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CNN TONIGHT

Another Abuse of Power by the President; Racism Afloat All Boundaries; The House Recently Passed H.R.1112; The Worst Black History Month Ever? Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 28, 2019 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: What you would have said in a moment to a Democrat for doing something a fraction as toxic. This Warmbier insult should matter to you. It hurts America's image, it distorts the truth to comfort those that you should keep uncomfortable. Comfort those that you should keep uncomfortable.

You don't say the president had to do this about Kim to avoid a war. It was this president saying, rocket man best not blah, blah, blah. That was the only real concern about any hostilities we've had.

You took the oath to serve the interest of Americans and their values and the laws and values of this country. You know this president is disrespecting the same by saying this. By standing by quietly as he does this, you do it too.

Thank you for watching. CNN TONIGHT with Don Lemon starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: And our lawmakers standing up against that may be the only recourse that we have. Did you see the new reporting by CNN about administration officials believe that the way the special counsel's regulations are written --

CUOMO: Yes.

LEMON: -- that it may protect the president if he's not charged from any -- if he's not charged for a crime for any negative information about him being released to the public. So, we may never know.

CUOMO: I disagree. You're right about what you're positing, that we may never know the details in the form of the special counsel's report released that way. I agree. I do not agree that the regs demand that. I think there is a measure of discretion.

I think the bigger hurdle or actually the DOJ customary guidelines of if there's no indictment you don't release derogatory information about someone who is unindicted, but this is not a normal prosecution. And there is provision in these special counsel provisions in the regs for there to be a special dispensation --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Yes. Let --

CUOMO: -- and for it to be released. LEMON: Let me read it before you go on. Administration officials

including at the White House who studied the regulations or the regs as you say, told CNN's Pamela Brown, Chris, is their view that they actually provide protection for President Trump. They say the plain language in the rules don't authorize or even contemplate a summary of the confidential report.

CUOMO: It's not true.

LEMON: So, it's up to Barr to figure it out.

CUOMO: If you want to look at it yourself, section 600.9 b. The notification requirement in this other paragraph about the confidential report, may be tolled. What does that mean? Tolled in law means held back, OK. Held in abeyance for a period of time.

The A.G. upon a finding that a legitimate investigative or privacy concern requires confidentiality, when that confidentiality is no longer needed the notification could be provided.

However, in the next section it says, the A.G. may determine that public release of these reports would be in the public interest. So, you see, there's a point for or a point against. It comes down to the discretion of the A.G.

LEMON: That's Barr.

CUOMO: But remember this. If Barr decides to be something less than those who speak well of him suggest about him, then Congress can subpoena the report.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: Congress can subpoena Comey. And I think they're going to have to because I don't think it's unfair that this report be somewhat spared, that it not be a flowing narrative, that it be about why they prosecuted and why they didn't, and a little lean and let Congress do its job and get the details.

LEMON: Yes. Well, listen, I think it -- the public interest should always be taken into account. Remember, the public is paying for this. And if there's nothing to hide, especially when it comes to legal matters, why not release the report? Because then it would exonerate the president.

CUOMO: I agree.

LEMON: yes.

CUOMO: And that last piece, the president -- the play here for him is release.

LEMON: He should want it. OK. Chris, listen, we have a lot of business to get to as you know. It has been a very busy week. We have been all over in D.C., we're back. We may end up back next week, who knows? Michael Cohen is going to testify again. But it's also I think it's important because we celebrated once -- you

know, one month out of a year and this is the last day of Black History Month. I'm going to talk about Black History Month. Boy, boy. What has happened this Black History Month, and there you go. I will leave it at that. I will save the rest for my open tonight. See you.

CUOMO: A meaningful thing to discuss. Happy birthday.

LEMON: I'll see you.

CUOMO: You are beautiful inside and out. You are a gift to me every day, but I have a gift for you for your birthday I will send your way.

LEMON: All right. I send the shirt over. By the way, I'll see you in a week if not before if breaking news happens. I'm going to take a little bit of time off. There you go, the Chris Cuomo shirt.

CUOMO: I'm happy to fill in while you are gone.

LEMON: All right. I'll see you, my friend. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

CUOMO: Happy birthday.

LEMON: Thank you very much.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

So, Michael Cohen, he has another date on Capitol Hill. After three days of testimony this week including more than seven hours behind closed doors today, he's going to return to the House Intel Committee next Wednesday. More on that in a moment. I'm going to explain it all to you.

