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Don Lemon Tonight
Republicans Stick To The Big Lie; Capitol Hill On Full Alert; GOP Calling For General Milley To Resign; Gymnasts Blasting FBI's Dereliction Of Duty, Nicki Minaj Questions The Efficacy Of COVID Vaccine. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired September 15, 2021 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): Thank you for watching. "DON LEMON TONIGHT" with the big star, D. Lemon right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: How are you doing? Are you all right?
CUOMO: I'm confused, man.
LEMON: About what?
CUOMO: I'm confused about what's happening with this missing 22-year- old, beautiful kid going around the country. I'm confused by the South Carolina situation with this Murdaugh family. I've never heard of any -- by the way it's not Murdoch like media Murdochs --
LEMON: It's different. Yes.
CUOMO: It's a totally different family. But the -- I've never heard anything like it. And I'm confused at how your senators -- how the senators believe that they can get righteous about Milley for deciding to do something about an obvious risk that they ignored, and now they don't want to give the benefit of that facts that he followed protocol and worked with the secretary of defense and had a room full of people when he made these calls. And they still want to say he went rogue.
CUOMO: So, you want to misrepresent what did he when he did the right thing and you did nothing?
CUOMO: And you think you're going to be the righteous agent?
LEMON: Yes. Well, two things. Number one, I hope that the families of the young people, I hope they figure out what happened to everyone. I hope there is a resolution to all of it. You can't bring people back. But hopefully that works out.
Now, moving on to the political part, there have been so many people who have been an apologist for this president. You know how I felt the entire time, pretty much the entire campaign, once he became the nominee and then became the president, that it was time to really call people out on their you know what. On their B.S., including him and including the folks around him who were apologists and who aided and abetted in all of his wrongdoings.
So, I think that for them not to step up now, or to call for Milley to be -- to resign, or I think someone is even calling for him to be court martialed or something. This is absolutely ridiculous.
Have a seat. You didn't do the right thing. You're still trying to elevate yourself through some big lie that you don't know it's going to work in the next election because it is a minority, a minority of people.
And so, I think I think we have to stop coddling people when it comes to this and the vaccine saying, you can't shame them. You can't call them stupid. You can't call them stupid. Yes, they are. The people who aided and abetted Trump are stupid because they believed his big lie.
The people who are not getting vaccines who are believing the lies on the internet instead of science, it's time to start shaming them. What else -- or leave them behind. Because they are keeping the majority of Americans behind. You didn't feel that way about the polio vaccine, you don't feel that way about measles, mumps, rubella when it comes to your children, and all of a sudden, this vaccine is different? What's different about it?
The only different thing about it is because of your politics today. People talk about, I don't know what's in the shot, Chris. I don't know what's in that shot.
CUOMO: I'll tell you what's not in it. A tracking device.
LEMON: Hold on, let me -- yes, let me finish this. Do you know what's -- do you know what they get shots in nowadays? In their rear ends they're getting shots to make it bigger. They're getting shots in their face. They don't know what's in Botox. They don't know what's in this stuff, nothing wrong with Botox.
CUOMO: People don't know what they eat, what, what they drink, what they smoke.
LEMON: Look, I tried it once my eyebrow. I don't have it now. As you can see, I got all these wrinkles. Everybody asking me, when are you going to get Botox? But listen, nothing wrong with Botox.
LEMON: But I'm saying, do people really know what's in stuff that they inject in their bodies all the time --
CUOMO: What they eat.
LEMON: -- and they're like, they shot what they eat, what they drink? Stop it. Stop with it the ignorance. And we have to stop saying, you know, you have to listen to people and -- no, you don't. These people are being harmful to the greater good. You don't have to listen to a minority of people who are being harmful to the greater good, and who are not acting on logic and science.
I had -- I had an issue I told you, Chris, when my family was here, and they were saying, well, I don't know. I said how you got here to visit me in New York? You took an airplane. What is that? Science. Right? Do you know why people live to be older than 40, 50, 60 years old these days? Science. Medicine, no one questions that.
