Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

Trump administration setting the stage for mass deportations; Protests against President Trump's policies spreading to town halls across the country and congressional Republicans getting an earful; Shermichael Singleton was fired last week from the department of housing and urban development; Aired 11-12a ET

Aired February 21, 2017 - 23:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:00:14] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Trump administration setting the stage for mass deportations.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

Fear is spreading in immigrant communities tonight as White House promises aggressive enforcement of immigration laws. Millions of people could be affected.

Meanwhile, President Trump finally says the words America has been waiting to hear. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: But why did it take so long for him to speak out? Has the White House been playing politics?

Protests against President Trump's policies spreading to town halls across the country and congressional Republicans getting an earful.

CNN's Kyung Lah is covering the town halls for us and she joins me now live.

Kyung, hello to you. Anger erupting at these halls across the country. Tell me what is going on here.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is tide that we have been seeing growing over the past month, month-and-a-half. And it really hit a fever pitch this week as these Congress people, the members of Congress head home to with their first congressional recess to face their constituents.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LAH (voice-over): Senator Joni Ernst's town hall. It didn't start well. Iowa constituents' anger often drowning out the senator. As senator left --.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy retirement Joni.

LAH: The jeers followed her all the way to the parking lot and into a car.

CROWD: Shame on you.

LAH: Overflow town hall crowds in Georgia.

CROWD: Do your job!

LAH: To Nebraska.

CROWD: Do your job.

LAH: Reaching to Congressman Dave Brett, getting an earful when he claimed Obamacare collapsed. Behavior that disgusted one of the congressman's supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are (bleep) idiots.

LAH: Just a snapshot of one day of voter outrage prompting the president to tweet the so-called angry crowd in home districts to some Republicans are actually in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists.

Sad. Organized? Yes. But at numerous town halls from California to Virginia what we have seen is empowered constituents.

These Virginia Beach town hall attendees are so upset at charges that their political operatives, they wore stickers with their home zip codes to prove they do live in and care about their district.

Many come from local groups calling themselves Indivisible. The name comes from this online guide written by these former Democratic congressional aides. A step by step manual to oppose the Trump administration. Teaching people here how to channel post-election anger and concern at members of Congress. Some canceled town halls this week citing security concerns to then only see protesters show up outside their district offices or post pictures mocking them like this missing poster for Congressman Daryl Isaac and this homemade music video from Florida, anthem to missing congressman.

For those who did show, it may have been uncomfortable but in some cases it actually resembled a real town hall.

CHRIS PETERSEN, ATTENDED TOWN HALL: I'm proud of all these people who took time out of their lives to show up. It's what it's supposed to be about.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I learned that we have got issues that people feel very strongly about and we have to try to deal with them. And most of those issues out there will be dealt with.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: Now, there are large number of town halls today. We did see pictures across social media. There were cameras and local stations that many of them, Don, a lot of them were full. The tone did vary from town hall to town hall. But some of them like you saw from Senator Ernst, she really had an uphill climb from the very beginning. Her office saying that she is getting some flock for cutting it off early but they say was always scheduled to end at that time -- Don.

LEMON: Interesting. I have been watching your reporting, Kyung. And you have covered several of these town halls. What are some of the big things?

LAH: You know, there are a lot of issues. The general sentiment is anti-Trump. Try to stop the Trump agenda. But what we heard today specifically on the issues, Obamacare is something that you hear over and over again. It does vary town to town. So in parts - in the planes, you hear different issues. You hear a lot of jobs.

On the West coast you hear about climate change. Then you hear about immigration in Texas. So it does depend on the region which really speaks to how grass roots this is.

[23:05:03] LEMON: Is part of the motivation here to embarrass members of Congress or do they just really want they voices heard?

LAH: You know, it depends again. Because when you speak to each one of these grassroots groups and I spoken to a lot of them, a couple of them say yes, it's absolutely embarrass people, that they want a piece of buzzy video that they can out on twitter. They want to shot these town halls down. They want to try to stop that member of Congress. But then others say, no. That's not their intent at all. They want to sit there. They want to have a conversation. That they will resort to embarrassment if they don't get the answer that they want. They don't want talking points.

LEMON: So we all saw, Kyung, you know, the women's march right one into march right after the inauguration. Then there were, protests all around the country. I'm wondering if these folks are still slowing down or they are just heating up.

