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Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) Was Interviewed About the Resolution That Condemns Racism in America; What Boss Did is Right in His Subordinate's Eyes; Kellyanne Conway Trying to Defend Trump's Racist Comments; Continued Denial by Top Republicans; Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens Dead at the Age of 99. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 16, 2019 - 22:00   ET


[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Who will step up and be the voice of reason and righteous indignation that reminds the masses not just the mob of who we are and what we are at our best? That's the question we need to answer together.

Thank you for watching. CNN TONIGHT with D. Lemon starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So, what's going on with you? I saw you in the makeup room your energy is off. You seem down. Is this getting to you what happened today with the president tweeted and how people are reacting?

CUOMO: Is it getting to me. It hits a little close to home to be honest. you know what I mean. My grandparents were afraid of people like Trump. Ironically, they grew up, you know, very close to one another. Where Trump grew up is literally blocks from where my grandparents finally made some advantage here.

But they were afraid of people and being judged and being told to go back and being called unclean and left in the ghetto, you know, in South Jamaica where all the immigrants were together like mud. And I remember them. And I remember what it was like.

And you know, my father died, and you know, you didn't get to know him enough. You would have loved him. He used to make a joke that I was the first white guy in the family that we finally made it. Look, he's even got lighter colored eyes, he went to the good school, he's a white. We're white now. We made it. He used to say it as a joke.


LEMON: We made it. When someone wrote was it was about your brother or him in the paper who said look, we're white now. We made it.

CUOMO: Yes, we made it because this was the guy who wasn't allowed to be first in his class. He had to share it. You couldn't get jobs. So it hits a little close to home.

But here's what bothered me, Don. It's not a close call.

LEMON: No, it's not. CUOMO: This is not about right and left. It's about right and wrong. And I can't believe only four people had that courage of conviction today.

LEMON: Well, you can't be down because you're the fighter. Usually, you're the glass half full. And I'm the one that's like, Chris. So, I need you to be that guy, OK? We need to support each other in that way. So I need you to get back up and I need you to put the fighting back on.

Let's talk about your first guest. OK? I was so upset and stunned by him when he said -- when it took him that long to decide if he would vote for the president, the president out -- came out and said hey, yes, I am racist.


CUOMO: Depends who he's running against.

LEMON: Like what?

CUOMO: Who could he be running against would that be a close call.

LEMON: Who could be running against? It's not even a thing. The answer is no. I would not vote for an open racist. But here's the thing.

CUOMO: He says your hypothetical makes no sense.


CUOMO: How not?

LEMON: OK. Here's the thing. He is in a lot of his apologists, meaning the president, are trying to pretend that the president didn't say go back to your country when in the actual tweets that is exactly what he said.


LEMON: He didn't say the brother like, he didn't say countries there. No. He said countries.


LEMON: He said, "So interesting to see progressive Democrat congresswomen who originally came from --


LEMON: -- countries -- the word is right there -- countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe. The worst most corrupt, and inept anywhere in the world that they have a functioning government at all, now loudly." And then he goes on to say "go back to where they came from." After that. But the initial one in the series of tweets started out with

countries. So basically, he lied to your face. And everyone else who is spinning it is lying to the American public's eyes. He said countries. Unless he means --


CUOMO: The president says he's not a racist. So, it gives them cover to make it. But here's the easy analogy. He never said it to Bernie Sanders.

LEMON: Never.

CUOMO: Bernie Sanders has the same criticism. And by the way, so did this president during the Obama administration.

LEMON: Amen. He never said it to -- who else does he say go back to your country?

CUOMO: No one.

LEMON: Does he ever say it to a white guy, white lady?

CUOMO: No one.

LEMON: That you know of?

CUOMO: No one.

LEMON: No? I just wonder --

CUOMO: It's an extension of the brown menace. It is ugly as it is obvious. And I can't believe they didn't step up on something like this, and bravo for the men and woman who did.

