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Don Lemon Tonight

Defense Department Issue Warning To All Americans In Afghanistan; At Least 1,500 Americans Still Stuck In Kabul; COVID Cases Rising In Both Adults And Children; House Select Committee Ask Companies For Phone Records; President Biden's Rating Plummeted. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 25, 2021 - 22:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): "DON LEMON TONIGHT" with the big star, D. Lemon. I found it hard. It's hard to find, well whatever, never mind. That's how I feel about that lawsuit except for one aspect.


CUOMO: That firm does a lot of legitimate work about a very important area of the law, which is people who are abused and through the process of pornography --

LEMON: That's not what this is about.

CUOMO: Right. And especially the idea of years later realizing what happened to you, that is a really, really important and delicate construct in the law and society. And I just hope somebody's not misapplying it for profit here.

LEMON: I think you're being -- listen, I think you're being very generous and you -- and very careful as should be. I am not. Because this is where our judicial system, the legal system, the court system should be overhauled and look at. Because someone should look at that and say, get out of my courtroom with this.

CUOMO: Well, that could happen.

LEMON: And it should happen. let's just be honest. But that's not what this is about. Look, good luck with them for all of that, fine. But it also for legitimate issues when it comes to what you're talking about, it diminishes that. Because there are people who have real issues that should be in the court of law, and the legal system is being over -- it's overrun and overrun with people who file these lawsuits that should not -- I mean barely have the merit or whatever --


CUOMO: Right. But the system can account for it.

LEMON: Come on.

CUOMO: You have sanctions, you be frivolous lawsuits and no one is saying that --


LEMON: If someone had put my picture, my naked picture as a kid on an album I would be saying look at me, this was me as a kid. Look, I was --


CUOMO: That's you.

LEMON: It's the baby.

CUOMO: That's you. That's not this person.

LEMON: That's how most people -- that's how most people and that's how that person should be.

CUOMO: That's not this man.

LEMON: But that's how that person should be and they did it for years.

CUOMO: Well, here's the thought.

LEMON: So, stop the B.S. That's not --it's B.S. And to say it's not about money, it is about money. I'm sorry. That's how it is.

CUOMO: There's money attached to the lawsuit so obviously -- obviously there is.


LEMON: Yes, so then ask them to remove it and tell them you don't want any money.

CUOMO: Right. I think that what is going to hurt -- look, every lawsuit has to survive summary judgment, which means if you assume all the facts as presented by the plaintiff do you have a claim upon which relief should be granted under the law? I don't know that this survives because if you assume all the facts even the way the guy did, it doesn't make any sense because, so just now?

This isn't hey, I remember what someone did to me way back when and, you know, it was so horrible that my psychologically I suppressed it. He's been well aware of what it was the entire time. He made hay out of it himself. He got Nevermind tattoo across his chest.

LEMON: Here's what a judge --

(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: But it is an interesting thing.

LEMON: Here's what a judge should say. Take this out of my courtroom, please.

CUOMO: Yes, but that may be what happen.

LEMON: And that's what should happen because otherwise people are going to continue to do that. And any -- any law firm worth its salt should say to these people, stop it. Stop it.

CUOMO: The law, if you look at the law firm it does a lot of important work. What I'm going to tell you is this.


LEMON: OK, fine. I'm not -- I don't know about the law firm.

CUOMO: But just the threat --

LEMON: I don't know about it. I'm just saying I'm looking at this. I look at this today and I said --


CUOMO: Just the threat and the cultural place that we are right now --


CUOMO: -- about what's OK and what isn't and what's the standard.


CUOMO: Take a look around how people are portraying the album cover when discussing this story. Take a look and you'll see what is interesting to me about it, which is just the threat of being on the wrong side of something that's cultural right now sparks quick responses.

LEMON: Why is the album cover even back in the zeitgeist, back in the ethos. It's because of this. Otherwise, it is --


CUOMO: Unless you're a fan the 30th anniversary is coming.

