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CNN TONIGHT

House Democrats Versus Bill Barr Over Transparency Issue; Joe Biden Found New Jokes from Controversy Hanging Around Him; Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) Interviewed About Congress' Next Move on the Mueller Report; Joe Biden Made His First Public Appearance Since a Number of Women Said He Made Them Uncomfortable; Virginia Leaders Remain in Office Despite Sexual Assault Allegations, Blackface Scandals; CNN Hero Craig Mitchell. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 5, 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.

As pressure mounts as Attorney General William Barr over his handling of the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, we may finally get some answers from Barr himself. He is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill next week about the Justice Department's budget but he'll likely will face questions about the Mueller report.

Don't forget House Democrats are demanding Barr release the full report without redactions. And judiciary committee chairman Jerry Nadler already has a subpoena in hand. He is vowing to issue it if Barr doesn't cooperate.

He's also turning up the heat, demanding the Justice Department turn over communications between Barr and Mueller. So far, the attorney general says he'll release a redacted version of Mueller's report by the middle of this month and that clock is surely ticking.

But in an extraordinary move some of Mueller's investigators who kept quiet about their work for two years, well, they're starting to express frustrations. Sources telling CNN that several of them are unhappy about Barr's handling of the report and how their findings were summarized in his four-page letter to Congress.

Sources say they believe their findings are more damaging to President Trump than the attorney general has let on. So, you can see there's lots to discuss.

Let's talk about it now. Juliette Kayyem is here. John Dean, and Ryan Lizza. Good evening to all of you. Thank you for joining us.

Juliette, Mueller's team is reportedly fuming, they are saying that Barr didn't accurately characterize their case in his four-page letter. Is his legitimacy, meaning, the attorney general, is his legitimacy on the line?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Absolutely.

LEMON: His legacy. excuse me, I should say.

KAYYEM: And that too. His legitimacy in terms of -- in terms of representing the Mueller report accurately as well as his legacy as someone who came in as sort of law and order Republican. He wasn't on the Trump bandwagon allegedly.

He is someone who, remember, when he testified, he said, look, I'm so old now. I know that the only story left is my last story. Which he presumably meant that he wanted it to be a good story about him supporting law and order.

So, I think, you know, I think he -- I mean, saying this from the beginning, I think he's playing this so poorly, Barr, from every perspective. He's lost the media, he's lost the confidence in the American public. The polling is horrible against him. He's lost members of Congress who are going to issue subpoenas and he's lost parts of the Mueller team if not Mueller himself.

That's kind of hard to do, right, relatively quickly. So, I think Barr has a lot of clean up. And if he does have to testify, my first question of him is going to be were there executive summaries in that report and why weren't they released?

LEMON: OK. Having said all of that, so then if he's worried about his legacy, right, he says I'm old or whatever, you know, what you said, then why mischaracterize it? What he mischaracterize it given what he said?

KAYYEM: I think I -- I think maybe a lot of people were wrong about Barr. I mean, in other words, maybe people get more partisan as they, you know, are in the trenches. Some people have described him as contrarian. So maybe that's like the role he likes.

But what he didn't do is, I don't think he serviced the Mueller investigation very well, nor the Department of Justice. Because you're looking at weeks and weeks now of fighting over pieces of paper that could have been released, even out of all of them, some pieces could have been released, instead he decides to do a four-pager. And even if I gave him for the benefit of the doubt it's been a couple of weeks now, I'm kind of tired of waiting.

LEMON: And he didn't have to release a summary. He could have said listen, there is so much here to -- I would rather the American people see it and make the judgment for themselves.

KAYYEM: Right.

LEMON: Or Congress is --

(CROSSTALK)

KAYYEM: And not make the judgment on the obstruction --

LEMON: Exactly.

KAYYEM: -- which now I don't believe that either. LEMON: So, John, you don't believe the obstruction?

KAYYEM: I don't believe Barr's characterization that Mueller punted the obstruction. I think it's very likely that Mueller might have said look, I don't know if I can indict a sitting president, but here's all the evidence. It looks bad. Congress, do something.

LEMON: John, the full report which could be released any day now is the only way to know if Barr misrepresented Mueller's findings. We don't know if he did, but that's the only way to find out. If that is the case you say Barr could be in legal trouble. Why do you say that?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there's no question that the federal statute applies to him. I looked it up today, 1505 in title 18 deals with obstruction of processes and misrepresentations. If he is not squaring with Congress when he sent that letter and that isn't an accurate representation, he could well cross the line. His intent would be pretty clear that he's trying to protect the president.

