Return to Transcripts main page
A.G. Bill Barr Questions the Integrity of the Mueller Report; Former and Current DOJ Officials Going Against Each Other; Women All Eyes and Ears on Roe v. Wade Issue; The Attorneys Who Represented Jane Roe Speak Out As SCOTUS Battle Looms Over Roe V. Wade; President Trump Hand-Picked Judiciary On Brown V. Board Of Education; Deal-Maker In Chief; The Redemption Project With Van Jones. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired May 17, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.
And at the end of a week when this president brought us to the brink of war with Iran, a week when he doubled down on his trade war with China, one that's getting more and more costly for more and more Americans, now this administration is flat out unapologetically breaking the law.
The Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin refusing to comply with a lawful subpoena from the House Ways and Means committee for six years of the president's tax returns even though the law does not allow him to decide for himself whether to comply. That is illegal.
You don't think the attorney general would be advising the president to order his administration to follow the law? And in another administration that might be true, but this attorney general is doing the president's bidding, as always, speaking to an audience of one, as always, acting more like the president's attorney instead of the attorney general.
The former FBI director James Comey tweeting just tonight, and this is a quote, "The A.G. should stop sliming his own department. If there are bad facts, show us, or search for them professionally, and then tell us what you found. An A.G. must act like the leader of the Department of Justice, an organization based on truth, Donald Trump has enough spokespeople."
Former FBI director. Wow. All of this as Barr is slamming the Mueller investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: The president calls this a witch hunt. He calls it a hoax. Would you agree with that?
WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, as I've said, if he were the president, I think he would view it as a witch hunt and a hoax because at the time he was saying he was innocent. And that he was being falsely accused, and that's -- if you're falsely accused, you would think that something was a witch hunt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Let's remember, in his confirmation hearings William Barr said exactly the opposite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Do you believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt against anybody?
BARR: I don't -- I don't believe Mr. Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, now he apparently does, or at least he is willing to say he does. As long as it's what the president wants to hear. Even though he's essentially throwing his good friend Bob Mueller under the bus. Remember he said in his hearings he and Bob were really good friends, no wonder they haven't spoken lately.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: When did you speak with him last? Correspond with him?
BARR: The last I talked to him was, I think, the Thursday after he delivered his report when we had a telephone call. But there's no --
HEMMER: So that's been several weeks?
BARR: Yes, but there's no -- that's not because of any strain between us or anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And that call, the attorney general mentions, the last time he talked to Mueller, that call came after Mueller sent not one but two letters to Barr, criticizing his summary of the special counsel's report for not fully capturing the context, nature and substance of Mueller's work and conclusions. Here's what Barr says about his summary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: Which he will say and Democrats will say is that you were spinning on behalf of the president, with the principal conclusions that you released, they leveled charges that you held back the Mueller report for several weeks. Were you spinning for the White House to buy some time?
BARR: No, I wasn't. I think what they're really perhaps annoyed about is that they didn't have an opportunity to spin and that the fundamental findings of the report were out there for everybody to see. And they were not in a position to spin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Shouldn't the A.G. be above partisan? That sounds a lot like the -- I know you are, but what am I defense. Attorney General Barr goes on Fox to spin the Mueller investigation, denies spinning for the White House, and accuses Democrats of being annoyed because they were not in a position to spin.
Is your head spinning yet? Mine is. That's actually the point, to distract and deflect. Fox's Chris Wallace saying Barr, and this is a quote, "clearly is protecting this president and advocating his point of view."
But in another corner of Fox News the president was getting blowback where he might least expect it. Listen to this, this is from Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: It is dangerous when presidents write their own laws, impose their own taxes, spend money how they want and Congress looks the other way. It's dangerous.
