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Don Lemon Tonight

GOP Lawmakers Oppose Neera Tanden To Lead OMB; Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) Strongly Defends Trump Supporters; GOP Leadership In Shambles; New Alarming COVID Variant Found In New York City; Republicans Worry More About Political Career Than Democracy; Tiger Woods Headed To A Long Recovery. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 24, 2021 - 22:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): What we ignore, we empower. We can't ignore the reality that has taken too many young black lives any more. That is a message for me and for you.

Thank you for watching. The big show, "CNN TONIGHT," big star, big head, D. Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Well, and that's why thus black lives matter. That's why people's -- that's what it started, for that sort of injustice. And you know, I do have to say I'll just show this, I wasn't going to do this, that was the impetus for this book. That was George Floyd, originally Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

But let me tell you something. I think that, listen, both were very important. We are covering Ahmaud Arbery --

CUOMO: Yes, yes.

LEMON: -- and then George Floyd happened. And the cameras sort of went away from Ahmaud Arbery. We watched Ahmaud Arbery died on camera.


LEMON: And I think he was the beginning of all of this. And the attention should continue to go to him, to all of the victims and the survivors of the victims, the family. But we have to remember, you're right, Ahmaud Arbery started all of this. We watched all of this. We watched as those men shot him in the middle of the street because they thought he was --

CUOMO: Chased him down.

LEMON: Chased him down, yes.

CUOMO: And shot him. You know why the timing matters?


CUOMO: Here's why. And I just realized this, which is kind of my impetus for tonight. I like Bruce Springsteen. But I mean, he was going to be OK either way. I just don't like the hyper attention and you're wrong and you don't say anything about it.

LEMON: We forget in this country. It's innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around but that's how people treat in the court of law.

CUOMO: But in the court of public opinion, you're a dead man if you can't find an excuse --


CUOMO: -- and an immediate one. That's a whole other story. But here's why I don't like it. You know who doesn't forget these stories? The people who want you to believe things that aren't true about them. So, Ahmaud Arbery fades from, you know, our attention, right, because we're caught with the president who is trying to drive insurrections and they're out there in that righty fringe. You know he robbed the house, right? You know he did that chain of robberies, right?

LEMON: Nope.

CUOMO: It's not true. None of it's true.

LEMON: None of it is true.

CUOMO: But they're still out there talking that talk. Talking that talk, talking about George Floyd like he had three heroin rings hanging out of his hands.

LEMON: Yes. But I thought people with heroin we're supposed to have empathy for them because there's -- it's a scourge on the country --


CUOMO: Yes, if they're white and in the suburbs. Then you have a lot of sympathy.


CUOMO: You know, if you're in the hood, then it's a choice.


CUOMO: But if you're in the suburbs it's a plague.


CUOMO: And we got to check ourselves. I got to check myself and make sure that I keep coming back to things. But people won't care anymore? Who gives a damn?


CUOMO: If it doesn't rain, it doesn't rain. You still do the right thing. And I think it makes a change even if it doesn't resonate in the moment.

LEMON: I agree. And listen, I don't -- you were probably working. I just had this conversation, I did a thing -- again, I hate to keep bringing up the book. I just said the same thing that you said when I talked about the book that's releasing. I hope that -- I hope that -- not that I hope. I know that I have some influence on you, you're having some influence on me when we talk about these issues.

And I -- you know, people say these are hard things to talk about. Chris, it's not hard. This is not hard to talk about. This is easy. You and I talk about it. We don't agree on everything. Some things you educate me about, some things I educate you about. Guess what? At the end of this when we finish talking, what do you say every night?

CUOMO: I love you.

LEMON: All right. That's it.

CUOMO: I didn't know you wrote a book, though. What's the title?

LEMON: The book is called "This is the Fire." You can preorder it now anywhere Amazon anywhere you get books.

CUOMO: Are there any left after all those copies you had my wife buy?

LEMON: No, but I'm going to do an interview with her.

CUOMO: I'm going to mention when it's a best-seller.

