Michael Jordan pushes back after Trump attacks LeBron James, Don Lemon
The interview focused on James' contributions to his hometown of Akron, Ohio, including a new public school for at-risk third- and fourth-graders there. But the two men also discussed politics. James told Lemon that President Donald Trump has used athletics and athletes to divide the country.
"I can't sit back and say nothing," James said.
The President was watching. Shortly before midnight, he tweeted: "Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn't easy to do."
"I like Mike!" the President added in what appeared to be a reference to the ongoing debate on who's the greatest NBA player of all time, James or Jordan.
Now Lemon and Jordan have both responded, while James has shrugged off the insult. And most curious of all, first lady Melania Trump weighed in, siding with James over her husband.
It seems Trump's late-night tweet has led to another disagreement between the President and his wife.
How? Well, in their responses to the President's tweet, CNN and Lemon both invoked the first lady's #BeBest initiative, which aims to support kindness and respect.
"Who's the real dummy? A man who puts kids in classrooms or one who puts kids in cages? #BeBest," Lemon tweeted Saturday morning.
The first lady's office was asked by news organizations for comment. Instead of ignoring the requests or mirroring the President's attack against the NBA star, the first lady's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, praised James and his charitable work in a statement provided to CNN.
"It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation and just as she always has, the First Lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children today," Grisham said. "As you know, Mrs. Trump has traveled the country and world talking to children about their well-being, healthy living, and the importance of responsible online behavior with her Be Best initiative."
Grisham added that the first lady would be open to visiting James' "I Promise" school.
The school had no immediate comment on Saturday.
What was the President watching on Friday night?
Let's get back to the interview for a moment. The James sit-down was a big scoop for Lemon, who hosts "CNN Tonight" on weekday evenings.
In the interview, James made a reference to football player Colin Kaepernick, whose kneeling protests launched an NFL movement, and fellow NBA star Stephen Curry, who last year said he would not visit the White House after the Golden State Warriors won the championship, prompting the President to disinvite him.
"He's trying to divide our sport, but at the end of the day, sport is the reason why we all come together," James said.
When Lemon asked, "What would you say to the President if he was sitting right here?" James said "I would never sit across from him." He added: "I'd sit across from Barack, though."
Trump is famous for his counter-punching. But his insulting response was curious for several reasons. He has praised James in the past, repeatedly calling him a great player and a "great guy." Those tweets were back in 2013 and 2015.
More recently, in 2017, Trump claimed on Twitter that "I never watch Don Lemon."
His insistence that he doesn't watch CNN is frequently contradicted by his complaints about the network.
The New York Times reported last week that Trump was enraged when he boarded Air Force One and saw the first lady's TV set was tuned to CNN. He evidently wanted all TV sets tuned to Fox News. In response, Melania Trump's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said she will watch "any channel she wants."
CNN's public relations department made a sly reference to that brouhaha in response to Trump's insult on Saturday morning.
"Sounds like @FLOTUS had the remote last night," @CNNPR wrote. "We hope you both saw the incredible work of @KingJames."
CNN PR also included the #BeBest hashtag.
Other journalists and athletes also came to Lemon and James' defense. Some outspoken critics denounced Trump's tweet as another display of racism by the President. Acclaimed sportswriter Bill Simmons wrote that James is a "smart dude" and "one of the most thoughtful athletes we have." He said Trump's jab "feels more than a little racist."
And if Trump was trying to drive a wedge between James and Jordan, he failed.
On Saturday, Jordan ignored Trump's praise of him and said he has James' back.
"I support LeBron James. He's doing an amazing job for his community," Jordan said through a spokeswoman.
Trump voting commission had no evidence of widespread voter fraud, former member says
"I have reviewed the Commission documents made available to me and they do not contain evidence of widespread voter fraud," Maine's Democratic secretary of state, Matthew Dunlap, wrote in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas' Republican secretary of state, Kris Kobach.
In May 2017, the President established the commission after falsely claiming that "millions of people" voted illegally for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, costing him the popular vote. Trump named Pence as chairman and Kobach -- a noted proponent of voter fraud theories and related policies -- as vice chair of the commission.
Dunlap was also named to the panel, but he sued the commission in US district court in November 2017, alleging that the group had withheld key information from him. A judge ruled in his favor the next month and said the panel should provide him with the documents he requested.
Trump then moved to dissolve the commission in January 2018.
In his letter, Dunlap wrote that he "joined the Commission in good faith," but soon became concerned that "its purpose was not to pursue the truth but rather to provide an official imprimatur of legitimacy on President Trump's assertions that millions of illegal votes were cast during the 2016 election and to pave the way for policy changes designed to undermine the right to vote."
The Maine secretary of state also accused the White House and Kobach of making false statements and said that the commission showed "troubling bias."
The letter highlights a White House statement announcing the dissolution of the commission, which asserts that there is evidence of "substantial" voter fraud. Dunlap wrote, however, "after months of litigation that should not have been necessary," he can now report that the White House statement was false.
"Indeed, while staff prepared drafts of a report to be issued by the Commission, the sections on evidence of voter fraud are glaringly empty," he wrote.
The White House and the vice president's office did not immediately provide CNN with comment.
Kobach said in a statement to CNN on Saturday that it appeared Dunlap was "willfully blind to the voter fraud in front of his nose."
The commission was presented with more than 1,000 convictions for voter fraud since 2000, and convictions represent a tiny percentage of the total number of incidents, the statement said. In addition, the commission was also presented with about 8,400 instances of double voting in the 2016 election looking at 20 states. If the commission had looked at all 50 states, "the number would have been exponentially higher," Kobach said.
"For some people, no matter how many cases of voter fraud you show them, there will never be enough for them to admit that there's a problem," his statement said.
Dunlap wrote in his letter, however, that he did not "expect the public simply to accept my conclusions," and noted, "there is no single document that reveals there is no widespread voter fraud." But, he said, "I rely on the lack of any evidence in the totality of what I reviewed."
An associated web page contains links to a variety of documents and states that "these materials have been provided by the White House."
Washington Post: Trump associate interacted with alleged Russian spy before election
According to documents and testimony provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee and described to the newspaper, Butina "sought out interactions" with the aide, J.D. Gordon, who had served as the director of national security to the Trump campaign before departing in August 2016 and being offered a position in the early Trump transition team effort.
The newspaper reported that Gordon "anticipated joining the presidential transition team" and the revelation of his interactions with Butina shows she was "in closer contact with President Trump's orbit than was previously known."
Butina and Gordon were in contact over email in September and October 2016, the newspaper reported. According to the Post, Gordon extended invitations to Butina to attend a concert in Washington and to his birthday party in October 2016.
Gordon told CNN on Saturday that he had limited social contact with Butina after he left the campaign. He and an attorney for Butina downplayed the interactions in statements to the Post.
"From everything I've read since her arrest last month, it seems the Maria Butina saga is basically a sensationalized click bait story meant to smear a steady stream of Republicans and NRA members she reportedly encountered over the past few years," Gordon said, asking, "I wonder which prominent Republican political figures she hasn't come across?"
Robert Driscoll, an attorney for Butina, said, "A military guy who had been involved would have been a prime target, if that's what she was about." He added, "But the evidence is clear that there wasn't any significant contact."
Driscoll has previously denied the allegation that Butina acted as a Russian agent.
A spokesperson for the Senate Intelligence Committee and Jay Sekulow, an attorney for Trump, declined to comment to the newspaper.