LEMON: Yes, it's an iconic album cover. I never --

CUOMO: I never look at it as porn anyway.

LEMON: I never saw it. I never even thought about it.

CUOMO: Never.

LEMON: I never even saw the kid's genitalia. I just saw it as a cute baby and they're talking about grasping for money. And the album meant something beyond. Right? It had a meaning.

CUOMO: Right. If he was never paid in the beginning, if his parents were never paid for the image, that's one thing.

LEMON: Well, that's a thing.

CUOMO: Right. But this is very different.

LEMON: Well, if you're going to say this is child pornography, then what's your parents? What do your parents have to do with it?

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: What do they -- what's their -- I mean, do they have an obligation here? Is there an onus on them?

CUOMO: They do. They got the father has told the story before.


CUOMO: Look, we know what this is about. But again, it's capturing a lot of people's attention, and it was worth kind of pushing around just to see --


LEMON: That was a good story. I'm glad you did it.

CUOMO: But I'll tell you something else. I'll tell you something else.


CUOMO: That matters a whole lot more and kind of triggers the same sense of what's right and what's wrong. And I am very -- I'm more worried tonight about Afghanistan than I have been any night up until now in this new phase --

LEMON: Threat of terror?

CUOMO: -- of Biden's administration arguably botching the exit, which is you cannot be focused on a deadline right now. You have to get your people out. And here's why. Phil Mudd who knows way better about this stuff than I do, he says there's no good answer.


Yes, but there can be a worse answer, which is if you leave you guarantee anyone who's left behind is going to be in a bad way, and they will be looked at, and they will be hunted and there will be recriminations. If you stay past the deadline, that may cause problems but that assumes that the Taliban really wants to get down against the United States of America.


CUOMO: If you leave and you leave Americans behind, God forbid, or you leave allies behind, you guarantee they have problems.


CUOMO: Do you guarantee problems if you stay beyond the 31st? I don't know that.

LEMON: You're never going to get everybody out.

CUOMO: They're going to try.

LEMON: Of course, and they're trying. I think actually, I actually think they're doing a good job of getting people out. Look at the tens of thousands of people they've gotten out. I think the administration has done a good job. Those images initially what happened, did that reflect poorly on the United States, absolutely. Did that reflect in the administration --


CUOMO: Right. But they're doing the job they're doing now because they screwed up the job originally.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: So, I don't want to give them too much credit. They need to get the people out.

LEMON: Well, exactly. Well, that's fine. But I want to give them the credit because that's a lot of people that they've gotten out.

CUOMO: Yes. But they had to get them out because they screwed up the exit.

LEMON: But they had to get them out anyways. If they screwed the exit or not, they still have to --


CUOMO: Not like this. Had they renegotiated the deal in the last seven months they could have done it on their own time.

LEMON: But they would still have to get people out. And even in seven months I think it is an impossibly to get every single person out of the country who wants to get out of Afghanistan --


CUOMO: But that's not our job. Our job is to get Americans and strategic allies --

LEMON: You're making my point.

CUOMO: Not everybody.

LEMON: You're making my point. But that is my breaking news. So, I'm going to get to it. CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon. Make your witness.

LEMON: You as well. I'll see you soon.

This is Don Lemon Tonight.

And we've got a lot on -- tonight on -- but I have to begin with the breaking news and it is out of Afghanistan. That's what I was just telling Chris. I want to get to it. Citing security threats -- here it is, citing security threats, OK.

Americans have been warned to stay away from the Kabul airport and those at three gates have been told to leave and do it immediately. That amid fears of what's being called a very specific threat stream from ISIS-K about planned attacks against crowds outside the airport. And those crowds have been growing.

More than 10,000 people swarming the airport today. A U.S. defense official tells CNN there are real concerns ISIS-K, a sworn enemy of the Taliban, wants to create mayhem. They want to do it amid fears that they're capable and planning multiple attacks.