Do you know why people, you know what is so contradictory about it? When people get sick, they go into the hospital and they say, throw it all, give it to me. Inject me. Put it in me. And you are going to pay a whole lot of money and you are going to tax the medical system when you could have gotten it for free and you wouldn't be there in that position in the first place.
CUOMO: You're going to question the vaccine but you want to take a horse dewormer.
But look, here's the thing. I accept everything you just said. Most of all the idea that the majority cannot be healed by the tyranny of a minority.
CUOMO: Their stubbornness has to be their own consequence at some point and the rest us have to be able to live life.
CUOMO: Now, I see a repeat of messaging problems that we have with the vaccine with the booster. Somebody allowed Joe Biden to go out and set a schedule before they had all their ducks in a row.
CUOMO: Now they're going to debate whether or not there's a booster, which set of data, how do they look. We've discussed this before. Scientists make lousy messengers because we're used to people in politics holding on to a position no matter what the facts are. The facts change and the politician never changes their position.
CUOMO: Science changes as you learn things. LEMON: Yes.
CUOMO: But now we're in a situation where he said September 20 rollout. Now they're going to debate. Now there's a mix of minds as to whether or not we need it and that's all fine. But you've got to be good on the messaging side. You don't have Biden go out --
LEMON: Well, that's hard, though, Chris.
CUOMO: -- and set out a timetable before you know whether you need it.
LEMON: That's hard, though, Chris. Because as you say, when you -- that's why it was called a novel virus. Because it was new.
LEMON: And you learned, when you learn things -- new things about, especially when it comes to science, what are you doing? You adapt.
LEMON: And so, you should have an open mind about it.
LEMON: Because if people were trying to fool you, they would say, Ok, here it's set in stone and they wouldn't change.
LEMON: They're not doing that.
CUOMO: I agree.
LEMON: Do you think there is a whole conspiracy to put stuff in people -- it's absolutely ridiculous.
CUOMO: I agree.
LEMON: It is -- it's crazy. So, look, I understand the whole thing about messaging. OK, fine. There could be better messaging. Hindsight is 20/20 or whatever.
CUOMO: No, I'm saying right now with the booster.
LEMON: Well, OK, fine. But listen, maybe at some point they thought they needed it and then they studied it and they got some new information about it. What harm does -- what does it's going to do? What's the harm in it? Why do you care so much? Why does it matter so much?
If someone told me, science now said, Don, you need to reup your measles, mumps, rubella that you got when you were a kid, what would I say? OK, great. Before, a couple years ago we didn't need shingles vaccines. Now when I go to get my flu shot now, guess what I'm going to do? I'm going to get a shingles vaccine. Was there some conspiracy for people trying to not -- trying to make me sick by getting shingles? No. All of a sudden, we've discovered that shingles is a problem is a problem in our society.
CUOMO: I don't disagree.
LEMON: And now we have to get it every year.
CUOMO: I'm just saying just don't give ammunition to the haters.
LEMON: Well, but, Chris --
CUOMO: That's what I'm saying.
LEMON: Yes. But listen, every year you get a flu shot. You don't say well, I took the flu shot last year. Why do I need that flu shot again?
CUOMO: I'm with you.
LEMON: You know I'm getting it again.
CUOMO: I'm with you. But this is a little different.
LEMON: All right.
CUOMO: You have the president saying, all right, here's when the boosters come. And now you've got the head of the NIH and the head of the FDA saying hold on, we're not sure we need the booster yet.
CUOMO: And that fuels resistance. I'm saying there's no need for that.
LEMON: But it fuels resistance for people who are not being logical. People who are looking for an excuse not to do it. An excuse to criticize the administration. Here's what you do. They have new science. When they say, get the booster, I'll get it. OK? They say we don't need it, OK, fine. Whenever they do it, just be curious instead of judgmental. And figure out, listen to the scientists, what they say. And if they tell you to do something, do it. Because they're not doing it off some conspiracy.
