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Don Lemon Tonight

NYT: Former U.S. Attorney Quit After Hearing Trump Would Fire Him For Not Corroborating Election Fraud Claims; COVID Cases Surge Amid Spread Of Delta Variant; Social Media Under Scrutiny For Spread Of Misinformation; GOP Blaming COVID Surge On Border; National Police Union Slams Far-Right Newsmax Host As A "Clown" For Comments About Capitol Insurrection. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 11, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, his name is BJay Pak, shows just how desperate trump was to overturn the election in his final days in office. What can you tell us about this testimony?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the former U.S. attorney testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee virtually today. This is part of a series of interviews that the committee is doing as members on -- Democrats on Capitol Hill are trying to gather what they can in addition to what the select committee is doing about January 6.

And what they found was that this Trump-appointed U.S. attorney was told by Justice Department officials he would be fired unless he affirmed Trump's claims of voter fraud in Georgia, which he could not because there was no evidence. And so he resigned without explanation in lieu of being fired.

We also know that the replacement that Donald Trump put in the job, somebody shifted over from the U.S. attorney position in Savannah, also found that there was no evidence.

What we -- what we -- the picture that's emerging from some of these interviews, including those of Jeffrey Rosen, former Acting U.S. attorney, is that Donald Trump was pushing across the body politic, looking for soft places, where he could work his will.

And it is fortunate for American democracy that where he tried and where it was most sensitive, he encountered resistance, from Rosen, from people like Brad Raffensperger in Georgia.

The challenge, of course, is what happens the next time and are Republican officials facing similar pressure willing to do the same thing again that was done with Donald Trump. We don't know the answer to that. And the Senate Judiciary Committee led by Dick Durbin, the chairman, is trying to get some answers.

LEMON: John Avlon, we know Trump was pressuring other Georgia officials like Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to push his, you know, bogus election fraud claims. But luckily, the system worked and state officials did their jobs. What happens if there is a next time and those officials aren't there or, you know, if these new voter laws go into effect? They can just overturn the election if they want. Go on.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's why we need to pay attention to these efforts, not just to voter suppression, but what Rick Hasen, the election law expert, has called "election subversion." Because, you know, Brad Raffensperger stood up, did the right thing, and was under direct threat on tape by the president of the United States to find 11,000 votes so he could flip the election. He held.

But we don't want to overestimate what that means for the guardrails to our democracy, because Raffensperger's turnaround was kneecapped by his own political party, respectively written out, giving the legislature the ability to overwrite.

And now Trump's congressmen are running to hold that office implicitly so that the next time this might occur, they would do the will of the Trumpist figure.

That's the real danger here. That is why we got to keep our eye on the ball because this is not over. There needs to be real accountability and then (INAUDIBLE) of what we learned to help avoid it again. But it is going the opposite way in some critical states.

LEMON: Yeah. It is just interesting. I mean, this is so egregious.

AVLON: Yeah.

LEMON: What he former president did and the systems that Republicans are putting in place because of a lie. And in many places, it's working, and who knows what effect it's going to have on elections to come.

Mr. Harwood, we're getting so many new details about just how far the former president went in his attempts to overturn the election. Do you think Republicans just don't care that he was essentially attempting a coup? Are they good with coups now? I mean --

AVLON: They're good with coups now.

HARWOOD: Look, the Republican Party is gripped with fear that they are not going to be able to win elections fair and square. And so members, maybe not as crudely as Donald Trump, are willing to tolerate pushing the boundaries.

And so that's why you see some of these election laws, as John Avlon just referred to, the ability to put partisan figures in charge of election administration. They are comfortable with that because fundamentally, the Republican Party is representing a group of people who think that the way the country is changing is overwhelming them.

This is principally older, white, rural, evangelical Christians. They think the majority in America, they are not real Americans. And so they are pushing their elected officials to do everything possible to keep power, and the Republican Party by and large is okay with that.

Donald Trump is the cartoonish extreme. But if you get some of these election laws put in place, you won't have to have a cartoonish figure next time.


HARWOOD: It will be a smoother process if you have an extremely close election. We don't know that that is what is going to happen, but we certainly know that it could happen.

LEMON: John Avlon, I want to turn to this new piece. It is in "The Washington Post". In its title, "Republicans risk becoming the face of the delta surge as key GOP governors oppose anti-COVID measures," they're talking about Abbot in Texas, DeSantis in Florida and Noem in South Dakota all resisting any public health mandates to stop the spread. What kind of political strategy is it to put people's lives at risk?