That as the White House says 19,000 people were evacuated over a 24- hour period. More than 82,000 evacuated on U.S. military and coalition flights since August 14th. Did you hear that? More than 82,000. That's a lot of people evacuated on U.S. military and coalition flights since August 14th.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Antony Blinken says that there could be as many as 1,500 Americans still in Afghanistan. And he says efforts to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies will continue past the troop withdrawal on August 31st.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There is no deadline on our work to help any remaining citizens who decide they want to leave to do so along with the many Afghans who have stood by us over these many years and want to leave and have been unable to do so. That effort will continue every day past August 31st.


LEMON (on camera): So, the White House is saying that they are looking at options to make sure Americans can still leave Afghanistan after the end of the month. The story is coming out of Kabul tell you just how chaotic the situation at the airport still is.

One woman and her two children tried nearly a dozen times to get in for a flight to join her husband, a U.S. citizen, finally making it through when she dressed her baby daughter in yellow and held her over her head so that she could be seen after sending a photo of her to marines in a WhatsApp group.

And we're learning tonight about 20 San Diego students from a school district with kids ranging in age from preschool to eighth grade - are you listening to me - who have traveled to Afghanistan this summer to visit family and are now unable to get to the airport. We've got more on this story. That is coming up.

But in the midst to the race against time in Afghanistan, the president is not -- is not losing sight of his agenda here at home and his promises to Americans.


PETER DOOCY, CORRESPONDENT, FOX NEWS: Does he think that the build back better plan is as urgent and as time sensitive as this evacuation of Americans and Afghan friendlies from Kabul?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, first of all, I think it's important to the American people who care deeply about whether they're going to have jobs, whether they're going to have child care, whether they are -- whether we are going to be able to compete with China and countries around the world to understand that we have to do multiple things at the same time. That's exactly what any president of the United States has to do.


LEMON (on camera): Right at the top of the president's domestic agenda, COVID. More than 100,000 Americans are hospitalized with the virus. A number we haven't seen since last winter. The number of cases in children soaring. Texas Children's Hospital reporting a record number of kids hospitalized.


And with the back to school season and Delta running rampant, there are worries that it could get worse. Twenty-eight-point eight percent of the eligible population, 28.8 percent of the eligible population 12 and up is not yet vaccinated even after the FDA gave full approval to the Pfizer vaccine this week. Some folks don't want vaccines.

But take a look at this, all right. They don't want vaccines, but look at this. This is a line for monoclonal antibody treatments in Tampa. Again, that's emergency authorization as well. That as the mask wars are heating up across the country with deadly information running wild from anti-maskers.


UNKNOWN: There's a lot of good guys out there ready to do bad things soon. Watch what's coming. These -- these mandates are against the no numbered colds.


LEMON (on camera): Why so angry? It's a mask.

And then there's a school board meeting in South Carolina and the outrageous bogus conspiracy theory that the CDC is somehow plotting to turn schools into concentration camps. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNKNOWN: The CDC is considering what is called the shooting approach to prevent COVID-19. It is a plan to shutdown schools and to use them as camps to physically isolate men, women and children. Now, we know that concentration camps were something that the Nazis did, but it can come here at any moment, and we need to be aware.


LEMON (on camera): Just because you can have kids does not mean you should. Yes, I said it. And it would be funny if it weren't for the fact that people's lives are at stake. The misinformation, the lies, they're killing us.

And then there is the big lie, of course, that fueled one of the darkest days in American history, January 6th. That's when bloodthirsty rioters tried to overthrow our free and fair presidential election, hunting lawmakers forced to run for their lives, beating police, American heroes trying to defend the seat of our democracy.

The House select committee investigating January 6th demanding documents from a long list of government agencies including the DOJ, the Pentagon, the FBI, Homeland Security and the national archives, keeper of the previous administration's White House records.

They also want documents and communications related to members of the Trump family including Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Eric Trump and the former guy's oldest son and namesake Donald Trump, Jr.