LEMON: It was already number one on Amazon the night we announced it. Yes, she will get a mention. But I will tell you, honestly, it's not -- listen, we have day jobs. This is not about selling books to me. This is about doing what is right and getting people to engage and open minds and hearts so that we can tackle this issue that -- and we don't have to deal with it in the ways we're dealing with it now.

CUOMO: I hope you win three ways.


CUOMO: I hope people get this book.


CUOMO: They get from it the freedom to discuss and to disagree that you want them to have. Two, I hope it makes a ton of money so that three, you can use it to do things that you might not have done otherwise.

LEMON: Thank you.

CUOMO: And I'm not talking about buying a sky scraper. I'm saying people reach out to you and say, you know, I wish we had a black literacy project in my community. Now you can do things you wouldn't have done otherwise. I wish you every advantage.

LEMON: Now you know --

CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon.

LEMON: Now you know why I'm doing it. I love you. I thought the first I love you, I was about to go, and then you went into that, it was complementary. So, I just have to keep going. Thank you. I love you, brother. I'll see you soon.

CUOMO: Thanks for letting us to be in the process.

LEMON (on camera): Great show and thanks for doing that last segment. Spot on, brother. That's why you're my friend.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

And the hypocrisy of the Republican Party is off the charts tonight. And don't start with me about, this is liberal -- I'm not a liberal. I'm not a conservative. I'm an American. I don't belong to any party, OK?


But the hypocrisy of the Republican Party is off the charts. And I'm going to explain to you why. They are suddenly calling for -- get this -- civility and bipartisanship. Well, civility from the other guys is what they want while Republicans continue to slam President Biden's nominees. By partisanship?

But not one single Republican willing to support the president's COVID relief package which has support from more than 70 percent of the American people. I hope you're listening, Republicans, because I got something for you. And I want you to listen right now. This is Senator John Cornyn outside the White House just today.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Can you respond to the criticism that it's unfair for Republicans to criticize Neera Tanden's tweets, given a lot of lawmakers largely ignored former President Trump's tweets for so many years?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): I think I can stipulate that there's been a lot of incivility when it comes to Washington, D.C. and how we communicate and talk to each other. I would just say that we could all learn a little lesson here I think about increasing the civility and the way we treat each other in a very polarized country.


LEMON (on camera): What? Where were those guys a couple months ago -- last administration, the guy before, where were they with the civility and let's bring down the temperature and the tweets and where were they? Who's been trying to restore civility?

Who has been trying to restore -- who has been calling GOP senators to the White House, like today? Who campaigned on civility and reaching out across the aisle while the other person was campaigning on the exact opposite, and was criticized for being naive to think Republicans would work with him?

You guys are just beyond. You know who's been doing that? The guy who lives in the building right behind them. That's President Joe Biden, who, by the way, probably doesn't need the lecture about civility right outside of his house. And then there's Senator John Thune. Senator John Thune who claims he is not personally concerned about Neera Tanden's tweets but sure has a lot to say about her tweets.


SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): I'm not concerned about her tweets. I think that her record is pretty extensive of being very partisan and there was a concern about whether or not it carries over in the job to support them and one where because she is going to have to work with people on the other side. Yes. I personally am not worried about tweets. I think that it's a -- but I do think that your digital footprint now should be a reminder that it's all going to come back to bite you at some point.


LEMON (on camera): I'm not worried about her tweets, but her tweets -- but her tweets -- it is really rich that Republicans suddenly think that mean tweets disqualify a person from serving in our government. Well, a Democratic woman, anyway. When they tolerated the former president's Twitter wars for years, even though his tweets incited an insurrection, got him permanently banned from Twitter.

Now all of a sudden, they care about the mean tweets. This is rich. How many times did we hear them say, I don't read tweets? Seems like they read them now.


UNKNOWN: Just a couple of months ago you tweeted, Republicans don't believe in science. Pretty broad statement that you made there.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Calling Mitch McConnell Moscow Mitch is probably not a good thing to say.

UNKNOWN: You've called Republicans criminally ignorant, corrupt and the worst.

