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Don Lemon Tonight
FBI Director Wray Laying Out The Facts; Americans Will Have More Vaccines; White House Withdraws Neera Tanden's Nomination; GOP Pushing To Change Elections Rules; Congressman Ronny Jackson Under Fire; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) Is Interviewed About Governor Abbott's Decision To Reopen Businesses And Lift Off The Mask Mandate. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 02, 2021 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): Thank you for watching, as always, the big show, "CNN TONIGHT" with the big star, D. Lemon right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Why lift the restrictions right now, Chris, when we're finally making some headway, the vaccine is finally starting to get into enough arms that things are starting to turn around, but it's way too early. Why do it now?
The only reason I can see is because of what happened in Texas, that someone dropped the ball and they are trying to change the conversation. That's it, a distraction. That's how I feel.
CUOMO: It's good, you asked the question, you answered it, we're done?
LEMON: I meant for you.
CUOMO: He needed a win. He needed a win. And this is part of this prevailing, you know, macho sentimentality that strong and wrong is the way to go. You know? We are going 100 percent, baby, right into the rocks.
CUOMO: You know, the science is clear, look, you can be relaxing restrictions. The CDC is not crazy about it, but you have to balance what people want out of their hardship and what leadership believes it has to do. Right? There's an alchemy.
CUOMO: But he is just trying to flout convention. It's Trumpery.
CUOMO: That's all it is.
LEMON: So, listen, I'm no expert, but I can read. CUOMO: And you stayed in a Holiday Inn express last night.
LEMON: I did as a matter of fact. But I mean, think about it. I think that what the science shows is that the in restaurants, that the chances of exposure are not as great as in other places. Those businesses should be allowed to open to whatever extent or whatever capacity that the science shows is favorable, is correct.
But, as far as wearing masks, I mean, let's, look, all you have to do is look at -- look at what is happening with the flu this season.
CUOMO: What flu?
LEMON: Exactly. Because why? People are wearing masks. It's so obvious. So, wear the mask for a little bit. It's, it doesn't hurt. Open up businesses as much as you can. I do agree with that. But lifting the mask restriction I really think is wrong and I think it's only being done for one reason, as you said, distraction, I say, and you say strong and wrong. That's how I feel about it.
CUOMO: Look, they are trying to play. We just saw it this weekend at the coven of all of this kind of wicked ideas about what's happening in society.
LEMON: Can I say something, Chris, let me say something about that.
CUOMO: Yes, please.
LEMON: Every -- so you know, I've been here for what, 14, 15 years, a long time at CNN, and not once, and I have been covering international news for over a decade here at CNN, going on two decades. Who knows? I've never heard on the street, anybody in my personal life, Democrat or Republican saying, my gosh, I've got to the CPAC, I can't wait to hear the speeches at CPAC.
CPAC -- no one ever talks about CPAC, but every single media station covers CPAC and it is the extreme of the extreme. Most of the sensible Republicans that I know don't even go to the CPAC conference, they don't even pay attention to the CPAC conference. I think it's simply a creation and an obsession with the media about the CPAC conference. No one gives a crap.
CUOMO: I wish you were right. But it has become the pregame show on that side. You don't really have a left equivalent. I don't mean any disrespect to the different grassroots or organizations in issue --
LEMON: You called it a coven, that's what reminded me of that. But go on, sorry.
CUOMO: It was a coven.
CUOMO: They were around talking about QAnon conspiracies and all these lies and magical thinking of ways to kill their opponents.
LEMON: My point proven.
CUOMO: But it is the pregame show now.
CUOMO: Because that's what that party has become. Look at today.
CUOMO: Everyone knows what January 6th was, it was as obvious as the red hats. They know it.
CUOMO: But they will lie about it and whoever thought you would see the day that Republicans didn't want to call something terror?
LEMON: Remember? You have to call it for what it is.
LEMON: The Obama administration --
CUOMO: So, this guy was on a phone, waterboard his ass.
CUOMO: Remember that?
CUOMO: Got to have the answers.
CUOMO: You got to treat these people like what they are.
