Return to Transcripts main page

CNN TONIGHT

President Obama's Farewell Address; Obama: First Lady Makes "The Country Proud"; President Obama's Final Flight on Air Force One; Intel Chiefs Presented Trump with Claims of Russian Efforts to Compromise Him; Sessions Takes on Racism Charges; Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired January 10, 2017 - 23:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:01:42] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Two big breaking news stories tonight as this country prepares for transfer of power next week. The President's farewell address to the American people. And our CNN exclusive report on the President-elect. This is CNN Tonight, I'm Don Lemon. President Obama makes his final emotional final speech to the nation with just 10 days to go to his presidency -- in his presidency and return to his favorite call of action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes we did, yes, we can. Thank you, god bless you. May god continue to bless the United States of America. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That coming in the wake of our bombshell CNN exclusive, classified documented presented last week to President-elect Trump including allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about him, that is according to multiple U.S. Officials with direct knowledge of the briefing. Let's get straight to CNN's Carl Bernstein, our political commentator and Jim Sciutto, CNN Chief National Security Correspondent. Jim, thank you for joining us, Jim. You have exclusive reporting for us on the nation's top intelligence officials briefing the President-elect and the current president last week about claims of Russian efforts try to compromise the President-elect. What have you learned?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Let's walk you through what we know and how we know it. Multiple U.S. Officials with direct knowledge of these classified intelligence briefings tell CNN that classified documents on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Election presented last week both to President Obama and President-elect Trump, included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump. These allegations part of a two-page synopsis, based on memos compiled by former British intelligence operative whose past work, U.S. Intelligence Agencies considered to be credible. The FBI is now investigating the credibility and accuracy of these

allegations which are based primarily on information from Russian sources but the FBI has not confirmed many essential details in these memos about Mr. Trump. Classified briefings last week, I'll remind our viewers, they were presented by four of the senior-most U.S. Intelligence Chiefs. Director of National intelligence, James Clapper, the FBI Director James Comey, CIA director John Brennan, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers. This two-page synopsis also included allegations this key as well that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.

This according to two national security officials. CNN has the confirmed that thee synopsis was in the included in those documents presented to Mr. Trump, we cannot confirm if it -- in addition to that it was actually discussed at this meeting with the intelligence chiefs. I should note the transition team that we've reached out too many times today as declined to comment although Donald Trump himself tweeted out what we presume to be his response to this claiming that this is fake news in his words, a political hunt. Don?

LEMON: Yes. Fake news now becoming a talking for it. This is Kellyanne Conway. She was on Seth Meyers tonight and she was asked specifically about your reporting, Jim. Here's how she responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, AMERICAN REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Guess what hasn't happened, Seth? Nobody has sourced it. They're all unnamed, unspoken sources in the story, and it says it was based on a Russian investigator to begin with, so where are we?

SETH MEYERS, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: I think based on an MI6 British investigator.

CONWAY: Right, well one of those, and then it said that it also may have -- may have originated with a Russian investigator. It also says that Hillary Clinton, groups that wanted Hillary Clinton to win, may have been behind the investigations themselves. And most importantly, it says that the FBI is trying to confirm it. So nothing has been confirmed. And I have to say, as an American citizen, regardless of your party or if you don't like politics at all which are many Americans, we should be concerned that intelligence officials leaked to the press and won't go and tell the president elect or the President of the United States himself now, Mr. Obama what the information is. They would rather go tell the press --

MEYERS: But the report was that -- the press report was about them going to the president.

CONWAY: And it says that they never briefed him on it, that they appended two pages to the bottom of his intelligence briefing.

MEYERS: I believe it said they did brief him on it.

CONWAY: He has said that he was not aware of that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Jim, your reaction because you're reporting shows that this synopsis was included in the documents that were presented to Donald Trump but you can't confirm if it specifically discussed, correct?

SCIUTTO: Well, let's be clear, when you have an intelligence briefing whether for the president, his daily briefing or circumstances like this, the briefing includes both written documents and then spoken conversation. Right? We know this was part of the written documents and that is part of the briefing. And let's be clear, intelligence agencies don't include garbage in those briefings, there's a minimum in that time, limited amount of time for the people you're speaking to and for the senior intelligence officials doing the briefing so they put in what they believe is germane to the conversation and necessary, that's one thing.

