Return to Transcripts main page

Don Lemon Tonight

U.S. Diplomats Sent Classified Cable Last Month Warning Of Potential Catastrophe In Afghanistan; Marjorie Taylor Greene Pushes Misinformation About COVID Vaccines And Masks On Iowa State Fair; Mask Wars Hit Georgia; Suspect Who Claimed To Have A Bomb Near U.S. Capitol Surrenders; A Leading Republican Candidate Is Hoping To Replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 19, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Tonight, CNN is learning that more than a dozen U.S. diplomats signed a classified cable last month to the secretary of state, Tony Blinken, warning of potential catastrophe on the ground in Afghanistan when the U.S. withdraws. It's the exact situation we are seeing right now. And the diplomats call for the swift evacuation of Afghans who had assisted the U.S.

Also tonight, the CDC is reporting the rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations per children reaching its highest level ever. That is helping to fuel the heated debate over mask mandates in schools. And D.C. police arrested a man who claimed that he had a bomb after an hours-long standoff near the Capitol.

Let's bring in now CNN's White House correspondent John Harwood and contributor Evan Osnos. He is a staff writer for "The New Yorker" and author of "Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now." Good evening to both of you.

John, the president is assisting the Afghanistan withdrawal is going as well as it could have, but an internal State Department memo raising some serious questions about his administration's handling of it. What do you know?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look, there clearly were people within the government who felt that there was greater urgency to the situation than the administration was reflecting. We see that in the State Department memo. We have seen that in some of the leaks from the Intelligence Community, suggesting that there were some dire predictions from within the Intelligence Community.

Of course, President Biden and Joints Chief of Staff Chair Milley have said that there was a consensus that the government was gonna crumble so fast. I think from President Biden's point of view, he had bad options. One is if he acted in an accelerated manner to have a mass evacuation, he risked undermining confidence in the government and accelerating the collapsed government. It is the same with some of his statements that he made about expressing optimism that the Taliban would not take over. Had he hinted that he thought the Taliban was going to rapidly takeover, that also would have undercut confidence in the government. He could have sent in more troops, of course, to stabilize the situation, but that's going precisely in the wrong direction of the policy that he wanted to pursue.

So what he did was try to go along with the troop levels that he had. They did try to speed up the visas for the interpreters, but obviously not fast enough, and the government collapsed. That is the source of most of the disorder and challenge that we face now.

It is a tough situation. It certainly does not make the administration look good and it makes these warnings (INAUDIBLE) in the aftermath, but I think Joe Biden's thought his options were not very good.

LEMON: Evan, put this in context for us here. The administration is now struggling to explain what happened here while trying to fix a desperate situation at the same time. The president's agenda on jobs, infrastructure, the pandemic, have largely been successful. How will this all shake out?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah. You know, I'm reminded, Don, of something in fact that Senator Biden said to the then President Clinton some years ago.

He told him not long after that presidency had begun there had been a foreign policy misadventure in the Balkans (ph). And then Senator Biden said, look, the first lesson of being president is you're not going to be able to control how your agenda is received. You can set it, but what is going to happen is going to be defined by events. He said those are going to be like waves that crash over you and you have to respond. And that's really the position he finds himself in now.

Look, we can't sugarcoat this. The events of the last few days are something that no president would ever seek to have on his watch. Joe Biden has been in politics a long time. He knows those were going to be very, very difficult images to recover from. But that is the phase where they are now. This process is not finished. This process is underway.


OSNOS: It is unfinished. In fact, what they have ahead of them is an opportunity to show that the United States can regroup on this question the same way that it has regrouped on COVID over the course of this year, the way that you've seen economy come together and begin to excel under this presidency.

But this is going to require that the next few days are crucial because this is a period when it's going to come down to try to get the American citizens who are there out of Afghanistan and ultimately then face this big challenge, which you and John just talked about, as the State Department representatives were indicating in their cable internally, which was about Afghan allies. That is the project ahead, 50,000 to 60,000 Americans -- 55,000 to 65,000 Afghans. That is the challenge that will largely define in some ways the full legacy of America's experience in this period.

LEMON: Well, and in a big way, perhaps this president's legacy. You mentioned what he said to Bill Clinton, his experience as a senator and vice president.

