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Sarah Palin, Kid Rock And Ted Nugent Had Photo Op In Front of White House Portrait Of Hillary Clinton; President Trump: Closer Than Ever To Plan To Repeal And Replace Obamacare; Representative Jason Chaffetz Announced Surprise Departure From Capitol Hill; Attorney General Jeff Sessions Under Fire Tonight For Remarks About Hawaii And The Federal Judge; Investigators In Massachusetts Ruling The Death Of Aaron Hernandez A Suicide. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 20, 2017 - 23:00   ET



[23:00:14] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: What's wrong with this picture?

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

Sarah Palin, former vice presidential hopeful with her own rogue's gallery of Kid Rock and Ted Nugent in front of a White House portrait of Hillary Clinton. Is she throwing shade at the former first lady?

Plus, the high state's gamble on healthcare. President Trump says he is closer than ever to a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Maybe just days away. And we all know how that worked the last time. Is the White House turning up the heat just to get a win in the first 100 days?

And new details in the case of a former Patriot star Aaron Hernandez. Is death behind bars officially ruled as suicide? But why was a bible verse written on his forehead when he was found? The latest on the investigation.

But we have some breaking news tonight. A fiery Hillary Clinton goes after the Trump administration right here in New York.

Here to discuss, CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, David Gergen, CNN senior political analyst, contributors Salena Zito and Hilary Rosen and political commentators Kevin Madden and Alice Stewart.

Good evening to all of you.

Nia, you first. Hillary Clinton is speaking out tonight. Speaking at the LGBT community center in New York just a short while ago and she sounds feisty.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we have to face the fact that we may not ever be able to count on this administration to lead on LGBT issues. Let's remember 2018, the midterm elections. We can never stop fighting. We need to dedicate these next years, the next two years, the next four years and beyond to supporting people and organizations that are advocating for the best of American values around the world here at home, and we also have to win elections to make it clear where our country stands.

We need to resist, insist, persistent and enlist. And make sure our voices and our votes count. So we are going to keep fighting together side by side for equal rights. And we are going to make sure that nobody turns the clock back on what we have achieved as Americans.


LEMON: So Nia, she has kept a low profile since the election so much. She has been coming out lately. But now, I mean, it seems like she is going to take a higher profile. Do you think we are going to hear more from her going-forward?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Probably so. I mean, what she was laying there, I mean, it could have been ripped from her campaign speeches. And you see now the Democratic Party really at war with itself. What wing should be the dominant wing of the party - is the Bernie Sanders wing or is it the Obama/Clinton wing of the party?

I think what will be interesting to see, she talks there about 2018. She has talked there about 2020. I think the question right away is, will she be out there? Like if you are Jon Ossoff down in Georgia, running in a district that Hillary Clinton almost won, lost like one point to Donald Trump, is Jon Ossoff someone who will ask Hillary Clinton to come down there, raise money for him or be on the stump. I think that's kind of the immediate question, how she can be most helpful to the party and whether or not people who are running in these races think she can be helpful.

LEMON: Don't you think that people asking, at least Hillary Clinton supporters, where was that feistiness, is that energy during the campaign?

HENDERSON: I'm sure, they are. But I mean, that's the thing, right?

LEMON: Kevin, you are shaking there, right?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look. I think this is terrible news for Democrats. The Democratic Party right now is going through a transition. And they have to get out from under the weight of Hillary Clinton.

2016 did not work out for them. There is a realization of that. And if they're going to move forward, they can't have the voices from the past serving as the main thing that's shaping the profile of the party. So, you know, there are leaders inside the Democratic Party, they are trying to break out right now.

Having Hillary Clinton out there, all she is going to do is energize so many Republicans. Even Republicans out there who may not be happy with Donald Trump right now. They will see Hillary Clinton, and that will unify Republicans at a time where Democrats, if you look at Kansas and you look at Georgia, those special elections, they are very energized right now.

LEMON: Yes. David --.

HILLARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know -- I'm sorry. Everything is not about elections. I love you guys, but this is not only about an election. One of the first things that Donald Trump did when he became president was let the justice department take away protections for kids, for transgender kids. You know, this conversation that Hillary Clinton is having tonight in New York is about fighting back on policy. Not standing -- not taking it.

LEMON: Is she the right person to deliver that message, Hilary?

