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CNN TONIGHT

Corey Lewandowski Warned By House Judiciary Chairman; A Window To Trump's War With FBI; Trump Administration Anticipates Next Action; 'High Probability' Saudi Attack Launched From Iranian Base; Israeli Election; Two Separate Incidents Of Local Officials In New Jersey Using Anti-Semitic Slurs During Meetings; Why Race Issues Are Center Stage For 2020. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 17, 2019 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[23:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

We're going to take a look at five headlines, five big headlines in the hour ahead.

The chairman of the House judiciary committee threatening to hold President Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in contempt after a combative Lewandowski refused to answer key questions about potential obstruction of justice by the president.

Also, a former FBI supervisory agent who is now a CNN analyst is here to talk about President Trump's relationship with the bureau. And his new book called "Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Trump's War on the FBI."

Plus, counting votes. Tonight, in Israel. Key Trump ally, Benjamin Netanyahu fighting for his political life. We're going to look at the implications for the Middle East.

Also, tonight, a disturbing question. Why are anti-Semitic slurs still common in America? And the issue of race is front and center in the upcoming 2020 election. We're going to see what's driving it.

But let's begin with Corey Lewandowski stonewalling at today's congressional impeachment hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Is it correct reported in the Mueller report on June 19, 2017, you met alone in the Oval Office with the president?

I said is it --

(CROSSTALK)

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Is there a book and page number you can reference to, please? I don't have a copy of the report in front of me.

NADLER: Volume two, page 90. But I simply ask you is it correct that as reported on the Mueller report on June 19th, 2017, you met alone in the Oval Office with the president.

LEWANDOWSKI: The White House has directed I not disclose the substance of any discussions with the president or his advisers to protect executive branch confidentiality. And I recognize this is not my privilege. By I am respecting the White House's decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, let's get to the big picture now with Frank Bruni, Catherine Rampell, Elie Honig. All in house.

Good evening. Thank you all for joining this evening. So, who came out worse for the wear after the hearings today? Was it Corey Lewandowski or the Democratic committee?

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think the Democratic committee. Because I think Corey Lewandowski did exactly what he wanted to do. He began in his Senate campaign in New Hampshire. I mean, that's not formal yet. But I think if you listen to his remarks it certainly seemed like that's part of what he was doing and he was sewing up the support and enthusiasm of one person in the audience which is Donald Trump.

All of this today if you watch it you thought well, he is showing -- he is showing himself to be a sort of perfect proxy for Donald Trump. He's, you know, transmitting his -- he's communicating his values.

I was watching this, you know, there's a National Geographic videos where a bird fans its plumage and does a mating dance for another bird. That was Corey Lewandowski with Trump. Just minus the eroticism.

LEMON: I can hear everybody's headphones in the control room.

BRUNI: Was it not?

LEMON: Quite a picture.

BRUNI: Was it not?

LEMON: It's true. So, listen, Catherine, at several points Lewandowski was straight up trolling Democrats them questioning him. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): You should be here to be telling the truth.

(CROSSTALK)

NADLER: The time of the gentle lady --

LEE: The truth will set you free and the American people. I yield back.

NADLER: The time of the gentle lady has expired. The witness may answer the question.

LEWANDOWSKI: I don't believe there was a question, Congressman.

NADLER: Very well.

LEE: Yes, there was.

LEWANDOWSKI: Could you repeat the question? I didn't hear it.

LEE: I'd be happy to repeat it.

LEWANDOWSKI: It's just a rant.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Are you ashamed of the words that you wrote down?

LEWANDOWSKI: President Swalwell, I'm very happy of what I've written. But you're welcome to read it if you like.

SWALWELL: Are you ashamed to read it out loud?

LEWANDOWSKI: I'm not ashamed of anything in life, Congressman. Are you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Bad. No comebacks. When he -- if he called me president, I would say that would -- that's Mr. President to you. Right? There are responses when he said about ruining the tooth fairy. He just says it's so simple. You're ruining a tooth fairy for my kids. I would say, well, if your kids are watching they should be more embarrassed by your performance than the tooth fairy. Like there was no -- they were not prepared -- like have they not seen Corey Lewandowski on television? This is obstruction in front of their --

(CROSSTALK)

[23:04:59]

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, no. But I respectfully disagree with Frank. And that I don't think this was a great day for Corey Lewandowski. I mean, this is a guy who went on TV, announced to the world, apparently, at the same time that he is also trying to fund raise for a Senate campaign. That he lies most of the time. Except when he's on his own --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Even promoted it there.

