Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

Treasury Secretary Shields The President's Tax Returns; No Need To Call White House Aides; Controversial Tape Recordings Haunt A Democrat Candidate; Mayor Pete Buttigieg Under Political And Legal Microscope; Senator Kamala Harris Changes Tune. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 23, 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.

It is becoming clear that with each passing day, since the release of the Mueller report that a constitutional crisis is looming between the White House and Congress.

"The Washington Post" is reporting tonight that President Trump says he is opposed to current and former aides testifying to Congress, claiming that it's unnecessary because the White House cooperated with the Mueller investigation.

The administration adopting a strategy of stonewalling House Democrats. CNN learning that they may try to prevent former White House Counsel Don McGahn from complying with a White House subpoena. The judiciary committee requiring McGahn to turn over documents as it investigates possible obstruction of justice and to testify next month.

Well, tonight the judiciary chairman says a subpoena still stands and any claims by the White House of executive privilege would be one more example of obstruction by the Trump White House.

That as the treasury secretary for the second time, by the way, ignoring a deadline to turn over the president's tax returns. Well, treasury officials telling Congress they're still consulting with the Justice Department on the request and will make a final decision by May 6th. So, stay tuned.

Catherine Rampell is here. Ryan Lizza, and Matt Lewis.

Good evening, one and all. Thanks for dressing up, Ryan. So I'm going to start with you.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm on the road, man.

LEMON: I understand.

So, here's what the president is saying to "The Post, "The Washington Post" about White House officials testifying before Congress. He says, "There is no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it is very partisan. Obviously very partisan." So, I mean, let's think about this, right? Why would he have them cooperate? I mean, he's got everything to lose, nothing to gain. So now what?

LIZZA: Who's that for?

LEMON: That for you the man with no tie.

LIZZA: Sorry. Well, look, executive privilege is, from my understanding and I am not a lawyer but sometimes play one on TV. It's similar to attorney-client privilege, right? If you were my lawyer, Don, and I talk publicly about things that were previously protected under attorney-client privilege they're no longer privilege.

So, these people like Don McGahn and his other White House aides have already testified to the same issues and those issues are now public in the Mueller report. So, I wouldn't be surprised if this gets litigated, if the courts see any executive privilege there.

Now that aside, that legal point aside, it's also just, you know, Trump trying to prevent this story from going forward, trying to stonewall Congress with every, you know, method they can to sort of slow things down. But legally I'd be surprise if this one stands up.

LEMON: Yes. And then being kept. Let's talk about this. Because the president told the Post that Democrats should be satisfied with what the White House counsel -- former White House counsel Don McGahn and other officials told Mueller.

And he said this. He said, "I allowed all my lawyers and all the people to go and testify to Mueller. And you know how I feel about the whole group, that whole group of people that did the Mueller report. I was so transparent. They testified for many hours. They have all that information that's been given. I could have taken the absolute opposite route."

We do know that the president wasn't particularly transparent. He never actually did an interview. Remember he answer those questions and that probably say them in written form in which Mueller, in the report says he wasn't satisfied with his --

(CROSSTALK)

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Or he couldn't remember anything.

LEMON: Yes. He didn't recall. So, I mean, is that why he's taking this tactic with Congress that don't testify and they don't have --

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: Look, this is simultaneously both the most thin-skinned and thickly cloaked administration that I can remember, right? It's like they are doing their darndest to make sure that the public doesn't learn anything that's going on in this administration, whether that means what the president's financial entanglements are, how they decide what members of his administration get to see the nation's most sensitive state secrets.

[23:05:08] They don't want us to know any of this. And the real question is what are they so afraid of the public finding out? What are they hiding? The public has a right to know whether the guy who was ostensibly working on behalf of the American people is in fact working on behalf of the American people, or to line his own pocket book. And we just don't have the information to answer any of those questions.

LEMON: So, let's about that, Matt. I mean, she said if there's nothing to hide, as the president says, why not cooperate with Congress?