AVLON: It's a strategy designed to play to the base of the party nationally, to gain potentially a foothold in a partisan primary at the expense of the health and safety of their own citizens. It's a breathtakingly cynical gambit and that is what we are seeing in these states right now.

The numbers are spiking. The hospitals are being overwhelmed. But they are looking for opportunity amid that crisis to advance their own political futures over potentially the bodies, unnecessary deaths of their citizens in their states, and it's just reprehensible.

LEMON: Yeah. John, John, thank you both very much. I appreciate it. Be well.

Now, I want to turn to two health care workers on the front lines of this pandemic. Jeremy Johnson is a traveling ICU nurse for AYA Health Care, who has been treating patients in multiple COVID hotspots throughout the pandemic. And Dr. Chavi Karkowsky is an obstetrician who has been working with pregnant COVID patients. She is also the author of "High Risk: Stories of Pregnancy, Birth, and the Unexpected."

I really appreciate both of you joining us on this very crucial topic. Thanks so much and good evening to you.

Dr. Karkowsky, I'm going to start with you. You wrote a very powerful piece in "The Atlantic" about unvaccinated Americans. This is just part of it. You say, by refusing the most effective intervention, people are risking not only their own life but the lives of many around them.

What makes me the maddest, one of my doctor friends told me, is that these people will reject science right until the second they need everything I have to keep them alive, and then they feel that they can come to our door and be entitled to that help and that hard work.

You say many health care workers rejecting lifesaving vaccines feels like a giant "F"-you, that is what you say, from about 29 percent of adults in this country. Tell me about that.

CHAVI KARKOWSKY, OBSTETRICIAN: I think that what we are really seeing is that health care is made out of people, right? We're just people. We're devoted people, we're well-trained people, but ultimately we are people that are going through a really difficult year, now two years.

And when we feel that most of the country is unable to listen to the science that we have, I think it makes a difficult job, one that is draining and impossible. It is really hard to connect to your team when you feel like they're not quite on your team. And that, I think, is exhaustion.

LEMON: Jeremy, you've worked in ICUs in multiple COVID hotspots since the start of the pandemic. New York, Arizona, I believe. Now, you're at a Houston hospital. Last year was different, but with lifesaving vaccines so accessible, are you having a hard time sympathizing with patients who aren't willing to protect themselves?

JEREMY JOHNSON, ICU NURSE: Don, first off, I want to thank you for having me on the show. I really appreciate it. As a health care professional, you can't have that outlook on it. Anybody that comes into the ICU is very critically ill and whether they've got the vaccine or not, it's my job to take care of them the best that I can with every advance that we have.

I wish people were -- more of them were vaccinated, but I don't treat them any differently. I take go to work and I take care of everybody the best that I can.

LEMON: Yeah. But to the Dr. Karkowsky's point though, Jeremy, I think she makes a very good point, that people get to the end of their rope and then they want every bit of science that will help keep them alive or keep them out of pain or -- to cure them, but the one that they ignored in the beginning is the one that would have helped.

JOHNSON: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the evidence is there. The numbers for delta are spiking. Most of the patients in the ICUs, like a vast majority, they are unvaccinated persons.

Dr. Karkowsky is absolutely right. You get to that point and you get to the point where you want to repent for that and you want that redemption for not getting it and taking those steps further. But, you know, at that point, a lot of times, unfortunately, it's too late.

LEMON: Yeah. You point out, Dr. Karkowsky, that most people are now choosing to get hospitalized with COVID. Are health care workers having conversations about how to use limited resources now? I mean, it sounds very harsh, but is there an argument to be had that these people made a decision and now they're facing the consequences?

KARKOWSKY: I want to enforce that that's not how we treat people, right? You come to the hospital. We take care of you, the patient, not your bad decisions, or even your decisions.

[23:10:00] KARKOWSKY: That's not relevant. I don't think it would become relevant. I think we all worked very hard over the last year to provide a really high quality of care.

What I am saying is that I think providers are getting burned out. And so what you're having is either providers who are working burned out and finding that they're unable to muster the compassion they need to this complex and exhausting work or they're leaving medicine. And I don't think either of those things is good for the country or for the people.