LAH: You are seeing more directed protests. So what you are seeing here is almost the next step beyond the women's march. They say, yes. Marching in the streets is one tactic. It is one tool. But this, going to your representative, having a target in your back yard, trying to get your issues, your agenda pushed forward by talking to them, that that's the next step beyond the march.

LEMON: Thank you for that reporting. Thank you, Kyung. Appreciate it.

I want to bring in now "New York Times" columnist Nick Kristof.

Nick, good evening. Thank you for joining. You heard what Kyung's report, these (INAUDIBLE) town halls. Is this Democracy work?

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes it is. And it is -- I mean, I find it robust to see these kind exchanges. I must say that guess I question a little bit how much impact will have. At end of the day Trump is astonishingly extraordinarily popular amongst Republicans.

LEMON: Almost 90 percent.

KRISTOF: Yes, exactly. Gallup shows that 87 percent, higher than any president since Eisenhower except George W. Bush at the stage and his presidency among Republicans. And the truth is that, you know, most Republican members of Congress than vulnerable from the right than from the center.

LEMON: Listen, I think you are right. I mean, at this point what can they do. But the question is remember 2009, we all witnessed it. We all reported on it. The Republican playbook now has sort of dismisses, as you know, just sort of nay sayers, people were upset. But the Democrats did that in 2009 with the tea party and they paid a heavy price for it. So --.

KRISTOF: That's right. And I do think on specific issues, on healthcare in particular, I think that the town hall meetings really can put pressure and help. You know, it help illuminate some of these issues and help keep you and me, keep us as media more focused on some issues like healthcare instead on the latest Trump tweet or whatever.

LEMON: Let's talk about the president's new immigration plans that he just talked about today, just released today. Looking at potentially, this is massive expansion in the number of people who are deported. Sean Spicer said today that these efforts are not mass deportation. What do you see here?

KRISTOF: Well, it was reassuring that he said it wasn't mass deportation. But on the other hand, you know, they are scaling up. They are talking about hiring another 10,000 ICE agents, another 5,000 border patrol agents, putting up, my source is saying another 20,000 beds to house people. And giving a much greater authority to go after people, including those who haven't committed major crimes. Makes me very nervous. I think a lot of folks also who are in parts of the economy that depend on these folks are --

LEMON: What does make you nervous?

KRISTOF: Because, you know, so many of these people have lived in the U.S. for years. They have kids who are American citizens. It's not as if, you know, some unauthorized immigrant can just cleanly move out. What do you do with their 5-year-old kid?

I was back home in Oregon over the weekend and a friend who has a small agricultural business, he relies on couple of young men from Mexico. He is not sure about their legal status but he is worried that they may now be pushed out. He doesn't think he is going to be able to hire a replacement.

LEMON: This is Trump country and Trump supporters.

KRISTOF: That's right.

LEMON: Right. And they still with him.

KRISTOF: Yes.

LEMON: But they are concerned about some of the stuff.

KRISTOF: Yes, absolutely. I mean, he himself is not a Trump supporter, this employer. But so many are. I would say right now they are still -- people from my hometown are still largely pro-Trump. But, you know, they are watching and they are nervous and they are going to see how the economy goes, how healthcare goes and see whether he delivers.

LEMON: The President - the White House has said that they are not going to change President Obama's plan when it comes to DACA, the Dreamers. Do you think this is an olive branch? Is it a good move?

KRISTOF: I think it's certainly good that they didn't interfere with DACA. I think that would have been a step too far. But, you know, I think that there are an awful lot of voters out there who are troubled by illegal immigration in the abstract. I also think, though, that when they see -- weekend I tweeted about 7-year-olds playing soccer and there were ICE agents who were coming down and trying to arrest people at the soccer game.

I think that that is going to rub a lot of Americans the wrong way when they see the heartbreak about breaking up families. And you know, and the cost. Since 1993, the border patrol budget has increased ten-fold, more than ten-fold actually. And now, we are talking about hiring another 15,000 at time when unauthorized immigration is essentially flat.

[23:10:24] LEMON: But I heard the other side of the argument. This is if you didn't want that to happen, if you didn't want to see those kids in this article then, shouldn't have come across the border illegally. The parents shouldn't have come across.

KRISTOF: Yes but we have to decide, for our part, in this country how we want to respond at what point. And what is the best approach to this difficult problem? And I don't think that many Americans are going to think that breaking up families - you know, if some foreign country was separating parents from their American citizen children, we would be outraged. And that may happen to vast numbers of American kids.