You remember he said this about lawmakers who were just about to vote on January 6th to certify Joe Biden's Electoral College victory right before crowds of violent Trump supporters marched on capitol. Here it is.


DONALD TTRUMP, JR., DONALD TRUMP'S SON: You can be a hero or you can be a zero. And the choice is yours, but we are all watching. The whole world is watching, folks. Choose wisely.


LEMON (on camera): Who's he talking about there? You can be a hero or you can be a zero. Choose wisely. Sorry. Sorry. The committee also looking for records from election deniers like Rudy Giuliani.




LEMON (on camera): And looking for evidence of the former guy's pressure campaign to overturn election results in Georgia.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.


LEMON (on camera): With those last few sound bites it should be like circus music or Loony Tunes music, and we lived through that. Can you believe that? We lived through that. That's the actual truth. That's when comedians especially late-night hosts didn't really have to write anything. They would just play the words back that the folks actually said.


Well, he is saying now he's going to invoke executive privilege and attempt to block requests from the committee. We already knew that they want telecommunication companies to preserve phone records of several people including some members of Congress. And some of them might be pretty worked up about that.

Remember this. This is just last month, right? This was Congressman Jim Jordan hemming and hawing trying not to make eye contact, thrown for a loop by one very simple question. Did you speak with the then- president on January 6th?


UNKNOWN: Did you speak with President Trump on January 6th?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Yes, I mean, I speak -- I spoke with the president last week. I speak with the president all the time. I spoke with him on January 6. I mean, I talk with President Trump all the time, and that's -- that's -- I don't think that's unusual.

I would expect members of Congress to talk with the president of the United States when they're trying to get done the things they told the voters in their district to do. I'm actually kind of amazed sometimes that people keep asking this. Of course, I talk with the president all the time. I talk with, like I said, I talked with him last week.

UNKNOWN: On January 6th did you speak with him before, during or after the capitol was attacked?

JORDAN: I'd have to go -- I spoke with him that day after -- I think after. I don't know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. I just don't know. I'd have to go back -- I mean, I don't know that -- when those conversations happened. But what I know is I spoke with him all the time.


LEMON (on camera): So, boy. You speak with him all the time. You spoke with him on January 6th, maybe after but you have to go back but you don't know when those conversations happened but all you know is that you spoke with him all the time. Recognize this phrase? Come on, man.

So, you're trying to tell us you don't remember when you spoke to the president of the United States when this was happening, on this day, the day the capitol was attacked by rioters. This was all going on that day and playing out on television screens all over the country which includes the capitol and you don't remember? A day none of us will ever forget. We saw it all live on our TV.

Like I said before the misinformation and the lies, they're killing us and they're killing our democracy, the misinformation and the lies about COVID and about the big lie that fueled the attack on the United States Capitol. We got to get a handle on all of it.

As mentioned in our breaking news, an ominous warning tonight that Americans should stay away from the airport in Kabul, and anybody who's already there should leave immediately. What does this mean for desperate people still trying to escape the Taliban with time running out?


HANK TAYLOR, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, JOINT STAFF REGIONAL OPERATIONS: There is a threat. This has been a dangerous place that has had the threats by ISIS.




LEMON (on camera): This is our breaking news tonight. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul advising U.S. citizens at a number of gates at the Kabul airport to, quote, "leave immediately." Leave immediately citing security threats outside the gates. Australia also warning its citizens saying there's an ongoing and very high threat of terrorist attack. State Department says that there are about 1,500 people who may be Americans left in Afghanistan.

So, joining me now the legendary journalist Sam Donaldson, and CNN military analyst retired general Mark Hertling.

I'm so glad to have both of you on. Thank you so much.

General, of course I'm going to start with you. CNN reported earlier today there are concerns about security around the airport in Kabul have increased based on, quote, "a very serious threat stream from ISIS-K about planned attacks against crowds outside the airport." Now, this ominous warning tonight, what's your assessment of what's happening there on the ground?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, it's something I've been talking about for a while, Don, on CNN and various programs. This is all part of a NEO operation. You know, in a contested non-combatant evacuation operation, a NEO, you're going to have different phases of the operation. We saw the first couple of days being the chaotic phase and it moved out and we were starting to get a lot of folks out.

