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CNN TONIGHT

Rep. Mike Quigley (D) Illinois Is Interviewed About His Take On A.G. Barr's Testimony On Capitol Hill Today; Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin Also Grilled By Lawmakers; President Trump Falsely Blames Barack Obama For Family Separations; Pew Poll: Americans Across Racial Backgrounds Agree Race Relations Are Bad; Israeli Election Results Too Close To Call. Aired 11-12a ET

Aired April 9, 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] (TOWN HALL)

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DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Erin Burnett, thank you very much. She's right.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

Thank you so much for joining us. You just watched our CNN town hall with Senator and presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand. And you see her there shaking hands, pressing the flash, I should say with folks in the audience.

A New York Democrat answer questions from the audience in the nation's capital for about an hour, just a little over an hour, talking about immigration, apologizing for a hardline stance in the past and talking about Medicare for all, criminal justice reform and on and on and on.

So, we've got lot to talk about tonight, about the Attorney General, William Barr. Before Congress today, did you see that? For the first time since he broke his four-page letter which he says lays out the principal conclusions of the Mueller report.

He got quite a grilling from Democrats, demanding the unredacted report. But you've got to wonder just how much of it we'll actually be able to see.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: We will color code the excisions from the report and we will provide explanatory notes describing the basis for each redaction.

So, for example, if a redaction is made because of a court order in a pending prosecution, we'll state that and we will distinguish between the various categories. This process is going along very well. And my original time table of being able to release this by mid-April stands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Color coded excisions, explanatory notes. Get ready, people. The attorney general clearly has no intention of asking the judge presiding over Mueller's grand jury to allow him to release any sensitive information.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: My intention is not to ask for them at this stage. I mean, if it the chairman has good explanation of why succeed does not apply, he has need for the information. I'm willing to listen to that.

As I said, my first agenda item here is to get public report out, what can be gotten out publicly, that's going to be within a week. So, I will discuss --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My time is up, I'll come back.

BARR: I'll discuss these issues in greater detail after that occurs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He doesn't intend, even intend to ask. Son his priority is to get a public report out but it sounds like we should expect page after page of redaction. Compare that to what he said during his confirmation hearing. This is in January.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: Well, I can tell you right now is my goal and intent is to get as much information out as I am consistent with the regulations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And listen to the attorney general's reply, frankly stonewalling what he was asked today whether the White House got a look at Mueller's report at any point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[23:09:58] REP. NITA LOWEY (D-NY): Did the White House see the report before you released your summarizing letter? Has the White House seen it since then? Have they been briefed on the contents beyond what was in your summarizing letter to the judiciary committee?

BARR: I've said what I'm going to say about the report today. I've issued three letters about it. And I was willing to discuss the historic information of how the report came to me and my decision on Sunday.

But I've already laid out the process that is going forward to release these reports, hopefully within a week. I'm not going to say anything more about it until the report is out and everyone has a chance to look at it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Like I said, stonewalling. He's not going to say anything more about it. But he did have something to say about why he did not release the summaries Mueller's investigators prepared for their own work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: I suspect that they probably wanted, you know, more put out, but in my view, I was not interested in putting out summaries or trying to summarize because I think any summary, regardless of who prepares it, not only runs the risk of, you know, being underinclusive or over inclusive but also, you know, would trigger a lot of discussion and analysis that really should have wait everything coming out at once.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: OK. So, let's unpack some of this, shall we? let's first of all, let's remember that according to sources, Mueller's investigators expected the attorney general to release their summary.

So really it wouldn't have been a big ask for him to put out summaries that were already written and pretty much ready to go with minimal redaction.

You can't blame the members of Mueller's team, who even Barr admits, probably wanted more released. He said it right there. Of course, they did. That's why they wrote the summaries. And I think the investigators who actually did the work for almost two years probably have a pretty good handle on how much should be included.

So, the risk of being under inclusive or over inclusive, as he says is minimal. Then there's Barr's point that he didn't want to trigger a lot of discussion and analysis that should wait until everything comes out, too late for that.

And given what the A.G. said today it doesn't look like he intends for everything to come out. And there's more. I want you to listen to what the attorney general said today about his March 24th letter about Mueller's principal conclusions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: As I've explained my March 24th letter was meant to state the bottom-line conclusions of the report, not summarize the report. And I tried to use as much of the special counsel's own language as I could. But they were just stating the bottom-line conclusions. And there's nothing to suggest to me that those -- you know, that those weren't --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No collusion, there's no obstruction. It's over. It's done.