Don, I don't know why the man took the job. Not only is he putting his own reputation in jeopardy, he's putting the Department of Justice in some vulnerable position as well. So, yes, I think he does have exposure. If he's done any kind of false statement to the Congress and that will be borne out by what is in the actual report.

[23:04:57] LEMON: So, John, let me ask you the same question I ask Juliette. So, what's in it for him to mischaracterize if it's eventually going to come out? Because that would be horrible for him.

DEAN: I can't imagine him having any reason. But I do know he has for any president in essence taken care of some dirty business for him. When the Iran Contra investigation was going on and H.W. Bush was president, the way they cleaned it up just at the time that the Secretary of Defense, Cap Weinberger had been indicted and was facing trial, they issued pardons to everybody whose case hadn't been overturned.

And that resolved and the whole thing went away and the special counsel in that instance is not dissimilar from the current one. He's a long time Republican. He had been a judge, he was a straight shooter, he believed in the rule of law and he was very, very upset with that, those pardons.

LEMON: So, Ryan, the former FBI director, James Comey face enormous backlash for inserting his narrative on the Clinton e-mail investigation. I'm sure you remember that.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

LEMON: Is, you know, is Barr in a Comey situation right now?

LIZZA: Well, he sort of, the opposite of what Comey did, right? Is Comey put out an enormous amount of information about someone, Hillary Clinton, who was not indicted, right? There was a decision not to move forward with an indictment. And the criticism of Comey was well, if you weren't going to indict

her, why did you get up give a press conference and tell the world that -- and I'm forgetting the exact phrase -- but he said something like, you know, she had horrible judgment during --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Acted recklessly or something like that. Yes.

LIZZA: Yes, exactly. So, you know, the case for what Barr is doing, I suppose, is that not to do that to Trump. Right? That he is not going to be indicted, that they shouldn't smear the target or subject of the investigation.

And of course, Rosenstein, who's been advising him on the process and who oversaw the Mueller investigation was a serious critic of Comey and how he handled that. And you know, it's sort of in the DNA of Justice Department leadership. If you don't prosecute, you don't talk about it.

I don't think that is, I think when it comes to a presidential investigation of this caliber and it comes to something as important as what -- getting to the bottom of what Russia did in 2016, none of that really applies. I mean, we need to know every detail of an investigation like this. This isn't just sort of normal crime case against some citizen that people haven't heard of.

But I think I disagree a little bit uncharacteristically with Juliette and with John in that --

KAYYEM: I know.

LIZZA: I don't -- I don't -- I mean, you know, John is -- did Barr commit a crime here? I think we're going a little too far over our skis. We have to see the report and then we have to determine if there's a big gap between the four-page letter and the report.

LEMON: Well he didn't say he did. He said Barr could be in legal trouble.

LIZZA: I know.

LEMON: And he said he looked at the statute and he was --

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: But this guy -- this guy has been around the block a couple times.

KAYYEM: Yes.

LIZZA: I don't think Barr is stupid enough to write a letter that, you know, left him exposed to legal jeopardy.

LEMON: That was my question.

LIZZA: Yes.

LEMON: What's in it for him, you know, considering what he has to lose? One would think because there's so much public pressure, there's so much public interest, his legacy on the line, that he would be a straight shooter. So maybe what he's saying, maybe, it's -- you now, what he's saying is actually what the report says. That's a -- but you don't know.

LIZZA: But look, it's a 400-page report. So, you know, you could pluck out a couple lines and it could still be true what he said. But obviously you're leaving an enormous amount of detail out.

LEMON: Exactly. Yes. There you go. There you go. So again, see the report.

KAYYEM: I mean, I think -- I mean, I think that does not explain. I don't disagree with Ryan. I never disagree with Ryan, but --

LEMON: I do.

KAYYEM: No. But I think Barr is probably, you know, -- is one of the most complicated people in this if you're looking solely at motivation because he's not an idiot. He wasn't with Trump for the last 20 years, he's not a family member, and yet, he seems to be doing things that are really curious from the perspective of people who want transparency.

And so, I don't -- I can't answer like Ryan, I cannot answer that question. All I know is that at least if we believe the New York Times reporting, which I do, members of the Mueller team are not happy with that representation.

