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Don Lemon Tonight

FDA Approved Boosters for 65 and Older; One House GOP Not Running for Re-election; Donald Trump Touts He Still Have Nine Left to Go; Illegal Immigrants Painted as Democrat Voters; Pentagon Admitted Their Mistake; No Chance GOP Can be Fixed. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 17, 2021 - 22:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: They must be keeping tabs on him. They have been worried about him. Three days? And then you called the police and say we don't know where he is. It's very upsetting. It's very curious. And the search will continue.

Don Lemon Tonight with its big star, D. Lemon, right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I was watching tonight and when he said that my mouth went to gape. I said what? I can't believe. He has been -- they haven't seen him for that period of time. And listen, I know that this isn't -- as I was speaking to the police chief down in Florida last night.

This isn't like the police shows you see on television like Law and Order. They can't even question this guy because of his attorneys and that doesn't happen with everybody, you know I'm saying?

CUOMO: Well, they can't question because of his rights.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: Because they don't even have a crime. And something that people really just don't know, because you're not familiar with the process, you've got to be careful about making an arrest.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: Because you don't keep getting bites at the apple. And right now, they have nothing. Because even if they had found things in the van or they had proof, or the family had told them something, for indication, they would now be moving him to being a suspect. And they haven't.

LEMON: Person of interest.

CUOMO: So, he is now missing, the FBI, which is, you know, that's the best we have, they are looking for these people. But just imagine being the family of but Gabby Petito and this family that you thought you knew now waits three days before they say that this kid is gone.

LEMON: Yes. CUOMO: And they don't know where he is.

LEMON: Well the thing is, we don't know what happened. And we don't know, you know, what the boyfriend if, if he had anything to do with it -- do with it -- do with it. We don't know that. But still, it's just odd to me that someone is not talking at this point, even though an attorney, you would want to share as much information especially if someone is missing. You know what I mean?

CUOMO: I have never seen this before.


CUOMO: Now, I'll tell you what I have seen. I have seen people who were guilty, who did participate in the search, and say that they didn't know what happened and made up some story. But I have never seen a missing person situation where somebody was with them or simply just cares about the person, let alone, intending to marry them, and was not involved in leading the search to find the person. So, it is unusual, at the least.

LEMON: I just hope and that the best of all scenarios plays out, that she somehow shows up. But we'll see, Chris. I was -- a stunning interview watching it. Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: You got to feel for the families, brother. Have a good weekend.

LEMON: Yes, absolutely. We'll, I'll be seeing you this weekend. So, any time.

CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon.

LEMON: I love you more. Thank you very much. And we hope everything works out with that family. We really, really, really do.

This is Don Lemon Tonight on a very busy new night with headlines on multiple big stories.

It is the eve of that so-called justice for 6 rally, which, let's remember, is in defense of the bloodthirsty insurrectionists who, on January 6, tried to stop the peaceful transfer of power. And there's a lot of concern tonight about the potential for more violence tomorrow at the scene of the crime.

We've also got major news tonight on COVID boosters. A key FDA panel voting to recommend a booster dose of Pfizer's vaccine six months after full vaccination but only for people 65 and older and those at high risk of severe COVID.

A setback for the president, who had announced a plan for every adult to get a booster shot. Just over 25 percent of Americans are still unvaccinated. One Republican governor saying tonight, get a vaccine or keep piling up body bags.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): We are going to run to the fire and get

vaccinated right now or we are going to pile the body bags up until we reach a point in time to where we have enough people that have natural immunities and enough people that are vaccinated.


LEMON: Governor Justice has been on the right side of this whole COVID vaccination thing and masking up the entire time. Whether it's our inability to be get a grip on COVID or the rally at the capitol, we are sick as a result of a toxic political culture.

The toxicity exploded into violence at the seat of our democracy, our nation's capitol just eight months ago when bloodthirsty Trump supporting rioters tried to overturn our election. Forcing lawmakers to run for their lives, and beating police officers trying to defend our capital.