RAMPELL: Yes.

LEMON: Yes. RAMPELL: Yes, he promoted it during -- during, I think one of the recesses today. He announced he lies under oath - or excuse me, when he's not under oath. Which is presumably most of the time including when he's talking to members of the media, including when he's talking to perspective voters one would imagine.

This is a guy who I thought he just came off as really churlish amongst other things. But beyond that, you know, this was a hearing that was ostensibly about obstruction of justice and this is like the most obstructive performance that I can possibly imagine.

So, yes, the Democrats didn't seem terribly prepared. But I didn't come off thinking that Lewandowski himself, you know, did anything other than embarrass himself.

LEMON: Well, I had Congressman Jamie Raskin on last hour. And I said, to me, the American people got nothing out of it. Right? Because it was an obstructive performance.

He said his one of the biggest takeaways was that they should let the expert staffers ask more questions. It sounds like they may make adjustments moving forward.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I thought that's a smart move. I thought the questioning by the attorneys at the end was way more effective than we've seen from many of the members.

LEMON: And more illuminating.

HONIG: Yes, absolutely. Way more was brought to life. And it was strange day. Because on the one hand, Corey Lewandowski was a train wreck of a witness. I was looking at this as a former prosecutor, someone who's put hundreds of witnesses on the stand.

He was angry, he was sarcastic, he was more interested in flinging personal attacks and pumping his Senate campaign than actually maybe bringing a little bit of truth to the American public and to Congress.

He also gave really damming testimony. He testified the president tried to get me to get the A.G. to tamp down this investigation. I mean, that is presidency ending in normal times. But here we are and it seems to have not even move the needle because the House Democrats have been so, sort of weak in the way they've gone about this.

LEMON: They sort of.

HONIG: Right.

RAMPELL: Yes. They're definitely weak.

HONIG: So excessively weak.

LEMON: But he copped to obstructive behavior.

HONIG: He did. He did. And the problem is the question. Here's the question I want to ask Nadler. Any of the people. Is the conduct that's laid out in the Mueller report enough to impeach? If yes, why are we having these hearings? Why are we having these spectacles? And if no, what it's going to take?

BRUNI: Because Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to move ahead with impeachment.

HONIG: Yes.

BRUNI: And so, in the meantime --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Politically, she is.

BRUNI: For political reasons. And I think she's a 100 percent right. So, in the meantime this happens, so the party to its base seems to be doing something. This is all a sort of stalling mechanism.

HONIG: I agree that's what happening. But I would respect -- look, Nancy Pelosi is a better politician than me.

BRUNI: Right.

HONIG: But to me, do your job. Do your job. And if you think impeachment is constitutionally warranted and the Senate is not going to pass it, not going to convict. So what? Do your job.

BRUNI: But if you also think that the greatest threat right now is a second Donald Trump term. Then you have to put the calculations about how to prevent that ahead of any sort of, of what you're just saying.

HONIG: I'm thinking --

(CROSSTALK)

BRUNI: Number one has to be how do you limit this very dangerous immoral president --

HONIG: That's the point.

LEMON: Doesn't that all hinge on -- and that's a smart political calculation. But doesn't it hinge on whether or not the Democratic nominee can win or can beat Trump. And if they can't, then their folks are going to agree with Elie that say --

(CROSSTALK)

RAMPELL: Well, they could impeach the day after the election. Right?

BRUNI: Sure.

LEMON: OK.

RAMPELL: I mean, that's an option. I'm not sure.

LEMON: Lewandowski also admitted that he lies to the media. BRUNI: Right.

LEMON: Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEWANDOWSKI: I'm sorry, nobody in front of Congress has ever lied to the public before. I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, is that an admission you lie?

LEWANDOWSKI: Absolutely not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you lie, sir, in television interviews denying that you've been asked to give answers to the special counsel?

LEWANDOWSKI: I don't believe so. I have no obligation to be honest to the media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: No obligation to be honest to the media. What does that say to you?

BRUNI: Well, I mean, he's chip off the president's block. You know, I mean, the president feels no obligation to be honest with the news media or with the American public or with anybody.

