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White House Asked Don McGahn to Say Trump Didn't Obstruct Justice; House Ways and Means Committee Subpoenas Trump Tax Returns; Colorado School Shooters Face Murder Charges; Rhode Island Warwick School to Cut Lunch of Students with Unpaid Lunch Debt. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired May 10, 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. Here is our breaking news tonight. The White House asked the former counsel, Don McGahn, to state publicly that President Trump did not obstruct justice, but McGahn declined.
Those details to CNN from a Trump administration source. The "New York Times" reporting the White House made that request to McGahn twice, before and after the Mueller report was released to the public. McGahn's attorneys saying tonight that the request was not perceived as some kind of threat or something sinister. But a White House source saying the president was upset with McGahn's refusal.
Also tonight, House Democrats moving quickly in their effort to get President Trump's tax returns. The chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee issuing subpoenas for six recent years of Trump returns. Earlier this week, the treasury secretary refused an official request to turn them over.
Is the Trump administration stonewalling on congressional request for documents and testimony? Is it creating a constitutional crisis? Tonight we'll look at the big picture for you.
Here to discuss, Susan Glasser, Douglas Brinkley, Elliot Williams. Thank you so much for joining us on this Friday evening, everyone. Susan, I'll start with you. What does it say that President Trump wanted Don McGahn to make a statement saying he didn't obstruct justice?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I guess it's not surprising. I was -- it's very reminiscent of some of the anecdotes that were covered in the Mueller report itself or in President Trump's early behavior.
Remember when he was calling around to his own intelligence chiefs trying to get them to make a statement saying he didn't have anything to do with Russia? It seems to me flash forward, you know, far from the disorganized White House that's passively sitting there and just waiting to be vindicated by the Mueller report, I'm struck by, right, they're very eagerly trying to shape the narrative around the report. They clearly perceived that McGahn's testimony given over 30 hours to the special counsel was among the most damaging revelations in the report itself and trying to shape that is notable in this context that it's still unclear when and under what circumstances Congress might hear directly from Don McGahn himself.
The White House did not assert executive privilege to stop him from testifying to special counsel. But now, they're saying they don't want him to testify on the Hill. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me not having asserted a privilege is hard to go back now and retroactively assert one, right?
LEMON: And say that you can do it. Yeah. Absolutely. Listen. The president has repeatedly claimed that Mueller found no obstruction. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I've been totally exonerated. No collusion. No obstruction.
No collusion, no obstruction. It was a total hoax.
No collusion, no obstruction, no anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So if Trump was so confident that Mueller exonerated him on obstruction, why would he need Don McGahn to come out and say it, Doug?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Because Donald Trump and his counterparts very well know he probably obstructed justice. He's going to do anything and everything he can to keep people like McGahn and Mueller and others from testifying. He's desperate to try to turn the narrative around.
He had that great moment when the Mueller report was released, the Barr version, early on -- and able to say that no collusion, no conspiracy, and thought that would be the end of it. But instead, we're seeing a tenacious Democratic Party demanding more answers, and we see a White House working over time to try to block people from telling the truth or coming forward and saying what they feel and think.
It's imperative to the country that McGahn and Mueller come to Capitol Hill and talk to our law makers. There are still a lot of questions about Trump's behavior with Russia and the Mueller report needs to be fully vetted in front of a wide television audience.
LEMON: Elliot, listen. Let's -- I want to bring in -- let's talk about the legal issues. Are there legal issues here considering that McGahn could be future witness in any number of congressional hearings?
[23:05:07] ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER ICE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, the interesting thing is that there's -- you know, McGahn's opinion as to whether the president obstructed justice doesn't matter. It's completely irrelevant. All of those was damage control and once again scripting Don McGahn to be one of the president's cronies or stooges to help, you know, spin and twist the findings and the report.
Why they had to do this, again, is because regardless of the legal finding that was made on the obstruction section, it's incredibly damaging to the president personally, right?