LEMON: So we saw the new immigration policy when it comes to the borders that rolled out today. But also, we are waiting -- awaiting the immigration ban. While that is happening, there is a -- there's a banner that says refugees welcome placed on the statue of liberty today. What do you think of that? It is kind of what you were saying just now about --?

KRISTOF: You know, well, I'm the son of a refugee. And so, I kind of feel as if the spirit of the statue of liberty these days has moved up north to the Canada where - you know, Canada and the U.S. are economies both enormously benefitted from immigration over the decades. And this - the message on the statue of liberty I think is better reflected today in Canada than under the Trump administration.

LEMON: You mentioned Canada, here is what the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He said we are taking steps to make sure that Yuzidis and other survivors Daesh have the support they need when they get here #WelcometoCanada. He also tweeted a welcome to refuges after the president unveil his original travel ban. Do you think he is trying to send a message to the president?

KRISTOF: I think he is trying to send a message to refugees, recognizing that they are a source of strength for Canada. Canada's immigration minister and foreign minister both told me that, you know, this in a sense can help Canada. If the U.S. closes itself off to the most talented people around the world, then Canada will grab them. And I got to tip my hat to Canada for its willingness to do that for how well it's arranged immigration and integration services and for the fact that it recognizes that diversity brings strength.

LEMON: Let's turn now to the new national security adviser, lieutenant general H.R. McMaster. He is known to speak his mind to superiors. He is very hawkish when it comes to Putin and to come to Russia. How do you think this is going to play out in the Trump administration?

KRISTOF: I thought it was great choice.

LEMON: I haven't heard anyone say anything, you know, I haven't heard anyone says this is a terrible choice.

KRISTOF: Everybody is relieved. I mean, I think a lot of people were nervous it might be John Bolton. And Mike Flynn, there was -- I think almost universal agreement that Mike Flynn was a disaster. And people were really nervous that the last voice in president's ear before deciding what to do with North Korea, what to do in the South China Sea would be Flynn's.

I think that there is now a feeling that McMaster along with Mattis at the Pentagon, Tillerson at state, maybe John Kelly at homeland security, that they will provide reasonable solid fact-based advice and hopefully help keep us out of messes abroad.

LEMON: Something that has been missing, I mean, quite honestly, you know, the facts have been short when it comes to this administration. Alternative facts for some would say. Do you think - go on.

KRISTOF: Well, and I think Steve Bannon is still a worrying source of, you know, really sort of ideology that may push Trump in some dangerous directions. I'm hoping that McMaster is going to be pushing in the other direction.

LEMON: That's what I'm wondering. How is that going to work with Steve Bannon being part of the National Security Council? Do you think McMaster is going to push the other way and say, you know, this is unprecedented, usually do things this way? Do you think he is going to go along with it?

KRISTOF: I don't know. But McMaster is the expert on speaking the truth to power. He wrote the great study in the Vietnam period of how so many errors arose from military officers not speaking forcefully to politicians about their mistakes. So here is his chance to follow through with his own advice.

LEMON: OK. And just quickly. It is interesting because you write in your latest piece called "how can we get rid of Trump." You look at just that. What did you learn?

KRISTOF: Well, so everybody talks about impeachment, the cleaner route if there is a crisis is the 25th amendment section four, which is never implemented but essentially allows the cabinet by majority vote to decide to oust the president. But then if the president protest, it has to be backed by two-thirds vote of both chambers of the Congress. And that is a pretty uphill struggle.

LEMON: Why did you write about that?

[23:15:00] KRISTOF: Because I think there is a deep sense now. There is so many folks who are really distressed by the way this is going. You see President Trump as fundamentally different from so many other leaders. You know, I had leader of a friendly allied country call me up the other day, and he skipped the preliminaries and said immediately, what the expletive is wrong with your country? And he is worried. And I think a lot of Americans are too.

LEMON: Nicholas Kristof, thank you. I appreciate it.

KRISTOF: Good to be with you.

LEMON: Good to be with you.

When we come right back, a chill in Washington, top housing aide who lost his job after his criticism of Donald Trump surfaced.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:19:15] LEMON: The Trump administration trying to silence dissent? My next guest has some experience of that. Shermichael Singleton was fired last week from the department of housing and urban development. That's after an op-ed piece surfaced that he wrote last fall which is critical of then candidate Donald Trump.

Thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, FORMER HUD DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF FIRED FOR CRITICIZING PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thanks for having me, Don.