LEMON: Who did?

CUOMO: Good for them.

LEMON: Yes. I'm going to speak to someone tonight who can talk to that. Hey, get that fighting spirit back up.


CUOMO: I'm always ready to go, pal.

LEMON: When I see you tomorrow, I need you to come at me with everything you have, because you know I'm scrappy. I can take you.

CUOMO: I always take it easy on you.

LEMON: I'll see you, my friend.

LEMON: I eat things for lunch that are tougher than you, Don. I love you, brother. Thank you for the good word. Let's get after it.


LEMON: All right. I'll see you soon.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

The vote in the House tonight was about conscience about taking a stand against the racism of the President of the United States. The vote was 240 to 187 members, 240 to 187 members passing a resolution condemning President Trump's racist comments directed at four of their own colleagues.

The vote means that just four Republicans, one independent. That's Justin Amash from Michigan who was a Republican as a couple weeks ago. They joined Democrats to support the resolution.

[22:04:56] Those Republicans were Will Hurd, Brian Fitzpatrick, Fred Upton, and Susan Brooks. Where were the rest of the Republicans? Where were they? Well, I guess they passed the president's loyalty test. The president who told four congresswomen of color they should go back to their country.

And don't try to pretend he didn't say countries. Go back and look at the tweets -- who came from countries. It says it plain. It's there. Go check out the Twitter feed. He said countries.

Even though every one of them is an American citizen. He doubled down again today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where should they go?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It's up to them. Where ever they want. Or they can stay. But they should love our country.


LEMON: This is not about love for the country. I hope we all love our country. But listen. Part of loving our country is being able to criticize the country who were founded on decent. That's kind of the whole point of America. Is that we can criticize this whole thing and make it better.

This is about racist comments from the President of the United States. Racist comments he is trying to reframe as a battle against anti- Americanism. And a lot of people are buying into it. It's really sad.

Love it or leave it. It's not what this is about. That's not what America is about. This is not about love it or leave. We're not about that. That's not what makes America great. What makes America great is our freedom, the ability to be able to decent, our unalienable rights to life, to liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Today, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Republicans to join Democrats in condemning the president's xenophobic tweets and went on to say this right on the House floor.


NANCY PELOSI, UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: These comments from the White House are disgraceful and disgusting. And these comments are racist. How shameful to hear him continue to defend those offensive words, worlds that we have all heard him repeat, not only about our members but about countless others.


LEMON: Well, Republicans were so incensed by that that they tried and failed to strike the speaker's comments from the record. But Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis joined Pelosi in condemning the president's comments with his own very powerful words.


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): I know racism when I see it. I know racism when I feel it. Some of us have been victims of the stain the pain and hurt of racism. In the 50s and during the 60s segregationists told us to go back when we protested for our rights.

They told minister, priests, rabbis, and nuns to go back. They told the innocent children seeking just an equal education to go back.

As a nation and as a people, we need to go forward and not backwards. With this vote, we stand with our sisters. Three were born in America. And one came here looking for a better life. With this vote -- we need to condemn hate, racism and bigotry in every form.


LEMON: Well, the president insisting today that those tweets were not racist. "I don't have a racist bone in my body. The so- called vote to be taken is a Democrat con job. Con game." Excuse me. "Republicans should not show weakness and fall into their trap."

Going on to say, "this should be a vote on the filthy language, statements and lies told by the Democrat congresswomen." Like I said the president sees this as a test of Republicans loyalty to him.

And it's really, really rich for him to condemn what he calls filthy language? By the congresswomen?


TRUMP: And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you want.

TRUMP: Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.

Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag. To say get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He's fired.


TRUMP: He's fired.

The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding the public with ridiculous bull shit.


[22:09:58] LEMON: Filthy language. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar one of the four attacked by the president saying this tonight.


REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): This is important because we are going to be able to send a clear message. Not only to this president that his behavior and his words are not acceptable.

