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CNN TONIGHT

Democratic Leadership Debate; Anger Spreads at Republican Town Halls; Tempers Flare at G.O.P. Town Halls; Eight Candidates Vying for Chair of DNC; Trump Administration Withdraws Federal Protection for Transgender Students. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired February 23, 2017 - 00:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:02:07] DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Boy, it feels like election season all over again because you just saw eight Democrats go head to head in the leadership debate moments ago.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. Thanks for joining us at this late hour.

No matter who takes the reigns, the Democrats face an uphill climb in President Trump's America, as the White House pushes forward on its agenda and angry town halls spread all across this country from New Jersey to Louisiana to Arkansas and beyond -- outraged voters demanding to be heard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm an angry constituent. You work for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And the White House is blaming some of the anger on so-called professional protesters. But what is really going on? Well we'll get to the bottom of it this hour.

Let's get straight though to CNN's Dana Bash and, you know that other guy, Chris Cuomo joins now from Atlanta; and also presidential historian Douglas Brinkley and senior political analyst Mark Preston. Good to have all of you on.

That was really a great debate -- Chris and Dana. How do you think tonight went for these candidates who are looking to lead a badly- bruised party after November?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ok. I think that, you know, they obviously each tried very hard to make their case. They are at least coming in where two apparent front-runners -- Congressman Ellison and Secretary Perez. And those are the two that basically are the ones to beat when you look at the sort of polls of the members who are going to vote on Saturday.

You know, they make their cases, but it was pretty clear and it's not, I think, entirely -- they are not sure exactly how they are going to a, harness what is going on out there -- you talked about the town halls; and b, really build this party from the ground up.

And it really bears repeating that as some of them said it's not just the White House. It's not just the Senate. It's not just the House of Representatives. It's the governor's mansions. It's legislatures all across the country that need to be built back up.

And that Democrats, who either stayed home or voted for Donald Trump in many cases in some of these key states, you know, kind of in the middle of the country, need to be brought back to the country and encouraged because of the policies that they are offered.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: You know, Don -- I thought you saw a really good demonstration tonight of the known and the unknown --

BASH: Yes.

CUOMO: -- with this party. Dana spelled out really well a couple of times tonight the challenge and the numbers. They are staggering. We're talking about 900 seats they've lost in state legislations and up and down ballot moves in states across this country.

So you have three prongs to the stool -- three legs to the stool. One is well, who are you? What do you want? And how do you get there?

[00:05:05] You heard a lot tonight about what they want. What they want to get back to. But the how is going to be the big challenge.

And you saw a real departure. We played a little bit tonight of the idea of this the dinner that you had with Perez and Ellison. But it wasn't a distraction and it wasn't some petty intrigue, it was a metaphor. You had the two insiders who have the most votes meeting and the other six weren't there.

And that's what this party is struggling with right now. Who are you? Who do you support? What are you about? And how are you going to get there?

LEMON: Let me ask you this. Let me ask this question. I know it's hard for you guys to hear there. But as I was watching, and I'm wondering what their answer is. You know, you heard the other side saying the Democrats just don't get it. They didn't learn their lesson from November. They still have the same old sort of thinking. People who have been there, they need a new injection, maybe some youth and maybe to change course a little bit.

Listening to their answers, do you guys think that they got it, that they heard the people from November?

BASH: It depends what the "it" is. If you are talking about the policy, to be honest with you, that's not going to be decided by these people. That's going to be pushed more by the Democratic leadership in Congress at this point.

But when you are talking about the fundamental ability to organize, about the fact that they heard a lot of sort of atta boy atta girl from the DNC members who were in the audience behind when we asked the question about whether or not the state parties have been decimated because of President Obama's outside political arm (ph).

It may sound like it's in the weeds, but it is critically important when you are talking about how a party builds itself and builds out the grass roots and again, as we talk about harnesses, the grass roots.

So you know, when it comes to that, you definitely I think heard some lessons learned, no question.