Capitol police saying that they are ready this time and they say that they want their officers who were under brutal attack from their fellow Americans in January, to feel confident that the department is prepared at this time.


TOM MANGER, CHIEF, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE DEPARTMENT: We're trying to get in front of every single police officer in the U.S. Capitol Police Department. And the reason was to brief them on our plan. And the whole purpose behind that was to instill confidence that the department has prepared this -- has prepared for this event.



LEMON: And that toxic political culture we're talking about, well, it is on full display as one Ohio Republican, a conservative Republican, who voted to impeach the second time around, along with nine other Republicans, now says that he will not run for reelection in 2022.

Anthony Gonzalez putting out a statement, blaming the toxic dynamics inside the Republican Party. And telling the New York Times, the former president is, and I quote here, "a cancer for the country." Saying quote, "I don't believe he can ever be president again. Most of my political energy will be spent working on that exact goal."

And just like clockwork, he demonstrates exactly how toxic our politics are right now. Blasting the congressman, of course, and lobbying a threat about well, there being nine to go, OK?

Well, two of those other nine are firing back tonight. Liz Cheney, for one, tweeting, he is at war with the Constitution. Adam Kinzinger, calling him a weak man who preys on fear. And then there is the literal toxicity to America of anti-vax and anti-mask rhetoric.

Three Texas women who were arrested here in New York yesterday after they allegedly assaulted a hostess at a popular restaurant, Carmine's, that's on the upper west side. You got to watch this, because the whole thing was caught on camera.


UNKNOWN: My God. (muted).


LEMON: Hey, look, they are believed to be tourists, take that back to where you came from. New York City, we are about having people vaccinated here and following the rules, restaurants will be fined if they don't follow the rules.

The 24-year-old hostess had asked them for proof of vaccination, which is required for indoor dining in New York City, so she was literally doing her job, trying to keep patrons safe. Now according to the police report the women hit the employee, quote, "multiple times with closed fists and she suffered bruises and scratches to her face, her chest, and arms."

It is unclear in the video who are the attackers and who is the victim. OK, but this is what is absolutely clear here is that it's toxic. It is toxic. You have to stop this. You cannot just go into a restaurant if you are not vaccinated, it doesn't work that way. If you don't want to do it, eat outside or stay home. Order in.

And if you are not from New York City, and a place that doesn't require that, don't come here. Now the restaurant has hired private security for the hostess booth this weekend. So come on, people. You punch up a 24-year-old who asks you for a proof of vaccination so you can eat in a restaurant? Toxic. That toxicity is infecting us, just as surely as COVID. And that has got to stop. OK? It's got to stop.

If you are driving and a police officer you can pull over for some violate -- or something, just say, can I see your driver's license? You don't beat him up. You show him your driver's license. It's the same thing. If a hostess says, I need to see your proof of vaccination, you show it to them. And if you don't have one, you leave. It's that simple.

That's not all. though, when it comes to toxicity. There is a toxic misinformation, otherwise known as lies, coming out of the pro-Trump right wing. Whitewashing what we all saw with our own eyes when those rioters overran the capitol on January 6th. Now they want you to believe, you know, that it was just like a tourist visit and that those who were arrested shouldn't face criminal charges.


REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): Watching the TV footage of those who entered the capitol and walk through statuary hall, showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: That was no tourist visit. I mean, they may have been visitors to D.C., to the capitol, but it was no tourist visit. And the charges against them are not excessive. The New York Times reports nearly half of them, more than 600 people charged have been accused only of misdemeanors. And at least 50 have pleaded guilty.

Then there is a toxic lie that the rioters are political prisoners.


REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): The big problem is we don't actually know where all the political prisoners are, and so if we were to actually be able to go and try and bust them out. And let me tell you, the reason why they're taking -- they are taking these political prisoners is because they are trying to make an example, to say, because they don't want to see the mass protests going on in Washington.


LEMON: Yes, he's a congressman, believe me. He is an elected official.