There's also the news that the president reportedly ordered his then- chief of staff John Kelly to grant his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, top secret security clearance in spite of concerns from intelligence officials. That is according to "The New York Times". We've got more coming up on that as well. I'll explain it to you.

[22:05:08] But there's something else that we have got to talk about tonight. OK. And I think it is really important that we discuss this. So, go with me, all right? Gather around the TV sets, or if you are listening on Sirius, turn the volume up.

Tonight, of all nights, the last night of Black History Month, what may be the worst Black History Month ever. We have blackface. We've got the n word, the call for the return of the KKK. Yes, all of that happened just this month.

And listen, it's not a surprise. You don't have to have grown up in the Deep South, like I did, to know that racism is very much alive in this country. But don't fool yourself. Don't get it twisted. Racist acts are not just a southern thing, as they say. They are popping up in fashion, in media, and even on Capitol Hill. And right now, the final hours of the worst Black History Month ever there's more. Tonight, the Maryland House of delegates unanimously voted to censure one of their own for using the n word to describe a majority black district.

Yes, she went there. Mary Ann Lisanti, one of the few elected Democrats in the deep red, mostly white county, not only used that hateful word in conversation with other lawmakers last month, she told "The Washington Post" she didn't remember saying it and she went on to say this and it is a quote. I'm sure everyone has used it.

"I have used the F word, I've used the Lord's name in vain." I can't -- I almost can't believe I have to say it again. Maybe I can. That is not the same thing. Using the n word to describe a country or a county where the majority of voters are black is not the same thing as dropping an f-bomb or taking the Lord's name in vain. It is not the same because it is, quite frankly, racist.

Lisanti released a statement apologizing, saying she is, quote, "sickened that word came out of her mouth," "out of my mouth," that is her quote. "It is not in my vocabulary and it does not represent my belief system, my life's work or what's in my heart."

But she is hardly the only one to use hateful language. She is not even the only one this month. So, let me give you an example. There is the publisher of a small local newspaper in Alabama who wrote an editorial calling for the KKK to ride again.

Goodloe Sutton wrote that Democrats were planning to raise taxes and then went on to say, quote, "seems like the Klan would be welcome to raid the gated communities up there." But he wasn't done there. Nope.

Sutton then told the Montgomery adviser, quote, "we will get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them." He lost his job as publisher, replaced by an African-American woman, Elecia R. Dexter is her name.

And let's not forget about what has been going on in Virginia, shall we? You remember what Governor Ralph Northam said when the scandal broke over his page in his medical school yearbook showing a man in blackface and another in a KKK outfit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: That photo and the racist and offensive attitudes it represents does not reflect that person I am today or the way that I have conducted myself as a soldier, a doctor and a public servant. I am deeply sorry. I cannot change the decisions I made, nor can I undo the harm my behavior caused then and today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He said he couldn't change the decisions he made, but less than 24 hours later he changed his mind about taking responsibility for that photo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NORTHAM: I would remember that, and I have no recollection at all. It is not my picture. I was not in that costume, either as blackface or as KKK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And this is a tone-deaf defense. It really is, if I have ever heard one. And I'm sure I'm not the guy in the blackface in the yearbook photo. If I wasn't that guy or if I was, whatever, I would have remembered. I know because I remember putting on blackface that other time is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NORTHAM: I dressed up in a -- what is his name, the singer? Michael Jackson, excuse me. That's why I have Pam with me. I had the shoes, I had a glove, and I used just a little bit of shoe polish to put on my cheeks. It was a dance contest.

[22:10:02] I had always liked Michael Jackson. I actually won the contest because I had learned how to do the moonwalk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Governor Northam is not the only one facing a blackface scandal this month. The number three official in Virginia, the attorney general, Mark Herring, said he put on a blackface for a party in the 1980s when he and his friends dressed like rappers.

Herring has apologized. Remember when Governor Northam's wife apparently stopped him from demonstrating his moonwalking skills in that news conference?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you still able to moonwalk?

PAM NORTHAM, RALPH NORTHAM'S WIFE: Inappropriate circumstances.

R. NORTHAM: My wife says, inappropriate circumstances.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, now Pam Northam herself is in the midst of a controversy for reportedly handing out cotton to African-American students on a tour of the governor's mansion and asking them to manage being slaves in the fields. That is according to a state employee who is the mother of one of the students, an eighth-grade girl.