BARR: Well, the letter -- the letter speaks for itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: As much as the special counsel's language as possible. Wouldn't that be the summaries? I'm just saying. Summaries would be what the special counsel's team summed up. It seems to me he has used awhile a lot more.

In his four-page letter the A.G. included a grand total of 101 words that were quoted from Mueller's report and that's including the title of the report and a footnote.

I don't know about you, but it seems to me that when you got a report that's somewhere between 300 and 400 pages and you said you want to make as much information public as you can, you can probably include more than 101 words if you really tried, if you really wanted to. Maybe that's just me.

But the attorney general wasn't the only member of the administration on Capitol Hill today. He wasn't the only one caught up in what you'd have to call the White House whiplash. Just listen to the grilling that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin got today over the president's will or will he or won't he his dance on taxes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): The President of the United States told the American people that he would release his tax returns. And he's done it at least 16 times. That he would release his tax returns. He made a promise to the American people. Now shouldn't the President of the United States be a man or a woman of their word?

[23:14:59] STEVEN MNUCHIN, UNITED STATES TREASURY SECRETARY: Well, let me just comment --

(CROSSTALK)

MEEKS: Yes or no, Mr. Mnuchin?

MNUCHIN: I'd like to answer the question.

MEEKS: Just answer yes or no. Should not, it's a yes or no -- it's a yes or no question.

MNUCHIN: Again, what I've read in the press he said he would release his returns when he wasn't under audit. But I'm not privy to the specifics of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Do you think that was explosive. You didn't see nothing yet. Mnuchin gotten to a verbal sparring match with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who you may recall is not exactly a favorite of this president. Watch as he tries to mansplain (ph) to the chairwoman of the committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MNUCHIN: I've sat here for over three hour and 15 minutes. I've told

you I'll come back. I just don't believe we're sitting here negotiating when I come back. We'll follow up with your office. How long would you like me to come back for next time? I've told you I'll accommodate you.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): I appreciate that and I appreciate you're reminding us of the length that and I and other secretaries have been here. This is a new way and it's a new day, and it's a new chair.

(CROSSTALK)

MNUCHIN: OK.

WATERS: And I have the gavel at this point. If you wish to leave, you may.

MNUCHIN: I would just say that the previous ad -- when it the Republicans -- they did not treat the secretary of the treasury this way. So, if this is it the way you want to treat me, then I'll rethink whether I voluntarily come back there to testify, which I've offered to do.

WATERS: Mr. Secretary, I want you to know that no other secretary has ever told us the day before that they were going to limit their time in the way that you're doing. So, if you want to use them as examples, you have acted differently than they have acted and as I have said, if you wish to leave, you may.

MNUCHIN: If you'd wish to keep me here so that I don't have my important meeting and continue to grill me, then we can do that. I will cancel my meeting and I will not be back here. I will be very clear if that's the way you'd like to have this relationship.

WATERS: Thank you. The gentleman, the secretary has agreed to stay to hear all of the rest of the members. Please cancel your meeting --

(CROSSTALK)

MNUCHIN: OK. So just let's proceed (ph) the process.

WATERS: -- and respect our time. Who is next on the list?

MNUCHIN: I have canceled my foreign meeting. You're instructing me to stay here and I should cancel --

(CROSSTALK)

WATERS: No, you just made me an offer.

MNUCHIN: No, I didn't make you an offer.

WATERS: You made me an offer that I accepted.

MNUCHIN: I did not make an offer.

WATERS: Well --

MNUCHIN: Let's be clear. You're instructing me. You are ordering me to stay here.

WATERS: No, I'm not ordering you. I'm responding. I said you may leave anytime you want and you said OK. If that's what you want to do, I'll cancel my appointment and I'll stay here. So, I'm responding to your request. If that's what you want to do --

(CROSSTALK)

MNUCHIN: That's not what I want to do. I told you --

(CROSSTALK)

WATERS: What would you like to do?

MNUCHIN: What I've told is I thought it was respectful that you'd let me leave at 5.15 --

(CROSSTALK)

WATERS: You are free to leave anytime you want.

MNUCHIN: -- which is -- OK.