The Times reports only about 15 percent of those arrested had been denied bail and remain in custody. So, there is a lot of hyperbole and lies going on around this. And the talk about toxic Texas lieutenant governor going on the Fox propaganda network to push the racist white replacement theory. Here it is.


LIEUTENANT GOV. DAN PATRICK (R-TX): They are allowing this year, probably two million, that's who we apprehended, and maybe another million into this country. In 18 years, if every one of them has two or three children, you are talking about millions and millions and millions of new voters. And they will thank the Democrats and Biden for bringing them here. Who do you think they're going to vote for? So, this is -- this is trying to take over our country without firing a shot.


LEMON: You know what that is, do I have to explain it to you? Do I have to explain it to you? The brown people are coming, the brown wave. Look, the fact is that there are real problems. We have real problems at the border. There are nearly 14,000 migrants crowded underneath the Del Rio International Bridge in Texas. The mayor calling it a nuclear bomb alarm, OK?

This -- it's a serious problem, don't get me wrong. But you understand why he's doing that. We are not going to solve it by resorting to toxic political battles.


REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): And let's be very clear, the Democrat Party, the Democrats in Washington are sick and twisted individuals that are destroying this country right now every single day.


LEMON: Like I said, toxic. The lies about our politics, the lies about race, the lies about January 6th, the lies about COVID, the toxicity is infecting us just as surely as the virus. The toxicity is a virus all its own.

So, I want to bring in now CNN's chief national affairs correspondent, Mr. Jeff Zeleny at the White House tonight.

Jeff, good evening to you. So good to have you here this evening.

So, this was a very tough day for the president, for President Biden, let's be honest here. You have the FDA vote on widespread boosters, the crisis of migrants at the border that I just talk about, infrastructure hitting roadblocked. Take us through what has gone wrong, if, I mean, that's a, I don't know, it might take you the entire newscasts what happened today.

JEFF ZELENY, CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, it is a long list, but it reminds us that there are limits to a president's power, limits to what a White House can do.

Let's start with the FDA. I mean, the White House announced just a couple weeks ago that starting September 20th, next week, they thought that boosters could be allowed for every person who received a vaccine. The FDA said today, no. Only 65 plus, 65 years old and over can receive the vaccine.

So, that is a big shot to what the Biden administration was indeed hoping for. But again, it shows the limitations of simply what this administration, what this White House can do. But you go down the list, this is one of the most critical periods of the Biden administration in terms of trying to pass its agenda.

We talk a lot about the infrastructure bill, talk a lot about this $3.5 trillion, you know, larger bill, economic agenda, which would do everything from free pre-free, free pre-school to free community college to climate change. There are some serious questions among Democrats alone about the price tag of all of this.

And of course, at the end of the day as well, suddenly this White House, this Democratic White House, this president in a fight with the French. The president of France, Emmanuel Macron recall the ambassador, brought the ambassador from the U.S. back to France all because of a dispute over a submarine deal with Australia.

You might be saying what is going on here? But it simply is a sense that a lot of things are converging on this White House.

The president actually is not here behind me tonight. He is taking the weekend away in Delaware at his beach home in Rehoboth Beach. Certainly, a lot on his plate. But I'm told he will be working throughout the weekend on all of these challenges. And Don, I can say they are mounting here nine months into his term in office.

LEMON: Yes. Well, this is what -- this is what being president is. So, listen.

ZELENY: It is. Yes.

LEMON: The most tragic, Jeff, the bomb strike in Afghanistan that killed civilians instead of ISIS, ISIS-K members, I should say. The president had to, had hailed the strike as evidence of the U.S. can confront threats without having boots on the ground. Has the White House responded to this tonight?

ZELENY: Don, utter silence from the White House. Utter white silence from the president on this. The Pentagon did explain this really abrupt reversal, calling it a tragic and horrible mistake. The top commander in Afghanistan, General McKenzie talking about this, the defense secretary as well, really saying, apologizing for this drone strike.

