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Two Years Of Crucial Investigation Summed Up In A Rush Summary; Full Mueller Report To Be Released In Public; Outrage Over Smollett's Freedom; All Charges Dropped Against Jussie Smollett; Utah GOP Senator Uses Theatrics On Senate Floor To Blast Democrats' Green New Deal Proposal; Supreme Court Hears Arguments On Gerrymandering. Aired 11- 12a ET
Aired March 26, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
A Justice Department official confirming today that it will take weeks, not months to release a public version of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report. The official adding there are no plans to give an advanced copy to the White House. Here's what the president had to say about it just today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Mueller report was great. It could not have been better. It said no obstruction, no collusion. It could not have been better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: First of all, it's not true that the report said no obstruction and no collusion, but we'll get to that later.
Let's all please take a deep breath and back this train up for a moment. The president was just talking about the Mueller report. But we don't have the Mueller report.
And according to the White House and to Justice Department official neither does the president. What we have and what the president is talking about is Attorney General Bill Barr's letter. It is a letter outlining the so-called principle conclusions of Mueller's report.
But how can a four-page letter that barely quotes from the actual Mueller report represent the special counsel's exhaustive 22-month investigation? It seems like this letter is doing exactly what it is designed to do and that's substitute actual information from Mueller's report with the analysis of President Trump's political appointee.
William Barr has a lot of credibility in Washington. He's known to be friends with Robert Mueller and he's served as attorney general and deputy attorney general during President George H.W. Bush's administration. But that was over 25 years ago. Barr has no track record as President
Trump's attorney general. He assumed office just last month. This was his first major decision as Trump's attorney general.
There's not a lot of people to go by in judging how independent he actually is from the president who appointed him. How will he and how would he be able to make any information in this report that may be potentially flattering or damaging to the president?
What we do know is how Barr caught the Trump's -- Trump administration's attention in the first place. He wrote a 19-page unsolicited memo calling Mueller's theory about obstruction, quote, "fatally misconceived."
He also wrote the obstruction claim is entirely dependent on first finding conclusion. So what Barr was saying there seems to be if there's no collusion, there's no obstruction. And that's exactly the point he makes in his letter about Mueller's report.
Because again, this letter is Barr's take not Mueller's. He writes, "The special counsel recognizes the evidence does not establish that the president was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference. And while not determinative the absence of such actions bears upon the president's intent with respect to obstruction." But again, those are Barr's words, not Mueller's.
On collusion Barr actually uses a short quote from Mueller's report which says, "the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
But that's it. Are we really supposed to believe that's all Mueller said on collusion? What about the Trump Tower meeting? What about Paul Manafort sharing polling data with a man with reported ties to Russian interference?
What about Trump associates contacts with WikiLeaks, about Hillary Clinton's e-mails? There are so many questions about Mueller's investigation that are still unanswered. If Barr was truly focused on making sure his letter accurately depicted Mueller's finding, why didn't he consult the special counsel?
As a person who conducted a 22-month investigation shouldn't Mueller have been able to say whether or not this letter appropriately sums up his findings? Why should we trust Barr's interpretation of Mueller's report?
Here's the problem, a lot of people view this as the final word and they're drawing conclusions from it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We now know from the Mueller report there is no collusion to find.
JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: Bob Mueller says there's no collusion with the Russian government.
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's very hard to obstruct a crime that never took place.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: That he should have done.
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: This report says that the president of the United States, ladies and gentlemen, is not guilty of collusion. He is totally exonerated of collusion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a very clear answer, no collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[23:05:00] LEMON: OK, this is fact check, OK? We don't know if Mueller found no evidence of collusion. We know the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.
It's also not true that there was no obstruction. The Justice Department decided not to prosecute the president on obstruction of justice with his actions. But Trump specifically was not exonerated.
As I said earlier, it will be weeks not months until the full report comes out. But in the two days since this letter was released Barr's interpretation of the Mueller report has been mischaracterized as the full story.
It is not the Mueller report, and therefore it cannot be the full story. It is not the full story. We don't know how many weeks we'll have to wait for it, but as time goes on waiting for this report Barr's narrative will set it even more. We don't know if this was part of what the White House wanted, part of the White House plan. But what we do know is we cannot accept this four-page analysis. We need facts. And the only place that we will get them is in Mueller's report.