ROSEN: It doesn't matter because people have ignored the issue. You know what? So if Hillary Clinton is the one who will be out there reminding people at the center dinner where she was their senator for many years and, you know, she has much right to be there as anyone does like I'm OK with that.

[23:05:12] MADDEN: That's great --

ROSEN: I just think that we can't make everything be about an election.

MADDEN: Elections are have you litigate policies, Hilary.

ROSEN: We have a president -- I'm sorry. No, no, no, you don't.

MADDEN: They are. That's why they are called elections.

ROSEN: We have two years of damages that this president and Congress are doing to kids, to LGBT folks, to women. And you know what, we have to fight back now. We have to talk about it now. We can't be putting everything in context of 2018. And I think the fact that Hillary Clinton's talking about that like more power to her. I don't -- I'm not worried about whether she is our next candidate or our best representative, she won't be. But now we have a problem.

LEMON: David, should she be -- I'll let you finish, Kevin and I want to get the other guests in. I know you want to respond. Go ahead, Kevin.

MADDEN: I said no one disagrees with that. But the fact that she is going to essentially be shaping the profile of the party individually, that does matter to those people that are trying to little gate those policies.


David, there are a lot of people who believe that she should just sort of ride off into the sunset. There are those who believe, like Kevin is saying, maybe she is not the right person to be delivering this message especially for Democrats, if they want to win going-forward.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I respectfully disagree with Kevin. I may be wrong, but in my sense, it's a false choice, between whether she ought to be out there supporting rights for gays or energizing Democrats for the elections in 2018.

What the Democrats need to do is to seize on some issues now, and then the next few months that are really central to who they are as a party, and run on those issues in 2018. They can't simply run an anti-Trump campaign, which has stale ideas. And I believe Hillary Clinton can be a piece of that. There are a lot of women in this country who really still believe in Hillary, think she was robbed for one reason or another. And are more likely to be out there if she is out there. That does not preclude. I don't know why having Hillary on television one night in the last three weeks precludes a lot of Democrats for stepping forward and putting their views out there. The hard parts of Democrats is going to be sustained the kind to enthusiast they have right now and they need some issues and some -- a number of surrogates to carry that message. The Clintons will be very good at doing that.

LEMON: Salena, she did win the popular vote regardless to some people thinks she should right up into the sunset. More people, the most people in this country voted for Hillary Clinton. Maybe they do want to hear her voice?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I always think it's interesting to me, and throughout our history, what the loser of the presidential race does. Because in a lot of ways, what they decide to do shapes the party, so Mitt Romney went away. He lost. You didn't hear from him for three years. The same for Al Gore.

But Clinton has been throwing out hints that she plans to be part of the discussion. Even if she is not running, she plans to sort of continue to express her platform and the things that she thinks is important. Now, she was talking about LGBT rights this evening. You know, it would be interesting to me to see if she picks different --, you know, other components, economic components, climate components to see, you know, what her overall message is to be -- what she wants it to be for the party.

LEMON: Alice, I want to hear from you. Go ahead.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think the secret would be for Tom Perez, the head of the Democratic Party, would be to try as much as he possibly can, incorporate the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democrats as well as the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. That's the secret recipe for success. And that way they would be able to continue to push their message leading into 2018.

What we saw in Georgia, and the CD 6 race, is we saw not necessarily a referendum on Trump. But the Republican that won, Karen Handel, she didn't embrace Trump fully. She didn't fully support him. She said, look. I will go to Washington. I will be a conservative. But I will be a check on Barack Obama. And that's what people, at least Republicans, want. And so Ossoff was smart to make this more of a national campaign, and a referendum on Donald Trump. And that's what we are going to see I think in a lot of these races across the country. And certainly in 2018, it's going to be a check on Donald Trump. LEMON: I want to move on and talk about this. Sarah Palin, one of

the president's earliest backers is in the news tonight - again, tonight. She was invited to the White House for a dinner, posted photos, including this one. Posing with Ted Nugent and Kid Rock in front of the portrait of Hillary Clinton. Do you think that was disrespectful of Hillary?

ROSEN: Well, I think it's classless. But, you know, I don't think anyone cares that much. Look, you know, if Donald Trump wants to turn the White House into sort of the D-list of celebrity apprentice, you know, I guess he got the right to do that when he was elected president. But I don't, you know, I don't think it exactly endears a significant portion of the country to him. But, you know, I don't really think he cares about that, nor do I think Sarah Palin cares about that.

