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Don Lemon Tonight
Governor Cuomo Denies Allegations Against Him; Democrats Calling For Governor Cuomo's Resignation; Donald Trump Used His Power To Influence The DOJ. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 04, 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): Let's bring in D. Lemon, "DON LEMON TONIGHT" right now. I owe you 40 seconds. But the 40 seconds that the audience got with that kid is a gift, brother. It's so rare that somebody can reinforce the blessing and curse of this life and a fragility of our humanity at the same time, you know.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Yes. Well, listen, I did not know her story. I'm not a -- it's AGT, right?
LEMON: America's got talent. I'm not in America's got talent watcher. But to that end, I'm sure lot of our viewers aren't, but you introduced her to them. And you also introduced what's happening in this country right now.
And the fragility of life, just how fragile life is, and how we have to live our lives, but we also must do what is right in order to continue to live our lives in the right way, which is relatable as it comes to this pandemic. And the Delta variant, and getting a vaccine. I think it's all related. Live your best life and the best way to do that is to follow the science.
CUOMO: I mean, the idea of watching that kid and her -- I know she's not a kid -- I know she's a full-grown adult, I know that. I'm just saying I'm old. I see it that way.
LEMON: Look, anybody who is young --
LEMON: Anybody who is under 30 is a kid to us.
CUOMO: But, you know, to hear her talking about relishing any chance that she has to extend her dreams, --
LEMON: Yes. CUOMO: -- when so many of us in this country have a chance to protect ourselves and won't. I just -- I've got to tell you, I've been doing this along time. I don't get hit by people very easily. I was telling Jane in the break, Nightbirde -- that there's only one other person I've ever met in my life who has impacted me the way her voice did it was this kid named Mattie Stepanek, a child poet, who really helped us get through 9/11.
Some people are different, Don. Some people are not the same as you and me. They have something in them that circumstance brings out that is a gift. This kid Mattie had it, and Nightbirde has it. Not everybody can take on that fight of the way she's taking it and we get into a beautiful expression of life.
LEMON: And help many people in the process. And I think that's a good place for us to leave it and move on and discuss other things other than the news.
But thank you for bringing us her story, and for bringing her to the CNN audience. We appreciate it. I love you, brother.
CUOMO: I love you, but I've got to tell you, that was a lot of act love for myself. I did that for me. I love you, D. Lemon.
LEMON: Hey, look, you are, you know, go and do what you can. Do what you've got to. I'll see you soon.
CUOMO: All right.
LEMON: This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. Thanks for joining, everyone.
And we have got news, really big news on multiple big stories. The clock is ticking for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. A majority of New York state assembly members, 80 Democrats and Republicans telling CNN that they would vote to impeach. A source says articles of impeachment could be referred as soon as next week.
That, as at least four district attorneys are now investigating allegations of sexual harassment against the governor. The long list of powerful Democratic politicians calling on Governor Cuomo to step down, a list headed by the president of the United States himself. That list is getting longer tonight.
The leader of New York's Democratic Party, a longtime Cuomo ally, urging him to step down. Democratic committee chair Jay Jacobs saying, and I quote here, "I believe the women, I believe the allegations." He reportedly only went public after trying privately to get Cuomo to resign, and not being able to convince him to do so.
I am going to talk to Jay Jacobs in just a few minutes, so hang on. You want to hear what Jay Jacobs has to say. This is happening as CNN's KFile has uncovered multiple times that the governor spoke out against sexual harassment and attacked Republicans for not taking a stand.
[22:05:06] GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We want equal justice for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and for all victims of sexual assault.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): When Donald Trump's infamous Access Hollywood tape came out --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And when you're a star they'll let you do it. You can do anything.
UNKNOWN: Whatever you want.
TRUMP: Grab them by the (muted). You can do anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): The governor was outraged.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
A. CUOMO: That's not how you treat women. That's not how you talk about women. It's not OK. It won't be sanctioned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): In a Facebook post in 2018 he slammed the then president for mocking the Me Too movement and women who spoke out against sexual harassment. He praised New York's sexual harassment policy saying, quote, "sexual harassment or women is real. It is undeniable. And this is the moment in history to make the reform and end it and end it once and for all."