Scientists and science aren't political. They don't care. They care about what is in the science. Mathematicians. It's not political. One plus one equals two. That's it. So, just stop trying to look for reasons to criticize the administration and to not get something because maybe you're afraid of it or because you want to be political about it and just be open. And --
CUOMO: I'm with that.
LEMON: Yes. CUOMO: I'm just saying just don't give them reasons to doubt you.
LEMON: OK. All right.
CUOMO: You know, just --
LEMON: We'll get there.
CUOMO: -- get it together. And then give us the answer --
CUOMO: -- and we'll move forward.
LEMON: I'm going to go. Because I'm going to have to come next door and smack you if you keep disagreeing with me.
CUOMO: You know what I am. I love you, D Lemon.
LEMON: Listen, this is how you do it. Chris and I don't always -- I don't think this is really a disagreement. This is how you do it. At the end of the day --
CUOMO: I disagree about how often you put stuff on your face.
LEMON: There is nothing on this face. Because if you hear what people say, that man, you know what people say about us. You guys have aged so much in the last year.
CUOMO: That's true. There's no -- there's no drug that's going to say --
LEMON: Nothing in here. Look at that.
CUOMO: OK. There's not enough. There's not enough (Inaudible) to stop this.
LEMON: Hey, and by the way, if you want to get your Botox, that's your business. I'm not -- I'm just saying people go and get injections all the time. They don't know the exact science behind it and it is OK. Right? It's been FDA approved.
CUOMO: Listen, people have free choice.
CUOMO: Do what you want to do. I've never judge anything you've done to yourself.
LEMON: Tomorrow I'm going to come in and you won't even -- I'll be like this. I'm really --
CUOMO: You look like the cat lady. I love you, D.
LEMON: I love you, too.
This is DON LEMON TONIGHT.
And what I am about to say is, you know, look, Chris and I have had our fun but there is -- we're telling the truth about a lot. And here -- look, what I want to say is something that may be tough to hear. But it is really the truth.
I want to you listen to me because we've got to face this. The well of the American electoral system has been poisoned. It is the crown jewel of our democracy. Our free and fair elections. The envy of the world. Poisoned with lies. Lies that are now baked into the platform of what used to be called the party of Lincoln. A party that's now under the spell of the big lie of bogus elections.
Now millions of Americans tonight don't believe that Joe Biden is the rightful president of the United States. I want to just look at. This is the result of CNN's poll, a new poll that we have out.
Seventy-eight percent of Republicans don't think Joe Biden actually won the election. Seventy-eight percent. That's not a matter of opinion. It's a fact. Joe Biden is a duly elected president. But you know who else didn't believe that? Hundreds of rioters who tried to stop the peaceful transfer of power on one of the darkest days in American history. When lawmakers were forced to run for their lives. When rioters put up gallows and chanted, hang Mike Pence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): When they savagely beat police officers trying to defend the capitol. And what fueled all of that? The big lie. The lie that 78 percent of Republicans still believe. How can you have a functioning democracy when nearly eight in ten Americans say the president of the United States didn't legitimately win the election?
There's absolutely no evidence of widespread voter fraud in 2020 and case after case has been just thrown out of court. Yet the vast majority of Republicans continue to believe the lie. That as more than, look at this, 90 percent of Americans think that democracy is under attack, or being tested.
Like I said, the well of the American electoral system has been poisoned. Fifty-one percent of Americans say it is likely elected officials in the next few years will overturn the results of an election their party didn't win. That is scary. And if you think that can't happen, just take a look at what's going on in Pennsylvania. It's happening right now.
Republicans voting today to subpoena the Pennsylvania Department of State for millions of voters' personal information. Thing like names, addresses, driver's license numbers, and partial social security numbers. It's fraud it 2.0. They're digging for any sign of voter fraud even though there's absolutely no evidence of significant fraud in Pennsylvania or any other state for that matter.
Whatever happened to the GOP being the party of limited government? The party that used to be appalled by government intrusion and overreach? I guess it's a whole another ball game when you're trying to appease a disgraced, twice impeached, one-term former president who is still pushing the same big lie of bogus election fraud that fueled the insurrection at the capitol and it is still alive and well today.
