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Attorney General Bill Barr To Face Lawmakers On The Hill; President Trump And Sen. Bernie Sanders (D) Vermont Not Releasing Their Tax Returns; Three Black Churches Burned Down In Louisiana In 10 Days; Barak Obama Warns Against A 'Circular Firing Squad' Over Ideological Purity Among Dems; Felicity Huffman Pleads Guilty In College Admissions Scandal. Aired 11-12a ET
Aired April 8, 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.
Just hours from now, just hours, the Attorney General, William Barr, will face a congressional committee for the first time since he released his four-paged letter about the Mueller report.
While the pressure is on for Barr to explain why he decided to summed up a nearly 400-pahe report on a 22-month investigation using just a handful of lines from the actual report.
Democrats on the committee are planning to drill down on that tomorrow. The chairwoman, Nita Lowey, saying this is a quote, in part, "Even for someone who has done this job before, I would argue it is more suspicious than impressive."
Attorney general says he'll release a redacted version by the special counsel's report by the middle of this month and the clock is ticking. It could come any day now. The problem is we don't know how much of the report that we'll actually see because the A.G. is the one making the calls on what will be redacted.
So, will lawmakers press him on what he's going to leave out and why? We're going to find out soon, for sure that's one thing. Don't know when but stay tuned.
I want to bring in now Ryan Lizza, Susan Glasser, and Renato Mariotti. Good evening, everyone.
We'll eventually find out. They are going to release it. They said by the end of the month. It could come soon but we'll find out how much is going to be redacted, how much won't.
Susan, I'm going to start with you. So, the attorney general is headed to the Hill tomorrow. Democrats are going to press him about the Russia investigation, everything they could. You think we're going to get clues about how much of the report is redacted and why?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, it's a great question. I mean, this is previously scheduled budget testimony, right? And it comes right in the middle of this whole Mueller thing. I imagine most of the members of the committee would have been willing to postpone the hearing to get to the report.
GLASSER: And vice versa. And yet, it seems that we're not expecting him to announce the report tomorrow. And again, it's interesting to me because it suggests he'd rather get beaten up by Democrats on the committee about the timing and the process by which he's undergoing his review of the Mueller report than he would about the substance of the report itself.
And so, what does that tells us, in a way to me, that already is indicative of something. I'm not sure what. But it seems that he'd rather have a process fight than to have substance fight about what's in the Mueller report. And they seem to be wanting to, you know, make sure that the report comes out after the attorney general's testimony.
So, again, it's already been weeks. And I think the information that came out last week to me was quite a bomb shell in indicating there were summaries that were more or less ready to be released to the public, via the Mueller team and the attorney general has chosen not to release them.
LEMON: Yes, so basically have more.
GLASSER: So, I imagine that's going to be the top question.
LEMON: Yes. Yes. Ryan, listen, CNN has obtained an excerpt from the opening statement of the chair of the House appropriations committee and it reads like this.
It says, "I must say it's extraordinary to evaluate hundreds of pages of evidence, legal documents, and findings based on a 22-month long inquiry and make definitive legal conclusions in less than 48 hours. Even for someone who has done the before, I would argue it is more suspicious than impressive. Your conclusion is something we have seen before, in fact, we've seen it in your own legal writing. Your audition clearly went well."
It's not going to be easy for Barr tomorrow. Will it?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think so. First of all, before I start, Don, I can't start without wishing you a hearty congratulations on your engagement.
LEMON: Thank you.
RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Amen.
LEMON: Thank you.
LIZZA: People are tuning at eight or, you know, eight o'clock on the West Coast.
LEMON: Thank you. Thank you.
LIZZA: Well, congrats, man.
LEMON: All right. Thank you. The American people want to know about this probably more than my engagement, so let's go on.
LIZZA: Well, I think that a lot of viewers don't want to know about it, come on.
MARIOTTI: Yes, congratulations.
LIZZA: So, look, I think this is going to be in one of those committees where you get a good sense from the Democrats of the suspicions they have and the questions they have and that we've all been bouncing around for a few weeks now but you don't get a lot of answers.
