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CNN TONIGHT

GOP Senators Who Voted To Convict Trump Getting Heat From Republicans; House To Launch A 9/11-Type Commission; Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) Is Interviewed On Whether Bringing Witnesses Would Make A Difference In The Senate Vote; Donald Trump Still The Shining Object Within GOP?; Rep. Kinzinger Censured By GOP And Shunned By Family For Voting To Convict Trump; Sen. Lindsey Graham Threatens To Impeach VP Kamala Harris. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 15, 2021 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): So, thank you for watching. "CNN TONIGHT," the big show with the big star, D. Lemon, right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Wow. CNN shuffled tomorrow. You are going to be doing the shuffle.

CUOMO: They are going to come up my audience.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: They are going to come up.

LEMON: OK. OK. So, I got to ask you. Why don't you ever go ice-skating with me?

CUOMO: I'm not a big ice skater. Neither are you, from what I've seen on Instagram. But I don't love the cold. I don't love being on the ice, in case I have to protect myself. Because you never know who's out there with you.

LEMON: That's the only --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Especially where we live.

LEMON: That's -- well, with the masks and everything. I know. That's the only exercise I get. I've been hibernating. I have not seen you like for a bunch of the winter, you know that, right?

CUOMO: We have not gotten together as much. You guys have been living very cautiously. I have the kids. It's hard to live as cautiously. It is chaotic. It's why this school stuff matters so much, to people like me. And, you know, we don't want to get people sick.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: So, you know, I miss you. But hopefully, better days will come. One prediction.

LEMON: Yes?

CUOMO: I don't even know why. I had one of those moments tonight that only people who do TV can really identify with. Which, as the words were coming out of my mouth, I was like, this is never going to happen. That party is never going to splinter. OK?

LEMON: You don't think?

CUOMO: GOPQ. Whatever you want. Never.

LEMON: I heard -- I heard you talking about that.

CUOMO: Here's why. I was listening because it was Tom Friedman. I was listening. Better mind than mine, for sure. But they have no other home. No matter how reasonable a Republican you are, you're not going with the Democrats. You'll never be elected. Period.

Any suggestion that you are even close to them, you're dead, anywhere in the country. And you are not going to leave and become Democrats. They're not going to do that. So, that is your only home. And they are going to do exactly what McConnell did, after the acquittal.

LEMON: OK. Let me ask you, though. You're assuming that -- that -- that they must become a Democrat in order not to be affiliated with -- because there are -- we have people on this network who are former Republicans, right? They are still conservatives but they don't want to be affiliated with the Republican Party. They're not becoming Democrats.

CUOMO: They hold no office. How do you get in office if you are not a Republican, and you don't switch to being a Democrat? How do you get in office? Do we need five parties in this country? Maybe.

LEMON: Because you can't do it with an independent, because then you don't qualify.

CUOMO: You have a hard time qualifying.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: You don't have the money to create the membership to get the footprint, to then have the political capital to get a seat. And they are going to stay right where they are.

LEMON: But I think people like that, have -- they have much more leverage than you give them credit for.

CUOMO: Yes.

Because I think, those are people who are holding the line.

CUOMO: You are 100 percent right.

LEMON: I think those are the folks who are holding the line. And I do think that this insurrection. I mean, listen. We all knew, right? We all knew that -- that -- the whole -- you know, I can shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and I still wouldn't lose any support. We all knew what was going to happen with this last impeachment. We knew he was going to be acquitted. That was a done deal. Right?

We had been talking about that for a week since they said it. But it didn't -- not meaning that they should not have gone through the process. But I think people like that are holding the line. I do think that the insurrection has damaged this president, in a -- in a way that no other thing could have damaged him.

And I do believe that it is enough -- there are enough people in the party. There is enough damage there, that probably precludes him from ever being able to become president again. I'm not saying he won't try but I don't -- I think that -- I think the country is done with it. It's just way too far. Too far.

CUOMO: You may -- you may be right. However, every reaction by that party suggests otherwise.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: And remember, just because a lot of stuff may be falling for the -- from the sky. It all depends on where it falls and how it's dealt with. You know who is OK with bad stuff falling from the sky? The dung beetle because they just roll it up and find the use for it.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I thought you were going to say --

CUOMO: And that's what Trump did with the animus in this country.