I've said it before. The warning lights are blinking red. Take a look at this live picture of the capitol now. Fencing going up around the capitol tonight. Just like after January 6th. Can you believe it, we're here again. The TSA ramping up security ahead of the so-called justice for J 6 rally. Which, let's remember, is in defense -- in defense of the insurrectionists who tried to stop the peaceful transfer of power. Capitol police requesting D.C. National Guard assistance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We have received a request from the capitol police force. Some assistance for this weekend's protests, scheduled protests. I'm not going to detail the specific request.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): The House sergeant at arms warning members and staff to avoid the capitol on Saturday ahead of the right-wing rally at the scene of the crime. Eight months after blood thirsty rioters stormed the seat of our democracy.
That as more bombshells come from this new book that's out, "Peril," documenting the final out of control few weeks inside the then president's inner circle. You have to listen to this. Bob Woodward and his Washington Post co-author Robert Costa, reporting in the book obtained by CNN's Jamie Gangel, that joint chiefs chairman General Mark Milley believed the then president was in such serious mental decline that he tried to ensure Trump didn't start a war with China.
They write that Milley, quote, "was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election, with Trump now all but manic. Screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies."
The book reports Milley made two back channel calls to China's top general to reassure him that the U.S. was not considering a strike and instructed top military officials not to take orders from anyone, including the then president unless Milley was involved. And that has some crying foul.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I don't think there's any doubt that at a minimum he should be fired if this is true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): The former president going on Newsmax today, Newsmax -- excuse me, to claim that that is treason. President Biden defending General Milley today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: Sir, did General Milley do the right thing, sir? In your opinion, did General Milley do the right thing?
UNKNOWN: Thank you, guys. Thank you. Let's go. Thank you. Thank you, guys. Thank you. Let's go.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I have great confidence in General Milley.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): But apparently, it wasn't just the chairman of the joint chiefs who was concerned about the then president's mental state. The book details a private call that Kevin McCarthy had with Trump the night before Joe Biden's inauguration. McCarthy reportedly saying, quote, "I don't know what's happened to you in the last two months. You're not the same as you are the last four years."
Now look, none of us is in the position to speak to the former president's mental health. Did you hear that before you play the sound bites on the propaganda networks? None of us is in a position to speak to the former president's mental health.
But according to the reporting in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's book, the top general in the country and one of the top two Republicans in Congress both had questions. And the former president's niece, Mary Trump, said this to Chris just tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S NIECE: What must not be forgotten is that on November 7th, he suffered the worst humiliation, the worst loss of his life. It was incalculable, the damage that it did to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON (on camera): That as some on the right and his, I don't know,
they delight in making wild and completely unfounded accusations about Joe Biden. But remember, when the former president bragged about acting -- excuse me, about acing, I should say, a cognitive test last year?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Such person, woman, man, camera, TV. OK. That's very good. If you get in it order, you get extra points. If you -- OK. Now he's asking you other questions. Other questions. And then 10 minutes, 15, 20 minutes later, he said remember the first question? Not the first, but the 10th question? Give us that again. Can you do that again? And you go, person, woman, man, camera, TV.
If you get it in order, you get extra points. They said nobody gets it in order. But then when you go back about 20, 25 minutes later and they say go back to that question. They don't tell you this. Go back to that question and repeat them. Can you do it? And you go, person, woman, man, camera, TV. They say that's amazing. How did you do that? I do it because I have like a good memory. Because I'm cognitively there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): You have forgotten about that, right? We actually -- that actually happened and we lived through it. Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Wow to this next thing, too. Gather around the TV. We've got news tonight on the COVID vaccine and Nicki Minaj. This is the truth, everybody. These are the facts. OK? That's what we're all about here. Facts first.
Now you may have seen that Nicki Minaj said she was invited to the White House after she tweeted some misinformation that a few days ago saying that her cousin in Trinidad, quote, "won't get the vaccine because his friends got it and he became impotent." And then there were some other things that I shall not say.
