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The Loss Of A Great Mind; Through Thick And Thin, Republicans Remain Loyal To Trump; Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) Is Interviewed About President Trump's Racist Attacks And Health Care; Arrest Made In Murder Of Sadie Roberts-Joseph. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired July 16, 2019 - 23:00   ET


[23:00:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN PAUL STEVENS, FORMER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I guess a radical word may well apply.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Stevens grew up in his family in Chicago hotel during the roaring 20's. In World War II, he analyzed radio signals for the Navy before becoming a lawyer, judge, and Supreme Court justice. He retired at 90 years old, replaced by President Obama appointee Elena Kagan.


CLIFFORD SLOAN, FORMER JOHN PAUL STEVEN'S CLERK: Justice Stevens is probably one of the least known justice publicly. And it's ironic because he has had as big an impact on the Supreme Court and on American society as any justice.


BROWN: In his career, Stevens voted in favor of abortion rights, affirmative action and gay rights long before it became mainstream.


SLOAN: In 1986, when I was clerking for him the Supreme Court issued an opinion that said it was OK to have criminal penalties for gay consensual sex. Seventeen years later, the Supreme Court reversed that opinion and said Justice Stevens was right in his dissent in that case.


BROWN: Near the end of his tenure in 2008, he strongly opposed the death penalty.


STEVENS: I firmly believe it is unwise policy. But I think the more difficult question as to whether it's constitutional permittable punishment. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: When Stevens view did not carry the day, he crafted powerful dissents and citizens united, a landmark 2009 campaign finance case the majority ruled the government could not ban political spending by corporations.

In his dissent, Stevens accused the majority of rejecting as he put it, "the common sense of the American people." He also didn't mince words about the 2000 decision that cleared the way for George W. Bush's presidency writing, quote, "The identity of the loser is perfectly clear and as the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are some of the other areas where the court ruled in a way you wish it really hadn't?

STEVENS: Well, do we have just an hour?


BROWN: Stevens also disagreed with his liberal colleagues when the court ruled burning an American flag was considered protected free speech. He said, quote, "Sanctioning the public desecration of the flag will tarnish its value both for those who cherish the ideas for which it waves and for those who desire to don the robes of martyrdom by burning it."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think anybody who heard him read that dissent, the passion with which he looked at the flag and what it meant for him could really ever think about the American flag the same way when you look at it whatever you thought about the legal issue.


BROWN: On the bench he was known as a soft-spoken Midwesterner with a searing intellect.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Extreme gentleman-ness, a courtly manner with one of the most acute razor sharp minds that frankly that's ever sat on the court.


BROWN: Stevens retired in 2010 receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom two years later, and in 2018, after a school shooting in Florida he penned an op-ed calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. He was 97 years old at the time but John Paul Steven's mind and his words were still razor sharp.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: That was Pamela Brown. Pamela, thank you so much for that.

Joining me now on the phone Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey is CNN's chief legal analyst.

Jeffrey, I appreciate you joining us. You know, we just saw that you've interviewed Justice John Paul Stevens and not many Americans got to see him up close, got to see him up close like that. What was he like? What were your impressions?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, he was really part of a vanished tradition in American life which was the moderate Republican. He was moderate in speech. He was moderate in appearance. The only thing he wasn't moderate in was the wearing of bow ties. He loved to wear bow ties and that was really his signature.

But, you know, he came from the Gerald Ford Midwestern Republican school of political thought, of legal thought. And that tradition is completely gone in America.

You know, I thought of him as the last World War II veteran who was active in public life. When he retired in 2010 there were really no more of the greatest generation in the positions of power that they held for so long, and I think that's also emblematic of his political views which are really gone today.

I mean, the Republican Party of Donald Trump is almost completely unrecognizable from the Republican Party of the 1970s. And I think that, that's what I think of when I think of John Paul Stevens.

LEMON: I'm glad you mentioned that and I should have mentioned that at the top, you know, of this when I introduce you about your book "The Nine" which you wrote which is specifically about the Supreme Court and you got to spend all this time with justices on the Supreme Court and make the assessments that you have now and the relationships.