LEMON: Call it what it is.
CUOMO: Now your boy says --
LEMON: Yes, terrorism.
CUOMO: -- domestic terrorism. You don't want to hear it. Are you sure? I hope you're being nice to them.
LEMON: But you know why that is. Why can't it be terrorism in the United States?
CUOMO: It's not just that they are white, it's that they are white people. LEMON: Their white people and they are Americans. People don't like to
believe that Americans can be terrorists. Yes, there are home grown terrorists in this country. And you know, I said --
CUOMO: Hey, if they were American brown people who had said something like hey, we are part of a new party. They would have no problem calling them terrorists. You and I both know it. You have to announce yourself as openly not terrorists.
LEMON: You remember when I called it for what it was a couple years ago. And everyone came after me when I talk about domestic terrorism and the right wing and white terrorists, and man, I got it.
CUOMO: Look, I get, you know, I had Adam Schiff on tonight, and he a bill on out in 2019 that his party didn't like either. I get people wanting to go slow about what kind of intel operations. The CIA is not supposed to operate here.
CUOMO: What you do with Americans. I get it.
CUOMO: But when you know they are trying to kill us in organized fashion.
CUOMO: The balance has to shift. And now, it's just politics, Don, I've never seen us in a more precarious place what's supposed to be righteous doesn't anymore.
LEMON: Precarious place, yes. Divided, we have been. Just remember, as we know, not long ago, you and I couldn't drink at the same water fountain. So that division has been there.
LEMON: And that's been political and that's also been racial.
CUOMO: I just don't want to go back because only you were alive then.
LEMON: Amen. You said it. Thank you, brother.
CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon.
LEMON: You were a glimmer in your papa and mama's eyes. All right. CUOMO: No, I was a mistake. Have a great show.
LEMON (on camera): Thank you. I love you too, brother. I'll talk to you later.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.
The Republican Party fighting desperately today for power. And I'm going to show you examples and their weapon is a big lie about voter fraud, right? The weapon. That's become a weapon, a lie that has been knocked down over and over and over and over and over again, over and over and over.
Now, surfacing in the Supreme Court. It is so obvious that Republicans they're trying to grab power because they are not winning at the ballot box. I want you to listen closely to me. Because they are not willing -- they have to twist and change the rules.
And then the big lie about voter fraud now has a twin. A new big lie about who was behind the capitol attack. Republicans they want you to ignore what you saw with your own eyes. And what you saw, there it is, a blood thirsty mob of Trump supporters running riot at the capitol, beating police, and hunting lawmakers.
They want you to believe that those were fake Trump supporters that it was antifa that it was Black Lives Matter. Look at all the black people in there and anybody other than exactly who we all saw. That's what they want you to believe. Well, that lie was knocked down today by the FBI director himself, Christopher Wray, in his testimony to the Senate is today. And let's remember. He was handpicked by the former president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Do you have any evidence that the capitol attack was organized by, quote, "fake Trump protesters?"
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, U.S. FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: We have not seen evidence of that at this stage.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): And I understand from your testimony previously that you the did not see antifa, or left-wing groups playing a significant role in the January 6th insurrection some?
WRAY: We have not to date seen any evidence of anarchist violent extremist or people subscribing to antifa in connection with the 6th.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Is there any evidence at all that it was organized, planned, or carried out by groups like antifa or Black Lives Matter?
WRAY: We have not seen any evidence to that effect, thus far in the investigation.
COONS: And is there any doubt that the people who stormed the capitol included white supremacist and other far-right extremist organizations?
WRAY: There is no doubt that it included individuals that we would call militia violent extremists. And then, in some instances individuals that were racially motivated violent extremist, who advocate for the superiority of the white race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): My grandmother was trying to prove a point to us about no matter how many times we'd asked her a question over and over that the answer is the same, she would just go. I told you once you keep asking. That's what he should've said.
In the south as they say, I done told you and that I said, what I said. And he said what he said, over, and over, and over, and over. The same answer it was not antifa, it wasn't Black Lives Matter, it wasn't fake Trump supporters, it was white, let me say clear, it was white supremacists and far- right extremists.