We're now in the time when the enemy is about to get a vote or they're trying to get a vote. And that's why the embassy issued this warning tonight. I don't think this is the end of the evacuation, but we're going to go into another phase here pretty soon if we can contain any threats to the airfield.

We're going to go into a phase where we end this thing. And there are going to be some last flights out. It's going to be heart wrenching. There's going to be equipment moved and soldiers ready to defend the runway and defend the final airplanes going out, but it's going to be difficult.

LEMON: Yes. The alert, general, says anyone at three of the airport gates should leave immediately and U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to and from the airport and avoid airport gates unless specifically instructed to go there. Does it sound to you like these gates and the people around them have become targets?

HERTLING: Yes, absolutely. And I've been saying this for a couple of days that as a guy who planned and almost executed a NEO, the biggest concern you have is when the enemy does get that vote. And what I see from my experience in Iraq and other combat zones, those gates with the literally thousands of people is a huge danger zone, Don.

That -- you know, it would be embarrassing for both the Taliban, which we don't really care if it's embarrassing to them. But it would be dangerous for the folks who are trying to get on the flight. A vehicle borne explosive device, I've seen those exploded gates and then hard targets. And they will potentially kill tens or hundreds of people.

And that's exactly what the embassy is trying to avoid right now when we've got that crush of humanity outside those three gates.

LEMON: Got it. Sam Donaldson, the president was briefed on contingency plans but remains committed to that August 31st deadline. And now tonight we have this ominous warning. If the threat is so urgent, what decisions to you, do you expect him to make in these critical days remaining?


SAM DONALDSON, FORMER ANCHOR & REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Well, this urgent threat is one that the president of the United States will have to meet and make certain that it's turned back with all the power we have assuming we can turn it back.

You know, I'm horrified at what's happening over there. All Americans are. The chaos, the threat to us, the threat to Afghans, the threat to Afghan women later on, they don't have a cold heart about these things. But Joe Biden has gotten one thing right, the most important thing, the essential thing. After 20 years and $80 billion and all of our efforts, he's getting out. And know after this another mother, another American mother will not

see her son or daughter in the military come back from Afghanistan in a body bag. We lost 58,000 in Vietnam yet have relationships with that country.

I would like to see perfect relationships or good relationships with Afghanistan, but it's a different country with different people, different religion, different people who want I think to do evil to us, so we can't do it. But we are getting out and that's important.

Well, Sam, following the fall of Kabul a lot of comparisons were made to the fall of Saigon. Are those comparisons still fair to make as the U.S. operation reaches its final days? They've really ramped up the operation since then. They've gotten I think they said 82,000 people out. They're getting a lot of people. I think it's like 1,500 they say may be Americans who are left there. Now, that doesn't include our Afghan allies, but they've really ramped up their efforts. Is that a fair comparison?

DONALDSON: They've done -- now they've done a terrific job. But we didn't have it that hard in Vietnam. Our secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, had made a deal with Le Duc Tho, the North Vietnamese negotiator. Let us out, don't press us, give us a decent interval than whatever happens is not our business.

And so, in 1973 all of our prisoners came out. John McCain came out. All of our military came out except of course a very few and for two years the North Vietnamese kept their word. And then like a wolf coming down on the fold the North Vietnamese swept in weeks down through Saigon.

And Graham Martin, our final ambassador there and the few Americans left clutched his flag, our flag to his breast and the last helicopter took off. So, we didn't have this chaos then because the North Vietnamese kept their word. I don't think the Taliban will keep their word. I don't trust them, and I think the general trust them, and I don't think Americans who have been over there and know them far better than I do are going to trust them. And it's unfortunate, but right now the thing is, get out.