LEMON: I thought you were going to say Cruz and Graham --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: No, because they can't play his game.

LEMON: What's his name?

CUOMO: They will never be liked the way he is, by those people.

LEMON: No but when you said dung beetle. That's it. OK.

CUOMO: But I'm telling you, this talk about them splintering.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: We have to be very careful. Because it creates a focus on a dynamic that doesn't exist, and it distracts from what's going on.

LEMON: We are going to put that as a, let's see. Let's see. I got to run, though.

CUOMO: Yes, at best, because it is there reason to do nothing with Biden?

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: That's my point.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon.

LEMON: I love you more. I'll see you soon. Happy-belated Valentine's Day.

CUOMO: Always.

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

And you know we had Valentine's Day. Now, this is Presidents' Day. We have one president, one president who is in the rear-view mirror and one who is looking ahead. One president who is nursing his grievances in exile and you know, wanted to wave out of the SUV because he needs that support, right?

And then, we have one moving forward on his promises to the American people. The one who is really making America great, right? The one who is moving forward with his promises.

[22:05:02]

President Joe Biden pushing the number one item on his agenda. His $1.9 trillion stimulus as unemployment benefits for millions of desperate Americans running out in just a matter of weeks. And with the country coming out from under the shadow of the former president, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is announcing an independent 9/11-type commission to investigate that attack on the capitol.

Fifth -- what a beautiful shot at the capitol, by the way. Look at your screen. It's gorgeous. Wow. On a foggy night in Washington, D.C. Fifty-seven senators including seven Republicans voted to convict the former president, the most bipartisan impeachment vote in history. But failing -- falling short of the 67 votes needed to convict.

And now the GOP is taking revenge on some of those seven Republicans, wouldn't you know? Punishing them, punishing them for voting their conscious, conscience, for -- for doing the right thing, for holding the former president accountable.

Case number one, exhibit a, as they say. Louisiana's Bill Cassidy is censured by his state party hours after his vote. Nebraska's Ben Sasse, number two, facing a vote in the next few weeks. And the North Carolina Republican Party voting tonight to censure retiring Senator Richard Burr. The former president's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, by the way, reportedly considering a run for his seat.

And it's not just senators. Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger who voted to impeach the then-president attacked by some members of his own family. In a handwritten letter reported by the New York Times, quote, "My, what a disappointment you are to us and to God. We were once so proud of your accomplishments."

So, this is what's interesting. Democrats, members of the media, so on having getting letters like that, right, texts, e-mails, tweets, all social media, forever. Now, it's the Republican Party. Members of the Republican Party who are getting letters and sentiment like that. Imagine that.

But even after everything that we have seen, the blood-thirsty mob inflamed by then-president -- the then president running riot at the capitol, threatening to kill our elected representatives. Even after all of that those elected representatives let the former president off the hook.

In a Wall Street Journal editorial tonight, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who voted to acquit the former president writes, the Senate's duty last week was clear. It wasn't to guarantee a specific punishment at any cost. Our job was to defend the Constitution and respect its limits. That is what our acquittal delivered.

OK, Mitch McConnell. You are trying to have it both ways, right? Taking the floor to condemn Trump after refusing to convict him. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: There's no question, none, that president Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of the president. And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (on camera): Mitch McConnell, really, wants to have it both ways. It's obvious. But the fact is, they let him off scot-free. Donald Trump beat the wrap, again. The man who once said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters. OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (on camera): Well, he beat the wrap again. That's the kind of power he still holds over the Republican Party. Mitch McConnell condemning the former president's actions while refusing at the same time to do anything about it. Hanging on the claim the Constitution doesn't allow them to convict a former president who is now a private citizen. A claim, the Senate rejected at the start of the trial.

So, it was a B.S. argument. But they figured people didn't know any better. That's what they thought, so they went with it. And that's what happened. And the guy -- the guy, who now says that you can't convict a former president is the same guy who refused to call the Senate back into session to hold the impeachment trial while Trump was still in office.