In case you didn't hear me, for the people in the back, white supremacists and far-right extremists. That's who it was, Republicans trying again and again to blame somebody, anybody other than Trump supporters, Trump supporters.
Perhaps they didn't hear that's why I'm saying it, and white supremacists. And Wray knockdown that big lie down, again and again. but I want you to listen to what he says about violent shatter on social media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WRAY: There is so much chatter, often attributed to somebody in a neatly identifiable way where people are saying unbelievably horrific angry, combative things using language about beheading and shooting, and explosives and all kinds of things like that.
And separating out which ones are getting traction, which ones reflect intention as opposed to aspiration. This is something that we spent an enormous amount of time trying to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): I think we all remember some prime examples of the kind of chatter about beheadings, and about shootings. And let's not forget the QAnon congresswoman who in January of 2019 like the comment that said quote, "a bullet to the head would be quicker" trying to remove Nancy Pelosi. Let's not forget the rioters who put up a gallows outside of the capitol and screamed, hang Mike Pence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): All of it incited by lies, and then there is Ted Cancun Cruz.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): The riot on January 6th, didn't occur or come out of nowhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): And I guess Ted Cancun Cruz would know. He knows it was all incited by the big lie, after all he was so on board with the big lie, he was ready and willing to defend it at the Supreme Court. He was so on board, that he voted to overturn the election results just hours after rioters stormed the capitol. All in on the big lie. The big lie that Christopher Wray shut down today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): And to be crystal clear on this, as FBI director who as this would be federal crimes, you are aware of no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, correct?
WRAY: We are not aware of any widespread evidence of voter fraud, much less that would have affected the outcome in the presidential election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Let me translate that for, you Republicans speared that they wouldn't win in 2020 so we got the big lie. The big lie that incited the former president supporters to riot at the capitol, the big lie that threatened the foundation of our democracy.
Now they are afraid that they will not win future elections. They're threatening our democracy again with a concerted effort to suppress the vote. Georgia Republicans trying to limit early voting, cut back on ballot drop boxes, even banned giving food or water to voters waiting in line. Imagine that?
Restrictions that would keep more voters of color who are more likely to vote Democratic away from the polls. You see what this -- what's happening here? Arizona taking its voting restrictions all the way to the Supreme Court today. And they're saying the quiet part out loud. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMY CONEY BARRETT, U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: What's the interest of the Arizona RNC here in keeping say, the out-of-precinct voter ball disqualification rules on the books?
MICHAEL CARVIN, ARIZONA GOP COUNSEL: Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats. Politics is a zero-sum game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Did you hear that? Because it puts them at a competitive disadvantage, politics is a zero-sum game. They want to restrict the vote because they're afraid of losing, they're afraid that they won't win. This is right out of the Trump playbook quote, 'doesn't work out well for Republicans."
And if the Republicans are honest, out of power now in the House, the Senate and the presidency instead of the big lie they grab onto the big truth. And that is that President Trump isn't there future, he tanked their future.
I got to get to Jeff Zeleny now. He is here now with news about -- it's out of the Biden White House. Jeff, you have something new in, what do you have?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well today, Don, President Biden announced that really an accelerated timeframe for getting the vaccine enough to enough Americans. Previously, he had said that by July there would be enough doses for all Americans to receive the vaccine. Now he's moving it up to the end of May.
And it's because of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as well as the White House working behind the scenes to get a rival company of Johnson & Johnson, the Merck company to work with them to produce more vaccine, so really a dramatic escalation of the amount of vaccine to be produced.
Now we should point out, that does not mean that everyone will be vaccinated by the end of May, there just will be enough vaccine to go around. There's still many hurdles to get those shots into arms, to set up a big vaccination clinics. Anyone who has tried to schedule a vaccine knows the hurdles and how difficult this is. You know, through a bureaucratic point of view, but the vaccine supply has been a big issue.
So, the president announcing a very big development today, that there will be more vaccine. Also announcing that school teachers he said should be vaccinated at least the first dose by the end of this month.