You know, lying is a new art form. In the Trump administration lying is holy. He's reflecting that.

RAMPELL: I think part of the issue is that shame doesn't work within Trump land. Right? If shame doesn't work you have to have other tools at the ready to do something. If not impeachment, contempt of Congress, one would imagine. We talked about this a little bit in the green room. You know, the legality of this better than I do since you're an actual attorney.

But there has to be some sort of power that is legally exercised here because shame and public berating and talking heads on cable TV are not going to get these guys to behave. They're not even going to get them to abide by the law.

BRUNI: That is such an important point. Because I think the reason that Democrats keep getting caught flat footed is because they can't quite believe a Corey Lewandowski is going to show up and give a performance like that. So, they're not prepared to --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Where have they been?

BRUNI: Well, I mean, no. But I mean, I think that's one of the -- one of the great advantages Trump and his allies have is that.

[23:09:57] LEMON: let me put this up. Elie, this is for you. Because this is from Elliot Williams, one of our CNN colleagues.

And he says, in all the chatter about today's theatrics and silliness, don't lose sight of the fact that a witness today confirmed under oath that POTUS committed an act that met all three elements of the federal crime of obstruction of justice. Obstruction, nexus, intent.

What do you say to that?

HONIG: So, he's right. And if this was not the president of the United States we were talking about, he would have been indicted on many different felony counts. I firmly believe that. I don't even think that's a close call.

But the paradox of all this is it doesn't seem to really move the needle. I mean, it's all already in the Mueller report. And I think a lot of the exercise -- I think what the Democrats are trying to do not very effectively, is draw public attention to what's in the Mueller report.

And there's been all manner of efforts to do that. There's a graphic novel. There are digest -- there have been dramatic readings. And they just -- but the problem is by doing that you're suggesting there's not enough there. We need more. And they'll never going to get there.

RAMPELL: I think part of the reason why Corey Lewandowski refused to even read from the Mueller report today was because he knew that in some sense if he did that would end up in a campaign ad. Right? In the same way that Mueller did not want his words used in --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Because the actual report is damming.

RAMPELL: The actual report is damning. And so, yes. I'm sure that part of the strategy here for Democrats is to just like keep stalling and throw some meat to the base. Some of it maybe to produce some tell -- more telegenic material. More telegenic anywhere than the Mueller report. So that even if we are duplicating the findings in the Mueller report, maybe that will be material that could be used when you're lying.

LEMON: So, Frank, listen, you talked about how Nancy Pelosi is against it. She's kind of slow walking or slow rolling this. I'm just wondering if today you think today convinced more Americans, maybe enough Americans. I don't know. To support impeachment who weren't already on board.

BRUNI: I don't think today will move the needle when it comes to what Americans think because I think most Americans aren't going to watch today. Or if they watch today what they saw people preening, pouting, pontificating and screaming at each other and their take away is I don't like Washington, period.

The question is whether this is so frustrating Democrats that in the party itself among lawmakers on the House that needle moves. And I think in that sense maybe it moves a little bit more towards impeachment because they're tired of looking as impotent as they look today as this man Corey Lewandowski mocked them.

LEMON: OK. So, before I go, so if they move, do you think it's going to -- they may move a little bit.

BRUNI: A little bit further toward but maybe not far enough. And I don't think Nancy Pelosi is moving.

LEMON: OK. So then if it does, is it too late? Like at some point it's going to be like, OK.

BRUNI: At some point we're going to be so close to the 2020 election that the nominees are going to say don't, don't bring this noise.

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

[23:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: The president's former campaign manager stonewalling and dodging questions in nearly six hours of testimony on Capitol Hill today. Leaving Democrats frustrated.

Let's discuss now with Josh Campbell. His brand-new book is out today. It's called "Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump's War on the FBI." It is his first television interview. Congratulations.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Thanks for having me.

LEMON: "Crossfire Hurricane."

CAMPBELL: I appreciate it.

LEMON: We'll talk about that in a moment. Let's talk about some of the news that happened today.

Democrats on the judiciary committee trying to use these hearings to build a case for impeachment. Putting all this stonewalling and the drama aside, did Americans learn anything today from these hearings?