MATT LEWIS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, just like Donald Trump will lie when the truth will suffice. He will cover up things when there is no crime. We know that. At least there was no evidence of collusion. And yet, Donald Trump utterly looked guilty.

And I think honestly a lot of the reason that the intel community and the press, we in the press, were so convinced Donald Trump was guilty is that he acted exactly the way you would act if you had something to hide. And I think right now we may be making sort of the same leap here. He doesn't want to reveal his taxes. He doesn't want anybody to testify.

I'm not convinced that that's -- I mean, look, I'm totally willing to believe that there's something he's hiding but I'm also willing to believe that he's just a super secretive guy who has this philosophy that you don't -- that you troll people, that you look guilty and that you basically just cover up whether there's anything to cover up or not.

RAMPELL: Look --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I've got to say this before you jump in because facts are important. They didn't say there was no evidence of collusion in the report. They say that did not establish. And that's to a legal. I know it's a technicality but it sounds like the president's talking points because they never said that there was no evidence. But go on, Catherine.

RAMPELL: So what I was going to say is that just because we don't have evidence, you know, that is provable of a crime, let's say, as it relates to conspiracy with Russia doesn't necessarily mean that Trump wasn't trying to keep us from learning other kinds of dodgy things that he engage in, including in the many decades during which he ran his multinational business in which he engaged in lots of suspicious transactions.

Including, as I have talked about on this show before, paying in cash hundreds of millions of dollars for a money-losing golf course, which, again, if you know anything about real estate finance, you know, it makes no sense. Either you're the worst possible real estate investor in the history of real estate investing or there's something fishy going on.

So, there are lot of other things that he could have been covering up that we just don't know about because we haven't seen his financials. We don't know who he's getting money from, for example. We don't know who he still owes money too. And on what -- under what circumstances they can recall those loans.

Are those, you know, sketchy oligarchs who maybe are pulling the strings? We just don't know. We don't know if he's making money off of the presidency. We don't know if he's engaging other kinds of financial and tax fraud. There's a reason why we have this multi- decade long norm that presidents disclose what's in their tax returns.

LEMON: So, Ryan, listen.

LIZZA: Yes.

LEMON: The president says Democrats are simply using these investigations for political gains. Obviously, let's be honest, that work on both sides. Because think about the Benghazi investigation where, you know, it seems like every other month we're like there's another Benghazi investigation? The, you know, five or six before that, this one found nothing. But, so is there some truth to that, what the president is saying?

LIZZA: Yes. There always a little bit of politics and sometime a lot of politics going on when Congress exercises its oversight function and, you know, the other party is usually not very happy when they do that.

Legally, that is not really a leg to stand on of course, right? Whether what do you think the political motivations of the other party are. And just on this, you know, Trump covering up. Is he covering up because he has something to hide or is it just who he is? I'm sort of in between Matt and Catherine on this.

I think Matt is correct that Trump does, just by instinct, you know, he doesn't want to reveal anything. I mean, it's you know, it's like Saddam Hussein and the WMD's, right? He didn't have weapons of mass destruction but he acted like someone who did and it made him seen guiltier.

But at the same time I think Catherine is right, and as they pointed out -- as the Mueller report pointed out just because there was not -- they did not find an underlying crime of criminal conspiracy with the Russians, Mueller pointed out, chapter and verse, the other reasons someone would want to have obstructed the investigation and why someone would want to be acting like a guilty person.

He could have been worried about other people close to him who were vulnerable to being investigated and vulnerable to criminal indictments. He could have been worried about the investigation, you know, going into other things, you know.

[23:10:00] RAMPELL: He said that it would be a red line.

LIZZA: If the police show --

RAMPELL: He said it would be a red line as just to remind everyone. If Mueller look into his personal finances or his business activities.

LIZZA: Yes.

LEMON: Yes.

LIZZA: The -- so, he laid -- Mueller laid that out on the obstruction part of the report.