But we, I think more importantly are sending a bigger message to the young kids who have heard it every single day, who are wrestling with the weight of those words now coming from the president. That we hear them and we see them and we will never allow anybody to tell them that this isn't their country. And that they are not as valued as every single one.


LEMON: But, the divisive racist messages from the president and this administration are coming through loud and clear. You have to listen to this stunning exchange this morning between White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and Andrew Feinberg, Breakfast Media White House correspondent. I just want you to listen. Here's the whole thing.


ANDREW FEINBERG, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BREAKFAST MEDIA: Following up on, on the previous question, if the president was not telling these -- there four congresswomen to return to their supposed countries of origin, to which countries was he referring?


FEINBERG: Why is that relevant?

CONWAY: Because I'm asking a question. My ancestors are from Ireland and Italy.

FEINBERG: Kellyanne, my own ethnicity is not relevant to the question I'm asking.

CONWAY: No, no, it is.

FEINBERG: I'm asking --


CONWAY: Because you are asking about, he said originally. He said originally from.

FEINBERG: I am -- I am asking you --

CONWAY: And you know everything he said since and to have a full conversation --


FEINBERG: So are you saying that the president is telling the Palestinian-American --


CONWAY: The president has already commented on that.

FEINBERG: -- to go back to Middle -- to go back to occupied territories?

CONWAY: The president -- the president has already commented on that, and he said a lot about -- he said that one tweet.


FEINBERG: It's a yes or no question.

CONWAY: He's put out a lot of tweets and he made himself available to all of you yesterday.

FEINBERG: No, he has not. No, just to the pool.

CONWAY: Yes, he has. He's tired. A lot of us are sick and tired of this country, of America coming last to people who swore an oath of office. Sick and tired of our military being denigrated. Sick and tired of the Customs and Border Patrol people -- Protection people that I was with who are overwhelmingly Hispanic, by the way.


LEMON: So, no one is allowed dissent anymore? I'm old enough to remember after 9/11 when there was a march to war. And anyone who didn't get on board the war and weapons of mass destruction train was denigrated and told that they were un-American.

And then what happened? There were no weapons of mass destruction. But all of those dissenters then were called un-American. Were demonized as people now who are saying, that it is you're right to be able to dissent in the country.

In a very similar fashion, haven't they learned anything? Didn't they learn anything from that Republicans that was a Republican in office who did that, Republicans who were leading the way.

Well, Kellyanne Conway later tweeted her question and let's remember the question was, what's your ethnicity? She tweeted that question was meant with no disrespect. No disrespect? Is it really hard to see it any other way?

Andrew Feinberg asked her when the president told four congresswomen of color to return to their supposed countries of origin, he asked her which countries the president was referring to.

And instead of answering the question, Kellyanne Conway demanded to know the reporter's ethnicity. I was just going to say something, picking a fight. And going on to distract and deflect, trying again to rebrand the president's racism as a fight against anti-Americanism.

Just answer the question. That's why a lot of people -- this is what I want to say -- that's why a lot of people won't have her on their programs because she cannot and does not answer questions.

Look over here. What about this. Just answer the question. You're the counselor to the president. It's all you have to do. It's that simple. I'm going to talk to Andrew Feinberg tonight.

[22:14:56] But in the midst of all this debate about the president's racist language -- by the way, Andrew Feinberg is the reporter who asked the question.

In the midst of all this about the president's racist language, the president's words, I want you to hear some words from today's resolution clauses in the resolution quoting directly from Ronald Reagan's final speech, his final speech as president.

Remember, Ronald Reagan. It's not even a gold standard. I think he's like the platinum standard of Republican presidents. Right? Quote, "Whereas, Ronald Reagan observed."


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The torch of Lady Liberty symbolizes our freedom and represents our heritage that compact with our parents, our grandparents and our ancestors. It is that lady who gives us a great and special place in the world.


LEMON: Whereas, other countries may seek to compete with us.