LEMON: Yeah, very good point. What are you hearing -- or points there. What are you hearing from unvaccinated, Jeremy, unvaccinated COVID patients in the ICU? Do they regret not getting their shot?

JOHNSON: Yeah. I mean, because once you get to the ICU, like I said before, Don, in the ICU, those patients are the sickest, the most critical patients. A lot of times with COVID, they are kind of knocking on death's door.

So absolutely, you know, they do have some regret for not taking those steps to potentially prevent that, even I know there's a lot of stuff back and forth about it. But, you know, if there's an option to get it, why not? Why not attempt to get that and stop it before it happens?

LEMON: Dr. Karkowsky, let's talk about the young folks among us who really, you know, can't make the decision for themselves. Some of them can't even be vaccinated. You're a mom of children who are too young to be vaccinated. In the height of the pandemic, you couldn't kiss them for three months. Are you worried that you may need to stay away from them again, can you imagine?

KARKOWSKY: You know, this pandemic was a really big test for us all. I think, you know, I, like many others, considered moving into my mom's basement and not going to work. I didn't do that. I went to work and I'll do it again. I'll do it for as long as we need us to.

But it took a toll, right? It has a toll on me and my family. There was about six months of terror where I really worried what would happen if both my husband and myself got sick and left my children without a caregiver. We can do that and we will do that. But we are, as an institution, getting tired and probably a little traumatized.

I've heard from multiple people that they're leaving medicine after 25 or 30 years of ICU work. That's a lot to us all and I think we really need to grapple with sort of the hopelessness that's set in in the medical profession after such a big ask for so many months.

LEMON: Yeah, the people who are really on the front lines and threatened by COVID at every single moment. You're an obstetrician, Dr. Karkowsky. I have to get your reaction. The CDC is urging all pregnant women today to get the vaccine as soon as possible. They're warning of a possibility of severe outcomes, and I quote that, severe outcomes for those who don't. Talk to me about that. How important is this message?

KARKOWSKY: I'm so thrilled that they were able to use that language. I think that those of us on the front lines have anything the sort of more gentle language that they published a while ago where they said that it should be available.

But frankly, I'm a high-risk OB doctor. I've have patients to the ICU, who were on ECMO, delivered preterm babies. I think what we really need to remember is that not getting a vaccine has risks, too.

As we learn more about the risk of not getting the vaccine and learn more about how safe the vaccine has become, I think this new language is absolutely warranted. I'm so thrilled to be able to give such a clear message to my patients.

LEMON: Thank you, doctor. Thank you, Jeremy. I appreciate it. Be safe.

JOHNSON: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for the opportunity.

LEMON: Coronavirus hospitalizations higher than ever in Florida this week. The federal government is sending hundreds of ventilators to the state to help meet the rising need. But one unvaccinated Florida man is fighting the delta variant as his family is desperately hoping for treatment to keep him alive.

Justin Sowell, a 32-year-old father, is on a ventilator in the ICU at a Jacksonville hospital. His father, Kent Sowell, joins me now. We wish him the very best and we thank you, Kent, for joining us. We really appreciate it. We're so sorry that your son, Justin, is in such tough shape right now. Tell us how he's doing tonight. What's the latest?

KENT SOWELL, FATHER OF COVID PATIENT: Well, honestly, I haven't been able to find out today. That's one of my biggest challenges. It's a fight to get information. I'm not in Florida. I'm 2,200 miles away. But if I was in Florida, I can't even go see him. When I call to get an update, I might get a call back, I might not. Whether it's the doctor, whether it's the nurse on duty, it is very, very, very hard to get any information.

It's very frustrating, especially in today's world, with the technology that there is, that we can't get a text, a fax, an e-mail, a video chat, something for five minutes, two minutes, three minutes, to let us know the status of my son. Let me give you an example. We found out that he needs an ECMO machine. We found out they are working on a flight for him for Friday of this week.


SOWELL: You know how we found out? From the Angel MedFlight, needed paperwork filled out. That's how we found out. And, you know, my son has COVID. He's got a 6-month-old daughter. And I'm doing everything I can to try to help save him. I'll go pay and fly him anywhere. I've got the money to do that. If I have to scrape them up, I'll get it.

But the communication is horrible for the loved ones trying to find out the status of their loved ones. That's got to change. We need to know, you know? Is he doing better today or worse? I don't know.