Now, along the lines of what Susan said, you know, it's not really obstructive conduct here but it's sort of part of the same pattern of behavior. It's leaning on McGahn and leaning on the attorneys around him to be loyal servants of the president to try to minimize the story. And at some point, some of the conduct that we saw on the report actually clearly was chargeable obstruction of justice.
So, really, this just seems like a continuation of the same behavior even if it's not illegal. I mean I think -- sorry.
LEMON: I just want to -- McGahn's attorney commented -- I'm going to give this to you since you were raring to go here. McGahn's attorney commented on the White House request and here is what he said. He said, we did not perceive it as any kind of threat of something sinister. It was a request professionally and cordially made. Legally, as you were saying, it doesn't really matter what his opinion is, but it was perceived request it.
WILLIAMS: OK. Look. It might have been cordial, but it's hard to tell if it was more arrogant or more stupid of the White House to reach out to the former White House counsel and try to get him to spin the reports of a duly executed law enforcement proceeding. That's what this is about. It's trying to twist the facts in the president's favor for something that, again, was quite damaging, if not legally, personally to the president.
LEMON: Well, Susan. Here's the bottom line. McGahn refused Trump's request. And do you think that this is why the White House is trying to prevent him from testifying before Congress at all costs it seems?
GLASSER: Well, that's clearly one reason. They think that it could be damaging testimony. The specter of John Dean looms large over all of this. And you know, you're a frequent guest on the show. But the truth is the idea of the president's own lawyer testifying against him in some way, shape or form on Capitol Hill in a public open televised hearing is bad scenario for any White House and they've already had the spectacle which was pretty unprecedented of having the president's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, testify publicly on Capitol Hill.
That was very damaging to President Trump, but this would be even worse because it gets to the heart of his conduct while in office. It's clear if you read the Mueller report, the whole section 2 around obstruction is essentially a roadmap to Congress when it comes to obstruction and laying out the different kinds of evidence.
Instead, we're being tied down right now in a series of process and potentially legal fights ultimately over access, not only to the unredacted report but more significantly to the underlying evidence that went into this if Congress is going to investigate the allegations. And remember, Congress is the only vehicle that can impose accountability for allegations like this.
GLASSER: Of course, they need to have the evidence --
LEMON: They've got to have the information, right? They can't see it, Susan.
GLASSER: It's almost an absurd, illogical thing. So, it's not surprising this is happening, but it's --
LEMON: Yeah. Doug, I want to ask you about Richard Neal (ph). I think this is important. The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee issued subpoenas to the treasury secretary and IRS commissioner for Trump's tax returns. The White House has not shown any sign of complying with other subpoenas. So why should this be any different?
BRINKLEY: It's a pattern of Donald Trump thinking he's above the law. It's a typical attitude of authoritarian. Nobody else has to follow subpoenas. Nobody should talk if he doesn't want them to talk. It's somebody who is not understanding the role of our democracy. And he's getting heat from lot of corners.
I mean, when Senator Burr this week said I want to hear from Donald Trump, Jr., that cuts close to home. And I think it's one of the reasons Rudy Giuliani going over now to the Ukraine and saying, well, I'm going to look into Biden and his son. Trump is making -- is desperate to change the subject away from the Mueller report because he thought he had it sequestered. And the taxes need to be turned over.
Congress, hopefully, eventually will get them, but it's a clock we're running out here with the election and we have to see whether the impeachment idea takes hold or not. But first, we need hear from more people and keep issuing subpoenas. American people have to demand to see the tax returns.
LEMON: Douglas, Elliot, thank you. Susan, happy mother's day.
GLASSER: Thank you.
LEMON: Oh, wait. You come back. Sorry. That's right. We got more. So, don't go anywhere. I'll tell you happy mother's day again.
