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Don Lemon Tonight

January 6 Committee Issues First Subpoenas For Witness Testimony To Four Trump Loyalists; Arrest Warrant Issued For Brian Laundrie For His Activity After Gabby Petito's Death; CDC Endorses Pfizer Booster Shot For Some Americans; Groundbreaking Filmmaker Dies At 89; CNN Film "The Lost Sons" Premieres Sunday. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 23, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So here's our breaking news tonight. The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, issuing its first subpoenas for witness testimony and documents to four loyalists of the former president. That as President Biden is nearing the end of a rough week for his administration, especially with the big ticket items at the top of his domestic agenda in peril. Can he turn things around?

Also tonight, an arrest warrant issued for Brian Laundrie for his alleged activities after the death of his fiancee Gabby Petito. This development as investigators continue to search for Laundrie in a swampy nature preserve in Florida.

There's a lot to discuss this evening. I want to get to CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and senior legal analyst Laura Coates. Good evening to both of you. Thanks for joining this evening.

Jeffrey, this is big news. The January 6 Select Committee targeting four of Trump's top aides going straight to subpoenas. What does that tell you about the investigation?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it tells you that what they're looking at is what Donald Trump knew and when he knew it and what complicity he had in this riot.

What it also tells you is that the Democrats shouldn't get their hopes up that these four are going to testify, because one of the things the Trump administration taught the Democrats in Congress is they can defy Congress more or less with impunity, because they can tie up these subpoenas in court for months, and this committee does not have months.

So even though these four, I think, have no real legal basis to refuse to testify, I would be very surprised if they actually did wind up testifying.

LEMON: So, Laura, the committee wants documents, let's see, by the first week in October, and Patel, Bannon, Scavino and Meadows appearing on October 14 and 15. Committee member Adam Schiff just told Chris Cuomo that they are moving with great alacrity and no one is off the table or nothing is off the table here. None of these people are going to volunteer to testify, so how does the committee compel them?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's an interesting point here, the idea of voluntarily cooperating here. They could actually have tried to negotiate beforehand and said, hey, can we essentially persuade you to do this without having to have the compulsory notion of a subpoena?

But because of the reason Jeffrey is speaking about, they have certainly learned their lesson and will attempt to streamline and expedite it. There's going to be a fight in the courts. It's better to have it now as opposed to weeks and weeks or months and months of negotiation about trying to compel someone to come in voluntarily. This is the way to do it.

What's different this time around, of course, is last time the person who was the head of the executive branch of government was Donald Trump. This time, you have Joe Biden, who has already shown some extraordinary reluctance and in fact refusing to interfere with the investigation to this point or trying to put his thumb on the scale.

And we also know that we've already seen this committee already hand out at least a letter to preserve documents to social media organizations, believing that they have a way there as well. This is more of a wider dragnet holistic approach to try to get the information they seek.

But the fact that it is just one rung down essentially from the contact with the former president tells you really that this is becoming more and more of a Trump-focused investigation, and with good reason, right? We still don't know a lot about what the former president was doing while this unfolded on January 6 or the days leading up to it, just part of the reason this investigation is happening.

And finally, remember, what we saw on January 6, it wasn't the beginning of the story. It is likely the middle if not the beginning of the end of the story. So all the steps that took place before that are going to have to be what they're investigating to actually get to the root of the issue and legislate effectively.

TOOBIN: Don --

LEMON: Jeffrey, I just want to read part of this letter. Go ahead, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: I just think Laura makes an important point that one difference here from the congressional investigations of the Trump administration is that Joe Biden is now head of the executive branch, and he has said they will cooperate.

[23:04:56] TOOBIN: So even though the witnesses are unlikely to testify, the Trump-aligned witnesses, there is a lot of information within the executive branch: emails, phone records, White House records. All of that, I think, Congress will get to because the Biden administration will cooperate. But the actual testimony of the Trump aides, I think that's a long shot.

LEMON: As I was saying, Jeff, I just want to read part of this letter to Kash Patel. There is substantial reason to believe that you have additional documents and information relevant to understanding the role played by the Department of Defense and the White House in preparing for and responding to the attack on the U.S. Capitol, as well as documents and information related to your personal involvement in planning for events on January 6 and the peaceful transfer of power.

I mean, can trump try to block these former aides from cooperating?

TOOBIN: He can try and the aides themselves can try. And I think their legal claim to withhold these documents and withhold their own testimony is weak. But remember, what that means is Congress will have to go get a vote of contempt of Congress and then try to enforce it in the district court, and then get that affirmed by the court of appeals, and then perhaps there will be a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court.

I mean, think about how long that will take. Does Congress, does this committee have the patience to wait that long? And just judging by the way Congress works, they're going to want to wrap this thing up before the midterm elections, and I just don't see how the courts could resolve these issues and force testimony in time, you know, for next year's elections.