LEMON: I want you to respond, general. Let me ask you this question as you're responding to that. Based on the few, you know, Americans left, it seems to be the case that some of those people are not directly near the airport. The Pentagon confirmed that they are performing extraction operations by helicopters to get people there. How difficult is it to organize and pull off these kinds of missions?

HERTLING: I won't comment on whether or not we're doing that, Don. I'm smart enough not to do that, but I will tell you that the special operating forces that conduct extraction operations are extremely well-trained. They do it in a very precise manner. It is difficult when you're talking about an area that's as wide as some of the areas they might be going into in Afghanistan.

So, yes, it's tough, no doubt about it. But we've seen over the last couple of days as the evacuation operation has continued some unbelievable courage and heroism and empathy of all service members, not just special operators and some of the Afghan special operators that are at the airfield but especially in the marines and army that are guarding the field.

But -- and I say this as an army guy, those pilots that are flying those C-17s and C-130s are doing some phenomenal work. I heard a story about a pilot today that when he was told there were, you know, his crew chief told him there were 900 bodies onboard and did he have enough power to take off, and he just said watch me. That's the kind of heroism that these young captains and majors flying these aircraft are conducting.

LEMON: Amen. Thank you both, gentlemen. Thank you, general. Thank you, Sam. I appreciate it.

HERTLING: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Investigators want to know everything Trump and his closest confidants were doing around January 6th, a special committee demanding documents. Stay with us.



LEMON (on camera): The House select committee investigating the January 6th capitol insurrection pushing to get documents from multiple government agencies, and the request is absolutely massive, the committee digging into Trump and his role in the riot. And they are seeking records relating to dozens of people that he had communications with. Trump already vowing to invoke executive privilege to fight the requests.

Let's discuss now. CNN's senior law enforcement analyst and former FBI deputy director Mr. Andrew McCabe is here. He is the author of "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump."

Good evening, sir. Lots to talk about. It's been a little bit. It's good to see you.


So, the committee is demanding a huge trove of documents across eight agencies including the DOJ, the FBI and the National Archives, which holds the Trump administration's records. What does the scope of this tell you about what the committee is looking for?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Don, I take it as a very good sign. I was -- I've been skeptical of how well the committee would execute their responsibilities here from the very beginning. You know, with their undeniably and unavoidably political origins I was concerned that they wouldn't really go for, go for broke.

But I've got to tell you that this document and information request is a very good sign that they are, in fact, embracing all the possible aspects of this attack on our democracy. What led to it, the information that each agency had leading up to it, what happened the day of the attack, what sort of communications were happening between people in the White House, between folks in the White House and on the Hill, and then of course how he handled the aftermath. So, I think it's a good sign that the committee is being aggressive and they are going try to be as complete as they can.

LEMON: The former guy saying that he is going to invoke executive privilege, we've seen that before. Do you think that's going to work this time?

MCCABE: It'll be interesting to watch. I'm not surprise at all that he is doing it. As you mentioned, you know, we've all been down this road before, but there's a lot at stake here in this request. And every agency, every entity, the National Archives are not going to be able to wholesale deny the requests simply because the president may be mounting some sort of a legal challenge.

You know, the National Archives we have laws and regulations in this country that require the National Archives to preserve these sorts of records for exactly this purpose. So, we may end up litigating around the edges particularly around some of the specific White House information, but there's a lot that the other agencies have to offer here, and I think there's -- you know, we'll probably have more success getting information from DHS, from the FBI and from DOJ.

LEMON: They are trying to look at Trump's every move on and around January 6th. They want documents related to his wife Melania and his children, former White House official allies close to him like Rudy Giuliani. If you were on this committee what would you want to see the most?

v Well, I think those things that you've mentioned are particularly interesting because as we know several of those folks were present at the rally on January 6th before the attack on the capitol. So, it's only logical that you would want to know what sort of conversations and communications they had leading up to their presence in that rally, maybe after the rally, conversations about what was happening as it was happening. So that stuff I think would be fascinating if we can get it.