UNKNOWN: You wrote that Susan Collins is, quote, "the worst." That Tom Cotton is a fraud. That vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz. You called Leader McConnell Moscow Mitch and Voldemort and on and on.


LEMON (on camera): Snowflakes. Remember that? Liberals are such snowflakes. They're so sensitive. They are shocked -- shocked by Neera Tanden's tweets. Senator John Kennedy calling her out for name calling.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I have to tell you, I'm very disturbed about your personal comments about people. It's not just one or two. I think you deleted about a thousand tweets, and it wasn't just about Republicans. And I don't mind disagreements in policy. I think that's great. I love the dialectic. The comments were personal. I mean, you called Senator Sanders everything but an ignorant slut.




LEMON (on camera): Was that -- so, was that Republican tears? Like they say liberal tears? Now, listen, I get it. Let me be honest with you. I want this to be clear. Name calling should really be beneath our government officials, it really should. Mean tweets, bullying, no place for that.

But this is what -- this is what I'm talking about. The hypocrisy in all of this is off the charts. No one is saying mean tweets are right, but the hypocrisy. Senator Kennedy is disturbed by Neera Tanden's name calling.

Well, I want you to just listen to one, some of the -- some of the names Senator Kennedy was throwing around just today, like neo socialist, left of Lenin, whack job. That's what he called Biden's interior secretary Deb Haaland. Those comments sound pretty personal to me.

Name calling is bad except when you do it yourself. Mean tweets are bad, except when they're Trump's mean tweets? Senator Cornyn saying this.


CORNYN: My friendly advice to President Biden is to withdraw Neera Tanden's nomination and select someone who at the very least has not promoted wild conspiracy theories and openly bashed people on both sides of the aisle that she happens to agree with -- disagree with.


LEMON (on camera): So, Senator Cornyn thinks anybody who bashes people they disagree with or promotes wild conspiracy theories should be out of a job. There is at least one person who fits that description who is out of a job, the ex-president, Donald Trump.

So, what about Senator Ron Johnson who just yesterday spread a bogus conspiracy theory trying to blame the capitol insurrection on what he called fake Trump protesters and leftists like antifa? And he doubled down on the conspiracy theory today.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Absolutely not.

RAJU: Why not?

JOHNSON: It's an eyewitness account from pretty knowledgeable trained observer. It's no conspiracy theory. Have you read it?

RAJU: I mean, are you trying to --


JOHNSON: Have you read it? Have you read it?

RAJU: Yes, I watched your comments.

JOHNSON: Read the article and then ask me questions about it.

RAJU: I mean, you would do it again?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. We need the full perspective.


LEMON (on camera): And what about, you know, the mean tweets and all that conspiracy -- what about QAnon Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene who not only promoted dangerous and vial conspiracies.

CNN's K-File has learned one of her close allies was one of a mob that stormed the capitol. And what he says disproves the lie that Ron Johnson was telling, that it was antifa. It wasn't Black Lives Matter. It wasn't fake Trump supporters.


ANTHONY AGUERO, CONSERVATIVE LIVESTREAMER AND ALLY OF REP. GREENE: We were all there. It was not antifa and it was not BLM. It was Trump supporters that did that yesterday. I'm the first to admit it. Being one myself.


LEMON (on camera): Anthony Aguero is a close friend of Marjorie Taylor Greene, and he disproves the lie. As if you needed any more proof. We really didn't, but he helps to confirm it. We all saw it in real-time on live TV. We saw those blood thirsty rioters storm the capitol on January 6. This was no jovial friendly crowd like Ron Johnson would like you to believe. But if you watch Fox News, this is what you hear about that terrible day.


DINESH D'SOUZA, HOST, DINESH D'SOUZA PODCAST: In reality, this was a bunch of rowdy people walking through a hallway. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON (on camera): Said that with a straight face. What a disgusting dangerous lie. There was no bunch of rowdy people walking through the hallway. This was an insurrection. They were hunting for lawmakers. They wanted to hang Mike Pence. Just rowdy, but they wanted to hang Mike Pence.