[22:10:02]

Get it? Heads, I win. Tails, you lose. And then there is Lindsey Graham. Still a ride or die. Still sucking up to the former president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Donald Trump is the most vibrant member of the Republican Party. The Trump movement is alive and well. People believe that he brought change to Washington policy-wise, that was long overdue. All I can say is that the most potent force in the Republican Party is President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (on camera): Woo! He wanted to kiss up to the boss. There is your lesson right there. Watch that tape. Potent. Vibrant. Lindsey Graham says the GOP can't take back the House or Senate without Donald Trump. And he may be right.

But what does it say about the party? The party of Lincoln? They can't win, without a disgraced, twice-impeached, former president living in exile. Spending his days golfing. Not even six weeks after he unleashed a bloodthirsty mob on the capitol, putting every one of those senators, those representatives, staff, and workers in danger, all because he could not accept the reality that he lost. Can you believe? He lost the election to Joe Biden.

So, I want you to remember back in 2016 when Lindsey Graham said if we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed and we will deserve it. Remember, what he said just hours after the deadly riot at the capitol?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: Trump and I -- we've had a hell of a journey. I hate it being this way. My God, I hate it. From my point of view, he's been a consequential president. But today, first thing you'll see. All I can say is count me out. Enough is enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (on camera): Enough is enough. Huh. Well, political chameleon, really. Which way is the wind blowing? Like I said, Lindsey Graham is still ride or die. All Trump all the time. But the former president's legal troubles are far from over. Pay attention to this. Coming. Upcoming.

Prosecutors in Georgia investigating his ham-handed attempt to overturn the state's election results.

(BEGIN VOICE CLIP)

TRUMP: So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.

(END VOICE CLIP)

LEMON On camera): Desperation. And without the presidency to shield him, Trump is now facing criminal investigations, civil, state inquiries, and defamation lawsuits by two women accusing him of sexual assault. But he won't be held accountable for what happened, what he incited on January 6th. We saw hate on disgusting display that day.

A confederate flag, of the confederate-battle flag paraded through the capitol. A Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt. A gallows. And now, we can't unsee any of that. We cannot sweep it under the rug. That's what hate in America looks like right now. That is what America looks like. Still out there. It's all still out there. Emboldened by the former president's acquittal.

Listen to impeachment manager Joe Neguse who will be here in just a moment. But listen to what he said Saturday night on the Senate floor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO): This trial is not born from hatred. Far from it. It's born from love of country, our country, our desire to maintain it. Our desire to see America at its best. And the stakes -- the stakes -- could not be higher. Because the cold-hard truth is that what happened on January 6th can happen again.

I fear, like many of you do, that the violence we saw on that terrible day may be just the beginning. We've shown you the ongoing risks, the extremist groups who grow more emboldened every day. Senators, this cannot be the beginning. It can't be the new normal. It has to be the end.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[22:14:57]

LEMON (on camera): That was Congressman and former impeachment manager, Joe Neguse. Does he think calling witnesses could have made a difference in the trial? The congressman is here live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON (on camera): New tonight, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing a 9/11-style commission to investigate the January 6th attack on the capitol. That just two days after the Senate acquitted former-President Trump of inciting the violence over his big lie, that the election was stolen.

Seven Republican senators voting with Democrats to convict the president. Not enough to meet the two-thirds threshold.

Joining me now to discuss is Congressman from Colorado, and former House impeachment manager, Joe Neguse. Thank you, Congressman. I really appreciate you joining us.

NEGUSE: My pleasure. Good to be with you, Don.

LEMON: So much to talk to you about. Let's start with this -- the -- the new news that we have here, and that is Speaker Pelosi wanting to set up this 9/11-type commission to investigate this -- this, further. What questions do you still have?

NEGUSE: Well, I think it's an important step. I applaud the speaker's decision. I suspect that there will be bipartisan support for a 9/11- style commission, that is independent, that can take a real-close look at the vulnerabilities of the capitol complex. Potential-security enhancements that need to be made into the future, assessing financial needs with respect to those investments.

[22:20:05]

I think there are, you know, a number of different parts of that inquiry that are going to be very important moving forward prospectively for securing our nation's capitol. So, I think it's an important step, and certainly one that I support.