[22:05:00] Because it's too much of an accumulation of power in the presidency. And it imbalances that delicate balance that the separation of powers created. We need to be careful about too much power in the hands of too few.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: With all of that going on the president started his day today with a Twitter tirade, including his false claim that his campaign was spied on, a claim that was knocked down by his own FBI director.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any evidence that any illegal surveillance into the campaigns or individuals associated with the campaigns by the FBI occurred?
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, FBI: I don't think I personally have any evidence of that sort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, the president going on to tweet, "It now seems General Flynn was under investigation long before it was common knowledge. It would have been impossible for me to know this. But if that was the case and with me being one of two people who would become president why was I not told so that I could make a change?"
As we always say on this program and on this network, facts matter, facts first, the fact is, and I'm going to show you the evidence, he and his campaign were told over and over and over. Flynn himself told Don McGahn who was a top lawyer on the Trump
transition team that he was under federal investigation for lobbying work he did secretly for Turkey while he was working on the Trump campaign. That is according to the New York Times.
Then President Barack Obama in the Oval Office two days after Trump's election win warned him not to make Flynn a member of his national security team because his name kept popping up in the investigation of Russia's election interference.
That's two examples right there. Then, here's another one, the acting Attorney General Sally Yates told McGahn after the inauguration that Flynn could be, quote, "essentially blackmailed by the Russians."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALLY YATES, FORMER UNITED STATES ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: I had two in-person meetings and one phone call with the White House counsel about Mr. Flynn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Chris Christie, Chris Christie says he warned Trump multiple times that Flynn was trouble.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ): I didn't think that he was someone who would bring benefit to the president or to the administration, and I made that very clear to candidate Trump and I made it very clear to President-elect Trump. That was my opinion, my view.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Chris Christie, supporter of this president. So why is the president on such a tear about Flynn today? Well, maybe what we're learning about him is getting a little too close to home.
There's this, at the same time, he was cooperating with the Mueller investigation, Flynn may have been playing both sides, sending direct messages to Congressman Matt Gaetz who was publicly criticizing the investigation.
One message reads like this. "You stay on top of what you're doing, your leadership is so vital for our country right now. Keep the pressure on."
And if that doesn't make his point clear enough, there's also an eagle and a flag.
That as we are now learning more tonight about court documents showing that Flynn told Mueller that people connected to the Trump administration or Congress contacted him, potentially trying to influence him not to cooperate with prosecutors.
He gave Mueller a voice mail of one of those conversations. And now a judge is ordering that the transcript of that conversation be made public, along with Flynn's calls with Russian officials and potentially redacted parts of the Mueller report.
And all of that may not play into the president's preferred and false narrative that he has been 100 percent exonerated. So, what does he do? What he always does. Deny, get angry, attack. He's doing it today. The question is, will it work?
I told you about the former FBI director James Comey slamming Attorney General William Barr. Is this kind of unbecoming sniping exactly why we need to hear from Robert Mueller, to settle all of this down? That is the question for Jim Sciutto, John Dean, Phil Mudd, next.
[22:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: We're back with our breaking news. The former FBI director James Comey taking aim at the Attorney General Barr, tweeting that he should stop sliming his own department. That last bit was a quote from him.
So, lots to talk about now. Jim Sciutto is here. John Dean and Phil Mudd. Gentlemen, I appreciate it. What extraordinary times we're living in. I'm going to start with you, Jim. Because these new tweets come from James Comey. I'm going to read them again in full here.
It says, "The A.G. should stop sliming his own department. If there are bad facts, show us, or search for them professionally, and then tell us what you found. An A.G. must act like the leader of the Department of Justice, an organization based on truth, Donald Trump has enough spokespeople."
So, and then there is a second one, "The president claiming the FBI investigation was treason reminds me that a Russian -- what a Russian once said, that a Russian said -- I'm reading it off the monitor, because it's just in, a lie told often enough becomes the truth, that shouldn't happen in America. Who will stand up?"