LEMON: And on this obstruction part and on the conspiracy and coordination part. He also talked about the reasons why they didn't do it. And that's why, you know, I think it's important to point out to people that, you know, the technicality that point out with Matt.

But Matt, one way -- let's bring Matt back in here. Because one way the White House, Matt, is trying to rebrand the Mueller report is by pushing an investigation into the Mueller investigation.

And this is what Elaina Plott of The Atlantic is reporting. She is saying "One former White House official told me that an investigation would allow Trump campaign staffers to frame their message in much the same way they did in 2016, claiming that the system is rigged against them, everyone needs a boogieman and this gives them something to hang on to, the former official said."

"I don't know that everyone and their mother know who Robert Mueller is. But if you told a Trump supporter that Democrats had used phony information to launch an investigation into their guy, it would absolutely fire them up." Winning strategy, Matt, for 2020?

LEWIS: Yes. Probably. I mean, look, talk about the moxie that this guy has. Most people would be like, you know, we dodged the bullet --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Let's move on.

LEWIS: -- we survived the Mueller report. They didn't find anything. And then they would be like let's calm things down now.

LEMON: Is that moxie or just a lack of, a total lack of shame?

LEWIS: Trump's instinct is to constantly fight to go on the attack and to accuse other people of the thing that he was accused of. Remember, fake news was originally something that Macedonian teenagers who were putting out disinformation to help Trump. Trump turns that word around.

Remember, Trump was the first guy who attacked the Electoral College. It ended up -- it's sort of ironic that whatever it is that Trump is accused of, he will almost always find a way.

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: I call it projection, Matt. That's what it's called.

RAMPELL: No puppet no puppet, you're the puppet, right.

LEWIS: Yes. It's exactly what it is.

LEMON: I know you are.

LIZZA: The real Russian collusion is the Hillary campaign.

LEMON: Yes.

RAMPELL: Yes.

LEMON: Thank you. I appreciate one and all.

Jared Kushner would like you to believe that Russia's election interference was no big deal. Is he deliberately trying to mislead you?

[23:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Senior presidential adviser, Jared Kushner making his first public comments since a redacted version of Robert Mueller's report was released. And he wants you to believe that the Mueller investigation was more harmful to this country than the Russians election interference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Quite frankly, the whole thing is just a big distraction for the country. And you look at, you know, what Russia did, you know, buying some Facebook ads and try to sow dissent and do it, and it's a terrible thing. But I think the investigations and all of the speculation that happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact in our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Let's discuss now. John Dean is here, Garrett Graff as well. Garrett is the author, by the way of the new book "Mueller's War." It's released this month on Scribd. I've been calling it Scribd but I guess I stand corrected. This is Scribd.

Good evening, gentlemen. John, I want to start with you. One of the very first lines in Mueller's report reads this way. It says "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion."

Yet, you hear as Jared Kushner saying that it's no big deal. Is he being purposely misleading about what the Russians did?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: When I first read his remarks, I wasn't sure, then I watched him on the clip that you used and he had obviously planted that seed in his head and then found the opportunity to use it and I think it's a devastating misstatement. It's misleading. It's absolutely incorrect.

The man has either not read the report or he's intentionally trying to mislead. And he's not in a good position to be doing that.

LEMON: So, Garrett, listen, you know, he says a couple Facebook ads. But Facebook said that Russians reached 126 million people from 2015 to 2017 and that's just one social media platform.

If you look at, you know, all these groups and how many followers they had, I read it in the open at the top of the show in the previous hour. Mueller found the influence was huge and that it's ongoing.

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. And we saw an indictment in October actually by the national security division of the Justice Department of another Internet research agency employee, one of their accountants who was engaged in midterm interference.

But remember, this isn't -- we're not just talking about Facebook ads. We're talking about active information influence operations that saw them helping to organize rallies to hire Americans to protest and to conduct political protests in the United States.