Pam Northam said in a statement that she regretted upsetting anyone with what she called an educational tour, and the governor's office insists African-American students were not singled out. It sounds like -- it does sound like her intentions were good. She wanted the students to think about the horrors of slavery. But do you have to hold a piece of cotton to do that? It is not just in politics where people are being tone deaf. Burberry

apologized for showing a hoodie with a noose around the neck at a London fashion week. Gucci apologized for a sweater that resembled blackface and has promised to promote diversity in their company.

Jussie Smollett's job on "Empire" may be on the line after producers cut his character Jamal Lyon from the final two episodes of the season in the wake of allegations, he staged his own hate crime. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDDIE JOHNSON, SUPERINTENDENT, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career. I'm left hanging my head and asking why. Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use a symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And, of course, there was Congressman Mark Meadows at the Michael Cohen hearing just yesterday, trotting out Lynne Patton, a Trump administration official as if she were a live prop in an attempt to prove the president couldn't possibly be a racist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I asked Lynne to come today in her personal capacity to actually shed some light. How long have you known Ms. Patton?

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I'm responsible for Lynne Patton joining the Trump organization and the job that she currently holds.

MEADOWS: Well, that's -- I'm glad you acknowledge that because you made some very demeaning comments about the president that Ms. Patton doesn't agree with. In fact, it has to do with your claim of racism. She says that as a daughter of a man born in Birmingham, Alabama, that there is no way she would work for an individual who was racist. How do you reconcile the two of those?

COHEN: As neither should I as the son of a Holocaust survivor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All of that happened this month. This month, Black History Month, a month that proves, as if we couldn't all see it as clear as day, racism is not just a part of our history, it's not just a part of our past, it is very much alive in America today.

It is an important issue. And it is something we all have to reckon with. Will you think about everything I just told you, please, as we move forward?

Now some more news. We also learned today that Michael Cohen will be back on Capitol Hill

next week, testifying before the House Intel Committee. I'm going to ask a member of that committee, Congressman Eric Swalwell -- there he is -- what we should expect.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Michael Cohen will return for more closed-door testimony before the House intelligence committee next Wednesday. It's March 6th. This after meeting with the committee for more than seven hours today.

Congressman Eric Swalwell is a member and he joins me now. Congressman, it's so good to have you on because you have knowledge. I know you can only share so much. So, did you learn anything more or different in today's closed-door hearing that leads you to believe that the president or someone in his family committed crimes?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Don. We learned a lot more, new, valuable information about what Michael Cohen heard, saw, did, was asked to do, and he's going to come back in a couple of days with some corroborating documents and take more questions from us. That's about all I can say right now. But I thought it was very helpful, what we learned today.

LEMON: And you found his information helpful and credible you think, right?

SWALWELL: Very credible. For a couple of reasons. One, I observed him last time back in October 2017 where he was a different person, where -- he seemed a little, you know, less forthcoming, a little shiftier in his answers.

Today he was very careful to understand the question and make sure that he was careful in his response, you know, not to say anything that he didn't know or didn't want to speculate at all. Also, he's got this sword of Damocles that is hanging over him. Right?

He saw Paul Manafort touch the hot stove as a cooperating witness, he lied and now he faces 19 to 24 years in prison. So, Michael Cohen knows if he lies as a cooperator that he is going to face more time. He talks about his family and wanting to see them again.

So, I just so much of it rang of truth, but more than anything, Don, he saw Donald Trump's personal, political and business life and provided deep insights into that.

LEMON: And if he brings receipts, as you said, corroborating evidence --

(CROSSTALK)

SWALWELL: He's got the receipts --

LEMON: If he does -- I don't mean to cut --

SWALWELL: -- and he has brought them already. Yes, and he is bringing more on Wednesday.

LEMON: OK. So, let's talk about some of the things that he couldn't talk about, about certain subjects publicly yesterday because they're under investigation and he is still cooperating. Are you aware of what those investigations are?

[22:19:57] SWALWELL: I can't go into that, Don, but, again, you know, looking at some of the big issues that he touched on that we did not know before he came to Congress this week, one that Donald Trump did, in fact, know, by Roger Stone, that WikiLeaks was going to be dumping e-mails. We always knew that from our investigation.

All of the arrows pointed in that direction, Donald Trump is so close with roger stone it would be unnatural for him not to know. More color was filled in with respect to that. Donald Trump's persistent interest in the Trump Tower Moscow project, following up over and over and saying, what's going on with Russia, what is going on with Russia, and then going out to the public and saying there was never anything with Russia.