CUOMO: And also -- they also lost on message. Sure, it gave more of a reason to believe than Hillary Clinton did. What is that formational message for the Democrats? We didn't hear it tonight. We didn't hear something new, something that's galvanizing. Look, you see what happens was the chair is in place.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: That's more to the core of my question. Did you hear those ideas? Do you understand that they really understand what's happening across the country with these town halls? Because they are showing up at GOP town halls, but there are a whole lot of people who are not happy with both Republicans and with Democrats.

Chris -- before you respond, and Dana, I want to play Tom Perez tonight and then get your response to that. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM PEREZ, FORMER SECRETARY OF LABOR: And the way we are going to take back the Senate, the way we're going to take back the House, the way we're going to take back state houses is to get back to basics. That's what we need to do as a party.

We have to make house calls. We have to have a 12-month a year organizing presence. I was in rural Wisconsin on my rural tour and I met a guy in northwest Wisconsin who said I feel politically homeless because the Democratic Party had abandoned rural Wisconsin.

And when we are organizing, when we're talking to people, you can't show up in a church every fourth of October and call it an organizing strategy.

That's how we take back the Senate. That's how we take back the House. That's how we take back state houses and that is why when we lead with our message, our message of economic opportunity -- that's how we win.

BASH: But Mr. Secretary, just to follow up, the question was about primary challenge. If you are the DNC chair and there are challenges from the left to incumbent Democrats, will you support that, will you cheer them on or do you think that is a mistake.

PEREZ: You know, I think the role of the DNC chair is to let the process run its course and then we move forward when the general election moves ahead. And I'm confident that this year you look across this country right now in Virginia at the state house delegates level, they have more candidates than ever before.

This energy is electric. January 20th was undeniably an important day, but January 20th and 21st and beyond was even more important because people are rising up and saying Donald Trump, you do not stand for our values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So the question is about passion -- right. They are seeing passion like they haven't seen in the Democratic Party for a long time. But if they are going to make a difference in 2018, I mean they've got a real challenge on their hands and even moving forward to 2020. Can that passion that we are seeing at all of these town halls -- can that carry through to 2018 and beyond?

BASH: That's going to be the challenge for whomever wins this chairman's race on Saturday and also for the Democratic leaders in Congress and the Democrats in the grass roots on the state party level around the country.

But one thing that I did sense that clearly is I think an answer to the growing fervor outside is this is the beginning of the debate when we asked about impeachment that some of the members of Congress and Congressman Ellison's colleagues have --

(CROSSTALK)

[00:10:05] LEMON: Can we play that, Dana, and then get your response? Let's play it.

BASH: Three of your colleagues in the House -- Maxine Waters, Jamie Raskin and Joaquin Castro have publicly raised the specter of impeaching President Trump. Do you stand with them or with House Leader Nancy Pelosi who believes impeachment talk is premature?

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOAT: I think Donald Trump has already done a number of things which legitimately raise the question of impeachment. I mean on day one he was -- on day one, he was in violation of the emoluments clause. This is a part of the constitution that says as the President, you can't get payments from a foreign power. The day people check into his hotel and started paying him, from foreign dignitaries, he was in violation of that law.

There is already a lawsuit filed against him. And right now it's not about only Donald Trump. It is about the integrity of the presidency.

So yes, I think that we need to begin investigations to not go after Donald Trump, but protect our constitution and the presidency of the United States to make sure that nobody can monetize the presidency and make profit off of it for their own gain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Dana -- they sound serious, but is that wishful thinking at this point? BASH: Well, I mean certainly this is political, but I think that

(inaudible) of this whole thing is about politics. And the fact that he went there, I mean we weren't sure if he was going to go there or any of them were going to go there.

But the fact that he did, a sitting member of Congress who wants to be the DNC chair took that step and jumped right in there tells you that he is trying to telegraph to the angry, angry grass roots out there who are fed up and want somebody to be their leader, that he hears them. What do you think?

CUOMO: This gets you back to what is your message. Perez said we are going to win but we're going to go house to house. What are you going to offer when you get to that house? What are you going to say to those people? What are you going to give them? That's just as important.

So impeachment sounds good, works the base. And you know what, for Democrats right now they need that more than the President does. He won, he's in office, his base is there.