We're talking also -- don't forget -- about the secondary side of this, which is the active cyber-attacks by the military intelligence unit GRU that saw them steal the e-mails from Democratic officials, dump them through WikiLeaks, a channel that the Trump campaign was all too happy to accept the help of, and really drive the narrative in the media coverage of the campaign day after day after day.

This was a devastating attack, not to mention their attempts to actually penetrate the American voting system, which according again to the Mueller report, they may have actually succeeded in doing in at least one Florida county.

This was a massive attack. It was one of the largest, most successful intelligence operations we've ever seen carried out. And the fact that you have a senior White House official, who by the way, still can't get a security clearance permanently is deeply troubling that this is what he's out there spouting in public.

[23:20:07] LEMON: I want to go to because, I mean, I printed out your article. I thought it's good. It's called -- it's Wired. It's 13 Mueller report takeaways that you might have missed, Garrett.

So, let's just walk through a few that you point out that we learn. There are 12 still secret cases that Mueller has farmed out to other prosecutors. And you say one particular redaction that we're showing up on the screen right now, there it is -- is sure to be about Donald Trump, Jr. How do you know about that and what can you tell us?

GRAFF: Well, so this is, it comes to one of the authorizing letters that Rod Rosenstein, the acting attorney general gave to Robert Mueller to conduct the investigation. It appears that there are five or six individuals that were specifically named to be investigated by Robert Mueller. And the way this redaction shows, actually the next line is what gives it away. So, the last names something after s and there's two letters that come after on the next line that were also redacted. So, you have a pretty good sense that probably means it's a Junior.

LEMON: Interesting. John, a lot of people expected Don Junior to be indicted. This has to be a prime example of why Democrats insist on seeing the unredacted report and all the underlying evidence that they want to see.

DEAN: I think that's correct. I don't -- I don't understand why Republicans don't realize the importance of seeing the unredacted report. They -- some of them are going down to the Justice Department apparently, looking at it where they're coming out zip lipped about what they're finding in the limited unredactions.

In other words, everything with the grand jury material that's been redacted is being made available. But I think the Democrats are right to insist that they now have to walk to the Justice Department, go to a special room, see the report, read what they can, they can't take notes. It's a very awkward, very obstructionist -- obstruction-like kind of procedure.

So, hopefully the Democrats will prevail but I'm doubtful if they will.

LEMON: Why?

DEAN: Well, it's because of the weakness of the congressional subpoena. There are only three ways to enforce it, Don. One is to use the House jail and throw somebody in with the capitol police. That hasn't been used since the Civil War era. The other is to go to a criminal proceeding.

The U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia will not take it, won't do anything with it. And the third is a civil proceeding. Those take years. That would be after the 2020 election that we probably get the results. So, Trump knows exactly what he's doing by stalling.

LEMON: Yes. Gentlemen, thank you. I appreciate your time.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg facing questions about why he forced the resignation of the first black police chief in South Bend, Indiana. How he's explaining himself now and what some secret tapes have to do with it.

[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: A presidential candidate -- as presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg gains traction in a crowded Democratic field. A controversy from his early years as mayor of South bend, Indiana is still following him today, though. And it's an issue that has put the mayor under a political and legal microscope.

CNN's Drew Griffin explains.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Shortly after Pete Buttigieg became mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he became embroiled in controversy he still tries to explain seven years later.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are on the secret tapes regarding the demotion of South Bends's black police chief, Darryl Boykins?

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, the answer is I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: The secret tapes are phone conversations between four white officers including a top detective recorded by an internal police department system.

The officers made derogatory racial slurs including comments about the city's first black police chief, that's according to a lawsuit by one the only people whose heard those recordings.

Once, Chief Darryl Boykins heard about the conversations in 2011. He asked the recordings continue. Buttigieg forced him to resign because of the way the chief handled the situation, causing an uproar in a time of racial tension in South Bend and across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL PATTON, PRESIDENT, NAACP SOUTH BEND BRANCH: The Trayvon Martin situation had just happened in February. Chief Boykins's situation happens in, I believe March of that same year, 2012. And our nation is infuriated. Our city, the people in our city, especially African-Americans are infuriated.

