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Don Lemon Tonight

New Yorker, Trump Told Pentagon Officials January 6 Protest Would Be Wild And They Should Be Ready For It; Gen Milley Feared Trump Coup After Losing Election; New Book, General Milley Called Trump's Big Lie A Reichstag Moment And The Gospel Of The Fuhrer; Millions Of Families Receive First Child Tax Credit Payments; Manchin Meets with Texas Dems and Says He Wants Pared-Down Voting Rights Bill; Climate Crisis Disaster is Spreading Across the United States. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired July 15, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Breaking news, just days before the January 6th insurrection, the former president telling the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the acting defense secretary, the protest was going to be wild, a big deal, and they should be ready for it. In just a moment I'm going to speak to the New Yorker writer who has the reporting on that.

Also, tonight, it could be the biggest change in our country since social security, Medicare, Obamacare. Millions of American families receiving the frits payment of the government's expanded child tax credit program, one payment each month through the rest of the year. Will they be permanent? That's the question.

And the growing climate crisis impacting Americans from coast to coast this summer. Everything from extreme heat, to devastating wildfires and flash flooding. So joining me now, CNN global affairs analyst, Susan Glasser, she is also a staff writer for the New Yorker. Susan Glasser, good to see you, thank you so much.


LEMON: So, I've got a long question that I want to ask you, so here we go. You have some incredible new reporting tonight about the conflict between Trump and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Trump's final days in office. And the reason it's long is because I want to read something that you wrote, in part about the meeting on January 3rd.

At the very end of the meeting it says, Trump brought up the forthcoming rally of his supporters on January 6, asking Milley and the acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller if they were prepared for what Trump had already promised on Twitter would be a wild protest. It was a short conversation.

Milley later recalled to associates, no more than a couple of minutes at the end of an hour-long meeting. It's going to be a big deal, Milley heard Trump say, you're ready for that, right? It was the last time the president would ever speak to his Joint Chiefs chairman.

OK. So here is the question. Did General Milley have any idea what would unfold just three days later, Susan?

GLASSER: You know, Don, I think that General Milley was worried, according to the accounts I've heard, for months that something terrible would play out in the aftermath of the election. But the two scenarios that he was most worried about, one was that Trump would get us into a war with Iran, that he would insist on a military strike that would escalate out of control and lead to full-blown war.

The other was what he called a potential Reichstag moment, echoing Germany in the 1930s. He was afraid that there would be some kind of street fighting between pro-Trump and anti-Trump protesters that Trump would then use as an excuse to call out the military to invoke a coup. And so, the general was very scared of something like January 6, but he didn't understand exactly what was going to happen on the Capitol that day.

LEMON: Susan, you're also learning that Iran was repeatedly mentioned in Trump's meeting with General Milley after the 2020 election. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had to argue against a strike. So tell me about what you described as nightmare scenarios.

GLASSER: Well, that's right. What was apparently keeping the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs up at night was this worry that Trump would get us into a full-blown military conflict with Iran. This came up again and again. He actually said directly to the president repeatedly, according to the accounts that I've been given, you're going to get us into a bleeping war if you keep pursuing this path.

Trump was apparently being pressured to do this by some of his own very hawkish advisers as well as by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister at the time. And this was after the election, by the way. But Milley was very insistent in these meetings. But he said to others that it would come up again and again.

LEMON: More of your writing, Susan, you write about how angry Trump was that General Milley publicly apologized for taking part in the Lafayette Square photo-op. And here is the quote. Milley said he had to ask for forgiveness because he was a soldier in uniform who did not belong at a political event. I don't expect you to understand, Milley had said, it's an ethic for us, a duty. So Trump referred to that apology again today in his angry statement about Milley. Explain why this struck a nerve, Susan.

GLASSER: Well, you know, Donald Trump doesn't do apologies, as we all know by now. And he was furious both with General Milley and also with Defense Secretary Mark Esper because they publicly regretted their participation in that infamous July -- June 1st at Lafayette Square photo-op.

[23:05:09] And so you know, when then Milley issued his apology, Trump called him

out on it in a meeting in the Oval Office. In the account of which I published in that piece, and you know, Donald Trump just wasn't going to understand and Milley just said that's the way it is, you know, we're apolitical in the military, and I was in a uniform.