The Democrats are searching to galvanize their base. The problem is to your question, Don, is it practical? Of course not. They are not going to get a majority vote in the House. They're not going to get two-thirds of the Senate. That's what impeachment is. Impeachment is a trial.

You have the fact phase in the House and you have the ruling phase in the Senate. It's not going to happen. So how much energy do you expend on that? That's the question.

LEMON: You guys both looked great down there in my old stomping grounds -- Studio 7. It's a nice studio, right.

BASH: It's gorgeous.

LEMON: Nice job. I really enjoyed --

BASH: We miss you down here -- Don.

LEMON: Yes. Atlanta is great -- what do we call, that's the mother ship. Nice job -- guys. Thank you -- Chris. Thank you -- Dana. I'll see you guys soon.

BASH: See you.

LEMON: Thanks.

We're coming right back. Much more on tonight's no-holds barred debate. We're going to get give Mark Preston and also Douglas Brinkley and lots of questions for the men and women who want to lead the Democratic Party. We'll be right back.

[00:13:10] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Democrats meet down in Atlanta this weekend to choose the next leader of the Democratic National Committee.

Let's discuss now more with CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley and senior political analyst Mr. Mark Preston. Thank you, guys, for being patient. We want to get Dana and Chris in since they led that debate.

Mark -- I want you to listen to this moment. It is from Tom Perez talking about far right agenda -- here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PEREZ: I think Donald Trump from day one has shown that he has a far right agenda. He does not want to do what is necessary to move America forward. He wants to move America backwards.

We saw it two hours into his administration where he made it harder for first time home buyers to buy a home by rescinding an Obama era rule that would have made it easier for them to do that. Three hours later he files a motion in Texas to stay a proceeding on the case involving the voter ID law that I was involved in. So we are seeing from the get go that this person wants to turn the clock back.

And the Democratic Party needs to take the fight to Donald Trump. When we lead with our values, when we lead with our conviction -- that's how we succeed. And I had lost my voice going all over the country.

And what I'm saying to people is -- my voice may be crackly now -- but when we take over by implementing this 50-state strategy and making sure that Democrats have a voice, that is how we return the power to the people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All right. Mark -- what do you think of that? What's your takeaway from that?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple of things because what he is talking about is in many ways rebuilding the party from the ground up. We heard tonight passion basically out of desperation. Right now Democrats are out of power in Washington.

As we know, and as Dana and Chris talked about tonight and the candidates did as well -- Democrats have been slaughtered across the country. They had lost more than 900 legislative seats which is an astounding number just over the last eight years.

And what we heard tonight from these DNC candidates, these folks poke who want to lead the national party is that they realize they have to oppose Trump. That's extremely important, but at the same time, they have to rebuild the party. They have to talk about how they can make things different.

One thing that Donald Trump did very successfully into the White House is that he told people what he was going to do. He was going to build a wall along the border; a lot of people liked that. He did it or we will see if he does it. But he appears to be moving forward on it.

He was against trade deals. These were affecting policy that was affecting in many ways the Democratic constituencies. He got a lot of that support. So Democrats can't just be the opposition party, they have to be able deliver on their own agenda.

LEMON: It's interesting, Douglas and even on this program, you Mark and I discussed this. And during this campaign -- during the campaign it appears Democrats really underestimated Donald Trump.

And you know, they would even get upset if you said Donald Trump had a chance. They'd say, no way, no way. I'm wondering -- because they never thought that they would be dealing with Donald Trump at this point. I'm sure no one on that stage that they probably thought he could possibly win.

[00:19:58] But do you think that they really came out with a plan to take on a President Trump -- a viable plan as you listen to this?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: No, I don't think there was a plan but I thought Keith Ellison --

LEMON: Uh-oh, we lost Douglas. Mark Preston -- same question to you as we work to get Douglas Brinkley back.

PRESTON: You know, again, you know I said they needed to come up with solutions. We didn't necessarily hear solutions from them. It's not necessarily policy prescriptions because that is something that has to be put on the backs of the Senators and the House Democrats right now that are in power, that actually are in a position to try to prevent Donald Trump from moving forward legislatively -- Don.