And we are learning more tonight about just how close we came to an attempted coup in this country. How far the disgrace, twice-impeached one-term former president was willing to go to steal the election and it all happened just days before the insurrection at the United States Capitol.
House investigators have talked to a former DOJ official who drafted but never sent a resignation letter over what he said were the then- president's, quote, "directed structures to weaponize the department to push his bogus big lie of election fraud."
This is from that unsent letter, and I quote here. "This evening, after acting Attorney Jeffrey Rosen over the course of the last week, reportedly refused the president's direct instructions to utilize the Department of Justice law enforcement powers for improper ends, the president removed Jeff from the department."
Rosen actually survived the meeting, so the letter wasn't sent. What about half a dozen officials that signaled that they would resign
if Rosen were fired. A Nixon-style Saturday night massacre all over again.
We didn't know how close we came, we really didn't. And there are major developments tonight on COVID to tell you about. The Biden administration working on a plan to mandate vaccinations for nearly every foreign visitor to the U.S. As Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to make vaccines mandatory for active duty troops.
The highly contagious Delta variant now makes up more than 90 percent of the cases in this country. Just look at this time lapse from the CDC. That sea of red is the Delta variant spreading over the past month. Look at that.
And with concerns about Delta on the rise, former President Barack Obama has scaled back his plans for a big 60th birthday bash on Martha's Vineyard this weekend. And as Delta spreads, misinformation is spreading too. And we need to tell you about that. The misinformation that is holding America back.
Some anti-vaxxers in New Jersey got an earful from Governor Phil Murphy just today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): These folks back there have lost their mind. You've lost your minds.
MURPHY: You are the ultimate knuckleheads and because of what you say or saying and standing for people are losing their lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Wow! Do more people needed talking to like that? Or do you continue to coddle or try to coax people? I don't know, you decide. And then there are the latest antics from the Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, putting politics ahead of the health of people of his own state. With this rant, here it is, about a so-called biomedical security state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We can either have a free society or we can have a biomedical security state and I can tell you, Florida, we're a free state. People are going to be free to choose, to make their own decisions about themselves, about their families, about their kids' education, and about putting food on the table, and Joe Biden suggests that if you don't do lockdown policies, then you should, quote, "get out of the way."
But let me tell you this, if you are coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I'm standing in your way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Sometimes you just can't push people when they're stuck on stupid. And in Boston, the acting mayor, Kim Janey, compares requirements for proof of vaccination to slavery era freedom papers and birtherism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACTING MAYOR KIM JANEY (D), BOSTON: There's a long history in this country of people needing to show their papers during slavery, post slavery, as recent as, you know, what the immigration population has to go through here.
We heard Trump with the birth certificate nonsense. Here, we want to make sure that we are not doing anything that would further create a barrier for residents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): I'm not sure what she's talking about. It doesn't sound like she was either. There's already a lot of vaccine hesitancy in communities of color. The last thing we need is rhetoric that could turn people away from vaccines.
A federal judge in D.C. ruled today a couple who stormed the capitol on January 6th carrying anti-vaccination signs will be sentenced to home confinement. They're sentenced to quarantine. OK. And that brings us to the man who said this before the rioters stormed the capitol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MO BROOKS (R-LA): Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): My gosh. What? Who are these people listening to and why? Where are they getting their information? Are they even getting information? It's just political rhetoric or are they just that dull?
Now Congressman Mo Brooks is fighting a lawsuit by Congressman Eric Swalwell who accused Brooks as well as the then president and several others of inciting the insurrection. And Mo Brooks is defending himself in the most Mo Brooks way possible. Representing himself.
What could possibly go wrong? Also writing about himself in a third person, rarely a good sign, and offering what he calls verified Brooks facts in his reply to the lawsuit. Saying that he is 67 years old, has never smoked tobacco, does not consume alcohol and has never experimented with or taken illegal drugs which has nothing to do with anything.
But there is more. Verified brooks facts number seven. He's always been faithful to his wife, all of his children are married, none of them are divorced, none have been arrested. They have college degrees and jobs and he has 10 grandchildren with another on the way. Verified brooks facts.