Let's be honest as well, the -- some of the other things she said there weren't factually correct. I mean, she says that there were no named sources. Fact is we know the name of the British Intelligence Agency -- agent that prepared these documents. We did not choose to use his name for the sake of his privacy. And also, we spoke at CNN and a team that I work with Carl Bernstein, Evan Perez, Jake Tapper and myself. We spoke to more than a dozen high ranking U.S. Officials with direct knowledge of these briefings, they were not named because of the classified nature of the intelligence that they were talking about but this is not coming from the ether, right? This is coming from very senior and knowledgeable sources.

LEMON: So even if -- let's say they didn't discuss it, benefit of the doubt, shouldn't you read the entire report?

SCIUTTO: Well, for sure, I mean, that's what a briefing is about. I mean, you know, when the President gets his daily briefing every day on threats to the country, he gets a documents, President Obama in fact, I don't know, on his -- on his -- on his iPad but he get a document whether electronic or in print and you have a conversation which is typically for follow-up questions, greater detail on the issues contained in the written report. So, I mean, the written briefing materials are essential part of that briefing.

LEMON: Carl, I don't know if you or Jim have better answer to this question. Why did intelligence officials share these allegations that Russia claims that -- why did they share them with the President- elect?

BERNSTEIN: Because of their belief and the outgoing president, as well as the President-elect, their belief that these allegations are serious enough to warrant real and thorough investigation. There's enough detail that they've seen that they think investigations need to go forward. And there's real concern I think in the intelligence community during the changeover of administrations that perhaps some of the new incoming national security officials might want to sweep this stuff it under the rug. If they might not want to pursue a thorough and real investigation. So, I think part of calling to attention of the President-elect in the

way that they did, makes a marker that's been laid down if this will not go away there. People, leadership on the Capitol Hill, republicans and democrats, are prepared to have hearings on some of this, this is going to be an event will that goes on until some truth is it found out about the validity of what's in those memos.

LEMON: So why would -- if we could put -- this is Jim referenced the tweet from Donald Trump, why would he tweet out fake news when you have, you know (INAUDIBLE) James Comey James Clapper, John Brennan, Mike Rogers?

BERNSTEIN: Why would he tweet anything? He's been very effective in his tweets and Kellyanne has been very effective as propaganda minister.

LEMON: But it's a -- is this an undermining of the intelligence community?

BERNSTEIN: So, let's talk about what's real. What is real here is serious concern by the top-most officials in our intelligence community, the top four, that they have seen information that leads them to believe there's enough there to warrant thorough, serious investigation of an incoming president. That hasn't happened before.

LEMON: I stepped on you. What did you say what I asked you what -- you said it was propaganda? What did you say?

BERNSTEIN: Oh, no, no. I say Kellyanne is a propaganda minister. That's all that -- there's not, you know, I don't think we need to take too seriously what she said and that bit of disinformation there. That -- look, what we need to do as reporters here is report what has occurred, let's see where the investigations go, see whether the allegations are credible or not, and we'll learn over the course of the next months or year or whatever the truth of this matter.

LEMON: Jim, some other media outlets have published a memo that talks about these allegations. CNN isn't reporting those details right now. Why is that?

SCIUTTO: Well, fact is we've had this memo as well and reason we aren't reporting them is some are very salacious but they're unconfirmed. And CNN has not been able to independently confirm them. And because of that, because we know that the FBI while it's investigating it and intelligence community while it's investigating it, has not confirmed them either, and we felt it (INAUDIBLE) therefore, it was unnecessary to put those allegations out there until they are confirmed. Our focus was on these facts, that the intelligence community took the extraordinary step of including this information in briefings to the President and the President-elect, two people with a finite amount of time. One, two, that the FBI is investigating them in part because they believe the source of them is former MI6 Official has given credit -- or operative I should say has given credible information in the past, and three, that both democratic and republican lawmakers, senators are taking a hard look at this as well. And I'll tell you, Do, if you happened to watch the Sessions'

confirmation hearing today, before our story came out because a lot of the information contained and this is classified, senators asking not too veiled questions that seem to be referring to this information saying, are you investigating Donald Trump communications with Russia? Et cetera. James Comey refused to comment in public session those senators, there's a reason they're asking those questions it's because they've seen these documents as well and they seriously.