Again, this is all coming from the former director of the FBI tonight. What do you make of all this, Jim Sciutto?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Listen. It can't be good for the departments, right, to have this public sniping between current and former leaders. It's an expression of where our political discourse is today in Washington. I suppose we shouldn't be surprised by it but we should pay attention to it and we should be concerned by it.
I mean, what strikes me here is the contradiction among sitting heads of these agencies right now. And you highlighted it, Don, at the start of this program, Bill Barr is saying very publicly that he has concerns, seemingly evidence for concerns about how this investigation started.
[22:15:07] The head of the FBI was asked under oath last week, Chris Wray, whether he'd seen any evidence and he said no.
SCIUTTO: Just as simple as that. The question is, is Barr being titillating here by sort of raising questions, perhaps with an eye to how the president will hear that, or has he discovered something and is that in conflict with what the FBI director knows about the start of this investigation?
It's legitimate question but rather than airing those genuine concerns you better have something to back it up before you put it out there, you know, for the American public and the president to jump on as well.
LEMON: Yes. I've got to ask you, John Dean, so now we have the former FBI director, we have the current A.G. and the former deputy A.G. all sniping at each other. This is why we need to hear from Mueller, right, he may be the only person who can settle all of this down.
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He certainly is, and we certainly do hope to hear from him. I understand they're still unable to come up with a date certain. There's questions about executive privilege as to whether that will be invoked or not.
But Don, I must tell you, somebody who spent some years at the Department of Justice, there is a professional body there that really just pay much attention to what's happening at the top of the pyramid, if you will.
They'll go on about their professional work, and so I don't think we need to worry about that. But we do need to worry about is the fact that this investigation of an investigation is just unprecedented.
DEAN: And uncalled for.
LEMON: Yes. We're going to talk a little bit more about that but I just want to bring you in, Phil, and ask you because as I'm reading all this, as I'm talking about the former FBI director, the former deputy attorney general, the current attorney general, what the president has been tweeting, you know, many of his people spreading all these conspiracy theories, everyone sniping at each other divided, is there any greater victory for Vladimir Putin?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I don't think there could be. I mean, if you look at the history of what I participated in for a living, the spy business, this is what you call Covert Action, you're trying to use an operation that you can plausibly deny, that's Vladimir Putin saying to the president as he said in Helsinki, Finland, we don't have anything to do with this interference in the campaign, we didn't put anything on Facebook or Twitter.
If you could have said two and a half, three years ago, Don, in the midst of that Russian operation, that Covert Action if you could have said this is going to take down multiple cabinet members, this is going to embarrass the president, this is in some ways going to lead the president to get closer to Putin because the president doesn't want --
LEMON: Send people to prison.
MUDD: -- to acknowledge that Russia stuff helped him. Remarkable.
LEMON: Yes, it's really unbelievable. Jim Sciutto, so Bill Barr, he went from -- I don't believe Mueller would be involved in a witch hunt, that was at his confirmation hearing, to now saying that he is comfortable with Trump calling it a witch hunt. I mean, talk about an evolution, or maybe a devolution.
SCIUTTO: No question, you look at some of the wording that he's used, I mean, just even the phrase witch hunt, right? Because --
LEMON: Or spying.
SCIUTTO: -- that colors -- it colors the work of the entire department and the agencies involved, right. I mean, and he knows, and he's been attorney general before, he knows about the many loyal, hardworking people in that building who follow protocol, follow the rules, it's the nature of their job.
It's the president who entered that kind of phraseology and attack into the public discourse with ease and he tweets that way a thousand times a day, right, to have the attorney general now echoing that as he sits atop, you know, the very agency the president is accusing of that kind of behavior.
I just want -- I speak to folks inside that building all the time. And the gentleman on the air, you know, like Phil who served there, and John Dean as well who served in those institutions before, they know better than me, that doesn't make the folks in there feel good or happy or proud or protected as they're trying to do their jobs.