[23:10:20] LEMON: David Gergen, I want to get your take on. Do you think that there was disrespectful to report that? Because here's the thing. Ted Nugent called President Obama a subhuman mongrel. He talked about shooting a former House speaker Harry Reid. He called Hillary Clinton a worthless bitch. The thing is, was this class? Should he be invited to the White House and included in that picture?

GERGEN: I don't think there's anything wrong at all for Donald Trump `to have people like that in the White House. I do think it shows -- it's clearly a sign of disrespect. You know, they were snaring at her in the photo. It was intentional. One of the party members thought they ought to give their index finger -- that went too far. But they were clearly having fun at her expense. I think it's inappropriate in the White House.

However, you know, I don't think, I think Hillary's right. We shouldn't go too far. We just we shun the go too far with this, the Trump people do have an argument, that Saturday night live and other institutions have been skewering him for weeks. They have no respect whatsoever. And after all, if it's the Clintons, Bill Clinton always show utter respect for the White House? Not in the minds of a lot of conservatives. So I think this is best at one base. I hope it is a one day story and we and we move on to more important things.

LEMON: But the difference between "SNL" and calling the president of the United States a subhuman mongrel.

GERGEN: That was totally out of bounds, yes. Let's be clear about that. Again, if anything, his language is horrific, you know. He said a lot of things that, you know, that have just shouldn't be out there in public print. Is it -- I agree with the point -- he's not a classy guy to have in the White House, but does he have the right to invite whoever he wants in there?

Yes, that's how a lot of rich people get in there. You may not like it very much, but they're important to the president's, you know, political life.

LEMON: Sarah Palin was on with my colleague Jake Tapper earlier. Here's what she said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: WELL, President Trump called to invite, just to touch base, so ask me to get to D.C. and we would be able to chat over dinner, and ask if I would invite a couple fiends.


PALIN: Jesus was booked so, yes, I invited my buddies Kid Rock and Ted Nugent, some bold, courageous all American dudes, who I knew would have good conversation with the president, and get to express a lot of good -- middle class work ethic type of issues and policy proposals that they could all relate to, and that's exactly what happened at the dinner.

TAPPER: There's an interesting picture of the three of you next to the portrait of former first lady Hillary Clinton.

PALIN: Yes, I think the picture says it all.


LEMON: So first of all, he said all American dudes, Nia, and middle class values, last time I checked Ted Nugent was wealthy, Kid Rock is wealthy, Sarah Palin as well. So, what do you think of what Sarah Palin was talking about.

HENDERSON: Yes. You know, I think this is a fitting photo, in many ways, I always thought that Sarah Palin was Donald Trump. Before Donald Trump was Donald Trump. I mean, she was the original populous. She was the one who was on Facebook, using social media, way before Donald Trump was, and I think he kind of stole her playbook. It's fitting that she's there in that crowd there, Ted Nugent as well as Kid Rock. That kind of, you know, kind of rocker and populous, you know. That's something that I think -- and even sort of the disrespect, right, to Hillary Clinton there. That's something that obviously a lot of conservatives can relate to, and something Donald Trump picked up on as well. So I think it's pretty fitting.

LEMON: Here is picture President Obama's official photographer later tweeted this photo of President Obama with William Daley, his chief of staff, writing be respectful. Are the president's aids giving him good advice on things like this, Alice?

STEWART: Well, I think with regard to the photo, I mean, there's nothing that could have been done about that. I was able to spend a few minutes with Sarah Palin today, in talking about that. And she said the dinner itself was good. The conversation was nice. And you know, the two of them, Kid Rock and Ted Nugent, they were pretty involved in the presidential campaign. Ted Nugent also, if you recall, was supportive of Ted Cruz for quite some time. So they had a good respectful conversation.

As far as the picture, yes, they have very outspoken views on Hillary Clinton. They are very strong and supportive of second amendment rights and that is a big issue that they all share in common. All of them do

So yes, there have a different way of expressing themselves. And whether or not they should have done it in front of Hillary Clinton's portrait is up for discussion. But that's kind of - that's who they are.

LEMON: Kevin, do you think it would have been this big a deal had they just taken a picture of the dinner where she said they had a great conversation?

[23:15:06] MADDEN: No. I mean, look. I think let's not overanalyze or try to rationalize this too much. I think this is a president who just likes and feels comfortable around celebrity. And those are three celebrities who were in the White House. And it's also a reflection of just how this information goes viral, I mean.