[23:10:04] GLASSER: Thank you.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: So it's been a long week. The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General Barr in contempt for his refusal to turnover the unredacted Mueller report. The House barred former counsel, Don McGahn, from complying with the subpoena to testify on Capitol Hill. President Trump invoked executive privilege over the entire Mueller report. The Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Donald Trump, Jr., and the House Ways and Means chairman issued subpoenas to get president Trump's tax returns.
The battles between the White House and Congress seem never ending. I'm back with Susan Glasser, Douglas Brinkley, and Elliot Williams. OK. So, give me the big picture here, Elliott.
[23:15:03] The White House is stone walling Congress at every turn with Trump's taxes, the Mueller report, security clearances, and the list goes on and on o. There's been a question of whether or not year in a constitutional crisis. Are we?
WILLIAMS: That's an excellent question, Don. Look, I think we're in a crisis when the constitutional order that was set up 229.5 years ago can't sustain the behavior of the individuals running government.
Right now, you've one party that does not recognize another party as a co-equal branch of government. That's abundantly clear. And I'm glad you ticked off that list of subpoenas with respect to immigration and with respect to all the things in the Mueller report and so on, right?
So, now, the president doesn't respect Congress as co-equal branch of government. Courts can still step in and resolve this. But my question is if the president of the executive branch does not respect a court order and we have lots of evidence to suggest they might not, the president has spent a lot at the Capitol insulting courts and insulting judges and so on, then I think we got a problem because clearly the three branches of government are not working together. And clearly, the mechanism for fixing one party's behavior --
BRINKLEY: -- just can't sustain it. So, I think we're almost there. But I still have that misplaced lawyer's faith in the court to save us and I hope that can be where this ends up.
LEMON: OK. Susan Glasser, I want to know what you had to say because your new piece is titled, Is this the Official Trump Constitutional Crisis? And you write in part -- you say, in recent weeks, Trump has ordered his administration to take maximally defiant attitude towards Congress as it pursues an array of investigations of him and his administration. The president essentially is arguing that his democratic tormenters in the House had no right at all to pursue information and testimony related to him.
So, you know, he seems to be saying Congress has no power over him. Is that official Trump constitutional crisis that you're referring to?
GLASSER: Well, I think that potentially would be the crisis, right? It's not just individual challenges. And we should be clear that first of all there have been a long history of Democratic congressmen, Republican congressmen getting in fights with presidents of other party over subpoenaing either documents or testimony. In fact, the long-running case between Eric Holder, the Obama attorney general, and the Republican-controlled House just settled this week in a little bit of an ironic footnote.
So, that part is not a crisis in the sense that we've had a fairly regular and long standing series of conflicts. Sometimes to resolve in the courts, it takes a long time. I think Trump's maximalist view though of executive power and actually non-recognition of any form of congressional subpoena authority right now, that is that where you really are revisiting and revising the constitutional order. That is what Congressman Jerry Nadler, the chairman of Judiciary Committee, he called it a crisis this week.
To a certain extent, it's kind of a silly name game, right? I mean, to me, it's like -- you know, like when the earth starts shaking in California, is this -- is this the big one, you know, or is it just some mini crisis? We literally have been talking about a constitutional crisis and Trump since January 20th of 2017.
So, on the one hand, you don't want be to the boy who cried wolf here. On the other hand, it is breath taking when you step back and look at how all the individual actions together. But just to Elliott's point, President Trump hasn't defied a court order yet. Now, that -- there will be no dispute. If that occurs, everyone will agree that it is the crisis, but we're not there yet.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Don. If I can just really quickly. Because -- you know, having been at the Justice Department part of the time that they were litigating -- senior at the Justice Department when they were litigating fast and furious, I want to piggy back on Susan's point. Merely having a dispute and merely having an oversight dispute, as was the case in fast and furious, and to some extent with this Mueller report, that's OK and that's part of a healthy government and one side wins and one loses.
But when one party simply does not respect the other party and its legitimacy and ability to carry out as a co-equal branch, that's when you have a problem and that's where we are now. And I fully agree with -- just echoing Susan's comments.