Look, all of which may be true but, you know, whatever. I'm not judging. That may be true. God bless him. But none of that has anything to do with what happened on January 6th, nothing at all. You know what happened on January 6th? That's when bloodthirsty Trump supporters, not tourists, not peaceful patriots, not Black Lives Matter or antifa, Trump supporters stormed the capitol, hunted lawmakers in the hallways forcing them to run for it.
That's when they, these bloodthirsty Trump supporters when they beat police officers defending the capitol to within an inch of their lives. Those are not the Brooks facts, those are the verified facts. Verified facts, the insurrection deniers are still trying to sweep under the rug. Don't fall for the Okey-doke.
I said we have a lot of news, big news tonight on multiple stories. New York's governor facing the possibility of impeachment in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBRA KATZ, ATTORNEY FOR CHARLOTTE BENNETT: This is classic gaslighting. The victim misunderstood. They didn't misunderstand. They knew exactly what he was doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Back now with our big story. The pressure is mounting on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to step down. One of his closest allies and the leader of the state's Democratic Party, Jay Jacobs, is now joining the long list of people calling for his resignation, saying the governor has lost his ability to govern, both practically and morally.
New York Democratic Committee chair, Jay Jacobs, joins me now. Thank you for joining us, chairman. I appreciate it.
JAY JACOBS, NEW YORK DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE CHAIR: Thanks for having me.
LEMON: So, let's talk about this. You personally called on Governor Cuomo today to step -- you personally called him today, I should say. Did you ask him to resign? What did he say?
JACOBS: I did. I spoke to him at length, and I laid out for him that I thought that, you know, he had a great legacy here in New York, and his legacy would be damaged if he we went through the process of impeachment, which looked like an inevitability at this point, and certainly going to trial in the Senate and the possible conviction, that was no way for him to end his career in politics. And I also pointed out that in American politics, you know, there's
always room for redemption. We've seen it so many times before. And people do come back in some fashion. But it all depends upon how you go out. And I said there just was no turning around at this point. I didn't see any path to him being able to overcome this.
The toothpaste was out of the tube with so many of the members of the assembly coming out, in fact unanimously, looking for him to resign or be impeached. So, I didn't see how he would have a path to salvation.
LEMON: All right, so that's what you said. What did he say? Did he say that he will never step down? Did you say, I'll think about it? Or I'm going to? How did he respond?
JACOBS: Well, he didn't characterize, you know, his views on resignation. He was more directed to how he was going to defend himself. I think that he feels that he wants his moment to tell the public his side of the story, to have his lawyers review the evidence from their perspective, and he feels that that will be a more favorable, presentable favorable picture of the matter.
I just told him that no matter what the preponderance of the evidence, the numbers of cases, particularly the last one, which we hadn't heard before, of the state trooper on his protective detail, you know, coming out. All of these things made it just way too difficult to overcome at this point.
LEMON: Yes. So, you said, look, you are one of his closest allies. That was -- that was the thing that changed, right, for you, was that?
JACOBS: Well, I mean, I thought that, you know, I read the 168-page report and went through it, and of course, listened to the press conference and it was, you know, staggering in parts. So, you know, you look for that, you know, you look for that possible opening where maybe, you know, there is some confusion or it's not exactly the story that's being told.
But the attorney general's report made it very clear that, you know, what the allegations were, were valid as he said, she believed those women. And when you read the report, I do, too. I feel badly for the governor because I don't see him as a bad person at all. He's done so much good but this is just an unfortunate set of circumstances and now we are where we are.
LEMON: Well, you said that in your -- in your phone call with him he was focused on, and correct me if I'm wrong, his defense, right, in all of this. And so, I'm --
LEMON: -- yes? So, I'm wondering, I just want to get your take then because this was his defense yesterday that videotape response. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
A. CUOMO: I do it with everyone, black and white, young and old, straight and LGBTQ, powerful people, friends, strangers, people who I meet on the street. I do kiss people on the forehead. I do kiss people on the cheek. I do kiss people on the hand. I do embrace people. I do hug people. Men and women. I do on occasion say ciao Bella. On occasion, I do slip and say sweetheart or darling or honey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): What do you think of that response?