REAGAN: But in one vital area, as a beacon of freedom and opportunity, that draws the people of the world, no country on earth comes close.


LEMON: Whereas, this is one of the most important sources of America's greatness.


REAGAN: We lead the world because unique among nations we draw our people, our strength from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so, we continuously renew and enrich our nation.


LEMON: Whereas, this openness is vital to our future as a nation and --


REAGAN: If we ever close the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.


LEMON: Wise words from the 40th President of the United States. Words about what truly make America great. Congressman Tom Malinowski who emigrated from Poland at age six wrote the resolution condemning the president's racist comments. He joins me next.


LEMON: In a dramatic and partisan move tonight the House voting to condemn the racist language in President Trump's tweets aimed at four Democratic congresswomen of color.

I want to discuss now with Congressman -- Representative Tom Malinowski. He's a New Jersey Democrat who wrote the resolution. Thank you so much. It's very important to have you on. I appreciate you joining us.

This was your resolution. Right? Only four Republicans voted with you. Plus, one new independent who is Justin Amash. You were hoping that this would pass on a bipartisan basis. That didn't happen. Why not?

REP. TOM MALINOWSKI (D-NJ): Well, I'm grateful for the four and for Congressman Amash. But look, you read parts of the resolution, and thank you for reading the quotes from President Reagan. This was one of the points that we wanted to make. We wanted to give every single member of the House a very simple decision.

Do you stand with President Reagan's open confident hopeful vision of America? Or do you believe in President Trump's closed and fearful vision. And well, I guess we saw that the party of Reagan doesn't really believe for the most part in President Reagan's vision anymore. Or at least they're so afraid of President Trump that they're not willing to say so publicly. But I'll build on the four plus Justin who voted with us.


MALINOWSKI: And make something of that.

LEMON: You were born in Poland. The president isn't using the racist trope go back to your country to you, he's saying it to your female colleagues of color. That's intentional, do you think?

MALINOWSKI Yes. And three of the four of them weren't even born outside the United States unlike me. They were born in the United States. And so, yes, that tells you everything you need to know.

This is about demonizing and people based on how they look, based on their ethnicity, and race. And you know, harkening back to something that every generation of new and different Americans face going back to Polish immigrants and Irish immigrants and Jewish immigrants and today immigrants of color.


MALINOWSKI: Or those who simply look like them. This is what he's trying to tell.

LEMON: When I was going -- growing up, it was - go back to Africa, right?


LEMON: And you know, a lot of folks in my generation. What have you heard from Republicans behind the scenes about the president and his racist tweets?

MALINOWSKI: You know, the -- well, some are willing to say so publicly. And I am grateful to them. It is not an easy thing for them to do in the face of what Trump has done to their party. Others will say privately that they wish the president wouldn't do this. Of course, it's wrong. Of course, it's racist.

But they can't say it publicly or they come up with some excuses that we didn't give them enough time to read the resolution or something silly like that. So, you know, we gave them a chance tonight. Some of them took that chance, others didn't. But the House still spoke for America. And that was so, so important.

LEMON: Congressman Al Green introduces impeachment resolution on the House floor tonight. That's something Democratic leaders -- you know, leadership does not support. Where do you stand on this?

MALINOWSKI: I have thought for some time that we should begin an impeachment inquiry. It's not an easy decision for me. I didn't run on impeachment. But I believe in the rule of law in this country. That's one of the values that my family embraced when we came to America.

And I came to the conclusion that the law can survive the efforts of bad people to violate it. But it can't survive the hesitation of good people to defend it. And I think we need to take the first steps in the House.

LEMON: Representative Malinowski, thank you for your time. I really appreciate it. Please come back.

MALINOWSKI: Thank you. LEMON: Thank you. So, does the House vote on the resolution

condemning President Trump over racist comments go far enough? And will he just continue to double down?