LEMON: I need to get in this a bit of developing news. And I want you guys to sit and listen to this. This is Rudy Giuliani talking about -- remember you said he was going to go to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden in whatever role he had in the government there or some mishap he believed. Well, he's saying tonight he's not going to go. Let's listen and then we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: So, I've decided -- Sharon, I'm not going to go to the Ukraine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not going to go? GIULIANI: I'm not going to go because I think I'm walking into a group of people that are enemies of the president, in some case enemies of the United States, and in one case an already convicted person who has been found to be involved in assisting the Democrats with the 2016 election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[23:20:00] LEMON: OK. Douglas, you want to take a stab at that?
BRINKLEY: Yes. Well, once again, Rudy Giuliani is playing the fool's role. It was an idiotic idea to go to the Ukraine in the first place. He was interfering with American presidential politics. He was going to walk into a buzz saw. Now, he's gong on Fox and is insulting Ukraine, who's struggling to have a democracy against Russian totalitarianism and they have problems on their eastern border with civil unrest.
What was Giuliani, the president's lawyer, doing and walking into this whole scenario? And so, maybe Giuliani's lawyers reigned him in and said, kill it. This is not very smart idea. And so, I'm glad he's not going.
LEMON: Susan, can you give me a quick word?
GLASSER: Yes. I would say one thing that's really important -- I'm glad Doug brought it up -- is that, you know, the context here is really the (inaudible) of this. Donald Trump, now that he says he's exonerated by the Mueller report, has had an hour and a half long phone call with Vladimir Putin. He has consistently said that he was open to recognizing Russia's illegal annexation and take over of Crimea. Now, attempting to intervene essentially in Ukrainian politics in the effort to dig up dirt in American politics it's just an extraordinary, extraordinary move. You know, we'll see if they keep pursuing this.
LEMON: He says it, but you never know --
GLASSER: You'll never know.
LEMON: -- because they often change their minds. Elliot, I'll give you a quick word as well. But remember, before he said they could do it and it didn't matter because the election was 1.5 year away and they were interfering in an investigation, not an election. So, they had the right to do it. Now, he's not going.
GLASSER: One of the great quotes ever.
WILLIAMS: Oh, my gosh. Did we learn anything from the entire last two years of the Russia investigation? And you know, I used the point in the last segment. Is it arrogant or is it stupid? What could they possibly be doing? Why could there ever be the exercise of sound judgment in sending the president's attorney to Ukraine given all we know about attempts to meddle in our election over here and with an election coming. And again, it's just a staggering and shocking degree of arrogance, Don. That's the only way to describe it.
LEMON: Next time you see Rudy Giuliani on television, notice he's awfully tan. I don't know if it's bronzer or what. He's really, really tan. He's almost the color of the president. Thank you both. I appreciate it. House Speaker -- or all. I appreciate it.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi still resisting calls to impeach president Trump. But with more and more stone walling from the Trump White House, is the president forcing her hand?
[23:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walking a fine line on impeachment. She is not ready to go there, but she says the president is trying to go Democrats into it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The president is almost self impeaching because he is every day demonstrating more obstruction of justice and disrespect for Congress' legitimate role to subpoena.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That as a source tells CNN the White House asked former counsel, Don McGahn, to say the president didn't obstruct justice and McGahn refused.
As this all goes on and on, will Democrats eventually be painted into a corner on how would impeachment go down? Could the president just keep stone walling?
A lot to talk about. Let's ask Laura Coates and Allan Lichtman. Allen is the author of "The Case for Impeachment." Good evening to both of you. So good to have you on. Laura, I'm going to start with you. You've heard the big news tonight. The White House twice asked the former White House counsel, Don McGahn, to publicly say he didn't think the president obstructed justice. That's according to the New York Times by the way. But McGahn refused. Does this news make for an even stranger case, you thin, for impeachment for the Democrats?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly makes a stranger case for the obstruction of justice and all of the now infamous allegations to what, number 11, at this point, if that's true that he's asked somebody to in somehow influence at least a public perception of his role in the collusion and/or obstruction of justice probe by Mueller?