Because look, Barr, I am quite confident is not going to go very far beyond the two letters he's already released, right? He's going to get beat up for that. But I think he's going to wait until the report is released and he comes back to testify.
I think tomorrow is going to be, you know, where he gets smacked around. Democrats, as we just saw with that excerpt, raised the important questions that a lot of people have.
But he is probably unlikely to be very satisfying in what he tells us because the report is not out. The one thing I think he could clear up is whether he had more than 48 hours to make the decision on obstruction of justice.
LEMON: They gave it to him early, like a week or two before, right?
LEMON: That they would make amends.
[23:05:00] LIZZA: That has been reported but without an on-the-record confirmation.
LIZZA: So, it would be important for him to clear that up.
LEMON: OK. So, Renato, let me bring you in. Because you say that Barr could have would work in a bipartisan way with congressional leaders to figure out how to get as much information to them as possible, but he didn't. Why -- what does that say to you?
MARIOTTI: It says to me that he was misleading the United States Senate when he suggests that he was going to act to have full transparency. You know, I would be -- I would feel totally misled if I was a member of the United States Senate.
I mean, I -- if you vote to confirm someone based on, you know, them saying they're going to be fully transparent; they want to get things out as soon as possible. I mean, Barr has had this thing now for weeks. He hasn't even released a single full sentence.
He could have reached out to people like Nadler and Pelosi and some of these Congressional leaders, show the full report to them in a, you know, in a controlled setting and explain to them what the issues were and come out with a way to get as much out, you know, out to them as soon as possible and get as much out to the public as soon as possible.
And the idea that there aren't portions of it that he can quote, there aren't portions of it that can be released or that somehow there's some security risk that makes it so that Nancy Pelosi or Jerry Nadler, or some other congressional leader can't see this thing, it's just, it's hard to believe.
And frankly, he has a constitutional duty to provide this to the House of Representatives. You know, frankly, they are being wise by giving him time so that this way it will be easier for court to pull their access to this. But it shouldn't be that way.
It shouldn't be that they have to fight with him to get the report. He should be working with the other side because this is a moment on American history.
MARIOTTI: And he should be viewing it that way instead of this a partisan issue.
LEMON: Look, Susan, I've been asking this question, you know, since this came out. What is in it for Barr to mislead the public, especially considering where he is now with his career? He was attorney general for President George H.W. Bush. He was in establishment guy. Is this legacy on the line here with this Mueller report?
GLASSER: Well, look, I think that his actions over the last few weeks are certainly going to be under enormous scrutiny and if it is found or people determined that he has misled the public in any way about the bottom line conclusions in this, it's absolutely going to be something that is going to be a big part of his political record. And that makes it all the more astonishing. We've --
LEMON: But can I ask you something, Susan? You said in the bottom- line conclusions, maybe on the bottom-line conclusions because they did leave one up to him and some people say, well, actually what Mueller was doing he was leaving up to the Congress. But listen --
GLASSER: Well, that's right.
LEMON: That's neither here or there. You can talk about that. But I'm just -- I'm just wondering, maybe he's right on the bottom-line conclusions. It's the in-between and all the other things that maybe that people may look unfavorably upon if they learn this about their president.
Go on. Sorry to interrupt.
GLASSER: No, no, no, I think you're exactly right. I mean, I imagine that both sides are going to have a very different narrative about the attorney general's conduct here.
And in one way, as we learned with -- by the way, with James Comey, he maybe more concerned about the criticism that he's about to get from the right and from President Trump's allies than he is from the people who are looking at this from the point of view of what's the critical material about President Trump that's in there.
You may see Republicans; you already see some of this showing up and I strongly suspect that over the next couple of weeks they're actually going to criticize Barr for somehow not being a faithful enough water carrier for the president.
GLASSER: And so that's one thing I would keep my eyes open for the next couple of weeks.
LEMON: OK. Ryan, listen, Democrats have been united in demanding the full release of the Mueller report. polling shows that the public wants to see it too. There it is right there. Eighty-four percent say make it public. Do you think any of that matters to Barr?
LIZZA: First of all, it's pretty amazing in American politics to get 84 percent of Americans to agree on any political question. So that is -- that -- you don't see something -- you don't see a number like that. That is amazing. I haven't seen that number until you just showed it. And what was the question, Don about the --
LEMON: So, you think that the American people, will it matter to Barr that most of the American people, as you said, that's a pretty big number?