So, again, a front row witness to that. And then his son, Donald Trump, Jr.'s meeting with the Russians June 9, 2016. Donald Trump the father said he knew nothing about it and we learned from Michael Cohen that, no, it looks like he probably did know about it. So, we learned a lot more about Donald Trump's knowledge as a foreign adversary worked against us.

LEMON: So, Congressman, let's talk about Felix Sater because he is going to testify publicly on March 14th. He is the, by the way, the Russian-born one-time business associate of Trump who worked to build a Trump Tower Moscow. What are you -- what are you trying to learn from him?

SWALWELL; Well, Felix Sater, a Russian-American worked with Donald Trump on prior projects, sat to the 26th floor with Donald Trump for a very long time, also had a Trump organization business card. But he's the one that initiated the Trump Tower Moscow project.

Now, it is not illegal to do business in Moscow, but Donald Trump was running for president of the United States, and so it's highly suspicious as to why a presidential candidate would also be having a paralegal track at the same time, so intensely trying to put a Trump Tower in a country that we would later find out while he was still trying to do this project was interfering in our election.

So, Felix is at the center of that and that will be a public hearing so the American people will learn a lot as to Mr. Trump's involvement there.

LEMON: "The New York Times" is that President Trump ordered his then Chief of Staff John Kelly to give Jared Kushner a top security e clearance old ruling and concerns by many intel officials, most intel officials, if not all of them. Chairman Schiff says that there will be, this is going to be investigated. Does this put the U.S. at risk?

SWALWELL: Yes, absolutely, Don. I chair the subcommittee of the intel modernization group for the intelligence committee, so we will be looking at this. Because national security secrets are trusted to vetted individuals who go through serious background checks.

And so, if the president is giving to his daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, access to these secrets, you know, our nuclear secrets, our defense capabilities, it risks putting in the hands of very unscrupulous people very deep secrets that could put American lives at risk.

So, we should understand just how this process is taking place and, again, why the president would treat his family different than so many people who take years to get these clearances.

LEMON: It's been a long week and it's Thursday. Still got another day to go.

SWALWELL: It is. Hey, Don.

LEMON: Yes?

SWALWELL: Happy birthday, young man. If you want to take the night off tomorrow night, you just call me. I'll come sit in.

LEMON: All right. I'd like that. Thank you, Congressman. I really appreciate it.

"The New York Times" is reporting that President Trump ordered John Kelly to give Jared Kushner top security clearance despite some big concerns from his top intel officials. So why did the president lie about this when asked?

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Word tonight that President Trump ordered a top-secret security clearance for Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser. "The New York Times" reporting the order was given despite concerns from intelligence officials and top White House aides.

Let's discuss now with Susan Glasser, also Max Boot, the author of "Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right." So good to have you on. I have so much to ask from both of you.

But Max, I'm going to start with you. The president ordered the government to give Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance despite concerns from the intel community. This seems outrageous and possibly dangerous, no?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's incredibly outrageous and incredibly dangerous and totally off the charts for any other administration.

I thought that the best comment came from Senator Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat who tweeted, there is no friends and family exception for national security, but that appears to be in fact the way that the Trump White House operates, that Trump and his children and his son-in-law operate by an entirely different set of rules that don't apply to the rest of the government.

This is just incredibly dangerous. And it's clear that people like John Kelly, the former White House chief of staff, were very much opposed to this and did not want to be held responsible for it.

The other element of this, of course, Don, is that this is yet another example, you know, about the 8,000th example of Donald Trump lying to the American people, and in this case, by the way, also Ivanka Trump lying to the American people.

So, you can't take seriously basically anything that they say. They have no credibility and they have no concern for the security of the United States. They're looking out for themselves first. This is another example of that.

LEMON: Yes, because Ivanka Trump said that that was -- that it was not true, her father was not involved.

BOOT: Right, she said it very convincingly, with a lot of passion and emotion. And she was just flat-out lying.

LEMON: Susan, it also totally contradicts what the president told the Times in January. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Did you tell General Kelly or anyone else in the White House to overrule security officials? The career veterans?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. I don't think I have the authority to do that. I'm not sure I do.

HABERMAN: You do have the authority to do it.

TRUMP: But I wouldn't. I wouldn't do it.

HABERMAN: You never --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Jared is -- I was never involved with his security. I know that he, you know, just from reading, I know that there was issues back and forth about security for -- for numerous people, actually. But I don't want to get involved in that stuff.