LEMON: So Kellyanne Conway in a heated confrontation with reporters outside the White House today trying to defend the president's racist tweets and responding to one reporter by saying, and I'm quoting here, "what's your ethnicity?" Hear it for yourself.


FEINBERG: Following up on, on the previous question, if the president was not telling these -- there four congresswomen to return to their supposed countries of origin, to which countries was he referring?

CONWAY: What's your ethnicity?

FEINBERG: Why is that relevant?

CONWAY: Because I'm asking a question. My ancestors are from Ireland and Italy.

FEINBERG: Kellyanne, my own ethnicity is not relevant to the question I'm asking.

CONWAY: No, no, it is.

FEINBERG: I'm asking --


CONWAY: Because you are asking about, he said originally. He said originally from.

FEINBERG: I am -- I am asking you --

CONWAY: And you know everything he said since and to have a full conversation --


FEINBERG: So are you saying that the president is telling the Palestinian-American --


CONWAY: The president has already commented on that.

FEINBERG: -- to go back to the Middle -- to go back to occupied territories?

CONWAY: The president -- the president has already commented on that, and he said a lot about -- he said that one tweet.


FEINBERG: It's a yes or no question.

CONWAY: He's put out a lot of tweets and he made himself available to all of you yesterday.

FEINBERG: No, he has not. No, just to the pool.

CONWAY: Yes, he has. He's tired. A lot of us are sick and tired of this country, of America coming last to people who swore an oath of office. Sick and tired of our military being denigrated. Sick and tired of the Customs and Border Patrol people -- Protection people who I was with who are overwhelmingly Hispanic, by the way.


LEMON: That reporter, Andrew Feinberg, there he is, he joins me now. He's a White House reporter for Breakfast Media. Andrew, thank you so much. What were you thinking as this was all playing out?

FEINBERG: I -- thanks for having me. I was thinking that this is bizarre. I have been a journalist in Washington for about 10 years and I have never had any government official speak to me that way. And or ask such an inappropriate question.

[22:30:01] LEMON: It seemed that she proved exactly what the critics of the president were saying by asking you that question, am I wrong?

ANDREW FEINBERG, BREAKFAST MEDIA WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: No. You're not wrong. In fact, moments before she had denied that the president was referring to the country of origin or at least the country with which those congresswomen's' ethnic backgrounds were associated. And moments later, she said exactly the opposite when I asked her that question. So I think she got a little flustered and ended up saying something she wasn't supposed to say.

LEMON: Why do you -- OK, so then why do you believe she said that to you? What do you think that she meant by it?

FEINBERG: By asking me my ethnicity? I -- you know, it's not the first time she's asked me an irrelevant or an inappropriate question in response to on of my questions. Around the Fourth of July when I asked her why the RNC was handing out tickets to a supposedly non- political event, she asked if I knew why we celebrate the Fourth of July. And you -- she's done this before.

So it's not unusual for her to do something like that. But this time it was a little weirder than normal.

LEMON: OK, so a little weirder than normal. Have you had any follow up with her today?

FEINBERG: Not privately. You know, she thanked me for noting in a tweet that I didn't think she was being anti-Semitic.

LEMON: Let me read it, then I will get your reaction, OK? Sorry, I didn't mean to cut you off. She tweeted later in the exchange. She said this was not -- this was meant with no disrespect. We're all from somewhere else, originally. I asked the question to answer the question and volunteered -- I asked the question to -- I asked to question to answer the question and volunteered my own ethnicity, Italian and Irish.

Like many, I am proud of my ethnicity. Love the USA, and grateful to God to be an American. OK, sorry to cut you off, but go on. What's your reaction?

FEINBERG: My reaction is I have no earthly clue what, either her question or the answer I could have given to that question had to do with, what the president said or to what country she was referring.

LEMON: OK. So again, I'm going to follow up on that. Does that have anything to do with what the president actually said?

FEINBERG: I mean my ethnicity or what she was talking about?