And the one thing that I think is the question we don't have answered yet is, and only Mueller can answer this with the prosecutors, is if it were anyone but Donald Trump, would this have been an easy case?

LEMON: Yes.

KAYYEM: And if the answer is yes, then, I mean, it seems to me then the evidence is clear the president, but for the fact that he's president did something pretty bad. And I think that's the only question I have, a very specific question.

[23:10:03] With all these facts, if it were Don Lemon, would you prosecute? If Mueller says yes, then, you know, it's a political question now. We're not going to indict a sitting president, apparently, but, you now, let Congress figure it out.

LIZZA: Yes.

LEMON: OK. So then getting to what we're saying. And I think maybe -- I want the former FBI director, maybe this will help because this is what he said about Barr, James Comey. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAMES COMEY, FORMER UNITED STATES FBI DIRECTOR: He is an

institutionalist. He loves the Department of Justice. The only thing he is going to the loss at this point in his career is his reputation. I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt and us uncharacteristically showing some patience to give him a chance to show us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I don't -- I don't disagree with that. I think he's right on, John. Do you disagree with that? He's strict institutionalist.

DEAN: That is certainly his reputation and hopefully that is the correct reading. He, the way he has fumbled this as Juliette was saying, is really quite out of character and not fully understandable. So, maybe he gave trump a pledge. I don't even, as I said, I don't know why he wanted the job, Don. It's very hard.

LEMON: Yes. So, you know, we'll see. That doesn't mean because you give him the benefit of the doubt and you don't understand why he would put his reputation on, it doesn't mean that report should not be released so that people can figure it out. And I think Congress isn't that their role, that's their job to make decisions and to weigh in on things like this? Quickly, Ryan, please.

LIZZA: That's actually the most important thing. Just to reiterate what Juliette said is the reason you don't indict a president the argument is because the remedy is up to Congress and that would be impeachment.

So, it's not like, you can't indict a president so he can do anything he wants. It's -- well, you can't indict him. The Justice Department doesn't indict because Congress does that.

LEMON: Yes.

LIZZA: So, if Barr did step in here short circuit the whole process and say there's no obstruction here and not give Congress the chance to weigh in on that, that is scandalous.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, Ryan. Thank you, Juliette.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

LIZZA: Thanks, Don. Have a good weekend.

LEMON: You, as well.

The House judiciary committee has authorized a subpoena for the full Mueller report. Will they use that power? I'm going to ask a member of the committee. There he is. Congressman Steve Cohen, next.

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The Attorney General William Barr is expected to release the Mueller report any day now. The question is how much will he actually release?

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee. He sits on the House judiciary committee. We're so appreciative of you joining us here on a Friday night. So, at this point, is anything less than the full Mueller report acceptable to you?

REP. STEVE COHEN, (D) TENNESSEE: Well, not really. I mean, we should see the full report and there are parts that the public shouldn't see if they deal with sources and methods of this intelligence community. There's probably a minimal amount of that.

Grand jury testimony, yes, that has to have the approval of Judge Howell or some other judge that will probably be allowed. And it's not that -- it does not -- it pales in comparison to the importance of the American public seeing what these special counsel's findings were on the activities of the president and his campaign and his team.

That's the most important thing that's going in this country for the last two years. That's basically as Richard Nixon so well put it is the president a crook? And the public needs to know and there's nothing more important to either let the public know who he is or let the public know who he isn't then to let that report be seen and to do anything less is to leave the president in purgatory.

LEMON: Yes.

COHEN: That's not good for the country and it's not good for the president.

LEMON: Your committee authorized the subpoena to get the complete, unredacted Mueller report along with its underlying evidence. Do you anticipate having to use this power?

COHEN: I certainly do. I don't think that Bill Barr will give us anything but a, what do they call it a, aspergated version, the abbreviated aspergated r-version of the report and there's a lot that we want to see because he was hired by Trump. Trump wasn't going to hire anybody that wasn't going to take care of him. There was a fusty in bargain.

For those people old enough to know Damn Yankees, he's Joe Hardy or Tab Hunter. He made a deal and the season is running on and I think it was put together by some folks that wanted to see he's continued to get conservative white wing judges and they are going to try to get McConnell to change the rules just last week to get as many as possible approved.

They're going to try to change the entire perspective and voice of the judicial branch. And I think that's why Barr went in was to guarantee that happened and nothing happened to Trump and they can continue to push their judges for the fusty in bargain.