JACOBS: Well, I mean, I think he was referencing one portion of the complaint. The women who talked about being kissed on the cheek in a public event or something along those lines and I don't -- look, that's not what I think is the most serious element here and I don't think that's what constitutes the biggest complaints that are made against him.
If that was all there was, I don't think we would be where we are today. The problem comes in from the other women who alleged that either they were touched, there was one that said that in particular, one said kissed or just felt just made uncomfortable in the workplace.
And I think that's where, you know, the difficulty arises for him, and I don't think he addressed that sufficiently in that taped interview and I don't think that the taped interview actually, you know, went over the way, you know, I suspect he was hoping it would.
LEMON: Is there any truth to his assertion that this is politically motivated?
JACOBS: Well, look, the facts are the facts and that is separate and can be exclusive of the fact that there are political motivations among numbers of people. New York is a very complex state and there is a lot going on and the governors are a very powerful strong governor who has made a lot of enemies over the years, and there are a lot of people would like to see him go for political policy reasons and for the promotion of their own, you know, agendas.
But that has nothing to do with the attorney general's report. And that has nothing to do with the conclusions that were drawn unfortunately. Those are separate and distinct issues. You know, while I agree on one hand that there is certainly some of that, the facts still remain the facts and we just have to live with those facts.
LEMON: I just got a quick question before I let you go. So, you said he was focused on his defense, he didn't say, he didn't characterize of anything about if he would step down or anything like that. If he doesn't step down, where do you see this going, impeachment, removal from office, conviction? What do you see?
JACOBS: Yes. I do. I think the troubles begin to mount. I think that the assembly is going to be moving at a much faster pace than we had ever thought before. I think there is a consensus in the assembly that he should be impeached that could happen within a matter of weeks if not sooner. And then he goes to the Senate, I don't see any possible way he avoids conviction. And I think that would be a terrible end to a great career.
I think it would be a stain on a legacy that certainly deserves, you know, our admiration for so many parts of it and I'm just hopeful that he listens to the advice that he's been getting, advice perhaps that I gave him and others are giving him I'm sure --
LEMON: The president of the United States has given him.
JACOBS: That's right, the best course of action right now would be to just step aside and let's get us moving forward.
LEMON: Chairman Jacobs, thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.
JACOBS: Thank you.
LEMON: Thank you.
How long can the governor hold on to his office? I'm going to ask someone who has s been covering New York politics for years. That's next.
LEMON (on camera): New York's governor clinging to power tonight as the majority of state assembly members tell CNN they would vote to impeach Cuomo after the exclusive report on allegations of sexually harassed -- that he sexually harassed 11 women.
A state official telling CNN, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is preparing in case she needs to step in as governor. She is cleared her schedule and has been in back to back meetings with legislators and advocacy groups just today.
So, joining me now someone who knows all about New York politics CNN political commentator Errol Louis. Errol, thank you for joining. You have been doing this for a while. You know what the heck you're talking about. So, the governor is hemorrhaging support. Even President Biden's closest ally said that he must go. You've covered New York politics for a while. How long can he hang on?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would say longer than you might imagine. You know, if he wants to run with the support and cooperation of his partners in government, then sure, you'll have to leave probably before the weekend is over. But if he wants to just tough it out, this turns into something of a political science experiment.
How long can he hold on? You can ask Donald Trump about that who was impeached twice, who had all kinds of accusations against him. And he said I'm going -- all these women are lying, said Donald Trump, and I'm going to sue all of them. And it turned out they weren't lying and he didn't sue any of them.
And you know, he had a lot of problems in his presidency, but he kind of made that problem just go away and acted like it didn't exist. We've just come through five months, Don, where the governor acted as if these accusations and this ongoing investigation didn't exist. He cut ribbons, he met with people, including officials who had called for him to step down.
He smiled and he laughed and he gave out awards, and five months later, this devastating report comes out. I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to do the same thing, just kind of, you know, look, when the sun comes up tomorrow, he's still going to be the governor of New York. One day at the time. I can see him attempting it, and it would go, it could go much longer than you would ever imagine.