LEMON: All right. Let's go back a little bit, but not too far. Just over the weekend. OK? Because there -- there was a moment where it seemed like there might be witnesses in this impeachment trial, right? You succeeded in getting seven Republicans to convict. Don't you think hearing from witnesses might have won over maybe a few more witnesses? I mean, a few more Republicans?

NEGUSE: It's a fair question, Don, and I know a question that many have asked. I'd say this. I think the evidence that we presented during the course of this trial was overwhelming. And I think it's fairly clear that a majority of the United States Senate, obviously 57 senators agreed with us. That you know, applying an objective analysis and impartial lens to the evidence we presented that the president was guilty of the constitutional offense for which he was charged.

But here's the interesting thing. And you played of course the minority leader's remarks. Many of the senators who voted to acquit the president have in effect, conceded that we proved our case. That the evidence was sufficient to indicate that the president had committed the evidence for which he was charged.

So, I don't think, you know, as lead manager Raskin said, whether it was five more witnesses or 5,000 more witnesses that it would have changed the ultimate outcome. As you said, there are some senators who chose to acquit the president on jurisdictional grounds which, of course, had been settled on the very first day of the trial.

And as you know, that was an issue that we successfully argued on that day. And for a body that purports to rely on precedent so heavily. The fact that they refused to do so in this instance, at least some of those senators including the minority leader, is of course disappointing.

LEMON: Did the White House play into any of that? Did you not call witnesses because the White House wanted the trial over?

NEGUSE: I don't think that's the case. I certainly didn't have any conversations with the White House. And I'm not aware of any in that regard. It was really a balancing of the equities. I mean, as you know, lead manager Raskin essentially moved forward with a motion to have one witness testify, which was Congresswoman Herrera Beutler given the reporting that CNN had done just the evening before about the statement that she had issued, that went to the heart of, you know, the president's state of mind and supported our theory of the case with respect to his culpability.

And so, that's -- the decision we made was to proceed with trying to have her testify by video deposition but it became clear that the president's counsel was willing to stipulate that that statement be entered into the evidentiary record so that the United States Senate could consider it as part of its deliberations.

That was important. And it was important for lead manager Raskin to be able to read that into evidence, read it for the American people to hear directly, and ultimately given that fact, given that concession, we felt the most prudent course forward was to proceed.

I also would just say, Don, because you covered it so extensively the last several years. It was clear that had we proceeded with some of the witnesses that folks have speculated about, it very well may have ended in litigation where we would have to litigate subpoenas for months, and perhaps years, as had been the case prior to this particular trial.

So again, balancing the equities. It was clear. Overwhelming evidence of the president's guilt. And of course, the fact that this was the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the history of our republic with respect to presidential impeachments, is evidence of that.

LEMON: Well, let me ask you this because as an impeachment manager this is probably not your concern. But as a -- as a politician, as a Democratic congressman. The MAGA land is celebrating. The former president said that his MAGA movement has only just begun. You know what he said about, you know, the middle of Fifth Avenue.

Is that basically what happened here? Because does this maybe on the backside give him more power than if you had just ignored him?

NEGUSE: Look, I don't think that's the case. But at the end of the day, politics was not part of the calculus for us. I mean, impeachment is a solemn tool under the Constitution that is only utilized to hold the president accountable when he's committed constitutional offenses. And that was -- this clearly was one of those cases as the president incited an insurrection on January 6th. So, we were duty-bound to move forward as we did.

And I also think we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that seven Republican senators voted to convict the president. That is unprecedented. It never before happened --

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: In very conservative southern states, which is very interesting to me.

NEGUSE: That's precisely right.

LEMON: I'm from Louisiana and I'm shocked that a Louisiana senator would vote to convict Donald Trump.

NEGUSE: I'm grateful. I mean, honestly, the courage that they showed to do the right thing, to choose country over party, to follow their conscience, I think is something we should all applaud. And it should give us some pause. And I think, you know, some optimism for the future.

LEMON: You mention January 6th. And you warned when you were there doing your duty that it could happen again.

[22:25:01]

What needs to be done now to deter anything like that, anything like what we saw in January? And are you worried about this -- this March 4th and QAnon conspiracy where believers think that Trump will be back in the presidency?