OK, so let's discuss. Susan Glasser is here, Harry Litman.
Hello to both of you. So glad that you are on.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Hi, Don.
LEMON: Susan, I'm going to start with you. If this letter came from Matt Whitaker and not Bill Barr do you think everyone would be saying the fix was in?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, luckily, we don't have to answer that hypothetical.
LEMON: That's a good answer. Thank you.
GLASSER: You know what, Don, look, I do think what's surprising is that given that the president and his attorney and his aides are rightfully claiming that this was good news for them, they seem to be going out of their way essentially to undermine the credibility of this report by the way in which its being handled in what appears to be a politicized way with very little offering of information to people.
As you've pointed out tonight and many others have, we don't even know how long this report was. It was said to be very comprehensive on Friday when it was delivered to the Justice Department. Obviously, we have not gotten any sort of comprehensive understanding of what went into this investigation, of what the facts are.
And you know, what I'm struck by is it seems that it's a government that doesn't feel accountable to the public. That the accountability that they seem to feel here, that Attorney General Barr feels is to the president and not to the public.
In the past when we've had national investigations on such an important matter, and again we're talking about, you know, the Russian government's intervention in our 2016 election, you know, investigators went out of their way to produce a report that had credibility for the public, for history.
For history's sake we don't want to be arguing about this for months and years to come. It undermines the legitimacy of the work that has been done for it to be handled in this way, it seems to me.
LEMON: Harry, listen, you used to work at the Justice Department. Do you think this letter is intended to summarize the Mueller report, or is it to protect the president?
LITMAN: Yes, I mean it does really neither one. You talked about substituting Barr's analysis, but there's basically no analysis in the letter. The only sort of mild analysis is the point you made about no underlying crime. But that's a frank non sequitur.
You can all the time commit obstruction whether or not you're guilty of the underlying crime with no further than G. Gordon Liddy. We don't know what it was designed to do, and that's a big part of the problem.
Did Mueller decide not to make a judgment because he wanted to leave it to Congress and the people's representatives and then Barr countermanded that decision? That would be a really serious development. Or did Mueller actually say, well, you decide for me, it's too hard for me to do, which would be a baffling thing for Robert Mueller especially an investigation of this scope.
We basically know-nothing right now, and your point is the correct one, Don. There's the real worry that a couple of weeks will go by and it'll sort of concretize as a fait accompli even though there's no analysis or facts or law to even assess, we just have a bare conclusion from the attorney general.
LEMON: Susan, I'm wondering what you think of this "The New York Times" report tonight that a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans today that president praised Barr for releasing such a quick summary of Mueller's report.
GLASSER: You know, look, the president I believe was also said publicly, you know, he was good -- you know told me he'd be good and he turned out good for me. He also said that he was completely exonerated in it.
You know, again, there are two things happening simultaneously. One is the political war as you have pointed out too established the narrative surrounding it.
[23:10:02] And there's the politics and the political world's response. Which was essentially, OK, Mueller has made these top-level findings and that means, you know, the president's impeachment and removal is extremely unlikely on these charges.
So, there's the political response. But then there's the question of we don't know what was in the investigation. We don't know what was in the report. We have these very important facts that are outstanding that we do know what to interpret of them. And we would like to know about the investigation that took place with federal money for the last 22 months.
Essentially, we're being asked to take not just the word of Robert Mueller but the word of Robert Mueller as interpreted by the Trump Justice Department.
And you know, again, it's going to come out one way or the other. So, it seems like they're playing short-term politics with a report that one way or another we'll know historically what's in this report.
LEMON: Harry, do you think that, you know, with this letter at least did William Barr do the job that he was hired to do?
LITMAN: Wow, I mean, look, I don't think Barr, you know, was hired to put the fix in or anything like that. It's possible. I can imagine that even if he was countermanding Mueller, he thought perhaps he was ending our national nightmare.
If he was thinking that I have to say and I've supported Barr in the past, it would have been a misstep. So, if the judgment was fundamentally Mueller's that it should be left to Congress and Barr said no, that in itself under the regs he should have made clear.