They thought that this was ISIS-K back on August 29th, it was so chaotic, of course, you know, the immediate withdrawal there. But it turns out it was an Afghan man who worked for a U.S. aid group and his family loading water into his Toyota.


The U.S. intelligence follow him around for eight hours or so by surveillance, and they -- it was the last missile struck in Afghanistan and killed 10 civilians. So, the Pentagon apologized. But Don, tonight, of course, the commander-in-chief, the White House has not said a word.

LEMON: Jeff Zeleny, we'll be waiting for word. Jeff Zeleny at the White House for us this evening. Jeff, thank you very much.


LEMON: So, we expected a rollout of booster shots for all adults, but today's announcement dial that back. Pfizer boosters only for people 65 and over, or people who are at high risk. So, what about younger people? And anybody who got the Moderna or the J&J shot? And how all of this is going -- how is it all going to sound to people who were already vaccine hesitant?


JUSTICE: The only thing that I have in my arsenal that would make this get better is for you to get vaccinated. That's all I've got.


LEMON: Today, an FDA advisory committee recommending COVID booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine for people 65 and older and for those at high risk. But saying, no to Pfizer boosters for everyone else. Sixteen and older. And it's a setback for the White House.

I want to bring in now Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Doctor, thank you so much for joining, I appreciate it.


So, a yes vote for boosters for people 65 and up, and for health care workers and other people at risk. Why was this decision, and why did they do this, and why not for everyone?

PETER HOTEZ, INFECTIOUS EXPERT, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY: Well, Don, it wasn't quite the decision I was expecting or hoping for. I would have taken an intermediate position between those two. Here is why. You know, we've been talking since the beginning of the year that this was going to be a three-dose vaccine. We knew that because we gave the first two doses so close together. And when you do that, you don't get long-term durable protection.

So, it was a matter of time before we're going to accept -- expect a third immunization in order to give a really important boost in antibody responses by raising neutralizing antibody and durability of protection.

So, we knew this was coming. And then, on Wednesday, the Israelis published in the New England Journal of Medicine an important study showing that those 60 years of age who only received two doses were going into the hospital at pretty high rates and lots of breakthrough COVID infections, where if they get a third immunization they -- they did much better, and there is a 20 percent decline in hospitalizations, tenfold decline in cases.

So, at a minimum, I would have thought they would have brought that down to 60 years of age. And then, today, the Centers for Disease Control, in their MMWR, morbidity mortality weekly reports, put out information showing that the decline and effectiveness of the vaccine had gone from over 90 percent to 77 percent.

And the reason that's important is because with all those breakthrough cases we are seeing, presumably, a lot of long COVID. And we've learned so much about long COVID in the last year and a half including an important study from the U.K. Looking at people 40 and up showing gray matter brain degeneration and cognitive declines that resemble those who are much older.

And so, on that basis, I would have thought that we would have at least gone down to 40 years of age in order to prevent the impact of long COVID. But there is really no discussion of long COVID that I heard in the whole VRBPAC meeting.

So, I think they missed that component. So, we'll see how it goes. This is an advisory group. We'll see if the CDC goes along with it. I think they probably will. But I would expect over time as we collect more data that we'll see a mid-course correction in that recommendation. LEMON: So, your compromises everybody, 40 years and older. Everyone

gets a booster. Is that your compromise?

HOTEZ: That's right.


HOTEZ: And I understand the high-risk groups, the problem is who is the high-risk group is going very squishy and leaky and open to a lot of interpretation. So, I think unless we can kind of put brackets around that, it's going to be very confusing for a lot of people.

LEMON: But won't you get just going in and saying, I'm diabetic, or making up something. And who is going to question them, right, in getting a booster shot? Am I wrong?

HOTEZ: Yes, I don't know how you operationalize that, Don, which adds to the complexity.


HOTEZ: And so, so we'll see. There is still a couple more steps left. The FDA actually has to make a formal recommendation, as I say VRBPAC advisory, and then this goes to the Centers of Disease Control advisory committee on immunization practices. So, presumably between those two gates that we're going to get some additional clarity.