Trinidad and Tobago knocked down that information. And now a source tells me tonight that she has not been invited to the White House. So that -- that's a tweet that now involved two governments. And administration officials tell CNN's Jeff Zeleny, quote, "as we have with others, we offered a call with Nicki Minaj and one of our doctors to answer questions that she has about safety, the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine."
And that's a lesson in how to reach people. With facts. Not with social media fights. Not with name calling. Like I said, facts first. In this environment, we need people to step up, right? Why are you doing this story about Nicki Minaj? Nicki Minaj has a huge following. Every one with a platform has a responsibility.
Now we're in the middle of a pandemic. Right? This is, you know, emergency situation. That's why I want to use this platform to make this point. OK? So, listen. There's a group of people out there who have been hesitant. Even some in my own family. And Nicki Minaj has a big influence. She might be able to make a difference.
I'm not here to talk about name calling or fights on Twitter. I'm here to talk about meeting people where they are. That's the only way we're going to get through to people. So, I hope that Nicki Minaj does talk to those doctors that she gets educated and through this, her fans are educated as well. That is the best outcome for everyone.
So, like I've been saying the well of the American electoral system has been poisoned. Poisoned by a lie. So, what's the antidote to the poison?
Ahead, Simone Biles and star gymnast's emotional testimony before the Senate blasting the FBI's mishandling of the abuse allegation or investigation of team USA doctor Larry Nassar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIMONE BILES, U.S. GYMNAST: I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): So, most Americans feel democracy is under attack in this country or being tested. That is according to a new CNN poll. So, what is being done to protect it?
Let's discuss now with Matthew Dowd, the former chief strategist for President George W. Bush, the author of the new book "Revelations on the River."
By the way, Matthew, good evening. What a great title for a book and congratulations on that. Everybody, go read it.
MATTHEW DOWD, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Thank you.
LEMON: I'm sure you've seen the numbers of the new CNN poll on the state of our democracy. Almost all Americans think democracy is under attack or being tested. If the well of democracy has been poisoned so much, what is the antidote?
DOWD: Well, first of all, we have to, I think the American public needs to clearly understand who poisoned it and how they poisoned it. Because in order to confront the poison or have an antidote to the poison you got to know where it came from or where the pollution to the river of democracy is sourced from.
And I think that's really important. And it is whether people -- the GOP or the Dems side think democracy is under attack and it's fragile and all that, we all need to understand, it is the GOP primarily through lying and deception and on various things including what happened in the last election and actually throughout the Trump presidency, is they're the source of it.
And so, in order to confront that, truth is the best antidote for where and what we are today. But we have a segment of the population that seems unwilling to hear that truth.
LEMON: Is that why people are fighting truth and nail not to have the truth of the country and the history taught in schools? Because they want to live in a delusion?
DOWD: Well, you know, it's funny, Don, because, you know this with the people you interact with, there is a natural human tendency which is called confirmation bias, which is to seek out information that confirms your own bias and ignore information that makes you uncomfortable. Which is why we hardly ever have a race conversation because it makes certain people uncomfortable to have the conversation because they have to confront their own biases, their own --
LEMON: It makes white people uncomfortable, right?
DOWD: Yes. Exactly. Because they have to confront what their history is. And the same is true here. So, people, I mean, we have a whole group of people that all they watch is Fox News or OAN or one of those other crazy outlets. And they just receive information that's not factual, that's not truthful. And it confirms their biases and it gets worse and worse and worse.
And that's the situation we're dealing with, Don. Is that we have a segment of the population that seems unwilling. But you know, I actually give -- I'm actually sad for them because they are the victims of this. Because they're being lied to.
DOWD: They're being lied to by leaders. And when leader -- when somebody lies to you, they don't respect you. And that's the thing I want most Republicans to understand. And most people that back Trump is these people don't have any respect for you at all. Because if somebody is not willing to tell you the truth, they don't respect you.
LEMON: Right. Three hundred percent. Yes. Amen. You're right. So, let's talk about all these restrictive voting laws that are being put into place across the country by GOP lawmakers and the big lie continues to be promoted a year after the 2020 election almost.