[23:04:58] You know, Jeff, as Pamela pointed out, vote in favor of abortion rights, affirmative action, gay rights. He was a moderate Republican when he was nominated by Ford but as you put in the profile, he became an unlikely liberal icon. What happened?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, I think there's a historical debate about what happened. What I think happened is what Steven said which is that I didn't change that much. But the court changed and the Republican Party changed, and the government changed.

That what was -- what was moderate in the 1970s is perceived today as very liberal. I mean, remember, in the mid-1970s Gerald Ford, when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, three of the four Richard Nixon appointees to the Supreme Court voted in favor of Roe v. Wade. Gerald Ford was in favor of abortion rights. Gerald Ford was in favor of affirmative action and university admission.

That's where the Republican Party was in the 1970s. Today, Donald Trump very explicitly said I am going to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, and I think that's what he's done with Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.

So, in that respect, it was really the Republican Party that changed. It is also true that Stevens himself did move to the left of certain issues, the death penalty for one. You know, he spent decades struggling with these cases and finally said there is no way consistent with our constitutional traditions that we can have a death penalty in this country.

So, he did change in certain respects. But I think what really happened was the Republican Party and the Supreme Court changed more than -- more than Stevens himself did change.

LEMON: CNN's Chief Legal Analyst, Mr. Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, thank you so much. I appreciate your time. Thanks for calling in.

TOOBIN: All right, Don.

LEMON: The House voting tonight to condemn the president's racist comments about four congresswomen of color but does his base still support him? We'll look into that next.


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

And remember, in less than a year and a half, American voters will have their say on the president's words, actions, and behavior. So, is his base still behind him, particularly women? How do they feel about his racist attacks on female lawmakers?

CNN's Randi Kaye spoke with some of them in Dallas.


RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: How many of you don't think what the president said was racist, raise your hand.

These eight Republican women from Dallas don't see anything wrong with President Trump telling four Democratic congresswomen to go back where they came from.


DENA MILLER, REPUBLICAN: He was saying that if they hate America so much because what we're seeing out of them and hearing out of them, they hate America. If it's so bad, there's a lot of places they can go.

SHARON BOLAN, REPUBLICAN: I'm a brown skinned woman, I'm a legal immigrant. I agree with him.

KAYE: You don't think that's racist to say that --

(CROSSTALK) BOLAN: No, not at all.


KATHLEEN LIEBERMAN, REPUBLICAN: I just think it's a demonstration of how their ideology spills over even though they're American now, so to speak, they're not acting American.

GINA O'BRIANT, REPUBLICAN: I'm glad that the president said what he said because all they're doing is, they're inciting hatred and division and that's not what our country is about. We -- it's not about that at all. And I don't --


KAYE: But isn't that what the president does with some of his own comments? His own racist comments.

O'BRIANT: But he didn't say anything about color.

CAMI DEAN, REPUBLICAN: We know the president is not racist. He loves people from, you know, Hispanics, the black people all across the board.

KAYE: Let me just share with you the definition of racism from Merriam Webster dictionary. I believe that race is the primary determined into human traits and capacities and that racial differences produced an inherent superiority of a particular race.

Based on that definition, do you not think what the president has been saying --


O'BRIANT: No, he dated a black woman for two years. Two of his wives are immigrants. He is not a xenophobic racist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the first black billionaire is endorsing President Trump --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- how can you call him racist?

KAYE: So, these congresswomen -- these congresswomen who said they ran for Congress, ran for office because they explicitly love this country, that's a lie.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, that's a lie.

KAYE: You're saying they hate this country?


LIEBERMAN: To ever ask this question, it's claiming that they're very manipulate to accuse instead of extracting the truth.

KAYE: It's a tactic.

LIEBERMAN: Because when you say, you know, don't you think he's racist, you're accusing us, you're accusing him.

KAYE: I'm asking. I'm not accusing. I'm asking you what you think.

LIEBERMAN: But you've been told. OK, it's still relevant. It has nothing to do with the real issue, it has nothing to do with the premise of the issues there.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And whenever someone --

KAYE: The color of the four --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you keep bringing that up?

KAYE: Do you think it's just a coincidence that these four congresswomen that the president is going after, none of them are white?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're going after him.





COATES: It's idiotic what they're saying so it doesn't matter whether they're white, man, woman, brown, yellow, anything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wish that there was a white one that they -- on where they're not racist, how come they haven't befriended one of their white female congresswoman colleagues and --



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because they won't --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a good point. Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- they don't like white people. Come on, they're racist. KAYE: How many of you still plan to vote for President Trump?



KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Dallas.


LEMON: Wajahat Ali, Alice Stewart, Karen Finney, Charlie Dent champing at the bit. They'll get their chance after this.


LEMON: Congress voted tonight to condemn President Trump's racist comments about four congresswomen of color. But you heard a group of Republican women in Dallas defend him.

So, joining me now to discuss, Wajahat Ali, Alice Stewart, former Congressman Charlie Dent, and Karen Finney.

So good to have all of you on. You sat there and you watched. Alice, all eight Republican women speaking to our Randi Kaye said that they don't see racist attacks on the squad as racist at all. This is a window into the minds of the Trump base. Is it?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is absolutely is. That is reflective of where Trump's base is right now. He has the support of 94 percent of his base, and those women are speaking for them.

And look, we've heard a lot about the comments that were made. We've heard a lot of frustration and anger and angst about it, but I believe and I think a lot of the Republicans, those women included support what Liz Cheney said today.

She said very clearly and this is the way I believe while it was very in artfully said, his comments were not made because of the color of these four congresswomen's skin. It wasn't about their gender. It wasn't about their race. It was about their policies.

[23:20:01] It was about their social policies. It was about their collective anti-Semitic behavior. It was about the Green New Deal. It was about a lot of the comments --


LEMON: OK, Alice, so then why doesn't he say that about white members of Congress or the Senate who disagree with his policies? Why doesn't he tell them to go back to Ireland or go back to Germany or go back to Russia or go back to -- I never heard that from -- except for these four women.

STEWART: These four women have been a collective voice on these issues that the president is talking about, the ones that I just outlined. They have been a collective loud voice on these issues. And we have --


LEMON: But so was John McCain. John McCain he didn't tell John McCain to go back to Ireland, I assume, but, McCain, you know what I'm saying, who was -- who opposed him on -- it's just, listen, I don't want to -- I don't mean to insult anyone, and especially not you and that's a -- but I sat there and I listened to those women, and I'm like, what?

They didn't address the substance of what the president tweeted at all. All they did was spout up talking points that they had heard other politicians say after the president tweeted what he said and what the president said afterwards trying to explain his way out of what he tweeted.

He told four people of color to go back to the countries they came from, which was here. They're all from America except for one who came from, who immigrated from Somalia.

So, I don't understand how he -- how it's not racist, how he's not telling four black women to go back to the countries they came from and it is not perceived as racist. Come on, let's not B.S. around here. Let's be honest. This was racist.


LEMON: I have heard my entire life growing up go back to Africa. I hear people saying all the time to Latinos go back to Mexico, even though they may not be from Mexico. They may be Puerto Rico, they may be from Nicaragua, they may be from some other country. I never hear that for white people, from anyone.

The president has never said that to white people. He's only said it to black people. Karen, your turn. Sorry to hog the stage here.

FINNEY: No, that's OK. Look, here's what I think we need to think about within this. Those four women also represent part of the changing America, and that is what the fear of that is exactly what Donald Trump campaigned on in 2016.

Seven studies have shown it wasn't fear of the economy. It was deeper than that. It was fear of change. It was racism, sexism, all forms of bigotry. And the president went to town after town and said those people, and he was talking about brown people and black people, it's their fault your life isn't better and it's exactly what he's going to try to do again in 2016.

And the thing is those four women, you know, this is why this is a hard conversation for our country to have because the truth is the country has already changed. Right? We're here. The diversity of this country is what it is, and we have to learn how to live together. That is not the vision of this president is selling.

LEMON: Yes. FINNEY: What he is selling is a backward-looking vision that excludes people. And the most potent thing that one of those women said they were -- when Randi Kaye was asking the question, she said you're accusing us of being racist. I think that's what those Trump voters hear when they hear this conversation, and that's not what we're saying.

LEMON: They take it personally because you are pointing out what the president --

FINNEY: That's right.

LEMON: -- has done. They feel that because they supported this president that you in a backhanded way are accusing them of being racist.

Listen, I said this, Charlie, I said that they didn't really talk about the substance of what the president said. They all -- all four of these women told Randi, that these -- all of these women said that these four congresswomen hate America. Using President Trump's words verbatim.