NEGUSE: Well, I'm certainly concerned about the prospects, you know, for future violence as I said during the Senate trial. That's something that I think is on the mind of many Americans. I think the inquiry that Speaker Pelosi has announced will be helpful in that regard. In terms of, again, assessing vulnerabilities and providing the Congress with recommendations that are tangible and concrete, and can move the needle in that respect.

But I would also say this, Don. Because you played some of my remarks with respect to the impeachment trial. And the fact this was really born not out of hatred but out of love for our country. One part of that clip that was not there was a quote that I quoted from Dr. King. Something that has sustained me. I know you are familiar with it.

Which is that Dr. King once said that I've decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. And I just -- that, to me, is something that I hope every American is thinking about right now.

We are going to have to figure out a way a path forward to begin to talk to each other and listen to one another and find a way to ensure that political violence is not, you know, the means to resolving our disagreements. It just can't be. And I'm going to work every day to make sure that that's not the case.

LEMON: I hope the majority of Americans are listening to you. Thank you, Congressman. I appreciate your time.

NEGUSE: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you.

So, make sure you watch, President Joe Biden is going to join Anderson live from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. An exclusive presidential town hall. That is tomorrow at 9 Eastern. And then, I'll be live right after my normal time or close to it so make sure you tune in.

And next, seven Republican senators voting to convict Trump. Some of them getting heat from Republicans back home. We'll talk about that.

[22:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON (on camera): So, what happens to the Republican Party now that the former president has been acquitted in his second impeachment trial? Well, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell wants to move them away from Trump's grip. But Senator Lindsey Graham says, it's still Trump's party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: He is excited about 2022, and I'm going to go down to talk with him next week. Play a little golf in Florida. And I said, Mr. President, this MAGA movement needs to continue. We need to unite the party. Trump plus is the way back in 2022.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (on camera): Lord. Well, one thing is certain. Republicans who voted to impeach and to convict are facing a lot of heat back home.

And I want to bring in now CNN political commentator, Charlie Dent, and CNN's senior political analyst, John Avlon. Leave it to Lindsey Graham. Never disappoints, right? Good evening, gentlemen. Good to see both of you.

John, you just heard my interview with House impeachment manager, Joe Neguse. Despite Trump's acquittal they got seven Republicans to vote for conviction. How will that rebuke go down in history?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST & ANCHOR: It is the most bipartisan margin for any Senate impeachment trial of a president ever by a lot. So, it's not just that Donald Trump's got 50 percent of all the impeachments to date. Those seven. You know, it didn't clear the threshold for conviction. That's never come close.

But to have that much of rebuke shows that there is still a backbone of the Republican Party that's willing to call out insurrection. And that's what is so insane because there is literally nothing less conservative than a violent mob stop -- storming the capitol. But those folks are taking the heat right now but they will be viewed as profiles in courage in the eyes of history. No doubt about it.

LEMON: Seven though, John? Do you think that's a backbone, maybe that's a vertebrae? I don't know, but I mean.

AVLON: It's a couple of -- it's a couple of vertebrae.

LEMON: OK, I get it, all right. AVLON: At the beginning.

LEMON: Charlie, listen, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr is responding to the North Carolina GOP censuring tonight for voting to convict Trump. Here's what he said. He says, it is truly a sad day for North Carolina Republicans. My party's leadership has chosen loyalty to one man over the core principles of the Republican Party and the founders of our great nation.

How do you this backlash against GOP leaders who voted against Trump?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look at Arizona, Don. I mean, the brain trust of the GOP Arizona decided to censure Jeff Flake, Cindy McCain, and Governor Ducey. And then within a few days they lost 10,000 republicans statewide. So, they are shrinking their party.

Many of these people are more concerned about, you know, excommunicating heretics than they are about winning over converts. This, you know, I have been sanctioned -- or censured, I should say by county committees once over marriage equality because I supported it. Once over not being supportive of Trump enough. I mean, they said I was too hostile.

I mean, who cares? I mean, these people are irrelevant. You know, they think that somehow, they are going to grow this party by embracing a disgraced, twice-impeached loser. He lost. He lost. And why do they think this is going to help? You know, he cost them the Senate. He cost them the house. So, why don't they double down on defeat?