LEMON: Susan, very extensive and great reporting as usual. I don't see you often enough, so keep writing so we can keep bringing you back to discuss what you're talking about. Thank you, Susan Glasser, I appreciate it.

GLENZER: Thank you.

LEMON: I want to turn now to the former FBI Deputy Director and that's Andrew McCabe. He is now a CNN senior law enforcement analyst. Andrew, I appreciate you joining us. I don't get to see you enough as well. But now we have you here this evening. So, let's talk about Kevin McCarthy's visit with Trump coming as we learn all these disturbing details about Trump's final days in office, does this show the threat to our democracy described in all these books, that it's still a clear and present danger?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think it does, I think it shows clearly the continued significance, the continued influence that Trump holds over the entirety of the Republican Party, right? So, here is a guy who you know, the first time you step into the room with him, I experienced this myself in May of 2017, he communicates to you very quickly that there is only one thing that he values in the world, and it is your slavish loyalty to him.

I'm sure that Kevin McCarthy knows that as well as I do, as well as everyone else does who has ever been around Donald Trump. And it seems that that's what he was communicating to Trump today with his trip up to Bedminster.

LEMON: From what I noticed, the first time I was in a room with him is that he tries to co-opt you and bring you into his reality. He brought his own polls and talked about what that meant to him. So, he's still trying to bend reality to shape his own narrative. And I learned that from the very first time that I sat down and did an interview with him and I'm sure the first meeting that you had something similar.

MCCABE: Don, I walked into the Oval Office on the night that Donald Trump fired Jim Comey. I received a phone call that said the president wants to see you in the Oval. I had never even been in the Oval Office before, so I was taken down to the White House and shown into the office. I walked in and within 30 seconds he said to me, I hear you were part of the resistance.

And I said I didn't really understand what he was talking about. He explains that he said he had heard that I didn't like Jim Comey and didn't approve of the things he had done and I disagreed with all the decisions he made. Yes, I very quickly told him that that was false, I was not a, you know, I was part of that leadership team at the FBI and worked very closely with Jim.

And I realized later like that was the moment that he was throwing that false narrative out to see if I would embrace it and to communicate to him that you know, I was on his team, not anybody else's. And of course, that's not something I would do.

LEMON: And there you go. So, Trump is now lashing out at General Milley after reports that he feared Trump might attempt a coup in his final day in office. The former president releasing a statement denying the reporting and saying in part, he said, if I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I would want to do it with is General Mark Milley. So, there you go. Along with what we are talking about but go on.


He would prefer to commit a coup, which is very interesting.

MCCABE: he's like -- he's picking his favorite kickball team in the playground at lunchtime, it's the coup team. And I guess General Milley didn't make it, good for him. You know, I think the thing that this whole sordid tale drives home to me is how lucky we are that we still, despite everything that's happened, we still have people in government, committed career public servants, who are dedicated to the oath that they swore to the constitution and not the president, whoever that might be, from whatever political Party.

And they do their job, and they try to protect the American people. And it sounds like that's what General Milley tried to do, under really adverse circumstances. And I think we're all lucky he did.

LEMON: This is something you have expertise in. The homeland security department, Andrew, warning about more violence this summer. Some right-wing conspiracy theorists think that Trump will be reinstated in August, although the pillow guy is saying, it's not -- maybe, you know, it's going to be soon but maybe not August. After the security failures in law enforcement, are we ready for more violence?

MCCABE: I don't know, Don, I wish I could more confidently tell you we are, but I just don't feel like I can at this point. We really haven't had a competent and full scope investigation of what led to the failures on January 6. And so, without having peeled that onion back and figuring out where we went wrong the last time, I can't say that we're better positioned for the next one.


And I think that these disappointments that all of these you know, Trump supporters, Republicans, QAnon, whatever they are, each one of these predictions is going to fail, and that level of grievance and disappointment and outrage is going to rise. And when that happens, we know that some of these people will resort to violence. And I'm really concerned as to how -- what this is going to look like as we get deeper into the fall.