ZELENY: The end of March. That of course he believes would speed up the opening of schools, which has been a major controversy of course, for the first two months of this year.
LEMON: Three hundred million doses, not shots in the arms that would require more work to get it done.
LEMON: And so, the White House is saying that. Also, tonight, some things in the White House, we're learning that the White House has been withdrawing Neera Tanden's nomination to be the president's top budget adviser. What are you hearing about this, Jeff?
ZELENY: Right, Don. She's the first casualty from the Biden cabinet. She was nominated back at the end of last year to lead the Office of Management and Budget, the top budget office, a very important position. But she also has a history of being very active in the Trump era on social media. Calling out many Republican and even some Democratic senators, that has come back to haunt her.
She apologized repeatedly for that, they thought she would get through a confirmation. It's been a, you know, an uphill battle for the last week. So, tonight the White House is pulling her nomination and saying look, we need to spend this political capital on trying to get the COVID relief bill through.
So, it's definitely the first loss, in terms of President Biden's nominations. You know, we've seen other new presidents, new administration stumble in terms of filling their cabinet, this is the first one. It looks like it will be the only one. But starting tomorrow the president will be looking for a new replacement for the Office of Management and Budget.
And one top contender, Don, I'm hearing tonight is a Louisiana native, Shalanda Young. She's the deputy director to be nominated for the OMB. She had her hearing today so she could be nominated for the top spot. We'll watch that in the coming days.
LEMON: We will watch. Jeff Zeleny with the developing news. Jeff, thank you so much.
LEMON: We also have some breaking news and it is first on CNN. You member Ronny Jackson, he is the former top White House doctor and current congressman. Well, a scathing report from a Pentagon watchdog finds that he made sexual comments, drank alcohol, took prescription pills, on the job. And that's just a piece of the stunning reporting. We are going to bring you all the details, that is next.
LEMON (on camera): So here is the breaking news and it is first on CNN. A scathing report from the Defense Department's inspector general on an appropriate behavior by Congressman Ronny Jackson who you'll remember was the top Trump White House doctor.
The findings include sexual and denigrating comments he made about a female subordinate. And his use of alcohol while on a presidential trip. The investigation was launched back in 2018, and looks at his time serving in both the Obama and Trump administrations.
Let's bring in now CNN's chief congressional correspondent and that is Manu Raju. Manu, thank you for joining. There have been reports about this but now, the findings are in. This
was a years-long investigation into Jackson, the review is scathing. It talks about these inappropriate -- these inappropriate sexual comments how he violated the alcohol policy. So please walk us through what this says?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And this is a Pentagon watchdog so this is a very serious report and conclusions that reaches the result of this investigation. Seventy-eight witnesses came forward and just talk about their experience with Ronny Jackson as he was the top doctor both the Trump White House and at the Obama White House.
And the conclusions are very striking and scathing indeed, Don. Among the things that they conclude here, is that he did make sexual and denigrating comments about one of his female about -- one of his female subordinates to another subordinate. Talk -- he also drank alcohol with subordinates in violation of the White House policy.
He talked about how he -- he took Ambien, this prescription strength medication, sleeping medication. Also, in violation of White House policy while he was taken care of the president, and at the same time, concerns about creating a toxic workplace environment.
So, I'll walk through some of the very detailed findings as part of this investigation. It says that a one specific instance in 2014, he, as part of a trip to Manila. It alleges that he actually was drunk, and he went to a female subordinate's room, knocked on her door and said quote, "I need you."
And later, he also had commented about that subordinate's breasts and buttocks to someone else on his staff. It also alleges that he appeared to be drunk on duty while he was in Argentina back in -- on a presidential trip in March 23rd, 2016 through March 24th 2016 and that at a time when he was caring for the president, then Barack Obama.
And also detailing just the magnitude of his anger in the words of his -- the people who worked for him and who witnessed this firsthand. Fifty-six witnesses describe the behavior they called as yelling, screeching and rage that's occurred from the time of 2012 through 2018, so both the Obama years and the Trump years.