(END VOICE CLIP)

LEMON: So, Susan, why lie again?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's really painful to listen to that. I mean it's flagrant. It's brazen. It is explicit. This is not -- by the way, you know, listening to that, it's not that President Trump has somehow convinced himself of the truth of that. That's just an outright untruth. Ivanka Trump made this statement that Max Boot is referring to just a

few weeks ago in an interview. Jared Kushner's lawyer, Abby Lowell, repeatedly misrepresented this to "The Times." And if you read "The New York Times" account, which I suggest that your viewers do, it's really striking to me that here's this lawyer, an officer of the court, it's not -- it's not your job to lie to the public.

Here is a lawyer having a fight with John Kelly. They apparently tried to get the White House chief of staff to back up the lie publicly that the president wasn't involved. He refused to do so and then dictated these contemporaneous internal memos to record his objection to this decision by the president of the United States to overrule professional intelligence --

[22:30:04] LEMON: Yes.

GLASSER: -- you know, career officials. I think this is -- again why are they lying about it? If Donald Trump believes as he does that he has the power to do something like this. Why not own it? Why not be honest at least with the American people?

Well, they didn't want to do it, but I wanted my son-in-law to advise me. And so, I gave him the clearance. Why are they not telling the truth about it is the thing that I would like to know? And frankly, from yesterday's testimony with Michael Cohen, that again, is the question about so many of these things.

LEMON: Yes. You know --

(CROSSTALK)

GLASSER: Why not tell the truth?

LEMON: Yeah. You're right. You mentioned the contemporaneous memos, but it wasn't just John Kelly, Max. White House Counsel Don McGahn wrote contemporaneous memos about this, Kelly saying that he -- was ordered to do it, and McGahn outlining concerns as well. So why go along with this instead of taking a stand, because they're supposed to be his advisers and they should know more than him on these matters.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, it sounds like they're basically playing CIA where they create a paper trail to make clear this was not their responsibility, that they descend from the decision or it was up to President Trump in a way it is true, and they probably should have taken a stronger stand. But ultimately it is President Trump's responsibility.

He is toying with American security. And there is a story -- we don't know exactly why, by the way, Don, why Jared Kushner should have been denied a security clearance, according to security professionals. But there have been very suggestive stories, for example. There was a report in "The New York Times" that intelligence services in various countries, including the UAE and others, had assessed that he was easily compromised.

Because he was naive, he had close access to the president. And he had vast business holdings. And of course, he was desperate for money. We know that he was desperate for refinancing on 666 Fifth Avenue, his failing New York skyscraper. So this is a classic security risk. This is somebody who should not be granted access to the greatest secrets the U.S. government has.

And if he were not related to Donald Trump, he would not be granted that access. This sends a terrible message to the rest of government -- to the people who keep us safe. They play by the rules. They do the right thing. And basically the message is screw you. It doesn't matter. There's a different set of rules for somebody who is related to the president.

That is a wrong message to send. That is a demoralizing message. That is an insulting message to all of the people who keep us safe every single day.

LEMON: Max Boot, Susan Glasser, thank you both very much. Freshman members of Congress are making waves, including my next guest, Congresswoman Lucy McBath, whose son Jordan was shot and killed at the age of 17. It is a big reason why new gun control legislation passed in the House, the first in 25 years.

[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Two days, two gun control bills passed in the House of Representatives. Today, the House passed H.R.1112, which will close the so-called Charleston loophole that allowed Dylann Roof to buy a gun, a gun he used to kill nine people, a Mother Emmanuel AME Church in 2015. Yesterday, the House passed H.R.8, which requires universal background checks on all firearms sales in the country.

H.R.8 was the first piece of gun control legislation passed in the House in 25 years. Congresswoman Lucy McBath was one of H.R.8's cosponsors. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LUCY MCBATH (D), GEORGIA: After my son's death, I dedicated my entire life to advocating for common sense gun safety solutions. H.R.8 will ensure that mothers and fathers have one less reason to worry. It will give students one less thing to fear when they walk into a school. Most importantly, it will make our communities and our nation a safer place to live, and every human being in America deserves such.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Congresswoman McBath joins us now. Thank you so much.

MCBATH: Thank you for having me.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: It is an honor and a pleasure to have you here.

MCBATH: Thank you very much. LEMON: You have been working on this gun control legislation for a

long time, right, the one that passed? First, you are an advocate and then as a congressman. Your son Jordan was killed in 2012 at the age of 17 for playing rap music in a car at a gas station parking lot, obviously very personal to you. What does it mean to you?