They didn't question his veracity at all, if what he was saying was true. And they did not question that the president ran on America was not that great and said -- essentially saying America was in a bad place. Question his own America.

And he seems to have done in his campaigning and what he does now, the exact same thing that these women are doing, yet he is saying the way that they're doing it and what they're doing is bad and these women don't see that they're doing the exact same thing. They're both questioning America, which is part of the whole reason that we're here in this country. That is part of what this country is about.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, Don, look, I vehemently disagree with the political philosophy of those four congresswomen. I think they're very extreme in their positions.

[23:24:56] That said, we have to be able to separate their policy disagreements with them from when the president stands up and launches a personal attack or he tried to delegitimize these four Americans not only as Americans but as members of Congress.

And sadly, the president has a history of making these types of racially, inflammatory and incendiary comments, you know, going back to the Mexican comments, the Muslim comments, Charlottesville, birtherism, and now, this. So, he has this history.

And I think what you witnessed with those women from Texas is that this basically the tribal nature of our politics. Nobody wants to admit that they have some buyer's remorse here. I mean, I'm convinced that most Republicans I know, you know, maybe one third of Republicans who supported Donald Trump are all in, you know, make America great again rah, rah.

LEMON: Yes. DENT: About 50 percent of them had a lot of reservations supporting him.

LEMON: OK. I got --


DENT: And about another 20 percent don't support him.

LEMON: I got to get Wajahat. Wajahat, I'll give you the last word here. Because one woman asked why haven't they befriended one of their female -- white female congresswomen. They don't like white people. What do you say?

WAJAHAT ALI, OP-ED WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: White supremacy is a hell of a drug, Don, that has kept this country high for well over 200 years to the point where I get told every day to go back home even though I'm a natural born citizen, born and raised in this country.

And I thought it was hurtful and racist this whole time because they're telling me I never will belong. I'm a stranger, I'm an outsider. I'm a foreigner.

But it happens, Don, when they tell us that they simply disagree with our politics and our economics. So that's good to know. And it's interesting that they never told Bernie Sanders, a Democratic socialist to go back home or Melania Trump and her immigrant parents who by the way came here by chain migration. They don't have tickets to Slovenia to fix that country and come back.

So, it's racist. But guess what. Kellyanne Conway doesn't see color except today when she told a Jewish reporter asked him what's your ethnicity. But she's not racist. You and I, Don, are racist for calling out their racism.

And one thing about this whole anti-Semitic troop that they brought up, if they really care about anti-Semitism, Donald Trump mainstreamed an anti-Semitic white supremacy conspiracy theory to win the 2018 midterm election saying that Jews funded the caravan of immigrants and rapists and criminals.

So, this is racist. And I'll say this on your show. If you support Donald Trump after all this, you might not be racist but know this, you are supporting, endorsing a racist president and you are complicit in his agenda.

LEMON: Thank you all. I'm out of time. We'll be right back.

STEWART: Thanks, Don.

FINNEY: Thanks, Don.


LEMON: New tonight, a CNN exclusive interview with Senator Kamala Harris. The senator sat down earlier with CNN's Kyung Lah, who asked her about President Trump's racist attacks against four congresswomen.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator, thank you for sitting down with me --


LAH: -- at this very, very busy time. I want to start with -- you are the daughter of immigrants, a sitting member of Congress, a woman of color. How do you view President Trump's tweets?

HARRIS: I think he's un-American, un-American. It is unbecoming of the president of the United States. I think it defiles the office of the president of the United States. It is irresponsible, it is hateful, it is hurtful, and he has taken the presidency to a new low.

LAH: It's personal for you as well. You just shared a story here in Davenport, Iowa about being told to go back to where you came from. Can you share this?

HARRIS: Of course, but it's not one time. Many of us have been told that. And I purposely at that event asked people to raise their hands and many hands went up. It is -- it is -- for the president of the -- you know, it is one thing to hear it in a schoolyard or on the street. It is another thing to hear that from the president of the United States.

And this is yet another example of the fact that the current occupant of the White House does not understand the responsibility that comes with that office. The president of the United States has a very powerful, powerful voice and tool, which is that microphone. And it should be used in a way that reflects the strength of the office.

The strength of the office should be to lift people up and not beat them down. But this president, I guess, thinks that he becomes stronger by those he pushes down. Well, that's not reflective of who we are as a nation. It is not reflective of the values that we have as Americans. It is not reflective of our history, much less our vision for our future.