CAMPBELL: No. They -- everyone was treated to their corners. People that came in to that hearing with a certain viewpoint left with the same viewpoint, I would argue. And you know, this has been an exhausting few years for the American people since the beginning of this investigation into Russian collusion allegedly. Now leading to what is apparently impeachment investigation. That continues to change the definition of that.

And so, you know, at the end of the day the American people are trying to decide what's the reality that's going on. What's politics, what's noise. And this was just a very loud day with a lot of political noise where I don't think people learn much of anything. LEMON: Yes. So, another conflict between the White House and Congress

involves this intelligence community whistleblower, Josh. Tonight, the chairman, Chairman Schiff says acting director of the national intelligence Joseph Maguire is refusing to turn over the contents of what Schiff calls, a credible urgent whistleblower complaint regarding a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law or deficiency.

It was made a month ago. Right? The question here is, what are they hiding?

CAMPBELL: Yes. This is so hard to fathom. You know, if you think about what a whistleblower is. This is someone who is coming forward to report some type of alleged malfeasance or, you know, possible criminal activity. We don't know.

And there are mechanisms in place inside the government to ensure that if an employee sees something that's wrong that they can report that without that becoming public. And so, it appears as though this employee went through those proper channels and now that information is being withheld from Congress, the congressional overseers.

I can tell when I was inside the FBI, we had to sign a certification every single year that if we witness an intelligence abuse, we would come forward and report it through the appropriate channels.

What concerns me is not only the American people are left unknowing what this abuse is. Especially Congress is left unknowing. But to other potential whistleblowers who might be on the cusp of doing the right thing, they look at this and say our information may not get to where it needs to go.

LEMON: So, is that -- is DNI -- are they supposed to go through the DOJ? Because here's what chief -- Chairman Schiff is saying that the acting DNI Maguire consulted the DOJ about the whistleblower complaint. Would that be unusual? Why would he feel compelled to do that?

CAMPBELL: Well, we don't know if it's criminal in nature.

LEMON: Got it.

CAMPBELL: So, if there would be some type of potential charge. And you know, to be fair, if there is a criminal nexus that perhaps led to a criminal investigation that, you know, not those aren't always reported to Congress. But these committees exist for a reason to oversee the U.S. intelligence community.

And you know, you mention the book, I talk about these gross intelligence abuses in the past that have happened. And the reason we have congressional oversight now is because the intelligence committee did a lot of bad things in the past.

And if someone is sitting right now inside the intelligence community as reported something that they want to get through to these members of Congress, that should trouble us all if that information doesn't get to where it needs to go. [23:20:01]

LEMON: Let's talk about "Crossfire Hurricane" just out today.

CAMPBELL: Out today.

LEMON: OK. So, in the book here's wat you write. You write about going with your former boss, the FBI director James Comey as he went to brief then President-elect Trump about allegations in the Steele dossier at Trump tower.

So, tell us why Director Comey asked you multiple times that day to be sure a special laptop was available to him immediately following that meeting.

CAMPBELL: No. It was the very harrowing experience. And I'll say the picture we just saw me in the car with him wasn't from the day of that.

LEMON: Right.

CAMPBELL: That we weren't -- there were no smiles. It was a serious occasion. But what he feared was that someday as he said that the president, the president-elect at the time might lie about the interaction between him, you know, himself and the FBI director. And you have to take yourself back to that place in time.

So, the FBI had its Russia investigation underway into four members of the Trump campaign trying to determine whether there were some type of illegality as related to the Russians. And here they were going to Trump tower to brief the incoming administration. They being the FBI director and the heads of the intelligence community on the Russia threat.

But then also, Comey had to pull aside the president and brief him one on one on the allegations in this infamous Steele dossier to provide him that information.

LEMON: And you've been frustrated about that. Because, you know, there are -- right wing media has sort of uses that. And says this was the impetus for the entire investigation and it's only based on this faulty information. CAMPBELL: Right.

LEMON: Blah, blab, blah, blah.

CAMPBELL: Right, exactly. And you know, regardless of how many times we say that that is not the case. And I say that not only people who were inside the intelligence community but, you know, now someone in media based on our reporting. We know that the genesis of the Russia investigation was not the Steele dossier.

LEMON: Right.

CAMPBELL: It was the George Papadopoulos meeting. That said, I will say that we were on the cusp of finding out from the I.G. the origins of the Russia investigation and whether the FBI did exactly what they needed to do.