MCBATH: Well, it is very surreal, the fact that I've spent so much time and effort as an advocate, building this grassroots movement and, you know, organizing, you know, for safer gun laws, and then actually now to be a part of really pushing forth this very policy that I have worked on with Mike Thompson as an advocate. It is really pretty surreal. It is very bittersweet, though because I --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You think it is bittersweet because it won't pass the Senate or for another reason?

MCBATH: It is bittersweet for two reasons. One, because I wasn't able to save my own child and so many other victims I have not been able to save, because every day over 100 people are dying unnecessarily to the extremist gun culture. But two because, you know, this bill, this legislation may very well not pass the Senate. But what I do know is that we have achieved a great victory, you know?

We have done something that hasn't been accomplished before in a bipartisan manner, for specifically this federal background checks and also closing the loophole. And so it is -- it has been a victory, and we're not responsible for the response from the Senate Republicans. We are still responsible for making sure that we're doing what is right no matter what.

LEMON: And it is progress, first in 25 years.

MCBATH: Absolutely.

LEMON: Can I just read this, because just a couple of weeks ago on Jordan's birthday here's what you tweeted. You said, Jordan, you are my strongest ally and will forever be my best friend. Today, you turned 24 but the impact of your story will last forever. Do you think -- going back to your previous answer, do you think the tide has turned in this country where it is possible that legislation like this can get passed to stop the horror of gun violence?

[22:39:54] MCBATH: The culture is slowly changing. The fact that I sit here as a United States congresswoman from Georgia's sixth congressional district, which is a very red state. And, of course, we have a lot of law-abiding gun owners in our state. The fact that I am sitting here now, and I ran on a platform of guns as other of my colleague, my freshmen colleagues have done the same, is a testament to the fact that the culture is changing, that people have decided enough is enough.

And that they want to make sure that their children's lives are preserved. They have a future without the fear of being gunned down unnecessarily. LEMON: I want to ask you about other duties as your role as a

congresswoman, because Congressman Mark Meadows has been getting a lot of criticism for using Lynne -- he asked Lynne Patton, an official at HUD, to stand up at the Cohen hearing as an example that President Trump is not a racist. What was your reaction to that?

MCBATH: It was somewhat disturbing to me, because I just really was disturbed that they were using, I believe, a woman of color to validate whether or not President Trump is a racist. And I just think it was disturbing to me. I believe if you have to bring someone forth and say this is proof that, you know, someone is not a racist. Why are you having to validate that?

LEMON: Yeah. You know, after that incident happened, there's a video of -- that surfaced of Meadow in 2012 promising to send President Obama back to Kenya. He insisted today that he doesn't have a racial bone in his body. But does this -- and there's also another video of him saying the same thing. But does it highlight the disconnect over racial issues in this racial issues in this country you think?

MCBATH: It most certainly does. We think that we've come so far. But I think the fact President Obama sat in office for eight years probably has been a precipice for a lot of the underlying racial tensions that we've had in this country that are now coming to fruition.

LEMON: Listen. I think -- this is not a partisan issue any time you see diversity, right? There are not a lot of women who were in the roles of Senate at and Congress or whatever, you know, not as many as should be. And now, you know, you have this gun legislation. You have your other freshmen who are taking the lead on a lot of issues.

The internet went wild with this photo. This -- put this up. Three freshmen on oversight yesterday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, there I saw that they were funny memes -- it's a great way (ph) which music group are they in? These are superstars and what have you. How do you feel about the part that -- about making real change from a different generation and people with a different perspective in leadership roles in Washington right now?

MCBATH: I think it is an exciting time for us. I think that this is showing the face of what I have always said, you know, is considered a credible public servant or a credible person to be able to lead politically. It is changing. The face of the freshman class is a testament to the fact that we represent democracy. That's what democracy looks like.

Such an exciting time, because I am in a class of -- you know, the most diverse class that we have ever had. I am in a class of, you know, the most number of women that have ever been elected. And I am in a class that has the most number of women of color that have ever been elected. So this is what democracy looks like. And we come with very diverse backgrounds, ideologies, but one thing I know is that we're coming to work. We're coming to work.

We haven't tried to pave the path to being a politician and getting our way to Washington. We have decided to stand up. We have been very involved in our communities. We have been very involved as activists, as change-makers within our own communities. And now, all we are doing is translating that here to Washington, acting on behalf of the people that put us in office, and they expect us to champion for them.

LEMON: You did it. America is proud of you. We're so proud of you. Thank you.

MCBATH: Thank you so much.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: For all of the hard work you do, best of luck. Please come back any time.

MCBATH: Thank you very much.

