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CNN TONIGHT

Bill Barr Working Side by Side with Bob Mueller on the Redactions; Smollett's Case to be Reviewed; POTUS Has Radicalized America; Democratic Presidential Hopeful Pete Buttigieg Has Accused President Trump's Administration of Radicalizing Americans; Louisiana Police Officer Who Posted a Racist Image on Facebook in 2017 is Now His Town's Police Chief. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 29, 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.

Major developments tonight on the Mueller report. The Attorney General, William Barr, in a letter to Congress says he's well along in making redactions and expects to get the nearly 400-page report to Capitol Hill by mid-April, and possibly sooner.

He plans to release it to the American public, but he says he's not planning to send it to the White House for an executive privilege review. We're also learning Robert Mueller himself is assisting Justice Department officials in making the redaction.

But there's push back tonight from the chairman of the House judiciary committee. Chairman -- Congressman, I should say, Jerry Nadler wants the report on his desk by next Tuesday, April 2nd. The deadline House Democrats gave Barr earlier this week and Nadler said he wants to see it full and complete without redactions.

So, let's discuss. Evan Perez joins me now. Evan, good evening to you. Let's talk about this. Barr said the Justice Department is, and this is a quote, "well along in the process of redacting the almost 400- page report." How much should we expect to see?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're not going to see the whole thing and that's where I think the confrontation that is coming is going to come.

I think Jerry Nadler in his letter or in his statement in response to the Barr letter this afternoon, Don, made it clear that their April 2nd deadline still stands and they're not only asking to see the full Mueller report, the full 400 pages or almost 400 pages that Bill Barr response -- refers to, but they want to see the underlying evidence. They want to see what else Mueller uncovered during this 22-month investigation.

So, I think what you're going to see is Bill Barr is going to say, look, here is the version of the report that's got four different categories of information that are going to be redacted, including grand jury information, classified information, information that is protecting people's privacy as well and information about ongoing investigations.

You know that Mueller referred to a bunch of investigations to other U.S. attorney's offices, so he's going to try to redact all of those things and that is not going to satisfy members of Congress who want to see everything, Don, and so then we're going to probably have a subpoena fight and something that's going to end up in the courts.

LEMON: So, what are the chances though, honestly, of that happening, no redactions for the Democrats?

PEREZ: There are no -- there's no chance. I mean, that's Justice Department policy and I think the two sides are kind of gearing up for what is going to be a big battle and we'll see whether a judge agrees, who a judge finally agrees with, Don.

LEMON: There is some news, I understand, on Maria Butina, remember Maria Butina was arrested last year for --

PEREZ: Right.

LEMON: -- acting as an illegal agent of the Russian government. What do you know?

PEREZ: Well, you know, today, the Justice Department notified a judge that essentially when she is sentenced at the end of April next month, they're planning to have her go back home to Russia. And so that's going to be the resolution to this case.

You remember that she has pleaded guilty to one count. She basically was accused of being a sort of spy for Russia, someone, an unregistered agent, essentially, who is here to infiltrate GOP organizations including the NRA, so she is essentially, Don, already served the time that she probably was going to get as a result of her sentence when she is sentenced next month.

So, at the end of this, the resolution is for her to be sent back to Russia and as part of that, she's agreeing to never come back here or not come back here for at least another 10 years.

LEMON: Evan Perez, I appreciate your reporting. Thank you, sir.

PEREZ: Great to see you.

LEMON: You too.

[23:04:58] I want to bring in now Juliette Kayyem, Susan Glasser and Michael Moore. Good evening to you.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good evening.

LEMON: So, Juliette, why do you think the Attorney General Barr, why did he wait almost two weeks to tell the public for the Mueller report, almost 400 pages, the full version with redactions will be released and, I don't know, why he didn't do that in his letter on Sunday?

KAYYEM: I have no idea and I do have my raspy voice tonight.

LEMON: My gosh. Are you OK?

KAYYEM: I'm OK. Your producer said it would be fine.

LEMON: OK.

KAYYEM: I want to say, he's stalling for time at this stage. I think Barr screwed up big time last weekend and now he's just buying time until he has to report out.

LEMON: Wow, OK. Julia says she's fine, so we're going to carry on, I'm going to take her at her word.

KAYYEM: Go on.