It just raised a lot of questions and I think as well created some mistrust behind a lot of different things happening at the same time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: Buttigieg later rehired, then demoted the chief. The controversy lead to an extremely chain of lawsuits that have gone on for years now with litigants and their lawyers prevented from speaking about what's on those tapes.

The former police chief's attorney has seen a summary of the recordings and says what's alleged could raise questions about white cops interacting with black suspects.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM DIXON, ATTORNEY FOR FORMER SOUTH BEND POLICE CHIEF: If we've got the head of our metro homicide unit is dropping racial epitaphs, you know, how long is it going to be before the innocent's project comes in here and starts looking up looking at all these prior convictions?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[23:29:59] GRIFFIN: The lawyer for the officers who were recorded say there's nothing racist on the tapes but continues to fight their release. Regina Williams-Preston is on the city council and is taking her own city to court, demanding once and for all the tapes be played.

REGINA WILLIAMS-PRESTON, SOUTH BEND CITY COMMON COUNCIL MEMBER: This mystery around these tapes that's been looming over the community for so many years, it's like a cloud, because every time there's some kind of incident, you know, it just kind of rips that Band-Aid off and brings us back to this question, is there clear evidence of some sort of racism and bias within our police department?

GRIFFIN (voice-over): As for the mayor, he says he has not heard the tapes and will not release them without a court's decision because he doesn't want to violate wiretap laws, which leaves him trying to explain his actions as he campaigns for president.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: I was, frankly, a little bit slow to understand just how much anguish underlay the community's response to this, because for people in the community, it wasn't just about whether we were right or wrong to be concerned about Federal Wiretap Act, it was about whether communities of color could trust that police departments had their best interest at heart.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: Don, these tapes may be old but this issue is not, especially in South Bend. The city council there called the common council continues to press both the city and its mayor to get these tapes released. And just this week, a judge has ruled that the common council's case can move forward, meaning we may be closer to finding out exactly what these white police officers said on tape when they were recorded. Don?

LEMON: Drew Griffin, thank you very much for that. I appreciate it. We got a lot more to break down here. Is the criticism of Mayor Buttigieg fair? We'll talk about that, next.

[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Pete Buttigieg is rising in the polls but he acknowledges that he needs to reach out to the African-American community, African- American voters, and his handling of a police matter in South Bend may be an important factor in his support among black voters.

Let's discuss now. Bakari Sellers is here, Hilary Rosen, Alice Stewart. Good evening. Bakari --

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi, Don.

LEMON: Why is this --

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

LEMON: -- becoming such an important issue for Mayor Pete Buttigieg now?

SELLERS: Well, I think, first and foremost, he is becoming a serious contender. I think every poll you see, he is the top tier. So, now, people are starting to comb his record and see what he was for and how he did as mayor of South Bend.

This is a very fair issue. I think that all the candidates whether or not it's Kamala Harris as district attorney and attorney general or whether or not it's Amy Klobuchar when she was a prosecutor as well are going to have to reconcile their records and their issues of race in today's climate.

And so Mayor Buttigieg is going to have to respond to these questions about the firing of the police chief. He is going to have to respond to any questions about race that simmer up from South Bend. But if I did have one piece of advice for the campaign, it would also be that the mayor should tout some of the things he did positively for people of color in South Bend if there are any. I'm sure there are. He should do that.

I mean, he should also be proactive about laying out policy for African-American voters that he wants to do when he is president of the United States. I think all of that is fair game and something he should do.

LEMON: So, listen, Anderson questioned him about that last night, Hilary. So far, he has been light on policy. He has a short legislative record as having, you know, only held elective office as mayor. That is an important job. You have to balance the books. You know, you're the head of government. This increased scrutiny of his past, this is to be expected, especially if you're running for president, it's going to get worse.