LEMON: Louisiana. It is good to have you here.

So you were with Secretary Ben Carson's. You were his deputy chief of staff until last Wednesday. What happened?

SINGLETON: That's correct. Well, you know, I wrote an article in October that criticized the candidate who is now president. And that article came back up and the administration just -- was concerned about it and felt that perhaps, was not a good role to fulfill having criticized the candidate at that time. And so, I was let go.

[23:20:06] LEMON: Were you disappointed? What did you think?

SINGLETON: I was disappointed and I guess even briefly perhaps, I was angry. But you know, you learn quickly in politics, anger is like a cancer. So you can't allow it consume you too fast. So disappoint linger for a little bit. Then I said, OK, look. You can either be upset about this and do nothing, or you can be a grown-up? It's OK. You're American, still things you can do to continue to help the administration move forward. But in the end of the day, Don, I personally believe that regardless of president's political ideologies or political parties, you want the president to do well. The president does well, we as American do well. So, of course, I want to continue to do what I can. (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: OK. Let me read part of what you wrote then ask you a similar question. You said my party in particular has allowed itself to be taken over by someone who claims to be Republican but doesn't represent any of our values, principles or traditions. We allowed this hostile takeover to happen on our watch. So do you still feel that way?

SINGLETON: Look. You know, as any intellectual person will probably honestly tell you, you have a perspective at time based on upon a certain set of variables.

LEMON: You are not the only person to have criticized the president. And ended up to be hiring them, so.

SINGLETON: But presented with new information, your opinion can change. And I think, you know, for example today, the president visited the African-American history museum with Dr. Carson. To me, that is the step in the right direction. I know that there are individuals within the White House such on (INAUDIBLE) working on things pertaining to historically black colleges and universities. Again, that is another step in the right direction. And I think you have to give credit that efforts are attempting to be made.

And for me, personally, I believe, you know, visiting the museum, learning more about the culture, about the history, about the things that African-Americans have gone through, you would hope when the president in time of reflection, he learns more about the critiques that were towards him by people of the community and hopefully he will have a better understanding of those critiques and that would make him a better person.

LEMON: OK.

SINGLETON: And I believe he probably will do that.

LEMON: As the late Joan Rivers would say, can we talk?

SINGLETON: Sure. LEMON: OK. Let's talk about this. It is great that he visited that

museum. That's sort of perfunctory, right, all presidents do that. They visit museums.

SINGLETON: And you should. You learn a lot.

LEMON: But this particular president and as candidate has been tone- deaf when it comes to issues that face the African-American community. He has been criticized a lot whether it warranted or not. But he has been criticized. Is there anyone there who can tell him no, Mr. President. This is not the way you should do it or there is a better way or the way you say that was not exactly accurate. The African- American community is not just urban blight. We just don't just live in inner cities. Who can tell him that? Because that doesn't seem to be getting across.

SINGLETON: Don, look. There will always going to be things with any president that you can find that can criticize. There will always be things. The fact that the president is making efforts, you have to give credit for effort because you could decide not to do anything at all.

LEMON: What are the efforts?

SINGLETON: He visited the museum. He is focusing on historically black colleges and universities.

LEMON: OK.

SINGLETON: When you look at the numbers, by in large, Republicans typically do fairly well with supporting historical black colleges and universities. And I think you are going to continue to see those efforts in this administration. At least that's my hope.

LEMON: OK, go on. What else? Because I'm wondering if there are very few conservatives of color, right? You were one of - I'm just saying.

SINGLETON: OK. You are being honest. I got it.

LEMON: I'm just being honest. Conservatives of color in this country and everyone, African-Americans should be free to be whatever they want to be.

SINGLETON: Absolutely. We are not a monolith.

LEMON: All right. So if there this few concern - even fewer conservatives of color who support the president. So is he cutting off nose to spite his face when he, you know, gets rid of someone like you because as I say there are conservatives who happen not to be of color, who are very critical of Donald Trump as candidate who sat right here, and they are still there, he hired them and he --.

SINGLETON: Don, look. I don't take this personal.

LEMON: I know that you don't. SINGLETON: When you're political appointee, you understand --.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I don't mean personally about you. Not arguing, just don't want you to get the focus of my question.

SINGLETON: Nothing to do with race.

LEMON: I don't want you to get the focus of y question wrong. Let me get the question and we can talk about it.

SINGLETON: OK. Go ahead.