Meanwhile, voting rights bills are being slow walked in Congress. Isn't this asymmetrical warfare at the ballot box? I mean, shouldn't there be more urgency and action from Democrats on this? I know that you think that this is the most important issue, I think right now other than COVID, facing our democracy.
DOWD: It's way more. I actually think it's way more important than COVID. Because ultimately, we'll get through COVID and we'll figure this out. It may -- it's taking longer than any of us want. But the attacks on our democracy and what's happening on voting rights goes to the core of who we are. Because once that's undermined, then there is no way to fix that. Then you collapse as a democracy, as a constitutional democracy on this.
And Texas as you know, where I am today, at one thing, people ought to understand, Texas in the '90s, Texas in the '90s, was ranked 14th on ease of voting. Texas today is ranked 50th on ease of voting. So, where every other part of our lives, you can DocuSign a $500,000 loan on a house from your -- from your -- in your bathrobe. You can transfer any amount of money from your living room.
But for some reason the technology and making it easier for people to vote and make it easier for people to access the ballot box is something that we still are struggling with. And to me, voting is the only possible way that the American public is given as an individual. They can't hire lobbyists, Don. They can't do all of the other things wealthy people do.
The only thing they have to hold people accountable is the vote. And when that's restricted or that's made harder, it main -- it makes it easier for politicians to not be held accountable. And I think Democrats one thing I've criticized them on, is they have not dealt with this like it's a five-alarm fire. They need to deal with this like it's a five-alarm fire. They can pass all the infrastructure stuff they want and do all the other things that they want. If they let democracy collapse, it all doesn't matter.
LEMON: That's why we love having you because you tell the truth. Facts first. And by the way, you're right about the ease of voting and what you can do. You know, now I sit in my kitchen and took checks. I can't believe people still send checks, right? And I deposit them. And then people laugh at me because they're like, you're still writing checks? Old man. Like what's wrong? You're still carrying cash?
Because everyone is doing Zelle or Venmo or whatever. And nobody -- it's old school. If we can figure out how to do that, you can buy a house online, right, or a car, why can't we figure out how to vote? So. Or figure out how to make --
DOWD: Absolutely. Absolutely.
DOWD: If voting -- if voting is so important, we ought to make it as easy as possible for people to do.
LEMON: Yes. I'm just making it clear. I didn't say necessarily voting online but we should make it easier for people to do. Thank you very much, Matthew Dowd.
DOWD: Yes. LEMON: I'll see you soon. Have a good one.
So, stunning testimony from Olympic gymnasts on Capitol Hill including Simone Biles. The athlete is trying to hold back tears as they blame the FBI for ignoring their pleas for help in mishandling the investigation of their former team doctor Larry Nassar. And top FBI brass agreeing with them.
LEMON (on camera): Attorney General Merrick Garland set to appear before a Senate committee next month. And it's likely the first chance lawmakers will get to question him about the FBI's botched investigation of Larry Nassar, the former doctor for the USA gymnastics team now behind bars for sexual assault. Olympic gymnasts who were abused by him testifying today and tearing into the FBI for mishandling the allegations brought against Nassar.
More tonight from CNN's Jean Casarez.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCKAYLA MARONEY, U.S. GYMNAST: They had legal legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing.
ALY RAISMAN, U.S. GYMNAST: I felt pressured by the FBI to consent to Nassar's plea deal.
BILES: I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system.
MAGGIE NICHOLS, U.S. GYMNAST: Why? Why would the FBI agents lie to OIG investigators?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, and Maggie Nichols, elite gymnasts and members of the Olympics United States Gymnastics team giving emotional testimony, ripping the FBI for failing to protect them from their sexual abuser.
MARONEY: I was so shocked at the agent's silence and disregard for my trauma.
RAISMAN: It was like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter.
CASAREZ: One by one the decorated gymnasts told their stories, recounted the years of abuse by Larry Nassar, the former USA gymnastics team doctor.
BILES: I sit before you today to raise my voice so that no little girl must endure what I, the athletes at this table and the countless others who needlessly suffered under Nassar's guise of medical treatment, which we continue to endure today.