LEMON: OK. So then let me ask you. If the Justice Department, they refuse to comply with that request, you're going to take the issue to court? COHEN: I think we'll have to. I mean, there's no question. They're

not going to comply. The Justice Department will not take it to court for contempt of Barr's contempt because he's in Justice Department. So we'll have to bring a contempt citation probably or contempt action in Congress to hold him in contempt.

Because the problem is if the attorney general doesn't comply with the subpoena, Congress's next step is to ask the Justice Department to enforce the subpoena and take it to court. I doubt the Justice Department will do that.

We'll have a constitutional crisis the next step would be go to the floor and ask for a contempt citation against the attorney general and I suspect we'll have enough votes to do it. Then we get into a real standoff.

LEMON: So, the attorney general is set to publicly testify before the House appropriations committee on Tuesday. It's been to talk about the budget. Do you think your colleagues are going to ask about the Mueller report?

[23:20:06] COHEN: I suspect somebody would. They'll have an opportunity to ask him some questions and I suspect somebody will take that opportunity.

LEMON: So, President Trump says even, you know, if every page of the report were made public, the party wouldn't -- your party wouldn't be happy. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you anything we give them will never be enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about the --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: We could give them it's a 400-page report, right? We could give them 800 pages and it wouldn't be enough. They'll always come back and say it's not enough. It's not enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What do you say, Congressman?

COHEN: Them is the public as well as Congress and Congress is the representatives of the public and so the president is basically saying to the public be dammed, and to your representative be damned. We don't want to give you the full report. And he's saying whatever we give you is not enough.

All he needs to give us is the full report and couple of three or four weeks ago before he went on his victory tour, if the full report is something he wanted to be, have us given. And all the Congress Democrats and Republicans voted for it. But the narrative has changed because they got a chance to put out

their phony four-page summary to say he was exonerated. He went and did his victory lap and claimed he was totally exonerated. Now he was exonerated he was made the king of heaven and he was going to be in charge of all the angels.

Just as well -- just as well as he won all course championships in golf which at rallies he told us about. The man his whole life is a lie and it's really sad that we're even talking about him but we have to until we vote him out or other manners we get -- have him removed. He does not belong in the White House. He's a stain on the American psyche.

LEMON: Well, Congressman, thank you. A lot to come. We'll be watching and we'll be reporting and we look forward to you coming back to give your perspective. Thank you so much. Have a good weekend.

COHEN: The truth is sometimes tough to take.

LEMON: Amen.

COHEN: Yes.

LEMON: Joe Biden joking in the wake of a controversy over women saying he made them uncomfortable. Did his joke land with voters or land him in hot water?

[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Former vice president Joe Biden made his first public appearance since a number of women complain that he made them uncomfortable. He weighed in on the controversy with not just one joke but two.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want you to know I had permission to hug Lonny.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: I didn't want you to have to stand all alone. By the way, he gave me permission to touch him.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Here's what he told reporters, unprompted after the event.

BIDEN: It wasn't my intent to make light of anyone's discomfort. I realize my responsibility is to not invade the space of anyone who is uncomfortable in that regard. I hope it wasn't taken that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: So, let's discuss. Symone Sanders, Alice Stewart, Bakari Sellers, and Amanda Carpenter, the author of "Gaslighting America: Why We Love it When Trump Lies To Us." Look at this esteemed group of folks I have to discuss this with.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi, Don.

LEMON: So, let's -- OK. So, this has been like a talker all week, right? Bakari, you can hear that joking it got -- it got a laugh. What do you make of his comments?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all I'm giggling because you came to me and you have these three women on the panel who I'm sure --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Well, that was -- the joke -- no, no. The joke was about kids. There were kids there. So that's why I ask.

SELLERS: So, you now, one of the things that I will say is that this has to be a nuanced discussion. Joe Biden doesn't belong in the same category as people who've committed sexual assault or harassment. But what we can say that is that those acts of smelling women's hair and invading their space has been extremely and utterly weird over periods of time. That's first.

The second thing is there are a lot of people now who have not had an issue with Joe Biden in him doing this or having this behavior but now that he's considering running for president of the United States, now they're raising their voices. I think that's a problem.