LEMON: Do you think that he should not be -- maybe he should allow you to be able to state your case, to be in there making a difference for African-Americans rather than saying, you know, you are fired as he says it.

SINGLETON: Look. I have great deference for the office of the president. That is a decision of the president has to make. And only the president can make that decision. I, Shermichael Singleton, cannot speak on behalf of the president, Don. I just cannot.

LEMON: But when it comes to having African-Americans in the fold, is what I'm saying, this is just - I mean just person, I mean, you.

SINGLETON: I think that's important. And I think that there are African-Americans on the outside that are not within the administration that will offer the necessary critiques and commentary at their appropriate times and hopes of assist the president and his administration have in a better understanding of the issues that many African-Americans face in this country.

[23:25:15] LEMON: What would you like to see from the president?

SINGLETON: You know, I think as Republican, Don, clearly there are some issues that I think we can focus on such as education and opportunities, revitalization of urban communities. I think prison reform, et cetera, is another issue I think that we, as conservatives, could focus on. Just like conservatives were very fiscally responsible. You focus on education, you improve communities, less people to pay for in a jail somewhere. So it makes a lot of sense. So those are some of the things I would like to see.

LEMON: But I find that by nature African-Americans have conservative --.

SINGLETON: They are. Look, Don. It is not the message. It is the messenger.

LEMON: But they are not necessarily registered as Republicans.

SINGLETON: You are right. And you know, I had a conversation with someone about that earlier. And I said, look. It's not the message, it is the messenger. I think you have to have the right people talking to various groups. If you do that I think you are going to see success.

LEMON: But that people say the same thing about President Trump. It's not that he's conservative, it's the messenger.

SINGLETON: Don, he is only been in office for what, 40-something days. He hasn't even had his first hundred days yet.

LEMON: Spent two years on the campaign trail.

(CROSSTALK)

SINGLETON: I'm not disagree with that. Clearly, we are talking about the article that I wrote. I'm not disagreeing with that. What I am saying, however, is that I'm willing to give an opportunity. You know, people have asked, well, you wrote this article. How do you work for the guy? And my position, Don, was there is one of two things. You continue to be on the outside and critique and critique and critique but offer no solutions or you say OK, I think there's void that I could potentially fill. Let me see how I can be a part and make solutions to the problems that I have raised. And that's what I attempted to do.

LEMON: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

SINGLETON: Whether successful or not is debatable of course.

LEMON: You say all of that and then here you are sitting on the outside. That's my whole point of the conversation.

SINGLETON: And Don, again. That is OK. I think this is bigger than any one person. This is bigger than one party. This is about the country. And I think it's important for me and for the folks that are watching this show to realize that we have to put aside our personal issue and attempt to do the greater good of all of us. And that's what I attempted to do. Whether I'm here or not doesn't mean that that mission stops.

LEMON: That's hard for a lot of African-Americans, and you know why, especially African-Americans who are in New York and they know the history of Donald Trump. Donald Trump to the rest of the country, it maybe something new that they think just happen in the last couple of years. But to New York, as they have known him, they know about the central park five. They know about housing discrimination and on and on.

But also African-Americans across the country, most of whom voted for President Obama saw him as trying to delegitimize this president with every effort with the birther movement, and on even the other day saying I inherited a mess when if you look at what the former president inherited, there is not even close to a mess.

So what do you say to those folks who may say, you know what, there is no way on earth that I can work with the man who had, and their estimation have such disdain for African-Americans. SINGLETON: I sympathize. I understand their position. And think in

understanding their position as Republican I think it's critically important that we do what we can to remedy that. I think that's very, very important. And I expect going forward that we will begin to see policy changes that will hopefully do just that.

LEMON: Do you regret writing this article?

SINGLETON: No, I do not.

LEMON: You know what, you are the exact kind of person that should be working for this White House. And I hope that they reconsider.

SINGLETON: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: And it was a pleasure talking to you.

SINGLETON: Thanks, my friend.

LEMON: I enjoyed this conversation more than I enjoy a lot on this program.

Thank you. Thank you for coming on. Hope to see you back.

SINGLETON: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Up next, the Trump administration expected to release a new travel ban any day now but did the White House learn from the chaos of the first executive order?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:33:09] LEMON: Fear is spreading in immigrant community across the country as the White House sets the stage for what could be mass deportations.

Let's discuss now. CNN political commentator Kayleigh McEnany is here. Symone Sanders, Paris Dennard and Bakari Sellers.