LEMON: All right. I got to go, Carl. I know you want to weigh in but I got -- I got to get CNN's Phil Mattingly. Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us now. Phil has been covering the Trump folks in this transition. Phil, there is a lot of opposition to President-elect Trump's selection as Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, vast majority of it due to concerns about Sessions' record on race. You heard Jim Sciutto refer to his hearings today and people asking these sort of veil questions in regards to some of this. How did he try to address that today?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's really interesting. And first to kind of address what everybody is talking about right now, Jim made the point, the issue of Russia came up repeatedly over the course of this hearing, we've seen Trump officials tweeting about the story, here's what -- if you want the response, if you -- if you want to hear what the Trump transition is going I have to say, I think you need to do Don is tune in tomorrow, 11:00 A.M., the President- elect is still as it currently stands right now, at least the folks that I've talked to inside the transition planning to hold that press conference to address this head-on. And I've talked to reporters who were going to be in the room, this is going to be question one, two, three, probably on down the line, not just on the CNN report but just on the connection, the ties to Russia in general.

You were seeing his cabinet nominees get asked about it, the President-elect will almost certainly get asked about it as well. And we saw that today in the Sessions hearing but I think you hit on the key point, this was a hearing that went 10 and a half hours, really, the first kind of prime time hearing of the Trump cabinet nominees, race has been a huge issue so much though that Jeff Sessions had a judgeship sunk, his own judgeship was shot down by the U.S. Senate in 1986 because of these concerns about race. Jeff Sessions is willing to take that head on. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), NOMINEE FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was accused in 1986 of failing to protect the voting rights of African-Americans by presenting Perry County case, the voter fraud case, and of condemning civil rights advocates and organizations and even harboring, amazingly, sympathies for the KKK. These are damnably false charges.

MATTINGLY: Now Don, what's interesting about that, that wasn't actually in his initial prepared remarks. He decided to add that to his remarks forth of the day towards the start of the hearing, just before the hearing according to one adviser, recognizing that has become such a huge issue around this nomination. Now, is this going to sink the nomination? Are these issues going to sink the nomination? No. Probably more importantly, was what Jeff Session said enough to kind of assuage the concerns of a lot of advocates we've heard and the civil right side of things? Absolutely not, but it was something he was willing to address a recognition that it has been a real problem up to this point, Don.

LEMON: Phill, thank you (INAUDIBLE) is here. Sorry about that.

MATTINGLY: That's OK.

LEMON: Thank you very much. When we come right back, as President- elect Trump prepares to take office in ten days, President Barack Obama makes an emotional farewell speech to America.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: In his farewell address to nation tonight, President Barack Obama returning to favorite themes, change and optimism in front of cheering crowd in Chicago. Let's discuss now, CNN Political Commentator Mr. Van Jones, CNN Presidential Historian, Mr. Douglas Brinkley and in this corner, David Gregory, the adviser of President Nixon Ford Reagan, and David Gergen - why do I do that? Reagan and Clinton. You're both tall and handsome, so, sorry about that. Let's hope I made it up.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That would insulting to David Gregory.

LEMON: So David Gergen, you know, I want to ask you about the President's speech tonight. How much impact do you think the speech had?

GERGEN: I think had more impact than we may realize. Not upon the history books, I don't think it will go down in the books as another George Washington or Dwight Eisenhower farewell address. But what I do think is the President is trying very hard to rekindle the idealism and enthusiasm for politics of the younger generation. And I thought that was important legacy for the speech. He came, he was swept into office by the votes of so many young people, they've been disappointed in this election result in many, many cases, you know, they're discouraged about politics and I thought that rather than -- and then affecting history, it was affecting the near term and helping a generation write itself. I think where there's new library he has said, he wants to be training the social change agents of the future. And that's a worthy goal for him.