LEMON: Andrew McCabe, thank you, sir, I'll see you soon. MCCABE: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. Now I want to bring in Ruth Ben-Ghiat, she is a professor of history at New York University and the author of the book, Strongmen: Mussolini to the present. The perfect guest, right? Ruth, thank you for joining, good to see you.


LEMON: So, just days into the Trump administration, you predicted that we could be heading towards a coup. On February 1st, 2017, here's what you wrote, you said, welcome to the shock event designed precisely to jar the political system and civil society, causing a disorientation and disruption among the public and the political class that aids a leader in consolidating his power. From their actions and pronouncements, we cannot exclude an intention to carry out a type of coup, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, February 1, 2017.

At the time, a lot of people thought that that was hyperbole, right. What did you see that many didn't end up seeing until after the November election leading up to January 6?

BEN-GHIAT: Yes, one of those pieces you don't want to write, and you hope, you fervently hope that you're wrong. And I saw immediately, because I had been studying fascism and authoritarian regimes for so long, that this was not going to be a presidency like any other, either Republican or Democratic, that this was a project of right-wing authoritarianism, that psychology warfare -- and I wrote it after the first shock event, which was the travel ban from predominantly Muslim countries which was implemented, it was like engineered chaos, implemented on purpose with very little preparation.

So I realized there was this whole project that was familiar to me from history. So, you strike at the state, which is Steve Bannon's favorite term. And that means that you think of all the things that happen to the government, with the purging of federal agencies, DOJ and State Department, and you fill them with loyalists, and then you attack the notion of truth, you attack the press.

So January 6 and everything that happened after November, after he lost the election, the prompt for January 6 was of course the fact that he didn't want to leave office. And I have a whole chapter at the end of my book about how these guys cannot leave office quietly and they do desperate things. But he had created for four years ahead of time a kind of climate that supported this kind of extremist action.

LEMON: Oh, Ruth. So prescient, it's like you had a crystal ball. You know, let's talk about this new book by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, and they write about how General Mark Milley viewed Trump as the classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose, apparently, he saw parallels between Hitler's rhetoric as a victim and a survivor and a savior -- excuse me, and Trump's false claims of election fraud.

Here's an excerpt. It says, this is a Reichstag or Reichstag, however you want to say it, moment, Milley told aides, according to the book, the gospel of the Fuhrer. And you studied dictators. Do you agree -- again, making it clear, this is Mark Milley's assessment, not my assessment or Ruth's assessment, but do you agree with what he said?

BEN-GHIAT: Yes, Trump is an authoritarian leader. And just because he couldn't wreck our democracy yet doesn't mean that he didn't check all the boxes. And my book was the first to put him in historical perspective. Not saying that he is Hitler, because today things work differently. You don't have to, you know, close down elections. You keep them going but you declare them fraudulent, right?

But the leader cult, and now we have the creation of martyrs like Ashli Babbitt. He draws a lot of things from fascism, both Italian fascism and of course Nazism. January 6, I was shuddering like so many Americans, but with the added thing that it was like a leader rescue operation. He called the faithful there and then he set them on the Capitol.

And this film that was playing as they left was just -- it ended with just Trump's face up there. So this is entirely fascistic, so this leader cult, and the psychological warfare, and all of it, it's very apropos, this analogy. I'm not surprised he had those fears, General Milley.


LEMON: Yes, but you know, you think about the third Reich, the Reichstag. I mean, is that -- you don't think that's hyperbole? Do you think that's --

BEN-GHIAT: I think that he knew how many extremists were around. And this was, you know, this was a coup attempt, I will only call it a coup attempt, now technically it's a self-coup. It was somebody who is already in power who wants to stay there.

LEMON: Yeah.

BEN-GHIAT: But it had a lot in common. There were months of recruiting and planning. Now what he couldn't get, because thank goodness for General Milley, he couldn't get the armed forces, so he had to put together his kind of you know, his own army, his own team of civilians and military.

LEMON: OK. Let me ask you two things. I get you. OK. I get where you're going with that. Let me ask you this. Do you think he's that smart or is this something that's just innate and he just has authoritarian tendencies, not something that's that thought-out?