If you've always had an issue with it, so be it. But now if you're new to the ball game simply because he's running for president, I think that's a problem. But I also think the overarching theme is that Joe Biden really, he's bad at this running for president thing. There's no reason for him to make those jokes today. I think they were cringe worthy, I think especially when you have this face to camera apology and then you look as if you learned absolutely nothing.

This is the same Joe Biden that's never won a primary in a race for president and this is him going on third time running.

LEMON: OK.

SELLERS: And he just doesn't do the whole presidential run thing well and I think he's going to bumble his way through it and his roll out pretty much sucked.

LEMON: All right. Let me ask you guys, because I just wanted you -- I mean, you went on this -- thank you. But I just you to do the comments that he made there. So, let me just go around and ask. So, what did you -- what did you think of the comments, Amanda?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It wasn't a real apology. he's going to give a real apology because I think -- (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I meant the joke. I was talking about the joke?

CARPENTER: The joke, well, you don't joke about things that you're sorry for. And here's the point. I don't think he's sorry.

LEMON: OK.

CARPENTER: He's 70 plus years old. He is a guy who has no filter. It's part of the reason why people love him. And he's not going to start touching people. He just physically can't undo that instinct that he has.

LEMON: OK.

CARPENTER: But a question about the timing, which Bakari raises and other people have raised. I can tell you I didn't notice how close he got to women until he became vice president and I started seeing a lot more pictures.

[23:30:06] You started seeing the slide shows, you started seeing him perform at these swearing-in ceremonies, getting really close to women and children and saying inappropriate things.

LEMON: And men, too. There are pictures of him doing these similar things with men.

CARPENTER: Yeah. He is a guy like he just wants to get close to everyone, and I observed this even when I was reporting on Capitol Hill. I would ask him a question and he would physically touch me on the shoulders. I thought it was kind of odd, but, you know, he's Joe Biden.

LEMON: OK. Let me get -- what do you think, Alice?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SENATOR TED CRUZ: Look --

LEMON: Of the joke.

STEWART: Of the jokes, they were not funny and inappropriate given the timing of them. And this is a situation where he needs to just avoid this topic altogether. He did well with his video apology saying that societal norms have changed, and he needs to be more mindful and respectful of invading people's personal space, period. Mic drop, end of sentence --

LEMON: OK.

STEWART: -- move on.

LEMON: What do you think, Symone?

STEWART: Doesn't need to continue to bring it up.

LEMON: Of the joke.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I didn't think the joke was funny, and I didn't think it was funny because for lots of little girls and women watching, what they saw was is someone coming forward saying they don't like something that someone did, someone made them feel uncomfortable, and then the response was the man or the gentleman in the situation making light of it.

But look, I don't think Joe Biden truly meant any harm. I think it was an off-the-cuff careless remark, which is why you saw him go to camera after as soon as he got off the stage, went to camera unprompted. I think that this is something that won't keep him out of the race for president and voters are going to have to make a decision about if this disqualifying for him or not.

But I think this is something that will continue to come up, and he is having a real-time conversation with the American people. And that's more than I can say for Donald Trump. These are two again, to Bakari's point, very different things.

LEMON: Don't get mad at me. I thought it was funny.

SANDERS: It was not funny, Don.

LEMON: I don't see what the -- if he had been accused of something that was sexual, totally different story.

CARPENTER: But, Don --

LEMON: Hold on, hold on, hold on.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Hold on. And not to say that if you invade someone's personal space, then you have a right to feel the way that you feel. I live in New York City. You can't go to whole foods without someone getting in your space.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Don --

LEMON: Hold on, hold on, hold on. As a matter of fact, we were in there the other day and were standing. Everybody is trying to get around this woman and people are saying, "Excuse me." She turns and says, "How dare you, how dare you get into a woman's personal space like that," and we're all looking, like, "We're just trying to get to the cash register, lady. Can you move out of the way?"

So, listen, I understand that, but I just think that this whole issue is just so much -- it's just too much. Like just -- can we just stop it? If someone makes you uncomfortable, tell them in the moment.

SANDERS: Right. And I would just like to say, some people have told him and he said that I heard you and I'm hearing you. And then to some people, it looks as though he went out the next day and made light of what people felt was so serious that they wanted to come forward and tell the world and the newspapers and so on and so forth. I just think that was what's wrong with the joke.

Again, I agree it is not the same thing as Donald Trump. I think that we should be able to have a nuance conversation and talk about the spectrum. Folks are just talking about personal space where Vice President Biden is concerned. Donald Trump has been incredibly through (ph) sexual assault --

LEMON: I also don't -- listen --

SANDERS: -- sexual harassment.