It certainly is part of this overall conversation to be had about the presidents trying to put his thumb on the scale of justice. And so, I think it does add more fodder. And again, just like the other 10 instances, it's a self inflicted wound that was preventable.
It also sounds a lot to me like what was asked when it came time for James Comey to talk abut the investigation and the president said to him, can you publicly make an announcement to try to shape and create the narrative that is favorable to me.
LEMON: Allan, you think Democrats are making a mistake by not moving to impeach. In a piece for the Hill, here's what -- you wrote that by not impeaching the president, Democrats were empowering Trump and handing him reelection in 2020.
I have said similar things, at least about questioning about why Democrats -- it feels like Democrats have to impeach this president, right, that they feel that they may have to impeach this president because otherwise they're not abiding by the constitution and the rule of law. So why do you say what you said?
ALLAN LICHTMAN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF HISTORY: First of all the Democratic leadership has now recognized that we're in a constitutional crisis, and the constitutional remedy is impeachment. Impeachment is the only way to hold this president to account with real pain by striking at his brand and his power. He can't be embarrassed. He can't be chained. He doesn't care anything about the law.
And if you have an impeachment process, the House will be much better able to enforce its subpoenas because the subpoenas will be directly related to what is the sole constitutional authority to impeach, which is in the House.
And in terms of the president getting reelected, you know, you're familiar with my keys to White House, which predicted Donald Trump's victory in 2016. Well, the pivotal key on which I believe this election will turn is the scandal key. And the only way the Democrats are going to turn that scandal key and put the cloud of scandal over this president is through impeachment.
Everyone misreads what happened with the Republican impeachment on Bill Clinton. Sure Republicans lost a few seats in the House, but they won the presidency because the scandal blunted the vote for Al Gore. And remember, Bush won the presidency by 537 votes in Florida and post election poles said a quarter of the electorate thought the scandal was important.
LEMON: OK. Allan, all right. So, let me put it plainly and bluntly. You're saying -- are you saying that key to victory -- you think the key to victory for the Democrats, the only way, is impeachment?
LICHTMAN: Absolutely. You got to hold Donald Trump accountable and pin the scandal key on him. And let's not forget --
LEMON: So -- wait, wait. So, the logic that they're using now is that, oh, if they impeach him, they're going to hand it to the president come 2020. That's all counterintuitive?
LICHTMAN: Yes. And remember, they're go down the rat hole they went down in 2016, believing the polls, no offense, believing the pundits in thinking they have an easy victory. Remember, Barack Obama, again, didn't step up. He had to go to Mitch McConnell and say, gee, would you agree with me in exposing what the Russians are doing in helping Donald Trump. The Democrats, again, are making that too timid mistake and it will cost them dearly.
LEMON: Listen. If you talk to Democrats, Laura, many of them will say, yes, I don't -- I think he should just be and they should impeach him. I mean they certainly think that he should be impeached. And there seems to be a deliberate strategy by Trump to get the Democrats to start impeachment thinking that it's going to backfire on them. Do you think that's a good enough reason for Democrats to hold back?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No. I think the Democrats have often said no one is above the law. But if they don't actually act to prove that they're separate and co-equal branch of government by acting as a check and a balance on the power of executive branch, well, they're essentially catapulting the president of the United States above the law and throwing through timidity or strategy that they actually are subordinate to the executive branch.
Impeachment, however, is a removal from office and I think that's the key that people are conflating here in many respects because impeaching is off a symbolic gesture. If it doesn't lead to the removal, it essentially flexes the power of Congress to say that we are showing the American people that we don't like what you have done. You definitely is above your -- or abused your power in some way, shape or form. Removal is very different.
However, one thing that Allan talked about that I think is very key is about the idea of relying -- if you're Donald Trump or even Democrats at this point in time on comparing only to Clinton and what happened there and about what happened to Newt Gingrich.