LEMON: Didn't you talk about that last night? You did an event with Comey. And this is what he said when you ask him about the pending I.G. report into the origins of the Russia investigation. let's watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Let's see the facts. And because my strong sense is as with so many things that happened over the last two years, it's been a lot of lie going on by the president and those around him including people in Congress. So, let's see the facts.

The inspector general I don't always agree with their analysis. And that's fine. I believe they are honorable honest people who are really good at gathering the facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Still in touch with him, other members, former FBI colleagues, you former FBI colleagues. What you think the Trump administration lasting impact on bureau will be?

CAMPBELL: Well, we'll see. We'll find out the results of this I.G. investigation. and again, this is an independent body so we'll see if there was actually wrongdoing on the part of investigators or if this just been political noise.

The point of this book is to bring readers inside the FBI. We heard a lot of voices from partisans the right and the left talking about how, you know, the FBI did everything right or they're corrupt and they're crooks and they're criminals.

What I tried to do is give you the voices of the people that were actually in there on the receiving end of this campaign of attack and take you through that experience.

I'm not -- this isn't an endorsement of the FBI actions. In fact, I'm very critical of not only the bureau but even Comey and others at certain times. But just to give that picture for the American people about what was reality and what's just the spin here.

LEMON: You're giving half of the proceeds of this book to who?

CAMPBELL: They should let me mention that. One thing that I really want to do with this book is use it as a vehicle to help a cause that I think is really important.

To this day, we just passed the 18th anniversary of 9/11. And there are still FBI agents that are dying from illnesses that are now manifesting from the time that they spent at Ground Zero digging through the rubble.

And I learned about it, and you know, the course of writing this book that there's this fund that the FBI Agents Association manages that actually takes care of the family members of fallen agents and sends their children to college.

And what I try to do with this book is to use that, you know, for good. And this is not controversial. All the topics we just talked about are controversial in this day and age. This is not controversial supporting the people who need it most.

So, as you mentioned, half of the proceeds go to that fund. I hope people will continue to research this fund because these illnesses will continue. People who are paying the ultimate sacrifice who, you know, went into harm's way for all of us. We need to support those that are left behind.

LEMON: And there is a -- the organization's link is up on the screen right now. So, take a good look at that.

CAMPBELL: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. You're a good man.

CAMPBELL: I appreciate it.

LEMON: Thank you. I appreciate that. The book is called "Crossfire Hurricane." Josh Campbell is the author "Inside Donald Trump's War on the FBI." Thanks again to Josh Campbell.

Is the U.S in danger of being drawn into another Middle East conflict? How the White House is responding to escalating tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. That's next.

[23:25:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Trump administration officials telling CNN the Pentagon was ordered to plan potential responses to the attack on Saudi oil facilities in order to prevent a knee jerk reaction.

This, as the defense official also tell CNN the U.S. has imagery that shows weapons used in the strikes being staged in Iran. CNN has not shown the -- had been shown the imagery, I should say.

Joining me now is Clarissa Ward and Susan Glasser.

So good to have you both on. Thank you so much. Clarissa, one source telling CNN that what happens with patience is that it prevents stupid moves. That's after the president's initial response to the locked and loaded comment. Are you -- are cooler heads prevailing here?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's difficult to know. Because when we look at the tone and the rhetoric and the policy or lack thereof coming out of the White House there still isn't any sense that there's a clear, consistent, coherent strategy when it comes to dealing with Iran.

[23:29:59] So, we keep hearing phrases like locked and loaded. But then we see that President Trump has removed John Bolton or he left of his own accord. We see that Trump elected not to respond when the Iranians shot down a drone back in June.

So, it does seem like they are sort of walking back some of the tougher rhetoric. So then the question becomes, OK, what is the strategy? How is that the U.S. is in a situation where your worst case scenario, which is not that far fetch, is a full on military configuration that threatens to subsume the entire region and your best case scenario potentially is simply a return to the status quo ante?

If you talk to the Europeans, they are very much hoping that yes, cooler heads are going to prevail, that diplomacy will be given a chance. But what does that diplomacy look like? It is going to take a lot more than a photo opportunity with President Rouhani at this stage to fix the damage.