LEMON: -- I also think -- you guys -- ladies on the panel, you can yell at me if you want. Listen, I grew up with, for a long time after, you know, my dad died, a single mom, very strong woman. I work with very strong women on my team in this network. They run the show. They run the network. They are not powerless. Women are not powerless.

Women have the agency to be able to tell someone in the moment how they feel. And I think this whole discussion sometimes makes women seem like they are powerless in the moment not to be able to speak out against someone who makes them uncomfortable. And coming out sometimes -- I mean, it does, maybe it's not --

SANDERS: Don --

LEMON: -- sometimes it feels like --

SANDERS: We don't want to be the -- I don't know if you know what it feels like to have -- to always be the woman to speak out and say, all right, all right, guys, can we not be --

LEMON: I don't.

SANDERS: -- a little sexist today? But no one wants to be that person.

LEMON: But you would say that, Symone. But you would say that.

SANDERS: Let me just say this. I was at lunch the other day with a sitting United States senator. We walk out of the lunch and someone reaches out and stops her. She says, "Hey, aren't you a Dartmouth girl?" I was dumbfounded because she's a sitting United States senator. And she took it with grace.

She said, "I did attend Dartmouth, is there a question that you had?" They had exchanges. She walked out. And I said, "Don't they know you're a sitting United States senator?" And she says, "You should not be surprised that this happens every day, and every day you got to pick your battle." And so it is not like people aren't speaking up. Come on, Don.

STEWART: Don, I do think the takeaway from here is women are not powerless. They can speak up, now. Now that we've gotten --

LEMON: Right.

STEWART: -- to this point where they feel they can speak up.

[23:34:58] Once again, we go back to the point I do not think Joe Biden meant any harm. I do not think he meant to make anyone uncomfortable. But the takeaway from this is not what he intended to do or how he intended to make someone feel. It is how it was received by that woman. And that's what we need to keep in mind.

And by him going out there making jokes about it today, it just took away from any good he did with the video apology. So moving forward, unfortunately we have to get into a point where you have to watch every single thing you say and every single way you approach a person these days because we are in an absolutely new and different era.

CARPENTER: Can I just add it is not just about what Joe Biden made the person he touched feel like. When I watched him put his arms around Ash Carter's wife during his announcement ceremony, I thought it was weird. A number of other people thought it was weird. Now, she has come out and --

LEMON: She said it wasn't.

CARPENTER: She said she wasn't. But as a woman watching that, I have questions in real time. Why is he touching her? Why is he lingering over her like that? It wasn't appropriate. It wasn't an appropriate touching for a professional setting. Maybe she thought it was OK, but I don't think that's how a vice president should just be touching somebody in a public setting --

SANDERS: But --

CARPENTER: -- when it is about someone else being announced as a nominee.

LEMON: OK, so let me ask -- I want to ask a question before I go to break.

SANDERS: To that point, Mrs. Carter said -- I just want to say, to that point, Mrs. Carter said she was fine. And so --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let me ask a question. Listen, part of what I do here is play "Devil's Advocate." I have to say this. Someone who is very close to me, a very strong woman, said about this particular thing, said that the "Me Too" movement has swung the pendulum way too far, and this is not the same thing and people are categorizing this the same way.

She said, "I've been a working woman for a long time, I've an attractive woman for a long time. Men have done these things to me and there's a certain way you handle it and a certain way you don't." Maybe this woman is old school.

But I am just saying there's a certain segment of the population, I think a large segment of the population that thinks that people are just way too sensitive now, especially if the intention and the intention is not sexual, and if someone makes you uncomfortable, why does it take 10, 20 years for you to come out and say -- I can understand if there is an accusation of sexual assault or something that you feel horrible about if they did something, but just for someone to -- people make people uncomfortable all the time.

CARPENTER: It's because Joe Biden is about to run for president.

LEMON: They are close talkers. I know men that are close talkers. They make me uncomfortable. I'm not going to say that disqualifies them for being president or that I need to take some sort of legal action because they're a close talker.

STEWART: I think the key, as you say, the "Me Too" movement has -- it really has swung the pendulum in completely different direction. One way it is good. It gives women the opportunity to speak up. But we can't take every single situation the same. There's a completely different situation between someone who inappropriately makes someone uncomfortable and someone who unapologetically objectifies women on a regular basis.