LEMON: What she was talking about, what she -- her asking you that then the follow up. Does that have anything to do with what the president actually said or the intent of your question?

FEINBERG: Well, I think it has a lot to do with what the president said. Because I think -- at the core of what he has said from the past couple days is an idea that these congresswomen are somehow not entirely American, and that they have places to go back to. Setting aside the fact that Congresswoman Omar came here as a child from Somalia.

The other three congresswomen, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, Congresswoman Pressley, and Congresswoman Tlaib, were born in, I believe, New York, Cincinnati, and Detroit. And last I checked none of those places are located in foreign countries.

LEMON: Come on, Detroit the Motor City.


FEINBERG: -- it's almost Canada.

LEMON: It's really unfathomable to me. It makes absolutely no sense. And the spinning is just really less than smart. Let's put it that way. Thank you, Andrew. I really appreciate you coming on.


FEINBERG: Thanks for having me.

LEMON: Thank you. So Kellyanne Conway trying to deflect and distract from the president's racist comments, trying to again rebrand the president's racism as a fight against anti-Americanism. Will that strategy work?

[22:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: So you heard Kellyanne Conway asking a White House reporter what's your ethnicity, in her attempt to defend the president's racist tweets. So let's discuss now. Frank Bruni is here, Ana Navarro as well.

Good evening to both of you. Ana, you just heard Andrew Feinberg. He's a reporter whose ethnicity was questioned by White House Counsel Kellyanne Conway. What did you think of that?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I really don't see the relevancy of the question. I think it is deflection. I think it is defensiveness. And look, I suspect that if you're not white, if you're not light-haired, if you maybe don't have blue eyes, you get your ethnicity and your citizenship questioned on a daily basis. I know I do. I suspect you do, too. But, you know, Don, it's not about you and me.

It's about children. It's about children, who daily, get told to go back to where they came from. It's about the people who get screamed at for speaking Spanish or another language in the United States. It's about legitimizing and empowering and enabling racism and bigotry and discrimination. It's about dividing the country, making it about us versus them.

It's just so -- it's so freaking disgusting and it's so heartbreaking. I can't believe that in 2019 we're sitting here talking about the fact, the fact, not the question, the freaking fact that the president of the United States is a racist.

LEMON: Well, the thing is, is that -- you know, I understand that the frustration of my colleague. I was watching Anderson earlier. And he says I can't believe we're actually sitting here trying to be polite and asking is this racist or is it not. Listen, we're not doing that on this program. What did you think? What did you think, because I agree with Anderson?

[22:40:08] I can't believe that these conversations are being (Inaudible) no, of course, it's not racist. He never said countries. That's not what happened. He said countries. He hasn't told any white people, that I know of, to go back to their countries, Frank. I mean -- and you heard, what was the point of Kellyanne Conway asking a reporter their ethnicity?

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I have to assume that at this point in his presidency. Kellyanne Conway is at wits end when it comes to defending the indefensible. And looking at her there -- I have known and dealt with professionally with Kellyanne for decades, right? I don't recognize that person that I see on TV anymore, because she used to be much of a professional.

And she used to be an advocate for her clients. But she didn't have any clients like Donald Trump. I assume that she no longer knows what to do. She's under so much stress in terms of defending the indefensible, that she's saying -- going into incoherence. And let's not forget, and I don't mean to get personal. But this is a week in which, you know, her husband placed an op-ed calling the president a racist, the president who she is tasked --


LEMON: Personal? This is in the public.


BRUNI: Normally, you wouldn't want to comment on anyone's personal life or marriage. But this is playing out in -- I mean Shakespearian isn't even a good enough term for it. This is playing out in public. I can't imagine the stress that she's under. But at the end of the day, it is stress that she's put herself under standing by a president who doesn't deserve her fidelity, quite frankly.