ROSEN: Well, it is going to get worse because everybody has a thing in this campaign and people are going to have to deal with whatever their thing is. Look, I think that Mayor Pete has had an extraordinary run actually in being quite clever in his responses when asked questions. He has a unique way of looking at things, the way he talks about being gay as a gift from creator and the way he talks about unity and the way he talks about Middle America.

I was surprised actually at his lack of touch on this question that Anderson asked and then an audience member asked about what's going to police chief, because he's been dealing with this for years. You know, I -- you would think he would start that question -- that answer, saying if there is any racism in my police department, I want to root it out. I've always wanted to root it out. I've always committed to making sure that we have a police force that works for all of the community.

LEMON: Hilary --

ROSEN: But he didn't do that. He started talking about the federal wiretapping laws and judicial system and all this other stuffs that was kind of irrelevant to people's concerns.

LEMON: I want to bring this up now because you mentioned it. So, Alice, I know you're to go, but stand by, this is for Hilary. So, you know Zerlina Maxwell, who is a political analyst, whose head of, I think, politics or whatever at Sirius, and she's an analyst on another network. She says, I am the same age as Mayor Pete, and I would never be able to run for president and say that I'll fill you in -- I'll fill you all in on my policy proposals later because it's minutia, and then, you know, (INAUDIBLE) and I'm seriously asking.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: I think that resonates when I read that because that's what a lot of people are asking, and they ask the same question about Beto going around the country giving, you know --

SELLERS: Right.

LEMON: -- these platitudes and not really talking about policy and the same thing for Mayor Pete.

[23:40:02] Imagine if it was a woman on that stage or a person of color on that stage and they were asking about policy and they said well, they don't really matter right now. Hilary, what do you think?

ROSEN:: I think what we have seen in this campaign is honestly that the women have been in the forefront with big policy proposals and that is clear. Look, I think that people are allowed to put their policy proposals out when they're ready, and he doesn't have a lot of national policy experience. He's got to admit that. He's got to say that that -- you know, he's got to figure out how to turn that into a positive --

LEMON: It is a good strategy, though, that he is not committed --

ROSEN: But, you know, look, Donald Trump didn't put his policies out for --

SELLERS: Right.

ROSEN: -- the entire campaign and he got elected. So, I don't think it's so much about -- in his position, he's not going to have the depth of policy experience that Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren is going to have.

LEMON: OK.

ROSEN: Pretending too is a mistake. What he should be doing is saying these are my values, this is what I believe, and this is my record.

LEMON: OK. Bakari, you got --

ROSEN: He got to let people believe that.

LEMON: You got to stand up, because I got to get Alice in.

SELLERS: Sure.

LEMON: Alice, let's talk about this and then you can -- you know, if you want to talk about whatever, go back, you can. But I just want to bring this up because this is the other side of the argument. I just want to play something from what President Obama, the former president, said warning Democrats recently. Watch this.

(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 is true here as well, is a certain kind of rigidity, where we say, ah, I'm sorry, this is how it's going to be, and the 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, listen, I think the former president, Alice, makes a very good point there, but I'm not sure if it's applicable to Pete Buttigieg because people -- that's the whole reason that you're running and people go to town halls and watch because they want to know what your policies are. Is that wrong? Should he be worrying about a circular firing squad?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, this is what happens when you go from a long shot to a legitimate candidate like Mayor Pete has been experiencing. Look, when you experience a bump like he has and you're gaining momentum, you automatically get a target on your back. This is -- welcome to the whack-a-mole aspect of presidential politics.

This happens on the left and the right side. Here is what he is doing which I think is smart for someone like him that doesn't have the money or the name ID that allow these others do and he made the strategic decision to tell his personal story first and then roll out the policies.

I will say this. He made, I think, a wise town hall move by rolling out his policies during a town hall and making that announcement. That is what I think is a smart thing to do and slowly rolling out his policies and letting people get the chance to know him and then his policies.