LEMON: I want you guys to listen, and this will be for you, John, but I just want you to listen to what Chris Wallace had to say over at Fox News tonight. Remember, Chris Wallace plays it straight on his show. This is the analysis of the Barr interview, watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: What really comes across to me, most of all, is that for two years Donald Trump sat there and said I don't have an attorney general, I don't have somebody out there looking for and protecting my interests. He clearly has that now with Bill Barr, not saying that Barr isn't right in everything he says but he clearly is protecting this president and advocating his point of view on a lot of these issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I want your reaction to that, John, because you have that, right, and then you have Andrew Napolitano who is a judge over there, saying it is dangerous when presidents write their own laws, impose their own taxes, spend money the way that they want, on and on.
[22:20:01] He is responding directly to the Barr interview. But then you also have folks over there saying this president is acting as if he's above the law, go on.
DEAN: Well, they have entertainers over there who get on the air and spout what they're -- they think their base wants to hear. They also have a couple real journalists over there and a lawyer who can call it straight.
But, Don, we're in trouble with this whole effort to try to discredit agencies and it's a standard operating procedure by Donald Trump. He's done it his entire life and he's doing it as president and so obviously he's stirring it up again because there's something he doesn't like that's coming down the pike and he gets enough notice to know.
LEMON: Well, Phil, the president has already made up his mind, right, I mean, he says that he has -- he was conclusively spied on, that's what he says and that is not true. So, what happens if this investigation into the investigators comes back, Trump doesn't like the findings?
MUDD: Look, I can't believe that will happen. I mean, if you look at investigations that's this unique, this complex, this lengthy, if you put a laser on that kind of investigation, you're going to find something wrong.
I tell you, my concern as we're looking at that kind of investigation is one thing, and that is that the attorney general keeps using the word spying. What he's telling me, that's very derogatory in the FBI, what he's telling me is he's already anticipating the result. It's like the IRS looking at your return and saying we're not going to audit it, Don, we're looking for fraud. What would you think?
LEMON: Interesting. Jim Sciutto, I want to talk about this, and I have been watching some of your interviews and have been very impressed by it. This is the Russian investigation. So, let's talk about your new book, OK" It's called "The Shadow War: Inside Russia's and China's secret Operations to Defeat America."
So, Jim, talk about the threat Russia still poses to the U.S. It is beyond just election interference, correct?
SCIUTTO: It is. And that's really the point of the book, because I think Americans are aware of that front, they are, we talk about it a lot, but there are many other fronts to this conflict and they're part of a broader strategy by Russia to undermine the U.S., to defeat the U.S. on a lot of these battlefields.
Americans know about cyberattacks, but they don't know that Russia has deployed weapons into space, kamikaze satellites, as U.S. Space Command, Air Force Space Command have referred to them, satellites that can maneuver up to America's most sensitive space assets and destroy them in the event of a conflict.
And we, as a country, are more dependent on that kind of technology than anybody in the world, our military, our civilian institutions as well. But it doesn't stop there.
Russia has invaded a European country in Ukraine, still occupies that territory. It is also in competition with the U.S. under the waves in the ocean, submarine warfare. I was on the U.S. nuclear sub under the Arctic, Russia has more advanced quieter subs that is all about projecting nuclear power right up to our homeland, multiple fronts, Americans, leaders to recognize it, they're just coming around to it now but they still haven't figured out a strategy to push back.
LEMON: And Jim, how about China, how does China do the same thing?
SCIUTTO: Well, remarkably. Two different countries, two different geographies, languages, histories, et cetera, but a very similar strategy. China has also put weapons in space. China also attacks the U.S. in cyberspace every day with great success, stealing both state secrets and private sector secrets.
China also has very advanced quiet submarines that can get very close to U.S. forces and they're also grabbing land where they can, they're manufacturing land in the South China Sea in the middle of waters claimed by half a dozen countries including U.S. allies.