MARONEY: That evening I was naked, completely alone with him on top of me molesting me for hours. I told them, I thought I was going to die that night because there was no way that he would let me go. He turned out to be more of a pedophile than he was a doctor.
CASAREZ: Nassar is currently serving a 40 to 175-year state prison sentence after 150 women and girls came forward to expose, he abused them over the course of 20 years. But today's congressional hearing, a result of the scathing report from the Justice Department's inspector general's office revealing FBI officials investigating the allegations against Nassar made false statements and failed to properly document complaints by the accusers at the time.
MARONEY: Not only did the FBI not report my abuse but when they eventually documented my report, 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said.
CASAREZ: One FBI agent already fired Michael Langman, according to the Washington Post, interviewed Maroney in 2015 about her allegations of sexual abuse by Nassar. And is accused of failing to launch a proper investigation. Langman declined to comment as did the FBI and the inspector general's office to the paper.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): The FBI's handling of the Nassar case is a stain on the bureau.
CASAREZ: FBI director Christopher Wray who did not lead the bureau at the time, also being grilled today.
DURBIN: What am I missing here? This man is on the loose molesting children and it appears that it's being lost in the paperwork of the agency.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, U.S. FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: I share your bewilderment, I share your outrage and I don't have a good explanation for you.
CASAREZ: Wray apologizing to the victims and vowing to do more.
WRAY: It's my commitment to you that I, and my entire senior leadership team are going to make damn sure everybody at the FBI remembers what happened here in heartbreaking detail.
CASAREZ: Jean Casarez, CNN, Capitol Hill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): All right, Jean Casarez, thank you very much.
The FBI director says that he will do more. But what did the DOJ do when they discovered the false statements and misleading and mishandling of their agents?
LEMON (on camera): Shocking testimony on Capitol (Technical difficulty) a botched investigation of Larry Nassar, the sexual assault case there. Top USA gymnasts squarely pointing the finger at the institutions that enabled the abuse to continue.
I want to bring in now Chris Swecker, the former FBI assistant director of the criminal investigative division, and Laura Coates, CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor. Good evening to both of you. Thank you so much for joining me.
Chris, let's see. Let's start with the I.G. report saying that the agents involved betrayed their law enforcement responsibilities and their duties to these victims.
The Indianapolis FBI field office first learned that there were allegations against Nassar from three gymnasts but they only spoke to one. It was by phone. Raisman said it took 14 months for the FBI to speak to her. Maroney said the agency made up false claims about what she said. It's frankly almost unbelievable. I mean, what went wrong? You know the FBI. What went wrong here?
CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE DIVISION: Don, this is as bad as it can get. And you know, as Chris Wray said today on the Hill as he testified, he had no explanation for it. I mean, not only did they do no investigation despite receiving credible allegations from the victims and the committee itself. They lied about it and covered it up.
And then on top of that the (Technical difficulty) in Indianapolis job and trying to (Technical difficulty) Olympic in this instance, dozens of other victims of Larry (Technical difficulty).
-- with matters reported and I've actually done that myself reported different activities to the FBI, the report of serious crimes. If it's not counterterrorism, if it's not counter intelligence or cyber, they seem very lethargic in getting off the ground. They seem to be hyper focused on those three things and they seem to let other things fall by the way side.
LEMON: Laura, I know you, and I see that look on your face. You're not happy with this. I want to play something. It's tough to hear, OK? This is Maroney speaking about what some of the FBI did about what happened to her. We'll play it and then we'll hear from Laura. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARONEY: I then told the FBI about Tokyo, that being pill for the plane ride, to then work on me later that night. That evening I was naked, completely alone with him on top of me, molesting me for hours.