The truth is we don't know why he did it. Not simply why he made the decision but what was his theory was. If it was based on a sort of expansive view of executive power, that maybe the courts or Congress wouldn't endorse, then it's a shame.
LITMAN: That should not be the way to settle this very consequential issue. But, again, we just don't know right now. And unfortunately, we're not going to know for at least a few more weeks.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you both. I appreciate it.
There probably isn't a lawyer alive who doesn't have an opinion about the Mueller investigation and the Barr letter. And that includes my next guest. You probably know Scott Turow as the bestselling author but you may not know he's also a member of the Justice Department and he's going to weigh in. [23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So, the president's claiming that Attorney General Bill Barr's summary of Robert Mueller's report said there was no collusion and no obstruction. Now, let's remember Mueller did not say there was no obstruction.
I want to bring in now Scott Turow, he is the author of "Testimony" and many, many other books as well. Scott, thank you so much for joining us. A lot of people don't know -- they know you as an author of bestselling novels, but you were the assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago. You're a partner in a law firm.
SCOTT TUROW, AUTHOR: I was.
LEMON: You served on several legal advisory boards. I'm giving your whole resume here, by the way. And you've written a piece in Vanity Fair --
TUROW: Well, thank you.
LEMON: -- that I want to quote from where you talk about Barr's conclusion and you said "it represents a troubling effort to paper over the acknowledged evidence that Mr. Trump committed a crime in public view."
Listen, Barr in his letter says that he and Rosenstein determined there was no crime here. So, what do you mean?
TUROW: Well, I think, first of all, that it was -- it will prove to haunt Mr. Barr's time as attorney general that he did this and that he stepped into a breach that Robert Mueller clearly very deliberately left.
But what I mean with what I'm saying is that the analysis, the small amount of analysis in Mr. Barr's letter doesn't really hold up. It doesn't make sense. His effort to say that because the president was not charged, that there was no evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he conspired with the Russians, that that means there's no obstruction because there's no evidence of corrupt intent, just -- it doesn't make sense.
And many people have already commented on it. You mentioned former FBI Director Comey's response to this. But this is a weird interpretation of the law by a man who admittedly came into office viewing obstruction as a crime that shouldn't be charged.
TUROW: But what's -- what he did was a kind of weird bootstrapping from one decision to the next.
TUROW: And again, I say Robert Mueller did not decide this question for a reason. Bob Mueller has been around the Department of Justice in and out for 30 years. He's a former U.S. attorney, former head of the criminal division, former head of the FBI. He did not need anybody else to make a prosecution --
LEMON: Termination -- yes.
TUROW: -- decision for him.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, and here's what you write. You said because of the political damage to the president that Russia's criminal interference posed he had an obvious reason to terminate the investigation. In other words, he had something to hide, and the Mueller inquiry seems to have concluded that there was plenty of evidence that he hid it.
As I've been saying the point right now, we don't have the Mueller report to truly know what it concluded.
TUROW: We don't. And I hope that we'll get it, and we're all operating in that vacuum. But even the facts that Mr. Barr acknowledged go to show that as Mueller said, the president was not exonerated, certainly not of this offense.
[23:20:00] And Mueller decided not to make a conclusion. And as I said, he had to have done that for a reason. And Mr. Barr stepped into the breach. He very importantly never said that Mueller asked him to decide this question.
So, he was doing something he wasn't asked by Mueller to do, and it, frankly, appears to be a political act by a political appointee designed to take impeachment off the table in the Congress. And, again, it's going to haunt Mr. Barr's tenure as attorney general.
LEMON: Yes. So, Barr says that the report leaves unresolved what the special counsel views as difficult issues of law and fact concerning whether the president's action and intent could be viewed as obstruction. Why do you think those issues were left unresolved? Unresolved.
TUROW: Well, there are all kinds of possibilities, but one possibility is that Mueller decided to say that where the evidence did not meet the threshold of beyond a reasonable doubt, he would say that so that the president and the Trump campaign were cleared of that.
But it's pointless to say the president committed a crime when we know the policy of the Department of Justice is that a sitting president can't be indicted. So, he left that issue open where apparently, he saw plenty of evidence that a crime had occurred.