LEMON: Can I interject here, Kenny? I understand it's frustrating. Trust me. You know, I can't even imagine because I don't have a family member who is in the hospital or someone who has dealt with this. I have lost people I know, loved ones, friends to COVID.

But you understand that the hospitals are overrun with patients now. Many of the hospitals are overrun with patients. Health care workers, you just heard the folks before us, saying that they're burned out and people are quitting.


LEMON: So the hospitals are really taxed at the moment. I understand that you have questions, concerns about communicating, but doesn't that indicate to you just how bad the situation is right now, if you have people who are in the hospital and they can't even find the time to communicate with you? That should say something, no?

SOWELL: Well, it does say something. I know all these wonderful doctors and health care professionals are doing everything they can. But they have to understand, too. You know, hey, I'm a business owner. If my customers aren't being called back, I got a problem, Houston. And they have a problem. The switchboard needs to call them back. We need --

LEMON: Have you been able to communicate with him at all, though? When was the last time you talked to him?

SOWELL: With my son?

LEMON: Yeah.

SOWELL: Today, a wonderful, wonderful lady FaceTime my son for me, so I could see him. There's wonderful people that are at this hospital where he's at and they are trying hard. But at the end of the day, today I don't know how he's doing.

All I did was see him on a ventilator in his room. I said, can I get a status on him? We'll have the nurse call you. We'll try to have somebody get back to you. That's the frustrating thing, an e-mail, a text, anything, so I know. That's what's frustrating for me.

LEMON: He is 100% on a ventilator right now, but you say --

SOWELL: Yes, sir.

LEMON: -- he needs more help. What are you asking the doctors to do?

SOWELL: Well, first thing is to let us know what our options are. Now, a couple of days ago, a doctor who I called twice to talk to, who had never got back with me, we found out that they are recommending an ECMO machine for him, which they're in short supply.

And so we found one. When I say "we," the hospital found one in Georgia. But then there became a glitch on insurance. And I said, hey, I'll wire money, whatever. Don't let's keep him from getting this service. And at the end of the day, we still didn't know where we were at until I got this information on a life flight. That's horrible communication.

LEMON: Let me read, Kenny, what the hospital says, because we have a statement from Ascension St. Vincent Hospital where your son is being treated.

They say, while privacy laws prohibit us from communicating on a specific patient, we want to emphasize that the health and safety of all of our patients is our top priority. Facility transfers are made when a patient requires a higher level of care, however, a patient can only be safely transferred when there is an available physician and facility that consents and has space to receive the patient.

We do everything possible to ensure safe, timely patient transfers, but some transfers have unfortunately become more difficult due to the notable increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and limited bed availability across our state.

SOWELL: I understand that. I've even been on the phone calling hospitals, trying to help. That's not the normal protocol. And we hit brick walls. Nobody is willing to help us. In fact, we've run across quite rude hospital personnel that hardly even want to talk to us, and that's coming from the hospital that he's in. The people saying, hey, if you're willing -- we're willing to help.


SOWELL: The parent, the loved ones are willing to help. But they've got to help us. I ask them, can you just send me a letter stating, and I'll call every hospital in 50 states if need be. But we're sitting on pens and needles trying to help also.

I know there's a COVID pandemic out there and there has been for year and a half. I had COVID last year. I know what it is like to have it. It is horrible. Now, my son has it. He is doing a lot worse than me. At the end of the day, all I'm doing is trying to save my son.

LEMON: Everyone totally understands that. I just want something that you said. Your son is unvaccinated. You said -- you just told me you had COVID earlier in the pandemic and didn't want to get vaccinated. But that changed with the delta variant, right?

SOWELL: Yes, it did.

LEMON: Do you want to talk to me about that?

SOWELL: Well, it changed because -- I didn't go to the hospital. I felt like I was going to die having COVID, so did my lady that was taking care of me, but I didn't want to be put on a ventilator and not be able to converse with her. So, I toughed it through, I made it.

My son, we suggested he went. He was put on a ventilator. He's struggling through it. Before that, with the delta virus, I said, you know what, it was so hard, the virus I had, I'm going to go get the shot, and that's what I did. And I'm ready to go get the second one and I'm a little fearful to go get it, but I'm going to go get it.

LEMON: Kenny, I hope other people --

SOWELL: (INAUDIBLE) the vaccination.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, listen, I hope other people -- I hope people listen to you. The science is clearly the science and that the vaccine is safe, that the mostly unvaccinated people are becoming sick in hospitals and having a tough time. We wish you the very best with your son. We thank you for joining us. Thank you.