LEMON: Get drink some water or some hot tea, Juliette. So let's bring Susan in now. Susan, Barr went to great lengths to defend his letter on the report. This is what he wrote.

He said, "My March 24-letter -- 24th letter was not and did not purport to be an exhaustive recounting of the special counsel's investigation or report. I do not believe it would be in the public's interest for me to attempt to summarize the full report or release it in a serial or piecemeal fashion."

So what is at stake for Barr here do you think, Susan, did he write this letter because he knew his reputation was on the line?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Absolutely. His credibility has been challenged and this defensive tone of this letter, the fact that they're disclosing basic information to us, one week after this submission of the Mueller report. It is frankly an outrage and it would have been unthinkable --

KAYYEM: Yes.

GLASSER: -- in any other administration except for one that is systemically cancelled regular press briefings and given the public information. Only this administration would take a week to tell us how many pages the report is and even that, came only after we had leaked information about that.

So, this is outrageous. If they are so confident in the findings of the report as the attorney general summarized them for us last Sunday afternoon in a four-page letter, then they're doing everything possible to undermine the legitimacy of this investigation.

And so, the question I would have is how is that good for anybody? I don't even understand how it's good for Donald Trump.

KAYYEM: Yes.

GLASSER: If he's so confident in the vindication that he is claiming here, then why on earth would they have handled it in this outrageous unprofessional and un-transparent manner. LEMON: So, we're being played?

GLASSER: The idea that they're just telling us the number of pages is appalling.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Are we being played, Susan?

GLASSER: Absolutely. Absolutely. But the question is whether we're being played well or not.

LEMON: Very good. That is a very good and excellent assessment. Michael, let's bring you in here and get your response.

MICHAEL MOORE, PARTNER, POPE MCGLAMRY: Sure.

LEMON: As Evan explained, the attorney general lays out in his letter what will be redacted from the report including grand jury information. How subjective are these redactions?

MOORE: I mean, some of them will be subjective, but I mean, I think you have to remember, like, the grand jury information is not going to come out. I mean, there's a federal statute on that.

KAYYEM: Right.

MOORE: It says specifically the rule of execs, it's just not going to come out. And we don't want it to come out in most cases.

KAYYEM: Yes.

MOORE: And I think here, you know, that's following the rules. My question deals more with some of the other exceptions that they make and that is redactions as it relates to other ongoing investigations and other districts or places where Mueller might have sent cases national security concerns, certainly with own classified information out that if we start talking about national security, we may be seeing mostly the report because the report by the special counsel's designation was supposed to be about Russia.

And so that's a problem. And so, I don't think we're going to see this 400-page, 400 plus page document without a lot of blacked out pages.

LEMON: Yes.

MOORE: And I think that's the reality of where we are. What I do -- what I do think --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Well the thing is about -- the whole thing really is about national security now that you mentioned it. That's what the whole --

(CROSSTALK) MOORE: Absolutely. There was a -- that's the whole thing. And I think

what we need to do is sort of take a breath, or the Congress out to take a breath, the Democrats need to take a breath and look at play the long game. And that is, they've got to remember that they control the oversight committee.

And let's, they can bring people in. They can look at the investigation but whether or not we're quibbling over we can see so many pages or there are some kind of redaction. Or whether it's a week or whether or not some extra 10 days, this has been a long investigation.

KAYYEM: Yes.

MOORE: -- and the American people have an interest in seeing the investigation to its conclusion. And the quality of that and the quality of the review that we get at the end of the day is more important than if we get it next week or the week after.

LEMON: Yes. Well, you said --

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: We need to sort of step back.

LEMON: When you said that's the whole thing. I mean, it's a surprise that Georgia, you know, man, your -- you didn't say that's the whole kit and kaboodle, Don.

So, listen, Juliette, yes, it's been --

MOORE: I'm not finished. I mean, we're still going on, right?

LEMON: It's been a long week so need a little levity here. But Juliette, Barr says that Robert Mueller --

MOORE: Right.

KAYYEM: Yes.

LEMON: -- insisting him with the redactions if Mueller himself signs off on these redactions.

[23:10:00] Can anyone really, I guess, and you can complain about anything but I wonder if that gives him some cover --

KAYYEM: Yes.

LEMON: -- or some legitimacy to saying what he's saying or doing what he might do?