But for me, Don, the really most significant information here is understanding what the agencies and particularly the FBI knew about the threat picture in the days and weeks leading up to January 6th and how they handled that information. What sort of decisions they made about it, what sort of assumptions they may have built into their assessments and how they handled that information? I think that's where we have really some room to improve on the obvious failure of January 6th.

LEMON: When I said it was wide ranging and wide reaching, they also want documents -- I found this interesting -- related to any discussion of the 25th amendment from November 3rd of 2020, to January 20th. Look, a lot of this stuff they request you don't know if they're going to get it, but why would they want to see that? MCCABE: Boy, that's a fascinating one. And that request led me to

wonder, you know, what have they been tipped off that might be out there? You know, what sorts of communications and interactions between folks maybe in the White House, maybe cabinet level officials may have been taking place that none of us are even aware of yet?

So, it wouldn't be -- it wouldn't be odd for some of these very specific requests to be targeting things that the committee already has information knows exists. You know, we don't know that for a fact yet, but it will be interesting to see as we go down the road here.

LEMON: Thank you very much, Andy McCabe. It's good to see you.

MCCABE: Sure, Don.

LEMON: Crisis in Afghanistan, but is that what most Americans are focused on? The priorities of the people. Next.



LEMON (on camera): President Biden and his administration juggling serious issues both internationally and domestically evacuating thousands of Americans and others from Afghanistan with the deadline to withdraw just days away while also focusing on getting his economic agenda through Congress and pushing Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

There's a lot to discuss. Frank Luntz is here. He's a pollster and communications strategist, and we know him. Well, he's back state side. Good to see you, Frank. Welcome home.


LEMON: Does it feel weird being back?

LUNTZ: For the first 24 hours. Now it actually feels good to be back. But, Don, I'm leaving again in about seven days. Going back to the motherland. And I look forward to returning.

LEMON: Well, let's talk about what's happening overseas, OK? So, there's so much attention on what's happening in Afghanistan, the way it fell to the Taliban. But is this a big priority for the American people with everything else, the domestic issues the economy, infrastructure, COVID?

LUNTZ: It's the higher priority than foreign policy normally is because we see what's happening in Afghanistan. And Don, the key component here is actually not just the policy. It's the visuals.

LEMON: Right.

LUNTZ: When you see an airport in chaos, when you see people falling off of planes, it reminds them what happened on 9/11 and the reactions are very negative.


I want to emphasize that it's not actually what's happening right now that I'm focused on as a pollster. I'm looking at what happens in the weeks and months to come. What happens to the schools for women, what happens to terrorists? Are we marked across the globe, or is the Taliban truly different?

What the president is looking at right now is not just what's happening in August of 2021. What really matters is over the next six months and 12 months. And one more point, foreign policy is only an issue for the White House. It is rare that congressional races ever turn down on foreign policy issue. So, we're looking at 2024 that's impacted rather than the off-year, off-season elections of 2022.

LEMON: Got it. So, if we look at President Biden's handseling of the issues, this is just a poll, it's from NBC News. The situation in Afghanistan, just 25 percent approved. On the economy, 47 percent approve. Coronavirus, 53 percent approve. The Afghanistan numbers are low. But if the White House can contain the fallout and get everyone out, will it matter in long-term as you said in 2024? Because you're looking ahead.

LUNTZ: I'm also looking at the attributes. Do you believe in what the president says? Do you believe he has a command of the facts? Do you believe that he is agile and flexible to take into account what's happening?

We always talk about issues because that's how we've looked at campaigns, and that's how we've looked at politics. But the fact is -- and this goes back really to Ronald Reagan and the last 40 years. The attributes, do you trust that individual? Do you have confidence in them? Do you have peace of mind? Those are even more important than the issues.

And I also look at trends. And the president got started -- got a very good start February and March. His numbers were much higher than Donald Trump's even though Trump doesn't want to acknowledge that. But those numbers have fallen back much quicker than they did for Donald Trump four years ago.