With regard to questions about this police chief, I think he handled it well. I think the questions are certainly legitimate. This is an issue that has been very controversial in his city. But he made a very good distinction last night to make sure and point out that this didn't have anything to do with the color of the chief's skin but more along the confidence that the mayor had and his ability to do the job as police chief.

LEMON: OK.

STEWART: And I think he answered that question. He put it to bed. He understands it will continue to come up.

LEMON: OK.

STEWART: I think he handled it well.

LEMON: Bakari, go on.

SELLERS: Yeah. First of all, it doesn't put it to bed because if there are issues as Hilary said of systemic racism or implicit bias, then we need to know that. We need to know what his plan is to root that out and what he did as mayor to root that out and he's still mayor today and how he would fix that problem and lead the Department of Justice or choose an attorney general that will make sure that we don't have those biases in his law enforcement.

But let me also say this. I do say that there is a great deal of sexism in the way that this race is being covered, because you have individuals like a Kamala Harris or like an Elizabeth Warren. Elizabeth Warren is running circles around all the boys in the race in terms of policy. I just think that has to be said.

I think anyone watching this race can see that. I think that both Senator Harris and Senator Warren are doing yeoman's work on policy, but when every time, you know, Representative O'Rourke jumps on top of a table, then we are talking about his charisma and how he's making eye-to-eye contact and all of these other things. And I just think that we have to watch the way we cover this.

But I will say this about Mayor --

LEMON: You got to watch the show more.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Because we said that last hour. We talked about what Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris --

SELLERS: I was getting makeup, Don.

(LAUGHTER)

SELLERS: I was getting makeup.

LEMON: You need to look pretty. Go on, please.

SELLERS: But I was going to say one other thing about Mayor Pete and listen. He does like the policy depth.

[23:44:59] And I hope, especially on issues dealing with people of color, he listens and learns and maybe black voters will have patience for that. That's another conversation. But I actually compare him -- and listen closely. In terms of the way that he is very plain spoken, in terms of the way that he communicates his values, it's eerily reminiscent of Bill Clinton.

I think that what voters are getting from him is somebody who has this Oxford degree and somebody who has this great deal of intellect. We know that. But he talks to you in a very plain folksy (ph) way that makes you comprehend those things. And so I think that's his value.

Now, the lack of depth that he is displaying in terms of this policy point is something that hopefully he will fix along the way. But I think that is the attributing factor to his rise. I do think the comparisons with Bill Clinton are fair in terms of the way that he communicates with people.

LEMON: All right. I got to run. If you can do it quick, Hilary.

ROSEN: Well, I think that's good insight about Clinton (ph). I was going to say on the circular firing squad, that's what you essentially have in the Democratic primaries. People have to play out their differences. I love Barack Obama but that's actually how he got first elected in 2008.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: True.

ROSEN: When he challenged the purity of the Democratic Party on the Iraq war vote of Hillary Clinton. So, that is actually how you do it.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you all.

STEWART: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: I appreciate it. We'll be right back.

[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Democrats are debating whether incarcerated felons should be able to vote from prison, even convicted murderers and terrorists. Last night on our CNN town hall center, Kamala Harris said, "I think we should have that conversation." But today, she changed her mind. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We right now have got a lot of work to do with the people in our country who have served their time and have been prohibited from voting. But, you know, do I think that people who commit murder, people who are terrorists should be deprived their rights? Yes, I do. I'm a prosecutor. I believe that in terms of their -- there has to be serious consequence for the most extreme types of crimes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, let's discuss now. Joey Jackson is here. Areva Martin, author of "Make it Rain." Good evening. So, Joey, a lot of people were surprised to hear the way she answered last night, especially as a former prosecutor. Now, she's changing her mind or she's correcting what she said. Is she sounding more like a prosecutor now?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look, it's her right to change her mind. It's her right to have her opinions and her point of view. The bottom line is that I think we have to appeal to sanity. We can talk about criminal justice reform. We can talk about how the system disproportionately affects people of color and what we need to do to prevent that. We could talk about alternatives to incarceration, which I think would be very good.