KAYYEM: That's exactly right and I think Barr, what he wants to do is get the legitimacy from Mueller at this stage. I do worry, like Michael said, that we're focused on what we're not seeing rather than what we already see, as Susan as eloquently written today in the New Yorker, there's a lot already out there. So, take the long game and don't fight every fight because we will not win every single one.

LEMON: The House judiciary chairman, who is Jerrold Nadler is demanding a full report without the redactions. The top Republican on his committee is Doug Collins who says releasing without redactions would be illegal. Who's right there, Michael?

MOORE: You know, there's some rules in the grand jury provision, as a prime example of that. I mean, we just -- we don't let that information go public.

KAYYEM: Yes.

MOORE: And those things were in fact redacted and we have reasons for redacting and making sure that national security information does not go public.

So, you know, I don't often agree with the congressman for the statement but I will tell you that, you know, in this instance, he speaks some truth that some of that information is not going to come out.

And again, I mean, the Democrats control the oversight committee. We can get to some of that information.

KAYYEM: Yes.

MOORE: But there are reasons that we don't always make these exceptions. There are reasons that we have rules, there are reasons that we have statutes and we need to think about following those.

The Democrats have got themselves in a bind before by sort of changing the rules. I mean, remember that some of the special counsel regulations are in there because we read Ken Starr report, and we got tied to him to read a soft-core porn novel, you know, with some of the detail and the lurid facts I put in there.

So, we've made a provision that we were not -- we weren't going to let people come out and just throw all this stuff out. So, the Democrats put this provision in. Well guess what. Now we're living with what we did and that is that we've got some provision for the A.G. that can redact some of the special counsel's information.

He did the same thing on the filibuster. Right? We overreach sometimes in the Senate, we got rid of the filibuster. Well guess what, we got a lot of new judges because we got rid of some things there.

So, the Democrats have got to start thinking about the long game. Start thinking about, what, you know, what they want, how they're going to get it in a way, that they don't have to eat crow later on.

LEMON: All right. So, listen, Susan, Barr writes in letter, OK? He says, "Although the president would have the right to assert privilege over certain parts of the report, he has stated publicly he intends to defer to me, and accordingly, there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review." He intends to defer, he says no plan. KAYYEM: Yes.

LEMON: What does that language say to you, Susan?

GLASSER: Well, it says a couple things. Number one, it's an interesting statement that at least the attorney general at least in this situation considers the public statement to the president to be policy.

As you know, often it is the case that cabinet officials in the Trump administration tell us routinely that they are not considering the president's tweets and off-hand comments to reporters to be policy.

So, it seems on one hand, that Barr is trying to hold President Trump to his comments, perhaps he's not sure of them himself. But of course, he's opening up a very wide loophole. And again, I just keep coming back to the fact that number one, if they're so confident in this and remember, the president has not only claimed vindication and complete exoneration but has called in his rally last night.

He called this investigation itself, the biggest political hoax in the American history. OK? So, if that's the case, why they would be covering this up or appearing to undermine public confidence in it, is number one, beyond me.

KAYYEM: Yes.

GLASSER: Number two, I do think that we're making a little bit conflating two different things here which is the question of what Congress has access to, versus what the public is going to have access to.

LEMON: Good point.

GLASSER: And so, you know, there's the issue of the redactions and what can be public from the grand jury, but at the same time, Congress has a co-equal branch of government that is charge with the potential to investigate high crimes and misdemeanor by the president. That's not in the purview of the attorney general of the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So, you are saying they have every right to see the unredacted report?

GLASSER: Absolutely, and they have provisions for classified briefings, and they have absolutely routinely interacted with sensitive and classified information that is not made public.

So, again, I think that it is a disservice to people to suggest that Attorney General Barr has the final say on this --

KAYYEM: Right.

GLASSER: -- that this is very much the reason why there's likely to be a court battle. Not because you and I are necessarily going to be able to sit there and read every single word of what Mueller has written but because Congress has not only a right to presumably all of it but has the constitutional responsibility to look at it, arguably.

LEMON: It's the law. That's what they're supposed to do.

KAYYEM: Right.

LEMON: Hey, thank you all, I appreciate it. Juliette, get better.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

[23:15:00] LEMON: Don't talk this weekend. Rest yourself. Was that honey?