They have different names, the Russians call it the Gerasimov Doctrine, Chinese call it winning without fighting, but similar, all intended to undermine the U.S. short of sparking a military reaction by the U.S. And they have a tremendous success doing it. That's "The Shadow War," that's what this book is about.
LEMON: Jim Sciutto's new book is "The Shadow War: Inside Russia's and China's Secret Operation to Defeat America." Gentlemen -- go pick it up. Everyone should go pick it up. Gentlemen, thank you so much.
SCIUTTO: Thank you.
LEMON: I appreciate it. We'll be right back.
[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Conservatives may be one step closer tonight to their big prize, one they have had their eyes on for more than 45 years, repealing Roe v. Wade.
Today the Missouri State House passed a bill banning abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy, just like the law in Alabama signed earlier this week, there are no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
The Republican governor says he'll sign the bill. Multiple states are trying to restrict abortion rights, setting up a series of legal battles that could lead to the Supreme Court reconsidering Roe.
Joining me now the women responsible for a woman's right to choose in this country, and that is Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee. They represented Jane Roe in the landmark case that effectively legalize abortion in the United States. Thank you for joining us. I really appreciate it.
SARAH WEDDINGTON, ATTORNEY: Thanks for the invitation. We hear good things about your ability to hold an interview.
LEMON: Yes. Well, thank you so much. So, let me start with you, then, Sarah. When you argued this case before the Supreme Court in the 1970s, and you won, did you ever think that it could be in jeopardy so many decades later?
WEDDINGTON: No. I thought it would take a little while for the case to be accepted but there were other cases before this that had been, you know, accepted over a period of time and I thought that would be the way it would go, there would be a time period where it was -- sort of ill at ease with some people but then people would accept it and go on.
LEMON: Well, Linda, I understand that you had been predicting challenges to Roe v. Wade for years and actually you're surprised it took this long. Why is that?
LINDA COFFEE, ATTORNEY: I don't -- I don't know. It seems like the challenges were just so far out -- I thought they were just so far out and they just keep getting more and more so.
[22:30:05] LEMON: So, listen, Sarah, it's not just Alabama -- Missouri, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, Kentucky, all have restrictive abortion bills that could eventually end up in the Supreme Court, but as a matter of strategy which do you think the justices will likely take on?
WEDDINGTON: See, I don't know, but there's been a group of very conservative legal scholars that over a period of years has set up an organization to get young law students to help and to try to overturn Roe. So, it's been a very determined effort for several years now.
LEMON: So, let's talk about the Supreme Court, because you know there are, you know, it's -- the majority -- its majority conservative right now. And I just want to play what Justice Kavanaugh said during his confirmation hearing when he was asked if Roe versus Wade was settled or could be overturned. Here it is, listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT KAVANAUGH, NOMINATED AS UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT: Settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court entitled to respect under principle (inaudible). One of the important things to keep in mind about Roe v. Wade is that it has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years as you know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So Linda, he is saying it's settled and it has been reaffirmed, that was then. Do you think he would vote to strike down Roe now? COFFEE: I'm afraid that he would, but I can't say for sure.
LEMON: Do you think any of the justices on the court would vote to strike it down now?
COFFEE: Well, I'm sure two or three of them might.
LEMON: Yeah. Sarah, listen Justice Briar who sits on the liberal wing of the court recently issued a dissent on a decision overturning a 40-year precedent. And here's what he said, he said I understand that because opportunities to correct old errors are rare, judges may be tempted to seize every opportunity to overrule cases they believe to have been wrongly decided. Today's decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next. Do you think that was a warning?
WEDDINGTON: No. I think it was merely stating what all the justices know, and that is that it could be that the judges or a majority of the judges, it takes a majority to overturn precedent, that maybe a majority would decide to try to overturn it. That is still very difficult. And Roberts, chief justice, has seemed very reluctant to overturn precedent and Kavanaugh said he would be reluctant, but I'm sure that had to do with politics more than law.