They put up a gallows outside all because the disgraced former president and his big lie that the election was stolen from him, the big lie is still out there spreading like a cancer in America. The president's enablers are still pushing it today, even in Congress where those rioters ran wild a few weeks ago.


A furious congressman, Gerry Connolly, going off on Congressman Jim Jordan for voting to overturn the election, voting for the big lie.


REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): I didn't vote to overturn an election, and I will not be lectured by people who did about partisanship.


PAVLICH (on camera): The big lie is still out there, and the enablers want you to believe that you didn't see what you saw with your own eyes. You didn't hear what you heard with your own ears. And even the people trying so stand up against it and for democracy seemed to know the score. Mitt Romney, no fan of the former president, bluntly says that Trump would win the nomination if he runs again.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I don't know if he'll run in 2024 or not, but if he does, I'm pretty sure he will win the nomination.


LEMON (on camera): So, listen to me, hear me, please. This is where the party of Lincoln is today. Tying itself up in knots over a president in exile. Even the leaders don't agree.


UNKNOWN: Do you believe President Trump should be speaking -- former President Trump should speak at CPAC this weekend?


UNKNOWN: Congresswoman Cheney?

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): That's up to CPAC. I've been clear on my views about President Trump and the extent to which following -- the extent to which following January 6. I don't believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country.

MCCARTHY: On that high note, thank you all very much.


LEMON (on camera): God, what a -- whew, awkward, awkward. This is where the party of Lincoln is today. More upset, upset over mean tweets than the big lie. Interesting, huh, and sad.

Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is here. Kaitlan, it's been a minute. I haven't seen you. Good to see you.

COLLINS: I know.

LEMON: You have new reporting on President Biden's pick for budget director Neera Tanden. Is the White House still holding out hope or do they see the writing on the wall here?

COLLINS: They are holding out hope publicly saying that they think they just have to get one Republican vote, that means they think Krysten Sinema, the Democrat from Arizona who has not said how she's going to vote on Neera Tanden. They seem to think that she will vote yes on her. So that means they need Lisa Murkowski or some other Republican to vote to get Neera Tanden across the finish line.

We heard that chief of staff, Ron Klain say tonight they are fighting their hearts out to get her confirmed. But of course, it is still a big question. It seems really unlikely if you talk to a lot of senators on Capitol Hill. Even people inside the White House concede that, you know, typically a president doesn't get every single person that they've nominated confirmed.

They think Neera Tanden may be that person for President Biden. And so they are still waiting to see. But there are a lot of doubts tonight as they're waiting to see what's going to happened. Because the fact that her vote earlier today, this is to happen to advance that nomination forward got postponed, is not a good sign because it means as Bernie Sanders says that she did not have the votes.

LEMON: All right. Kaitlan, you have to mark on your calendar that this show is on your agenda nightly. So, it's not the same about you.

COLLINS: Always.

LEMON: All right. Thank you very much. I'll see you later.

The enablers won't stop. They won't stop pushing the bogus big lie, a lie that incited a wild mob to attack the capitol, the seat of our government still being repaired seven weeks after the riot. But what do these lies mean for your right to vote in the next election? We'll discuss.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON (on camera): Boy, have I been wanting to talk to my next guest about what's happening at the capitol now, these hearings. GOP Senator Ron Johnson doing it again doubling down on conspiracy theories, he's pushing falsely claiming that left wing agitators and so-called fake Trump supporters were behind the deadly capitol attack.

This is a person I wanted to speak to. Chris Krebs, the former director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Chris, thank you so much. The perfect person to discuss this.

Let's get right into it. I want your take on what we heard at the Senate hearing on the capitol riot because a disinformation campaign isn't over. We saw what Senator Ron Johnson did. He's trying to rewrite history right in front of our very eyes in front of our faces. What is disinformation doing to our democracy?


I, unfortunately, was not able to watch the hearing yesterday. I didn't catch some of the clips including Senator Johnson's remarks. I was working on another hearing in the Senate on cyber security. But nonetheless, you know, it was a weird moment when I first saw the comments from Senator Johnson. I wasn't quite sure if they were from yesterday or they were from earlier.