KAYYEM: Yes.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you. Thank you, all.

Listen, we've got some breaking news to tell you about. Jussie Smollett on the Jussie Smollett case, we're going to tell you what the Cook County state's attorney's is saying about the case next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: OK. So, we have some breaking news tonight on the Jussie Smollett case. The Cook County state's attorney is speaking out tonight about the case. In an op-ed, in the Chicago Tribune here's what Kim Foxx writes.

She says, she welcomes an outside review of how the case was handled.

Let's bring in Renato Mariotti on this. He's been following this. Renato, thank you so much. So, she says she welcomes an outside review of how they handled the Jussie Smollett case and it is critical to ensure the community's trust. Would an independent review in your estimation restore that trust?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it depends, I suppose, on what the review finds. I mean, I will note, Don, there's no mechanism for an independent review that I'm aware of.

[23:20:04] In other words, I think, for example, for the attorney general here in Illinois, has stated that for there to be a review by his office, there would need to be a credible allegation of wrongdoing.

So, I do think that, you know, this is, I think a good step. The question, and I do think it's something that is needed, Don. Because I will say here in Chicago, throughout the legal community, I've been hearing all sorts of rumors and speculation in all sorts of different angles about what may have been going on with this case.

So, I do think that there is value in restoring trust in the process and ensuring that this was an appropriate decision. That said, I don't know how that would actually happen, and I wonder whether after this call, whether that there will be some follow-through in making that happen.

LEMON: OK. So, here's what she's defending, why Jussie Smollett, in her estimation, at least not on trial tonight. In her Chicago Tribune piece, she first cites the law.

And she writes in part, she says, "In determining whether or not to pursue charges, prosecutors are required to balance the severity of the crime against the likelihood of securing a conviction. For a variety of reasons including public statements made about the evidence in the case, my office believed the likelihood of securing a conviction was not certain."

That's what she said. That's not what the police superintendent said. That's not what the mayor said. And it is also on Wednesday, it's not what she said. Because she said, Cook County State's Kim Foxx in her interview with CNN Chicago affiliate, WLS, expressed confidence in her office that her office could be -- could prove Jussie Smollett guilty.

She said based on the evidence presented in the charging decision, they believe he was culpable. So, is this an about-face, is this a contradiction?

MARIOTTI: It appears to be, Don. Because I believe that her office is also been maintaining that they had confidence that I think her principal deputy, who is the one who made the decision. Afterall she was recused, she had recused herself.

Her principal deputy had said that there had been no changed circumstances that would affect their ability to prove the charges. So, it's very bizarre. I mean, there's a lot of bizarre things about how this was handled and what happened and frankly, to me, this op-ed is going to raise more of those questions.

LEMON: What about the mayor and the police chief?

MARIOTTI: Well, I mean, the fact, you know, certainly, Kim Foxx is a very popular figure here in Chicago with good reason and, you know, I don't know whether or not, why the mayor has come out so strongly.

But certainly, one could infer that because the Chicago police want this looked into that there isn't some misconduct by them that they want to hide or at least if they do, it's a very bad strategy on their part.

Certainly, there may have been some friction between the police department and Kim Foxx's office. After all, she notes in the op-ed, she's been calling for reform.

But I will tell you, it's a very unusual situation when the police department that works hand in glove with the prosecutors' office here in Chicago, in Cook County, when they are calling out the Cook County state's attorney office, it's a very unusual situation.

And until there is an independent review or something, some reveal that curbs here, these questions are going to remain. LEMON: So, OK, let's talk a little more about that. Because she's not

without her own controversy in this case. Walk us through that and what her office said yesterday about her not being formally recused.

MARIOTTI: That's bizarre because my impression was, Don, that she had been recused. There were some e-mails that had surfaced indicating that, for example, she had contact with a woman, Tina Tchen, who was sort of a well-known lawyer who was connected to the Obama administration, talking about having the FBI involved. There have been suggestions that she was close to the victim's family.

So, there's been a lot of reasons suggested as to why she recused. Frankly, the issue of whether she's recused or not appears not to be settled. And I will say that her writing this op-ed adds to that because she's not the obvious spokesperson here. I mean, her principal deputy is the one who announced the decision. You would think that her principal deputy would be the one writing the op-ed defending it.