LEMON: Sarah -- do you think -- so, I'll ask you the same question as Linda. Do you think he would overturn it, Kavanaugh, vote to overturn it?
WEDDINGTON: I do. I don't trust him a bit.
LEMON: Sarah, another question. Your landmark case was in 1973. Women have had the right to choose for so long. Do you think people really understand what they would be losing if Roe is overturned?
WEDDINGTON: I think some do and some don't, but I've been amazed in the last several weeks as I've talked to people in Washington, D.C., in many of the states, for them to say to me, young people are the real driving force of the criticism of the attempt to overturn Roe versus Wade.
LEMON: Yes. What do you think, Linda, this would mean if it is lost to women around the country?
COFFEE: Well, I think it would just be -- I think it's just a loss that many people can't even begin to imagine, because I think without the ability to control a woman's reproduction that you really you just don't have -- it just -- it diminishes the -- your ability to achieve what you're capable of achieving in life.
LEMON: Well, listen, this is such an important issue and we appreciate your time. We appreciate you coming in, especially since you -- you're the ones who are responsible for this. Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, much appreciation, thank you so much.
COFFEE: It was our pleasure.
WEDDINGTON: Thank you.
LEMON: Roe v. Wade isn't the only landmark case that could be up in the air in the wake of President Trump remaking the judiciary. Brown versus the Board of Education could be too. What the president's handpicked nominees are saying about that case, next.
[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: On the 65th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Brown versus Board of Education, Senator Kamala Harris is sharing why it was so important for her. And she quotes here, she says, "Brown v. Board is personal to me, my class was only the second after bussing integrated Berkeley public schools, without this decision I likely wouldn't be a U.S. senator, it's critical we combat the racial equities -- inequalities, excuse me, that still exist in our schools.
That unanimous ruling is widely regarded as one of the Supreme Court's greatest moments, but civil rights groups are pointing out that over two dozen of President Trump's nominees, four federal court judge have dodged the question when asked about the case. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Do you believe that Brown versus Board of Education was correctly decided?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, I don't mean to be coy, but I think I get into a difficult -- a difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions, which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with.
[22:40:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not feel it's appropriate for me to comment on whether or not the case was properly decided.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that would be inappropriate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The canons of judicial conduct prohibit us from opining about the merits of even landmark cases like Brown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going to purport undertake degrade, the courts -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not allowed to comment on the merits of Supreme Court --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Wow. Why can't they answer a simple question? Let's discuss. Irin Carmon is here, she is the co-author of "The notorious RBG." Also F. Michael Higginbotham is here as well, the author of Ghost of Jim Crow, ending racism and post racial America. Thank you both for coming on. Good evening. This is -- it's just unbelievable. Michael, I'm going to start with you. Why do you think that so many of Trump's nominees can't say whether they support this case, what is the explanation for that? F. MICHAEL HIGGINBOTHAM, PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, UNIVERSITY
OF BALTIMORE: Well, there isn't a good explanation at all. On this 65th anniversary, I think we've seen it all. I mean, Brown is the most celebrated constitutional law case in our history. The Supreme Court in a unanimous decision in '54, nine justices, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, southern and northern all said at a minimum, the equal protection clause stands for the proposition that government can't separate children in schools on the basis of race.
It's an easy proposition. And so there's no good reason not to answer it. And the fact that some nominees have said they won't answer it is really problematic, because it's an easy call. Brown has become a core principle of American democracy. It's about the promise of American democracy that we can be inclusive, that we can create equal opportunity for all and so for nominees to say they can't answer it is problematic.
LEMON: Irin, we were listening to the sound bite in the studio and just -- I was gasping, like, what, I can't believe that, I mean, as Michael Higginbotham just said, Brown versus Board of Education was a unanimous decision, both conservative and liberal judges at the time, why are Trump's nominees ducking this question?
IRIN CARMON, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Don, the consensus has shifted so quickly that you had Brett Kavanaugh, you had Justice Samuel Alito, you had Chief Justice John Roberts, all saying that they thought Brown v. Board was correctly decided.