If you recall in January, you had members of both chambers of Congress saying that, no, in fact, antifa or, you know, costumed, you know, performance players were not, in fact, responsible for the insurrection. It was -- it was the president's supporters driven by the president.

So, I just, I don't know where that information comes from, how it gets to him. I do know that this is a line particularly that antifa supporters or antifa activists, in fact, were behind. It was a trope on Russian state media earlier in the year.

So, again, I just -- I don't know where it's coming from. It's not helpful for democracy. I think any reasonable person could look at the flags, could look at the supporters, could look at the affidavits and indictments from our own United States Department of Justice. And clearly, the folks that are arrested or indicted, admit to being Trump supporters either to officials or on their own social media pages.

So, again, it just doesn't comport with any sort of reality that you or I may be acquainted with.


LEMON: Well, he said it yesterday, and he said it today. But you're right, that was a point I made last night. You made the very same point because the people who are being arrested and who are being charged with this are admitting that they are Trump supporters and many of them are saying they were following the orders of their commander-in-chief.

So, it's just -- it completely opposite of what he's saying. Senator Rob Portman who is retiring spoke out against Ron Johnson's conspiracy about fake Trump supporters. I want you to listen to this.


SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): The person who was quoted said things that are entirely counter to what I know to be true from law enforcement. By the way, both in classified and unclassified settings. So, I don't think that's helpful. Recall there have been 200 arrests.


PORTMAN: We know who these individuals are. So, we have to be sure that we're sticking to the facts.


LEMON (on camera): OK, I've got one more for you, Chris. I want you to listen to Senator Roy Blunt who is up for reelection defending them. Watch this.


SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): I mean, having all the information on the table I think is a good thing. Obviously, that was a dramatically different view of the day than we heard from the captain who was testifying or Chief Sund or others. I don't think it hurts to have that information out there.


LEMON (on camera): So, it's basically as simple as that for most of the Republican Party. Do you need -- do you need to save your own seat? Is that what they're saying? You need to do that to save your own seat?

KREBS: You know, the Senate can be assessed that there is some other play to the base here that they're looking to preserve some sort of fund-raising ability or, you know, curry good favor with the former president.

Again, I just -- I don't know, but we have to get past this and recognize that it was, in fact, the former president. I've been on your show before and said the same thing, you know. We have to hold those accountable who are responsible for January 6 and the big lie that preceded it for the better part of a year.

There has to be an accountability play. We did not get that in a conviction of impeachment. There will be other opportunities, I think if you look at the 14th amendment, once the Senate gets through other business. But we have to make it clear and the record has to show for, you know, subsequent elections, future generations, our allies and adversaries across the country, that this sort of effort to undermine American democracy just will not stand. LEMON: Listen, I don't know what the answer is and I have you on and

everybody else, anybody I can have on that will offer us some advice or some -- something that we can do to get people to believe in truth and facts and reality.

And when you have -- when you have our intelligence folks saying things like, you know, guess what, this was Trump supporters. Or the election was not stolen. There was no overwhelming fraud in the election. We are seeing GOP lawmakers, Chris, across this country who are now trying to pass laws to restrict voting under the cover of the big lie that there was massive voter fraud in 2020, and it could work.

KREBS: Look, I'm trying to wrap my brain around why this continues. If it is to position former president as a candidate for 2024, if it's to kiss the ring, if it's for fund-raising, I think that is an incredibly poor strategic play. I think it's short-sighted.

There are a thousand different reasons that the former president may not be in a position of influence, whether it's legal troubles or other age-related issues. I just -- I think there is an opportunity -- there was, in fact, an opportunity, back in November 2020, just pulled the Band-Aid off and make the next move.

Look at what Congresswoman Cheney said today, right? She'd prefer that he not be an important player in the GOP going forward. I think that and Adam -- Representative or Congressman Kinzinger -- make sure I got that right. I got some chatter on Twitter last time for mispronouncing. But, look, I think that's the future. That's the vision of a confident conservative Republican Party going forward.