WATERS: You may go anytime you want.

MNUCHIN: Well, then, please dismiss everybody. I believe you're supposed to take the gavel and bang it. That's --

(CROSSTALK)

WATERS: Please do not instruct me as to how I'm to conduct this committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: He wasn't ready. That may not be the last time we see fireworks on Capitol Hill, especially with the Mueller report due within the week.

I want to bring in now Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley. He sits on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, I appreciate you joining us. Let's talk about the Attorney General William Barr. He got hammered by your Democratic colleagues for his handling of the Mueller report so far. Do you think he understands or cares about the criticism he's getting?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: Absolutely not. I think he applied for the job by writing a memo basically outlining how the theory of law that would allow him to believe there is obstruction was unfounded in this case.

So, he was hired to exonerate the president, no matter what the report said as it relates to obstruction. And he was hired to keep as much of this report hidden from the American public and as much as he possibly can hidden from Congress. So, he's doing his job. Nobody in Congress can fire him. So, I don't expect him to change his path.

LEMON: Adam Schiff who is your chairman of the House intel committee told CNN that Barr was acting like the president's Roy Cohn, that he was betraying his pledge to be transparent. Do you agree with that?

QUIGLEY: Absolutely. But again, I don't think that's his purpose. I don't think that's what he has in mind. I think there's other parallels to people in previous administrations like Mr. Burke. They all have their moments in history. This one I think infamously, unfortunately it's going to be very difficult for us to get the full report and the underlying information, which is absolutely critical.

LEMON: Yes. More about Congressman Schiff now. Chairman Schiff says that he also requested counterintelligence information gathered by the special counsel, which might or it may or may not be part of the Mueller report because it's important to learn whether he's compromised.

[23:20:06] Should they go to court for this if they have to if necessary?

QUIGLEY: Absolutely. This began as a counterintelligence investigation, questioning whether the president of the United States was compromised. I think there's a lot of evidence that he was.

I think the seconds part of getting all this information in the report is to find out where the gaps are on the counterintelligence side, such as money laundering. As you know, we know a lot about Deutsche Bank laundering Russian money illegally. They get fined $600 million for it.

We also know that they were the only bank willing to finance Trump operations for a decade up until he became president of the United States. There's a lot of information in the report that may not have been relevant to the decision as to who to bring to justice by the special counsel. But it can be particularly valuable to the House and Senate investigators determining whether or not the president is compromised.

LEMON: So, Congressman, Barr refused to answer whether the White House has seen the Mueller report. When asked by Representative Crist if anyone other than the DOJ reviewed his summary letter, Barr first said that he didn't recall and then he later clarified. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: I've checked with my staff and was told that just before the letters were out, after they were finalized and just before they went out, we did advise the White House counsel's office that the letters were being sent. But they were not allowed or even asked to make any changes to the letters. But we did -- we gave -- we notified them before we issued them.

REP. JOSE SERRANO (D-NY): Mr. Crist, I'm sure would have asked you. Did they get to see the letter however?

BARR: I think it may have been read to them. They did not get to see the letter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Congressman, does that raise concerns to you of coordination with the White House?

QUIGLEY: Look, I've seen coordination with the White House ever since this investigation began. My concern is power corrupts absolutely. I don't think my Republican colleagues in Congress appreciate that. They've worked hand in glove as special counsel to the president, protecting him politically and legally.

The president has surrounded himself with people who don't understand the importance of the independence of the Justice Department for -- or for that matter the independence of the integrity of the intelligence community.

The far-ranging damage this president has done to the reputation and the independence of both of those entities is extraordinary and extraordinarily damaging.

LEMON: Listen, it was a really unexpected answer he gave when asked why he didn't include any of the summaries already prepared by the Mueller team. Basically, saying he didn't want to give too much or too little information. Does that seem like a credible answer to you?

QUIGLEY: No. Here's what he should do. He should release the full report with all the underlying documentation to Congress. My committee of intelligence gets the most sensitive, classified information on an ongoing basis. We know how to handle this information, and frankly, we need do it to complete our part of the investigation.

So, look, Mr. Barr is out to protect the president. It's no surprise that he does any of these things.

LEMON: Well, today Barr also said that he tried to include as much of Mueller's words as he could but his conclusions didn't include a single full sentence from the report. Again, does that pass the smell test?