Saying this, many of these witnesses described Jackson's behavior with words and phrases such as meltdowns. Yelled for no reason, rages, tantrums, lashes out and aggressive. These witnesses also described Jackson's leadership style with terms such as, tyrant, dictator, control freak, hallmarks of fear and intimidation, crappy manager, and not a leader at all.
Now Jackson did not comment to the inspector general, decline to do so through his attorney, but we reached out to a comment before we reported the story and he came back with a statement, essentially denying these charges.
[22:25:04] Saying that he, calling this a political hit job that came after him because in his words, he stood with Donald Trump. He said that they have resurrected false allegations from the past that have been waged by Democrats during his years with the Obama administration, as well as some of these allegations, of course came during his time with Donald Trump.
And he also denies, he said, I denied I consumed alcohol while on duty. He said he respects the prescription drug practices seriously.
Now, one of the things that's in this report, this all came to light, Don, because he was nominated of course as secretary of Veterans Affairs under Donald Trump. That nomination went nowhere because a lot of these allegations were coming out at that time. One of the allegations at the time was that he was actually impaired, he was drunk and he crashed into, used a government vehicle and crashed.
LEMON: I remember that.
RAJU: Now this report actually debunks that claim, he says it did not actually happen. But it also corroborates a lot of the claims that did come out.
RAJU: Even saying about the issues about Ambien, saying that while on duty, and while providing medical care for government officials he had been taking Ambien. That had raised concerns among some of his colleagues who weren't -- who were worried that he would not be able to provide the requisite medical care.
Never the mind that it violated the White House policy per use of this prescription medication in addition to a separate allegation of him drinking on the job. Which of course, as I said, he denies separately.
But this comes out Don, right before the public release of this watchdog report tomorrow. The congressional committees have been briefed about the findings by this inspector general. But just a scathing report about a congressman, now a freshman congressman who just won a House seat from Texas. He represents Texas now, former White House doctor and not a pretty review from the key watchdog.
LEMON: And then, listen, we have more, much more reporting on this and Manu is going to have. But there are all kinds of bizarre claims that he made about the former president that went back to 2018, and Manu is going to have that for you. So, Manu is going to keep going through this report. CNN has obtained and we will be back with more reporting right the top of the hour on this.
So, Manu, thank you. We'll see in just moments.
Thousands of Trump supporters and white supremacist stormed the capitol, but the GOP keeps pushing this big lie even when the truth is right in their -- right there in their faces. We'll be back.
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON (on camera): The FBI director, Christopher Wray, knocking down conspiracy theories and election lies from the former president's Republican enablers. Director Wray says there is no evidence rioters in the January 6th insurrection were fake Trump protesters. And he explicitly calls the attack domestic terrorism.
Joining me now CNN's senior political correspondent and anchor of Inside Politics Sunday, Abby Phillip, and former FBI assistant director for the criminal investigative division, Christopher Swecker.
Good to have both of you on. Thank you so much. Good evening.
Abby, Republicans today pushing this bogus claim that fake Trump supporters were involved in the insurrection. Blaming antifa, Black Lives Matter. It is the second big lie, but Wray dismantled it. Why are the intent on shifting blame here?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Because I think there is a commitment to this false equivalency. I think you heard it whether or not they were explicitly talking about antifa being in the crowd today although they have in previous days, they were also asking Christopher Wray whether he would basically put the threat from domestic terror, white supremacist terror, white nationalist terror on the same level as what they perceive to be a threat from antifa.
That's part of the narrative here, is that these are all the same and should be treated the same. But I do think Chris Wray was pretty straightforward when he said, when he basically indicated that his, one of his bigger concerns because of the level of violence that's coming from some of these militia groups and white supremacist groups is that they are different from, you know, individuals who might be part of antifa or what have you.
And Republicans don't want to accept that because it would mean grappling with those elements within their own party, within their own supporters. And they're not willing to really cut those people off. At some point, I think though, they're probably going to have to do that.
LEMON: Yes, they would have to admit that they have a problem and they have to deal with it, Abby. You're right.