Look. We have heard stories about, you know, Willie Nelson smoking a joint in the White House. You know, that's a story that is of legend, right. Because it was told by Willie Nelson and then it was passed on. Nowadays, with social media, and the way you have these pictures go viral, I mean, Willie Nelson would have live streamed that. So, I think -- I just think we should not try to overanalyze it.

LEMON: I have to run. But Kevin, you are always the voice of reason. He likes being around celebrities, and that's a very, very astute point, I think.

I have to run, but we will be right back.

Go ahead, David, just quickly.

GERGEN: I was just going to say, you know, Richard Nixon had Elvis Presley in there, and that was quite a scene. But I think it's really telling that the same day, the last 24 hours, Ted Nugent had been in, Kid Rock has been in, the same day that - it is the cultural golf in the country. President Trump standing with the Italian leader today and they said, you know, praise Pavarotti. And said that he is a good friend of mine, a very good friend of mine. Pavarotti has been dead for a decade.


ROSEN: RIGHT. And his widow yelled at him for using his music.

LEMON: We will talk health care because that is coming up again. That what we hear when we come back.


[23:20:32] LEMON: A surprise departure from Capitol Hill shaking up political observers. My panel is back with me.

Nia, let's talk about Representative Jason Chaffetz. Stunned everyone yesterday saying he will not run for reelection. And today he said, he might not finish out his term. He is not a guy who lacks ambitions. So what is this a sort of mystery wrap in the enigma and the (INAUDIBLE). What is the story here?

HENDERSON: Yes, it is. And some people were wondering whether or not there is sort of a looming scandal, right? Here's this ambitious guy who all of a sudden says he is not going to finish out his term. Not going to run in 2018, and he wants to return to the private sector.

He has told "Politico" that there is no scandal looming. There is no sort of ethical issue that he is running away from. There are a couple things that seems to be, and one of which he might run for governor in 2020. There is also been talk that maybe he wants some sort of television contract. He certainly is ambitious. Not necessarily very well liked on the hill. I mean, for, you know he is sort of ambitious even given the level of ambitions of people in Congress.

So, you know, we will see what happens. I mean, it's not clear that he can kind of seek a job in the private sector as he is a member of Congress. So he has said that he could, you know, he might leave in the next couple months or he could also - somebody as really interesting. Here's a guy, right, who has been over the House oversight committee, very much going after Clinton and Benghazi, talked about impeaching Obama at one point about.

LEMON: He came out against President Trump -- well, then candidate Trump after the "Access Hollywood" was tape and he flip-flopped back, yes.

HENDERSON: Right. And then he went back and said, yes.

LEMON: Does anyone on the panel know what the skinny is, because - I mean, it does seem strange, no? OK.

Well, Hilary, I'm going to ask you, Chaffetz - take a look at this tweet. This is from John Podesta. Put it out. It is the first time I'm seeing it as well. So we can put it up and I will read it off the screen. He says, when they say it's about family, it's never about family, Hilary?

ROSEN: Well, I don't know if that's true, but I think it is true that members of Congress don't typically announce in the middle of their term that they are going to leave and be mysterious about where they are going or what they are doing. So there's clearly more to this story. And I think it is worth noting that Chaffetz would be just like any of these Republicans are in a very tough position, with a president with clear ethical challenges. And, you know, the leadership telling them that they are not allowed to investigate them.


ROSEN: So, you know, what would he be doing if he were there anyway? He is completely ineffective.

LEMON: Yes. But saying that you are not going to seek reelection, that is one thing. But then resigning saying, you know, for an ambitious, it's another thing, Kevin, I mean.

MADDEN: Well, look, it did come as a surprise.

LEMON: Republicans speak this for us. What is happening here?

ROSEN: Particularly when you just get to power, it makes no sense. People don't give up power.

MADDEN: I don't think there's any Republican speak here. This has happened to Democrats before. I think what's clearly surprising is that it took a lot of people by surprise because look, he is not somebody who is aging. He is not somebody who got passed over for a gavel. He is a sitting chairman. He is very popular in his particular seat. So I think Nia's reference to a potential gubernatorial run is very realistic. And the need to maybe you want to spend more time with your family before you go back into public service, or potentially engage with the private sector before doing that. It was very possible. I wouldn't speculate about anything negative without any evidence. So until I'm presented with other evidence, I'm willing to totally take him at his word.