QUIGLEY: All he has to do is release the report. He has a hard time saying the president has been exonerated and not releasing a single sentence from the report.

Again, he's -- I believe he's following orders. I don't know exactly when these were given to him, but it's clear the job he was applying for wasn't to act as the independent attorney general.

LEMON: Congressman Quigley, thank you for your time.

QUIGLEY: Anytime. Thank you.

LEMON: Now let's turn to more on the attorney general's testimony today, dodging a whole lot of questions about the Mueller report.

Let's discuss. Ross Garber is here, as well as Elie Honig.

Good evening to both of you. Thank you so much.

Boy, an eventful day again. I want to break down the big question that came out of today's testimony. First, the big question. But first, Barr would not say whether he spoke to the White House about Mueller's report. Let's play the clip again. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOWEY: Did the White House see the report before you released your summarizing letter? Has the White House seen it since then? Have they been briefed on the contents beyond what was in your summarizing letter to the judiciary committee?

BARR: I've said what I'm going to say about the report today. I've issued three letters about it. I'm not going to say anything more about it until the report is out and everyone has a chance to look at it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Elie, why would Barr choose not to answer that question? Yes, I don't know. He can explain if they saw it at some point or didn't.

[23:25:01] ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think he didn't like the answer. I think William Barr is undoubtedly -- when we were talking about this before -- a very smart, experienced, savvy attorney but he's not much of a witness when he's the one getting asked questions.

I thought it was fairly transparent throughout the day. When he wanted to answer something, when he knew the answer and he didn't feel like it made him or the president look bad, he'd give a very direct, clear answer.

When he got to ask the question like that, that he did not want to answer, we saw this tap dance routine break out and why wouldn't you answer. And by the way, if he did run it by the White House, that's not a crime. It looks bad politically and I think it exposes some bias, which I think is coming out more and more on William Barr. But to just say I'm not going to answer that anymore, why there? You answered questions for three and a half hours but no, I'm not answering that?

ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, it was a multi-part question and I think the concern is if he started to answer some parts of it, then the question would be, all right, so if you talked to the White House, when did you talk to the White House? Who did you talk to at the White House? What did you say? What did they say?

And I think his point is look, look, I'm doing my work with, I'm trying to get it done. I'm trying to get it done fast and I'm trying to get information out to the public.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But the one that --

(CROSSTALK)

GARBER: And then we can discuss it.

LEMON: I mean, those are logical follow-up questions. What's wrong with answering those questions?

GARBER: No. I think his point was, look, I'm doing all the work, I'm going to get the information out, I'm going to get it out to the public and then we can talk about it, then we'll have at it, then I'll answer questions about it.

LEMON: I mean, if you -- that was one of the most suspicious things that I heard. As you said just say yes, no, I didn't show it to them in the beginning. But since the report has been, has come out and I've released the letter, I spoke to such and such and such about it. I just -- I don't --

GARBER: Right.

HONIG: Look, there is a growing concern and I share this concern, I voice this concern about William Barr's impartiality. Let's remember his history here. He prejudged this case. He said before he was attorney general that the obstruction theory of Robert Mueller in this case was fatally misconceived.

And he also told the New York Times he referenced what he called quote, "so-called collusion" with the so-called of sarcastic eye roll. That was before he became A.G. Since he's had the job --

(CROSSTALK)

GARBER: Well, we knew that before he was nominated.

HONIG: Sure.

GARBER: After he was nominated.

HONIG: Sure. I think people --

(CROSSTALK)

GARBER: Yes, during his confirmation hearings.

HONIG: Sure. People had faith that he'd be able to get beyond that. But look at what he's done since. He takes an almost 400-page letter -- report, boils it down to four pages where he selects little snippets here and there, he on his own, clears the president of obstruction. So, there's a pattern that I see here.

LEMON: OK. So, let's go about that. Because in that letter -- he said in his testimony he said, I tried to include as much of Mueller's words as possible. He used 101 words, that includes, Ross, words from the full -- from a single footnote and a title.

The entire report is nearly 400 pages. And also, if he wanted to include as much as Mueller -- as much of what Mueller said as possible, wouldn't he use the summaries?

GARBER: So, the answer is we don't know how the summaries were prepared and we don't know what's in there. I think what he's doing, in fairness to him, is a systematic approach. The first thing was to tell the American people did the president commit crimes. Did Robert Mueller conclude that the president was a criminal? That was the first thing. And he answered that question.