LEMON: Yes. And you know what happens when you tell the truth, right? You were summarily let go from the administration for telling the truth. Yes. All right, Chris, thank you. It's good to see you. I appreciate you joining.

KREBS: You, too, Don.

LEMON: All right.

KREBS: Thanks.

LEMON: Well, now things are really just getting awkward, right. The GOP divided by conspiracies and the person stoking them. Right? And even the leaders aren't on the same page. We're going to talk about that. That's next.



LEMON (on camera): So the GOP identity crisis spilling more and more into public view ahead of twice-impeached former President Trump's speech at CPAC this weekend. The House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and the number three House Republican Liz Cheney awkwardly disagreeing over whether Trump should be the future of the party.

So, joining me now CNN senior political analyst, John Avlon, and CNN political commentator, Scott Jennings. Hello, sirs.


LEMON: Gents.


LEMON: So, John, you saw that cringe worthy moment between McCarthy and Cheney today. It sums up the divide in the GOP. But you know, listen, I do have to say right off it's OK for people in the same party to disagree, but that was a little awkward.

AVLON: Yes, and what was awkward was, you know, McCarthy knows in his heart, he experienced a conversation on the day the capitol was attacked, that Cheney is right. But Cheney had the courage to speak out and McCarthy is too afraid to acknowledge it.


This is the problem with polarization. Right? Is that, Donald Trump is hugely popular with the Republican base and deeply unpopular with the American people. But he's holding the whole party hostage in a form of Stockholm syndrome and fear is the glue holding it together right now. That is not sustainable.

And so, the more people who speak out like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, they'll find out that one person with courage makes a majority. And all this attempt to suck up to Donald Trump and have it both ways and hope you are going to have a political future in 2024, forget about it, not going to work.

LEMON: I don't, I don't really -- I don't really -- help me understand, Scott. I don't get it. I have a friend who is a staunch conservative and he said, look, I don't want the Green New Deal, but rather than have Donald Trump I'll ride a bicycle if that's what -- if that's what they want me to do. So, help me explain -- what? What?

JENNINGS: Well, I mean, you do have -- I think John is right. You do have a lot of rank and file Republican politicians who aren't entities unto themselves. Right? And so, they do to some degree live in fear of their -- of their constituents and not all of their constituents, just the ones who make up their Republican base.

And John is also right that Donald Trump remains extremely popular in the Republican Party. I think Mitt Romney today frankly was right, that provided he doesn't have a criminal prosecution between now and then. If he runs for president in 2024, he would quite likely be the Republican nominee.

You have all these Republicans who know that. An under talked about issue too, is that for the last four years Donald Trump has driven nearly all small dollar fund-raising within the Republican Party. And so, if you've Kevin McCarthy or other Republican leaders tasked with raising money, you also have an eye on that. And if you take Trump away or you try to distance yourself from Trump, what happens to the funding stream that you've come to rely upon. So, there is a health amount of fear not just a fear of the politics

of crossing him, but of the ramifications of crossing him, such as loss of fund-raising. So, there's no easy answers. You know? I like what Liz Cheney did today because she said no one's going to put me in a corner. I'm going to speak my mind and I suspect where a lot of these things are going to be worked out is in the '22 and then ultimately '24 Republican primaries.

LEMON: But isn't that the, listen, the Liz Cheney's are few and far between, John, in this party. But isn't that the short game instead of the long game, that Scott is talking about right now if you look at -- because maybe in the short term it's good and you're going to do all this. But in the long term isn't it destructive not only to the Republican Party, but to the American democracy --

AVLON: Of course.

LEMON: -- and for truth?

AVLON: Of course, it is. Scott is making an important point about, you know, if you want to find the truth in politics, you follow the money. Politicians are short termers in many respects. They're worried about the next cycle. They're worried about the next fund-raising quarter. And that's why this is the wrong perspective to look at politics.

Take a step back because I think Liz Cheney is doing knowing it's an unpopular position. And realize that if you stand by your convictions, this is not a fight between Donald Trump and the establishment, this is about truth versus lies. This is about conservative principles versus conservative populism.