Now, you know, I don't -- none of us know what the evidence is. It may be -- it may be that Mr. Barr's conclusion that obstruction shouldn't have been charged is correct. But all I know is the reasons that he gave in writing are not correct. They are wrong as a matter of law. And many people, Congressman Swalwell, Mr. Comey, many of your other guests this evening have all pointed out the same thing, this is bogus reasoning.
LEMON: Yes. I'm simply saying that the American people deserve transparency, and they'll know they can make up their own minds once they see the full report instead of someone else's interpretation, and I think that's a very good place for a news organization to be.
Thank you very much. I appreciate that, Mr. Turow. I appreciate your time.
TUROW: Thanks, Don. Nice to be here.
All charges against Jussie Smollett dropped today even though authorities say he is not exonerated. How did we got here? How do we get here? That's next.
[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: So many questions and frankly, a lot of outrage now that charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett have been dropped. Chicago's mayor calls it a whitewash of justice and Chicago's police superintendent says the actor owes the city an apology.
Let's bring in now Chicago journalist, Laura Washington.
Laura, it's so good to have you on. Man, man, what a case. This case is all but hot button.
LAURA WASHINGTON, COLUMNIST, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Great to be here. You know, Don, I tell you, your town is always jumping, your old town of Chicago.
LEMON: I know my old town. Listen, it's got all the hot button issues of your city rolled into one. It's a big mess. Police, race, the mayor, crime. How are people in Chicago reacting to the charges being dropped against Jussie Smollett?
WASHINGTON: I think the city is reeling. We've been reeling for months ever since this case first hit the scene. And there's been so many indecipherable twists and turns. And I think folks has said (Inaudible) of anywhere of finally going to get to the truth.
And the truth seemed to be suggesting that Jussie Smollett had made this whole thing up. So, it was a huge shocker to everyone in the city I think when we heard the news this morning.
LEMON: Well, it's interesting because, you know, prosecutors are saying the same thing. They say they still believe that, you know, that he made it up, but they dropped the charges.
Listen, I'll leave that up to legal folks but just perplexing to a whole lot of people. Are people there in Chicago perplexed by that as well. Like, wait a minute, you believe he's guilty -- listen, I don't know, but -- WASHINGTON: Yes, our criminal justice system has always been
perceived at least for as long as I've been around, as being unfair and unjust. And I think people are saying this is just one more example. We've had -- this has been a city where for years we've been dealing with bad policing, the terrible murder of Laquan McDonald in the hands of police, our very high murder rate, and then this comes along.
And as our police superintendent has said it just puts a black eye on the city that we feel like we really don't deserve. And part of this is because there's so many unanswered questions on things that just don't make sense in the way this case was resolved.
LEMON: So, you know, I spoke with Patricia Brown Holmes last hour. She's one of Smollett's attorneys and I asked her why the mayor and the police superintendent were wrong to be upset about the charges being dropped. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICIA BROWN HOLMES, JUSSIE SMOLLETT'S LAWYER: Why are they livid? I don't know why they're livid. I can only imagine that for some reason that is unbeknownst to me they were not told about what was going to happen in court today.
Jussie doesn't control that. I don't control that. I have no idea why they didn't know or were not consulted. I don't know even know if it would have been the process to consult them and give them information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So does she bring up a good point? It seems like, you know, pretty important people were kept in the dark about this.
WASHINGTON: Police and prosecutors work very closely together, hand in glove. They had to cooperate to bring these felony charges to the fore to bring them through the grand jury to begin with.
So, for at the end of the process for the police department to be caught unawares, again that's inexplicable. I think they're also angry because if you believe the police department, if you believe the charges that they put forward they thought they had a very solid case here.
Ms. Holmes says that their -- that she believes the case was unraveling. Well, you're not going to hear that from the police department.
[23:29:57] Unfortunately, we don't have in all possession all the facts in this case so it's hard to really judge. But it does seem a surprise to many people, many of the legal experts I've talked to that the case would unravel this quickly.
LEMON: Laura, I just want to get your response to something that just came in from the brother's attorney, right? And, you know, Gloria Schmidt, she says -- this is a statement from Gloria Schmidt, the Osundairo brothers were fully prepared to testify in any criminal proceeding in the Jussie Smollett case.