SOWELL: Thank you so much.

LEMON: What did he say? We'll be right back.




LEMON: Tonight, in misinformation nation, Senator Rand Paul and GOP Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene both suspended from social media for COVID misinformation. That as the battle between the White House and Facebook is heating up after Biden says misinformation on Facebook is killing people.

Joining me now is Kara Swisher, the host of the "Sway" podcast and the contributing writer for "The New York Times" opinions. I had the recent pleasure of being on her podcast and I enjoyed it. Thank you. Good to see you.


LEMON: COVID is now raging again and social media remains awash, Kara, with disinformation.


LEMON: Have Facebook or the other tech giants stepped up their game in any meaningful way to shut down that misinformation?

SWISHER: They've been trying, obviously. It's a flood that you can't even believe what happens in terms of how much is uploaded every day to each of these systems, billions and billions of pieces of information. And so I think the issue is that it's just too much and they have a hard time keeping track of it. People have changed, do all kinds of tricks, there's bots and malevolent players.

So I think the problem is the system really does help people who want to push misinformation out the way it's built, as we've talked about many times before, and especially if there's, you know, sort of bad players with bad intent like Rand Paul or Marjorie Taylor Greene who keep getting kicked off finally because they keep putting up misinformation. There's no incentive not to do so until you get kicked off, essentially.

LEMON: Rand Paul, let us talk about him, saying that some masks don't work on YouTube. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene says that vaccines were failing and ineffective in reducing virus spread on Twitter.


LEMON: A punishment is a week's suspension. I mean, what is that? Is that a slap on the wrist? What do you think?

SWISHER: They had a system that used to be more opaque in terms of how many because they didn't want people to figure it out. At the time of Alex Jones (ph), it was like five times. They have these rules internally.

But now I think on YouTube, it is a three-strike thing. They have different things that escalate over time. And if you do five or more within a certain period of time, you get kicked off permanently, essentially.

And it's all leading to someday you're going to get kicked off if you keep misbehaving like that. They'll take a record of it. I suspect both of them will probably get kicked off at some point because they enjoy creating trouble and they enjoy getting kicked off in some weird way.

LEMON: Yeah, because they could fund raise off of it and the base is like rah-rah-rah, good for you.

SWISHER: Absolutely. And then go over in Gettr.

LEMON: Yeah.

SWISHER: Yeah, and then go over in Gettr. I was noticing that Greene was having a fit over on Gettr. I'm on Gettr right now because I'm enjoying. I want to see what is going on over there. But it is still not as impactful as Twitter. As you can see, Donald Trump was unhappy about getting kicked off of Twitter. Probably Marjorie Taylor Greene would be permanently removed.

LEMON: I can't believe that you're torturing yourself with more social media.

SWISHER: It's okay. It's okay over there. There are some very -- you know what, there's always good people. There are a lot of bad people but there are good people, too, on all these platforms.

LEMON: Talk about the financial incentives, Kara, involved with these companies. Why is misinformation profitable for them?

SWISHER: It's not particularly profitable. It's more profitable in soccer teams and things like that where people organize book clubs and things like that. That's where they really want you to be. They want you to have your community and live your life. Mark Zuckerberg just started talking about the metaverse, essentially wants you to live your life on Facebook.


SWISHER: I think this is not something they like at all. They don't want to deal with it but they've been pulled in because this is where people meet and it is like the public square even though it is not a public square.

I think that is the difficulty as everybody thinks, if you heard Rand Paul or Marjorie Taylor Greene, my First Amendment rights are being violated, they're absolutely not being violated. You don't have to go to -- there is a giant food across the street. If I do something bad in there, I get kicked out. You know, I mean, that kind of stuff.

And so they have no particular right to be on it because these services are not public squares. And so it is really difficult to do anything about it because in a lot of way, you can't tell the companies what to do because it violates their First Amendment rights. They can make any rules they want on these things.

The problem is they don't execute very well against their rules. The situation is so vast and massive that it's almost impossible to coral. I would say they are working on it, but it hardly matters because this stuff gets through. I think the Biden administration has a really difficult road ahead of it in order to stop it.

LEMON: The best headphones in the business. Kara Swisher, I haven't seen --

SWISHER: Thank you.