One of his selling points, Evan, was his experience. We were told his administration is going to be the full grown-ups with foreign policy experience and the expertise to fix things, not cronies like his predecessor. Is this a blow to that image or it remains to be seen?

OSNOS: Part of it will be about how much are they able to speak candidly about what went wrong, what are the lessons learned, and now how do you go forward, because they do have experience.

Look, I think part of this is that Joe Biden has been pretty clear for 20 years about how he thought about the war in Afghanistan, his concerns about it. In some strange way, the chaos of the last few days, as he indicated in an interview yesterday, were to his mind, they were in some way inevitable.

They did not have to be as bad as it was. This is not something that anybody in this administration wanted to have happened, God knows, but I think they're in a position now of saying, okay, we've said this war is one that has to end.

It has to end partly because we've not established the institutions and the culture there that were going to create ultimately a positive world for the United States. We now know that in vivid detail. But in order for the United States to leave there with some measure of honor, it has to go in and figure out, use your skill set of these people at the top, and deploy it properly to get people home and get people out of the country.

LEMON: John, is this part of the political calculation, knowing that by and large Americans are with him on the withdrawal and perhaps won't hold the messy aftermath against him?

HARWOOD: Well, look, Americans have supported impulse getting out of Afghanistan, longest war in American history, 20 years. But those views are pretty likely held. There was never going to be a big political payoff for Joe Biden in this, and now there certainly not going to be.

Obviously, as Evan indicated, those were the worst kind of images that a commander in chief would want the American people to see on his watch. It is the most crucial part of the challenge. It's in front of him. That is managing that evacuation over the next several weeks to try to get those people out safely.

We have so far not seen American casualties. We've not seen widespread loss of life. So this is a recoverable situation in a practical sense on the ground. But foreign affairs are not at the top of Americans' agenda politically. The views are very susceptible to events. Even if you had a smoothly managed withdrawal, if you had a subsequent terrorist incident and arguments from political opponents that the departure from Afghanistan had led to a resurgence of terrorism from Afghanistan, he would be vulnerable to that.

This is something that I think President Biden decided based on the belief he has held for a long time that Evan indicated. He was going to take this step. It's a difficult step. Three presidents have intended to take this step. He has now ripped that Band-Aid off. It is -- his presence is going to rise or fall on things domestically, COVID, the economy, not on Afghanistan.

LEMON (on camera): All right. Gentlemen, thank you both. I appreciate it. It is good to have you on, Evan. We will have you back. Thanks so much.

Coronavirus cases are surging across the country but that is not stopping Republican politicians like the Qanon congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, from pushing dangerous misinformation about the very things that experts say will help us all keep safe. Here's what she said at the Iowa State fair today.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I'm completely against masks. They don't work. They're not stopping the spread of COVID. I'm also completely against forced vaccines. The vaccines are failing.


LEMON (on camera): I don't need to tell you that that is not true. Okay? You know that is not true. The science is clear. Vaccines save lives. Masks help stop the spread.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is Des Moines tonight for the Iowa State fair. Donie, good evening. Thank you, sir. Let's talk about Marjorie Taylor Greene bringing her anti-vaccine message to Iowa.


LEMON: Do people on the ground believe all of her misinformation?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER (on camera): Hey, Don. Yeah, I mean, Greene does this thing where she professes her statements by saying that she supports people getting the vaccine if they want to, even pointing out that her parents got the vaccine.

But then she goes on these long monologues attacking the vaccine that could essentially discourage people from getting their shots. And that is a message that is resonating with some of her supporters here. Have a listen.


O'SULLIVAN: Would you consider getting the vaccine if more businesses and parts of the country now where you can only go into a restaurant --


O'SULLIVAN: -- if you have proof of a vaccine?

UNKNOWN: No, no, I'm not for that. This is America and we are a free country, free people. We have the right to decide what goes on with our bodies. Mandatory vaccines and vaccine passports, I believe that is un-American, anti-American. The government has no place in doing that.

STEPHEN PALMER, MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE SUPPORTER: I'm not vaccinated and I won't get vaccinated. Our days are numbered. It doesn't matter whether it's COVID. I could get that truck and go down the highway and get hit by semi T-bone and killed. It doesn't matter, you know. Life is what it is, you know. We will take (INAUDIBLE).