LEMON: OK. So, let me ask you and drill down on that, a more specific question that relates to what I just asked you. If people are seeking out a third dose on their own, is that harmful? Should they not do that?

HOTEZ: Well, the reason that the, I think the VRBPAC committee was quite conservative in making the recommendation was they had their eyes on myocarditis as a potential complication. So, it's a rare complication. In young people we've seen it at a rate of around 12 per million, so one in about 79,000, one in 80,000.

And I think they wanted to see more data to convince themselves that by giving a third immunization that that rate of myocarditis doesn't go up exponentially. I doubt it will, but you never know. But presumably there was enough doubt there. And that rate of myocarditis was higher after the second dose than the first dose, so would the third dose really top it off? Again, I don't think so, but I think that was probably a big reason why they held back a bit, and why you want to be careful about going to rogue on this.

LEMON: OK. So, you mentioned earlier about going from 90 percent, right, effectiveness to an efficacy or whatever, to 71 percent, if I'm using the right terms. So, there is new data that was released, and I just want to put up what you said. That shows that Moderna's vaccine is slightly more effective than Pfizer in keeping people out of the hospital.

Moderna provides 93 percent protection, Pfizer provides 88 percent. Johnson & Johnson, 71 percent. I mean, they are all good at keeping people out of hospital, but how should people interpret these differences? Because you know, you said, it's in the 70s. I mean, that still does provide protection. It obviously it's not as great as the 90s, but you know.


HOTEZ: Yes. I think, you know, the committee focused a lot on hospitalizations and deaths, and I understand that. But I think there could've been more consideration to long COVID and the devastating neurologic implications. And I think that's -- that's got to be factored into all of this.

You know, with the Moderna vaccine, it's maybe holding up a little better, and part of the reason maybe because there is more mRNA in the vaccine than the Pfizer vaccine and they spaced about an extra week apart. So that may account for Moderna is going to apply, or has applied for a third immunization as well. And the VRBPAC will consider that separately.

I also think we'll probably be looking at a second immunization, a second dose of the J&J vaccine which, you know, I always look -- looking at the data early on from the phase one and phase two data, I always thought that was a two-dose vaccine as well.

LEMON: Yes. Hey, listen. A hate to give the short trip but this is the last question. I hear people and it just disturbs me, because I want people to be informed when they say, this is -- this vaccine is new and whatever. The mRNA technology is not a new technology. Right?

This is something that has been worked on for a while. And maybe COVID-19 vaccine, right, because it's novel, it's a novel virus, it's new. But, the technology through which this was developed is not something that was developed overnight.

HOTEZ: Well, there's two pieces to this. First of all, you know, we've been working on coronavirus vaccines for over a decade. In our group and others, we're able to determine that the spike protein is the target -- the appropriate target of the vaccine. How you deliver the spike protein, how you induce the virus neutralizing antibodies.

So, right off the bat, that's a decade of research that went into this, which is a timeframe that goes along with other vaccines. And then, you have the fact that the discovery that mRNA can induce an immune response, that discovery is made in 1961. So, this builds on decades of research.

I think part of the problem, Don, was when the CEOs released their press releases. You know, when they -- when they're sending out a press release, they're not writing them for you or for me, Don. They're waiting them for their shareholders. And they tend to spectacularize their accomplishments.

And ordinarily, that works for a pharma company, but it was tone deaf to the public health implications. And the fact that we have a very aggressive, anti-vaccine movement that's looking for any excuse to create discord and to -- and to provide very aggressive anti- vaccine disinformation. And that's working against us now.

LEMON: Yes. Part of the technology in the 1960s. The other one a decade for coronavirus. A decade. So, it's not just something developed overnight, people. All right? Those were the facts.

HOTEZ: That's absolutely right.

LEMON: Get it right. Thank you, Dr. Hotez. I appreciate it. I'll see you soon.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

LEMON: Capitol police preparing for a possibility of violence at tomorrow's far-right rally in support of January 6th rioters. Fencing up outside of the capitol building tonight. You're looking at live pictures now. Will it be enough if things get out of hand?