So I assume we're seeing stress there, stress, you know, to a degree that most people wouldn't understand. And thus, she's asking a question that seems to play directly into what people are accusing the president correctly of, which is racism.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, I want to put -- Ana, I want to get your response to this, because Frank just mentioned Kellyanne Conway's husband writing this piece for the Washington Post entitled Trump is a Racist President. He writes in part -- he says telling four non-white members of Congress, American citizens, all three natural born to go back to the countries they originally came from. That's racist to the core, hard to argue that, I mean.


NAVARRO: Yeah. Listen, you know, I keep thinking maybe these sounds different to people who, you know, don't look and sound like us. Maybe it sounds different to somebody who speaks English without an accent or who has been here for generations and generations and has forgotten that they have ancestors who came from somewhere else.

But I can tell you that the reason you hear so much passion around this subject matter, is because people like me get told, on a daily basis, to go back to Mexico. Because, you know the -- it's funny, because racists are also incredibly ignorant about geography.


NAVARRO: And I guess they don't know that I am not from Mexico. I am from Nicaragua. You know, one of the little Mexico's in Central America, (Inaudible) a direct correlation between racism and being an imbecile and ignorant about world geography, including from where they came from. And let's not forget -- look, I don't like to talk about Kellyanne, because, like Frank, I have known her from before.

And I don't recognize her. I don't recognize her and anybody and I don't recognize anybody I see on TV. When I see Marco Rubio clapping, you know, for Donald Trump, I don't know who the hell he is. When I see Ted Cruz, I don't know who the hell he is. When I see Lindsey Graham, I think it's been the invasion of the body snatchers.

I don't know where Lindsey Graham has gone and who this guy is pretending to be Lindsey Graham. When I see Mitch McConnell, married to a woman who was born in Taiwan and who I know has been the target of racist attacks, pretending that this racist attack is not racist. I don't know who these people are. They are bending themselves into pretzels and pretending that racism isn't racism.

Because they don't want to look in the mirror and they don't want to accept and acknowledge that they are enabling a racist. And they're looking the other way while we have a racist in the White House.

LEMON: I want you to hold that thought, because we're going to talk about the Republican reaction or lack thereof to the president's racism. We'll be right back.


LEMON: So in spite of everything we have heard with our own ears, a number of top Republicans continue to deny the president is a racist and urge colleagues to oppose the measure. Back with me, Frank Bruni, Ana Navarro, also joining me now is Toluse Olorunnipa, so thank you so much for joining us, Toluse. And welcome back, Frank and Ana.

So Frank, listen. The senate majority leader broke his silence on the president's racist tweets comments. And here's what he said.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I think there's been a consensus that political rhetoric has really gotten way, way over heated all across the political spectrum.


LEMON: That's a strong -- hey, you heard what Ana says. And I think he went on later to address -- he answered a question which really wasn't the answer to the question. And he invoked his wife who is an immigrant as well. Is that as strong a language as he can get for this president's behavior?

BRUNI: Well, no. He should be using much stronger language. And he should be saying what the president tweeted and what the president has been saying as wrong. But I mean he's practiced at this sort of surrender and accommodation at this point. Mitch McConnell has made a bargain. He has gotten tax cuts that he wanted. He's gotten regulation reductions that he wanted.

He's getting -- we don't talk enough about this. But every month, he's getting judges, conservative judges who will be on the bench for decades that he wants. And then he looks and he sees the President Trump has a 90 percent approval rating with Republicans. He adds all of that together, and he says, you know what I am good with some racism.

[22:50:03] If silence buys me the rest of -- if silence protects me from the president's wrath and if silence gets me the rest of that policy -- and it's a hell of a bargain. And I hope he sleeps OK at night, because I wouldn't. LEMON: When I saw you earlier -- you were walking into the building.

Do -- I said did you just see this moment that happened on Chris' show where he asked Chris (Inaudible) if the president openly said he was racist, if he admitted it, would you still vote for him? And he had to think about it. And he said it depends on who he was running against.