LEMON: Well, yeah, right. Susan, listen, our sources say that the White House is waiting for Saudi Arabia's ruler to decide on a response before choosing a path forward. Should we be waiting on the Saudis?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, first of all, I think it's really notable and striking that even the Saudis have not publicly blamed Iran but instead have asked for a U.N. investigation. We should note a year after dismissing calls for U.N. investigation of their own murder of the dissident columnist Khashoggi.

So, it tells you something that even Saudi Arabia has not been willing to join Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other Trump administration officials in officially pinning the blame on Iran. I think this highlights the point that Clarissa was making which is that, you know, even if the administration were to decide on a more military response to this, they face an enormous credibility issue right now in selling any possible military action.

They have complained about Iran so many times. They blamed Iran for so many different actions. It's unclear. In fact, we're starting to see in the reporting around this intelligence officials speaking on background to The New York Times and others and suggesting that this intelligence is so sensitive it may never be the kind of slam dunk that they know that the administration would need in order to proceed in a convincing way.

And so we have this problem where the Trump administration has ratcheted up the pressure. It called its campaign, in fact, against Iran maximum pressure. But to what end? Now, Iran has actually called their bluff potentially if we believe the president and yet it's entirely unclear what he'll do.

Meanwhile, I should point out, the infighting continues inside Trump world where you have Lindsey Graham, supporter of the president, basically blaming him for this situation right now. So it's a remarkable twist.

LEMON: Listen, you know, Clarissa, both of you guys are saying we don't know what the response looks like, what is diplomacy in this particular situation, the allies don't know how the U.S. is going to respond. But is there a proportionate response that won't lead to war?

WARD: I think there potentially was, but the question is has the window on that already closed.

LEMON: Closed, yeah.

WARD: Because let's be clear about something. This is an attack on Saudi Arabia but it wasn't really just an attack on Saudi Arabia. This is an attack on the global community. It's an attack on energy prices.

And the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are going to continue to escalate tensions because raising oil prices is the only leverage they have to get the U.S. to sit down at the negotiating table and potentially alleviate some of the sanctions that are having a blistering effect on the Iranian economy.

So I do think there is a perfectly good moment and a perfectly good sound argument for robust proportional response, and that potentially by sort of punting that decision to the Saudis and saying, well, we're waiting to see who Saudi Arabia says is responsible.

Well, Saudi Arabia has been caught in a very awkward position here. It's been revealed now how desperately vulnerable their oil resources are and their infrastructure is. They also don't want to see an escalation.

And so now, nobody sort of wants to take ownership of this situation. That's a role that traditionally the U.S. would take, whether it favored a military response or a diplomatic one, Don.

LEMON: Susan, I want to turn to the Israeli election. It is interesting to follow. This is too close to call right now with exit poll showing a tight race between the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his rival Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu has campaigned on his relationship with President Trump. If he loses, does President Trump share any of the blame here?

(LAUGHTER)

GLASSER: Well, if he loses is a big if. Even though it appears -- it's already now morning in Israel. It appears to be a dead heat at the moment between Netanyahu and the blue and white coalition and Benny Gantz. But remember, this is a parliamentary system. And so the trick is going to be who can create a coalition. There's no one winner. No one party takes a full control enough of majority to lead to put together a coalition.

[23:34:58]

GLASSER: And, you know, Israel have gone to bed before thinking that Netanyahu's long tenure was over and they woke up and that wasn't the case. I know many people, including fervent opponents of Benjamin Netanyahu, who will not believe that his tenure as Israel's prime minister is over until he actually walks off the political stage. Tonight, he came out and said he wasn't going to do that.

LEMON: I got to run. I'm out of time. Thank you both. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:40:00]

LEMON: The city council president of Trenton, New Jersey is issuing an apology tonight after she used an anti-Semitic slur earlier this month, according to local media report, that is. It is the second such incident involving a local New Jersey city council member this month.

Joining me now to discuss is Peter Beinart and Matt Katz.

Good evening to both of you, gentlemen. Matt, we have seen two separate incidents this month where New Jersey lawmakers used the term Jew down to describe negotiating down costs. So tell us what you know.

MATT KATZ, REPORTER, WNYC: Yeah, it's incredible. It happened within a few days of each other. First, in Patterson, New Jersey, a council member at a public meeting was talking about a redevelopment deal and expressed appreciation that the developers didn't try to Jew us down. In other words, negotiate a better deal. He was immediately rebuked by his fellow council members, particularly the Palestinian, the council member of Palestinian descent, a Muslim man.