LEMON: I haven't seen your ears in almost two years.

SWISHER: You know what, you're going to have to live with it, okay?


SWISHER: This is my podcast studio, what do you want?

LEMON: Just having a little fun. We can all use some laugh.

SWISHER: Me and Howard Stern, that's how we are.


LEMON: Thank you very much. I appreciate it, Kara. I will see you soon.

SWISHER: No problem. Thank you.

LEMON: Ads spreading across Facebook. Republicans fundraising by blaming the COVID surge on people who don't even live here. The big border conspiracy they're turning into big money, next.




LEMON (on camera): With no end in sight to the surge in COVID cases, some Republicans are now trying to deflect the blame for their own failure to act on migrants arriving at the U.S. border, the southern border.

Here is CNN's Joe Johns.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Call it a smokescreen, call it a diversion. It is a regular Republican theme, especially from politicians in states with low vaccination rates and high COVID-19 counts. The claim that thousands of migrants crossing the southern border are bringing COVID into the U.S. and people here should be afraid.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I can tell you, whatever variants are around the world, they are coming across that southern border.

JOHNS (voice-over): A refrain predictably repeated on Fox News.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Allowing hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants that we know about, every month, cross the border, many of them with a very high rate of COVID positivity --

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): What happened yesterday in La Joya, Texas where it was learned that migrants had been released by border patrol, they were in La Joya, found at Whataburger, with extreme signs of illness, and they themselves said they have COVID-19. And then it was learned that there was a hotel full of people with COVID-19.

JOHNS (voice-over): Earlier this year, fear of COVID carrying border crossers was mainly used to attack the Biden ministration's immigration policy. The top Republican in the House led a congressional delegation to the border in March.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): How much spread of COVID is he creating every single day by his policies along this border?

JOHNS (voice-over): But it did not take long for the message to morph into a political fundraising appeal. These ads popped up on Facebook in the past week. When we asked, Facebook said the ads do not violate its policy on hate speech, which it says allows for debate on whether any unvaccinated people should be allowed in shared spaces. Experts say there is no doubt that people with COVID have crossed the southern border into the U.S.

RON WALDMAN, SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: There will be migrants with COVID just as there are people in every population who have COVID.

JOHNS (voice-over): But that's not the point, he says.

WALDMAN: The problem is clearly with unvaccinated people in the United States and not with migrants.

JOHNS (voice-over): Experts say the solution to reducing cases is getting more people vaccinated and widespread masking to stop the spread. But Republican governors in states like Texas and Florida are blocking mandates. Bottom line, demonizing migrants is an ugly old habit that could distract attention from what really needs to be done to get COVID under control.

IMRAN AHMED, CEO, CENTER FOR COUNTERING DIGITAL HATE: They clearly exploit hateful narratives that we've seen being used by full on hate actors. But they also have medical misinformation that may persuade people that the way to solve this crisis is not through vaccination or through following public health guidance but instead to somehow restrict immigration.

JOHNS (on camera): We reached out to the officers of the politicians who use the issue of migrants with COVID in their fundraising, including Florida Governor DeSantis, who is seen as a potential candidate for president and whose state is the American epicenter of the pandemic.

His office said that the governor's main concern is about the Biden administration's policies and how they are executed. A reminder, Don, his state is currently overwhelmed by the virus.


LEMON (on camera): It is. Thank you, Joe Johns. I appreciate that. CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Scott Jennings are here now. I'm wondering if any of the Republican spreading these ads are doing it because it is easier than telling the truth to their base. We are going to talk about that, next.



LEMON: Some Republicans are trying to blame a surge in COVID cases on immigration even though experts say the delta variant and low vaccination rates in the U.S. are the primary causes.

Joining me now are CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Scott Jennings. Good evening to both of you. Ana, are these guys just deflecting from their own responsibilities when it comes to the pandemic, pointing fingers instead of taking the safety measures necessary?


ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think they're combining a couple of their favorite things, right? First, we know that along with golf and hunting, demonizing immigrants at the southern border is a favorite hobby of some of the Republicans, elected Republicans.

Couple that with this idea that they are freedom fighters against masks and mandates and passports and things that really don't exist, not from the federal government, and you have -- you've got the perfect storm, and they're using it to raise fear, to raise division, and to raise funds.