LEMON: Very interesting. Kim Foxx, the state's attorney in Chicago writing an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune. That is our breaking news. Renato Mariotti, we appreciate you helping us out this evening. Thank you so much.

MARIOTTI: Thank you.

LEMON: Democratic presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg has a stark diagnosis for America. He says Americans are being radicalized by the Trump administration. We'll talk about that next.

[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg who is rising in the polls saying something pretty stark about President Trump. He says he believes a lot of Americans are being radicalized by the Trump administration.

Let's dig into this now. Adam Serwer is here, as well as Matt Lewis. Good evening, gentlemen.

So Matt, you first. Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg said in interview, this is with Vox, that he thinks the Trump administration is radicalizing Americans. And he says, "But the reality is that when people are economically and socially dislocated, they are always more vulnerable to being radicalized. And I think a lot of Americans are being radicalized by this administration.

The experience of disruption that's gone on, especially in the interior, has obviously made it more fertile to being taken advantage of by people like this president."

Matt, you say this is absolutely the case. Tell me why.

MATT LEWIS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Look, I think it's true and there's actually studies done that show that, if you look in the Republican primary, especially, the people who were most susceptible to Donald Trump's message are people who live in areas that have very low social capital. They go bowling alone. They don't join car leagues. They don't know their neighbors.

[23:29:54] And so I think that Mayor Buttigieg is on to something there when he talks about parts of the country that are isolated, people who are lonely, disconnected, and I think that Trump maybe has more purchase in those areas at this moment. I so think he's driving us crazy. I think it kind of goes both ways.

On the right, I think that he is stoking fear and anger. And I think on the left and even in the mainstream media, there is this Trump derangement syndrome. I think Donald Trump has a way of driving people crazy.

LEMON: Adam, you disagree with Buttigieg. Why?

ADAM SERWER, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: I think Buttigieg is correct that the president encourages people to indulge their worst impulses. I actually don't think that economic hardship is the necessary -- is the relevant factor here.

LEMON: Yeah.

SERWER: You know black and Latino people saw their wealth wiped out by the great recession. They were not susceptible to Trump's treaties (ph) because those treaties (ph) targeted him. I think what is really relevant is the ideological lens with which you view your misfortune, whatever it is.

And I don't think that, for example, people who are economically comfortable are necessarily immune to Trump encouraging them to indulge their worst impulses. In fact, I think it is very clearly that that's not the case.

LEMON: Go on. Explain more. I find it fascinating, what you're saying because when people said it was economic anxiety, that was really the reason that the president was elected. The middle of the country, they felt like they were the left -- people were left out. Every study shows that it was the loss of power in society and being afraid of change and quite frankly, of a more diverse country.

SERWER: I think that's a big part of it. I think Donald Trump basically told these people that you're having problems, yes, and your problems can be blamed on people who aren't like you. But even if you look at the studies that have been done in terms of the income cohorts where people voted, it was really in the income cohort between $50,000 and $100,000 where Trump really cleaned up over Hillary Clinton.

When you go on the lower end of the spectrum, those people were actually more likely to vote for Clinton than Trump. So I think, you know, obviously, people's economic problems are a factor, but I don't think that is the main issue. The main issue is this ideology that has been part of America since the beginning that says these newcomers, these foreigners, these people who are different are to blame for whatever hardship you're suffering, and Donald Trump has taken advantage of that.

LEMON: So, Matt --

LEWIS: Don, can I say -- let me say something, because I think Mayor Buttigieg is actually in a very interesting position to talk about this issue specifically. He's the mayor of South --

LEMON: That's why I wanted to read this quote. I am going to help you out with what you're going to say.

LEWIS: OK.

LEMON: He goes on to say -- he says, "At the same time, my experience leading a turnaround in an industrial Midwestern city that's also very racially diverse, where we had to work hard to keep everybody together and make sure what we do is inclusive, demonstrates that these things go hand-in-hand when it comes to improving our economic condition and making good on our commitments to racial and social justice."

Inclusive and keeping everyone together. Sounds different than where we are in the country right now. Go on.

LEWIS: Look, I think these are two entirely different types of leaders. Donald trump is a fighter who wants to divide. I think Donald Trump sees the media and the left as enemies that have to be vanquished as opposed to -- I think Mayor Buttigieg would - a president Buttigieg would be focused on bringing people together --

LEMON: So why would he see the media --

LEWIS: -- and calming things down.