Good evening to all of you. Thank you for coming on.

Symone, I'm going to start with you. The department of homeland security released guidelines for enforcing immigration law under the new administration as they include hiring 10,000 new immigration and customs enforcement agents. Building a well - a wall, excuse me, along the southern border, creating more detention facilities for undocumented immigrants and designating a new office to help victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. As of now, there is no change to DACA program that protect undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. What do you think about this?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, one, I'm glad to hear that there will be no change to the DACA program and dreamers for now. But I am definitely concern about the memo and the reports that are out today. Look. This effectively makes local law enforcement agents empowers

them to be immigration, custom and border enforcement agent. It is dangerous. This the policy that is totally expanded. And instead of, you know, targeting individuals that actually have done harm to people and who one could argue should be deported. This just casts such a wide net and folks are deporting dads and moms and sisters and brothers. This is just not humane immigration policy.

LEMON: Kayleigh, the press secretary, Sean Spicer, wouldn't call this effort mass deportation. But according to the guidelines, a million people could go. How would you define it?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, million people, a million people go, that would be great because there are a million people who have criminal records apart from just being here illegally. I think we can all agree that we want people with violent records out of this country. So if that happens, that's a good thing.

And I would argue, you know, along with Sean Spicer, that if you have a problem with the immigration nationality act, if you think it is somehow xenophobic that is to say the act that says that if you're here illegally if you don't go through the visa process, if you have a problem with that, we do have Congress. We have a means to pass a new law. But let's enforce the laws on the books because laws, when they're passed means something that should be enforced.

[23:35:23] LEMON: Let's listen to - let's hear from a dreamer now. Her name is Greisa Martinez who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico as child.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREISA MARTINEZ, UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT: We are concerned about what Donald Trump means for our family. Will it mean that we will be separated from our mother just like we were separated from our father nine years ago?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: This is going to be a big problem for the president, this steady stream of stories, frightened family. That the dreamer children are allowed to stay but their parents face deportation, is it not?

Bakari, can you hear me?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I think it's going to be horrible problem for the president. I mean, I think what this young lady was talking is the pain, is the angst, is the fear that is going to be heard throughout the country.

One of the things that Kayleigh brought up is not all the way accurate. He is not just deporting individuals with criminal records or who committed violent crimes. In fact, this expands those individuals who will be deported and detained. This mass deportation policy that was put forth but also incorporates people with status offenses and noncriminal records. And so, when you look at this, you are actually taking away mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers as Symone so eloquently said who are actually working and contributing to society.

And lastly, one of the things that shows you just the ineptitude of this White House. This White House, if you read the memo, is actually deporting all of these individuals regardless of where they are from back to the contiguous country from which they entered. So you are going to have Ecuadorians, Guatemalans, even Haitians who entered through Mexico being deported back to Mexico and they are not even Mexican.

So I mean, I think that the confusion that this is going to cause is going to be paramount, but also the fear that these families are facing every day I just don't think that is right, Don.

LEMON: Paris, is leaving President Barack Obama's DACA program in place an olive branch?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think what leaving DACA in place is just proof positive that this situation, this issue is a difficult one. You can go from campaigning and then you have to move into governing. And just like you had governor Brewer on the program earlier talking about the difficulties, and how she was opposed to Obamacare but when it came to Medicare expansion, she did what she felt that she needed to do for citizens of state of Arizona which I'm originally from.

And so, this as the president moves into governing, I think you will see this movement is one that is thoughtful. That is one that is being well thought out because you can't rush just into it this. But you have to do what he said he is going to do on the campaign trail. That it is a very difficult process. But I believe that this president understands that. He is married to someone who came to this country, you know, from Slovenia. And so, I think he has appreciation for immigration but it has to be done legally. And whether you see him trying to solve this issue of illegal immigration as it relates to those who commits crime.

LEMON: Break. Hold that thought. You get the first one on the other side of the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:42:24] LEMON: Back now with panel.

And I believe Bakari Sellers wanted to get in. Paris was saying that, you know, the president has wife who is an immigrant. And then you wanted to weigh in.

SELLERS: Yes. I just think we have to get away from simplistic arguments that because Donald Trump's wife is an immigrant, all of a sudden, he is going to be knowledgeable or compassionate when it comes to immigration reform or because his Donald trump's daughter is converted Jew, that all of a sudden, you know, he doesn't have to be forceful in his denunciation of anti-Semitism. I mean its same argument that people made because I have five black friends that, you know, I can say things that are somewhat crude. So I think we need to move away from that.