LIZZA: I think so. I mean, look, he is a political actor. You know, everyone in an administration is, you know, aware of public opinion on the big issues that they have to decide. Look, he said he's going to release the report, right? There's clearly, so that poll and the Democrats, like Nadler, sending all these letters and putting the daily pressure on him, you know, that has to weigh on him in terms of his decision making about these redactions and how much to show. Right?
Because there's going to be a fight no matter whatever he redacts, there is going to be a fight from the, you know, the overwhelming majority of people up on the Hill and in the media and from that poll in the public who want the whole thing out there. So, he has to be aware that his redactions have to be on very, very solid, factual and legal grounds because they're going to be challenged.
[23:10:06] LEMON: A concise answer, if you will, Renato. Do you think that Democrats are asking, because you talked about -- do you think, didn't you say some things should not be -- we shouldn't see or members of Congress shouldn't see some of the things that are in the report? But do you --
MARIOTTI: I think members of Congress should see the whole thing. I don't think necessarily the public should see classified information or certain grand jury materials that might be sensitive.
LEMON: So, do you think Democrats will be satisfied with the version that is redacted if he -- because he's indicating that he has to do it.
MARIOTTI: Yes. If Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Nadler get on a stage and say they've seen what's under the redactions and they're fine with it, Democrats will be fine with it. That's what needs to have happened, and that's what Barr should be doing.
LEMON: Thank you, all. I appreciate it.
LIZZA: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Bernie Sanders is sounding an awful lot like President Trump when it comes to his tax returns. Why are there both keeping their returns under wrap? What are they trying to hide?
[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The Trump administration faces a Wednesday deadline to respond to House Democrats demands for the president's tax returns. That, while Democratic 2020 candidate Bernie Sanders is holding back his tax returns after saying in February that he'd release them sooner rather than later.
So, let's talk about all of this what's going on right now. Karen Finney is here, Scott Jennings, and Rick Wilson. Rick is the author of "Everything Trump Touches Dies."
Hello, everyone. Rick, if there's one thing Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have in common it is a reluctance to release their tax returns despite repeatedly pledging to do so. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I with will release my tax returns and that's against my lawyers, they say don't do it.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: Yes, we will. I mean, we have it all done and it's just a question of dotting the i's and crossing the t's. TRUMP: I want to release my tax returns but I can't release it while
I'm under an audit.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: When do you think we'll be able to see your tax returns?
SANDERS: Sooner than later.
TRUMP: When the audit is finished, I'll release my tax returns.
SANDERS: April 15th is coming and that will be the tenth year and we will make them all public. I'm delighted to do that, proud to do that. Hey, Mr. Trump, you do the same thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, what are they trying to hide?
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Don, I think it's simple. I think that Donald Trump doesn't want people to know that he's not rich as he says he is and I think that Bernie Sanders doesn't want people to know that he's more rich than he says he is.
I mean, these guys are both engaging in a pretty breathtaking act of political hypocrisy. Although in Bernie's case, it's just, the thing it's just rich with irony because, you know, he's giving Donald Trump a weapon to cut off his head if he becomes the Democratic nominee.
LEMON: Yes. That's a good assessment. The only reason I could think is that maybe Bernie Sanders wants people to think that he's one with the people and he may make more money, maybe more well off than people think he is. But I don't know if that all will make a difference.
Because listen, it doesn't make a difference on the other side with Trump even he's not as rich as he says he is --
LEMON: -- that his people and his folks still, you now, they buy it. Karen, did President Trump set a precedent that Bernie Sanders or anybody else can now follow?
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. And I think we have to separate the two things, right? I mean, number one, Bernie is now the frontrunner in the Democratic primary. He is no longer, you know, the candidate who is trying to take on the establishment. That's why, you know, he's not the protest candidate.
So, I think that's part of why this issue has both come back around again. obviously, also because Democrats are trying to see Donald Trump's tax returns. And the fact that frankly in 2016 throughout the primary he kind of kept kicking the can down the road with the issue, and I think it sort of become the kind of thing where he should just, you know, release the returns and get the issue off of the table.