LEMON: -- and the left as -- that has to be vanquished? Why would that be?

LEWIS: Well, I think because -- I'm somewhat sympathetic to this message. There is an argument to be made on the right that the media is liberally biased, you can't get a fair shake. And that the left is going insane. We can get on the list of all sorts of stuff back to Jussie Smollett and the hate crime hoax. But my larger point is about Mayor Buttigieg.

This is a guy who really did turn around South Bend, Indiana. This is an area that is a working class area that was blight, tons of blight. You had factories that, for decades, he actually did turn that around.

And I think that, you know, there's an argument, the economy isn't everything, but if you lose your factory job and then the church shuts down, eventually you have people who are isolated, who are alienated, and who are disaffected. That's a spiritual crisis, not just an economic crisis. And I think those are the people who are more susceptible to Donald Trump's message.

LEMON: OK, listen, I got to go, but during the campaign, there was one person who said these things are going to happen and that evolution happens and we're no longer this industrial society and plants are going to close down and you need to retrain.

And there was one person who said we're going to bring all your industry and coal jobs back, which will never happen in a gazillion years. That's not the way of the world now. But they voted against their own interests. And now, here we are.

[23:35:01] LEWIS: And if you look at what Mayor Buttigieg has done --

LEMON: Yeah.

LEWIS: -- it is actually taking -- there was a Studebaker factory --

LEMON: Yeah.

LEWIS: -- that had been out of business since 1960s and he turned it into some sort of an industrial park. That's the kind of thing that you can do where you can revitalize areas but in 21st century manner.

LEMON: Yeah, but they're never going to be what they were.

LEWIS: Right.

LEMON: Right. Like, you know, most people don't have phones in their house with cords on them, right? Just can't go back. Adam, thank you. I wish we had more time. Thank you, Matt, I appreciate it.

LEWIS: Thank you.

SERWER: Thank you.

LEMON: A Louisiana police officer who came under fire for posting a racist meme nearly two years ago is now serving as this town's police chief. That story is next.

[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A Louisiana police officer who landed in hot water after posting a racist meme on Facebook two years ago is back on the job as his town's police chief. CNN's Nick Valencia has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We came here to ask Chief Wayne Welsh why he posted a racist meme on his Facebook page. What we found here is a community that not only defends him, but is proud to have him as their top cop.

Just beyond crawfish-filled waters of Southern Louisiana, rests a village of Estherwood. It is small and sleepy. And even though in November, residents elected a police chief who shared this meme on Facebook. Those we spoke to want you to know they're definitely not racist and neither is their top cop.

Is this town racist?

TYLER LANTIER, RESIDENT OF ESTHERWOOD: No, it's not.

VALENCIA: Do you use the N-word?

LANTIER: Often, but I don't use it as racist.

VALENCIA: How is using the N-word as a white man not racist?

LANTIER: I don't find it racist. I got plenty of black friends, we all use it.

VALENCIA: Tyler Lantier has lived in Estherwood his whole life. He says just like most of the 900 or so residents here, he has no problem with Police Chief Wayne Welsh or the meme he shared.

Do you think that's funny?

LANTIER: Not necessarily, but at the time it was.

VALENCIA: What was funny about it?

LANTIER: It was just a post on Facebook that was shared and everybody blew it out of proportion.

VALENCIA: Estherwood Mayor Donald Popp agrees. He, too, thinks this is all a big misunderstanding. The mayor says the meme is irrelevant now because it was posted nearly two years ago in July of 2017 when Chief Welsh was assistant police chief.

MAYOR DONALD POPP, ESTHERWOOD, LOUISIANA: He was disciplined. He was dealt with and then he was re-elected, ran unopposed.

VALENCIA: Months later when the spot for police chief was vacated in 2018, Welsh stepped in as the interim for nine months. Then in November, he ran unopposed. By the time of the election, people either forgot about the meme or didn't much care.

VALENCIA: What does it say about the people of this community that they would elect somebody like that?

POPP: Again, I'm going to say what -- reiterate what I said. It is not the mayor back at that time. I understand what you're saying, but I'm not going to elaborate on that.

VALENCIA: You are the mayor now.

POPP: I am the mayor now, yes.