LEMON: You think you can tough it out to the end?
LOUIS: Well, you know, it depends on what the end is. You know, the reality is, for months now, New York voters, including Democrats --
LEMON: Let's just say, meaning this term, this term.
LEMON: And there's something else I want to ask you about what you said and then the Trump comparison, but go. On
LOUIS: Yes. I mean, look, there is a primary for his job. You know, there's a reelect coming up. The Democratic primary will be in June of next year, that's not that far off. Could he tough it out until then? It would be an incredibly dysfunctional, it would be detrimental to the state, it would be a huge embarrassment, it would give late night comedians endless amount of material, but it could happen.
And that would -- and that would not be a good thing for anybody. You know, a lot of pressing issues that are not getting dealt with. Several lawmakers are telling me because everybody is absorbed by this ongoing drama.
LEMON: But if they start the impeachment process and he is impeached, it's not like the presidency. I mean, he has to go away until they decide whether to convict or not. Right? And then Kathy Hochul will become the governor in the interim, am I correct?
LOUIS: I mean, that's the other scenario. You ask --
LEMON: OK. LOUIS: -- can you hang on till the end? The end could come in just a couple of months. If the assembly impeaches, you are correct, in New York, unlike in the federal system, you have to step aside, pending the actual trial. The governor would then have 30 days to organize a defense and then there would be a trial. He would very likely just as Jay Jacobs said a few minutes ago, the chair of the state party, he would very likely be voted out of office and that would be the end.
LOUIS: Now all of that could happen before the end of this year.
LEMON: OK. Quick then, can he say -- can the legislature or the assembly say, it's too close to the election, why not let the voters decide, is that a possibility?
LOUIS: Yes, but it's highly, highly unlikely.
LOUIS: I mean, in the Democrat --
LEMON: I get it. I get it. I get it because I want to ask you another question.
LOUIS: Nobody is thinking along those lines in the Democratic side.
LEMON: OK. All right. But you compared it to Trump. But with Trump, he didn't have -- he had the majority of the people who could save him. Right? The Democrats didn't have the votes. But the governor, aren't the calls coming from inside the House? They're saying, hey, brother, you got to go.
LOUIS: That's right.
LEMON: So, hanging on like, you know, sort of a Trump like faction. Is that even possible?
LOUIS: But you know, here's another scenario, and this is not quite Trump like but, Andrew Cuomo, the governor generally thinks that the state legislature, the members of the state legislature are not very competent. He doesn't have a lot of regard for them. He has respect for some of them, but generally he realizes that they can screw things up easily, especially since we haven't had an impeachment since 1913. Nobody living knows how this is supposed to go.
And so, if they make a misstep along the way, Andrew Cuomo, who is a former attorney general, you know, a pretty good lawyer himself, will pounce on that. And the whole thing could end up in court.
And the state's highest court, conveniently enough, has seven members, each of whom was appointed by Andrew Cuomo. This could -- this could go into some very strange players before it's all over.
LEMON: My gosh. My gosh. What was the other thing that I wanted to ask you? One more thing and I can't remember, since you brought up that scenario. Depending on public support, he could run again? If that -- if, you know, if one of these things plays out the way you say it, he could run again and possibly win. Maybe. I don't -- who knows?
LOUIS: Yes. The polls are all suggesting that most voters even before this report came out, did not want him to run for a fourth turn.
LEMON: All right.
LOUIS: Keep in mind, he's the dean of the U.S. governors. There is no governor in America that's been in office as long as he has.
LOUIS: You know, you're coming up on 12 years now and, you know, the argument that he should have 16, another 4 years on top of it, there is such a thing is just staying too long, and that was a political problem he was going to face even before this report came out.
LEMON: Errol, we're in strange times. So, look, you never know. You never know.
LOUIS: You never know. That's correct.
LEMON: Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. I'll see you soon.
LOUIS: Thank you.
LEMON: New details coming out about just how far the former president went to try and stay in office. And my next guest warns the GOP is paving the way for another attempted coup.
LEMON (on camera): So, two shocking developments under the former president showing how he pressured the DOJ to back up his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. CNN learning that a former top official in the department drafted a resignation letter because of Trump's direct instructions to use the DOJ to support hiss false election fraud claims.