LAH: Do you take this personally as the daughter of an immigrant and you've written about how --

HARRIS: I take it personally as a member of the United States Senate.

LAH: If we could turn to what the four members of Congress urged for people who are listening to not get distracted, how do you not get distracted? How do you not fall into his trap or he controls the narrative with a tweet like this?

HARRIS: I've said it many times. This president purposely, I believe, distracts and attempts to distract by flame throwing, because the reality of it is, is he has done nothing to help working families in America. He passed a tax bill benefiting the top one percent in the biggest corporations of our country. [23:35:02] He has conducted trade policy by tweet in a way that farmers are looking at bankruptcy and autoworkers are looking at the potential for their jobs to be gone by the end of the year. The American consumers are paying $1.4 billion more a month, and everything from shampoo to washing machines because of his so-called trade policy, which I call the Trump trade tax.

And he has not done anything to build up the infrastructure of our country and all that comes with that in terms of improving and elevating the condition of working families. And so what does he do? He wants to distract by starting a whole -- lighting fires around the issue of race and ethnicity. It's disgusting.

LAH: Is this a turn -- there's so much rage about this. Is this a turn for you?

HARRIS: There is so much that is disgusting about this. I think it is a turn for this president that it couldn't get any worse. Apparently yes, it just did. How low can he go?

LAH: Can he get lower?

HARRIS: I don't know, but he needs to go back where he came from and leave that office. And so that's why I'm running with the intention of making sure there will not be four more years. I don't think that we can survive having a president of the United States, who uses whatever voice he has in a way that is about dividing and fueling hate in our country.

The American people will not tolerate that. I know that. I know who we really are as a country. The American people will not tolerate this kind of hate from their president.

LAH: I want to turn to the issue of health care.


LAH: At the beginning of the year, in January, you talked about you're fine with getting rid of it all, and then you indicated that there was a place for private health insurance, and then the debate where you raised your hand understanding that you say you misheard the question. So let's --

HARRIS: (INAUDIBLE) that you're building into the question --

LAH: Sure.

HARRIS: -- that is not accurate.


LAH: Well, there --

HARRIS: I would like to just get to the point, but there is a lot that you're building into the question that's inaccurate.

LAH: The impression that people are left with is you're not quite sure, so let's clear it up.

HARRIS: OK, good.

LAH: From where you are, tell me your position on what Medicare for All means --


LAH: -- under President Harris.

HARRIS: Sure. Medicare for All means that everyone will have access to health care and cost will not be a barrier. As it relates to private insurance, there will still be supplemental insurance, but yeah, getting -- transitioning into Medicare for All will at some point reduce the requirement for insurance, because everyone will have access to health care.

Under Medicare for All -- in my vision, Medicare for All, people will have covered what they don't now in terms of vision care, dental care, and hearing aids. I'm here with a bunch of seniors in Iowa, and hearing aids are extremely expensive and not covered by Medicare right now.

Medicare for All means that -- that you recognize that right now in America, 91 percent of our doctors are in Medicare, so you're not going to have to lose your doctor. It is very unlikely. It means -- it means recognizing that over a period of many years, the insurance companies have been jacking up the cost of health care in terms of premiums, deductibles and co-pays.

So that right now someone who has insurance coverage will still be out of pocket $5,000 because that's their deductible, which for most Americans is unaffordable.

LAH: The rule of private insurance, are you limiting that to something like cosmetic insurance? What is the exact rule of private insurance?

HARRIS: It's to cover what is not otherwise covered.

LAH: So that includes what?

HARRIS: Very little because almost everything will be covered. Almost everything will be covered. And here's the important piece. We've got Medicare for All right now. And you know what that is? It's the emergency room.

And it is extremely expensive for the American taxpayer, and also it's a system that basically means that people have access to health care when they're in crisis. A smart system will not require people to be in crisis before they have access to health care.

LAH: So then how does this plan differ from what Senator Sanders is proposing?

HARRIS: I think that they're very similar. I don't know that they're -- I mean, I don't think that -- I'm supporting his bill, so to the extent that he's supporting about his bill, I don't know what else he's talking about.

LAH: You said --

HARRIS: I mean I'm not in support of middle class families paying more taxes for it.