So these are now judges that are to the right of those deeply conservative justices. And I think that we need to stop and try to understand why is indeed this is happening. So, I think that there's two factors at play here.
One is that the rules have already dramatically changed under Mitch McConnell who has really prioritized this makeover of the federal courts. Everybody remembers Merrick Garland, but what about the fact that in the waning years of Obama's presidency -- Mitch McConnell kept open 100 seats that he did not allow Obama to be filled. And lower courts which make incredibly important decisions and now they're rushing through, they've change the rules, they've gotten rid of the kind of consultation process with the Senators.
They have started accepting judges who are getting low ratings from the American bar association and these are really young judges who are getting appointed for lifetime appointments and who are radically to the right even of what we saw under the Bush administration. And so I think the old rules that even had these conservative justices endorsing this consensus decision are gone.
The second thing, I think, has to do with the discussion you just had in the segment before, which is Roe v. Wade. Brown v. Board and Roe v. Wade are two of the most famous cases that involve the constitution living up to its promise of equality to all people and they involve a kind of activist lawyer model in the middle of the last century that the conservative legal movement has spent its entire tenure trying to undo. So why can you say that Brown v. Board is OK, but not Roe v. Wade, both are in the cross hairs.
LEMON: It's very interesting that, you know, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Michael, is saying that he believes that these nominees are being instructed by the Trump administration to avoid that question. But, you know, is it an open question right now as to whether Trump judicial nominees feel bound by precedent even in very well established cases like Brown v. Board and Roe v. Wade?
HIGGINBOTHAM: Well, I think they're suggesting that they're not. They should be. We have a principle called starry decisis. Most justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, seem to appreciate that principle, they've talked about being an institutionalist and respecting the court, respecting the precedent, but it seems like some of these nominees want to ignore that principle. And I think that is really problematic, but I do think it's about abortion. They don't -- if -- they feel like it's a trap.
[22:45:00] Some conservatives say if you answer the question on Brown, then you have to answer the question on Roe and talk about abortion. That is a weak argument, though, as was pointed out, John Roberts, Sam Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, other conservative justices all answered the question on Brown. So, there's no reason not to answer the question on Brown.
And any nominee to the federal court should be able to distinguish between a core principle in American democracy and stuff that is unsettled. And so, it's like they can't tell the difference between a welcome mat and a no trespassing sign. It's easy to distinguish any nominee should be able to do so. If they can't they disqualify themselves.
LEMON: I learned a lot from this conversation. Thank you, Michael, thank you, Irin, I appreciate it.
Donald Trump ran on he has reputation as a deal maker, but what do all of his deals have in common? Van Jones is here to tell us, next.
[22:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: President Trump is trying to make deals with Congress on immigration with China on trade and he wants to make a deal for peace in the Middle East, but if he keeps stonewalling and defying subpoenas, does Congress have any incentive to play ball?
Let's discuss, Mr. Van Jones is here, the host of CNN original series, "The redemption project" which is a very good show, by the way. Congratulations on that.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you.
LEMON: Van, thank you for coming in. So let's talk about this. Just this afternoon the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, defied subpoenas from the House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal for the president's tax returns. It's the latest in a string of administration denials for documents and testimony. If the administration keeps stonewalling, what incentive do Democrats have to work with this administration?
JONES: You mean, since the administration won't cooperate with them, why should the Congress cooperate with them?
JONES: Yes, like zero, you know, 0.0 incentive. Part of the thing is that we are now at one subway stop from a real constitutional crisis. Because when you say we're not just going to obey, we just -- Congress does not have the right to have anything. Well, it puts the courts now in very tough position. They either have to come in and tell the president, oh, by the way, you have to follow the law and we then don't know will Trump obey.