But what this DNC chair has got to do is that they've got to tap into this grassroots; this anger, this frustration. What we saw less than 24 hours after Donald Trump was in inaugurated, people taking to the streets -- not just here in the United States, not just in Washington, D.C. where we saw massive crowds but around the world.

And that's what these DNC candidates were trying to do today. They were trying to demonstrate, Don, to the 440-plus members who were going to vote on them that they can tap into that energy.

LEMON: Yes. And you know, to the point that I just made, Congressman Keith Ellison got an unlikely and maybe unwanted shout out from President Trump. He tweeted this earlier today and said "One thing I will say about Representative Keith Ellison in his fight to lead the DNC is that he was the one who predicted early that I would win."

I'm sure he didn't want that compliment. And he said as much. Here's Congressman Ellison responding tonight to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLISON: I don't really welcome any praise from President Trump. It really pains me to say those two words. I can tell by July 2015 that he had a lot of momentum. And that he was gathering large crowds and that when he got up there and talked about trade and TPP, NAFTA, when he got up there and talked about jobs, when he got up there and talked about infrastructure, even though he was bad on all those issues, he was gathering crowds and he was telling people what they wanted to hear.

I believe that those are our issues. Fair trade is our issue that's why the AFL-CIO endorsed me. That's why the steelworkers endorsed me. Leo Girard (ph), one of the people I really admired said that in Baltimore right after the disturbance with Freddie Gray, they said let me tell you. We used to have 30,000 steelworkers in Baltimore, now we have 3,000.

We have been hit hard by policies over the last four decades. Wages have stagnated and the Democratic Party has got to be the party that is fighting for working people every single day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Douglas Brinkley back with me now. So basically what he is saying, Douglas, is fairly similar to the question that I asked you before we had that technical difficulty. But it appears that he's saying the Republicans or at least Donald Trump, stole their message and they need to take it back.

BRINKLEY: And I thought Keith Ellison did a great job at that tonight. It became clear to me, Don, that this is a race between Keith Ellison and Tom Perez. I mean Perez has the resume. Perez has the best chance of prosecuting in a legal way, Donald Trump. Perez is so perfect with words and he is careful.

But I thought Ellison tonight showed emotion. He showed humor. And he also knows how to break through the glass, meaning get to a television audience. Whoever is the next head of the DNC is going to be doing a lot of the talk show circuits. They're going to represent the resistance to Donald Trump.

And Ellison seemed to be lighter on his feet tonight. Now, Perez's voice was off, he struggled some. I thought he did a good job when he said I was part of the team Obama. But he does have the fact that he is so pro-trade and pro-NAFTA and pro-Trans Pacific trade deal and the like.

Where Ellison could say look I've run for Congress and I'm from the Midwest, I live in Minnesota. And I'm the guy that delivered congressional votes in 2018.

LEMON: If I'm not mistaken there was one, maybe two millennials on that stage and one of them was Mayor Buttigieg. And I think he came across as articulate and maybe has the energy that the party needs moving forward -- the grassroots momentum. Let's listen to him and then we will talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: What we have to do as a party is recognize that that same struggle for belonging is true whether you are an immigrant mom trying to make sure you won't be divided from your family or a blue-collar auto worker trying to figure out where you're going to be, or a transgender kid in a high school who just needs to go to the bathroom like everybody else. We are all in this together. That's got to be the message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Douglas -- what do you think of him?

BRINKLEY: He was terrific. And he's something that the Democratic Party desperately needs. His message though is more for 2020 when you have to try to win back Wisconsin and Ohio and Pennsylvania. I mean he had a Midwest message.

And I loved his answer where he said look, I am 35 years old. You guys up in Washington always talk about the young voter, the millennials. Here I am. Put me at the head of the DNC.

[00:25:07] So I thought he was a star tonight, but it seems to me being just mayor of South Bend at this point with the super highway of debris that's going in Donald Trump's America right now, you might need somebody who is a little more of a pro at fund-raising and knows how Congress works. And I think Perez and Ellison are still the front-runners for this.