LEMON: You know, it's getting close, we are just hours away from tomorrow's far-right rally at the capitol in support of January 6th rioters. And there are concerns about the potential for violence. But the head of the U.S. Capitol Police force says that his department is ready to make sure the rally is peaceful and prepared to move as quickly as possible if violence does break out.

Let's discuss now with CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey is here, the former Washington, D.C. police chief, right? That should not be -- we should make sure we point that out. And also, Chris Swecker, the former FBI assistant director for the criminal investigative division.

We need both gentlemen here and that's why we have them tonight. Thank you so much.

Chief, I'm going to start with you first. D.C. police are fully activated, temporary fencing up at the White House. There are road closures. The TSA ramping security at D.C.'s Reagan National. Are the appropriate steps being taken to prevent another riot?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think so. I mean, I haven't seen the operational plan, but clearly, they are on high alert, fully activated, both the capitol police, the metropolitan police, they brought in agencies and the national capital region. It seems like this time around the intelligence is being shared. Federal and local. And disseminated down to the rank and file. I think they're about as prepared as they can be.

LEMON: Chris, the Department of Homeland Security issuing a warning about the potential for violence from people involved in or opposed to this January 6th J6 rally, I should say, or justice for J6 rally. It might not come to pass, but after what happened in January officials can't be sure, right? CHRIS SWECKER, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE

DIVISION: Right, after what happened on January 6th they are going to prepare for the worst. And I know Chief Ramsey knows Tom Manger as I do, he is the new capitol police chief. He will not be caught flat- footed. I can guarantee you that.

It would not surprise me if the protesters weren't outnumbered by outnumbered by law enforcement, as we just mentioned the intelligence is flowing this time, I don't think there's any question about who is in charge if an incident commanded set up, the fence is up. You know, I really don't expect to see anything close to what we saw on January 6th.


LEMON: Chief Ramsey, Capitol Hill Police Chief Tom Manger talked about how his department is aware of the toll January 6th took on the front- line officers. This is what he said.


MANGER: We are trying to get in front of every single police officer in the U.S. Capitol Police Department. And the reason was to brief them on our plan. And the whole purpose behind that was to instill confidence that the department has prepared this -- has prepared for this event and that they will have the resources, the training, the equipment, and we will have the staffing that we need so that everyone, including the police officers working this event can remain safe.


LEMON: So, PTSD after January 6th for many of these officers. I mean, it's real. How important is it that these officers feel prepared and supported by their department?

RAMSEY: It's incredibly important. And Tom Manger is one of the best chiefs in the country. When I came to D.C. in '98 as police chief, he was a chief of Fairfax County Police, and then later took over Montgomery County. So, we work together for over 20 years. I know what his capabilities are, as we said earlier, he's not going to get flat- footed.

And I think the communication with the rank and file which was missing on January 6, they know what the operational plan is, they know they have enough help, they have enough support. This isn't going to happen again like it did on January 6. They are not getting inside of that capitol. I can guarantee you that.

It doesn't mean we won't have some issues outside, because the MPD has to be very much alert and aware, but I'm sure they even have mobile platoons ready to move wherever they need to in the city should trouble pop-up.

LEMON: There is a bit of news that I want to ask you about, Chris, and that's this high-ranking capitol police officer, vocal Donald Trump supporter, told those under his command not to wear riot gear on January 6, that is according to internal documents reviewed by CNN that detail allegation submitted to an officer tip line.

A lieutenant who gave the tip believes at least one officer was sent to the hospital because of that decision. What actions should be taken against that officer?

SWECKER: Well, if that is true, that's it's egregious and you know, I think at minimum, you ought to face -- he should be fired. I mean, you should -- a man in a leadership position in the capitol police, under those circumstances displaying that kind of behavior I think is almost borderline prosecutable.