The next thing he's trying to do is go through these 400 pages and address lots of complicated issues and get as much of that 400 pages out to the public as possible. It's sort of a systematic approach.

And then after that, if Congress wants more, to then work with Congress. If they're entitled to more, if it makes sense to give them more, to give them more.

LEMON: Listen, I think we are being fair to him. I'm just wondering. I think most people wonder. Wouldn't it have been better for him to do it that way? Let Mueller's words speak for themselves and in the parts where Mueller said I did not make a judgment on that, then he can come in and talk about why. I don't understand how is that not being fair.

GARBER: yes. Well, I'm not saying you're not being fair to him.

LEMON: Yes.

GARBER: So, I think the question is maybe in those summaries there's grand jury material. And I think we've heard some reporting that every page of this report including the summaries stamped may include grand jury material. So, the first thing he's got to do is go through it and identify grand jury material. He can't do --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: In the summaries?

GARBER: It's possible or in the whole thing.

LEMON: OK.

GARBER: There may be grand jury material in the summaries. There may be classified information. We haven't seen it yet.

LEMON: Quick, last word, Elie.

HONIG: So, Barr has done a bit more than just summarize what Mueller found. He went on his own and said I find no obstruction. And on the grand jury question I understand it's a close question of law. But I find it very interesting today when Barr said I'm not even going to ask a court for permission when he could, if he wanted to. This is the guy who promised maximum transparency.

LEMON: OK. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

GARBER: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Fascinating conversation.

President Trump is falsely blaming former President Obama for Trump's own zero tolerance separation of families at the border. Obama's longest serving senior advisor joins me to respond. There she is. Valerie Jarrett, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: So the president today falsely claiming that President Obama's administration separated as many migrant families at the border as his own administration did. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Obama had child separation. Take a look. The press knows it. You know it. We all know it. I didn't have -- I'm the one that stopped it. President Obama had child separation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So joining me now is Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor to President Obama and the author of the new book, "Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward."

Valerie Jarrett, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

VALERIE JARRETT, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Good evening, Don.

LEMON: Thank you.

JARRETT: I'm so happy with all the love going on in your life.

LEMON: Oh, thank --

JARRETT: Tell Tim he's a lucky man.

LEMON: Oh, thank you. I hope he's watching. I'm sure he is. Thank you so much, Valerie.

JARRETT: I hope so, too.

LEMON: Listen, I've got to remind our viewers because this is really important. Those comments from the president, from Trump, they are a lie. The administration -- Trump administration ramped up its strict enforcement immigration laws. They're already on the books. So, give me your reaction to what he said. JARRETT: Well, you're exactly right. Their whole point was to separate families quite intentionally, trying to send a signal to discourage people from coming across the border. President Obama looked for humane solutions, knowing that we have always been a country of immigrants. We are also a country of laws, but that we should treat people who come to our shores with respect and humanity.

And the fact that these children have been separated and this administration doesn't even know where they are, they have deported parents and can't even possibly reunify them with their children, I just don't think that that represents who we are as a country and that sends a very troubling signal around the world.

[23:35:01] LEMON: Yeah. Listen, the truth is important, even when the president of the United States lies. The children were separated under the Obama administration under extenuating circumstances. They were separated from parents only when authorities had concerns for their well-being or could not confirm that the adult was in fact their legal guardian, but not as a blanket policy.

JARRETT: Exactly.

LEMON: Yeah.

JARRETT: Exactly.

LEMON: Listen, I want to play more of what this president said, because he went on to say that family separations work as a deterrent. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'll tell you something. Once you don't have it, that's why you see many more people coming. They're coming like it's a picnic because let's go to Disneyland.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Disneyland? Is he ignoring people's rights to legally seek asylum?

JARRETT: Well, that's the whole point. We have a legal system and you can't instruct people not to follow the laws. You have to follow the system and it is designed to be reflective of our values as a country. And I think staying true to those core values is very important.

LEMON: This past weekend, the former president, Barack Obama, was asked about potential pitfalls for Democrats challenging Trump in 2020. Here is what he said, Valerie.

(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 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: Do you share the former president's concerns about that?

JARRETT: Yeah. You know, I've met, Don, with several of the candidates who are running, and I have said this. I have said the authentic and true have an affirmative vision for where you think our country should go and then explain why we should trust you to execute that vision.