And if they want to play the game out or break the law that we should fix in 2024, anyone who is thinking about their political future, to your point --


AVLON: -- should get over this idea they're going to be able to simultaneously suck up to Donald Trump and take a stand and be their own person.


AVLON: They're not.


AVLON: Do the right thing -- Nikki Haley proved that, Mike Pence proved that. Do the right thing. Stand up for what you believe in and you'll be proven right especially if you condemn lies and hate and conspiracy.

LEMON: I want you to weigh in, Scott, unless like you want to, if you can give me a short answer, I'd appreciate it, please. I'll give you the last word. JENNINGS: Yes, absolutely. I think, you know, you asked about what is

the future of a political party under these circumstances. I do think it's interesting. Trump has in some ways redefined the purpose of party. You know, party is, for most of my career have been an existence for the purpose of winning elections, and that was it.

But now they exist to do a lot of other things under the leadership of Trump. They exist to punish your enemies, to fight the media, to throw the people out you don't like and to drive loyalty to one person that doesn't necessarily mean you will then win elections because of that.

And I do think we're in a bit of a transition period where what's the purpose of a political party if not to win elections? He's put us there, and I think that's Republicans are grappling with that identity crisis over the next four years.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you.

AVLON: Scott just described the cult personality.

LEMON (on camera): Yes. Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. I'll see you soon.

The FDA says another vaccine is safe. But when will it get out to communities who need it?




HARRIS: Let's get the vaccine instead, right? Let's not let this thing get us. We know black people are disproportionately likely to contract the virus and die from it.




LEMON (on camera): So, here's some breaking news for you. Two separate teams of researchers say that they have found a worrying new coronavirus variant in New York City and elsewhere in New York City and elsewhere in the northeast.

That as the FDA says that Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine meets the requirements for emergency use authorization. That authorization coming as soon as Friday. At least there is some good news in that.

With me now is a vaccine scientist Dr. Peter Hotez. Doctor, always a pleasure to have you on. You're a great guest, but you're very knowledgeable -- well, that's why we have you. So, I love having you on because you bring the facts.

This breaking news tonight, this new COVID variant in the nation's largest city here in New York City, researchers at Columbia University are alarmed at how fast it is surging and they're worried about current vaccines may not be effective against it. What concerns do you have about this?

PETER HOTEZ, INFECTIOUS EXPERT, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY: Yes, Don, the numbers in New York's -- in New York are not going down as fast as some other parts of the country, and the same is true in Florida.


In the case of Florida, we know the B117 variant is increasing in frequency, maybe 10 percent of the isolates. And now we have this other spike variant in New York City, which is different from the U.K. one and different from others that we've seen, although it has one of the amino acids, similar to the South African variant.

The question is, is it true, true and unrelated? Meaning yes, the numbers are not going down as fast, but we can't say for certain that it's due to the variant. But there's enough there-there to mean that we really need to accelerate our rate of vaccination. And it's all hands-on deck to try to get the American people vaccinated ahead of that initial fall timetable.

So, this brings in the J&J vaccine, having doses of that now are going to be really important. It's disappointing that it's only a couple million doses and now assuming that it gets released for emergency use this weekend or next week, but at least we're starting on the right path.

LEMON: I want to talk about this, the vaccine news from Johnson & Johnson. One-dose vaccine could be manufactured and shipping out as early as the middle of next week. Is this a game changer to fight this virus?

HOTEZ: Well, eventually yes, because it means we'll have a third vaccine. It only means about three or four million doses for the next few weeks and we'll have a little bit more by the end of March. By the summer, we're going to have four or five different vaccines including Novavax and AstraZeneca probably. And all of those vaccines together will mean we'll be able to vaccinate our way out of this epidemic.

But having this third one now is a game changer in the sense that it's one of a couple of others that we're going to see come online.

LEMON: There is some data from the FDA suggesting that Johnson & Johnson vaccine may prevent COVID-19 infection without symptoms. Does that mean that it helps stop the spread as well?