And I know that the White House in its heart of hearts is very concerned right now because it's not just Afghanistan where the numbers have fallen. But they're 10 points lower on the economy. They're 10 points lower on COVID than they were in February and March. And what politicians do is they look at trends, at the actual number where it is right now but the trend over the last three, four, five months, and those trend is not good for the president at this moment.

LEMON: Let's talk about COVID now. Between the seriousness of this Delta variant and Pfizer getting full FDA approval, will more skeptics roll-up their sleeves and get the shot? What are you hearing?

LUNTZ: So, I'm hearing good news and bad news. The good news is that you're going to see a surge in vaccines over the next 30 days. The combination of the FDA, the Delta variant which the public is aware and very concerned about. The fact that there are now mandates in offices and in places of employment, these are all having an impact. That's the good news.

And the bad news is that I believe you can now pinpoint a number where we will not climb above. And when you bring health experts on you should ask them about this. I don't think we're going to get above 75 percent vaccinated based on what polling numbers show and based on where we are right now.

So, we're going to go way above our current level, but I don't think we're going to get to the levels that Dr. Fauci and people at the CDC want us to be at. The consequences of that are significant because it means that we will be susceptible to variants, and some of them can be even worse than they are right now.


LUNTZ: And the last point, which is one that you've been making on your show again and again is that there are some people that just won't respond to the facts. They won't respond to the information. And what the American people want more than anything else is the truth. And they're getting the truth, and they're still saying no to the vaccine. I don't know how to overcome that.

LEMON: Yes. And saying no to the vaccine and some of them they're lining up for a monoclonal antibody therapy, which makes no sense. Quickly before I have to let you go. You've done this polling on how Americans see the country. What is that?

LUNTZ: It's very negative. And by the way, there's a word for Americans that won't respond to the truth and the facts. We call them the shuga (Ph), and with the holidays coming up for the Jewish community, I think there's a very appropriate word for some of these people.

What concerns me about where Americans stand right now, is that so few of them feel like their country is invested in them. Don, there's billions of dollars that have been spent, trillions of dollars to bring our country back after COVID, and yet you've got only a third of Americans who believe that their country is invested in them and their future.

We've got now just under 50 percent that believe that Americans are exceptional. Over a quarter believe that America is a failed country. And this stuff makes me very nervous.


I understand the anger. I understand the frustration. I don't understand the violence. But I get it that people feel disappointed. But I don't think this country is a failed country. Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, there's something for everyone in America and we always come back, the fact that we are so negative and so pessimistic, I think we need to talk about it. And the say that we have suggest that the numbers are only getting worse with each passing month.

LEMON: Thank you. Listen, I think the attack on institutions especially over the last past five years is a big factor in that.

Frank Luntz, thank you. I appreciate it. I'll see you soon. Be well.

LUNTZ: Thank you.

LEMON: More than half of schools in Florida going against their governor to require masks. He is fighting against them. But his constituents, take this, mostly aren't on his side.



LEMON (on camera): Take this. A majority of Florida voters are not happy with how GOP Governor Ron DeSantis is handling the pandemic. Fifty-one percent disapprove of the governor's response to the coronavirus crisis and things are not going well in the state, with metrics trending in the wrong direction.

Last week, Florida reported more deaths than any other time throughout the pandemic. And daily cases and hospitalizations in the state are also at record highs. A majority of Florida voters also disagree with how DeSantis is handling schools. And the coronavirus situation in Florida schools, not good. Not good at all.

Almost 12,000 students have tested positive for COVID so far this year across Florida's 15 largest districts. And thousands of students and teachers have had to quarantine because of those cases. DeSantis has issued an executive order banning schools from instituting mask mandates but eight counties have defied the order as cases have grown.

Remember, DeSantis is widely expected to throw his hat into the ring for a 2024 presidential bid. And how he handles the continuing COVID crisis will likely have an effect on his chances.

Americans at Kabul's airport being told to leave immediately. We're going to get an update from the Pentagon right after this.