LEMON: Douglas, how did this compare to previous farewell speeches?

DUOGLAS BRINKLEY, There's never been anything like this. I mean, this was rock and roll concert. Everything was choreographed and packaged. We had Eddie Vedder doing the warm up music. It was almost -- you can hear drums beating when the President came in, so it was a big success. I think it's either Judge Reeves or the teleprompter from the White House, it wouldn't have been memorable. But the fact that he was able to remind people of what's what is kinetic about him I think was helpful, I agree with what David said of appealing to young people but the biggest applause was when he denounce the idea of a Muslim registry and that's the issue that I think Cory Booker and the U.S. Senates going to be seizing on and might be able to get bipartisan support.

So, there was sort of an opening I think with that and then the love story of Barack and Michelle Obama, their photographs were all over the hall here. It reminded me of Camelot pictures. We forget how photogenic that firs family was and there are lot of bombed teary-eyed people here. This was bedrock supporters and it -- as a combination of goodbye and love fest

LEMON: I was looking at him going, who is that young man when they were showing pictures of 2008. I mean, he's still young but my gosh, when you have the, you know, the leader of the free world that weighs on you. So, Van jones, let's talk because he talked about reach -- look at that. Look at that. He got -- he aged, right? There's a little grey, he still looks good. He talked about reaching out, right? Which you have been covering, you know, in your -- the show that you've been doing, right? The Messy Truth. Listen to sound bite and then we'll talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If our democracy is to work the way it should in this increasingly diverse nation, then each one of us need to try to heed the advice of a great character in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. For blacks and other minority groups, that means tying our own very real struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face, not only the refugee or immigrant or the rural poor or transgender American but also the middle aged white guy who from the outside may seem like he's got advantages but has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change. We have to pay attention and listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What do you think?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well I agree. It's a little ironic because I don't know if that position landed this past election season the way that it should have. In some ways, there's a little bit of a confession there from Obama but not in those terms that the democrats did not do a good job of that. And I thought it was important that he said it.

LEMON: But you've been talking -- and listen, how long we've been working together here on CNN (INAUDIBLE) before you started working for CNN, we would have discussions. Some of these things you've been saying for a long time especially about the democratic party that they were -- and I as well but you more so but you more so. In a bubble. People live in a bubble, they live on the coast, they don't have much interaction from the middle of the country.

JONES: Where we're from, you're from Louisiana? (INAUDIBLE)

LEMON: (INAUDIBLE) all over. Why didn't that message come faster, sooner, eight years, five years ago, six years ago, three years ago?

JONES: You know, I think there was a -- there was something happening where the -- there were two things with Obama early on, there was the beauty of the poetry and then there was this data operation. And the two came together to pull off this impossible thing. But over time it became, you know, the data over the people, the donors over the voters, the pollsters over the people. And at a certain point the Democratic Party started feeling kind of -- I don't know, phony. And so -- but what I want to make sure I say, tonight what I saw wasn't just looking in Obama's face, it was all those people who were there. And you know what, I know all those people.

And those are people whose hands had almost got frostbitten in Iowa, eight and a half years ago. These are people who are young, adults who became full adults in the past eight years and guess what, now they feel lost. That is grief there.

LEMON: I was in Chicago back in -- I think I interviewed him, one of the first people (INAUDIBLE) 2006, before he ran for president. And I remember being in Chicago with David Axelrod when Barack Obama was sort of coming into prominence and people were -- because he gave us peace in 2004 and people like, "There's your guy on TV," and I'm like, who are you talking about? He goes, "The senator from -- do we have the -- do we have that 2004 interview anywhere -- 2006 interview? Do -- all right. It's going to take them a second to get it and then we'll -- and we'll discuss. Like I want you -- when we get it, the difference between the man we saw tonight and man back then and you think, you know, as he lived up to the -- to the hope and change.