VALENCIA: What defense do you have to have a police chief who put something like this on the internet?

POPP: I'll tell you what I just said. You know, I don't foresee any other problems with Chief Welsh.

VALENCIA: Hey, Wayne, are you there?

We wanted to talk to Welsh on camera, but he declined. He did agree to a phone interview, then this happened. Minutes later, he sent me this text message. "Two years ago, I shared a picture on Facebook that I got a lot of heat over because it was said to be racism at that time. I didn't think it was. It was just sharing something off Facebook. I was suspended from the police department for what I did. I also apologized on Facebook and on the live news later. The next year, I ran for police chief in the election and the town voted me there new chief of police. What happened two years ago is behind me and my punishment was done to me and now I'm moving forward with my life as a new chief of police. Thanks."

Welsh may be moving forward with his life, but black residents in Estherwood who account for less than five percent of the town, sound like they live in the past every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): It doesn't surprise me.

VALENCIA: Out of fear of retaliation, no black residents that we spoke to would go on camera to talk about the chief. Their voice, it seems, is drowned out by the others in Estherwood who defend him.

LANTIER: At the end of the day, if you need money or anything, you go to that man and he will give it to you. He is all around good guy. And whoever thinks this is messed up because he posted it, (bleep) in the head. I hate to say it like that, but they are.

VALENCIA: According to Noah.com, Chief Welsh recently underwent training required for all new police chiefs in Louisiana and that includes new guidelines and policy for social media. He said that if any one of his officers of his department does anything remotely similar to what he did, they would "be automatically terminated." He added, he doesn't want anything like this to happen again.

Nick Valencia, CNN, Estherwood, Louisiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Thank you, Nick. We got a lot to talk about. Keith Boykin, Tara Setmayer, next.

[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON:

LEMON: The police chief of a small town of Estherwood, Louisiana posted a racist image on Facebook two years ago when he was assistant police chief, and as we saw in Nick Valencia's report, he's now in the top job because plenty of people in Estherwood apparently didn't find the image offensive.

Let's discuss now. Keith Boykin is here and Tara Setmayer. Hello.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: It seems like a comedy piece, right? But it's -- it's not funny but -- KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I felt like I was watching an episode of "The Daily Show" watching that. It was so sad. I couldn't even believe that people could be that ignorant and be that ignorant on national television. But this is a reflection of the country that we live in right now. We have a problem with our country where people are more afraid of being called racist than actually being racist. They're so ashamed.

They don't even want to admit when they're doing something obviously racist. Posting a meme of a white woman drowning her white baby because that baby might be dating a negro person is exactly the definition of what we'd consider racist. And this happened, by the way, in a country or in a state, I should say, Louisiana, the same place where in 1896 we have the Plessy versus Ferguson case.

[23:49:56] That was a case where a mixed race person went on a train and was forced off the train because of the segregation laws and that ushered in a whole generation of Jim Crow that didn't end until the 1954 Brown versus Board of Education decision. Louisiana can do better. Folks, I know you can do better.

LEMON: OK, so, this is what I'm saying. You're saying they don't want to admit. Tara, this is what I say all the time. People don't even know when they are racist. I don't think they even know. They think their behavior is not racist.

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Clearly. I mean, when I was researching this story because to be honest, I hadn't heard about it until we are going to talk about it tonight, so I started researching it and reading some of the local coverage of this.

And one of the local stations down there in Louisiana did a long form story on this entire debacle, and this guy has absolutely zero contrition about this being a racist, offensive, horrible meme that he posted. He is more upset about the fact that it brought all this attention on to their little small town which is about 900 people.

BOYKIN: Right.

SETMAYER: He is more upset about that. And then the piece we just saw demonstrates that the people down there seemed to think there is nothing wrong with this. That scares the hell out of me. I'm from New Jersey, OK? I'm from 15 minutes outside New York City. I don't understand this level of Podunk racism. I just don't get it.

But the fact that it still exists in numbers larger than I really ever wanted to admit to, scares the hell out of me. And the fact that this guy really wasn't held accountable for it at all goes to show you we have a long way to go.

And let me say something else about why this matters now. When he said, you know, I didn't think it was racist, or the other one who says, "I say N-word all the time," people and blah-blah-blah, this is what happens when the president of the United States uses coded language and says he doesn't flat out the nice (ph) things or kind of tip toes around racial animus and things like that, it gives a licence to the bigots and the racists that are still around clearly.