LEMON: Do you agree, chief?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, I don't know enough about the circumstances on which he said that. It certainly doesn't make sense on light of what we know happened on January 6th, that's for sure. I've been in situations where would a protest to try to start off in what we call a soft uniform not the hard gear, and then you always elevate to this.

He did it because and somehow, he was connected with this groups or what have you, that's a different ball game, and yes, there should be some disciplinary action. If that wasn't the reason, then that's different. You have to take a look at it from a different perspective.

LEMON: Chief, Ramsey, Chris Swecker, thank you so much, I appreciate.

A retiring GOP congressman who voted to impeach says that the former president is a cancer to the country, and that's a quote. Now more members of his party are weighing in.



LEMON: One of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach now says that he won't seek reelection. Ohio Congressman Anthony Gonzales acknowledging toxic dynamics in the GOP factored into his decision. Telling the New York Times, the former president is, quote, "a cancer for the country." Trump gloating in a statement saying that, one down, nine to go.

Joining me now to discuss is Matthew Dowd. He is a former adviser to George W. Bush and the author of the new book, "Revelations on the River."

Thank you for joining. I don't know why we care what Donald Trump says, but anyways. Good evening.

I mean, seriously, like if he said something positive about something that actually made sense, then that would be news. But that he said something toxic and ignorant is certainly not news after all these years. So, Matt --


He's consistent. He's consistent.

LEMON: Yes, he's consistently ignorant. So, Congressman Gonzales is far from the first Republican rising star to retire since Trump took over the party. Trump didn't drain the swamp, he made it radioactive, no?

DOWD: Well, absolutely. Well, he made it radioactive for the Republican Party, but I think the Republican Party there was radiation fomenting before Donald Trump showed up, which is why, you know, the Godzilla emerged from the swamp and, you know, has destroyed, has tried to destroy democracy.

So, Republicans have only themselves to blame of how they ended up in this place, and people like the congressman who decided not to run for reelection is a unicorn. They -- he understands, as I think many Republicans do, but not all, that that is now the party all -- and 100 percent the party is the party of what Trump represents.

LEMON: Does the departure of lawmakers likens allies opened the door for another QAnon and big lie believing radical just to step right in?

DOWD: Well, I think even if he hadn't left, he would probably been beaten by a QAnon, you know, non-science, non-truth autocratic radicals, I think that's what the Republicans face today. And I think the Republicans, you know, think about this, they are not afraid of Donald Trump and what Donald Trump would do, or whether or not he would send out a statement or whatever.

They're afraid of their own voters. And that's really what this is about. They are afraid of the radicalization of their voters. And that radicalization has been done by GOP leaders like Donald Trump, but it's also been done by things like Fox News and OAN, and Breitbart.


They've radicalized the voters now in a place that, you know, enlightened the moderate Republicans who stand for the country, can't survive anymore, Don. They just can't survive anymore in that party.

LEMON: Yes. GOP Congresswoman, speaking of moderate, Liz Cheney tweeting that -- well, actually, she's very conservative. She's tweeting that Trump is at war with the Constitution over his Gonzalez's comments.

Adam Kinzinger adding, and I quote here, "Trump is a weak man who preys on fear. I couldn't imagine being his age and obsessing about myself so much knowing my legacy was destroyed."

I mean, that's a great quote, Adam Kinzinger, by the way. But it's like the Hunger Games, how long can any Republican on Trump's revenge list hold on?

DOWD: Well, I think the question for them, people like Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney who have stood on principle against Donald Trump. The question is they have to ask themselves, is do they belong to a political party that no longer exists? I mean, the party that they used to think existed no longer exist. And do they belong to a party that they're out of step with.

I think they are. I think everything is pointing in that direction. I don't think -- I think it's going to be very difficult for those two to survive in the party. So, I think they have to say, what can we do?

In my viewpoint, Don, this is my viewpoint, I think we need to enlighten political parties that are for the Constitution. We don't have those today. There's only one party that supports the Constitution today, the Democrats. And who support the idea of the common good. The Republicans don't.