BRUNI: Well, at least he's being honest, right? At least he's being honest.

LEMON: I was floored. I still can't believe it. So Toluse, you note the few Republicans who did speak out against the president's racist language, tried to soften their criticism. What is the fear of calling out clearly offensive words and actions say about the Republican Party?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look at the fight that we saw between President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who had some comments in a book that came out recently, where he sort of tried to cleanup his long history of accommodating the president and only talking about him behind closed doors. He talked about -- saying that President Trump didn't know what he was doing (Inaudible) he should be a better person, and not cheat on his wife and x, y, z in his book.

And President Trump hit back very hard on Twitter. And a lot of Republicans in the House see that, and they don't want to be any part of that kind of back and forth. So they realize that if they speak out against the president and if they criticize him in any way, that they're going to be the targets of his attack on Twitter or on social media. And he's relentless in taking on his critics, even when they are within his own party.

So we have seen that sort of cowardice from other people who do not want to be involved in going into a back and forth with the president. And that means that they're willing to accept some racism. They're willing to accept these incendiary comments from the president and hope they'll be able to turn the page and some new crisis or some new outrage will happen within the next two or three days that will move on from this issue.

But it's clear that is the bargain that they've made. They realize that going against the president and standing up on principle means that, you know, you stick your head up and the president's probably going to slash it off. And they don't want to be part of that. They'd rather just sort of put their heads down in the sand, and realize that they can move on and pretty soon -- because this president likes to make new news cycles very quickly, the new outrage will come up soon enough. And they'll be able to move onto another topic.

LEMON: People I've spoken to are -- look, should we be surprised? It's like the SNL skit after the election where everybody was surprised except for Chris Rock, that, you know that there was racism in the country. I mean, Ana wasn't that already baked into the cake with -- considering the comments and this president's behavior? It was Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock, when everyone was running around

going oh, my gosh. I can't believe this country is so racist. And they were like what are you guys talking about, like, where you've been? Go on.

NAVARRO: I don't know where the hell they've been. I mean don't know what you've been smoking. I don't know what -- you know, how much recreational drugs or alcohol you have to have consumed in the last three years or maybe three decades to not know that Donald Trump, a man who was sued for housing discrimination, a man who, you know, who went after the Central Park Five, a man who fanned the flames of birtherism against Barack Obama.

A man who calls black athletes sons of bitches, a man who calls Maxine Waters dumb as a rock. I don't know where the hell you have been for the last three years if you cannot say that this man who questions Judge Curiel's ability to be a judge, because he's Mexican, even though he was born in the United States, who calls Mexicans criminals and rapists. If you don't know yet, in 2019, that Donald Trump is a racist is (Inaudible), then -- you know what. Go get your head checked.

Wake up from your coma. Wake up and smell the racism, because you are in self-denial. And you are lying to yourself so that you can say that you are not a racist. But let me tell you this, Don.


LEMON: I've got to go. Quick, Ana.

NAVARRO: Not being a racist is not a passive act. If you are enabling, if you are legitimizing, if you are empowering, if you are supporting a racist, you have some culpability in this. Stop pounding you chest and clutching your bible and telling me you're not a racist.

LEMON: Ana, Toluse, Frank, thank you, breaking news when we come back.


LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I am Don Lemon. We begin with the passing of an American legal giant. Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has died at the age of 99. He was nominated by President Gerald Ford in 1975 in the wake of the Watergate scandal. And he served on the High Court for 3 1/2 decades. CNN's Pamela Brown takes a look at the life and career of Justice John Paul Stevens.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: John Paul Stevens was a conservative Republican when President Gerald Ford nominated him to the Supreme Court in 1975. But he stepped down more than three decades later as a leader of the liberal side of the bench, arguing the court change, not his judicial philosophy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has moved dramatically. That's right. And I guess a radical word may well apply.

BROWN: Stevens grew up in his family's Chicago hotel during the roaring 20s.