And what we want to see, what Donald Trump should do and what I hope that he will do is work with some of the members of the United States Senate and build comprehensive immigration reform. So these individuals who do not have criminal records.

We all agree, I agree, I think all four of us agree, Kayleigh, myself, Paris, Symone, we all agree that individuals who commit violent crimes need to be deported. But these fathers and mothers who are working diligently who only has small status offenses, who have no criminal records, why not create a pathway to citizenship for those individuals who are already contributing to our society.

MCENANY: But Bakari, those aren't simplistic arguments. The problem is, you know, that the last, you know, liberal commentators like yourself are trying to sow false narratives that Donald Trump, for instance, is anti-Semitic. It is a logical flaws your argument, a fatal flows, in fact I would argue that his own family is in fact Jewish. You are trying to make a case, not you in particular but other liberal commentators are making the case he despises people of this faith. Well, if he --.

SANDERS: Kayleigh.

MCENANY: It's in fact a flaw, a fatal flaw to your argument that he has grandchildren that are Jewish, that he had family that are Jewish. That he welcomed a son-in-law to his family who was in fact Jewish.

SELLERS: I mean, we pivoted from this immigration discussion to this. So I will just answer since you directed this at me. And I will say that the criticism of Donald Trump is not that he is anti-Semitic. The criticism of Donald Trump is that he should forcefully denounce those who are anti-Semitic. And just in the same way that he renounces and he goes forcefully and says that radical Islamic terrorism is a threat to this country, the same way that he was able to use that (INAUDIBLE), the same way that he has able to go across the country and stumps in city after city, he also needs to be able to renounce other hate the same way and not be timid about it.

Listen. Donald Trump has the opportunity here to actually bring this country together, but he is afraid of greatness. And if he wants to be timid, and so be it. But want a leader who is going to stand up and say hate is not allowed here point blank period. And those people even if you support me, please stop doing this and making my Jewish friends, brothers and sisters tearing up their cemeteries. Why can't he just say that? This isn't about Donald Trump.

[23:45:04] MCENANY: He did that. He is still waiting for the applause from the left. He did exactly what you wanted today. He did exactly what you want in Wednesday. Liberals don't want to hear it. He said what you wanted him to say. Wednesday --.

SELLERS: Donald Trump today said that anti-Semitism is going to stop. Hate is bad. That's not what we are talking about here. We are talking about showing a level of empathy. If you can't get the empathy, at least sympathy. And being a leader who wants to bring people together by being forceful. The same way that he talks about Muslims who commit terroristic acts.

I want him to talk about the bigots in this country who are wreaking terror and havoc on these vulnerable communities. That's all I'm asking.

I don't think Donald Trump is anti-Semite. I don't think he is a racist. But I do want him to stand up to those who are. Has an awesome opportunity to be a unifier and bring this country together. He need to stop being scared and do it.

DENNARD: I appreciate Bakari saying for the viewers that he does not think that President Trump is anti-Semitic or racist because there are a lot of liberals that carry out that narrative and have said that.

And this to his point, the president was very clear today. And I bring this up because he did say it with his own mouth. He said we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its ugly forms. Anti-Semitic threats target on church community, and community centers are horrible and are painful and are very sad reminder of all the work that still must be done to root out hate and precious (ph) and evil. I don't know what more he could have said to make it so clear that he is against anti-Semitism and wants to do something about it. That was a clear statement from the president at the Africa- American museum.

LEMON: Symone?

SANDERS: I think he needs to be consistent is what we are talking about. It is not just the president. The president does need to use his platform and his mouth and his twitter fingers as I have said on this program multiple times to denounce hate in all of its forms. But it is also the policies. I mean, we can look at this immigration policy and this policy today, that again, opens the door to mass deportations, but it is not humane. That does targets people. That does opens up door for local law enforcement officials to profile individuals because of what they look like.

So, it's more than just one speech at African-American museum of history and culture. It's more than one speech. It is to be consistent in his act and his rhetoric everywhere he goes and to make sure that permeates is louder in the administration. And Donald Trump has not done that. He has not made people in this country who look different feel safe.

LEMON: I got to get to the break.

But my question is, and you guys having great conversation, I didn't want to jump in here. How did we go from failure of some sorts to denounce anti-Semitism to be anti-Semite? I haven't heard anyone was called the president anti-Semitic. And maybe you guys have.