O'SULLIVAN: But you wear a seatbelt, right?

PALMER: Of course.


PALMER: It's a 50/50 chance that it will save you or it won't save you.

O'SULLIVAN: But isn't that, sir, like taking a vaccine? You take the steps to protect yourself when you can't?



PALMER: No. I'm not taking the jab.


O'SULLIVAN (on camera): So, as you can hear there, Don, I mean, for some folks, it seems that nothing you can really say to them is going to convince them to take the shot.

LEMON: Okay. So, despite all of this COVID misinformation, there is a vaccination at that fair. Are people taking advantage of it? And if they are, what are the reasons for getting the shots now?

O'SULLIVAN: Yes. So, Don, I guess that was the bad news. This is the good news. There is a vaccine tent here. HyVee, the supermarket chain, has a vaccine center set up here. They said over 200 people have gotten their shots here at the fair.

We met some elderly gentlemen, older gentlemen this afternoon who got their shots. They actually work here at the fair. They are going to be traveling around the country, going to other state fairs. And they said, you know, partially the reason why they were getting it was because the next fair they are going to in New Mexico requires staff to be vaccinated. But they also realizes it was the safer thing to do, they said, especially now they have been wearing masks and now folks are not wearing masks so much. They said they felt safer with the vaccine.

So there is a possibility that some folks' minds have been changed like these gentlemen. One of them also mentioned that he had been quite hesitant. He was a bit scared to get the shot, but he came around to it. So, there is some positive in all of this happening here at the fair.

LEMON: Yeah, progress, progress. Take it where we can get it, the good news. Thank you very much, Donie. I appreciate it.

I want to turn now to CNN senior political analyst Mr. Ron Brownstein and political commentator Ms. Amanda Carpenter. Good evening to both of you. Amanda, you first.


LEMON: You heard the people Donie spoke in Iowa. They believe the lies from Republican politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene. We are seeing this across the country. But is there anything that can actually stop this dangerous information?


I mean that clip that you guys played for Marjorie Taylor Greene, she is considered a fringe member, but I think her messaging, no masks and no mandates, is right in the wheel house of where the heart is right now.

If you listen to the things that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is saying, comparing mask mandates to medical authoritarianism, that is where it sat.

What is amazing to me, Don, when you talk about the disinformation, is they all do this dance where you could get the vaccine if you want, but then they go in and indulge every concern that someone might have not to get it.

At the same time, we peddled every other thing except the vaccine. There was like herd immunity, hydroxychloroquine, this horse de- wormer, now they're pushing the antibodies. We have the answer. It is the vaccine. But because Trump has politicized this whole mess so much, they are looking towards everything else except for what works, mandates and masks.

LEMON: It's interesting, because if you get the monoclonal, you are actually putting stuff into your body.


LEMON: It is in the vaccine. But it's just like you've gotten sick and your chances of recovery are worse and -- oh, boy. I can't make (INAUDIBLE).

Okay, so listen, Ron, I have to get your take on this. This is breaking news. It is out of Texas. The Supreme Court is refusing to intervene on mask mandates issued by several local jurisdictions. Listen, basically tonight, because I think we are overcomplicating it here.


LEMON: The courts now have agreed that Texas can mandate masks until this litigation or whatever goes further. So what does this all mean right now?

BROWNSTEIN: First of all, the extent of the open defiance and rebellion that we are seeing in Texas with now, I think, dozens of school districts is truly extraordinary. Every large metro in the state now is overly defying what the governor wants to do.

And the governor and the attorney general, Ken Paxton, try to basically do an end run on the court and ask the state's Supreme Court to intervene immediately to block all of these local mask mandates. What the state's Supreme Court said today was, no, you have to go through the regular process. You have to go through the appellate level before we will weigh in.

Strikingly, Don, on the same day, today that that happened, the Texas Education Agency said they will not enforce Governor Abbott's ban on mask mandates until all the litigation is done.

You take those two things together, it could be a signal that some Republicans, certainly the Republicans -- all -- the state's Supreme Court is entirely Republicans -- are looking for a way off of the ledge that the governor has moved the party to on this.

By the way, this comes as the county judge -- in fact, the county supervisor in Dallas County announced a few days ago that there were literally no pediatric ICU beds available in North Texas. The head of the Texas Medical Center in Houston said today 20 percent of their cases are kids.