BEN-GHIAT: Yes, there is no master plan. It's not like he -- these guys are extremely smart and opportunist and their amoral. So they're very expert at manipulating. They create situations of crisis and chaos. And so actually when he refused to accept the election results in November, this became like a state of exception. And all kind of things can be done during a period like that.

But there isn't any master plan. They don't know how it's going to end up. And very sadly, a lot of them are amazed they got so much power and got so many people to fall in line.

LEMON: It doesn't really matter how it ends up, it's just the chaos and the loyalty that they want to see happening. Real quick, listen, and I'm way over here, everything that you've written about, that you've seen come to pass, what do you think about the state of our democracy or the state of the republic right now?

BEN-GHIAT: It's not in a very good state. I think that we can hold on to the fact that we did something unusual in voting him out. And we're all exhausted, we haven't had time to mourn our losses or celebrate the Biden/Harris administration. But we've got to dig deep and be very resilient because the greatest test is yet to come.

LEMON: I love having folks like you on, Ruth, you're so smart, you elevate, educate all of us. We fill inform when you appear. Thank you so much. Thank you.

BEN-GHIAT: Thank you.

LEMON: Good news for America's families today. Hundreds of dollars in parents' pockets from the child tax credit every month through the end of the year. Did you get your money today?


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think this will be one of the things the vice president and I will be most proud of when our terms are up.




LEMON: Tonight, millions of American families receiving the first payment from the federal government's expanded child tax credit program. They'll get payments each month through the ended of the year, part of the nearly $2 trillion stimulus package President Biden signed into law in March.


BIDEN: It's historic. And it's our effort to make another giant step toward ending child poverty in America. I think this will be one of the things the vice president and I will be most proud of when our terms are up.


LEMON: A whole lot to discuss with CNN's White House correspondent John Harwood and economics commentator Catherine Rampell. Good evening, good evening. John, the first child tax credit payments have been sent, I asked people before the break, did you get your money today. So, tell us more about the magnitude of this for this White House. JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look, this is was an

extremely satisfying day for President Biden. You heard it in that comment when he said it's one of the things he'll look back on as one of his proudest achievements as president. Here's the reason, you know, we've gotten used, over the last four years to paying attention as news media as a country to the spectacle, sometimes comic, sometimes pathetic, sometimes dangerous of Donald Trump, who was a president who cared about no one and nothing other than himself.

But most politicians, and Joe Biden is among them, are not like that. They care about helping their constituents. And in this case, you have a program that was passed on a one-year basis only that nonetheless is putting money in the pockets, in the bank accounts, of the households containing 90 percent of American children. It will cut child poverty in half as long as it lasts.

That money will make life easier for millions and millions of people who Joe Biden is serving as president. It was a deeply satisfying day for him. It was the start of a longer process. He's got a lot more work to do to try to extend that benefit. But today was a day for him and Vice President Harris to celebrate the achievement.

LEMON: Catherine Rampell, up to $300 per child per month under 6 and up to $250 for kids six to 17. This is going to make a huge difference for millions of families.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR: It's going to be transformative. I mean, this is the most revolutionary part of the Biden agenda. And not only because of its scale, although as John mentioned, the scale is quite impressive, they're going to cut child poverty almost in half, or for that is the estimate at this point. It's also about how he hoops. It requires families to jump through particularly relative to the rest of the safety net.

Right, if you're a low-income person and you filed your tax return and said you had a couple of kids, the IRS just gives you the money. That's it. You don't have to file reams of paperwork. You don't have to document your work hours and your assets or sit through humiliating interviews. You just get the cash.


There's no strings attached. You can spend it as you like. If you're too poor to have filed a tax return and a lot of people don't have to because of their income level, you can go online and you can tell the IRS this information. That part of the process is not quite where it needs to be in my view, but the IRS is working on it and this program overall just has the ability to lift so many kids out of poverty, to improve so many families' lives. It's really impressive.

LEMON: Well, John, the White House would ultimately like to make this permanent. So, this is a big test for them, to get this right.

HARWOOD: Absolutely, it is. This is a one-year program. They're now seeking in the follow-on legislation that they're going to try to pass over the next couple of months, a four-year extension. They would of course like to make it permanent. But at more than $100 billion a year, it's a very expensive item. And there's a lot of other items on President Biden's agenda that are very costly.