And then the following week in Trenton, like you said, a council president was in a closed meeting with government officials and with her fellow council members. She was talking about a lawsuit. She expressed concern about a woman who was going to be Jewed down. She didn't want her, don't Jew her down.

And in that case, she was not rebuked immediately. In fact, two of the council members to this day are standing by her, defending her, saying it was a fine thing to say. Jew is OK, it's just a verb. Of course, as you said tonight, the council president herself has apologized.

LEMON: Yeah.

KATZ: But her two colleagues are continuing to defend this. It's just a way of speaking. This is how we grew up. It doesn't mean anything. in fact, you know, to be a good negotiator is actually a positive thing.

LEMON: Yeah.

KATZ: So there's some education.

LEMON: I remember that when I was younger, that happened in the workplace when someone said that and had no idea that it was offensive and everyone around her had to let her know, like, you don't say that. At least two other members of the council are defending her, as you just said. I just want to read what one of them is saying. This is Councilwoman Robin Vaughn. She wrote on Facebook. "I believe her comment 'Jew down' was more in reference to negotiating not 'I hate Jews.' Inappropriate in today's PC culture absolutely, but to Jew someone down is a verb and is not-anti-anything or indicative of hating Jewish people."

Vaughn is not facing any calls to resign over this but -- listen, what's this woman just said, is wrong. No one is saying it's hating Jews. It's inappropriate. To Jew someone down is a term that is offensive because of the connotation, right? Explain that to us.

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. So, even though you might say, well, this is a compliment because it suggests you're a good negotiator, what you're really saying is, you really care about money.

LEMON: Right.

BEINART: It's stereotyping a whole group. It is like saying Asian people are good at math. You can say that's a compliment but it's a stereotype --

LEMON: Right.

BEINART: -- and it's lumping an entire group of people together. It also has certain negative connotations as well, right? And so, look, I don't think people should lose their job --

LEMON: Right.

BEINART: -- for one inappropriate comment, especially if they're willing to apologize. That is something good, right? What we should want as a society is if people don't understand something, to help them learn so they can progress. But if in the face of being told by people, look, this is really hurtful to us, you still deny that, it's more of a problem.

LEMON: That's what I'm saying about this comment, this quote. I believe her comment Jew down was more a reference to -- this person doesn't understand their own ignorance, right? If someone says, Don, you're good at basketball or whatever, I would say, you know, that's -- you probably shouldn't say something like that.

BEINART: Right.

LEMON: You know what I mean?

BEINART: Right. Yeah. Look, I think we as -- the challenge in our society is to progress beyond some of these really deep seeded stereotype -- harmful and hateful stereotypes that have existed and give people the chance to grow. So I don't think we should be overly punitive here. But at certain point, if people --

LEMON: Yeah. BEINART: -- can't see the evidence facing them and looking them in the face, that's a problem.

LEMON: Listen, another just before we go, another council member told New Jersey Globe that what McBride said was just a statement of speech, made this comparison. "You know, it's like a card dealer, they wanted $5,000, you Jew them down to 4,000."

Oh, my gosh. These people are -- gosh.

KATZ: That's unbelievable.

LEMON: This is all problematic.

KATZ: We shouldn't lose sight of the fact. There's anti-Semitic violence going on --

LEMON: Yeah.

KATZ: -- in this country on the unprecedented levels. That's the backdrop.

LEMON: Thank you, Matt. Thank you, Peter. If someone tells you you're being offensive, think about it. Don't double down on it. We'll be right back.

[23:45:00]

LEMON: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: One issue is already defining the 2020 campaign, race. It looks like the president and his democratic rivals want it that way. Here to discuss, CNN Senior Political Analyst, Ron Brownstein. He has a new story on CNN.com. It is titled "Why Race is Moving Center Stage for 2020."

Ron, thank you so much. You say issues of race and American identity are being thrust center stage by both parties as the 2020 election heats up. What is driving that?

[23:50:00]

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we have an action/reaction cycle where Donald Trump is appealing to white racial resentments more overtly, more openly than any national figure in either party since George Wallace in 1968.

And partly in response -- and partly in response to the changing nature of the democratic base and coalition, I think the democratic candidates are clearly talking more explicitly about the idea of systemic racism or systematic racism or institutional segregation than any democratic candidate really since I've covered national politics in 1984.