So Abbott and Paxton have taken the Republicans to an extreme position, one that could threaten their hold on the suburban voters which are still critical in deciding the balance of power in the state. It's not clear where the next stage goes. It's not over yet.

LEMON: Ron, listen, also DeSantis and Abbott keep fighting with local officials over masks. Listen, you've been looking into this and you found the important similarity about where these feuds are happening. What is that? Tell me about that.

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I mean, what we are watching is extraordinary. I mean, we have never seen, I think, anything like the open defiance of this many large jurisdictions to efforts from the Republicans to override and pre-empt their decision.

I mean, basically, what we are seeing is that the governor in each state, both Texas and Florida, are trying to override decisions in counties that voted against them. If you look at all of the big counties in Florida that are trying to oppose the mask mandates, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Broward, Hillsborough, Osceola, Alachua and maybe Orange County, they all voted against DeSantis in 2018. And similarly in Texas, all the big counties except for Tarrant County, voted against Abbott.

What we are seeing, I think, Don, here is the crystallization of what has been a long developing dynamic where you have this republican coalition in the Sun Belt states that is rooted in their dominance preponderantly white, non-urban areas using their statewide power to override the decisions of diverse info age, increasingly secular big metros that are driving the economy and the population.

And this is the moment, I think, where we are seeing the breaking point and those metros pushing back and it's going to produce epic battles, I think, for the governorships in 2022 in Florida, in Georgia, Arizona, and maybe in Texas, although it's less clear there that the Democrats will have a top tier candidate.

LEMON: Amanda, a lot of the right-wing arguments against vaccines and masks are freedom and liberty. What is free about getting sick or getting others sick with the delta variant?

CARPENTER: I mean, I can't imagine anyone that feels free when they are staring down a possibility of having tubes stuck down their throat. But this is where the energy is at. All of the pushback against masks and mandates is definitely cloaked in this language of freedom, medical freedom, pushing back, as Ron DeSantis said, medical authoritarianism, and dictates coming down from federal government.

I think there is static here naturally, especially when it comes to this red state governor, blue state city dynamic that Ron has written so eloquently about. I encourage everybody to read it.

The fact that like conservatives believe in local data, local control. We are seeing that play out when you have these blue metro-type areas saying we want to make decisions to do masks or lockdowns, etc. as needed.

This also just reminds me of the broader debate about the Electoral College and how long Republicans could continue to have full dominance while catering to a minority of votes just because of built in advantages they have in the system. Right now, that is just playing out as they cater to the interests of the medical freedom, as they say, of the unvaccinated.

LEMON: I got to tell you, Ron, that's high praise coming from the woman who wrote the book.


LEMON: About gaslighting.

CARPENTER: Oh, yeah.



LEMON: So I would take that and then give her the last word.

BROWNSTEIN: I'll take it.

LEMON (on camera): Yeah. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

The latest front in the mask wars, Georgia, where parents and one school district are battling the school board and speaking up in favor of masks.


UNKNOWN: If you can't read the writing on the wall --

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Thirty seconds.

UNKNOWN: -- let me read it for you. Some of the people in this room may not be here next year due to COVID. Children will become disabled and die if changes are not made. Don't watch the nurses do this. Trust the science. Take care against COVID or COVID will take care of you.




LEMON (on camera): The latest front in the mask wars, Georgia, where some parents in the school districts are speaking up in favor of masking, going against the school board that is leaving it to parents to decide whether their children wear a mask or don't wear a mask. Cobb County parents tonight are putting pressure on their local officials.


UNKNOWN: I've heard the argument that we all want to make our own choices. To that, I say your choice has taken my choice away. I don't have a choice but to send my children, one severely asthmatic, into an unsafe learning environment.

I don't know if there are certain number of positive cases that you're looking for or do a certain number of kids need to die before you humble yourselves enough to admit that you are wrong.

UNKNOWN: It's alarming and disturbing that the school system I thought would protect and nurture my boys is unnecessarily and deliberately leading them vulnerable to illness.

UNKNOWN: In effect, you are asking us to drop our children into shark- infested water and force them to swim without so much as a raft.