But when we start talking about allowing terrorists and murderers to vote from prison, I think we've gone off the deep end. My opinion, certainly other people can differ from that. I'm worried about people who are out there now, right? We have people who are -- when we talk about people who have transgressed society, I think it becomes problematic. Last point, Don, and that is this.

You know, when you look at putting people in jail and you look at the tenants of the criminal justice system, it is about punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation. There certainly a place for rehabilitation. There certainly a place for people to come back into society to prove their worth. But I think you have to punish people and you have to deter people because at the end of the day, on the other hand of a criminal is a victim, and that's the problem.

LEMON: You say voting, you know, prisoners voting, people voting while they are in prison, you say that is an extreme --

JACKSON: I think that is an extreme. That is not something that I can get on board with that.

LEMON: Areva, you disagree?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think, Don, the default (ph) on this argument, people always go to the terrorists and the murderers. Let us talk about the non-terrorists and the non-murderers. Let's talk about state like South Carolina where African-Americans make up 27 percent of the population, 60 percent of the prison population. Let's talk about the fact that African-Americans are five times more likely to be incarcerated than non-African-Americans.

So to me, you can't talk about this subject and divorce the whole race issue from it. People in prison, if we are going to be evolved and try to get to a more humane criminal justice system, I think we have to have this discussion about people in prison having the right to vote. Already in two states, in Maine and Vermont, everybody in those states including prisoners have the right to vote.

And then look at what happens when we count prisoners. States and prisons count the people in those prisons and they take credit for those prisoners in their states, and they use those prisoners in order to gain more representation as it relates to census counts.

And so if we're going to use those prisoners to gain that kind of representation, to gain their population, then we have to think about what should be fair in terms of those prisoners having the right to participate in government. Just because they are incarcerated does not mean they are inhumane. So stripping people from fundamental rights like right to vote --

LEMON: Specifically in that question --

MARTIN: is something I think needs to discuss.

LEMON: -- specifically in that question, we ask even people who are as reprehensible as the Boston bombers or people who abuse children, and so on. And Bernie Sanders said yes. Just because they're horrible people doesn't mean that the Constitution doesn't apply to them. But, also, there's a whole thing because it's state's rights and, you know --

JACKSON: Yeah.

LEMON: I don't want to go down that rabbit hole. But Kamala Harris said last night this is a discussion, right? But it's interesting. This is a question that was asked to Bernie Sanders and somehow Kamala Harris has been saddled (ph) with it. Her response was her response but this originally a Bernie Sanders question.

JACKSON: I think everyone should be saddled (ph) with it. If you're running for president, you should have some ideology and some view as to what society should be, what prisoners' rights should be, and what should otherwise. I don't want to limit the discussion to terrorists and murderers.

[23:55:01] I want to limit them to anyone who transgressed the rules of society.

LEMON: How do you distinguish? How do you distinguish it?

JACKSON: Well, you make the distinction, I don't want to talk to anyone but myself, but when you talk about taking away voting rights, I think people would agree, terrorists and murderers shouldn't have them. But there are other people in prison who are not terrorists and murderers. I don't think if they are felons that they should have them either.

If you want to talk about how we address the issue of disproportionately affecting people of color, why they resonate in the first place over aggressive policing, the dynamics of sentencing, overly harsh sentencing, we should have that discussion. But I do think there needs to be consequences because there are victims who have been victimized and, you know, what are we going to do as a society?

LEMON: They had the opportunity to answer that in that way last night and did not. He simply said that I think the constitution applies to all people --

JACKSON: And I think voters will make their judgment as to whether that is the appropriate ideology to have.

LEMON: OK. We're out of time. Thank you both. I appreciate it. See you next time. Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)