LEMON: Even more than Obama or Clinton, right, you said?

BROWNSTEIN: I think much more than Obama or Clinton. Hillary Clinton dipped her toe into those kind of arguments. But when you hear the kinds of things that Beto O'Rourke, for example, said at the last democratic debate in Houston, where he argued that the introduction of slavery more than the declaration of independence was in essence the foundational moment in shaping American history, I mean, that is kind of confronting issues or framing issues of racial inequity much more directly and overtly.

LEMON: Let's listen to that, Ron. Let's listen to that and let you finish. Here it is.

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Racism in America is endemic. It is foundational. We can mark the creation of this country not at the fourth of July, 1776, but August 20th, 1619, when the first kidnapped African --

(APPLAUSE)

O'ROURKE: -- was brought to this country against his will and in bondage and as a slave, built the greatness and the success and the wealth that neither he nor his descendants would ever be able to fully participate in and enjoy. We have to be able to answer this challenge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Is he right? Are Democrats right to counter Trump with statements like that? Will it help them? Go on and finish what you were saying.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, like I said, look, as you know, I believe that the fundamental dividing line in our politics, the fundamental fault line between the two coalitions, is attitudes toward the demographic, cultural and even economic changes that are reshaping America.

The Democrats now rely on the places and the voters that are most comfortable with change, and Republicans rely on white, heavily evangelical, heavily blue collar non-urban voters, who are most uneasy about that change.

If you look at the academic studies in 2016, there have been several and they have all reached the same conclusion that the belief on whether or not racism still persists in this society and whether or not there is gender discrimination in this society was a much better predictor of how people voted in 2016 than their immediate economic circumstance.

The more likely people were to deny that racism exists or deny that gender discrimination exist, the more likely they were to vote for Donald Trump. What I point out in this story is that relationship is still holding true very powerfully. I looked at some results from the Quinnipiac University national polling in late August. Among people who say they approve of Donald Trump's performance in office, more of them say whites face discrimination than say African-Americans face discrimination.

And the belief on whether whites or African-Americans face discrimination engenders a very large divide on whether you support Trump or whether you support Biden in early tests, there is no question that these underlying attitudes about the way America is changing, I believe, is driving our -- we've been heading in this direction for it to be driving our politics.

Trump has leaned into it by so overtly identifying with all the voters and forces that are unhappy about the way America is changing. And I think this looms again as the fundamental fault line in 2020.

LEMON: And you said earlier and in your piece -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- that he has leaned into it more than anyone since George Wallace. Am I correct?

BROWNSTEIN: I believe.

LEMON: OK.

BROWNSTEIN: I think so.

LEMON: You also bring up Barry Goldwater in 1964. Let me read this. "In 2020, the contrast between the nominees on issues of race relations will likely be as stark as any since the Republicans in 1964 nominated Senator Barry Goldwater, who opposed the Civil Rights Act, against President Lyndon Johnson, who steered it into law."

You also say Trump is appealing to white racial resentments. How ugly could this get? How will this play out?

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I think it's going to get very pointed. It's already. How much uglier can it get than tweeting that people should go back even though they are, you know, Americans? Look, I think that what we're seeing -- and you see the countermove on the other size, which I think Democrats face partly because Trump has been so overt, they face enormous pressure.

They are using language we have not seen before from democratic nominees and talking about systemic racism and basically arguing that economic inequity is rooted in systemic racism.

Even when Joe Biden tried to return to some fairly standard issue, 1990s new democrat language, as tangled as it was about combining opportunity with personal responsibility, remember that part, beyond the record player, and his answers, talking about sending social workers to help, you know, low income parents raise their kids, look at the backlash that he received over that, intense and widespread among African-American thought leaders and political leaders.

[23:54:58] BROWNSTEIN: And I think that gives you a sense of where we're headed, where you're going to have a democratic nominee who is more explicitly than before framing, you know, raising the arguments and concerns about systemic racism, and you're going to have Trump appealing to voters who deny that racism, you know, still exists in American society.

I think we're going to see voters sorting along these lines, possibly even more than we did in 2016 when, as I said, it was the best single predictor of how people voted.

LEMON: Ron Brownstein, really fascinating. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: And thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)