Well, in reality, either -- neither Nixon or Clinton is going to be good analogy because both of those men were in their second term in office. And so, one of the things to think about is whether or not a focus on impeachment alone as opposed to the parallel action to try to remove him from office through the election process, it would make so that there would be two silver bullets if they in fact want to shoot it.
LICHTMAN: Can I follow up on that?
LEMON: Yeah. But you got to do -- I'm really out of time. How fast can you do it?
LICHTMAN: Real fast. Everyone says, oh, it's to die in the Senate. But everyone forgets there's going to be a trial in which the prosecutors from the House can present all of the evidence against Donald Trump, not just on obstruction but on felonious violations of the campaign violence laws, violations of the emoluments (ph) clause, abuse of power, and the American people are going to get to see that. And even if the Senate doesn't vote to constrict -- and who knows what they might do in a trial. What happened to Nixon was all that public testimony collapsed his approval.
LEMON: OK. Good. Do you think Trump wants that asterisk by his name, impeached? No? Both of you? COATES: No.
LEMON: OK. Thank you both. I appreciate it.
LICHTMAN: Thank you.
COATES: Thank you.
LEMON: A parent from Colorado STEM school is speaking out after the shooting there, saying she warned the school board member that quote, "something like Columbine could happen at that school." Did school officials missed any warning signs? The details, next.
[23:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Two Colorado students will face murder charges in the shooting this week at the STEM School Highlands Ranch. They'll appear in court on Wednesday.
One student was killed trying to stop the shooters, eight others injured. As a community grapples with the horror of what happened, is there a chance it could have been prevented? That's the question. One parent contacted school officials five months ago expressing concern about the potential for violence. She is remaining anonymous, but here's what she's telling CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you mix a pressure cooker environment where students are stressed out and overworked and they don't get enough sleep and they feel suicidal or they feel aggressive towards one another and they're not being disciplined for it, when you don't listen to parents concerns, when you don't support teachers concerns, when don't give teachers the kind of training that they need or the support that they need, those are the elements that we need for a perfect storm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[23:40:07] LEMON: The Perfect storm. I want to bring in now Tom Verni, a former New York City police detective, and also Jonathan Doll, the author of "Ending School Shootings."
This is a really, really important conversation, and I'm so honored to have both of you gentlemen on. Thank you so much for coming on to talk about this. Tom, we're going to start with you. This woman describes what she said results in the perfect storm. She said that she heard reports of violence, sexual assault and bullying. If she had come to you with that information, what would you have thought and what would you have done?
TOM VERNI, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE: Good evening, Don. And my condolences to the families that are having to go through what we've seen too many times in this country and we'll probably see more of because, you know, whether you're talking about this nation being awash in guns all over the place falling into the hands of people that shouldn't have them, if you're talking about the mental illness issue in this country that is largely still unadressed, you know, there are signs all over the place. But yet --
LEMON: What would you have done though? If you have heard those as a -- you know, you're a former detective, what would you have done?
VERNI: We have to take some action. I mean people have to pay attention. People have to get their heads out of the sand. I mean, you can't look for leadership from the White House because we already know that's a lost cause, right? So, we would hope that you would get a top down message that, you know, for people to pay attention to our kids and the message is out of coming from them to them, we live in a largely racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic society. We know that. But yet, those messages are just thrown by the wayside also.
So when you have kids that are under pressure, like the kids of today are, being bullied, whether be cyber bullying or just your old-school, classic bullying at school, the old fashion way, and those messages are gone left unchecked with the amount of guns available. If you have someone that goes by the way side, they're going to find their way to those weapons, and do a lot of damage. We see it over and over and over again.
LEMON: Well, Jonathan, there were multiple allegations concerning other issues in this school. Are these warnings being taken seriously enough? I mean, you wrote the book on this. What do you think?