LEMON: I just meant Republican speak that because you are a Republican. Maybe you had some inside info, some knowledge. You were speaking to your friends, you know. That's it.

MADDEN: No. It came as a surprise. I will say and Nia will tell you this. It came -- for anybody who covers Capitol Hill, it came as a surprise to a lot of people.

LEMON: OK. Let's talk about this because this is what I teased before the break, healthcare. The president held a press conference today with the prime minister of Italy. And the issue of health care came up. Let's listen to what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are doing very well on health care. We will see what happens. This is a great bill. There is a great plan. And this will be great health care. It's evolving. The plan gets better and better and better. And it's gotten really, really good. And a lot of people are liking it a lot. We have a good chance of getting it soon. I would like to say next week, but it will be -- I believe we will get it. And whether it's next week or shortly thereafter.


[23:25:02] LEMON: So next week. He said could a bill be on the table as early as next week. Where do these negotiations stand, David Gergen?

GERGEN: The aids in the White House who are telling the press, they are setting a deadline for the end of this next week are doing the president a real disservice. It is clearly but they are basically saying is, we have a PR deadline. The 100th day of his presidency is coming a week from this Saturday. And we want to get a victory so we can claim something in the PR battles. And there are some hints by the way that they want to win the PR battles so they can save some of their jobs and not have the president bring them -- you know, come down hard on them after the 100 days are over.

But the second thing is far more important. This is not healthy for the country. The most important thing of the country as Congress has to do this next week, is to keep the government's lights on, and keep the government moving, and that deadline is also coming up at the end of the week. It should be their number one priority, their number two priority, their number three priority. And if they get that done, they can get the health care, fine.

But, you know, health care, if they really are going to try to pass a bill, they could have 24 million people lose their insurance. It ought to be carefully done with deliberation, showing the country what's in it, letting people know everything before it's done. They should not rush this through, keep the government going, and then do a deliberative job on health care.

LEMON: OK. Salena -- Alice, I'll get you. But Salena, it didn't go well the first time. Remember, we were just here a couple weeks ago talking about it. Why go at it again, and so close to the time?

ZITO: Well, it's important to go at it again, I think what's even more important is to not use that sort of false, you know, red line, we have to do it by the 100 days. I think it's important for the president and for Congress to show that they are working on it. They are working back and forth with each other. From what I understand, the Tuesday group, and the freedom caucus, which will be the moderates and the assumer conservatives have been hammering out on some of the issues that had kept them from coming together. If I were all three of them, the president and freedom caucus and the Tuesday group, I would just put my head down and keep working because you can't get the tax reform without the health care.

LEMON: OK. Here's the thing. So Alice, you heard what David said. They should -- now, there are bigger things that they should be doing, keeping the lights on. Salena is saying, you know, talking about this false deadline as well. This false red line. And then if we can put this quote up from "Politico."

So Alice, the multiple House GOP insiders say the White House doesn't understand how Congress work and just because Trump officials say there will be a vote next week, doesn't make it so. And it just goes on to say that. And then you turn the House-the time on Tuesday. So why the rush now? Why this -- is this about the first 100 days?

STEWART: It is absolutely about the first 100 days. David is exactly right. They want to have a concrete identifiable victory before they get to 100 days. And this is something that they really want all the members of -- certainly those in the house campaigned and won on repealing and replacing Obamacare.

LEMON: Are they setting themselves up for failure, Alice?

STEWART: Well, it remains to be seen. Look, as Salena said, the conservatives and the moderates, the House freedom caucus and the Tuesday group, they actually had a conference call today and ironed out some details. One of the key sticking points was limited waivers for states to opt out. My understanding when I'm here and we could actually have something on paper for a more formal discussion as early as tomorrow. But I think putting as we all say, putting out deadlines on this, is not the way to go. We need to slow down. We need to take it easy, and make sure we do it right, as opposed to doing it right now. I think they will have the first time. You can't rush this. It needs to be done slowly and methodically, lowering premiums and increasing health care (ph).

LEMON: OK. Hilary, if you could give me ten seconds here. Epic fail the first time, why? You know, possibly terrible headlines.

ROSEN: So every time the Republicans actually unveil a proposal for health care, it turns out that it hurts people, takes something away, that people have. And hurts them in their district. So they are trying to do something in secret. It's not going to work, because eventually sunlight will happen, and they'll see, they'll get the same push back again.

LEMON: Got to run. Thank you all. I appreciate it.