Following today's decision in ending the criminal case against Smollett, Gloria Schmidt no longer represents the Osundairo brothers as trial witnesses in the criminal matter. The Gloria law firm -- law group remains in partnership with Strategic Consulting as they continue to work with other clients and have sought the skills and professional services of the Gloria Law Group. That is interesting, she no longer works with them.
WASHINGTON: Well, it sounds like she is basically saying there's no need for her services, because there's no longer a case for them to testify before, but some people are raising the question, well, if Jussie Smollett is innocent, if this was a crime then these guys have already admitted to being part of that crime. Why aren't they being prosecuted? Again, so many questions that have not been answered.
LEMON: Gloria Washington, thank you for your time.
WASHINGTON: Great to be with you, Don.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: A Republican Senator using some let's say creative theatrics to blast the Democratic proposal to address climate change through a Green New Deal. Let's discuss now. Hillary Rosen is here, as well as Tara Setmayer.
Good evening. Thank you so much for joining us.
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi, Don.
LEMON: So, listen. Hilary, I'm not even sure what to say about this. I mean, let just watch this, this is Senator Mike Lee is on the floor blasting the Green New Deal. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: This is of course a picture of former President Ronald Reagan naturally firing a machine gun while riding on the back of a dinosaur. This is beloved species of repto-mammals, native to the ice planet of (inaudible). This is picture of aqua man, a super hero from the undersea kingdom of Atlantis. These images are from the indispensable documentary film Sharknado 4.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Hilary, I mean what's going on?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: What's going on is that the Republicans and the Senate do not take climate change very seriously and they're looking for sort of every kind of theatrics or tricks and, you know, traps that they can come up with instead of actually talking about real proposals. So, Senator McConnell today created a sham vote on the so-called Green
New Deal. You know, Mike Lee is showing comic books on the floor. I mean, come on, guys, you know, the president's own cabinet, the United Nations panel of esteemed scientists said we have 10 years before this country, this world is dramatically affected by climate change. And we have Senators showing comic books on the floor. It's just outrageous.
LEMON: Tara, he didn't stop there. Senator Lee went on to talk about what he called the solution to climate change. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: This is the real solution to climate change, babies. The solution to so many of our problems at all-times and in all places is to fall in love, get married and have some kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Fall in love, get married and have some kids. That is the solution to climate change, Tara?
SETMAYER: No. Look, look, the debate over climate change has been going on for years and years and years, and you know, whether it's man made, whether it's , you know, not, that has been going on for a long time.
What the Senator did, I'm not going to defend his analogies or anything like that, but guess what we're talking about it, because it gain attention. A lot of times when senators or congressmen brings props on the floor, they do that so there's usually boring speeches on the House and Senate floor get attention and it certainly did and it spark the conversation.
Now, if I were advising him I would not necessarily advise him to do it that way. But the point -- what Republicans really should be doing is arguing the merits of this Green New Deal, how we're going to pay for it, whether it's based on science, whether the merits of having a government - a central government controlled subsided system to try to get rid of fossil fuels by 2030, let's have that conversation.
The Green New Deal, the vote that was supposed to happen today on the floor was -- it was a resolution. It wasn't even an actual bill. And the sponsors, Senator Markey and then Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the House, they don't even have a time line for putting this into an actual bill for legislation.
So, the Democratic candidate on the presidential trail, they are all saying, yes, we endorse the concept, but then when it came down to voting for it in a resolution, they absconded. They decided not -- we're not going to do it. We are going to vote present.
So, I guess it's more difficult then, to try to explain the merits of something that will cost $100 trillion over 10 years. Let's do it like that instead of pulling stunts.
SETMAYER: I understand what Mike Lee was trying to do, but, you know, it was a little corny.
LEMON: OK. So, Hilary, I want you to respond. Let me just put this up. This is from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who spearheaded the Green New Deal and she reacted to this display on Twitter. She said like many other women, plus working people I occasionally suffer from imposter's syndrome, those small moments especially on hard days where you wonder if the haters are right, but then they do things like this to clear it right up.
If this guy can be Senator you can do anything. So, is, you know, Senator Lee playing right into Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's hands by not taking climate change seriously? When young voters surely support her today.