JONATHAN DOLL, AUTHOR, ENDING SCHOOL SHOOTING: Well, for starters, every threat needs be taken seriously. And Tom, as a fellow New Yorker, I really respect your feelings and your opinions on all of this. I come from a perspective though that I want us to really talk about what support is going to look like.
Because for schools and districts out there, this is not a state issue. This is not a federal issue. This is really a school and district issue. So when one parent makes an anonymous complaint of any nature, that needs to be thoroughly addressed by a school and/or district. If the parent does not feel that it has been, I really -- and I want to ask your opinion on this, Tom -- but I really think that it's the responsibility of the parent to work with law enforcement because we're talking about crimes.
We're not talking here about rule violations in schools but crimes. And if a school -- if -- and I would have to say if, this is not substantiated and what I read today on CNN actually said that the school painted a completely different picture of this story than what we've talked about and discussed of our --
LEMON: OK. So, listen --
DOLL: Again, Tom, I just want to ask --
LEMON: I want Tom to get in, but I had to get a statement in because, you know, in all fairness, right? So, we're doing a painting a picture of -- unfairly at all. The school statement says, like any school with more than 1,800 students, we receive complaints; all of which we take seriously and investigate promptly.
So, the school's response is saying every school has issues. Their investigation yielded nothing in this case. So, Tom, you respond to what Jonathan said and then I just want to make sure I got that statement out.
VERNI: Yeah. I mean, look, Don, throughout my career with the NYPD, I was a community police office/youth officer. I was in and out of schools all the time, involved with the youth programs that the NYPD has with kids. Yes, if I had a hair in my head for every time that an allegation fell by the way side in a school and/or within a school district, yes, I would have a wig on my head at this point. Schools don't want to have that heat on them, and a lot of these things do go unchecked. Investigations aren't real investigations half of the time.
So, regardless of what the socialization process of these children is from home or where they cam from or who their friends are, the schools have these kids for six, seven, eight, nine, 10 hours a day, and they have to be the final deciding factor as to how that child or the teenage, for that matter, what their life is like and whether or not there is a pervasive constant tone of allowance of bullying with these kids and where -- and paying attention to the symbols that these kids are giving that they may go and do something that could be -- do a lot of damage.
LEMON: Jonathan, if you can, we have -- before we run out of time, I just want you to break down for us the warning signs people should look for to try to prevent something like this and next shooting.
[23:45:08] DOLL: So, the FBI has made an incredible document that outlines 15 of these. They've been categorized. I've categorized them according to actions, behaviors and circumstances.
Actions are something that's one off. These can be things like threatening notes, threatening gestures, threatening behaviors. It also could be talk about guns. It could be drawing pictures of things.
Behaviors are things that change over time. In other ways, noticing that someone's drawing is more and more disengaged and knowing that bullying behavior and/or the -- being a recipient of bullying behavior is growing overtime. And the circumstances by and large often are vengeance and humiliation oriented.
And we live in an awful time period where the social media that we, as adults feel is a safe thing to use in a lot of respects, but the reality is this is just a graveyard of -- a bone graveyard for children because in within second their entire life can go from being having all the kids in their world liking them to not liking them.
LEMON: Yeah. In just moments. DOLL: And it's hypocritical sometimes. It's fake.
LEMON: Yeah. Listen, I got to thank you both, Jonathan Doll, Tom Verni. We appreciate it.
DOLL: Thank you for taking this issue up.
DOLL: I look forward to more off this.
LEMON: Thank you very much and we appreciate you coming on and we appreciate the efforts that both of you gentlemen make to try to combat this. Thanks so much. We'll be right back.
[23:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: There's an uproar in Warwick, Rhode Island in the public schools over, of all things, lunches. School district announcing this week that students with unpaid balances in their lunch accounts would receive only a butter and jelly sandwich until their balance was paid. Can you imagine that?
The district now is saying that after careful review and consideration the policy subcommittee is recommending that the Warwick school committee allow the students their choice of lunch regardless of their account status.