We have to take each and every one of this separately and individually, give the women the power to speak up, but realize not every single situation is the same and we need address them in a different light.

SANDERS: So I think it's the media and the greater public that has a problem with nuance here. No one came out and said Joe Biden engaged in any form of sexual assault or sexual harassment. What the women came out and said is, "He made me feel uncomfortable."

They vice president said, "OK, I hear you. I will take stock of what I'm doing. I will try my hardest not to do that again." And then folks automatically jumped to "Me Too." Nobody said this was "Me Too" but because we are not used to having conversations in public about consent, about the spectrum of harm, about what can make somebody uncomfortable. We automatically jump to lumping -- many of us lumping everything into one box.

And so if I think there's any lesson here, it's for the broader political apparatus. And I would say the media to be able to have a nuanced conversation and not automatically jump to an extreme. The "Me Too" movement hasn't swung too far, the media has.

LEMON: And that's what we're doing right here because I haven't really seen a really honest conversation about this and it has been vexing me. So, Amanda, you didn't get to weigh in on this, but can I please let Bakari speak right now?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: -- I've said that but I want to hear from you, guys. So, you know, but go on, Bakari, sorry.

SELLERS: No, I actually think there's an appropriate time for most men just to shut up and listen. (LAUGHTER)

SELLERS: So I'm enjoying listening to Symone, Alice, and Amanda. I think sometimes we just need to be quiet and learn as much as possible.

LEMON: Yeah.

SELLERS: So, I will cede my time to the three women.

LEMON: Go ahead, Alice. Go ahead, Amanda, sorry.

CARPENTER: I will say one thing. Joe Biden is a decent guy. I think this can easily be fixed with a Biden rule. Don't hug somebody unless they hug you first. There are plenty out there that do want to hug Joe Biden.

LEMON: Yeah. OK. How much time do we have? Do we need to go to break? Yes? No? OK, so listen. Let's talk about the president's response, all right?

[23:40:01] So Alice, the president was asked about this today. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): What exactly is offensive about Joe Biden's behavior and are you the right messenger for that?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yeah, I think I'm a very good messenger. People got a kick out of it. He's going through a situation. Let's see what happens. But people got a kick. We got to show a smile a little bit, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: I mean, Alice, he's a very good messenger in this case, really?

STEWART: He is the person that I voted for. I support his policies. I've said many times, I don't support this behavior. And when you are a person who has paid of a porn star, you are not in the right position to be condemning someone for inappropriate touching. You need to stay out of that lane, actually get in an absolutely another pool and never swim in the lane of condemning someone for this type of behavior.

He is not the messenger on this. They shouldn't take up this message. It shouldn't be fought. He needs to focus on the border, immigration, anything, but this topic right here. He's not someone who needs to weigh in on this.

LEMON: Symone, you saw that doctored video that the president posted making fun of Joe Biden. But, you know, today says that he doesn't see Biden as threat. Are you buying that? SANDERS: I think Donald Trump is very much concerned about his prospect at reelection and that is why you see him doing a whole manner of things, grasping straws, if you will, to try to get attention, to try to let catch fire, go viral.

So people aren't talking about his policies, aren't talking about how Jamie Dimon had a letterer that he sent to his entire company and shareholders talking about how they got huge tax cuts, thanks to president's tax legislation. He doesn't want to talk about how there is a crisis at the border, a manufactured Trump crisis, and how he has walked back many things.

Just this week, he is talking about he was going to close the border down. Now, he's not. He is going to wait for Mexico. He's just a mess. And so what I think Donald Trump is doing is -- he's very concerned.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: I think anyone of the Democratic candidates who have got in the race, folks that are even yet to announce like Vice President Biden, we all, I believe, think he is, would be a better pick for president than Donald Trump.

LEMON: All right.

SELLERS: Can I ask you a question?

LEMON: Go on. I don't have a lot of time but go on.

SELLERS: I have a question of why Democrats are the only party having a conversation about morality and ethics, and what's good and right and just in the country, and what being a role model and example looks like. The fact that the Republicans can turn a blind eye to that and say and separate policy "from who the man is," is troubling because it erodes the moral fiber of our country.