When we come back, here's a twist for you. Remember this?


TRUMP: I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump. A hater. He's a hater.


LEMON: Well, now that judge will hear the case of the first major challenge to President Trump's new deportation policies. We will discuss that.


[23:33:14] LEMON: A lot of push back tonight on controversial comments about the attorney general about a federal judge who stopped President Trump's travel ban.

Let's discuss now, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is here and senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson is back with us.

Good evening, Jeffrey Toobin. Hello again, Nia.

So the attorney general Jeff Sessions under fire tonight for remarks he made about Hawaii and the federal judge there, who put a hold on the second travel ban. Listen to this.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We are confident that the president will prevail on a deal and particularly on the Supreme Court, if not the ninth circuit. So this is a huge matter. I really am amazed at a judge sitting on an island in the pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be, clearly his statutory and constitutional power.


LEMON: An island in the pacific, Jeffrey, by the way, Hawaii.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's actually several islands, Don. You have Oahu, Maui, the big island of Hawaii, Kauai. Several islands. All of them in the United States of America.

LEMON: For like about almost 60 years now.

TOOBIN: That's right.

LEMON: So what do you make of it?

TOOBIN: You know, I think he was being a little flippant. And frankly, I find it weird that a single district court judge can issue a nationwide injunction. Barack Obama learned that when a judge in Brownsville, Texas, also part of the United States put a hold on Obama's immigration reform plan. So, you know, this is the rules of our legal system. Hawaii -

[23:35:04] LEMON: Part of the United States.

TOOBIN: I was about to say Ohio.

LEMON: That's also part of the United States.

TOOBIN: I know all 50 states, OK? I can name them all.

LEMON: Can you name them backwards?

OK. So listen. The Hawaii attorney general dodged in, put out a response tonight saying President Trump previously called a federal judge in California a so-called judge, now U.S. attorney general Sessions appears to dismiss a federal judge Hawaii as just a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific. Our constitution created a separation of powers in the United States for a reason. Our federal courts establish under Article 3 of the constitution are co-equal partners with Congress, and the president -- Congress and the President. It is disappointing that AG sessions does not acknowledge that.

So what's your reaction? I mean, by the way, attorney general Jeff Sessions also voted to confirm judge Derick Watson when Sessions was in the Senate.

TOOBIN: You know, I mean, administration officials often get mad at judges, because they are ruling against them sometimes, and judges have life tenure, unlike senators, unlike attorneys general. But you have to live with it, and sessions has to live with it.

LEMON: Nia. Hawaii senator, Mazie Hinoro tweeted this. Hey, Jeff Sessions, this #islandinthepacific has been the 50th state going on 58 years, and we won't succumb to your dog whistle politics. Dog whistle, not mincing words there, Nia.

HENDERSON: Yes. And I think this is going to be kind of the role for Jeff Sessions. Democrats haven't liked him. They gave him a rough confirmation. They all but called him a racist during those confirmation hearings. And I think that's what you are going to see over and over again with Jeff Sessions. He is very much at odds with where the Democratic want to be, in terms of not only this ruling, in terms of the travel ban, but any number of issues like criminal justice and police reform. So I think you are going to see that.

And we saw that with Republicans and Eric Holder too. He was a big target of Republicans and I think for Democrats. Jeff Sessions is going to continue to be a thorn in their side. And also, somebody they can kind of rally the base around because we have seen that already.

LEMON: How is this for just a weird, weird coincidence, the universe works in strange ways. Because why as the attorney general mentioned in a statement the federal judge that President Trump criticized during the 2016 election, judge (INAUDIBLE), he is back in the news. Because a strange twist as I said, he is now presiding over deportation case involving a dreamer. What are the chances?

TOOBIN: Actually, not that --

LEMON: It is not that unusual.

TOOBIN: There are a bunch of these cases involving the travel ban. You say Donald Trump criticized him. It wasn't criticism. It was racist insults. I mean, in a -- there were low moments in the campaign. But when Donald Trump said to Jake Tapper that he couldn't sit on the case, judge Curial couldn't sit on the case, because he is a Mexican.

LEMON: He's actually born in Indiana.

TOOBIN: Well --

LEMON: He's from Indiana.

TOOBIN: He is from Indiana. He is a Mexican-American. I mean, the idea that a Mexican-American judge couldn't sit on a case involving him was so racist and so repugnant and so -- didn't matter in the outcome apparently. But, you know, it was certainly a memorable moment.

LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it.

When we come back, Aaron Hernandez death ruled a suicide, the latest on the investigation.


[23:42:25] LEMON: Investigators in Massachusetts ruling the death of Aaron Hernandez a suicide. Prison officials say the ex-New England Patriots star who was convicted of murder hanged himself inside his cell earlier Wednesday morning.

I want to bring in CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan, legal analyst Areva Martin, and defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, the author of "Taking a stand, my life and the law.

Good evening.

Christine, you first. We learn new details today about Aaron Hernandez' death. Give us the latest please.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORT ANALYST: Yes. Well, it was ruled a suicide. I know there were questions out there on social media, Don, about what had happened to him, that why would he try to kill himself? Well now, the authorities have said it was a suicide.

Also, there were apparently three notes that were found. We don't yet know that contents of those notes. And also he wrote the verse John 3:16 on his forehead. Or it was written on his forehead, whether he wrote it or someone else. Obviously, (INAUDIBLE) and about eternal life from the bible. So that's a lot to process. And it's just another, you know, very sad, bizarre, horrible turn in, of course, a story that has the lead of that story is that this man is a convicted murder, was a convicted murder. And now here he is (INAUDIBLE), of course, gone.

LEMON: Gone. Yes.

Alan, even though there were conspiracy theories yesterday, you thought it was a suicide all along. Why is that?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it is very hard to kill somebody who is in a cell by himself in prison. And as a result of this being ruled a suicide now, the families have some chance, I think it is a very slight chance of saying, look, the principle that you void a conviction when a person dies is one thing. But when a person takes his own life, maybe you shouldn't void the conviction because you are giving him control over the conviction itself and he may have had reasons for killing himself, for example, to help his family, against the victims. So it's possible that the courts will look at this old English notion of (INAUDIBLE). Three essentially Latin words.

But of course, it is important that we understand that the Apellet process is an important part of the process. I have convicted - I reversed many convictions, murder convictions on appeal, so you don't want to say a person's guilty when he hasn't had a full chance to have his appeal heard.

LEMON: So Areva, again, and I'm going to reiterate what Alan said, now that his death has been officially ruled a suicide, what does this mean for his conviction? Do you agree with what Alan just said?

[23:45:07] AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think the law is pretty clear in Massachusetts that under this abatement law. His attorneys can go into court and basically, we go back to where we started from. And the conviction no longer stands. Now, that's the legal outcome. But in the court of public opinion, I think people will still consider Aaron Hernandez to be a convicted murder.

But it also has implications for the civil suit that Lloyd's family has pending against Hernandez' now, what would be his estate because you can't use that murder conviction to establish liability in that civil lawsuit. So it could have a profound impact on the family's ability to recover civil damages.

LEMON: So let's talk about --.

DERSHOWITZ: But it's interesting because they have already found liability. And the only issue now is damages. So the question is will they undue the finding of liability? It's going to be very complicated. But this does create problems for the family, undoubtedly.

LEMON: So Christine, let's say if Hernandez' conviction in the Oden Lloyd case is now void, right, which is -- we are talking about the possibility of what happens next. The Patriots owe the Hernandez estate the money they didn't pay him after his arrest.

BRENNAN: Right. And this is called into question that is well and the Patriots role. Of course, keep in mind that when this first - this news first broke, Don, the Patriots cut ties with Aaron Hernandez as quickly as they could. And wanted to distance themselves from him as quickly as they could. So the fact now that this is all thrown back in the mix, I think, in many ways the Patriots probably wish none of this were occurring, of course. And then the fact that Aaron Hernandez committed suicide as tragic an ending, an unexpected ending in this horror show that is the entire story. Patriots are now kind of thrust back in the news as well. And the other words, they were at the White House yesterday, and now, of course, they are talking about them in an entirely different light this evening.

LEMON: We are going to--.

DERSHOWITZ: I don't think the Patriots are going to have to pay him any money. I don't think they will have to pay many money. They were entitled to fire him based on the fact of his moral turpitude, not conviction for a crime. So I don't think they have a problem here.

LEMON: We will hear from his defense attorney right after this break.


[23:51:07] LEMON: Still a lot of unanswered questions about the suicide of ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez. And back with me now, my panel.

Christine, Aaron Hernandez' family made an announcement today about Hernandez's body. Here's his defense attorney, Jose Baez.


