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Don Lemon Tonight

Cancer Within The GOP; Democrats Give An Ultimatum To GOP Leadership; Biden Team Meets With GOP Senators; Mitch McConnell Emphasizes 'The Stain' In The Party; Former QAnon Member Leaves The Lies Behind. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 01, 2021 - 22:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): Thank you for watching. It's time for the big show. "CNN Tonight," and the big star, D. Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: The big show with d. Lemon, D.A. How's it going?

CUOMO: We're in flux, brother.

LEMON: What you mean by that?

CUOMO: A lot of people for a moment were like, I feel like the energy's different. There's some kind of relief. That blew past fast. There's a lot of stuff going on.

LEMON: Are you making fun of me? No, but anyway.

CUOMO: No. I like to call you out by name. But, you know, look, whether it's the GameStop stuff, people are angry. They're easily driven to action. It doesn't mean it's always in their best interest. Of course, investing is always about speculation, but it's intoxicating. You want to fight the man. The price is going up. This is great.

LEMON: I don't --

CUOMO: I'm staying in. I'm betting on myself.

LEMON: I know I've said that -- I've said that I should have researched. I'm not sure it was -- that's what I said when we talked on Thursday, but I'm not so sure about that. Do you know who Scott Galloway is professor? I've been following him.


LEMON: he talks about that. And I think it has a lot to do with bro culture, and I think that is -- it's a lot more nuanced than we think. And I think it's a lot of people who are online trying to get rich quick.

That whole, like, against the man thing. I think that's a great narrative to spin. I'm not exactly sure that is what it is because as we know, listen, you used to work in finance, didn't you? You know everything is -- it's going to go back to the fundamentals no matter how hard you try. There are going to be very few people --


CUOMO: To a certain degree. I'm just worried about when that happens.

LEMON: Yes. There are going to be very few people who are going to get rich quick, right? Most people are going to lose money. That's it.

CUOMO: Look, again, that's the game.


CUOMO: And it is a game. I'm just worried about this particular dynamic because we've never seen anything like it before at this scale. And, you know, I had Portnoy on and he was making the case, you know, I don't think, I don't treat people like they're stupid or like they're stupid or like they're infants. Neither do we.

You know, I talk up to my audience on a regular basis. I'm saying when you're not in the investing game and you don't understand the loss culture personally, saying don't bet more than you could lose is not as simple as that very often.

LEMON: I agree.

CUOMO: But I also see it as a layered effect of what we're dealing with in Congress.


CUOMO: How we can't even dismiss QAnon out of hand.

LEMON: How Mitch McConnell can't even call Marjorie by name. Taylor Greene.

CUOMO: But at least he came out tonight and said QAnon has to place in the party.

LEMON: I'm not ready to give him a medal for that.

CUOMO: Me either. I didn't like the media saying it's an amazing statement, it's an obvious statement. What's amazing is it took so long. But what's more amazing, Don, is he's in the minority. He's in a distinct minority in his own party of people who have come out against her.


CUOMO: The former president just met with her, and she said, he has my back. It's crazy.

LEMON: And not only is he in the minority on this, he's in the minority because of Trump and because of this, because there were many people around the country who did not want this kind of craziness, especially at the top, and people who were cosigning it from the top, from the biggest office in the land.

So, I'm not so sure why those folks will continue to follow the former president and to make excuses for Marjorie Taylor Greene. But I think it's at the detriment of not only their reputations and their legacies but also at the detriment of the Republican Party and the detriment of --


CUOMO: Guys are worried about antifa and what they can mean in their ugliest manifestations and they're quiet about this?

LEMON: Yes, Listen, antifa does, you know, things that are wrong but, you know, some -- these guys --


CUOMO: Sometimes criminal and you got to call it out.

LEMON: They fall off a skateboard, and it's antifa, and they had blamed the insurrection on antifa. It had nothing to do with it.

CUOMO: But I'll tell you what.

LEMON: It's become the boogeyman.

CUOMO: I'll tell you what. My last point is my beginning. The crowdsourcing when it comes to GameStop and that, I get it. We'll see where it goes.


