may be reaching across the aisle on DACA but his temper could be getting the best of his when it comes to his own administration.

Here to discuss now CNN contributor Michael D'Antonio, he is the author of "The Truth About Trump," Barbara Res who once ran Donald Trump's construction projects, the author of "All Alone on the 68th Floor," and CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, author of "Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America."

So good to have all of you very learned people on. Barbara, I want to talk to you about this revealing New York Times report, detailing the president's fury towards Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The president blames the appointment of special counsel Mueller on Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia probes -- probe. And here is what the Time -- the Times is reporting, part of it.

"Accusing Mr. Sessions of disloyalty. Mr. Trump unleashed a string of insults on his attorney general. Ashen and emotional Mr. Sessions told the president he would quit and sent a resignation letter to the White House according to four people who were told details of the meeting.

Mr. Sessions would later tell associates that the demeaning way the president addressed him was the most humiliating experience in decades of his public life."

Does this sound like the Donald Trump you worked for, I mean, you call him a very angry man, so talk to me about...

(CROSSTALK) BARBARA RES, FORMER ENGINEER FOR TRUMP CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS: Yes,

(Inaudible) like him. He would often take people that work for him and criticize them openly in front of others, which is very, very difficult for them, a difficult for anyone. And of course being verbally abusive, the profanity, and everything else. But you have to realize that that was the construction development business and really was a way of life.

I mean, you just didn't go through senses for that being saying 'f' bombs. But and finally, that wasn't so bad because you could yell back at him. It was a public humiliation that was really tough.

LEMON: Did he berate you in front of people.

RES: No, he did not. No, he didn't. He beat me up quite a bit when we were one on one but I went back at him. It wasn't really until the end of my time with him that he actually ever did something like that to me and that's when I quit.

LEMON: Were you -- what did he -- he did it publicly.

RES: He did it publicly on that time.

LEMON: He did it publicly and you said, no.

RES: I said that's enough.

LEMON: Do you want to share.

RES: No, it has something to do with a project we were doing in California instead it went south. He had made a decision that was a wrong decision I sort of ask him not to along with others.

And he ended up blaming me what happened and although it was clearly his fault. But he did it in a bad way like you're bad, you're stupid, you're this you're that, you know, in front of other people.

LEMON: Did he say who the hell do you think you're talking to? That's why you respond.

(CROSSTALK)

RES: I sort of did which was, yes.

LEMON: Apparently you have me mistaken for someone else because...

RES: Yes. I really went a little bit further than he might be gotten very angry at me. But anyway, we ended up being friends after that, but I left then.

[22:54:56] LEMON: OK. So, Michael, here is more from the Times. "Almost immediately, Mr. Trump lobbed a valley of insults at Mr. Sessions telling the attorney general it was his fault they were in the current situation, Mr. Trump told Mr. Sessions that choosing him to be attorney general was one of the worst decisions he had made, called him an idiot and said that he should resign. An emotional Mr. Sessions tell the president he will resign and left the Oval Office."

What do you make of this? I mean, both the anger and the temper and about this misplaced blame. Listen, we know in a working environment, things get stressed and people aren't perfect and people say things.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: Sure.

LEMON: But I mean, you know, it was the president who fired Comey.

D'ANTONIO: Well, right. And you do leave people, the thing that allow some to come back and serve you the next day. And I think this portrays President Trump's background. This is a man who I think was raised in this kind of environment. There is a story of his brother treating people this way at his casinos in Atlantic City.

So, it's something that's familiar to him. And I'm not sure if there is anyone around who would have said no to him as forcefully as Barbara did in very many circumstances. If you can beat everybody up, you start to think everyone is a punching bag.

And you know, in Washington, people have their own sources of power. I don't think General Kelly is going to stand for much of this. I am surprised that Attorney General Sessions did.

LEMON: Well, I am surprised, you sort of, I feel similar towards you. I'm surprised that the attorney general sit for it but I am shocked that Kelly did. Because, Douglas Brinkley, it's not the only thing in the report that is being reported here. I should say the Time is saying early this month that the president lashed out at his chief of staff John Kelly after he told the president to tone down his rhetoric after his Arizona rally.

And here's what it says. He says, "Mr. Kelly, the former marine general brought in five weeks ago as a successor to Reince Priebus, reacted calmly but he later told other White House staff members that he had never been spoken to like that during his 35 years of serving his country. In the future, he said he will not abide such treatments according to three people familiar with the exchange."

The president is losing his cool with the four star general and Kelly is saying he won't stand for it. Again, what do you think of that?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, CNN: Well, I think General Kelly is stay again as Jeff Sessions thinking that they owe it to the country that they're not just serving Donald Trump but America. And if people like Sessions and Kelly resign, it's going to leave a big void and you will be left with Donald Trump running amuck.

But what really struck -- strikes me about this New York Times story which is important is that it's DACA. Jeff Sessions was the poster guy against DREAMers. I mean, his whole Senate career is anti-immigrants coming to America. And it's curious that all these leaks out of the Justice Department today comes on the same day when Donald Trump sided with the DREAMers, sided with democrats, probably never consulted Jeff Sessions about it. And Sessions now is starting to stake out his own claims, he should have quit when he was insulted and called him idiot but he stayed in and now you are starting to get republicans nervous about Trump.

Ann Coulter is attracting him this evening. Sean Hannity his basis is upset. And I think Sessions is just another one of those people now that wants to distance himself from the president.

LEMON: Barbara Res, you work with the president, what is his motivation when it comes to DACA, is he all about getting a deal. I mean, he does Chuck Schumer, republicans couldn't act on healthcare. What do you think about this?

RES: You know, it's funny. I was thinking about this and I was thinking to myself, how does it fit in with his modus operandi. And I think that he really went out there and did something that he thought would gain him popular support and saw that that wasn't working.

But I also think that he took an opportunity to get back at the republicans that he was kind of mad at for not getting his agenda through by signing with the democrats and making him look bad. I've seen him do that. He always had his dividing comfort of mentality. You know, he would go with one person and then when they did something he didn't like, he will go to their opposite side which is set up to be, you know, kind of opposing people and would promote that of the person.

LEMON: Is he out to get back at people?

RES: Yes, he does. Yes.

LEMON: You said this is like high school.

D'ANTONIO: Well, it is high school. And the crazy thing is where is the chaos coming from? It's coming from the president himself. He picked a group of friends that came along with him and he decided he didn't like them so now he found Chuck and Nancy, they're going to be his cool friends now.

It's crazy. The group that he has rejected, the republicans have subpoena powers on those committees investigating him. It doesn't seem very bright to me.

LEMON: All very interesting. Thank you all, I appreciate the time here and I thank you all for coming this evening.

RES: You're welcome. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN's breaking news.

[22:59:58] LEMON: We have breaking news on multiple stories across the country and around the world.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon. We appreciate you joining us this evening.