JONES: What I will say is that tomorrow we are doing this messy truth thing tomorrow at 9:00 again, getting people together, folks, you know, voters from Detroit and this kind of crazy stuff. What I think we're discovering is that hope that people had in Obama is still there but it's been eroded.

LEMON: OK. All right. I want everybody to listen to this. I want David and Douglas to listen to it as well. This was 2006, I think it was November. I'm not sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Do you think that at this point in our country, this point in time, that a person of color stands a chance to be the president of the United States?

OBAMA: Absolutely. I think -- I think the American people, at their core, are a decent people. I think that we still have prejudice in our midst but I think that the vast majority of Americans are willing -- are willing to judge people on the basis of, you know, their ideas and their character. And in the case of the presidency, I think what's most important is whether the American people think that you understand their hopes and dreams and struggles and whether they think that you can actually help them achieve those hopes and dreams LEMON: I had a lot more hair then. I've only been at CNN for about two months there. But listen, he --David Gergen, he never wavered in, you know, believing in the American people and the goodness of the American people.

GERGEN: He has never wavered on that. I think he's been very disappointed by our politics and what -- and the discouragement that that has sent out across the country. That was very clear. I mean, his clear warning tonight was that democracy itself is now threatened. And if that goes, our economy goes, everything else, our sense of nation had -- leaves us as well. And he's deeply worried about that. But I, you know, you can't help but feel that Barack Obama came in hoping to take us to a new place. Franklin Roosevelt said a long time ago that the first and most role of a president is moral leadership. And by that he meant helping us gain higher ground. I think Obama really wanted to do that, I think that's what he represents and I think he feels we haven't gotten there.

LEMON: Yes. I would like to talk more but unfortunately have to go. I'm sorry, everyone. Time constraints, don't forget to. Thank you. I appreciate it. The Messy Truth tomorrow 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN with Mr. Van Jones. Thank you, Van, thank you, David, thank you, Douglas. Much more on our breaking news, President Barack Obama's farewell speech with just 10 days to go until he hands over the reins to President-elect Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:31:17] LEMON: President Barack Obama making his final address to the nation tonight in the place where it all began, that's Chicago.

Here to discuss, Josh DuBois, Joshua DuBois, the former Religious Affairs Director in the Obama White House, he's the Executive Producer of the 44th President in his own words, which airs on the History Channel Sunday night at 9:00. Also with me, CNN Political Commentator Bakari Sellers, and Paris Dennard, Director of Black Outreach for President George W. Bush, and Joe Madison, SiriusXM Host, what is it? The Eagle?

JOE MADISON, SIRIUSXM HOST: The Black Eagle.

LEMON: The Black Eagle.

MADISON: Every morning.

LEMON: Every morning. So, thank you all for joining us.

Joshua, I'm going to go to you first. You have known this family and this president for many years. What do you think of President Barack Obama's farewell address?

JOSHUA DUBOIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS DIRECTOR: I thought it was phenomenal. I thought it took back to the black church a little bit, you know, pastors tend to build big sermons around three points. Martin Luther King did it with his three evil speeches when talked about war and poverty and racism. And the president did the same thing tonight. He laid out the three big threats to our country right now. He says economic anxiety. He said it's racism and the threats to our democracy, a crumbling democracy. And he really is warning the country that if we don't do something about this, we have a tough four years ahead of us. And so I thought it was an amazing speech.

LEMON: If you watch from the family section, friends and family, what was that like?

DUBOIS: It was electric, you know, it was -- there was a lot of policy points, a lot of political points. But then when he started talking about his wife, man, I mean it was almost as if the crowd rose up at that moment because we saw the president tearing up, choking up a little bit, and folks just kind of rose to greet him, to give him a little bit of strength to get through that part of the speech. And then when he called out Joe Biden and folks just sort of roared their support for the vice president. It's really almost a family experience in the crowd tonight.

LEMON: People who are on social media were wondering where is Sasha. But I think she was at school. And so that's very important. So she wasn't there. But --.

DUBOIS: She kind of makes sure she graduates on time, man. That is important.