(END VIDEO TAPE) LEMON (on camera): Hmm. Well, let's discuss now with Dr. Timothy Lin, a pulmonary doctor and also a parent of two children, young children in the Cobb County School District. Dr. Lin, thank you. I really appreciate you joining us.

You are one of 240 local doctors signing on to a letter urging the school board to consider more safety measures. And this is what you write. You said, our students, staff and community deserve to be protected while they learn, yet your decisions have placed the majority of them at risk. So, delta is serious. Do these Cobb County officials get that?

TIMOTHY LIN, PULMONARY DOCTOR AND COBB COUNTY PARENT: I don't know. I work in a hospital where I see a lot of ICU patients. I see the great majority of COVID patients that are sick. It's horrible. And I think the biggest thing I'm concerned about in my county is just protecting all the kids. And I don't know that they understand that.

LEMON: I've spoken to parents and doctors who have been threatened, yelled out because they supported mask since schools. Were you concerned about what reaction you would get for taking a stand? I'm sure maybe -- you've seen some of the news reports that are happening to parents?

LIN: Yeah. I mean, I think it's scary. I've been working countless hours in the hospitals, so I'm not actually able to have time to go to the rallies, which I would love to go to. But from my standpoint, I just feel like I need to do what I can to get the message out, that I think masks are really important to protect our kids.

LEMON: Yeah. Doctor, Cobb County lets parents decide for their kids, but we know how kids are. Doesn't it put them in a tough spot if some kids have to wear them and some kids don't?

LIN: Yeah, it really does not make any sense. If you leave it up to the kids themselves, nobody wants to wear a mask. So, at that point, it's really what the parent wants to do. If you have some kids wearing masks and some kids don't, it does not really do anything. You are exposing so many kids to other kids that may have COVID and may not. We do not know. That's the problem. A lot of times, they are asymptomatic.

LEMON: Yeah. I don't know. I mean, if you make the masks fun and do contests and that kind of thing, maybe kids will want to do it. I think they probably get their cues from their parents. You had two young kids in school. You are so busy, though, treating patients. You just said you don't get a chance to go to the rallies and all of that. Treating patients with COVID, you can't even attend the meetings. Talk to us about what it's like in your hospital right now.

LIN: Well, I know that you just had gone to Louisiana. It is probably just exactly what you saw. I mean, it's awful. We have a 21-bed ICU and we have probably 30 to 35 ICU-level care patients. So we are overcapacity. And the great majority are COVID patients.

It's just really sad. I feel bad for the patients. I feel bad for the families who can't see the patients. But at the same time, it is preventable. So it's just hard on patients, families, and also the staff, trying to take care of these patients. It's really difficult.

LEMON: The thing is that it is preventable. That's the most frustrating part. Just south of you, more than 19,000 students from Florida's biggest school districts are quarantining already after schools have just been barely open there. Is it even possible to sustain in-person schooling without masks right now?

LIN: Well, I think that's a good question. I mean, I think the problem is we have all these cases and then there is the quarantine process. I don't think it's very good. At some point, you are just going to get more and more and more cases. That's just how it goes with COVID, especially with the delta variant being so contagious.

LEMON: Thank you, Dr. Lin. Best of luck. You'd be safe. We appreciate the work you're doing in the hospital and for the students. Thank you so much.

LIN: Thanks for having me.


LEMON: Chaos on Capitol Hill after a man live streamed from inside his truck parked outside the Library of Congress holding what he said was a bomb. His Facebook page showing he frequently made pro-Trump posts.


LEMON: So, with all of our, you know, attention focused overseas, the threat of domestic terrorism is as real as ever.


LEMON: A man parked in a truck near the Capitol today live streaming, holding what he said was a bomb and threatening to detonate it.

So, I want to get to CNN's congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles with the very latest for us this evening. Ryan, thank you for helping us out with this very disturbing story. The suspect is in custody. The area is cleared now. Authorities did not find the bomb in the vehicle. What more do you know?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, there is no doubt, Don, that it was a pretty intense couple of hours on Capitol Hill today. You're right. Capitol police did not find a bomb in this man's truck. What they did find is what they're calling bomb-making materials and this was after a standoff of more than five hours where the suspect drove his pickup truck in front of the Library of Congress which is directly across the street from the United States Capitol.