So that should be focusing on yourself, and the concern that I have is that take the long view. The long view is winning the general election. If we beat each other up so much in the primary and we go into that general election in a weakened state, then we're going to weaken our chances of winning.

So, an authentic message, a sincere sense of why you should be optimistic that this is the person who could lead this country and certainly don't come after each other in the short term. And then the other point, I guess, I would make on this, Don, is that there's a big difference between campaigning and governing.

LEMON: Uh-hmm.

JARRETT: In governance, you have to compromise. It can't be a dirty word. In a country as big and as complex and as diverse as ours, you can't just say my way or the highway, or you run the risk of getting nothing done. The Affordable Care Act is a good example. There are many people who wanted a public option.

It might have been a great solution. We didn't have the votes for a public option, but now 20 million people have health care, many who didn't have it before. So you have to figure out how to avoid letting perfect be the enemy of the good.

LEMON: Yeah. You had to deal with racial issues a lot when you were advising the former president. I would like to get your opinion. There is a new poll which finds that 65 percent of Americans now believe that it is more common to express racist or racially insensitive views since President Trump was elected. Listen, we spend a lot of time on this show talking about that. Do you hear that from people you talk to?

JARRETT: I do. I think what I hear is very consistent with the new poll that came out. People are troubled by this toxic tone in our environment and we were talking at people with labels and as opposed to actually getting a level of understanding and empathy so that we can move forward.

We have a very painful history in this country of racism and discrimination. I think one of the reasons why President Obama was so attractive and why he ran and won two times and why he is still so popular now is that he focussed on what can we do to bring ourselves together --

LEMON: Uh-hmm.

JARRETT: -- where we're not focusing just on our differences, we're looking for what we have in common. We are looking for a better understanding of each other so that we can move beyond this -- these racist and discriminatory practices. Don't we want to be a better and stronger country? And it's hard to do that in an atmosphere that is so charged.

LEMON: Yeah. Let's continue on with this because race is a huge factor in your personal story. You talk about that a lot in your book now, "Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward," by Valerie Jarrett, my guest now.

You did tell a conversation that you had with your mom and you write this. You said, "My mother was particularly concerned that after our country had taken what she had considered an impossible lead forward by twice electing a black man as our president, it felt like we were now quickly regressing. 'Lally,' she said, you have the optimistic belief that we are almost at the mountaintop, but I believe we are dangling over the precipice."

[23:40:01] Do you see Trump as a backlash to President Obama or a white lash as my colleague, Van Jones, put it?

JARRETT: I don't know how to explain what happened, but what I do know is troubling to me, is that 43% of eligible voters didn't vote. And I think if there's been a wake-up call beginning today after the inauguration with the women's march, we've seen renewed activism and engagement.

The number of people who ran for office in the midterms, the number of women and people of color who won, which is terrific, I think that puts us in a stronger position to reflect the values of our country. And so the question my mother put to me, I had to really think about. I thought are we really dangling over the precipice or am I right, are we almost at the mountain top?

And I concluded, Don, that I think my mom and I are both right. We're at this pivotal moment in our nation's history and the direction we take depends upon whether ordinary citizens are going to exercise their most important duty of citizenship and that is to get involved and to vote and to demand better of their elected officials.

LEMON: Yeah.

JARRETT: We can't give anybody a pass. We have to say that a democracy can't be taken for granted. We have to fight for our values. We have to fight for the core principal that bring out the best in us. And unless we do that, then we really can't complain about what happens, right?

LEMON: Yeah.

JARRETT: And so I encourage people to get involved and make sure that we do get to that mountaintop and that we do push hard and our country does reflect our core values. We need leaders from all across America on the ground speaking up. Everybody can participate. We can't just look to who's in office today. Those folks have to be held accountable by we, the citizens.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, I got to get this. I wonder if you have the same advice or if you want to add to that, because you also write about the current president, saying, "Since the night Donald Trump became president of the United States, I've been going through the five stages of grief, sometimes all five in the same day. In the beginning, denial and anger were high on the list. I still haven't embraced acceptance."

As we gear up towards 2020, what is your message? Is it what you said, to vote and to --

JARRETT: Well, it's to vote and it's also let's look for candidates who we think are going to bring out the best in us, who are going to unify our country, who are going to recognize that they shouldn't be putting their short-term political interests ahead of what's best for our country.