LEMON: Bakari, the president was undoubtedly very proud of his daughter. So let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You have become two amazing young women. You are smart and you are beautiful, but more importantly, you are kind and you are thoughtful, and you are full of passion. And you wore the burden of years in this spotlight so easily. Of all that I've done in my life, I am most proud to be your dad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What do you make of the relationship between the president and his daughters?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's oftentimes not talked about enough. One of the most amazing things about Barack Obama is that he's an amazing father, he's an amazing husband.

This has been a scandal-free administration for the last eight years. And oftentimes Speaker Ryan talked about that fact. But the way that he looks at his daughters and his wife with such admiration, such love, I mean the entire building felt that, the entire country felt that. I mean I think that everyone who was watching the speech was in tears when he went through those moments talking about he's children and his wife. LEMON: Yeah.

SELLERS: We're going to missed Barack Obama. You can disagree with him politically, but you have to understand that he is a very, very good man at his core.

LEMON: Yeah. And speaking of his wife, Joe, take a listen to this. This is him speaking about the first lady.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[23:34:53] OBAMA: For the past 25 years, you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend. You took on a role you didn't ask for and you made it your own with grace and with grit and with style and good humor.

You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. So you have made me proud and you have made the country proud.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Joe, I mean, besides it takes a real man to cry when he's talking about his wife, it is his. I love seeing that. Characterize that moment and the first lady, Michelle Obama as the first lady.

MADISON: Well, I stayed at home and I cried. And I cried because, you know, looking at a man, who on Martin Luther King's birthday who have been married to a woman who's similar for 40 years. And I think that what I appreciate most about it is the fact that he accentuated the positive of our community, the love and the relationship that we don't see too often in modern culture. Too often the negative is accentuated when it comes to our community, and not the loving relationships that many of us probably on this panel have with our wives.

And I must say very honestly, I shaded a tear because I thought of what my wife has meant to me over these 40 years. And I imagined that many of us have thought about the same thing with either our wives or our significant others. And he's absolutely right, who has ever said that, it is right, we're going to miss this. We're going to miss this relationship that he gave a whole new look at what the black family really is all about.

But I do want to add one other thing about the speech, and that was he challenged the younger generation to do something to get involved that if you don't like what your elected officials are doing, then you get some partitions and your run for office.

(CROSSTALK)

MADISON: And he also talked about getting involved on the local level. The precinct level, redistricting. That's what caught my attention also.

LEMON: Yeah. Paris, the president spoke about race relations improving. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Now, I've lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10 or 20, or 30 years ago no matter what some folks say. You can see it not just in statistics, you see it in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum.

But we're not where we need to be. And all of us have more work to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Paris, before you answer, just let me read this. In 2015, the Kaiser Family Foundation, CNN Melissa raised a poll that says that people see his presidency as having hurt race relations. She found that almost 2/3 of Americans say racial tensions had increased in American in the last 10 years, much higher than the 29 percent who said so in 2001 and the 47 percent who that way, that was in 1995.

Where do you believe we stand on race relations as a country?

PARIS DENNARD, GOP POLITIAL COMMENTATOR: You know, Don, first of all, thanks for having me on the show. I think it is important to remember that he's still the president of the United States, President Obama. And so I think that what you saw tonight was him trying to remind us of that hopeful optimism that he came when he first came into the presidency.

But the reality don't match the rhetoric, in my opinion, in terms of race relations.

I think that things have gotten a lot worst and I think things are pretty bad. But despite all that, we are a country that's looking forward. We are a country that's going to have a peaceful transfer of power. And I hope that this next president, President-Elect Donald Trump, and the Congress will work together to do things to uplift communities of color, uplift fragile communities and do things in a positive nature so that we can tone down the rhetoric and be mindful that words do matter and that some things that we stay on both sides of the aisle can be hurtful.

But at the end of the day, this country is a great country and that given the opportunity, we can rise above some of the partisan and some of the racial differences that we see and we have seen over the past 10 years.

LEMON: Those are then some good words. Let's hope they do that. We haven't seen it so far. Thank you, everyone, I appreciate it.

[23:40:14.] MADISON: And you won't with this president.

DENNARD: Thank you. Don't start, Joe.