And either you are going to go as these -- as former Republicans and join with the Democrats or you facilitate or you enable what's going on in the Republican Party. And so, the longer you try to maintain a position in the Republican Party, in my view, makes it worse. You are not going to change what's already changed.

LEMON: Yes. I don't know why -- and I'm not quite understanding why people don't understand that. Maybe it's just that they do but just don't want to.

The Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi weighing in on the GOP drifting further right this week. I want you to take a listen to this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), UNITED STATES SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I would say to my Republican friends, and I do have some, take back your party. Don't let your party be hijacked by a cult. Essentially, that is what is happening. And it isn't good for the country.


LEMON: Listen, she's talking about a cult of personality. She's not the first to say that there is even a pretense that any longer that policy matters to Republicans. It's really Trump or nothing. And the criticism from Republicans is that, you know, the Democratic Party moved too far to the left.

It's really the Republican Party that has moved to the extreme right and has become the party of Trump. And if -- but and if they don't believe it, they are too afraid to speak out about it, which may be worse.

DOWD: Well, you know, as I listen to Nancy, as Speaker Pelosi, I mean, she has done a yeoman's work of trying to stand in the door and protect, you know, our democracy as it exists. But I think one thing she's wrong about, is there is no possible way any Republican right now can fix the Republican Party.

The only fix to the Republican Party today is that they lose so badly in a series of elections, they have to fix in order to survive. And I think that's the point where we're at. And everybody, Democrats, Republicans, everybody has to acknowledge that place we are and in that fix of it.

And I think that, to me, is the path. Once we acknowledge that, and once we come to accept that, then the question becomes, what do you do to fix it? Because as we've been talking about, the party, the Republican Party, we want, we need two vibrant enlightened political parties. We don't have those.

And as left as people think the Democratic Party has moved, the fight today is not over issues or policies specifics. We can all argue about those later. The fight is between a party that still believes in democracy, and a party that no longer believes in democracy.

That's the fight today. And so, I make it akin to argue a house on fire. We need to put the fire out and then we can argue over what color we're going to paint the bathroom walls and whether or not we're going to have marble in the kitchen. Those are secondary conversations to the fight over the existence of our democracy and the principles and ideals upon which the Constitution was founded. That's the fight. Everything else pales to that.

LEMON: No fix. Matthew Dowd said it. No fix for the Republican Party. Thank you, Matthew.

DOWD: There is no fix.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you. I appreciate it.

DOWD: Thank you.

LEMON: A new book says that the former president's top general had to explain to him what an insurrection was. I mean, that's not shocking, is it? But someone at least said in the book, right? It happened months before January 6th.



LEMON: Take this. And I want you guys to sit down and listen, OK? This is important. There was a heated Oval Office meeting when the nation's top general told the then president exactly what an insurrection was months before January 6th. The details coming from the new book, "Peril" by reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

In the May 2020 meeting, less than a week after George Floyd's murder, Trump White House adviser Stephen Miller was trying to make the case to the then president that antifa and Black Lives Matter were burning down the country, referring to the racial justice protests across the country.

Miller reportedly told the president that he had an insurrection on his hands. And according to the book, that's when the joint chiefs chairman, General Mark Milley stepped in and told the president what an insurrection actually looks like. They use spray paint, Mr. President, Milley said. That's not

insurrection. That guy up there, he pointed to the portrait of Abraham Lincoln on the wall in the Oval Office, that guy out there, Lincoln had an insurrection.


Milley cited the militia bombardment of the U.S. Army Fort Sumter in 1861 that started the Civil War. That was an insurrection, Milley said. We are a country of 330 million people, you've got these penny packet protests, Milley said. Saying the situation was not even close to being as threatening as the 1968 riots in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere after the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther, Jr. Even then, the false equivalency of racial justice protests to an insurrection was just total nonsense.

Now fast forward eight months, and there is an actual insurrection in Washington, D.C. And, it wasn't antifa, it wasn't Black Lives Matter. It was supporters of the loser of the 2020 election storming the U.S. Capitol. That was an insurrection.

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