LEMON: And he says people often pat him on the head and think he's the intern rather than --

BRINKLEY: Yes that -- he was very good about main street values and rural America.

LEMON: Thank you -- gentlemen. I appreciate your patience. Sorry about the technical difficulties but it happens -- live TV. See you soon. Thanks -- Doug.

BRINKLEY: No problem.

LEMON: Lots of tough questions for Democrats tonight. But when we come back, Republicans are facing tough questions of their own from angry constituents at town halls all across the country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Anger spreading tonight at Republican town halls all across the country.

CNN's Kyung Lah, covering all of this for us and she joins me now.

[00:29:59] You really have been going in on these town halls. You were in Branchburg, New Jersey. Congressman Leonard Lance -- welcome, by the way -- spoke.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you.

LEMON: How did it go? KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, something that we've

seen through a lot of these town halls. A very passionate crowd. They want to take him to task. They want to make sure that they get their questions answered. Talking about a wide-range of topics.

I want to have you listen to this one bit of sound, one thing that is hanging over all of this is Donald Trump. The question, how as a G.O.P. do you stay silent while he bends truth?

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Republicans need to push back --

(APPLAUSE)

AUDIENCE: Push back! Push back! Push back! Push back! Push back! Push back!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Wow. How did he deal with it?

LAH: Actually, he dealt with it quite well. He say throughout, he tried to patiently answer these questions. That's not really what everyone has managed to do.

LEMON: And then there is Tom Cotton, whose -- his town hall, who has been on CNN a lot. Springdale, Arkansas -- very rowdy, very raucous.

LAH: And very red. And what we really saw there were some very personal stories. This one particular emotional sound byte really got me.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm angry constituent. You work for us!

(APPLAUSE)

You are going to stand there with him and expect us to be calm, cool, and collected? What kind of insurance do you have?

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Wow.

LAH: Yes, and we've heard that a lot. I've heard that multiple times. What insurance do you have?

LEMON: I want to get to these town halls and I have some questions for you, because of some of them are not even scheduling town halls, right, because of this.

LAH: Well, I mean, in some ways, can you blame them? They know what's coming. So what we saw tonight were a number of what is being referred to as empty seats, empty chair town halls. So they don't show up. And so what they are trying to do is -- and these aren't organized by the congressman.

What the grass root groups are doing is they are putting together their own town hall. The congressman says he's not going to hold one in a timely manner. And so they are having a town hall next to an empty chair.

LEMON: Next to an empty chair.

OK. So let's go to my home state, Louisiana. This is in Metairie. This is Bill Cassidy's town hall.

LAH: And so what we saw here was rage. And it's really something that we've seen again and again.

Listen to this man.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (YELLING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: Yes, the man there saying you are going down.

LEMON: OK, so here's my question. Because you know the White House is saying and Republicans are saying these are paid people and they get really upset when you say that.

LAH: Oh, they take it very personally. And we have seen this at the last, I think, every -- last three town halls I've been at. The last two, they've been wearing stickers with their zip code on them because they want to say I live in the zip code. You are indeed my representative. I live here. I am not paid. I am not professional. I'm a mom. I'm a grandmother.

And these are the people who have been organizing this, because we've spent time. We haven't just gone to the town halls. We've actually talked to the people. We've gone home with them. We've gotten to know them. They live in the community and they take deep offense.

LEMON: And they told that they are not being represented by these Republicans. These are mostly Democrats, right? Mostly Democrats.

LAH: Absolutely.

LEMON: Do you think that -- first of all, the congressman -- do you think the lawmakers are taking them seriously.

LAH: Well, they are hearing it. I mean, how can you not hear that, right? And so the volume is loud. To some extent, a lot of this is being done to try to embarrass them. That this is hitting social media. This is on CNN. It's to embarrass them. And it is to try to force them to listen. Will it lead to action? I don't know.

LEMON: Well, let's just say it's like 2009, because, you know, you and I both, we're reporting on the issues, those issues with the tea party. And the Democrats said it was Astroturf. And these people are saying we're not Astroturf. We are upset. You think to the Republicans and to the White House to their own peril that they don't take this people seriously.