SANDERS: I have not.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: It doesn't mean that - I mean, they are not mutually exclusive. People can question why he didn't denounce anti-Semitism sooner and still not believe that he is anti-Semite.

We will discuss that on the other side of the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:51:55] LEMON: So I want to get back to my panel now.

And Kayleigh and I were talking (INAUDIBLE). I think you and Aaron. And I think it was Steve Goldstein from the Ann Frank center, who said he actually believed that the president was anti-Semitic, right. I haven't any heard liberal commentators, I haven't heard any members of Congress or lawmakers. It was interesting to say -- and Alan Dershowitz came on and said it was, this guy was hyperbolic. I think Fareed Zakaria said the same thing and should be more careful with his language.

MCENANY: Yes, I completely agree. But at the same time, I think you have to consider why some on the left are pushing so hard this what I consider a false or completely overblown story of Donald Trump not condemning anti-Semitism. The implication is while he didn't condemn it because perhaps he empathizes with those views. Maybe they are more subtle in the way they put forward their point than what Steve Goldstein, but it's the same motive which is to paint Donald Trump as something is not and demonize him.

I have heard people -- I haven't heard people say they believe Donald Trump is anti-y is might, but didn't want to alienate part of his base.

LEMON: So Bakari, I have heard people say -- haven't heard any says that they believe Donald Trump is anti-Semite when it comes to lawmakers. They think that he doesn't want to alienate the part of his face who, you know, may have issues when it comes to that.

SELLERS: That's true. But I can answer Kayleigh's question and she wonders people are (INAUDIBLE), why people are bringing up the fact that he is lack luster and slow, moving very, very slow in the speed in denouncing these acts of violence. He hasn't even really forcefully come out and talked about the Muslims who were slaughtered in their mosque in Quebec.

The reason being is because people are afraid. My grandmother who just passed away last week, she use to always say that you can't fall off the floor. And when you think about that theory, there are a lot of people right now. They are transgender students, they are African- Americans who want criminal justice reform. There are Jews who are being faced with anti-Semitism and Muslims who are being persecuted throughout the country with this rise in Islam phobic attacks. There are a lot of people who are afraid, Kelly. And that is the reason why. And if Donald Trump wants to kind of soothe that fear, then Donald Trump needs to be a leader. Being a leader means you speak forcefully out not just against those things that apiece the base, but those things that make us all American.

MCENANY: But the same could be said for President Obama, by the way. There were a lot of us wondering --.

SELLERS: He's not the president of the United States.

MCENANY: He was. And they were wondering why he was not speaking out when police ambushes were up 167 percent.

SANDERS: My goodness. That's not fair.

SELLERS: That's not true. That's also not true.

SANDERS: That's not true, Kayleigh. President Obama forcefully said that we need to support of law enforcement. But the problem here is that -- I want to go back to Donald Trump's press conference from last week. And when she was asked specifically about these Jewish centers that have been targeted, he answered the question saying I'm the least anti-Semitic person out there. I'm the least racist person out there. And that goes to show that he does not - he seems - I don't know, but it seems as though that he does not grasp the full concept of what it means to separate from being anti-Semitic and just denouncing anti- Semitism.

So that is why I think you see some folks not anyone here on this panel questioning where Donald Trump's loyalties lie here. But again, this will be cleared up if he would just be forceful and consistent.

[23:55:04] LEMON: OK. I have less than a minute left. Go ahead, Paris.

DENNARD: And he did that today. And I just think that he did that today. Well, you can go back to last week or we could talk about what he did today.

SANDERS: I have.

DENNARD: On the birthday of Congressman Lewis' birthday at the African-American museum. He forcefully denounced it like he did during the campaign.

LEMON: Paris, stop. Answer the question that people -- she is saying consistency, but why did it take so long?

DENNARD: You know, I think you have to determine whether or not you think this took a long time or whether or not his statement at the press conference was good enough. A lot of people didn't like that statement. Some people today said, well, he had to read it and so it didn't come from his heart.

You know, I think this president is dammed if he does, damned if he doesn't. And so, at some point, we just have to accept the fact that he is president, accept for the things that he says and understand that he means what he says and he says what he means.

SANDERS: I refuse to accept that the bar is this low. LEMON: I got to go. Thank you all.

Don't miss the Democratic leadership debate moderated by Dana Bash and Chris Cuomo live tomorrow night at 10:00 eastern.

And I will see you back here after the debate. Good night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)