But I think that's very different than what we're talking about with Donald trump. I mean, yes, there's hypocrisy, ad hypocrisy to both of it. But with Trump we're actually talking about potential laws being broken. We're not just talking about, you know, maybe him over inflating, you know, his own earnings.
LEMON: Although that can be illegal depending on the circumstances. Go on. Yes.
FINNEY: Yes, it can. But we also know, for example, that he may be getting rich off of being the president, right, because he didn't divest from his company as he said he would do. And so, and we heard from his former attorney that he, at times, would overvalue, you know, for one purpose and undervalue for another purpose.
We know there are a ton of lawsuits ongoing. So, I think with regard to President Trump, in addition to the fact that a, he said he would do it, and b, it is a long-standing tradition that he has broken see most importantly, there may actually be defrauding of the American taxpayer, and the American public and breaking of other laws.
LEMON: There is a --
FINNEY: So, I think we should keep the two things a little bit distinct there.
LEMON: There is a big difference. I mean, one has been president for two years and promise to do it and hasn't, and the other one is still a candidate and did not win last time but still a candidate not the president. But if he gets closer, he'd become, the nomination I think, Democrats should put just as much pressure on him to release his tax returns as they did with President Trump. Although it would be different, business, who knows. But who knows? Who knows?
It's interesting I've been watching, you know, the sort of the talking points about well, we're trying to protect private citizens and all that. Well, the president is not a private citizen, so that doesn't even play either.
Once again it is important to note that there is no IRS. Scott, this is for you. No IRS rule which prevents the president from releasing his tax returns, even if he were under audit. Why keep hiding behind that line?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know. I mean, I think that the president -- you know, that's the reason he laid out and he stuck with it. I don't know that it's a valid reason. I don't know that it's invalid. But that's what he's decided to go with.
[23:20:03] I mean, if I were running for president, I'd probably release mine. I think if I had taken the position that Trump has taken after all these years now, I guess I'd keep fighting it as well.
You know, for Sanders he's playing to a different electorate. I think the Democratic primary constituency probably is going to be more disdainful of it than the Republican primary constituency was for Trump in 2016.
And I think for the Trump folks, he's got several lines of inquiry here. He's got congressional investigations and other legal issues going on that may wind up forcing these things into the public anyway. So, there's probably some strategic school of thought here that you may need to get this out on your own terms as opposed to letting it come out on someone else's terms.
JENNINGS: I think that -- I think that ultimately, we're going to find out that Donald Trump is a pretty wealthy guy and if you're in real estate you get to take advantage of a lot of stuff that normal people don't get to take advantage of. And for Sanders, yes, we're going to find out he's rich guy with a bunch of houses and that doesn't square with his talking points either.
FINNEY: But I think let's not forget. I mean, let's call this what it is. I mean, Donald Trump is lying. It is a lie to say that because you're under audit from the IRS and you know, that somehow you can't then show your tax returns. And it is it the way of Donald Trump to keep leaning into those lies because, you know, once he's invested in a particular lie, he just keeps repeating it over and over and over again.
And it's likely that most Americans don't realize and they're probably not thinking about, you know, whether or not that matters. What they will care about, though, and I do think this is where it will become an issue in the general election is, if you have defrauded the American people, right -- I mean, remember he bragged during 2016 about the fact that he's so smart because he doesn't pay taxes.
Now what that also says is, so you think you don't have to play by the same rules as the rest of us. And I'll tell you what, Don, you know, this year people are going to find out -- most middle class and lower income Americans are not going to get back as much money in their own tax returns as they thought they might as President Trump --
FINNEY: -- told them they would.
LEMON: I want to --
FINNEY: So, it's going to matter.
LEMON: I want to get Rick in and I want to play this. This is Mick Mulvaney. Mick Mulvaney is the acting chief of staff. And I just you to play this -- I just want to play this for Rick. This was he talks about requesting the president's tax returns. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be clear, you believe Democrats will never see the president's tax returns? MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: No, never. Nor
should they. Keep in mind, that's an issue that was already litigated during the election. Voters knew the president could have given his tax returns, they knew that he didn't and they elected him anyway, which of course what drives the Democrats crazy.