CUOMO: I'm worried about it.


CUOMO: I already know the answer of the crowdsourcing that's happening right now. And it was the released kraken, the open Pandora's Box by the re-Trumplicans.


CUOMO: These extremist groups now have access to rank and file Republicans and independents, and they are radicalizing like crazy.

LEMON: It's the reason --

CUOMO: You talk to anybody in the business of tracking them. They've never seen --


CUOMO: -- open dialogue like these hate groups are having right now and they're catching on like fire. LEMON: The reason that cliche has become cliche is because sometimes

-- sometimes is because they're true. You cannot put the genie back in the bottle. And that's what Mitch McConnell and those folks are trying to do. Not going to happen. Thank you, sir. I'll see you soon.

CUOMO: D. Lemon, I love you.

LEMON: I love you too.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

I hope you had a good weekend and you're safe. We have a big north Easter -- nor'easter up here. It's not pretty.

So, we have some breaking news tonight. President Biden sits down with 10 Republican senators to try to find some common ground on COVID relief while we're in a race against time. We really are. A race that we cannot afford to lose because we're going to lose a lot of people. We have already, and we're going to continue to lose more not only from the health ramifications of this but economic as well.


That as conspiracy theory congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene may be about to get her come to Jesus moment. Maybe. We'll see. Mitch McConnell putting out a statement tonight calling her lies, quote, "a cancer for the Republican Party" without deigning to name the congresswoman. He didn't do it.

He says that "Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country. Somebody who suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.'s airplane is not living in reality."

Then he goes on to say "this has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debate on substance that can strengthen our party." Quote from Mitch McConnell, everyone, which is all true, what he said. She said all of that.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): It's odd there's never any evidence shown for a plane in the Pentagon.

How do you get so much media coverage for your group? Who pays for this? Who sponsors this?

Yes, I could dive into Kennedy getting killed in the plane crash because isn't it interesting that he had announced he was going to run for Senate just before he died in a mysterious plane crash?


LEMON (on camera): She said it, OK? So, OK, so sure. It took a long time for Mitch McConnell to say something about all that. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been publicly embracing Trump and vice versa. You cannot erase all of that with a statement, too little, too late. Not even naming her.

And if you think she's sorry, I want you to get this. The congresswoman tweeting tonight, the real cancer for the Republican Party is weak Republicans who only know how to lose gracefully. This is why we are losing our country. The translation is, I know you are, but what am I?

But it's beyond childish. Mitch McConnell is trying to put the genie back in the bottle, as I said, after enabling all of this for years. He tried to signal to senators not to make objections to the Electoral College certification. He tried to signal that it would be OK to impeach Trump.

You can't control these forces forever. And now Republicans are going to have to face the bitter reality of what they enabled. Sources telling CNN that McCarthy could meet with Marjorie Taylor Greene as soon as tomorrow. Democrats planning to deliver an ultimatum, though, to McCarthy this week. That ultimatum is you have 72 hours to strip Greene of her committee assignments or Democrats will bring the issue to the House floor.

What -- what has happened to the Republican Party? What has all this enabling done to them? What? Seriously, I want you to ponder all of that. More and more members of the GOP running for the exits now. Christopher Purcell, who worked in the George W. Bush White House for six years, reportedly saying 60 to 70 former Bush officials have decided to leave the party. That's according to Reuters.

That as the previous president's impeachment trial, his second impeachment trial by the way, just one week away. And we're getting a preview tonight of how the impeachment managers will argue the case, with shocking details of what happened at the capitol that day, arguing that the then-president intentionally incited rioters with months and months of lies to steal the election, right? And he's still doing it.

A Trump adviser is telling CNN that the president -- former president is still obsessed with his false conspiracy theory. He wants his new legal team, after the first team quit over the weekend -- just left, right? He wants them to argue his big lie even now, even after the bloody insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Again, think about that for a minute. He wants his impeachment defense to be exactly the same as his behavior that started the insurrection. When you're 70-something years old, you don't change. You know that. Lies on top of lies. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.