And another draft letter obtained by the -- by ABC, ABC News shows a Trump loyalist within the DOJ wanting to urge top Georgia officials to investigate Trump's baseless fraud claims.
I want to bring in now CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez. Even here we go. It never ends.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Here we go.
LEMON: It's always one even more shocking than the last. So, let's start with this resignation letter that was on the brink of being sent out. The official who wrote it was deeply concerned about what Trump was doing to weaponize the DOJ, right?
PEREZ: That's right. His name is Patrick Hovakimian. He was the chief of staff to the then acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. And this all happened, Don, around New Year's weekend. And he knew that on that Sunday, January 3rd, Rosen was going to the White House and he -- they, he and other official expected that President Trump was going to fire him and replace him with this other official Jeffrey Clark who was an acting head of the civil division and that everything was going to change.
As you know, the Justice Department had found that there was no -- there was not enough fraud. There was not enough evidence to support the president's claim that the election was stolen. And here is a letter that Hovakimian wrote, it was a draft that he was prepared to send and it says in part, that the acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen over the course of the last week repeatedly refused the president's direct instructions to utilize the Justice Department's law enforcement powers for improper ends.
In the end, Rosen was not fired by the president and Hovakimian testified or provided an interview to House investigators yesterday, we have another couple of officials expected to come in over the next couple of days because they're trying to get to the bottom of what exactly went down in those key days, Don.
LEMON: OK. Listen, the draft letter by the Trump loyalists at the DOJ that shows --
LEMON: -- that forces within the department trying to carry out Trump's will and the lies that they were pushing in order to do it, talk to us about that.
PEREZ: So Jeffrey Clark is the official I just talked about. He's the one that Trump was talking about replacing Jeffrey Rosen with and here is part of what he was doing. He wanted to -- he drafted a letter for Rosen to send to Georgia officials telling them that there was concerns about fraud and that they should bring back the legislator -- legislature as the president was trying to do. And they were resisting it.
And here is part of what -- when he suggest this letter, Rich Donoghue, the deputy attorney general at the time acting says there is no chance that I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this from where I stand, this is not even within the realm of possibility.
Rosen responds also to this claim from Clark he says it confirmed, I confirmed again today that I am not prepared to sign, to sign such a letter. And Don, going back to, you know, Hovakimian's letter, January 3rd is the day that President Trump decides that he's going to bring Clark and Rosen to the White House, again, it's a Sunday evening and they spend the next few hours in some kind of bizarre reality TV show like script where the two men are essentially vying for the job of attorney general whoever wins is going to be able to decide frankly, you know, the course of history here.
And at the end, Trump was persuaded by his advisers that it was not smart to do this. Hovakimian and multiple other officials were ready to resign. This is going to be something like Nixon, right? The Saturday night massacre. So, we now know what happened three days later. People who were inspired by the president's fraud claims charged up the capitol and we know what happened.
LEMON: It sounds like some reality show competition. Thank you very much. I appreciate that, Evan Perez.
I want to bring in now Max Boot, the senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and The Washington Post columnist, and Michael Bender, White House reporter for the Wall Street Journal. He's also the author of "Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost."
Good evening, gentlemen, to both of you. Max Boot, I'm going to start with you. The pressure of Trump and his allies were putting on the DOJ was unprecedented and both of these developments show the top officials were seriously worried about what could have happened if Trump got his way. It is clear that he was trying to set the stage for some kind of coup attempt.
MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: That's exactly right, Don. This is an event that is unprecedented in American history. Never had a president before who refused to recognize the outcome of an election and then tried to overturn the election and, you know, now you're hearing a lot of excuse making for what Trump did.
There is a lot of people on the right who are saying, you know, this is all over blown, it was just a normal tourist visit on January 6th. There was nothing to worry about. Even people who admit that it was more than a normal tourist visit will say the stability of the republic was never in question. This is all been over blown, over hyped by the media and by Democrats, et cetera.