[23:40:08] ROSEN: Let's just say that if the vote were, you know, AOC versus Trump on who wins Twitter, let's just say she'd win more. She is good at it, and I think she speaks in a way that people understand, which is, you guys can act up all you want, but actually real people are looking for real conversations.
And, you know, I do think that is what Tara just said, but I think it cannot be emphasized enough that what the Republicans are doing is making a travesty of this conversation. Listen, the Green New Deal is a moon shot, and she herself admits it.
SETMAYER: That's for sure.
ROSEN: As does Senator Markey, the sponsor in the Senate. It is a moon shot to say, we can get rid of fossil fuels in 10 years, but guess what? We do have to get rid of them eventually. We do have to dramatically reduce them if we're going to have air to breathe in the next 20 years.
ROSEN: And so, maybe we can't get to the stars. You know, maybe we can't, you know, get to the next planet, but we can get to a moon. We can do this.
LEMON: Not enough time, Tara. Five seconds, Tara. I'm out of time.
SETMAYER: Well, the AOC version of this is a moon shot, it preposterous. It's ridiculous and even main stream Democrats are not in agreement with what she had.
LEMON: I got to go.
ROSEN: We need a moon shot.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. Thank you. There's a song, somewhere in the moon shot. OK, thank you. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in two cases on gerrymandering
cases that could determine the future of our democracy. We're going to break down what every voter needs to know. That is next.
[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: It is not a stretch to say that the future off our democracy may be decided in cases argued today in the Supreme Court. At issue is the system of redistricting or gerrymandering and how districts are drawn by the party in power to try to guarantee that their side wins.
Just take a look at the 2018 congressional election in North Carolina, which is one of the states being looked at by the Supreme Court, by the way. Our colleagues at "The New York Times" put together this handy graphic that shows us just a few things. Look at that.
First, in terms of vote count there's a pretty even split between votes for Democrats and votes for Republicans, 50 percent for both Republicans, 48 percent for Democrats, but take a look at who won most of the seats. Republicans. They won 10 seats. Democrats only won three.
A disclaimer, one GOP victory was declared invalid due to evidence of election fraud by the Republican campaign and a special election will be held soon, but that is a whole other story for another time, but you see what happened there.
Republicans won a disproportionate number of seats. And it's no secret that the districts were designed to get those results. That is exactly what the Supreme Court was hearing cases on today involving both sides. One case involved Republican redistricting in North Carolina. Like you just saw. The other a Democratic case of redistricting in Maryland.
So back to North Carolina and how we got those results in the 2018 election and what happened there. Well, it's a quintessential purple swing state, and one that is hotly contested in presidential elections. It has a Democratic governor and a Republican state legislator.
Democrats actually have more than 470,000 voter advantage, but Republicans in the state -- in the state legislator intentionally drew congressional lines to preserve extreme partisan advantage regardless of statewide election results. And those Republicans have been honest about their ambitions.
David Louis, Republican member of the state assembly's redistricting committee told his fellow lawmakers, this was in 2016 and I quote, I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats, so I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country. I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it's possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.
Well, in 2016 Republicans won 53 percent of the vote, but won 77 percent of the congressional seats, 10 Republicans to 3 Democrats, just as it was designed. And then there's the case in Maryland where Democrats have drawn district lines there. Take a look. This is Maryland's sixth congressional district. It was redrawn after the last census to move the state from a six to two Democratic seat advantage to seven to one.
This was done by politicians removing 66,000 Republicans from the district and replacing them with 24,000 Democrats. The result was a misshapen absurdity that one federal judge has described as looking like, I quote again here, a broken-winged pterodactyl lying prostrate across the center of the state.
Maryland's then Governor Martin O'Malley testified to quote, he said this, my intent to create a district where the people would be more likely to elect a Democrat than a Republican. The results are so clearly absurd a case of extreme partisan gerrymandering that three federal judges unanimously declared it unconstitutional one day after the 2018 election.
Now the cases from North Carolina and Maryland, they're being argued in the Supreme Court. The justices should rule on both cases by the end of June, and it's a rare opportunity to restore fairness in our electoral system across the country. Will the court take that opportunity? We shall see. Let's discuss now.