But they know that they are not going to get this. They just want the attention on the issue because they don't want to talk to us about policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Is that a legitimate excuse? It's already been litigated?
WILSON: Well, first off, the argument that it's been litigated during the election is completely fallacious. It makes no difference whatever where it stood as an issue in the election. The fact is that the law allows the congressional committee to request these documents from the IRS.
And tomorrow, Steve Mnuchin has got a big decision to make. Is he going to basically hold himself in contempt of Congress to try to protect the president's tax returns? And I think he probably will. I think that we're going to end up with this thing in court.
But Mick is absolutely mistaken that it matters that all whether it was an issue in the campaign. It is a matter of law and the rule of law still does count in this country.
And you know, and I go back to what one thing in this whole discussion, Don. There used to be this thing in this country where we had these norms and institutional value where presidential candidates gave their tax returns to the American people to have a look at.
Donald Trump's reasons for hiding his tax returns are probably nefarious to some degree, probably embarrassing to some other degree. But Bernie Sanders is not helping preserve our norms in institutions by hiding his tax returns and playing insane games with Donald Trump.
But I think Mulvaney is fundamentally wrong here. And I think that we will end up seeing these returns at some point. Whether it's through the current situation in Congress or whether it's to the fact that New York State is now going to request his state tax returns which largely parallel at the federal tax returns given New York's Tax Code.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, all. I appreciate your time. I got to tell you. We've got three CNN presidential town halls live from Washington this week. First up is Senator Kirsten Gillibrand tomorrow. It's moderated by our very own Erin Burnett, followed by Governor Jay Inslee on Wednesday. That one will be moderated by Wolf Blitzer. And then I'm going to moderate the town hall with the former HUD Secretary Julian Castro on Thursday.
Three nights, three town halls, it all begins tomorrow night at 10 Eastern right here on CNN. And I'll be here after tomorrow night at 11. So, make sure you still be tuning in. And coming up next, who is burning black churches in Louisiana and
why? I'm going to talk to some officials and try to get some answers. That's next.
[23:25:02] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Three historically black churches in the same rural Louisiana perish, burned to the ground in just 10 days. Authorities say the fires are suspicious. And now the governor is asking for help in finding out whether someone is targeting black churches.
So, joining me now is mayor Julius Alsandor of Opelousas, Louisiana, and Pastor Freddie Jack, he is a senior pastor at St. John's Baptist Church. We're so happy that you're here. Thank you so much for coming on, both of you, to discuss this.
So, Pastor, I'm going to start with you. Three churches burned, 10 days.
FREDDIE JACK, PRESIDENT, SEVENTH DISTRICT MISSIONARY BAPTIST ASSOCIATION: Yes.
LEMON: Your church, St. John's has not been attacked. But are people afraid?
JACK: They're not afraid. They're just concerned, knowing it could have easily been any other churches, including this one. So, for the most part we're just remaining prayerful and positive about it until something is given in terms of a result.
LEMON: Do you feel that the community is being targeted?
JACK: I feel that our district was being targeted because all three of the churches are in our district, which is the seventh district.
[23:30:02] At first, we thought maybe it might have been an electrical problem. And then when the second church occurred, burning occurred, I realized that it was our sister church, also in a rural area. And then two days later, the third occurred. So, it leads me to think that we are maybe being targeted.
LEMON: So, mayor, let's talk about the investigation. Police are working with federal authorities around the clock to try to get to the bottom of this. What is the latest? What can you tell us?
MAYOR JULIUS ALSANDOR, OPELOUSAS, LOUISIANA: Let me tell you, you know, they are in the infancy of this investigation. As you said, churches burned in 10 days, but, you know, it's early on. They are working collectively with the governor's office, the representative, the senator and local officials here, the fire chief and the police chief, who is also a member of the seventh district.
We talk each and every day about the upcoming and the briefings that are going on. But, you know, to say that we have any specifics right now, as I alluded to earlier, it's still too soon to say that, Don.
LEMON: It's a bit premature. I understand, mayor. Pastor, in a statement earlier today, the NAACP said that the spike in church burnings in southern states is a reflection of the emboldened racial rhetoric and tension spreading across the country.