LEMON: Thank you, Congresswoman. And I talked about this at the top of the show, but there's a lot more to say. Has this been the worst Black History Month ever?

[22:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Last night, Black History Month. And it may have the worst Black History Month ever. There was blackface, the n-word, the call for the return of the KKK, possible staged hate crimes, and unfortunately much, much. Let's discuss. Bakari is here, Bakari Sellers, Tara Setmayer, Alice Stewart.

Good evening, everyone. Bakari, picture time.

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi, Don.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Can you set it up? Go the other way to your left. There you go. So Bakari, you know, at the top of the show, I went through how this could be the worst Black History Month ever. You are the one that said it first, right? At least you were saying what everybody else was saying.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. I think that we just need to regroup. We need cancel this Black History Month. Postpone it. Maybe celebrate from June through Beyonce's birthday this summer. Everyone can just kind of regroup and get their center. You know I think that kind of say this in jest, but I think back to the reason why we have Black History Month in February.

Carnegie Witson (ph) chose this month. It was Negro History Week and then Negro History Month, because of the birthday's of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. And we got away from celebrating the very essence of black excellence every single day. And then you fall into where we're highlighting these racist tropes that happen and seemed that to pop up. We thought we were beyond this, and it somewhat clouded our ability to celebrate who we are as a people and our contribution to American culture.

From black face to sexual harassment charges, to more blackface, to Jussie, R. Kelly, you know, the first lady handing out cotton, people going on cotton-picking fieldtrips. I mean this is -- let's not forget about the Democrat from Maryland who said that she was campaigning down in -- I know this is your show so I'll just say n- word counties.

(CROSSTALK)

[22:50:03] LEMON: You got Meadows yesterday holding up the woman as a prop. So listen, I got to ask you. Just -- you know, People always ask me, Don, what does the white community think? So Alice, I am going to ask you, what does the white community think?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I will say this, Don. I recognize where I sit on this panel here. And I applaud Congresswoman McBath who was just on. She's the Congresswoman from my home district in Georgia, the sixth district of Georgia. She talks about her being one of the many change-makers in Congress, which she is, and I applaud that. I am in Little Rock right down the street.

I talked with folks today who were -- worked with the Little Rock Nine, the group of nine students who integrated schools 60 years ago. And these are the people we need to recognize during Black History Month. Bakari has said for the past several weeks as Black History Month has progressed. Let's have a do-over. Let's spend this month talking about the people that have made a significant contribution to the progress for --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: We got to cover the news. Unfortunately, all these things were big news stories. We started with blackface, went to Chicago, and then it -- I mean -- I got to get Tara in, because Tara, you saw this yesterday, right? This is Mark Meadows bringing in the HUD administrator yesterday during the hearing. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to make a note, Mr. Chairman, just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean they aren't racist. And it is insensitive that some would even say -- the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman in this chamber, in this committee is alone racist in itself. Donald Trump is setting --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, I ask that her words be taken down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am not calling the gentleman, Mr. Meadows, a racist for doing so. I am saying that in itself it is a racist act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope not, Mr. Chairman because I need to be clear on this particular...

(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Meadows, wait a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have defended you for --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, there is nothing more personal to me than my relationship -- my nieces and nephews are people of color. Not many people know that. You know that, Mr. Chairman. And to indicate that I asked someone who is a personal friend of the Trump family who has worked for him, who knows this particular individual that she's coming in to be a prop, it is racist to suggest that I ask her to come in here for that reason.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So Tara, I want you to respond to this. I just want to say we asked both the congressman and Lynne Patton to come on tonight but they didn't us up on it. The congressman said it's racist to that what he did was racist. Should he have taken a minute to try to understand what Congresswoman Tlaib was saying?

SETMAYER: Absolutely. But you know, the word of the week -- and I use it on air last night when we talked about this -- is that his response was asinine because you're going to sit there and say the response from women of color who looked at that, and not only the women in the hearing, but just people of color across the country. You don't even have to be a person of color to recognize that that Lynne Patton thing was a racial prop and stunt and it was offensive.

But, you know, this is what I think is going on. I think that there is a certain amount of white America that is just racially ignorant about certain things. There is a certain racial inertia. And in Republican Party, as a member of it for many years, I have seen this, where white people think that certain stereotypes or certain images that they think that that's what black folks are.

And we're going to prove we're not racist so we're going to trot out Lynne Patton. We're going to try out Diamond and Silk. These kinds of stereotypical things that they think that's what black America is to prove that they don't have these racial biases. It's just ignorant.