I mean, this makes absolutely no sense. I'm sure Pat Toomey is going to get his -- he's going to get his knuckles wrapped for his vote and all the rest of them are, too. But it just shows you how detached from reality many of these state and local-GOP committees are today in America.

LEMON: It's really embarrassing. I mean, how can you be a member of the party and not be embarrassed by what happened? And what these folks are doing? Go on, Charlie. What'd you want to say?

DENT: Hey, Don. Don, I just say, look. And they wonder why there are GOP leaders out there talking about developing a new faction, either within the party or out -- outside -- independent of the party or even a new party. That's what they are going to do.

They are going to -- the party is fractured and they may split it up and it may be -- may be hard to put it back together again as a consequence of this type of stupidity.

[22:35:00]

LEMON: Who would -- I mean, who would want to be -- have any sort of relationship or any sort of identity with the Looney Tunes party. Seriously, I mean, if -- if your party -- John, I'm just being honest.

AVLON: Yes. Yes. LEMON: If there was an insurrection and you had a president who was, you know, always talking about conspiracy theories and trying to coerce people into finding votes. Who would want to be associated with that madness? It really is -- it's become the Looney Tunes party. How much -- the question is, how much power should a twice-impeached, one- term president have over the party? Go on, John.

AVLON: A lot in a cult personality. But you know, but that's the problem. Right? I mean, what extremist groups and cults do is they focus on hunting for heretics because it's a way to enforce group thing. That's a sign of the problem. But let's look at some real numbers.

I mean, you know, Charlie just started. One hundred forty-thousand Republicans left the party nationwide in January, alone. Fifty percent of the country is now identified as independent. Almost two-thirds say it's time for a third party. Now whether that's a far-right breaking off, you know, good riddance. Or whether it's folks in the center that's trying to stand up and find new cross coalitions.

The Constitution doesn't mention political parties. I heard you talking to brother Chris earlier. And you know, this idea that it's a purely binary choice for most folks don't -- it doesn't fit the way they live or the way they think.

And so, it's about time these parties realize, that the more the Republican Party embraces the crazy, the more the few sane folks are going to stand up and say why do I want to be part of that? Doesn't mean I have changed my beliefs. They've left me.

LEMON: Yes. Well, speaking of, Charlie, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger voted to impeach was censured by his party. And if that's not enough, according to "The New York Times" 11 members of his family sent him a letter saying that he was in cahoots with, quote, "the devil's army for breaking with Trump."

I mean, what does all that tell you about the chance of GOP breaking from Trump? I mean, wouldn't the devil's army be the people who were involved in the insurrection? And those who made excuses for it? Shouldn't it be the other way around? But, gees. I mean, this is crazy.

DENT: I mean, it's beyond crazy. I was actually texting with Adam about this and I said, Adam, I would have never thought you were tied to the devil. Maybe Satan at sea but not the devil. But Adam, look. He is comfortable. He's very -- he is comfortable in his own skin. He knows he did the right thing. He can take this. It doesn't bother him one bit.

And by the way, speaking of crazy, going full crazy. We saw this in 2010 when during the tea party way, some of these state committees decided to nominate some really wacky candidates. Do you remember Sharron Angle from Nevada?

LEMON: Yes.

DENT: Christine O'Donnell --

LEMON: Yes.

DENT: -- the rich in Delaware.

LEMON: Yes.

DENT: Richard Mourdock, it was in 2012 in Indiana. And I'm forgetting Todd Akin. Legitimate rape. He is the one who brought that term to made it popular. So, we have these people who were on the fringe and we used to call them the exotics. Well, they cost Republicans the majority in the Senate. The GOP is going to go the same route.

I mean, they already had Marjorie Taylor Greene. We are going to get more people like her who are going to try, you know, become nominated. In many cases, they are going to lose. But some will slip through and win in overly-Republican districts.

So bottom line is, you know, this, by going after the Kinzingers and the Cheneys and the Uptons and the (Inaudible), they are going after the very best of the Republican Party. And many of the finest members of Congress that we have of either party. So, I don't understand why these people want to torture the ones who win and who represent their constituents well and to embrace these -- these -- these fringe elements. It makes no sense.

LEMON: Yes. I want to -- I want to camera at the Kinzinger thanksgiving, John Avlon.