I told them I thought I was going to die that night because there is no way that he would let me go. But he did. I told them I walk the halls of Tokyo hotel at 2 a.m. at only 15 years old. I began crying at the memory over the phone and there was just dead silence. I was so shocked at the agent's silence and disregard for my trauma. After that minute of silence, he asked, is that all?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): It's absolutely shocking, Laura. When you look at how these girls were ignored, what does that signal to them and everyone else who is trying to get justice in the face of such ugly abuse?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, it's absolutely shocking and disgusting. And she had that question later on with saying, what's the point of reporting it if nothing is going to be done? It's going to be buried somewhere if someone will be self- interested enough to try to get a job out of it.
The idea of saying is that all really indicates that wasn't in that person's mind insufficient enough to warrant even a telephone call to a law enforcement counterpart in Michigan? I mean, that's shocking to me. As a prosecutor, I've prosecuted sex offenses. And I've prosecuted on behalf of young people. And let me tell you, the actions of the FBI in their delayed investigations actually probably compromised likely the later prosecution of Larry Nassar. Because now you have a jury pool or a judge who doesn't understand why there was a delay.
Was it because the FBI agent did not find the person credible? Was there some reason why they looked at what they said and they said, is that all? Is there something to this that makes a jury question, that little seed of doubt is all you need to tank a case.
And so, you think about all the domino effects of what they've done and the indifference, now only in the court of public opinion among potential and also, actual victims of this person. But also what it does when you try to prosecute and the prosecutor does make the decision to prosecute the person.
Now this person is serving decades in prison. But that's because a judge looked at the evidence, saw the sentence, and it really belies what the investigators did. Which was nothing, it seems.
LEMON: You know, Chris, one of the FBI -- one of the FBI agents involved in this was fired within the last few weeks. And the other is now retired. A referral was made but DOJ didn't bring charges against them last year or this year. Should they be charge?
SWECKER: As a former prosecutor, as a former agent, FBI agent, I say yes. I read the statutes that applied and the inspector general himself has not authority to prosecute (Technical difficulty) justice. (Technical difficulty) to the FBI and the inspector general. (Technical difficulty)
LEMON: Laura, I can see that you agreed, but you think they should be prosecuted?
COATES: I do think that there should be accountability in a form that's meaningful to these victims and for future (Technical difficulty) to deter the (Technical difficulty). If the FBI is going to be able to ask for prosecution of people who lie to them, who misrepresent facts and knowingly do so and they have to be held to the same standard. Otherwise, there is no integrity in the FBI. There is no credibility, there is no trust. And that cannot have a functioning FBI in our country if that's the case.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it.
Unfortunately, we will be discussing this, a case that should have been handled already.
LEMON: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Coverage of today's hearing may have elicited strong emotions for some people. That's especially true for those who are survivors of sexual violence. If you are or someone you know is dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault there are organizations that can help and their information is up on the screen now. We'll leave it up for a moment. And we will be right back.
LEMON (on camera): Know your history. Today marks 58 years since the 16th Street Baptist church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. Four young black girls, Denise McNair, Carol Robertson, Addie May Collins, and Cynthia Wesley were killed in the blast. Fourteen others were injured that day in the domestic terror attack by Klan members furious over gains in civil rights for black Americans.
The bombings sparked riots where two more black teenagers died. It happened -- it helped, I should say, to galvanize the civil rights movement. Even though suspects emerge in 1965 it took more than a decade for even one of the bombers to be brought to justice in 1977.
It was more than 20 years later that then U.S. attorney and former Senator Doug Jones brought charges against two more of the Klansmen. They were convicted in 2001 and 2002. The last bomber dying in prison just in the summer of last year.
The past isn't really past. There are millions of Americans who can still remember when black and white citizens were legally segregated. A time when black Americans faced every conceivable obstacle to voting. Now nearly 60 years later voter suppression is resurgent in GOP-led states across this country. the big lie rest on a foundation of racist lies about black voting in blue cities. And we saw where those lies can lead, when hundreds of rioters attacked the capitol to steal an election that was lost fair and square.
So, on this anniversary let's remember how hard people fought for the rights that still need defending even today. President Biden saying that he has great confidence in Mark Milley,
General Mark Milley as some call for his resignation. But what would have happened if he wasn't around to stop Trump's worst instincts? The former defense secretary William Cohen is here to talk about it, and he's next.