Again, we still don't know the cause of these fires, but explain to the audience about why the burning of black churches is so much significant, especially in the south.
JACK: Don, I can't say for one reason or another that actual burning was a racist act or a hate crime until we can determine who caused them and who is behind them. I don't think that we can rightfully or truthfully say that it was either. We need to think before we can generate what is concerned and why it was targeted by.
LEMON: I understand. Listen, I think I conveyed that in a question. You're absolutely right. But I'm wondering why -- the significance of church burnings and why people get alarmed, because of the history in the south, churches would be burned many times by the Klan and other folks and also people who are just racists, who just burned down black churches.
Listen, mayor, I want to play a video. This is Congressman Clay Higgins. This is his plea to whoever is behind these acts of violence. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CLAY HIGGINS (R-LA): If you participated in this, you have succumbed to evil. Power and principalities are controlling your life. I encourage you to look deep into your heart and step away from the darkness that has enveloped you and turn yourself in, because you will be caught.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Mayor, do you think his plea has any chance of working?
ALSANDOR: You would hope so, Don. His words do have some strength to it. This individual or individuals who participated in these heinous crimes that they have committed, the relevance to the -- and the impact on the people in the surrounding communities and especially the congregation of each of these churches, it's hurtful and there may be some fear that is being exhibited by those who are part of the three churches here in St. Landry Parish that have been impacted.
ALSANDOR: But at the same time, you know, what happens in the darkness comes to light. Eventually it will. And these individuals, as the congressman stated, that is going to be that day when that mistake is made and when that mistake is made, all the local law enforcement agencies and those working nationally and through the governor's office and the state, they're going to clamp down on them, they're going to gather up around then and bring them in, and let justice take its place after that.
LEMON: Yeah. Pastor, you say it is a blessing that no one has been hurt. I'm sure you'll continue to have services as police are on the hunt for whoever is responsible.
JACK: Yes, Don, we will continue to have our regular services. The churches affected have relocated to other areas where they will continue to have their Sunday services every Sunday. If there is any other need that they have in terms of a space for particular services such as that we have no funeral, the sister churches have offered the use of their facility for those purposes to be served and the families might be accommodated.
LEMON: Pastor, mayor, thank you for joining us from Ville Platte, Louisiana, my home state. Best of luck. Thank you for coming on. Please keep us updated, OK?
ALSANDOR: Thank you for having us.
JACK: Thank you, Don.
ALSANDOR: Congratulations to you, too, Don.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, sir. Thank you -- well, I should say, my fellow Louisianans. Thank you so much. I hope to see you, guys, soon and may you have some good news for us. I want to bring in now James Gagliano. He joins us now. So James, what is going here?
[23:35:00] The State Fire Marshal's office stopped short of calling this arson or a hate crime, but did say suspicious elements were found in each case here. What do you think?
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think, first of all, the pastor nailed it. We got to be very, very cautious, Don. We got to follow the evidence. But obviously, when you see something this, to your point, the history in the Deep South, and these were three churches in a very close area down there.
Now, before they can be linked together, and I think it's important that the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are taking a look at this because they got the resources and obviously the history of looking into crimes of violence like this that are targeting something like a historic black church --
LEMON: All these churches are 100 years old, so they are historic.
GAGLIANO: Yes, yes, some of them in early 19th century, absolutely. So, what will they be looking at? Similar type of accelerant, any type of incendiary device that could be implanted there, and then linked analysis. What things could be found at one crime scene that could be linked to another? Find out if there is a pattern and if there's somebody here that was a serial arsonist. That's what they're probably looking for.
LEMON: So if -- to say that there were - I think you said -- what was it? A suspicious element. That is interesting. Again, we don't know, but usually, if it is an electrical fire, you can easily tell pretty much --
LEMON: -- early on?
GAGLIANO: Absolutely. That's what the arson investigation is going to do. It is going to determine, look, was this a frayed wire cord? Did somebody overload an adaptor? Is that what it was? Because that wasn't the case and they've been pretty clear to say there were suspicious elements, then that says a foul play was involved.