And one of my biggest frustrations, Don, with the eight years I had the privilege of serving in Washington was to see time and time again Republicans do just that. Choose their interests over our interests. And I'd like the see a candidate emerge who is going to really take the long view, make tough decisions, not just run a popularity contest when they are in office, but do what's best for our country in the long term.

And so that's the candidate I'm searching for. I'm optimistic that there is a level of activism right now. If we can keep it going, that will deliver us somebody who really does reflect those important core values about our country.

LEMON: Valerie Jarrett, thank you. And let me just say on a personal note, you know, I've shared with you before about seeing the first lady and the president after I came out, they looked me square in the eye and said, Don, you made the right decision, and I know that you were pivotal in their evolution on same-sex marriage, I thank you for that night, do have to thank the administration.

Even if you're a Republican sitting here and under your administration same-sex marriage had become the law of the land, I would be thanking you as well. So thank you so much and give my thanks --

JARRETT: Well --

LEMON: -- to the former president and first lady.

JARRETT: Don, thank you. I will do that. I will tell you, the night that we stood out on that north portico and watched the sun go down and see the rainbow reflected on the White House, it was one of the highlights of my eight years in Washington.

LEMON: Thank you, Valerie. I appreciate it. JARRETT: You're welcome.

LEMON: Good luck with the book.

JARRETT: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: The book again is, "Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward," by Valerie Jarrett.

Majority of Americans say that race relations are worse in this country and President Trump is to blame. We are going to dig into that, next.

[23:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A new poll from Pew paints a bleak picture of race relations in America. Almost two-thirds of Americans say it's become more common for people to express racist views since President Trump was elected, and 45 percent of Americans say it has become more acceptable to express racist views since 2016. That as a Democratic congressman calls a tough White House advisor a white nationalist.

Here to discuss: David Swerdlick, Scott Jennings, and Tara Setmayer. Listen, we got pre-empted a little bit, right, by the town hall, so we've got to go quick, guys. Thank you so much for joining us. Tara, you say the poll is evidence to back up what you have thought all along. Why did you say that?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, A, I live it every day, and B, we can see it based on reporting, based on statistics, that there has been an increase in hate crimes, there has been language that comes from the president of the united states and some of the things that have been said by other officials. People seem to be more emboldened with their bigotry. It's undeniable.

Now, under Obama, people thought that race relations worsened also but not to this degree. I think it is not a good direction for the country to go in and it just highlights what we've been saying that it's more than just anecdotal now. It's empirical.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, I think that what you bring up to people, race relations in America, this just reinforces that we've been grappling with race relations for a long time.

SETMAYER: Yup.

LEMON: It doesn't seem to be getting better. But I think the take away from this poll is that people feel more emboldened now --

SETMAYER: Uh-hmm.

LEMON: -- than they did before under the previous president and others, not just Obama. Scott, the same poll found that more than half of the Americans say the president has made race relations worse. They pin it on him. Why?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think for the same reason that people may have pinned race relations getting worse under Obama. People are ascribing the things they don't like about America to a political party that they don't like that happened to be in power.

[23:50:04] And I look at this poll and I am disheartened by it because we've had two consecutive presidencies where people say things are getting worse. I am starting to wonder and ask myself, is it time we stop looking to presidents and politicians to solve this problem?

I think we are more likely to find understanding and progress if we look inside our churches, our schools, our work places, and in our own hearts. I think we are more likely to find progress there than looking for politicians in our broken politics to solve this problem. I think it is on every single individual in a community to get this right. I think it's on every single parent, especially parents of white children.

I have four at home. I need them to understand they're going to have a different experience if they are black. I need them to understand they have to remain vigilant in their peer group and call it out and stop it when they see it. To me, that's a better place to look than at a president or a politician to fix these problems because it is clear our politics is not allowing for progress in this right now.

LEMON: Listen, I give you credit on half of that. I think that people should be doing exactly what you are saying, but I also think the president of the United States should also be an example --

SETMAYER: Absolutely.

LEMON: -- and the lead --

SETMAYER: I agree with you.

JENNINGS: But clearly presidents are not capable of solving this and it is regrettable.