LAH: And that's what actually I was hoping to talk to you about. You just said that you were not in favor of a middle class tax hike.

HARRIS: Yes, correct.

LAH: How do you propose to pay for your version of Medicare for All if it resembles what Senator Sanders is proposing?

[23:39:59] HARRIS: Well, part of it is going to have to be about Wall Street paying more. It is going to have to be about looking at how we -- what we tax in terms of financial services. That's part of it. But the other part of it is to understand that this is about an investment which will reap a great return on the investment.

We can't only look at this issue in terms of cost without thinking about benefit. The benefit to the American public will be that people will have access to health care that right now they cannot afford. And we are all paying a price for that.

LAH: Well, Senator Sanders says that that is impossible to achieve without a middle class tax hike.

HARRIS: I'm not prepared to engage in a middle class tax hike. The rules have been written against middle class and working families for far too long, and it is not necessary that they be taxed even more to achieve what is achievable by recognizing that they don't have to actually pay more to receive a benefit that they deserve, which is access to health care.

LAH: But in many studies, study after study shows it would cost approximately $30 trillion over a decade to pay for this. So taxing Wall Street will reap $30 trillion in order to cover this?

HARRIS: What we're doing right now is unaffordable to so many American families. And the idea that we're going to go down this level of analysis that's just that status quo is OK is completely unacceptable.


LEMON: Kyung Lah joins us now. Kyung, fascinating interview. So, listen, Senator Harris is a daughter of immigrants. She really took the president's comments personally, didn't she?

LAH: Because it's impossible to separate that experience of what she has written about and talked about, seeing her mother gone through, her mother an immigrant from India. She says that she saw her mother, who was highly educated, she was a scientist, a breast cancer researcher, yet she saw her mother who was assumed to be dumb because of her accent and it angered her. She writes about it in her book.

She talks about how her mother was discriminated against just because she was a brown woman. And then Kamala Harris grows up to be a U.S. senator, but yet it is still very difficult to separate her childhood experience to also what she has lived as her life experience of being a black woman.

LEMON: Kyung, I want to you to stand by because we're going to have more from your exclusive interview with Senator Kamala Harris next.


LEMON: We're back now with more of Kyung Lah's exclusive interview with Senator Kamala Harris.


LAH: From what vice president or former Vice President Joe Biden would suggest, is that you're not necessarily being clear with the American people. And just this past week, he was asked about ending private insurance as we know it. And when he asked about the others, the former vice president responded so far not. Because 150 million Americans are covered by private insurance, what happens to those 150 million Americans under President Harris?

HARRIS: Well, it's the same as the millions of Americans every day that transition into Medicare seniors. It's seamless, without any difference to their coverage in terms of access to health care. It has to happen over a period of time.

There's no question we would have to go from the current system into a Medicare for All system and transition into it. But the idea that there would be any substantial difference in terms of the health care that people receive is just not accurate.

LAH: So people who have private insurance would eventually have to give that up under your plan?

HARRIS: They would eventually be covered under Medicare for All and they would still see their doctor. That's what they want.

LAH: How long will this transition take?

HARRIS: I think the transition is going to have to take -- the bill is four years. I think it is not going to take more than that to be honest with you.

LAH: And all of this done without a middle class tax hike?

HARRIS: Without middle class tax, yes.

LAH: Thirty trillion over 10 years?

HARRIS: There are ways to pay for it, also understanding the investment that we are going to be making in a way that is going to reap great benefits in terms of other costs.

LAH: The investment where?

HARRIS: In American health and what we are otherwise paying as a cost for people not having access to health care and the burdens that places on systems across the board when people don't have access to health care.

LAH: And when you -- when people question that there is no formula for this, that you are going to find money in magical ways, it's not realistic thinking, how do you respond to that?

HARRIS: The status quo is not enough. So we have to be open to challenging status quo so that everyone has access to health care and price is not a barrier. We have to agree that what's happening right now is not affordable to many, many working families. It's just not affordable. One in five people can't afford their prescription medication.

We're looking at a situation where one in four diabetes patients can't afford their insulin. We're looking at a situation where seniors are coming out-of-pocket as much as $4,000 a year to pay for their arthritis medication because it's not otherwise -- they can't afford it. We have to move to a system where price is not the barrier to access to health care.