LEMON: Up next, more breaking news. Donald Trump's controversial pick for Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions, gets a grilling on Capitol Hill from his closest senate colleagues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: I went to go those live pics. There's the Air Force One still on the tarmac in Chicago, headed back to Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama and his family leaving Chicago tonight. It's president's final scheduled flight aboard Air Force One. End of an era. I know and Granholm is here with me to discuss. And you've got sad face.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: I do have sad face.

LEMON: I have to tell you, I remember being on the air for his first flight. I don't know if it was, you know, with the Air Force One.

GRANHOLM: Yeah.

LEMON: I mean I think it's the -- It's not the big one but there's another Air Force. I don't know, but his first trip. And so, you know, we sort of -- We're talking and then by surprise, he was on Air Force One landing in D.C. and it was his first trip and we --. [23:45:04] GRANHOLM: This is a bookend for you.

LEMON: I know.

GRANHOLM: Right now, we are making Don Lemon history right here.

LEMON: We're talking for a long time and just sort of watched, and he said, "You know what? This is history of the first black president on Air Force One."

But anyway, I digress. We're going to talk about Jeff Sessions and his confirmation hearings up on the Hill today. CNN Political Analyst John Avlon, Author of "Washington's Farewell: The Founding Father's Warning to Future Generations". Sorry, I couldn't make your book launch last night, I'm sick and I could not come, John, so I apologize. Political Commentator Andre Bauer, the Republican Former Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, and of course Governor Jennifer Granholm is with us as well.

What did we learn from this, Session is up on Capitol Hill today?

GRANHOLM: Here, number one, we learned that if you are going to be confirmed for something, it is a really good thing to be a senator, because I think it was a lot gentler of hearing than what it might have otherwise been because he's got all these colleagues.

What will be interesting is historic presence of Cory Booker tomorrow night to do actual testimony which is courageous when you consider the collegiality of the senate. So we learned that.

And then the second thing I would say is we also learned that these -- that the Democrats are using this as way of conscripting, I think, him in his role as attorney general when he gets there. So Dianne Feinstein, for example, asking him whether he would release funds to help women who have been victims of sex trafficking. Even if it meant that their health care included abortions, he agreed that because that's the law of the land, he would do it. So there's a couple of purposes going on.

LEMON: All right. Let's talk more about it. Andre Bauer, to you now, Sessions testified that he will follow the law even on issues he may disagree with. He says that as Attorney General, he's going to enforce voting rights laws, abortion laws and he had this exchange with Senator Patrick Leahy. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK LEAHY, VERMONT, UNITED STATES SENATOR: And in 2010 you stated expanding hate crime protections to LGBT individuals unwarranted, possibly unconstitutional. Do you still feel that way?

JEFF SESSIONS, ALABAMA, UNITED STATES SENATOR: Mr. Chairman, the law has been passed, the Congress has spoken, you can be sure I will enforce it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Andre, will Attorney General Sessions be more moderate than Senator Sessions?

ANDRE BAUER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I believe he will. A public vetting is a healthy part of the process. And don't be mistaken, the Democrats are using this as a great way to -- with an eye to fundraising, it helps them back home with folks so they can continue to say, "Hey, we've got to work on this," but he's going to get confirmed he's a good man, he's done a good job, he will be asset to Donald Trump. And you could see today with kid gloves he was treated, they're not going to come after him like they acted like they were because they know he is going to get confirmed and he has going to be the Attorney General.

GRANHOLM: With the exception of Al Franken who I'd think did really go pretty hard at him.

LEMON: Yeah. John, I want to bring you in here and weigh in on this, because Sessions, he made a point of saying that there is -- that if there is a conflict between law and politics, he's going to enforce the law. Governor Granholm alluded too just a moment ago, even if that means confrontation with the White House, it's just that Jeff Sessions is somehow -- he's someone, I should say, who will stand up to Donald Trump.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they certainly have walked in lock-step from early on in the campaign. Jeff Sessions of course was the first senator and for a long time the only significant elected republican backing Donald Trump.