LAH: You use an interesting word Astroturf.

LEMON: Yes.

LAH: That's exactly the word that Sean Spicer has used to describe this. That these are Astroturf-type protest. The Republicans are now using the same thing. They are duplicating what the Democrats did back then. And so what we are hearing is you ignore us at your own peril. That if you don't have the White House, if you don't have either House of Congress, no is a very powerful unifying message.

LEMON: Interesting. Kyung Lah, wow. Well, more to come.

I think you're going to be busy if you're going to be covering this up. I mean, we got until 2018 and then 2020. And that one guy said 2020. What did he say, 2020?

LAH: 2020. See you in 2020.

LEMON: See you in 2020.

Thank you. I appreciate it.

When we come right back, you heard the Democratic leadership debate tonight, but we've got our own debates ready to weigh in -- debaters ready to weigh in. Jennifer Granholm and Rick Santorum, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:40:00] LEMON: On Saturday, Democrats will choose the next chair of the Democratic National Committee. And, tonight, eight hopefuls went head to head.

Right here on CNN, I want to bring in now CNN's senior political commentators Jennifer Granholm, the former Democratic governor of Michigan and Rick Santorum, Republican, a former presidential candidate who is also a former senator from Pennsylvania.

I would say good evening, but it's -- oh, it's good evening to you, governor. It's good morning to you, senator.

So I'm going to start with the governor then since it's a little bit early for her. She may be, you know, a little bit brighter and spryer.

Tonight, CNN hosted the debate. You saw that. This Democratic leadership debate.

Chris and Dana moderated. We heard a lot about how the Democrats will work to take back all that they have lost, they feel they've lost in this election. It's your party. So what do you think?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm so glad that we had a whole spate of people who were completely passionate about taking it to Donald Trump, but also about playing offense to, about showing that we've got to play two parts offense to one part defense. I liked it.

I happen to really appreciate Tom Perez. He speaks to the rising American majority and he speaks with passion, so much passion that he lost his voice and he can talk to the working people. But, frankly, all of them had great points, great moments tonight so I'm encouraged.

LEMON: OK. And what did you think, senator?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, look, to me, it was sort of -- the language used was really what struck me. It's not a language, frankly, that I use. It's a language that very much segments the population into different blocks.

You hear a lot of talking about this group and that group. And how they have to appeal to this segment, or this ethnicity, or this race or whatever. And that's -- I think that kind of language just kind of speak that you hear within Democratic circles on a regular basis. It just points out really the disconnect that they have with most Americans, who don't really see America is divided into this little slices of voters that they have to appeal to.

And I think that just --

LEMON: Pollsters wouldn't tell you that.

SANTORUM: No. I'm just telling you what Americans who were -- who I talked to, that have been out there on the campaign trail now for many years.

You know, I wrote a book talking about how I think Americans want us to be more -- talking about how we as opposed to these little segments of everybody. And it's typical of how the Democratic Party has built majorities in the past and they've done it with segmenting voters and pitting one group against another. And I just think you saw more of that tonight.

LEMON: Do you take offense to that?

GRANHOLM: This is so interesting to me, Don, how there is such a disconnect between what, for example, a Republican would hear like Senator Santorum and what I heard.

I heard an incredibly inclusive vision tonight. I heard that it's all about us. It is all about E pluribus unum. That we are all part of this. And that we are not going to stand up as a nation and allow a president to target segments of the population because those are parts of our family, too.

Whether they are Muslims; whether they are Mexicans; whether they are transgender kids. We are all in this together. That's what I heard tonight. And incredibly inclusive party. And that means people from rural America, that means people from urban America, that means suburbs all across this country. That's what I heard.

LEMON: Let's play some of it and then continue our discussion here.

This is -- Senator Santorum. I want to play. This is from Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison. What he said tonight about the Democratic primary race. Just listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Congressman Ellison, what about this idea of a purity test? We've seen it in recent elections on the Republican side, not so much on the Democratic side.