LAH: Joe Biden says that this is what you are suggesting, an elimination of Obamacare.

[23:50:01] Is that accurate?

HARRIS: It's absolutely not. Listen, I will put my record up against anybody as having been a fighter for the maintenance and the sustainability of Obamacare. As attorney general, I mean, I'm sure on the debate stage, I'm the only one who went to court to fight to keep in place all of the benefits of Obamacare.

But like President Obama himself has said, he used (ph) the analogy of it being like a starter home. It was profound public health policy and shift. It was incredible, the courage that he had with so many others to actually get it done and the wherewithal to get it done was profound.

LAH: But Obamacare isn't --

HARRIS: And so now it's about taking it to its -- now, it is about taking it to the next step.

LAH: So it is moving on from Obamacare?

HARRIS: And making improvements on it. And President Obama himself said that there are improvements to be made.

LAH: Your policy that you released today, the Trump (ph) policy. What I found quite intriguing about it is that in proposal after proposal, from your gun policy to your drug policy, you have said that you will lean on executive action if Congress fails to act. You're a sitting member of Congress. What does it say about your belief in the authority of Congress?

HARRIS: Congress has the authority. The question is does it have a will. The question is does it have a courage. What I witnessed is that on so many of the biggest and most fundamental issues in the two years that I have been there, Congress is just not acting.

And so where it fails to act and where there is a longstanding and deep need for action by the American people, then we're the authority that exists in the executive branch to use executive power and take executive action. I'm prepared to do it. I believe in just getting stuff done.

And for some of these issues like the affordability of prescription drugs, I would suggest to you that Congress and frankly this administration have been in the pocket of the big pharmaceutical companies to the point that the American people pay more for the same drugs than people in Canada and then the U.K. pay.

Why is that? Why is it that the American government would let our own people pay more for the drugs that they need to relieve their pain or extend the quality of their life?

LAH: And last question.

HARRIS: Very quickly.

LAH: You said last May that you thought Joe Biden would make a "great running mate."


LAH: Do you still believe he would make a great running mate?

HARRIS: I think that we have to get past the primary and then we can start talking about running mate. I am happy to talk to you about it at that time.

LAH: Thank you, senator.

HARRIS: Thank you.

LAH: Thank you for your time.


LEMON: Kyung is back with us. So Kyung, the senator says that she won't be middle -- there won't be a middle class tax cut with her health care proposal. Is she saying that Wall Street is going to pay for all of it?

LAH: Middle class tax hike is what she is saying that she will absolutely and she is not prepared to take that step. What she is saying is she is not going to solely lean on Wall Street. That it is one of about a dozen options that would bring in some revenue to help pay for Medicare for All.

What she's taken off the table out of those dozen options is a middle class tax hike. That's where she's not going to go, Don.

LEMON: Biden, the former vice president, Joe Biden, responding tonight to Senator Harris's comments that Medicare for All is the next step in improving Obamacare. Let's listen to this.


BIDEN: I don't know anybody who thinks that. I mean, you're either Medicare for All, which means Obamacare is gone, gone, period, or you build on Obamacare like I'm doing and you provide a Medicare option. I don't know what her position. Maybe she changed her position. I don't know.


LEMON: Are we seeing a mini primary developing between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden?

LAH: Certainly you can see them going back and forth. I'm already hearing from sources within the Harris campaign. They feel that Joe Biden's response is disingenuous. She stated in our interview that she felt Medicare for All was simply the next step for Obamacare.

So absolutely, we are seeing this sort of mini primary between the frontrunner and Harris, who is surging in the polls since she took a swipe at him at that democratic debate, Don.

LEMON: Kyung Lah, it was a great interview. Thank you so much for sharing the interview and your perspective with us. We really appreciate it.

So before we leave you tonight, we have an update in the story that we brought you last night. There has been an arrest in the murder of the beloved Baton Rouge civil rights activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph.

She was found dead in the trunk of her car last week. The alleged killer was likely a tenant in one of her rental homes in behind about $1,200 on his rent.

[23:55:02] That is according to Baton Rouge Police Chief Ron Jermaine Bell. He was initially arrested -- police chief, I should say. Ron Jermaine Bell was initially arrested on warrant for failing to register as a sex offender. We are going to stay on top of the story for you. Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.