But of course, there is a responsibility in Attorney General to occasionally stand up to the president. It's one thing in the context of these hearings, however safe they might be, because the senator standing did confirm to say, look, "I'm going to follow the letter of the law. What I said back then was politics and my job is to enforce the law." But, you know, what we're seeing is, is that, you know, the most feared words in the confirmation here that's coming forward are going to be when senators quote Donald Trump, either his best or worst moments and then say, do you support that? Do you back that? And there are going to be times where that's teed up for conflict and it's the job of a good Attorney General to stand on the side of the law, not presidential (inaudible).

LEMON: All right. And of course when these things happen, your past always comes back to either haunt you or lift you up and that certainly was the case with Jeff Sessions today. We'll discuss when we come right back.

(COMMECIAL BREAK)

[23:53:04] LEMON: Back with me, to Governor Granholm, John Avlon and Former Governor Andre Bauer, thank you all again for coming.

Senator Sessions wasted no time today addressing charges of racism. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SESSIONS: I was accused in 1986 of failing to protect the voting rights of African-Americans by presenting the Perry County case, the voter fraud case, and of condemning civil rights advocates and organizations and even harboring, amazingly, sympathies for the KKK. These are damnably false charges.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Governor Granholm, throughout the day, he repeatedly said how painful it was, this, you know, this racism charges. Was he sincere?

GRANHOLM: Well, I mean, words and actions, right? So if you vote against re-upping the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court guts it, when this is an important issue, your action speaks louder than words. When you vote against the Violence Against Women Act, as it currently is, your action, your vote speaks louder than your words. When you vote against the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Act, which protects LGBT people from hate crimes, when you vote against it, your actions speak louder than words.

When you are Attorney General, you are about -- you're supposed to be about justice for all. It gets back to the president's speech tonight. It's about all of us. The great word "all". And when people feel marginalized, then they don't feel like justice is theirs.

LEMON: Andre, do you think Democrats lay a gap (ph) on Senator Sessions today? Do you think that these, you know, allegations of racism will hurt him, his chances of being confirmed?

BAUER: I think he will be confirmed and I think they were actually lighter than I expected. But there is a decorum in the Senate and he will get confirmed. And at the end of the day, I mean he's taken a few shots here unfairly and we can examine anybody's record and pick and choose a few votes that we don't have the full detail of.

[23:55:05] But overall, the guy had thousands of votes and this is the best thing to come up with a couple of them that it may have -- there may have been other things in the building he was voting on at the time. So I'm not sure that's quite fair.

LEMON: Yeah. Those were pretty important issues, though, when the -- Go ahead, John.

AVLON: No. You know, it -- one of the problems in our politics is that when people are up for a position like this, they try to emphasize how moderate they are, but that's in contrast with (inaudible) that leads people to cast votes that often play to the extremes, that don't represent moderation.

So, this is a sign of schizophrenia under politics. If you're going to be trusted with power, you need to show an ability to unite. Now, he's been dogged by these accusations of racism. Certainly, not meant to have in this hearing (ph). And it should be noted as what's done by Senator Collins that, you know, Arlen Specter, Former Senator, said he deeply regretted that vote because he did not find that those accusations were consistent with the man he knew in the Senate.

But if he's going to actually govern his A.G. in a way that unifies, he's going to end up bend over backwards to show communities of color and other folks that he will be more moderate, he will be more inclusive than some of his votes or accusations of his past have indicated he might be.

LEMON: All right. I just want you to know that New Jersey's Senator Cory Booker is going to testify against. So this is going to be the first time that a sitting senator testifies against another senator in a confirmation hearing. So we'll be paying attention to that.

Thank you everyone, I appreciate it.

As we leave you tonight, we're just going to look at -- This is the first family, President Barack Obama's last scheduled trip on Air Force One as he ascends those steps and boards the plane with his daughter. You see Malia in tow. His wife with him as well. Sasha we are told is at school. She has a paper due tomorrow. But, again -- And there is the grandmother, Michelle Obama's mom and Michelle Obama getting on the plane as well. So and the press of course following them.

End of an era, everyone. That's it for us tonight. Thank you so much for watching. I'll see you right back here tomorrow.