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: Well, I'll say that I agree with Tom that the role of the DNC is to be neutral and fair to all primary contestants. I will call...

(APPLAUSE)

ELLISON: I will make a personal call and say, let's not kill each other off guys, you know? But I will not publicly shame any Democrat in a primary. It's going to be neutral and fair if I'm the chair.

But let me just say this, Donald Trump, as deceptive as he was, did say he was for jobs, trade, infrastructure, and protecting Social Security. That's our message. That's what we do. That's why he beat all those other Republicans, because he stole a Democratic message.

We do have to lead with our values. I encourage Democrats in all offices to say, stand for Social Security, stand for fair trade, stand for good jobs, stand for infrastructure investment and don't back off of it.

We should not in this moment think that moving away from what people are crying for is the right thing to do. We need to go to what people need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[00:45:00] LEMON: So I wonder if it's too little, too late because -- does that message now permanently belong to Republicans and you may see some of that people who fear that it is because it's playing out in these town halls.

GRANHOLM: Hell no.

LEMON: That was for --

GRANHOLM: I don't know who you are asking. I'm sorry. (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Go, go. Both of you go.

SANTORUM: That's what he asked me, I think.

Look, the Democrats gave it away over the last eight years on doing things that hurt working Americans. Environmental policy that drove businesses offshore that shut down the Keystone Pipeline and other types of energy projects that would have employed a lot of working men and women in this country.

Immigration policy that not only allowed illegals to come into this country, who are overwhelming low-skilled competing against those very workers are who struggling in our economy right, but we bring in over a million people a year, over a million people a year into this country legally, almost all of whom are low-skilled workers, again, competing against this.

So if you look at the policies that this president and this party has been for and then they say but we are for working men and women, it just doesn't work. It didn't -- and still doesn't compute.

LEMON: Governor, governor, go ahead.

GRANHOLM: OK. First of all, the issue about fair trade --

LEMON: This is what you said, hell no. Those were your words.

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: Well, I did -- I mean, because those are Democratic issues. And yet shame on us for not having made that as clear and as loud as we possibly could have in this last election. We are the party who stands for working men and women. We stand for unions. The Republicans stand about bashing unions. What are unions but workers who are collectively bargaining to make sure that their lives have a chance. We stand to make sure that we have jobs in this country. You talk about energy.

Democrats are the ones who were standing up for energy policies that create jobs, making and installing solar panels, wind turbines, you name it. That's us. And we've got to be loud and proud and clear about it. But we also have to make sure that people understand that we -- if you start shooing away all of the immigrants, you start rounding up with a deportation force, all of the immigrants that you say, Rick, should not be in here, then you are going to damage our economy. Significantly.

Every respected analysis says that it would cost GDP significantly if you were to shoo away our immigrants. Who are we as a nation? We are a welcoming nation. We are built on that. And that's what Democrats stand for.

LEMON: Rowdy town halls and who can go to which bathroom. We will talk about that next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:51:20] LEMON: All right. Now we're back with my panel.

Governor Granholm and Senator Rick Santorum.

So, governor, I want to get you to weigh in on another important story tonight. The Trump administration reversing federal guidelines for public schools allowing transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identify. His new education secretary though, Betsy DeVos, did not want to do this and only backed down when she was summoned to the White House.

What do you think?

GRANHOLM: Well, if that's true about her, I am a little bit surprised because her family has had history, really, of championing anti-LGBT causes.

However, let me say that, you know, this issue about who we are as a nation is really embedded in this particular act by the Trump administration. These are children. There's a very small percentage of children who have a biologic issue. This is not a choice. This is an issue of gender identity, but it is a biologic issue.

And these children are far disproportionately bullied, are far disproportionately made unsafe and have far disproportionate suicide rates, like 40 percent of them have attempted suicide. So this is a really serious issue.

I have a daughter who is gay. And she certainly didn't choose that. And I love her with all my heart. And if a school enabled her to feel in some way bullied, if she was not -- if she felt unsafe, then I would feel unsafe, and every parent should feel like these kids are their own kids.

LEMON: Yes.