SETMAYER: They are capable of being better examples. Let's not -- let Trump and others survive that. And so the church needs to be a better example, too. That's a great message, Scott.

LEMON: David, I want to get you in here. You know, as I said --

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure.

LEMON: -- two-thirds of Americans say that it has become more common for people to express racist views since Trump is elected. Two-thirds is a lot bigger number than you would expect to see if it was purely a partisan response, right?

SWERDLICK: Right. First of all, Don, congrats on the engagement. That's great news.

LEMON: Thank you.

SWERDLICK: I agree mostly with what -- everything what Scott is saying and what Tara is saying. I just want to push back a little bit on what Scott said about President Obama. In eight years as president, I recall one statement he made that I think that was over the line and inflammatory.

Right before the 2010 midterms, he made comments to the effect that Latinos should go out and vote to punish Republicans, who were their political enemies. He wound up apologizing for that. I think that stands out as an isolated incident.

Contrast that to President Trump, who in 2015 told the Republican Jewish coalition that -- I am a negotiator like you, folks. He said total and complete ban on Muslims, came down the escalator and said that Mexicans were rapists, too many insults to black people to count. We don't have time for it right now.

President Trump, I think, the reason, Don, you see a 65 percent in this poll is going back to that first number which is that President Trump makes race baiting comments so cavalierly that people feel freer now to make those comments themselves.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, I have to say everyone made good points. Yes, it is incumbent on all Americans. As you said, Scott, you said especially white Americans to understand that people are treated differently in this country. That's a very valid point. But I think most people will agree that president also sets the tone from the top. It would be helpful overall if the president can engage in trying to tamp this down and bring people together. Thank you, all. I appreciate it.

SWERDLICK: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Polls are closed in Israel elections and votes are being counted. But so far, it is too close to call. Will Prime Minister Netanyahu stay in office? The latest, live from Jerusalem, that's next.

[23:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the political fight of his life. As of now, his race against Benny Gantz is too close to call though both sides have already claimed victory. Our Oren Liebermann joins us now with the latest from Jerusalem. Oren, hello to you. Where do things stand right now?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, we've been watching the results come in all night. Now, more than 90 percent of votes have been counted, according to the Central Elections Committee, and it remains too close to call.

More than four million votes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu separated by his rival, his former chief of staff, Benny Gantz, by less than 13,000 votes. That is why as it stands now, this race is too close to call. There are a few days more of counting votes including from soldiers and diplomats whose votes are counted in the coming days, so we will see how that changes things.

But crucially, as it stands now, Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have the advantage when it comes to forming a government, when it comes to forming a governing coalition. His right-wing bloc has 65 seats, which is viewed as his rivals (ph).

Central left bloc has 55 seats. So, it seems that if those numbers hold, unless there is a surprise in how this all shakes out, Benjamin Netanyahu has the advantage when it comes to putting together a government and may well be on his track to a fifth term in office.

LEMON: President Trump and Jared Kushner, big Netanyahu supporters, and have done a lot to bolster him even as he faces a likely indictment for corruption charges. How much of a difference did that support make?

LIEBERMANN: Don, I don't think it will be a surprise to tell you that there were people, supporters of Netanyahu, at headquarters where we were all night holding Trump's signs, holding America signs there. Trump is more popular here than he is in the United States.

Benjamin Netanyahu is more than happy to play that up. Trump, it appeared openly campaigned for Netanyahu and gave him major political gifts in the last couple of weeks, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visiting the Western Wall, the old city of Jerusalem, with Netanyahu which was unprecedented.

U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights is a major victory for Netanyahu, as well as U.S. designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard, a terror organization, which Netanyahu took some credit for. All of that strengthen this idea that it is Netanyahu and Trump together.

It is difficult to say how many votes are affected or how many votes have changed, but what is clear is that it certainly didn't hurt Netanyahu in this election. He came out with more votes and more seats it looks like than he has ever had before in 13 years of governing.

LEMON: Oren Liebermann, joining us live from Jerusalem, thank you very much for that.

And before we leave you tonight, I want to remind you that we have got two more CNN presidential town halls this week live from Washington. There's Governor Jay Inslee. It's tomorrow night at 10:00 moderated by our very own Wolf Blitzer and then I'll be right after that at 11 p.m. Then I will moderate the town hall with former HUD Secretary Julian Castro Thursday night at 10 p.m. only here on CNN.

Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.