But in line with what Catherine was saying, you know, one of the core elements of what Democrats have tried to do over the last generation is try to ameliorate the growing income and wealth inequality that we've experienced in this country. And so what you have is millions of families who have been left behind as our society and our economy have diverged in terms of outcomes for people with higher levels of skill and education and various other divisions.

This is a way for the Biden administration to try to help catch up some of those families, give them a better shot at succeeding in the future. And he's going to count on Democrats to give him the votes to make that last longer than just one year.

LEMON: Catherine, you said, correct me if I'm wrong, you said this would cut child poverty nearly in half. And you said, I think your word was transformative, am I correct?


LEMON: So, is this a social safety net, albeit temporary, right up there with social security or Obamacare?

RAMPELL: It's basically social security for kids, that's how we should be thinking about it, at least for a year, in any event. This will be a guaranteed payment for families making below a particular income threshold. They get it every month. Again, they don't have to prove anything to the government. The government knows how much money they're making based on their tax returns, they know if there are kids in the home, they have custody of children. That's all they have to do.

It's like social security in that respect. And this is about basically fill in the existing holes of the safety net. There are people who will be getting these payments, right, who get other benefits, they get food stamps or Medicaid. But a lot of those programs let people fall through the cracks. There are benefit cliffs. You know, if you make a dollar too much in income, you might lose your Medicaid, for example.

Or, you know, if you save up too much money in the bank, in some states you could lose your food stamps. This is not how this program works. It's just a much more flexible program, because you get the cash, again, no strings attached. You can pay for diapers which food stamps won't help you with. You can pay for your car payment. You can pay for childcare. You can use the money as you see fit. And you can use it to plug those holes where the existing safety net has left your family exposed.

LEMON: Catherine, John, thank you so much, I appreciate it, see you both soon.

So, he says there's total agreement when it comes to voting rights. But do the Texas Dems who fled their state to stop their Republican colleagues for imposing harsh voting restrictions agree with Senator Joe Manchin after their meeting today? I'm going to talk to someone who was in the room, that's next.



LEMON: Senator Joe Manchin is saying he wants a pared-down voting rights bill that he thinks Republicans will support. Manchin today is meeting with Texas house Democrats who have fled their state in order to block restrictive voting rights bills. They're calling on Washington lawmakers to act immediately on federal voting rights legislation.

CNN's Tom Foreman tells us what's at stake.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, after so much democratic fury, Texas Republicans had backed away from a few voting measures but not many and these are still on the table.

As for voting places, no drive-through voting or drop boxes would be permitted if this legislation is finalized. Republicans tried to stop drive-through voting during the 2020 election with a real eye on largely democratic Houston where the sites were very popular.

The court said no, but this new legislation says enough, Republicans want people voting only inside solid buildings. So, no standalone tents or movable structures can be used either, except as part of a building or in an emergency, and no 24-hour voting.

In general, the legislation allows for voting from 6:00 a.m. in the morning until 9:00 p.m. at night. And all of this, critics say, could impede working class people, shift workers and people of color in particular who might struggle to reach the polls in those hours.

What about security measures? The legislation contains a sort of poll watcher's bill of rights.


FOREMAN: Observers say they need to be free to go wherever they want to go to see and hear everything happening with the ballots. And if there's trouble, the courts are to be ready for swift rulings. The bill's backers want live streamed video coming out of many places where ballots are handled along with monthly reviews of Texans using the voter registration database to cast out anyone who might not qualify to vote.

And mail-in ballots get special attention, too. Election officials would be forbidden from just sending mail-in ballot applications to encourage people to vote. The applications must be requested and even then, there are new I.D. requirements.

Texas Republicans say all of this is a formula for a secure election, while Democrats say the elections are secure, this is an attack on democratic strongholds aimed at casting a chill on cities and minority communities which might just flip this state from red to blue. Don?


LEMON: Ah, very informative. Thank you, Tom Foreman. I appreciate it.

I want to bring in now Texas State Representative Victoria Neave. Thank you so much for joining us, congresswoman.