AVLON: But look, there are a lot of families being split up by this crazy right now. I mean, that's the really sad thing. But for any party that's trying -- if leader McCarthy's is trying to say I'm going to hold my party together by doing some moral equivalence between the Adam Kinzingers and the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, there is no moral equivalence. Stop it.

LEMON: Yes.

AVLON: Donald Trump lost the popular vote twice, people.

LEMON: Yes.

AVLON: And you can isolate yourself keep digging yourself in that hole. It's going to end badly for the Republican Party. And it's not good for the republic either.

LEMON: And listen, it's different with family. But I mean, some friends you consider them family members. I can't tell you how many friends I have had who have said -- including myself -- they just had to -- they've lost so many friends over the -- especially this last sad episode. You just can't -- you can't -- you cannot -- you cannot negotiate or try to have a sensible conversation or any kind of relationship with someone who is not rooted in reality.

And so, I don't know how the politicians deal with it. I don't know how they negotiate with people who believe in QAnon or are thinking it's OK to have an insurrection at the capitol and make excuses for it, I just don't see it. Thank you, gents. See you soon.

AVLON: Take care.

DENT: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: So, he voted to acquit Trump. Then he said Trump was morally responsible for what happened. And now, Mitch McConnell wants someone else to deal with it all. Stay with us.

[22:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON (on camera): Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell dealing with the aftermath of his contradictions at Trump's impeachment trial. Blaming the former president for the riot just minutes after voting to acquit. Mitch McConnell now vowing to focus on electability over loyalty to Trump. But some Republican senators aren't happy with his rebuke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: He got a load off his chest obviously. But unfortunately, he put a load on the back of Republicans. I think his speech is an outlier regarding how Republicans feel about all this.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): He has to realize as our leader, what he says reflects on us.

UNKNOWN: Right. He's representing the entire caucus.

JOHNSON: I didn't particularly like it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (on camera): Let's discuss now. CNN political commentators Alice Stewart and Ana Navarro are both here. Good evening to both of you. Good to see you.

Alice, let's talk about this McConnell. Clearly, he's trying to have it both ways by appealing to moderate Republicans, yet trying not to anger the base.

[22:45:01]

Is that strategy going to work? Or is he all-but-ensured that Trump will remain a force in the GOP by not voting to convict?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Time will tell if it will work, right, Don? I think it really makes no sense whatsoever for him to try and have it both ways and talk out of both side of his mouth. Here he is, he makes the ultimate both not to -- to convict the president but condemns him. He talks the big talk but doesn't walk the walk with regard to a conviction.

And in addition to that, coming out now and saying that he's a private citizen and he can face charges outside of that. I think that takes the responsibility off of the people that had the decision to make the tough choice. And look, he can sit there and say with a straight face that the president was morally responsible for this and try to wash his hands of this.

But I think Republicans should have done what Republican attorney Chuck Cooper suggested. And judge this based on the merits of the president's misconduct and made a vote to convict. But hiding behind this has been unconstitutional, I think was a copout. And I feel like there should have been, certainly more done by Republicans in the Senate to hold the president -- former president -- accountable for his actions that led to the insurrection at the capitol.

LEMON: Yes. That whole not constitutional was B.S.

STEWART: Right.

LEMON: That was -- that was a real argument because they had deemed it constitutional before and it had the force of law behind it but they chose to hide behind that and they thought it was a good -- that was a good way to get out. A good escape.

So, listen, Ana. Trump's allies are not happy with McConnell, as you know. What about the Republicans who did decide to stand up against Trump? Are they going to have any faith in him after this?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think this has been a huge blow to Mitch McConnell as a leader. Let's remember, until a month ago he was majority leader. He's now a minority leader. But he -- he is grossly derelict of duty when it comes to that word, leader. And you know, I think about McConnell and I think to myself, but for Trump he probably would be majority leader today.

But for Trump, talking all that garbage he spoke in Georgia and deflating the Republican vote there, Mitch McConnell would probably be majority leader today. And Mitch McConnell, you know, he worked with the devil. Mitch McConnell is a transactional guy. He packed the federal courts with conservatives with the help of Trump. They did that together.