The former president time after time put his own political survival ahead of the good of this country. A president who did things other presidents wouldn't dare dream of doing.


So, should he still be getting intelligence briefings? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNKNOWN: Does he made a determination about whether it will continue to extend the privilege of intelligence briefings to former President Trump, given the concerns among some Democrats that he'll either misuse it or leverage it to enrich himself.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a good question. I've raised it with our intelligence team -- or our national security team, I should say. It's something obviously that's under review.


LEMON (on camera): Under review. Let's remember. Remember this? Russia, if you're listening --


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e- mails.


LEMON (on camera): Let's remember that perfect call. Perfect. The one that got him impeached the first time.


TRUMP: I had a very good call with the president of Ukraine. I assume that's what you're talking about. The call was perfect.


LEMON (on camera): Let's remember him saying that he would take opposition research from a foreign power.


TRUMP: If somebody called from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent. I think I'd want to hear it.


LEMON (on camera): What is his obsession with Norway? Norway is not going to call with information on your opponent. Just think about just the two or three things that I just showed you. That was like a random Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday in the Trump White House. Can you imagine that happening now? Heads would be popping off all over from Republicans and state media.

My gosh, Joe Biden, information from a foreign -- my gosh. And now? Or then when it happened, silence. Nothing. It was OK. But I digress because you know why? Sharing classified information with Russians in the Oval Office is another example. This is a former president who is about to be tried for inciting a

domestic terror attack on the capitol. Should we still be trusting him with intelligence secrets? Common sense, people. And in the party that enabled him for years, the hypocrisy is just off the charts, everywhere.

Members of Congress afraid to speak up about Marjorie Taylor Greene but all too willing to throw Liz Cheney under the bus. Liz Cheney. Meghan McCain blaming the media for reporting on the craziness coming out of her own party.


MEGHAN MCCAIN, CO-HOST, ABC: The more that the mainstream media continues to come out and say that all Republicans are birthers and crazy people and we believe in space lasers, then the more it makes traditional Republicans -- and there are still a lot of them in the country -- go back into their corners. And this is becoming very tribal, and I would argue that this is how we got Trump in the first place.


LEMON (on camera): Look, I don't know anybody who said all. I think that people are hearing that. That's selective hearing. Meghan, that is selective hearing. That is not what people are saying. And you can't blame the media for that. That is something that the Republican Party must fix itself. The media is the media.

Marco Rubio afraid to hold Trump accountable because it will just anger the insurrectionists.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I think the trial is stupid. I think it's counterproductive. We already have a flaming fire in this country, and it's like taking a bunch of gasoline and pouring it on top of the fire.


LEMON (on camera): OK. And those -- it's always somebody else's fault. It's always -- it's always someone else's fault. How about we have a problem in our party, and if we don't fix the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, the insurrectionists, the conspiracy theories, all that, people are going to paint us with a broad brush, and rightfully so because what does that mean?

That means that in some way, we are condoning their behavior when enough people don't speak up about it and when we blame everybody else for our problems in our own House. It doesn't mean that all Republicans believe that, but it is the Republican Party and members of said party, who were doing what? Trying to overturn an election, beating up police officers at the capitol, storming the capitol, going into people's offices.


They were doing that in the name of what? The leader of the free world at the time, the President of the United States, and the leader of the Republican Party, who was and is Donald Trump.

So, stop blaming the media and other people and -- mirror. Hold it up to your own party and your own people and hold yourselves accountable. And those insurrectionists who rioted at the capitol to stop the steal, right? What about them?

Well, here's what CNN has learned. Some of them never even voted in the election that they claimed to be protesting. There are still some Republicans who are ready to move -- some who are ready to move forward and leave Trump in the rearview mirror because a lot of them are afraid.

I think -- I think more than want to do it in their heart of hearts. They just won't say it. They're just afraid to because they don't want to be primaried. So, again, they get tarred with the same thing because they just can't do it because they want -- they're playing to their constituents, who they have over the course of these years allowed everything that this president wanted to do, good, bad, or indifferent, terrible, allowed that to happen, and then helped him sow the big lie of an election steal and a fraudulent election by not calling him out when he was in the process of saying, joe Biden was -- they stole it, the Democrats, when they know it wasn't true.