He then went on Facebook and live streamed a long line of grievances and claimed that he had enough explosive material and shrapnel in the car to blow up two city blocks. That led Capitol police to evacuate a two-plus-block radius, locked many people down in buildings surrounding that area. These are some pretty important buildings, Don. You're talking about not only the Capitol but the office buildings around it, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. Everything turned out to be okay.

He ended up surrendering peacefully and he didn't have nearly the dangerous material in the car that he claimed to, but, you know, just six or so months after what happened on January 6th, there were a lot of anxious people on Capitol Hill today.

LEMON: A lot of people out there with issues that need to be dealt with, concerning mental health and just the connection to reality and what is real and what's not. The suspect was live streaming the entire time. What was he saying?

NOBLES (on camera): Don, when you talk about his mental health, I think that was on display in this live stream. I watched almost everything that he posted on Facebook today. It was actually on Facebook for a significant amount of time given the rhetoric and the danger that it posed. We don't want to show you too much of it because we don't want to give it too much credence. A lot of what he had to say didn't make a whole heck of a lot of sense, but here's just a small sample.


UNKNOWN: You shoot me, two and a half blocks are going with me, and then you're talking about a revolution. The revolution is on. It's here. It's today.


NOBLES (on camera): And what he said there kind of crystallizes why it had police so concerned. There was so much politically charged rhetoric of what he had to say in that live stream. He demanded President Joe Biden to step down.

CNN actually spoke with his son after this incident was all over. He said that after the election, he was very upset that former President Donald Trump didn't win, and it kind of put him into a tailspin. He also had a loss of some family members over the last couple of months, so there are a lot of dynamics here at play.

The long and short of it is, Don, it ended peacefully, but it shows that there is still a problem here when it comes to violent political rhetoric and what it could lead to. It turned out not to be a serious thing here today, but there is no doubt a lot of people in Capitol Hill and Washington in general that are concerned that something worse could happen in the future.

LEMON: Well said, Ryan Nobles. Appreciate your reporting. Thank you, sir. Be safe out there.

NOBLES: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: So let's turn to Daryl Johnson. Daryl Johnson is the author of "Hateland: A long, Hard Look at America's Extremist Heart." Daryl, thank you. Good evening to you. Appreciate you joining us.

So the man is in custody. He had a history of supporting the former president. He called himself a patriot. He was talking about a revolution. He called for all Democrats to step down. Clearly, the threat we saw on January 6th. That type of threat is not going away.

DARYL JOHNSON, AUTHOR: That's exactly right. And one of the big takeaways from this incident, thank goodness he didn't have the amount of explosives that he was bragging about, but I look at it as, you know, these people are looking at the events unfolding over in Afghanistan.

Some of these patriots have military experience and have been over in Afghanistan. And, you know, seeing how the country was able to deteriorate and crumble so quickly, it almost gives this sense of, you know, I went over there for nothing.

And so here we are in 2021 when we've got this pandemic that's ongoing and a lot of these extremists are agitated about the mask mandates and the government regulations and looking at it as an infringement on their rights.

And now we have these events unfolding in Afghanistan which gives these veterans who have joined these groups or being recruited by these groups even more anger and frustration that may manifest itself in future events like this.

And then couple that with the 2020 census information that was released last week where it shows a big change in demographics in our country. This will continue to further agitate the white supremacists and other types of extremists.


JOHNSON: So, you know, these events that we're seeing, unfortunately, I think is just manifesting an ongoing threat that's not going away any time soon.

LEMON: Well, to that end, you know, today, Daryl, it wasn't a mob like we saw on January 6. It was one man in a car or in a truck rather, claiming to have a bomb. So tell us about the current domestic terror threat, especially with lone wolf attackers.

JOHNSON: Right. So the extremists in this country, those that turn to violence and who mobilized toward terrorist action, they follow this concept of leaderless resistance, lone wolf and small sole tactics which emphasizes self-training, surveillance targets in community, and basically operating in stealth.

And so it is very difficult for law enforcement to detect these types of threats and mitigate against them. So, you know, here we are today, this gentleman is an example of that.

Like I said, I think that this is kind of the start of something that may grow given the events in Afghanistan as well as the U.S. census results that have been released this past week.

LEMON: Daryl, thank you so much. Appreciate that.