I want to bring in now Michael Higginbotham, he is the author of "Ghost of Jim Crow, ending racism in post racial America," and Joan Biskupic, who is the author of "The Chief, the Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts." Thank you both for joining us. A lot of chiefs in that title. Two at least, but thank you. So good to see you.
So, Joan, I'm going to start with you. How did it go in court today?
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: You know, those maps are so revealing that you just showed and the candor of that lawmaker was so revealing that I have to say, Don, many of the conservative justices seem to be ready to let things stand as they are.
There were three points that I think came mostly from the conservative majority. One is, you know, it's just very hard in their minds to discern a standard, to create some sort of way to assess when extreme gerrymandering really has gone so far to be unconstitutional. How will judges know it when they see it?
But even before a case gets to that point several of the justices questioned whether federal judges should even be in this business, if it should be left to elected lawmakers or perhaps bipartisan state commissions.
And then finally, going to that wonderful remark from the very candid lawmaker from North Carolina and then also even from Governor O'Malley, there was sort of a recognition that this is politics. At least, you know, that this is politics that they're willing to accept these kinds of results and that it was ever thus, that gerrymandering has been around for a very long time and that there's nothing they're going to do about it now. Now, this is just, again, from the oral arguments, but if the pattern
holds from last year's case and the kinds of signals we saw today, I think that a majority of the Supreme Court is not ready to rule in a conclusive way to change things.
LEMON: Interesting. As I said just a moment ago, this could decide the future of our democracy, Michael. And that state lawmakers know exactly what they're doing when they draw the district boundaries to try to win. How much of this has to do with race?
MICHAEL HIGGINBOTHAM, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE: Well, the Supreme Court has said that racial gerrymanders are problematic for the constitution. They have had cases where they talk about the racial gerrymanders and they prohibit it. Prohibit them. They haven't said political partisan gerrymanders are problematic. And so this is their opportunity to do that. In terms of race the reason why the political partisan gerrymander is so relevant to race is because most blacks are members of the Democratic Party.
And so when you have a gerrymander from Republicans attempting to limit the political power of the other party, the Democratic Party, it's going to impact negatively with respect to race. And so when Justice Ginsburg today asked that -- asked about isn't this about one person, one vote and an equal count, that is the important principle of our American democracy that was articulated in 1962 in the Baker versus Carr decision. One person one vote.
And so that is why the Supreme Court even though it may be hard, that is why the Supreme Court needs to weigh in and set a standard that prevents this partisan political gerrymandering.
LEMON: Yes. OK. Interesting. Well, that leads to this question, then, Michael. There are other avenues besides Supreme Court that are available to fix unfair gerrymandering across the country?
HIGGINBOTHAM: Well, absolutely. I mean, what the court needs to do is talk about independent commissions. Rather than have the lawmakers, the politicians draw these districts, independent commissions should be drawing these districts and they should have guidelines that the districts need to be drawn in the public interest.
So not in a partisan political fashion, but with factors in the public interest. To include people in this democracy, to encourage representation of a wide variety rather than the dominance of one political party.
LEMON: Your book also looks at Chief Justice John Roberts' views on race. You say there's one area of the law where he is likely to remain uncompromising. What do you mean by that?
BISKUPIC: Yes, Don. You know, the chief is now at the center of this court with Justice Anthony Kennedy gone, and he is already shown signs of maybe looking for more compromise, inching to the left, but in this area of race, he has been consistent since the day he came on the court and actually consistent going back to his years in the Reagan administration in the early 1980s.
[23:55:02] He believes that many racial remedies in America actually do more harm to African-Americans and Latinos than they benefit. He has said the way to stop discriminating -- the way to stop discriminating on the basis of -- discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race. He wants to throw out all of, you know, affirmative action.
And to the area of racial redistricting, I think it was just a year after he joined the court in 2005 when he referred to this sordid business of divvying us up by race. And in probably his most consequential opinion in this area, the 2013 Shelby County versus Holder decision, he authored the opinion that curtailed the voting rights act of 1965, you know, essentially saying it wasn't -- key parts were not needed anymore.
BISKUPIC: So, he has been very consistent and steady in this area.
LEMON: I appreciate both of you. Thank you so much. This is a very important story we're going to continue to cover. And we'll see what the courts decide. Thank you again.
BISKUPIC: Thank you.
LEMON: You're welcome.
Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.