Director, Chris, director Wray --
LEMON: -- defending he FBI over how it shared an intel reports about threats to the capitol. He said it was distributed three different ways. But last week, the former capitol police chief said that she didn't see the report. He didn't see the report. There was clearly a breakdown here. Who needs to take responsibility?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: Yes, I listen to director Wray's testimony very carefully, and I know Chris, and I think he feels deeply and strongly that the FBI's intelligence collection and dissemination needs to improve. I think he took the hit on this.
I will say that the capitol police and the metropolitan police have significant responsibility. They were given the information through the normal channels. Norfolk is a small FBI office. I think that was one of many reports. That's the only one that happened to leak out but I think it was one of many reports about or noise, if you will, trafficked about what may happen on that day so it was a miss. And I think Chris freely admitted that today and I think he pledged to get better. It was a strong performance back there. So, I think he --
LEMON: How should that information been disseminated.
SWECKER: -- came across apolitical.
LEMON: You said it was a mess. How should it have been disseminated? Should there have been a bigger red flag raised? Like, hey listen, this is, instead of just, you know, a memo or an e-mail or however it was distributed, what do you think should have happened?
SWECKER: Somebody could've picked up the phone and called someone of rank within the FBI, could have called someone high up in the metropolitan police or the capitol police. You know, that's unusual. It's -- it would be -- that would be reserved for situations where there is a vetted threat, a well-defined threat eminent and that sort of thing.
I can understand knowing how the FBI works and how these task forces work, joint terrorism task force. They have -- they have established some procedures, and in this case, they followed those procedures. The only other thing that they could've done which is pick up the phone.
LEMON: Yes, OK. Because I know that people on the hill who were upset, they thought that there should have been a bigger warning, right, instead of just sending it, you know, out in a memo and such.
Abby, listen, you know, back to this lie. It wasn't just a lie about fake Trump supporters, OK, at the riot. Wray also ripped apart the first big lie about election fraud as well. Will all of this debunking, in your estimation, do anything to stop Republicans from peddling this disinformation?
PHILLIP: Absolutely not. I mean, when you look at what is happening in the state level, it's incredibly transparent. There isn't even an attempt to actually link back any of these attempts to restrict voting to actual fraud that has actually happened. The explanation, when you go to Arizona or Georgia or Florida, or what have you, is our constituents are worried about this, and we need to make them feel comfortable.
Well, they are worried about it because they've been lied to for several months, and that has been the pretext for these rule changes. And in fact, in many cases they are explicitly acknowledging that there is no fraud and they are arguing that there doesn't need to be fraud in order for them to pursue voting changes.
So, I don't think that any of this effort to restrict voting as a result of what happened in 20 -- in the 2020 election is tethered at all to the reality of whether there was or was not fraud.
You know, Christopher Wray has been straightforward about this from the very beginning. The Justice Department at large after the election was very clear, there was no evidence of widespread fraud. In fact, he almost had a chuckle when he said it. He said there was no evidence of widespread fraud, let alone any evidence that would change the outcome --
LEMON: The outcome.
PHILLIP: -- of the election, but none of that matters because the objective -- seems to be restrict voting in an effort to get a partisan advantage in the next political contest.
LEMON: I think it's interesting what you said that they need to make their supporters back home feel comfortable with what is a lie instead of telling them the truth. Unbelievable.
PHILLIP: Instead of telling the truth.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you, Abby. Thank you, Chris. I'll see you soon.
First, they spread the big election lie. Now they are pushing a new Jim Crow. The GOP's all out quest for power. That's next.
LEMON (on camera): Conservative Supreme Court justices heard a case today that would further weaken the Voting Rights Act. As Republicans and states all over the country are pushing for laws that make it harder for people to vote. One analysis finding more than 250 bills in 43 states would limit voting. It goes hand in hand with the big lie peddled by Trump and his allies over his election laws. Part of their effort to undermine the voting process
So, joining me now, former chief strategist for President George W. Bush, Matthew Dowd. Matthew, good to see you. Thank you for appearing.
So ever since Trump lost the election, he and the GOP have been trying to explain in the way with all of these humongous lies. Now Republicans across the country trying to restrict voting rights based on the lies that they have spread. Do they know that they can't win fair and square? And that's why they're doing this?