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: Mark Meadows' reaction to that shows that. He doesn't have any racial consciousness --

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: Can I chime in and just say that's not a -- that's not a Republican problem.

SETMAYER: No, it's not actually. You're right.

(CROSSTALK) SELLERS: We started out the month -- we started out -- exactly -- the month talking about Ralph Northam and Mark Herring. We kind of tied up the month referring to this state delegate from Maryland. And I think that it's not a partisan issue. This country has a very large blind spot when it comes to issues of race.

And just briefly, I wanted to comment. There aren't too many black people who are "disappointed" in Lynne Patton because throughout history I think Angela Rye has quoted during Zoren Neil Herston (ph) often. We understand that all skin folk ain't your kin folk. And so we don't really expect a lot from every single one of us.

[22:55:11] She will have to look at our ancestors in the face when the time comes and explain to them why she was there. But I'm more concerned about the ignorance that is pervasive even at the highest levels of government.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Well, I thought it was interesting. Michael Cohen's response was...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But Michael Cohen's response at that hearing was I was the one who is responsible for introducing her to -- maybe the family and the organization and responsible for getting her hired. She nodded and said yes, he was. And then he said there are no black executives at the Trump organization. She -- you know.

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: Or at the White House.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Go on.

STEWART: Don, if I can just say, Congressman Meadows is a very good friend of mine. He was one of the very first people that reached out to me when my father passed away less than a year ago. He is a dear person and a kind soul. And let me just say this. I think this conversation -- there is a very welcome place for this conversation.

But this congresswoman who accused Congressman Meadows of being racist walked that back this morning, saying what he said she took it as something that was offensive to her.

LEMON: She said it was a racist act.

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: She said it was a racist act.

(CROSSTALK) STEWART: And I think we can make a very big case for this conversation if we have it in the right context, in saying this is the way what you said is offensive to me and why you are not a racist person. Your act is perceived as racist to me.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let her finish.

STEWART: Let me just say this. I heard what Tara said last night on this very conversation. I think we can go a lot further with this conversation if we can explain to people you are not a racist person, but here is what you said is perceived by me and let's have the conversation from there.

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: But let's not start by saying you are a racist person.

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: What did I say to you last night when we had that conversation, Alice? I said that whatever advice that Mark Meadows was given was bad because that is not the way to even endear yourself to people of color, because anyone who is not white is going to look at that and say that's offensive. And that shows the racial inertia that I'm talking about.

Maybe he's not a racist, but the fact that he's surrounded by people who thought that that was OK, that shows you that there is a dirt of leadership and there is a certain insensitively that we have to address.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: OK. Bakari, do you want to get in? Because remember there is a 2012, we're going to send him back to Kenya.

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: I don't understand why the onus is always on black people to teach white people about what's racist and what's not.

LEMON: But you know, James Volunt (ph) said that we are tasked whether we like it ot not.

SELLERS: And he also said to be conscious in America right now and have the --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So, Alice --

SELLERS: -- to be in the perpetual state of race. But my biggest issue right now with this whole conversation is that -- look. Mark Meadows is -- let's agree he's not racist for the purpose of this conversation. The fact is that is that he trafficked in racism when he had his birther conspiracy moments and he utilized it as political currency. And so I don't think it's me, or Tara, or Don's responsibility to tell him that.

I think that it's more so Alice's responsibility to go and pull him aside and say because it is not always the message, per se. Sometimes it's the messenger. And maybe Alice needs to pull him aside and say I want you to know that that on its face, you know, bringing out a black person, having these birther comments on its face is racist.

And you have to be willing to acknowledge that and move forward so that we don't have to be drug down in these moments that drive people crazy.

LEMON: Alice, I think we are having this conversation the right way, because I said it last night. Just because you do something racist doesn't mean the whole of you is racist. But then sometimes you're just racist, if there are enough examples of it. The birther thing did not help him. You know going back to Kenya that does not help him.

And sometimes when you do stupid and silly things, many times it shows who you are. I am not saying he is, but I think that's a conversation I would love to have with him and to have with Lynne.

SETMAYER: And don't invalidate people who point it out to you. Listen sometimes, because maybe we know what we're talking about. We live it everyday.

LEMON: Don't call us racist because --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Thank you, guys. Happy Black History Month, it's almost over.

SETMAYER: Good lord, happy birthday, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. It's tomorrow, by the way.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: All right. Alice, what does the white community think? I always wanted to ask that. People always what does the black community think, so I got to ask Alice that and she told me. Thank you. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)