Or the courts have to side with the president and say by the way, Congress, you're null and void. Either way you're playing with the very, very core of the constitution over stuff that is minor and doesn't even matter. So, you know, that does them put everything else in jeopardy. Because when you put the core function of the republic in jeopardy, it's hard to then cut deals with everything else.
LEMON: Well, I just want -- you say one stop away, I mean, it doesn't feel like we're pulling into the station, isn't it?
JONES: The reason why we are one stop away is because the courts haven't step in yet. So, basically it is now thrown to the courts. And you think about it, and the point of view of the courts. I mean, do you tell Congress it's null and void? Do you tell our president who may not listen, you got to do something? I mean, we aren't getting into very (inaudible).
LEMON: The interesting is, one day there will be a liberal Democratic president and then what happens? Are they going to try to revert back? Because I know you got to --
JONES: You got to follow the rules now. Now we have a constitution.
LEMON: that is very dangerous precedent to say.
JONES: Remember what the nuclear option did?
JONES: Right? Exactly.
LEMON: So, listen. Yesterday -- and this is something that is very important. You often talk about the DREAMERS. The president presented an immigration plan, failed to address 11 million DREAMERS. Those who arrived in this country as children. And this is what he tweeted, he said the Democrats now realize that there is a national emergency at the border and that if we work together it can be immediately fix. We need Democrat votes and all will be well. I hate that Democratic votes. That is actually prerogative, that's what they think. The Democrats now realize that there's a national emergency at the border that they can work together to immediately fix. I mean -- what do you say to that? JONES: Well, listen, the way that the Trump administration negotiates
is a revolution in the way that you usually do politics. Usually with politics, you assume your base and then you go for the bridge. You try, you say listen, I got my team. I need some people on your team. The trump administration negotiates in the opposite way. The first thing that they do is they want to secure their base.
They're more concerned about making sure they can consolidate their base than they are reaching out to try to make the bridge. And so, it's very typical, the first thing that they did was they try to figure out can they assemble their own forces? And later on we'll deal with the Democrats or whatever.
It's just not the way that is usually done in politics and people just don't know how to respond. And so literally it's like, and so, unfortunately in this situation I do think there are probably still, I mean, I'm an optimist. There probably still is a deal out there to be done. Certainly if you include DACA, Democrats have more of a reason to come to the table, but I think right now they are trying to herd their own cats.
LEMON: I want to get to your show. You are answering too long. Because I want, you know, I think this is jealous to me --
JONES: Thank you.
LEMON: OK, so in a new episode of your show, "The redemption Project," you travel to Alaska to witness the first restorative justice dialogue to ever take place in the state. Here's a look at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Experienced a horrible tragedy in my life. An individual caused that tragedy. Now I want to have this conversation because there's things that I wanted to say to him that I didn't get to say. When I went to the sentencing, he was not fully accountable. He said Ms. Walters, I'm real a sorry for what happened to your son. You shouldn't have had to bury your son. He didn't owned it.
JONES: Do you think that he is accountable now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know if he is accountable yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[22:55:00] LEMON: Tell me about this. Why have these conversations?
JONES: Well, because it's a fundamental human thing. You know, we all have made mistakes and want to somehow apologize and don't know how and we've all had bad stuff happen to us. And, you know, this show, the stakes are higher, because the incidents are much more powerful, but the reason why we get 99 percent positive response on Twitter. Twitter which is usually hater is because this is a deeply human show and it gives people an opportunity to see something beautiful happen. LEMON: I'm actually jealous of your timeline when I read the reviews.
I was like -- all this love -- we hate you.
JONES: Yes, anyway.
JONES: Thanks for the support of the show.
LEMON: Absolutely. It's a fantastic show. Really great Van. I'm very proud of you.
JONES: It's very beautiful.
LEMON: And you are. Don't miss a new episode of "The Redemption Project" with Van Jones, Sunday night at 9:00. Sunday night at 9:00, "The Redemption Project," with Mr. Van Jones. We'll be right back.