No, it is not being over hyped. This was a genuine threat to the republic and the only reason Trump was not able to carry out his plot was because Republican office holders refused to do his bidding. For example, the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger or in this case, the acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen, those people stood up to Trump and refused to carry out his coup attempt.
But we may not be that lucky next time around because right now, Republicans are purging anybody from the party who will put loyalty to the Constitution above loyalty to Donald Trump. They're saying the stage for another coup attempt in 2024.
LEMON: Michael, you read about the chaos in the final days of the Trump presidency and how even White House officials were worried Trump was a danger. When you see this new reporting, what does it say about the president's desperation just to remain in power? MICHAEL BENDER, AUTHOR, FRANKLY, WE DID WIN THIS ELECTION: Yes, that's
right, Don. I mean, it is well beyond chaos in his last -- in his last -- in his last month, these last couple of months, the people around him were worried about what lengths he was willing to go to hold on to power.
I mean, I have a story in the book here about, I mean, early November, Don, was when Trump started talking about getting rid of Bill Barr when he offered the job to other people and he even offered it to Richard Donoghue at the Justice Department, Rosen is number two. But Donoghue wanted to follow the chain of command here insisted it be Rosen and Trump eventually gave the acting job to Rosen which shows how really close we came there.
Rosen is someone who sees his allegiance to the Constitution not the office of the president. And, you know, Max mentions the chaos in Georgia. I have that story in this book, too. You know, by the end -- by the beginning of January, lawyers were showing up in Georgia saying the White House has sent us, we're with the White House and that sounded very odd to the people down in Georgia who had been there for several months who are actually from the White House.
The first team that Pat Cipollone had sent with the campaign, they are now (Inaudible) Mitchell and Rudy Giuliani's team was coming in at the end, you know, just adding to, you know, the pandemonium down there.
LEMON: Should the DOJ now be investigating the former president and what he tried to do, how he tried to co-opt his DOJ? We'll talk about that right after the break.
LEMON (on camera): We're back now with Max Boot and Michael Bender here with me. So, Max, so many Republicans are embracing the big lie. Your column in The Washington Post today says that by denying Trump's coup attempt, the right is laying the ground for another one. I mean, is the threat growing? And if so, what will it take it stop it?
BOOT: I think the threat is growing, Don, because you see Republicans putting everything in place. Everything that they're doing right now, purging dissenters from the ranks, people like Liz Cheney who put the Constitution above loyalty to Trump. They're all getting removed from positions of authority. The Republican party is making clear that you have to be willing to go along with the big lie and the big steal in order to be a Republican in good standing.
And they are right now, you know, all these Republican state legislators around the country they are passing laws to restrict the franchise, to restrict the vote. They're passing gerrymandering statutes, all of that is making it more likely that Republicans will take back control of the House next year and possibly the Senate as well.
And, you know, the big thing that prevented Trump from stealing the election in 2020 was the fact that Republicans only controlled one chamber of Congress. Imagine what happens in 2024 if Republicans control both the House and the Senate and the election is relatively close.
Once again, there will be pressure from the right to not recognize electors in swing states that voted for Biden. There will be pressure to assign those electors to the Republican candidate, who could very well be Donald Trump again. And are we really confident that Republicans will resist that pressure in 2024? I'm not confident at all. I think the odds of a successful coup are actually growing.
LEMON: Michael, that said, do you think the current Department of Justice, I asked this question before the break, should the current Department of Justice be investigating the former president's conduct?
BENDER: I think there are a lot of questions that still have to be answered about what happened on the run-up to January 6, on January 6, and there's a lot of -- going to be a lot of back and forth over executive privilege, who is allowed to testify, who is not.
But one thing I'm watching here is, is that next layer, the people around Trump who are not protected by executive privilege, who Trump is in regular contact with at the campaign, at the Republican National Committee, and, you know, friends of his and outside advisers.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it. I'll see you soon.
BENDER: Thank you.
LEMON: The U.S. averaging more than 90,000 coronavirus cases a day right now. But instead of making public health the priority, the country's Republican governors are using the pandemic to score political points.
LEMON (on camera): Tonight, the pressure is building on New York's embattled Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign. The head of the state's Democratic Party says Cuomo has to go.