That's not the Democrats' fault. That's not the media's fault. That's the Republican Party's fault. So, there are some who would like to see this in the rearview mirror. They're trying, but they're still afraid, but they're trying. We saw some of them at the White House tonight, trying to find common ground on COVID relief, and boy do we need that.

But like I said, this is a race against time. More than 443,000 Americans have died in this pandemic. Millions and millions have lost their jobs. They don't know how they're going to pay the rent or the mortgage or put food on the table or medical bills. They don't know any of that stuff.

When the kids are going to be able to go back to school, when there's going to be normalcy, when they're going to be able to see their loved ones in other places. And they need help. They need help now. The president has been very clear -- Joe Biden, the president. COVID relief is his top priority. So, is this the moment to be just as ruthless as some Republicans have been?


UNKNOWN: Leader Mitch McConnell back in 2017 famously said winners make policy, losers go home. Given that, why shouldn't Democrats -- why shouldn't President Biden be as tactically ruthless as Republicans have been in pushing priorities that he champions?

PSAKI: Well, I think the president has been clear that he is encouraged by the pace and the rapid pace, I should say, that Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer are moving this package forward. At the same time, as you know, there is time, because this process can take a bit, to make changes as needed.


LEMON (on camera): Well, seems like Republicans are waiting to see if President Biden blinks or if he passes COVID relief without GOP support. So, if he blinks, that's a win because then he doesn't get his agenda across, right? But then if he passes it without him -- them, then they're going to spin it as a win as well and say, where is the unity and the bipartisanship?

It's all such a big game. But smart Americans see you. America sees you. I'm going to talk to a top White House adviser about what I just spoke about next and other things. Let's see if we can get an answer. So, my question is, what does unity really mean, and does it have to necessarily look like this? That's next.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): We have demonstrated in the last year that we can come together on a bipartisan package dealing with the COVID crisis. In fact, we've done that not just once or twice. We've done it five times. And I am hopeful that we can once again pass a sixth bipartisan COVID relief package.




LEMON (on camera): President Biden meeting in the Oval Office tonight with Republican senators who have come up with their own COVID-19 relief package. The meeting was scheduled for one hour, but it lasted twice as long. Both sides are far apart on a price tag, like $1.9 trillion versus $618 billion, that far apart.

So, let's discuss now. Symone Sanders is here. She's a senior adviser and chief spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris, who took part in the meeting. Symone, it's good to see you.



LEMON: I'm doing well. I'm very proud of you.

SANDERS: It's good to see you as well. Happy black history month.

LEMON: My gosh. You took the words out of my mouth.

SANDERS: Thank you.

LEMON: Happy black history month. I appreciated the president's statement today. It's good to see you. So, let's talk about this. We have 89 percent of Americans say it is

extremely important to pass a major COVID-19 relief bill. Eighty-six percent say the same about expanding vaccinations, testing, PPE. That's according to political Harvard school of public health poll. Does President Biden want to do something that's more popular or something that gets maybe one or two Republican senators who support is more -- whose support is more important to him?

SANDERS: Well, Don, frankly President Biden is focused on getting relief that Americans so urgently need. You know, today's meeting was a good substantive and productive meeting with Republican senators for the president and vice president.


And while there were some broad areas of agreement in that meeting, like the need for relief for small businesses, and that's a provision that both sides will continue to work on at the staff level, the president and vice president specifically reiterated that he will settle for nothing less than what is needed to urgently meet the need for the American people.

Look, Don, since the last bipartisan deal in December, more than 100,000 more Americans have died. People are standing in food lines. Millions are out of work. The urgent here is need. And so, you know, frankly right now the question isn't really, you know, what is too big? The answer and the question really is, can we afford to do too little? And the answer is we absolutely cannot.

LEMON: I understand that.