MATTHEW DOWD, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I think, Don, you know, as you've fully explained, it's just amazing thing to watch where you had an election that was an historic turnout election, more people turned out than ever in our history before. It was deemed the safest election, most secure election, no widespread voter fraud. The GOP and the president lie about it, and then voters then believe
the lie. And then the GOP says, because the voters believe the lie, we need to do these restrictions because the voters don't trust it. And you and I, have both been in meetings or with people just like that. Where everything is calm, and everything is great then they stir up a bunch of trouble and then they say we've got to fix the problem and the trouble. They don't really understand is they were the problems that stirred up the trouble.
DOWD: I mean, this is, it's an amazing thing to me that you have a major party in the country. If we look at our history, we have a major party in the country who is seeking to do everything they possibly can to keep people from voting at almost every single level. And so, our history as you know, our history ever since the founding of the Constitution, we have dealt with this and we have to keep dealing with this to try to expand the number of people that have access to vote.
LEMON: Is this, Matthew, is this the new Jim Crow party now?
DOWD: Well, I would, it's a new. I think there -- think about this, Don. That in America, in American history we've basically had roughly a third of the people, that have constantly fought against change and constantly fought against America evolving into something different. A third of the people during the revolutionary war wanted to stay with the monarchy.
A third of people during the Civil War supported slavery. A third of the people were against women's rights to vote. A third of the people were against civil rights. A third of the people were definitely against gay rights and a gay right -- and against marriage.
And so, we've had a third along with us. The problem has been is, since the -- our founding -- the founding fathers made an imperfect document. The document was only allowed white men over 21 who had property to vote. And since that time, we've tried to chip away, chip away, chip away, chip away, chip away, chip away.
But there is still an element of the country that doesn't like change, and doesn't like the empowered, the way it's empowered a diverse country and an inclusive country. And so, they're doing everything possibly they can like they did with Jim Crow after reconstruction, like they did against immigrants.
The reason why we have voter registration in this country, Don, is tied back to the 19th century when all the immigrants came here. And it was done by people in power to try to keep the immigrants from voting. And they established registration laws. So, all along the way it's been a concerted effort by a segment of society to keep the country from becoming the diverse country that it's going to become. And is.
LEMON: You hit up on something that is extremely important, and that I think would help this country move forward. That I believe, is that people need to know the history of this country. When you talked about reconstruction, and voter registration, you talked about reconstruction and how the Klan was reestablished and on and on and on.
People really, and actually went all of these monuments that were up when they were reacted. People need to know the history of this country. Because they are acting out, many times ignorance and if they actually knew, perhaps they would change their behavior. And it would get them to become more evolved and right thinking.
Listen, Matthew, during the Supreme Court arguments today on voting restrictions in Arizona, the GOP's own lawyer admitted, admitted this that without restrictions they're at a disadvantage because, and this is a quote, "politics is a zero-sum game." They're not even trying to hide what they want to do.
DOWD: No. It's amazing, Don. They're saying all the quiet parts out loud. I mean, and it's been this way from all of the Muslim ban, all of the things they've done all along the way that they've done this. They just do it out loud now, it used to be people believe this and they kept it to themselves. And they made decisions that obviously were discriminatory or prejudice, or racist or all of that. But it was quiet.
Now this is where we need to do and this is the only way we can win. And this is how we're going to do it. And I think one other point of history, Don, that we have to keep in mind, obviously, all of these impediments have been out on the way and there's been a fight all along the way to expand the number of people that can vote and participate in America.
But also, all along the way there has been a people that have stood up and lost in moments but fought and fought and fought and fought. And so, the only way, I say the only way is not people in power in Washington. It's me and you and other people have to do the same thing that the civil rights people did, that the people have fought for gay rights, the people that fought for women's rights, we have to push our leaders to make America what it is supposed to be, which is a multiethnic, diverse democracy.
LEMON: Matthew Dowd, thank you, sir. Always a pleasure.