JOHNSON: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you very much. He is known for inflammatory comments on race and gender. And now, pro-Trump talk radio host Larry Elder is the leading GOP candidate in the California recall election against Gavin Newsom.




LEMON (on camera): In less than a month, California voters will go to the polls to decide if they want to recall their Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom. The leading Republican candidate hoping to replace Newsom is a conservative talk radio host named Larry Elder, a Trump supporter known for his inflammatory rhetoric. More tonight from CNN's Kyung Lah.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder won't stop to answer our questions outside his public rally. What he prefers, the prepared stage and his fans.

CROWD: Larry! Larry! Larry!

LAH (voice-over): Elder is the leading Republican candidate in the recall election of Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom.

LARRY ELDER, REPUBLICAN CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: This man that I'm going to defeat on September the 14th --

LAH (voice-over): A Trump supporter and talk radio fixture, Elder is energizing the republican base.

UNKNOWN: Larry Elder.

UNKNOWN: I know it's a democratic state. Larry Elder is the one that save it.

UNKNOWN: The momentum is going with the Republicans, hopefully.

LAH (voice-over): A first-time candidate, he's never held office, better known for inflammatory, take no prisoners talk in conservative radio. His sharpest comments are on race and gender.

ELDER: I argue that the welfare state has incentivizes women to marry the government.

I've always felt that minorities and women complain too much about race and sexism. LAH (voice-over): In May 2000, Elder penned this editorial, writing, women know less than men about political issues, economics, and current events, adding, the less one knows, the easier the manipulation. On family leave, Elder tweeted in 2016, you have no right to maternity leave. Just this week, Elder said employers should be able to ask women if they plan on getting pregnant.

ELDER: I believe that a female employer could ask questions of a female employee or a male employee that directly impacts on whether or not that person is going to be available to work a full-time, a full 48-hour week.

LAH (voice-over): On climate change, this was Elder's position in 2008.

ELDER: The bad news is that global warming is a croc.

LAH (voice-over): It's a position his campaign indicates he's evolved from. Now believing man may be partially involved in climate change. But Elder has spent years online promoting global warming as a myth. He also posted ten steps to fix America plan which include abolish the IRS, eliminate corporate taxes, take government out of education, arguing it should be in the hands of the private sector, legalize drugs, and abolish the minimum wage.

That position has not changed. Elder tweeted this month, the ideal minimum wage is zero. One position shifting just this month is who won the 2020 election? To the Sacramento bee (ph) --

ELDER: I do believe that Joe Biden won the election.

LAH (voice-over): Then just two weeks later after blowback from the Trump base --

ELDER (voice-over): Do I believe that Joe Biden won the election fair and square? Give me a mulligan on that one, Jen and Grant, no I don't.

(On camera): Was there an election fraud in 2020? Are you kidding me?

LAH (voice-over): But the factual flip flop isn't sitting well with Trump supporters.

HECKLER: Mr. Elder, you're beating around the bush. Do you believe that Joe Biden won the election fairly and squarely? Please address the question.

ELDER: I'm answering the question.

HECKLER: No, you're not.

LAH (voice-over): He didn't want to talk to us about it, either.

(On camera): There was that last question, the second to the last question about --

ELDER: Why don't you talk about what else I talked about? Can you talk about any of those things?

LAH (voice-over): He didn't stick around long enough for me to ask.

(On camera): How concerned are California Democrats about Larry Elder? Governor Newsom's campaign released an attack ad directly on Larry Elder. Increasingly, his sharpest attacks have been about Larry Elder, mentioning him by name.


LAH (on camera): And the governor has been stressing that in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1, a governor Larry Elder would be out of step with the majority of voters in this liberal state. Don?


LEMON (on camera): Kyung Lah, thank you. We'll be right back.


LEMON: Before we go, I want to make sure you know about "We Love New York City," the homecoming concert.


LEMON: Make sure you join us for our once in a lifetime concert event. It's this Saturday, starting at 5:00 p.m., exclusively on CNN.

Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Good evening. We begin tonight with nine seconds of video that speak to the chaos and desperation in Afghanistan. Take a look.


COOPER: What you see happened at the airport perimeter in Kabul. That's a baby being handed to American troops on top of the wall. We can't say much more about it than that.