SANDERS: And so, the president is committed to ensuring that we get the package that the people need, Don. He is with the people, and Americans want a bipartisan package.

LEMON: OK, I understand that because everyone is wondering what you -- because this president has been very clear when he was a candidate. He wants to work with the other side. He wants to bring the country together. My question is, though -- the essence of my question, Symone, is what does that unity look like because the majority of the American people, they want the COVID package. They want all of the things that I mentioned.

And I'm just wondering if there is too much focus on trying to win over a few Republican senators or Republicans rather than just giving the American people what they want. The vast majority of the American people.

SANDERS: Well, Don, I would actually disagree with you on that point. I don't -- I don't think that the meeting today was anything of the sort as you described. This is how democracy works. The president and vice president both served in the United States Senate. The president served for more than 36 years. The vice president just left a term in the United States Senate. They understand the importance of working with our allies on the Hill. But your question, the essence of the question really is this. Is the

president prepared and the vice president prepared to get a bold plan passed for the American people, and the answer is, yes. Today he reiterated and reasserted that, you know, he didn't design this package with a number in mind. He designed it with the need that the American people need in mind.

More than 71 percent of Americans want Republicans in Congress to work with the president, and we believe that we can come to some agreement. Look, again, small business relief was a broad area of agreement today. Some targeted checks were also a broad area of agreement although the president reiterated and reasserted that the Republicans' proposal was far too narrow.

So, we think that we can get this done in a bipartisan fashion.


SANDERS: The president wants to get it done in a bipartisan fashion.

LEMON: OK. I want to talk about Joe Manchin. Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator, wasn't happy about Vice President Harris speaking to West Virginia media. It looked like a move to apply pressure on Manchin. Was that a mistake?

SANDERS: Well, Don, I'm going to point you to what White House press secretary Jen Psaki said today. You know, I absolutely agree with her. Look, we believe, like Senator Manchin has said, that the White House and Congress have to work together with our allies to pass this package, this relief that the American people so urgently need.

Again, we're talking about vaccination in arms, money to reopen schools and keep schools open and operating, PPE, testing, on down the line. So, you know, we're speaking. The administration, our legislative affairs teams are absolutely have been in close contact with Senator Manchin and his team and other allies on the Hill.

And that's going to continue, Don, because this is going to take bold, urgent action to pass this package. It's an all hands-on deck activity, and we're grateful to have Senator Manchin in the fight with us.

LEMON: One more question. So, the White House has since spoken to Manchin. Who reached out? Was it the president or the vice president?

SANDERS: Well, Don, just like I wouldn't negotiate the package here on CNN, I'm not going to get into private conversations that may or may not have been had. But I can reassure you this, that the president and vice president and the entire administration are absolutely focused on doing everything necessary and possible to, one, communicate the plan that the president has put forward on the American rescue plan to the American people, but also garner support and build consensus.

This is how democracy works, Don, and folks saw it working today very well at the White House with the meeting with Republican senators and you're going to see more throughout this week. The president and vice president are committed to getting this done.

LEMON: Symone, just as in the last administration, there were a number of colleagues who went to the White House, and we congratulated them. So, again, I congratulate you and good luck. I'm very proud of you. Thank you so much. It's good to see you.

SANDERS: Thank you, Don. Great to see you. Talk soon.

LEMON: Thank you.

Extremists in the Republican Party growing bolder, and it is boiling over tonight.



LEMON (on camera): Senator Mitch McConnell condemning GOP congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene tonight without actually mentioning her name, talking about her looney lies and calling her a cancer for the Republican Party and our country.

So, let's discuss now. CNN political commentator Scott Jennings and Ana Navarro both here. Good evening. Good to see both of you. Doing OK?


LEMON: Scott, you're first. Why is Mitch McConnell speaking out about this now?

JENNINGS: Well, I mean it's obvious this thing is taking on a life of its own. It's obvious that some in the Republican Party want to go die on this hill. And I think he's sending up an urgent warning that we can't be a national governing party, we can't be a majority party, we can't even be competitive if we're going to be the party of, you know, Jewish space lasers and that 9/11 didn't happen and all the conspiracy theories that he mentioned that Marjorie Taylor Greene has expressed interest in.