DOWD: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Coronavirus variants are spreading. The CDC is warning that we're not out of the woods, yet. But Texas is reopening and masks aren't mandatory. Interesting. Stay with us.
LEMON (on camera): So, here's the breaking news tonight. Texas Governor Greg Abbott announcing that he will, quote, "open Texas 100 percent and drop the state's mask mandate. Businesses of any type will be able to fully reopen by March 10th and Americans in Texas will be able to walk around completely mask-less."
It's hard to explain the timing here one day after a CDC warning that cases aren't going down anymore and that Americans need to be on their guard despite the fact that more people died of coronavirus in Texas on Monday than when the mask mandate was ordered in July.
And Texas is still reeling from the winter storm disaster.
So, joining me now to discuss is Democratic Congresswoman -- Texas Congresswomen from Texas is Sheila Jackson Lee. Thank you for joining me.
Listen, we have some breaking news. Our time is short so let's get to it quickly, congresswoman. Most people in Texas are not vaccinated, thanks to the governor's decision, a lot of Texans will be going to go around unmasked. I'm sure many of your constituents will be nervous. What do you want to say to them and to the governor?
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): I'm stunned. You know, we were just together with President Biden a few days ago talking about the necessity for providing more vaccines of which the federal government has agreed, and of course fighting the freeze.
We had two million cases in Texas. We've been on the hot spot, first, second, or third nationally as it relates to both hospitalizations and deaths. Frankly, I believe this is wrong headed. I've already indicated that my local jurisdictions, Harris County in Houston, the most populated counties and counties in the state should absolutely not follow it. This is going to explode community spread and right in the midst of these variants that are coming. It is the wrong decision and it's dangerous.
LEMON: Well let's talk -- I want to move on now and talk about FBI director, Christopher Wray. What do you think of his testimony earlier?
LEE: Well, let me just say that as a member of the judiciary committee, I've had FBI directors before the committee for more than two decades. I've work with them. I know the FBI. They are the gold standard of law enforcement.
I'm certainly glad that he admitted that white supremacy, domestic terrorism is in fact a dangerous phenomenon in this country. They have seen exponentially domestic terrorism grow since 2017, but I am certainly disappointed in the communication that did not occur between the metro police and the capitol police.
There's probably fingers to point in all directions but when you are about to attack the seat of democracy, I certainly think except for the fact that President Trump was the president that there should have been a phone call made to the leadership of the House and ensured that they were well aware this was going to be a warlike atmosphere.
I don't think members of Congress knew that 40,000 protesters were going to be in Washington and headed towards the United States Capitol.
LEMON: The Supreme Court hearing arguments today that could weaken voting rights in Arizona. Major push nationwide to make it harder for people to vote. What does this mean particularly for black voters?
LEE: Well, I think tragically we have not had this historical opposition to our individual rights since before slavery during the Jim Crow days and of course the harshness of the 1960s. The tragedy of this is that an entire party, the Republican Party now, is committed to voter suppression, committed to avoiding the opportunity for votes.
Donald Trump laid out the plan at the CPAC by saying he only wants one day for voting. They don't want to have opportunities for absentee ballots. They don't want to have the opportunity for extended voting, same day registration. All of the things that empower young people, and yes, people of color, and African-Americans.
This is a war on black people as it relates to voting. And unfortunately, it seems that the Supreme Court is now going to participate with a seemingly intended decision to narrow the only remaining aspect of the Voting Rights Act, section two, which we are trying to fix with the John Robert Lewis legislation in HR4.
This is a fight for democracy, a fight for justice. And an opportunity or desire, or need to restore the voting rights for people of color, and particularly black people. We will not allow this to happen under the Biden administration and the Democratic House in Senate. It's tragic that Republicans want to take that stand because they can't win fairly. They can't draw people to their positions, they are now trying to suppress the vote.
LEMON: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, thank you very much. I appreciate you appearing. Thanks so much.
LEE: Thank you for having me.
LEMON: Thank you. Drinking Ambien, sexual comments. Our breaking news tonight about Congressman Ronny Jackson, his behavior during his time as the White House doctor. Those details next.