VICTORIA NEAVE, MEMBER, TEXAS HOUSE REPRESENTATIVES: Thank you so much for the invitation.

LEMON: So, listen. You and other Texas House Democrats met with Senator Joe Manchin today and he says there's total agreement on what you want, protecting voting rights, but do you have total agreement about how to make this all happen?

NEAVE: You know, we are so grateful to Senator Manchin and really appreciate the time that he took with us to discuss what's happening in Texas which has national implications.

We shared with him stories of, for example, I served on the committee that heard the nearly 24-hour hearing where we had a mom and dad, for example, who came to testify in the wee hours of the morning with their children sleeping in the committee room, to talk about how this legislation is making it harder for them to vote.

We heard from NAACP, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, organizations, people with disabilities about how harmful this legislation is going to be to Texas voters. And we are here to do everything that we can to urge Congress, especially the U.S. Senate, to implement some federal protections that we need.

Senator Manchin was very supportive. We are aligned on the ideals and necessity for passing voting rights legislation and protections in whatever form that may come for us. It is imperative because we are on a time crunch. Certainly, we're on borrowed time. We discussed given the end of the special session that is approaching. So, we are grateful to him and we left that meeting feeling very hopeful and very positive after the conversations that we had with him.

LEMON: So, representative, Manchin says that he thinks Republicans will support a pared-down bill that focuses solely on protecting the right to vote. Do you believe they will?

NEAVE: You know I'm not serving in the U.S. Senate. He knows the U.S. Senate better than any of us. And so he believes, he has those conversations, we believe him, and we have faith in that. We know that there can be consensus and we need to build consensus to implement some federal protections. We have seen that throughout the years. We need that type of support.

Again, for us in Texas, a lot of us have worked across the aisle for many years in order to pass laws that help, you know, with respect to education, higher education, things like that. Right now, in Texas, we've gotten to the point where this legislation has become so partisan that we are at the point where we had no choice but to come here and leave and break quorum to deny the republican-dominated legislature.

LEMON: Mm-hmm

NEAVE: The quorum that they needed to pass, the terrible legislation, we cannot allow that to happen. There is too much at stake. Our community knows that the power of our vote has a power to change the trajectory of our nation. We saw that with the election of President Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

We had one of the highest voter turnouts in over 20 years in Texas and we know that this legislation is going to attempt to roll back our rights. There are powerful forces in Texas trying to roll back our rights, but we know that the power of the people is stronger and that is why we are here.

LEMON: You seem optimistic about the meeting today. So, we'll see what happens. That's -- yeah, that's a nod, yes. Thank you, representative. I appreciate you joining us.

NEAVE: Thank you for the invitation.

LEMON: Absolutely. Unprecedented heat waves in the northeast, flash floods in the south, massive wildfires in the west. The climate crisis disaster isn't just coming. It's already here.




LEMON: The climate crisis disaster spreading all across the country this summer. California officials warning extreme heat creating abnormally hot underwater conditions in the Sacramento River which could kill off nearly all juvenile Chinook salmon because the water is just really too hot.

Lake Tahoe is normally crystal clear. The normally crystal-clear water is turning murky. Researchers say that climate change is a big part of the problem as warmer water on the lake allows algae to grow.


LEMON: Let's take you to Flagstaff, Arizona where rains are causing flash flooding there. New York and New Jersey are under heat advisories. It's mid-July. Temperatures across a lot of the northeast are above normal. Back in the West Coast, extreme heat is fanning devastating wildfires in Oregon and Northern California.

So, tonight, here's CNN's Sara Sidner in Doyle, California for us.


UNKNOWN: The entire town was evacuated.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the second time in just eight months Kathy Catron's hometown has lost more than a dozen homes to wildfire.

UNKNOWN: It sounded like a freight train coming down the mountain. The flames are coming at you, the smoke rolls over you. It's dark. All you see is big, huge orange ball of flames everywhere in front of you, everywhere you look.

SIDNER (voice-over): Catron is the volunteer fire chief of this town of about 600 residents. She is often the first one to call residents to tell them their home is gone.