JOSE BAEZ, AARON HERNANDEZ'S ATTORNEY: Everyone's well aware of chronic traumatic encephalopathy which in short is known as CTE. The family of Aaron Hernandez has decided to donate Aaron's brain to the study, so that we can possibly help other young men who decide to play football.


LEMON: So CTE, Christine, is essentially damage to the brain. You and I have talked about these stories a lot. Could it have played a role in what happened?

BRENNAN: Well, it certainly throws another big question mark into this story, Don. And this is the topic of the last decade in the NFL and will be for the foreseeable future, concussions and how they impact players. And have they caused dementia, do they cause other problems. Obviously, again, let's make the point as big as we can, Aaron Hernandez was a convicted murder. And I don't know that we can make the link and say, CTE, and then now, of course, he is a murder, no, of course not.

But, with that thing to see and the fact that his brain will be donated, remember, he was only 27 years old. So we are not talking about Frank Gifford here. We are not talking about Tony Dorsett or some of these other players that we have seen donate their brains, have the family donate their brains, have issues, Jim McMann is having issues now in his 50s. This is a very young man. And it will be fascinating to see how it plays out. No way to know obviously at this point what the conclusions will be.

LEMON: Areva, for a brief period of time today, Baez, Hernandez's defense attorney claim the medical examiner was holding Hernandez's brain illegally. What happened?

MARTIN: Yes. There was some dispute, Don, going on about the release of the body and the release of the brain tissue. The medical examiner wanted to complete its investigation, do its medical investigation to determine the cause of death. Once the cause of death was determined a suicide, apparently the brain was released to the family per their wishes. And that was to the university so that this research can begin.

I just also want to point out there has been some studies that suggest CTE does cause mood swings, and aggressiveness. And the unfortunate part about it is the studies on the brain can't be done until the individual dies. So you can't even find out what's going on with the person until they are dead. So I think it's a courageous move on the part of Hernandez's family, to donate his brain for research and science and hopefully it will help other young men and women who play sports where they're subject to these head injuries.

LEMON: Alan, considering the CTE, you know, he was just acquitted on a double murder on Friday. Already serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Most people can't even imagine what the reality must have been like for him. And the CTE, he had played football. Do you think he should have been under suicide watch?

DERSHOWITZ: You know, people don't commit suicide after they have won a big acquittal. He had his appeal pending. He had a really good shot at getting his first-degree murder conviction reversed, perhaps reduced to second-degree murder which would have given him some light at the end of the tunnel. He had a superb legal team working for him. No, I don't think the circumstances were such that anybody could have suspected that this is a man who was likely to take his own life at that point in time. I think it came as an absolute shock to his own lawyers, to his family, to the family of the victims.

And I'm still in shock. I loved him as a ballplayer. He was an elegant, fantastic ballplayer, really important part of the, you know, Brady receiving team. I was shocked when he was arrested. And much, much more shock when he took his own life. So I can't fault anybody for not putting him under suicide watch.

[23:55:10] LEMON: OK.

MARTIN: Just to punctuate that point, the family and legal team said they had no communication with him to suggest he was depressed or sad or had any, you know, concept of killing himself. In fact, he was excited about the possibility of this appeal, and maybe having his first murder conviction overturned.

LEMON: Yes. You say, Christine, this is a true American horror story. Why do you say that?

BRENNAN: Because when you think about it, what Alan was just saying, when you think about how this young man started, born in Bristol, Connecticut of all places, the home of ESPN, a sports American story, part of the fabric of our culture, when you think of going to the university of Florida, catching passes from Tim Tebow, winning a national championship in Florida, being drafted by the Patriot, catching passes from Tom Brady, going to a super bowl with the Patriots, that is a resume and biography that we know. We have heard thousands of times. And when you think that the next sentence is, convicted murder, my goodness, you know, you would never have envisioned that. And of course, that, I think, is why this is such a tragedy for all.

And going back to the CTE question that you just asked about, maybe the positive is, if you want to look at this and say, horrible heinous actions, terrible, obviously Odon Lloyd is dead, now Aaron Hernandez is dead, if there is a positive note out of this, is that maybe we will learn something from his brain. Wouldn't that be nice turn of events in what has just been a horrible story?

LEMON: Areva, Alan, and Christine, thank you. Appreciate it.

When we come back, why Democrat on the House intel committee flew all the way to Cypress. Cypress is part of a Russian investigation.