But, you know, we're past that now. And a political party that exists to support one person is not a political party. It is a cult. It might as well be Jim Jones instead of Donald Trump. Or it might as well be David Koresh instead of Donald Trump. It is a cult. A political party needs to stand on convictions and principles and ideas and solutions.

And this party, this party that has been talking and lecturing and clutching their pearls about cancel culture for the last four years now wants to cancel Republicans who have the spine to stand up and vote their conscience. What kind of political party penalizes elected officials who vote their conscience? Not who commit crimes, not who do nepotism, not who aren't corrupt, not who pardon criminals, but who stand up on principle.

That -- you know, that is -- that's no longer a political party. It is a sham pretending to be a political party. And Mitch McConnell, if he wants to be considered a leader, needs to figure out which side he's on.

LEMON: Yes.

NAVARRO: Because straddling the fence is not a good look at this state of his life.

Well, Alice, let me ask you. McConnell telling this to the Wall Street Journal when asked about Trump's role going forward. He says, I don't rule out the prospect that he may well be supporting good candidates. I'm not assuming that. To the extent that the former president wants to continue to be involved, he won't be a constructive part of the process.

We know what kind of candidates Trump likes. So, what's McConnell going to do if, you know, if we see more in the vane of the Marjorie Taylor Greene types?

STEWART: Well then, they will be in serious trouble. Look, it's almost as though we're in a situation where you're trying to break up with someone but you are trying to say really, it's not you, it's me. And we need to just rip the Band-Aid off and acknowledge the fact that since the president, former president, has been in the White House we have lost the House, we have lost the Senate, and we have lost the White House.

So why would we continue to go down the road of continuing to lose as a Republican Party? And to Ana's point, there have been a lot of people in the Republican Party that have gravitated toward the personality of the party, as opposed to the policies of the party.

[22:49:57]

We need to get back to the founding principles of the Republican Party. For lower taxes, limited government, fiscal responsibility, immigration, second amendment rights, and focus on that. The continuing to support the former president and what he plans to do moving forward is revenge politics, and putting primary opponents against those who have spoken out or taken action against him, that is not a winning formula.

I do believe the president will have -- former president will have some undue influence on the short-term. The real question, Don, I think will be his kids. What does Ivanka want to do? What does Lara Trump want to do, and Don Junior? If they want to have staying power, they potentially will have staying power.

But I would like to think that the cooler heads in the Republican Party will prevail and understand we have lost too many in Washington D.C. to continue to have former President Trump be the voice and the face of the Republican Party. It is not a winning formula. And it's not a way to move forward.

LEMON: Well, we'll see. As you said at the beginning, only time will tell. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

Most Republicans refuse to convict Trump. That's one thing. Well then, take this. Lindsey Graham is now threatening someone else with potential impeachment. Vice President Kamala Harris.

[22:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON (on camera): Take this. Senator Lindsey Graham looking for payback now that former President Trump has been acquitted in his second impeachment trial. Graham insists anything Trump said leading up to the deadly insurrection is what Graham calls, and I quote here, "politically protected speech."

Tell that to the family of capitol police officer Brian Sicknick who lost his life after defending lawmakers and our democracy.

Well yesterday on state TV news, Graham not only defended the former president, claiming the trial was unconstitutional. He threatened someone else with impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM: We've opened Pandora's Box to future presidents. And if you use this model, I don't know how Kamala Harris doesn't get impeached if the Republicans take over the House because she actually bailed out rioters and one of the rioters went back to the streets and broke somebody's head open. So, we've opened Pandora's Box here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (on camera): So, Lindsey is reaching, right? If you're wondering what this Pandora's Box talk is about, this is the story. After the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last spring, thousands of people including Black Lives Matter supporters took to the streets. Kamala Harris tweeted support for donations to the Minnesota freedom fund which helped people post bail if they were arrested while protesting.

So, let's set the record straight. There was no bailing out. Right? Kamala Harris tweeted about a fund to help people post bail which is entirely legal. Stop it, Lindsey. You guys know better than that. Well, maybe you don't.

Donald Trump incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. People were killed. Our elected representatives had to run for their lives. Our democracy was in peril. There's no comparison. Enough, though, Lindsey Graham, and most of the GOP want to move past the capitol riot. Right? The investigation is far from over. Stay with us.

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