KELLY GROSSO, DOYLE RESIDENT: I'm still kind of numb. I mean, after losing everything that I worked for and everything all these years, it's gone. And everybody says, oh, it's so replaceable. Well, no, a lot of it isn't.

SIDNER (voice-over): Saturday, Kelly Grosso lost one of the 16 homes burned in Doyle. Everyone thought the danger was over. But on Monday, the fire come roaring back, devouring more homes. Chief Catron and several residents were angry that airdrops from state and federal agencies didn't come earlier.

CATRON: We were like the lone ranger that -- because a lot of the engines weren't where they should have been and weren't down there, maybe. And I was -- at that point, I was like -- I was ready to say I can't do this anymore.

SIDNER (voice-over): Apocalyptic fire scenes are appearing more and more across the west. So far this year, 67 large fires across 12 states have burned an area nearly five times the size of New York City.

DENNIS SMITH, CAPTAIN, CAL FIRE: The frequency of fires has skyrocketed.

SIDNER (voice-over): Cal Fire Captain Dennis Smith has spent 25 years battling some of the biggest blazes in the state of California.

SMITH: We used to get what you would call career fires maybe once every few years and we're seeing career fires, 100,000 plus acres is a common occurrence every year now.

SIDNER (voice-over): It's the new normal.

SMITH: The resources are spread through the state, as we're burning from the Oregon border down to Mexico.

SIDNER (voice-over): California is on track to have an even more devastating fire season than 2020, which was the worst on record, with 4.1 million acres charred.

CHRIS TRINDADE, DEPARTMENT CHIEF, CAL FIRE: Being from California, I'm sure you hear that this fire season is going to be the worst fire season, right? Every year, we hear that.

SIDNER (voice-over): Which means their gruel work must go on for longer, in days of 100 plus temperatures in some places. And once the big flames are smothered, days of intricate work begin on hidden hotspots. There is one goal in mind: save lives, and then property.

(On camera): Are you proud -- you look around this entire house and it's charred 360 around this house.

UNKNOWN: Oh, yeah.

SIDNER: But the house, perfect.

UNKNOWN: Yeah. The house is still standing.

SIDNER (voice-over): But 250 miles away in Doyle, the local fire volunteers are devastated, and residents are worried they're at the beginning of what used to be the start of fire season.


LEMON: That was CNN's Sara Sidner in Doyle, California. Thank you so much, Sara.

Coming up, I want to tell you about a conversation that I had with Harry Belafonte and an exciting new project coming to CNN.




LEMON: So, before we go, I want to make sure that you know about a few projects that we have going on right now. We have got an exclusive CNN town hall with President Joe Biden. I am moderating. It's live, next Wednesday at 8:00 p.m.

And there is a new episode of my podcast, "Silence is Not an Option," where I take on hard conversations about being Black in America. This week, he inspired me to speak up about injustice. I am talking about Harry Belafonte and his daughter. They join me to talk equality. Here is a sneak peek.


LEMON: For someone who's been fighting, you know I said, seven decades, do you ever get tired? Did you ever think about giving up?

HARRY BELAFONTE, SINGER (voice-over): Not until they do.

LEMON: They meaning who?

BELAFONTE (voice-over): All those people who you see joy in crucifying us. They become my stimulus, they become my target, they become my raison d'etre. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That was Harry Belafonte himself. I really thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. By the way, we share the same birthday. Interesting. You will learn all about that if you tune into the podcast. Find it on Apple podcasts or your favorite podcast app.

And then, finally, a look at the new CNN Original Series, "Jerusalem, City of Faith and Fury." It premieres Sunday at 10:00 p.m. only on CNN.


UNKNOWN: Temple Mount, al-Haram ash-Sarif for the Arabs, is the place where the first temple built by Solomon stood. Almost certainly, on top of the rock that today is the foundation stone of the dome of the rock, the gorgeous Islamic edifice that stands there today, that probably is the most holy place in western and middle eastern civilization.

UNKNOWN: But at the time the temple is done, it represents Israel moving into this place as a prosperous, settled nation with a king, whose power is acknowledged by all, but it also is a falling away from the original idea that God was going to dwell with his people, and therefore, you didn't have to have a physical place for him to be.



LEMON: Hmm. And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.