That is where it gets very irresponsible, because -- and dangerous, because look, I am from Florida. I live in Florida. You can't tell me that the emergency rooms and ICUs in Alachua County and Orange County and Dade County are full because of what's happening 2,000 miles away at the southern border.

LEMON: Yeah.

NAVARRO: And let's also talk about what is happening at the southern border. The same policy that the Trump administration used, Title 42, is being used because of a health emergency --

LEMON: Right.

NAVARRO: -- to deport people back to their countries.

LEMON: Let me get Scott in there. Scott, you heard the expert in Joe Johns's story there. Yes, there are migrants with COVID because there's COVID in just about every population. The problem is unvaccinated Americans and many of those are Republicans. Is it just easier for some of these Republicans to blame immigrants than to level with their own base about what's needed?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDNET TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I think -- I don't think they're demonizing the immigrants. I think they're demonizing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for what they see as failure to get the border under control.

These ads, I don't know why everybody is so upset about it. I mean there's an element of truth in all of it. I actually talked to one of the campaigns running the ads and they pointed me to McAllen, Texas. Last week, 7,000 migrants were released in McAllen, Texas, 1,500, according to city officials, tested positive for COVID. So they're not making this up. This is actually happening.

Now, is that the only thing driving COVID in the United States? Of course not, that's ridiculous. But it is a fact, just as you said, Don, there are migrants coming across, being released, that do have COVID. As Ana pointed out, immigration is a hot issue for Republicans, especially in republican primaries and especially among Republican grassroots donor.

So it's not surprising to me that republican campaigns would take facts that are true and use them in their own campaigns to raise money and gather support.

LEMON: As Ana pointed out, it's the same policy -- hang on, Ana. I just want to say -- you will, you will. It has been a general policy that migrants are tested for COVID and given the hotel rooms to quarantine if they test positive, though that data has not been made public.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that detained migrants are given masks and required to wear them, but the practice hasn't always been enforced. Go ahead, Ana.

NAVARRO: Listen, what's upsetting me as a Floridian, I think upsetting some of the people in places like Arkansas, like Louisiana where COVID is raging again, but what's upsetting me as a Floridian is that while we are suffering over 22,000 cases a day of COVID and hospitals are at capacity all over the state, our governor is selling beer koozies against Fauci to raise money. And he's at the southern border forming a spectacle instead of being in the state taking care of that.

Why? Because he's doubled down on his stupid policies that are not helping one bit, because he is suing cruise lines, because he's extorting school boards and school superintendents, because he has decided that instead of acknowledging a mistake and backtracking, like Asa Hutchinson, a Republican governor did in Arkansas, he's going to double down, because that is what you do, you don't admit mistakes, you don't admit error, you double down even if people are getting hospitalized and dying.

LEMON: Cases are up all across the country. I just have a short second, just couple of seconds left. Do you want to respond, Scott?

JENNINGS: Look, I think that some Republicans are going to continue to focus on the immigration issues that are very exciting to Republican donors and Republican activists. I am not surprised these ads are being run.

To me, if you're upset about these Facebook ads, you really ought to call the White House and ask Biden and Harris, why aren't you getting the border under control. To me, that is far more concerning than rhetoric in a political campaign.

LEMON: We'll be right back. Thank you both.




LEMON: New, tonight. The Fraternal Order of Police, America's largest police union, publicly slamming a far-right pundit and news host as a clown. The FOP calling out Newsmax's Greg Kelly for suggesting Capitol rioters may have mistaken D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone for a member of Antifa.

The police union not holding back, saying this, and I quote, "Suggesting that hero Officer Fanone was mistaken for Antifa, despite the police riot gear he was wearing, is downright dangerous. Don't believe the lies being spewed by this clown. It was just two weeks ago when Officer Fanone told CNN that he and others in the force felt that the union was not doing enough to call out those who have downplayed the severity of the January 6th insurrection.


LEMON: You have heard Officer Michael Fanone on this show tell his story of what happened that day. We have shown you his body camera footage, which is up now. He was beaten and tased to the point of having a heart attack. He almost died protecting the Capitol, suggesting anything, otherwise, is certainly clownish behavior.

And before we go, I just want to make sure that you know about "We Love New York City," the homecoming concert. Join us this -- for this once in a lifetime concert event. It's Saturday, August 21st, exclusively on CNN. I'll be one of the hosts.

Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We begin tonight with breaking news that is vitally important to millions of Americans.