LEMON: That can happen especially when you're retrofitting things, going on historical churches. You know, historic buildings, structures that have been up for a while.
GAGLIANO: Absolutely. But three in 10 days --
GAGLIANO: -- in one county.
LEMON: How long -- arson investigations can take a while, right?
GAGLIANO: They can.
LEMON: How long do you think before we get to --
GAGLIANO: The problem with arson investigation is the same with bomb investigation. The evidence gets destroyed. That's going to be the issue. You got to go back. You got to piece it together when a lot of the evidence would have been burned up in the fire.
So, the folks that are doing this, especially the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, they are specialists at this. They will get to the bottom of it. The important things to track down, who or whom did this, and bring them to justice.
LEMON: I love having you on. Thank you for all. Thank you for the information. I appreciate it.
GAGLIANO: And congratulations.
LEMON: Thank you, sir. Thank you. I really appreciate that.
There are now 18 Democratic candidates for president. What was it for Republicans last time? It was like 19, 17 -- wow! And poor President Obama has a message for all those Democrats, all those candidates. What he's saying, next.
[23:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Former President Barack Obama warning Democrats against attacking each other in purity test that he sees turning into a circular firing squad. Here is what he said to a town hall organized by the Obama Foundation in Berlin this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States -- maybe it's true here, as well -- is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, 'Uh, I'm sorry. This is how it's going to be,' And then we start sometimes creating what's called a 'circular firing squad,' where you start shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues. And when that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So will the ever expanding 2020 field listen to the former president? Let's discuss now. Keith Boykin is here and Dan Pfeiffer. Thank you, gents. So Keith, I want to start with you. He was basically telling -- the former president is basically telling Democrats, don't mess this up. For him to say that, he must be concerned about what he's saying.
KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. I mean, there's every possibility they could mess it up. I mean, most incumbent presidents win reelection. But I think he is stating a legitimate concern but I would push back a little bit on what he said.
I mean, yes, you don't want people creating a circular firing squad. Yes, you don't want people attacking each other in a personal way. Yes, you don't want the nominee, whoever that eventual nominee is, so impeded and hampered that she or he cannot compete in a general election, which is almost what happened to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
But at the same time, you have to have room for rigorous debate where they can't always just agree with each other. They have to separate themselves and show who they are as individuals. I actually don't think there's anything wrong with setting some litmus test for what the Democratic Party believes in, but you just to have to figure out which litmus test you're going to believe in.
The Democratic Party has litmus tests about abortion, for example, or about LGBTQ rights or about gun control or about jobs and raising minimum wage or health care. All those things are litmus tests, too. I think what people are saying is, we don't want to create anymore litmus test that may not fit our standards, what we see the Democratic Party going.
LEMON: So, you know the president very well, Dan. When he says shooting at each other over ideological purity, what does he want to see them do? Do you agree with what Keith just said?
DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I do. I've heard the president over the years I've known him make this point approximately 12,000 times. This is a message somewhat to candidates but I think also to the Democratic voters, which is we are in this to get something done, and we should push as hard for the cause we care about. But the way (INAUDIBLE) give a speech or send a tweet, it is to work with in the process when you get into office. [23:45:00] That may require getting something via compromise or doing it in multiple steps. And sometimes progress happens in fits and starts. I agree with Keith that a robust debate is very important in this primary. It was not just OK. I think it is necessary to have a strong nominee. We can't be in a world where some group of establishment-type (INAUDIBLE) anoint someone.
But it is important that debate happens in a way in which the candidates don't burn bridges that make it hard for the party to come together in the fall.
LEMON: Yeah. President Reagan popularized -- remember the 11th command, thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican after surviving a particularly nasty primary. Do you think Democrats need to take a page from the Republican playbook especially when you have a field this large? Remember, last time it was 18 people up on the stage or 17 candidates --
BOYKIN: We have 18 candidates currently.
LEMON: We have 18 now, but it was 17 last time.
LEMON: They all -- hate is a strong word. They disliked Donald Trump. They spoke out against him. The moment he became the nominee, everybody fell in line.
BOYKIN: Well, that's a little bit a generalization. Some people didn't really fall in line although eventually they did. Now, the entire Republican Party seems to be behind him, even people like Mitt Romney today saying things defending him.