So, I think McConnell is trying to warn Republicans we cannot go down this road if we want to be competitive in the future. I mean, the reality is, Don, if she didn't have a laptop and a video camera, she'd have a sandwich board on a street corner.

I mean, what she is saying is not even within the realm of what you and I and Ana to consider normal American political rhetoric. We're talking about living in a completely different crazy, scary reality. So, I hope folks heed Mitch McConnell's warning because I think he's right.

LEMON: Well, Ana, you know, I asked Scott why now because the GOP stood behind Trumpism and all of Trump's rhetoric for four years. It's led us to this point. I don't think the genie can be put back in the bottle. Maybe you see it differently.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think Mitch McConnell is disgusted. He made a statement after, you know, January 6th which was very strong. His wife, Elaine Chao, quit the Trump administration. He didn't have to. He could have done like most of them and waited it out.

And I think the reason Mitch McConnell is speaking is because he lost his leadership position, his majority leadership position in no small part due to Donald Trump's craziness and interference in Georgia. He's losing very good senators, people like Rob Portman, (Inaudible) senators because of the looniness that's going on in the Republican Party.

And the reason Mitch McConnell is speaking is because of the huge vacuum in the leadership of the House because Kevin McCarthy has behaved like a seal who is waiting for his trainer to throw him a fish --


LEMON: But, Ana, Mitch McConnell didn't --

NAVARRO: That this is --

LEMON: Mitch McConnell may have been much worse. At least Kevin McCarthy, I mean he is a Trumper through and through. He makes no bones about it. Mitch McConnell will say one thing, and then he's an obstructionist the next with the way he votes and then what he says. So, I mean he's saying it now. He may be disgusted. But shouldn't he have been disgusted for the last four years, and especially after the November election when he went along with this whole the election was stolen farce?

NAVARRO: Look, he got what he wanted, right? He's got a conservative Supreme Court, and he's got a conservative lower court. He's very transactional.

But, you know, at this point frankly if Mitch McConnell wants to make a strong statement and wants to get rid of the cancer in the Republican Party, not only should he speak up against Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is looney, not only should he speak up in favor of Liz Cheney for exerting the right of voting her conscience, but he should also encourage people to vote on the merits of the impeachment article, not to try to been away and look the other way, trying to use process as a shield so as not to have to vote on the merit.


NAVARRO: There is a lot that Mitch McConnell can do to show his leadership and to show that he is willing to fight for ideology, to fight for values and principles, and he needs to, particularly after the last four years he's put in.

LEMON: And, Scott, you know, she mentioned the minority leader. Has he lost his clout with his conference and with the Republican base? I mean he didn't want senators to go along with the objections to the certification, but they did it anyway. He signaled that he might be OK with impeaching Trump, only to later vote the trial would be unconstitutional when there was no support for that. So how much are people going to listen to him on this issue?

JENNINGS: I don't know. I hope as many as possible. I mean I've heard him joke before that being a leader in the Senate is like being the caretaker at a graveyard. Everybody is under you, but nobody is listening. I mean these people have a mind of their own. A lot of them have personal ambitions, Don, as we've discussed on the air, like Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, that are driving their actions instead of what's good for the party, good for the Senate, or good for the country.

I don't think he's going to have any control over that. I'm glad he made the statement he did tonight, not just about Greene but also about Representative Cheney. If what comes out of this entire January 6th ordeal is that Liz Cheney is the only person that winds up punished, it would be an absolute travesty.

So, I'm glad he's speaking out. I don't know how much clout he's going to have with, you know, this person or that person, but what he is saying is 100 percent, absolutely the truth. And anybody that wants to listen to it can see it plainly written on a piece of paper tonight, and I hope they do.

LEMON: All right. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

Next, the woman who spent months pouring over conspiracies believing every word and thinking she was saving the country. Then she realized she was being manipulated. A former QAnon believer tells me what it's like to believe and how she got out. That's next.