So let's bring in Angelica Penta, a local restaurant owner who has offered to pay off some of the school lunch debt. Angelica, welcome.
ANGELICA PENTA: RESTAURANT OWNER WHO OFFERED TO PAY LUNCH DEBT: Hello.
LEMON: Thank you. You're such a great person.
PENTA: Thank you for having us.
LEMON: I commend you for doing that. I'm going to say that in the beginning. OK. So, let's start with this. Because this story has been making headlines all this week. You have been raising money at your restaurants to cover student lunch debt since last year. What got you started doing this?
PENTA: So, there was actually a student in West Warwick, which is where one of our restaurants is located, and they had gone through the lunch line with their lunch. When they got to pay, they found out they had no money in their account and that their account was -- had some debt. So, the lunch lady actually took the tray, threw the lunch in the garbage in front of everybody and embarrassed her, and she cried and was just very upset.
Yeah, so that -- you know, I'm very sensitive when it comes to kids so that just broke my heart. And I said, you know, someday I'm going to open an account where if kids don't have money in their account they can take it out of our account. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. We had to find other ways to make it work.
LEMON: Yeah. So, the Warwick Public School has denied your $4,000 check. They said that it wasn't enough to cover the whole $77,000 in debt and they couldn't single out specific students to benefit.
LEMON: At first, you didn't come out publicly when your donation was denied.
LEMON: And then you changed your mind, why?
PENTA: Well, so it happened in January and I didn't want the publicity, I didn't want the negativity. Like I said I'm very sensitive. So that stuff, you know, I take it to heart. But I just -- I didn't want it to make Warwick look bad. So, you know, I said let's keep it quiet and we'll try to figure out a way to make this work.
West Warwick did take our donation of $4,000. So, I said if West Warwick will take it, there's a way Warwick will.
PENTA: So, I was trying to come up with a way this could work. And then on Sunday, my son is actually -- goes to school in Warwick. So on Sunday, I received an e-mail saying that as of this coming Monday, the 13th, if any child had lunch debt that they were going -- their meal was going to replaced with a sun butter sandwich -- sun butter and jelly sandwich.
So, this upset me so much because I was like, are you serious? You know, I offered to pay $4,000 towards it. That's money that we raised. That was donated from our customers. And I know it's nowhere near the $77,000. But it would have helped some of the kids, or even, you know, part of it. And I was just so upset. I said now I'm going to say something.
So I wanted people to know that I did try, that I wasn't sitting back, not doing anything that I did try to make a donation and that this was crazy. People don't realize they were going -- like I said they were going to take the lunch, throw it in the trash, replace it with a sun butter and jelly sandwich and then still charge you. So you're still in debt --
LEMON: Go on.
PENTA: I'm sorry.
LEMON: Go on. Finish.
PENTA: You're still in debt, we're throwing food away, and you're embarrassing a child, all for no reason.
LEMON: This is a statement, Angelica -- PENTA: No child should be embarrassed.
[23:55:01] LEMON: I agree. No child should be embarrassed. You're absolutely right. On Wednesday, the Warwick school committee chairman said that they quote, "are working with our attorneys to ensure that we accept donations in compliance with the law and that the donations are applied in an equitable manner."
Do you think all the attention got to them, got them to reconsider?
PENTA: Well, we actually -- with all this attention, we actually raised enough money to cover the entire city of Warwick's lunch debt.
LEMON: Let me just say this. You're amazing and thank you.
PENTA: Well, it wasn't me. It was everyone that helped.
LEMON: But it's a pleasure and an honor to meet you and you got it started. So, thank you and best of luck. Please stay in touch with us and let me know how this goes. And maybe you can make a difference around the country. We hope so. Thank you so much, Angelica.
PENTA: Well, thank you very much.
LEMON: Yes. Yeah. And happy mother's day and have a great weekend, thank you.
PENTA: Thank you, you too.
LEMON: We're going to be right back. But first a look at our new CNN Special. It's called Champions for Change.