But, yeah, I mean, there's two different stages of this campaign. This is what I want Democrats to be smart about. The primary process is when you fight hard for what you believe and what are your values are. The general election is when the party comes together and we fight against the other party. We don't fight against ourselves.
This is what happened to us in 2016. We don't want to have that same mistake again. We almost have that problem in 2008. Remember after Obama won, there were a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters who were reluctant in 2008 to support Obama.
They had to be comforting in order to get them on board. Yes, I understand that is going to happen in every process, but we can't eat our own when it comes to the general election. We can fight now but let's come together in next fall.
LEMON: Dan, I want to get your opinion on an opinion piece that was on CNN.com by a former Obama adviser, Nayyera Haq. She writes this.
She said, "The goalposts for campaigning have shifted since Obama' era, leaving the former president and his cohort grappling with a party that might not nominate him today. And now this scoreboard is being used to ding two people close to Obama, his own former vice president, Joe Biden, who just can't seem to stop touching people and then cracking jokes about it, and one of Obama's earliest supporters and current senator, Kamala Harris, whose record as a prosecutor supporting 'three strikes' law has called into question her ability to confront racism in the criminal justice system."
What do you think of that analysis?
PFEIFFER: Look, I think we have to separate what actual voters believe, what is going to drive their decision in the fall and the massive amount of hysteria that happens on Twitter, right?
PFEIFFER: Some of these may end up being issues for these candidates, but we don't know that yet. Kamala Harris is doing quite well. She's very firmly in the top tier of the Democratic primary which is very impressive for someone who has just been on the national political stage for a few years.
It's not yet clear that concerns that some may have about her role as a prosecutor is going to be a huge problem. I think as stakeholders in the party and as voters, people should have the opportunity to evolve and change in their positions as time goes on. It is relevant, what a candidate believe or did, five years ago, 10 years ago, 40 years ago in case of Vice President Biden, but the question is what do they believe now and how do they tell the story of how they made the journey from then until now?
I think that is important. Voters are very open for all of the concerns people may have about Vice President Biden's previous opinions and his record on criminal justice. He's still doing quite well in this primary. And so this is going to play itself out over time. It is not yet clear that what is happening on Twitter is necessarily going to determine what happens in the primary election just yet.
LEMON: That's got to be the last word. Thank you. We're out of time. I appreciate it.
Actress Felicity Huffman pleading guilty in the college admissions scandal and apologizing in a new statement. I am going to tell you what she said. That's next.
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LEMON: Tonight, we have an update on the college admissions cheating scandal. Actress Felicity Huffman was among 13 wealthy parents to plead guilty today to using bribery and other forms of fraud to get their kids into school.
The "Desperate Housewives" star admitted to paying $15,000 to a fake charity associated with Rick Singer, who ran a college prep business to coordinate cheating for her daughter on SAT. Huffman faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. But in exchange for Huffman's plea, federal prosecutors will recommend incarceration at a low end of the sentencing range, a $20,000 fine, and 12 months of supervised release.
Shortly after the announcement, Huffman released a statement, taking complete responsibility for her actions. She wrote this. She says, "I am pleading guilty to the charge brought against me by the United States Attorney's Office. I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions.
"I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community. I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly. My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her."
[23:55:00] "This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life. My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty."
Now, I want to be clear here. There is absolutely no excuse for Huffman's actions. OK? But she appears owning up to it. And she's apologizing. And that's a lot more than I can say for others or that others can say as well. Some other defendants aren't showing any signs of taking responsibility. And honestly that includes actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli.
They allegedly paid a half million dollars to get their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team even though they didn't actually row crew. But the charges didn't stop Loughlin from signing autographs, posing for photos with fans when arriving in Boston ahead of her court hearing. It wasn't a good look.
Wanting the best for your children, that's fine. Most parents do. But committing crimes to get what you want for your children, whether they deserve it or not, whether they want it or not, that's wrong. And that's a lesson the parents in this college admissions scandal need to learn.
Thanks for watching, everyone. And thank you for the well wishes. I appreciate it. Our coverage continues.