LEMON (on camera): OK, everyone. I really want you to watch this. You want to watch it. Trust me. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene backing away from some conspiracy theories, admitting the Parkland shooting, school shooting was not fake.


GREENE: These are not red-flag incidences. They are not fake, and it's terrible the loss that these families go through and their friends as well. And it should never happen.


LEMON (on camera): Maybe she meant false flag. She said red flag, but she called it a false flag before. Greene had been a prominent -- proponent, excuse me, of QAnon, the QAnon conspiracy that peddles the baseless idea that there are secret members of a supposed satanic pedophilia ring at the levels of government in Hollywood.

Now, a former QAnon follower is speaking out after her experience with the online cult. She wants Americans to know what happened to her and how she found her way out. Her name is Lenka, and we are using just her first name to protect her identity. And she joins me now. Lenka, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.


LENKA, FORMER QANON FOLLOWER: Thank you for having me.

LEMON: Listen, I think what you're doing is brave to come out and talk about this. Not many people will admit to something like this. I want to start with how you became a (Inaudible) in QAnon. Because you actually, I'm told, supported Bernie Sanders in 2016, after he lost the primary, you became a disillusioned Democrat and you started reading a lot about conspiracy theories. What drew you in? How did you get here?

LENKA: Well, you know, I've looked back the last three years since I've been out of it, and I've really done a lot of reflection to try to figure out how I ended up at that point. And there's a lot of missing pieces that people aren't aware of that bring this all together. But for me, it started out with being disillusioned with the Democratic Party, and it usually starts with some truth. And for us, it was the Democratic Party rigging it against Bernie Sanders.

So, we had a lot of angry people. We were angry at the Democratic Party, and we found ourselves connected on social media, asking the question, if the Democratic Party was capable of rigging an election, what else could they possibly be capable of?

So, we were doing a lot of our own research, and something happened along the way. I guess some outside conspiracy forces sort of came into our newsfeeds and dropped information. We don't really know who they are, but it was as if we were being baited. It was -- it was information that seemed believable. It wasn't that substantial of a jump to believe that information. And at some point, Q comes along, which is an even bigger --


LEMON: So, give me an example of the information you're talking about.

LENKA: Well, so for instance, you know, we would follow the money, and we would undercover, you know, various types of corruption. And then somebody would come in and drop information about, for instance, ties to child sex trafficking. That's a big one, and how politicians are being blackmailed with it who are involved with it. And it started to kind of get a little bit out there.

But at the same time, there's truth to child sex trafficking, and there's truth to pedophilia. You know, that's a very sensitive subject for a lot of people. You know, a lot of us are parents. So, you know, it brought up concerns until, at least for me, it got to the point where it just -- it was very obvious to me it was getting -- it couldn't possibly be true.

LEMON: It was becoming preposterous too preposterous to be real? LENKA: Yes.

LEMON: But it's hard for people to get to that point because most -- it's hard for people to say, man, I've been living -- I've been believing something that's completely crazy, and most of them don't get to the point that you got to. So, what made you realize that it was false?

LENKA: Well, for me, there were a number of things. I mean, you know, when QAnon came into the picture, they -- it became obvious to me that they were really targeting the Democratic Party and accusing them of, you know, many things that I already knew that the Republican Party was involved with as well. So that was a big question. Why are they just targeting the Democratic Party?

And then when they painted Donald Trump as some kind of savior to come in and fix corruption and address the child sex trafficking issue, well, I was watching him do the same thing that I opposed on the Democratic side. I was watching him appoint corporatists into his administration. I was watching -- you know, I was watching him speak. I was looking at his history with the different controversies he was involved with, and it just absolutely did not add up for me.

So, I was fortunate enough to exit, but in the meanwhile, I can understand how people kind of get lost in it because, you know, the other thing people aren't talking about is the addiction quality of social media.

LEMON: That's -- can you hold that thought because I want to talk to you about that? It seems like there's a common denominator here, and it may be social media where you were getting your information. And also, I want to ask you something that you told the New York Times. You said Trump just used us and our fear. I'm going to hold you over the break. We're going to take a break, Lenka. If you will please stand by, and we'll come back and finish our conversation, OK?