HOTEZ That's right. And we also had some data coming out of Israel that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may do the same. So, the way the clinical trials were set up was to look mostly at symptomatic infection and serious infection. And the vaccine seemed to do that, they stop that and keep you out of the hospital. The unknown has been, will they also stop make you in PCR positive and

stop a lot of virus in your nose and mouth and throat. And that would mean that it would stop transmission. So, so far when we've looked, that seems to be the case and that's really exciting because it means not only are these vaccines going to keep us out of the hospital and the ICU and prevent loss of life. But down the line if enough Americans get vaccinated, we can halt transmission.

So, it means that we're going to be looking at a much better quality of life as we head later into the summer and fall. So, the bottom line is, you know, people have been feeling a lot of despair in January. That period of despair will come to an end. I think we're going to be in a much better place in the summer and fall.

The hard part is getting through these next few weeks if the variants start to rise. So, it's going to be a difficult spring. As I've been saying beware the Ides of March. It's going to be a tough time for March, April, and May. The long-term outlook for us is really great though.

LEMON: Yes. Well, people should be wearing their masks and social distancing and doing what the experts and people like you have been saying, Dr. Hotez. Thank you very much. We appreciate you joining us. Be safe.

HOTEZ: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: New information about just how bad Tiger Woods' injuries are and what might have saved his life. Those details are next.



LEMON (on camera): Tiger Woods told investigators at the hospital that he has no recollection of the crash that seriously injured him, that according to the Los Angeles County sheriff. Woods said to be awake and responsive as he recovers from the accident, the sheriff also saying that Woods is not expected to face any charges. But investigation into what happened is underway.

More now from CNN's Kyung Lah.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The investigation into Tiger Woods's crash will look at speed. How quickly the SUV was traveling down this road when the golfer lost control.

ALEX VILLANUEVA, SHERIFF, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: You're hoping obviously this is going to be equipped with this black box that will have some information about the speed. It may have been a factor in this accident.

LAH: This winding downhill road is known as a local trouble spot. Deputies did not find skid marks or indications of brakes used or any evidence of impairment. Deputies say the engineering of the SUV, airbags and the seat belt likely saved Woods's life.

UNKNOWN: We have a rollover with someone trapped.

LAH: Responding officers found Woods trapped in the wreckage of the high-speed single-car rollover. The hospital says his legs were broken in multiple places. Surgeons inserted a rod to stabilize fractures exposed to open air. Bones, especially in his right foot and ankle, needed screws and pins. Surgeons also worked to relieve muscle swelling and pressure.

JEREMY FAUST, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: The surgeons likely believed that if they did not perform one of those procedures to release that pressure, they actually were worried that he could lose the limb, that amputation might have been necessary.

LAH: Woods's family says he is awake, responsive and recovering in the hospital. Emotion continues to pour in from the sports world.

JAY MONAHAN, COMMISSIONER, PGA TOUR: We love him. And you know, anytime someone that you care deeply about is hurt, it hurts. And it's not me. It's everybody out here.


LAH: To those marking the barrier-breaking figure in a sport largely dominated by white athletes.

JEMELE HILL, HOST, JEMELE HILL IS UNBOTHERED PODCAST: There were some people who were able to look at Tiger Woods and understand black excellence in this arena in a way that they hadn't understood it before.

TIGER WOODS, GOLFER: I had come to a realization that I would never play competitive golf again.

LAH: Woods has faced potentially career-ending injuries before. This video featuring Woods from a healthcare company explains his comeback after one of his five back surgeries. A reminder of why even after this devastating accident Tiger Woods cannot be counted out yet.

WOODS: I went from accepting it and having a peace of mind that I would never, ever do this again to all of a sudden, monkeying around with my kids with the green coat, just hanging around the living room. It's wild.

LAH: Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.


LEMON (on camera): Kyung, thank you so much. Prosecutors are asking a lot of questions about Donald Trump, Don Jr., Eric and Ivanka Trump. Why Trump's children are now facing multiple investigations. Next.