GRANHOLM: Through no fault of their own. So that, to me, this issue is a really -- it's a serious family issue.

LEMON: Some of those rates started to come down after same-sex marriage was approved, was allowed.

GRANHOLM: Right.

LEMON: But I just have to say this is a statement, part of statement from Betsy DeVos.

She said, "We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment. So that's her statement.

To Senator Santorum now, the president was asked about the controversial North Carolina Bathroom Bill during the campaign. Here's what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There have been few complaints the way it is. People go. They use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any transgender people working in your organization?

TRUMP: I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No?

TRUMP: I really don't know. I probably do. I really don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if Caitlyn Jenner were to walked into Trump Tower and wanted to use the bathroom, you would be fine with her using any bathroom she chooses?

TRUMP: That is correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Do you think the president or the administration, I'm not sure how to -- you know, which one or maybe both. Do you think they are trying to make social conservatives happy with what happened tonight or last night? Or yesterday?

SANTORUM: I don't know the answer to that other than the fact that I think the rationale behind the reversal of the order was consistent with everything that Donald Trump has been doing which is, you know, trying to unwind a lot of federal intervention in places where it's more properly handled by the state and local.

LEMON: The administration is saying that Title IX already protects.

SANTORUM: Yes. This is not an issue that needed that additional federal intervention. There are plenty of laws on the books to protect people, and the states and the localities have all the wherewithal to do so and that's where it should be done. I think that was a simple --

GRANHOLM: But I can see that wasn't being done, though, Rick. That's the problem. It's wasn't being done.

SANTORUM: Well, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: And a child's protection should not depend on which city she lives in.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: Yes. No.

GRANHOLM: Well, in many case -- there's a lot of cases where it wasn't.

(CROSSTALK)

[00:55:00] SANTORUM: No. Not every issue has to be federalized, Jennifer. That's the difference between you and me.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But there's a question today, though, if you are allowed to go to the bathroom in North Carolina, and then you go to South Carolina, you may not be allowed in. Or then you go to Louisiana, and then you go to Arkansas, you know, it's different in every state.

SANTORUM: There are different morals and different values in every state and that should be reflected in our laws.

LEMON: Yes.

GRANHOLM: OK, but this is not an issue of choice, it's not an issue of morality, it's an issue of child safety and protection.

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: It's a very complex issue. It's a very complex issue. And I don't think we have all the answers yet. To make the statements you're making, frankly, I don't think they're supported by the evidence. I don't think we know and that's really the question.

LEMON: So, listen, we have 30 seconds and I wanted to speak more about this, but you guys were -- there was an interesting conversation that you are having. But I just want to talk about these protests that are happening quickly.

Do you think it's to the peril of Republicans, governor, if they ignore these people, because they're saying Astroturf.

GRANHOLM: Yes. I mean, as we have said before, honestly, this good for the Republicans who are showing up. But these are not Astroturf events. These are real people. And the more you call them Astroturf, the more angry people get, because you are delegitimizing their feeling and people don't want to be delegitimized. They want to be heard.

And in fact, if Republicans decide to run away from it, those people will find another way to find them. You can run, but you cannot hide. And, honestly, this is not going away.

LEMON: I got to go, senator. But you said you were happy that people are out there doing what they do as citizens, right?

SANTORUM: The only think I see is the difference between the coverage of what's going on here and the coverage in 2009 and 2010 is the media has really just ignored the actions and the activity of these groups and not questioned that called them racists or bigots and or a whole list of other things. And, you know, criticized them for their outbursts and their bad temper and their potential violence. That was really all the talk was how raucous and how dangerous this group was. All of that talk now.

LEMON: But maybe they're not exhibiting that behavior, they don't have signs --

SANTORUM: I don't know. It looks pretty intense and pretty threatening. You're going to go down? I mean, a lot of things that I think would attract attention to the media if it was a conservative group saying those things.

LEMON: Yes. Interesting perspectives. Thank you. I appreciate it.

That's it for us tonight. I'll see you right back here tomorrow night. Our live coverage continues in just a moment with John Vause and Isa Soares in London.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)