What? Nobody is offended. Even the president of the United States is kind of bigoted.

LEMON: Yeah.

SETMAYER: So, we must be all right, too. This is 2019, people, my god.

BOYKIN: I hate to say something that sounds like it might be defending Donald Trump, but --

(LAUGHTER)

BOYKIN: -- what I really want to say is that these people probably thought this very long before Donald Trump came along. He didn't invent racism, he just exploited it.

SETMAYER: No, I'm saying that they are more emboldened now.

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: I agree with you, people definitely are more emboldened. But the other point I just want to push back a little bit on, when you mentioned you're from New Jersey, there are racisms taking place in New Jersey, too. I don't want to just say it is happening in Louisiana.

SETMAYER: I mean, not like what we just saw.

BOYKIN: I don't know. I don't know. I mean, I lived in the north, south, west, east and Midwest. I have not seen racism everywhere I lived. I think the problem is that people don't understand the nature of racism. I think it just involves wearing a Klan robe or burning a cross.

Racism is actually so much more insidious and nefarious today that people don't even realize it is happening in ways -- in every day ways that they are not paying attention. So that is really the danger here, we ignore just how pernicious the effects of racism are in everyday life.

LEMON: OK, let me raise my hand here because I'm from Louisiana.

BOYKIN: Yes, I forgot about that.

LEMON: I'm sitting here.

BOYKIN: You should be talking about this.

LEMON: Are you guys surprised? Listen, there are very good people in Louisiana. But there are some places that are -- when they say people in the northeast or people who live in big cities live in bubbles, yeah, that is indeed a bubble.

BOYKIN: Nine hundred people.

LEMON: That is a bubble.

BOYKIN: Yeah.

LEMON: But because the rest -- most of the country -- I would say most don't feel that way, but to have that level of ignorance is really quite shocking, and people take that from childhood all the way into adulthood. As the police chief of Estherwood, Welsh is in charge of protecting the town's residents, black and white. Should black residents be worried that they won't be treated fairly?

SETMAYER: How could they not? First of all, the town is 94 percent white, by the way. And the representative from the NAACP down there in Louisiana said, when he was told about this, he said, look, my suggestion is, for my family, for fellow black folks down there, you drive right through this town, don't stop for gas, drive five miles an hour under the speed limit.

That's a shame that anyone in modern day America should have to feel that way. That they are not safe as people of color going through a town because the chief of police who is supposed to be fair under the color of law is posting racist memes and doesn't think there is anything wrong with that. I think that that's --

LEMON: Keith, none of the black residents wanted to talk.

SETMAYER: Can you blame them? That's a shame.

BOYKIN: The fact that none of the black people in the piece would be interviewed on camera says a lot about the culture that exists in their community. It is not just there. There are a lot of places in the south as well and not just in the south, too.

But is this a sense where we are taught the sense of inferiority, we buy into the inferiority, and we can't challenge it because we live in a community that's 95 percent white in a small, rural community in the south? So, we are left with few options.

LEMON: Estherwood, do better.

SETMAYER: Yeah, do better. Just to be clear, Keith, I didn't say that racism doesn't exist.

LEMON: Yeah.

SETMAYER: I said racism like that --

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: -- is a whole different ballgame.

[23:54:59] BOYKIN: I'm just saying it exists everywhere.

SETMAYER: Of course it does, but that kind of stuff --

LEMON: We're going to take a fieldtrip. BOYKIN: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Thank you. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Refugees coming to America have escaped turmoil in their countries to build a better life. But upon arrival, they encountered new obstacles. Many struggle to find jobs with upward mobility. This week's CNN hero helps refugees showcase their talents and launch their culinary careers, getting them one step closer to achieving the American dream. Meet Carrie Brody (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we're teaching our students isn't just knife skills, and it isn't just cooking. It's the idea that you are human and you have value. And that's something people have tried to strip away from others for such a long time.

What's the dream team cooking up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Samba (ph) cake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Samba (ph) cake -- awesome.

That experience of watching our students transfrom, of seeing our students really come into their own, inspires me.

LEMON: To learn more about Carrie's (ph) program, and to nominate someone you think should be a CNN Heroe, go to cnnheroes.com.

Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.