LENKA: Sure.

LEMON: We'll be right back.



LEMON (on camera): So, I'm joined, Lenka is here. Lenka is a former QAnon follower who doesn't follow. She used to follow QAnon before. So Lenka, you told the New York Times that Trump used us and our fear.

That's a quote from you. Now people caught up in the insurrection at the capitol are saying that they were coaxed and used by the president, and using it as a legal defense. Do you think that is fair for them to use as a defense to blame the former president?

LENKA: I think that, I think there is a lot of people who are culpable, including Donald Trump, in my personal opinion. I think that Donald Trump was clever enough to know that this whole conspiracy world was agitating people and really triggering their senses. And that in his own way, he could manipulate them as well, yes.


LEMON: I want to ask you about, because the whole, you know, the election was rigged thing, that was a whole impetus for the insurrection on Capitol Hill. You made the same claim about the Democrats, but what the Democrats did between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders was the way the Democratic process works, it wasn't stolen from Bernie Sanders. That's how it works. So how did you view that as -- how did you become disillusioned by that?

LENKA: Well, even though it wasn't illegal on paper, to rig an election and, you know, work with the media to sort of sway public opinion towards one candidate over another, it still upset us. It really angered us. I mean, this was our Democratic Party, and Democrats were being treated this way. It wasn't acknowledged and it wasn't rectified, and as a matter of fact, we ultimately ended up getting blamed for Hillary Clinton losing.

So, you know, right there, we're an angry group of people who were just seeking justice. I guess you can say, like anybody with a passion and a little bit of anger, you can become a target to these conspiracies. They're very insidious.

You can look at people who are normally anti-vaxxers, who are very cautious of pharmaceutical companies. And once they started following the breadcrumbs of social media, all of a sudden, they're believing these conspiracies that Bill Gates is putting, you know, some kind of trackers in the vaccines.

LEMON: So --

LENKA: And these are intelligent people, intelligent people that are succumbing to this.

LEMON: It just seems that there are more -- it seems that there are people who maybe more prone to believe conspiracies. Because I hear your argument on the left about Bernie Sanders, again, is the mirror of the argument that led to the insurrection on Capitol Hill.

So, could it be perhaps that there are just people like yourself who are prone to conspiracy theories regardless of what side of the aisle they're on? Because can't -- I'm sure people won't be able to see how you went from Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Party to Donald Trump and QAnon and the Republican Party. It's just too far of a swing on the pendulum. Do you understand what I'm saying?

LENKA: Right. And see, that's where I said there are so many different pieces. Because now we can talk about social media and the algorithms. So, as soon as you click or like or share on a video, or a link or what have you that might have some basis in conspiracy or some agenda, you know, by the end of the week your entire news feed is filled with very similar material.

LEMON: Do you think there should be -- do you think that -- so, what I'm hearing you saying is that social media plays a big role in this. Do you think that there should be more fact-checking and more guarding of the platform on social media than just a sort of a free for all for everyone to be able to go on there and say whatever it is that they want to say?

LENKA: Well, if that were possible, you know, I know that I was studying how social media works through documentaries like the social dilemma, and it seems like it's kind of a monster that's out of control at this point. You know, I don't know how people can step aside and do some fact-checking now. They just want information so quickly.

LEMON: Hey, Lenka --

LENKA: And when you log on to your social media, it's, you know, it's all right there. It keeps coming at you.

LEMON: So Lenka, I have to go, but do you think that -- do you blame social media in any way, do you think that it helped in some way to --

LENKA: Yes, absolutely.

LEMON: -- to groom you and to change you. OK.

LENKA: Yes, absolutely.

LEMON: Lenka, thank you for your time. We really appreciate it. Fascinating conversation. I wish I had more time to talk about it. Be well.

LENKA: You're welcome.

LEMON: Thanks so much.

LENKA: Thank you. I appreciate it.

LEMON: We'll be right back.