And so when you look at somebody like Donald Trump, who said on tape -- what does he do? Pop a Tic Tac in his mouth and just kiss him in the mouth, grab them by the, you know what, or have credible cases of sexual harassment, and then for him to lack the self-awareness and have the heavy dose of psychopathy to actually think that he can discuss this issue with any credibility and Republicans just simply say that's who he is, no worries, I mean, that's a problem.

And the Republican Party, they used to have this corner where you would think that they were the straight-laced ethical party, not anymore. Donald Trump has eroded the ethical fiber of the Republican Party and no one seems to care.

LEMON: We'll be right back.

[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Remember the uproar over blackface scandals involving Virginia's governor and attorney general? Well, remember the sexual assault allegations against the lieutenant governor? Allegations he has denied. All of that happened just two months ago. And all three are still in office. CNN's Jessica Dean has an update.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The trees and flowers scream spring in Richmond, Virginia. While the seasons have changed, some things are very much the same. Two months after scandal engulfed the top three officials in the commonwealth, all remain in office.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like this is just a story we've seen a bunch of times. People do something bad, we talk about it a little bit, and then they just get off it scot-free.

DEAN: Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax faces two accusations of sexual assault, allegations he denies. And despite renewed attention, there are still no official investigations or hearings set.

Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, who both found themselves embroiled in blackface controversies, have moved forward with business as usual, as have many Virginians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's amazing because I forgot myself. It was just so egregious and atrocious yesterday, tomorrow there's a new atrocity.

DEAN: On Wednesday, the state capitol buzzed with energy. The legislature was back in session and demonstrators filled the capitol lawn. But they were not there to protest any of these scandals. But Republicans are trying to revive attention on those scandals with House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert holding a press conference, talking about Fairfax and questions surrounding Northam.

TODD GILBERT (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER, VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY: We still have questions related to his promises.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: It is definitely not me.

DEAN: It was early February when Northam, a Democrat, apologized, admitted, and then denied being in a photo from his medical school year book, which shows one person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. A chorus of state and national Democrats called on him to step down.

NORTHAM: If I were to listen on the voices calling on me to resign my office today, I could spare myself from the difficult path that lies ahead.

DEAN: Northam promised to make amends and has continued on with business as usual. Fairfax, also a Democrat, still faces accusations of sexual assault from two women, Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson.

[23:50:04] VANESSA TYSON, FAIRFAX ACCUSER: I honestly didn't know what was going on and then the next thing I know, like, my head is like literally in his crouch and then choking and gagging.

MEREDITH WATSON, FAIRFAX ACCUSER: He forcibly sexually assaulted and raped me. DEAN: The women and Virginia Republicans have called for bipartisan open hearings in the state legislature. Fairfax has called on officials to investigate the allegations.

JUSTIN FAIRFAX, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA: I look forward to clearing mu good name.

DEAN: Meantime, Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring admitted and apologized for using blackface in his past, saying "I had a callous and inexcusable lack of awareness."

A Washington Post poll from February showed Virginians split on whether Governor Northam should stay in office, but he had more support from African-Americans with 58 percent saying he should not step down while 37 percent thought he should. We stopped by Richmond's Monroe Park to see how people felt now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: PC answer would be yes, they should vacate office, but in our current climate, I would have to say no.

DEAN: Because the president has set the bar --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's set the bar. You can do what you want, say what you want, and there are no repercussions.

DEAN: Asked for Northam specifically --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The real problem is the environment that encouraged that kind of thing in the first place. And that's what has to change.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN: And we talked to a number of people off camera as well and one person told me, as a black man, he experiences racism all the time, and he simply was not surprised by the blackface controversies. Don?

LEMON: Jessica, thank you so much. We'll be right back.

[23:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: When he's not pounding his gavel, this week's CNN hero is pounding the pavement, three times a week, every week. Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell wakes up at 3:30 a.m., runs through L.A.'s notorious Skid Row neighborhood to try to change the lives of those struggling with poverty, homelessness, and addiction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG MITCHELL, CNN HERO: Running is a mechanism for the participants to build relationships.

This is the one time I'm at the front of the pack.

(LAUGHTER) MITCHELL: Lawyers, social workers, people from all different walks of life running with people who are recovering from addiction and homelessness.

Good job.

We affirm, we listen, we support. It shows what open-minded people who really care about each other, how they can treat one another, and it's a lesson in and of itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: To experience Judge Mitchell's transformative Skid Row running community and to nominate someone you think should be a CNN hero, go to cnnheroes.com right now.

Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)