LEMON: Laura, last word here. What do you see?

COATES: Well, you know, I tend to not always share the cynicism. I am not calling you an overarching cynic, Toobin, but I got to tell you, I do have some great confidence in the speed at which perhaps the bureaucratic institution can operate because unlike before, we were talking about the deadline looming in terms of -- I remember what the ideas of the impeachment proceedings, for example, the threat was the continuation of the president in office.

Here, we're talking about the deadline, a very real one of the midterm elections. But the focus that Benny Thompson has spoken about is not the same timeline above this congressional committee. It's really about to prevent this from happening again but also to understand the root causes, to refortify the security force at the Capitol, to enjoy the integrity of our elections going forward in general.

So the timeline is actually a little bit longer, but I do agree that the process by which you have to secure their testimony is likely to be protracted. But remember, the executive privilege is held by the executive branch.

This is a former president of the United States at this point so he might have a weaker argument being able to, if he tries to assert some basis for privilege, being able to say that he is the one who should hold it at this juncture right now knowing he is no longer the president of the United States.

LEMON: Laura, Jeffrey, thank you both. I really appreciate it.

I want to bring in now CNN senior political analyst John Avlon. He is out with a new weekly video series on CNN digital that will examine the rise of extremist groups here in the United States. It is called "Reality Check with John Avlon: Extremist Beat." John, congratulations on that and thanks for joining us this evening.


LEMON (on camera): Congressman Adam Schiff, a member of the January 6 select committee, spoke to Chris Cuomo. That was earlier tonight. Here's what he said about the subpoenas to Meadows, Bannon, Scavino, and Patel. Here is it.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): They're all very close to the former president. Some were in direct communication with him on January 5, on January 6. They are reportedly in communication about how to overturn the results of the election. Mark Meadows, for example, involved with the Justice Department, trying to get the Justice Department to put pressure on Georgia to decertify the results of the election.


LEMON (on camera): So these guys could be facing a whole lot of trouble. How do you see this all playing out?

AVLON: I think it indicates that the commission is starting to try to narrow the focus on Donald Trump. What was his state of mind on the day and in the run-up to the January 6 attack on the Capitol? Because all of these individuals have had direct contact with the president. That has not yet fully come to light, particularly Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff, who has been very tight-lipped but had unique access to the president in the Oval Office during the attack.

So I think this is a very serious ramp-up. It is very necessary. The information that continues to come out shows beyond a shadow of a doubt there was an attempt to overturn the election. That is a direct assault on our democracy and these folks have yet to speak under oath and to give over all their information.


AVLON: As Toobin just said, the federal government will have a lot of this information. The question is whether they can get additional testimony. But this is ramping up and the focus seems to be leading to question of what the president's mindset was when the Capitol was being attacked in an attempt to overturn the election on his behalf.

LEMON (on camera): John, earlier this evening, Anderson Cooper spoke with Bob Woodward and Robert Costa tonight, authors of new book "Peril," on Trump's efforts to try to overturn the election result. This is what Woodward said about the subpoenas.


BOB WOODWARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: The question is, of course, what happened and ultimately what did Trump know. And we describe an extraordinary phone call between Bannon and Trump right before the insurrection in which Bannon, who is the former top aide to Trump, the chief strategist in the White House, told him he had been fired by that point but, as you know, in the Trump world, you go and then you come back.

And Bannon says to Trump, we will strangle the Biden presidency in the crib. And that is a foreshadowing, of course, of the violence that we saw the next day.


LEMON (on camera): Look, Steve Bannon knows a lot about what went down during this crucial period. The question is can he be compelled to talk?

AVLON: Well, it's an interesting question because he was not serving in government at that time unlike the other three. But I think the revelations in the Woodward and Costa book are one of the things that brought Bannon back to the fore.

He is talking to the president. And his comments to the president about strangling the Biden administration in the crib, about trying to have half the country feel it is an illegitimate administration, speak to the fact that this was not some kind of spontaneous riot that attacked the Capitol, that there appears to be a degree of premeditation, an attempt to stir up trouble to overturn the election or delegitimize an incoming administration.

Bannon's testimony could be a key to that. But even more important, I think, are the people who had direct witness of the president in the Oval Office at that time. But the reporting that has come out keeps escalating the pressure. That is one of the reasons we are seeing these subpoenas today. This was an attack on our democracy perpetuated by people close to the president.

LEMON: John Avlon, I appreciate your perspective. Thank you, sir.

AVLON: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: News tonight in the Gabby Petito case. An arrest warrant issued for her fiance, Brian Laundrie, for his activity after her death. What it all means, next.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON (on camera): Breaking tonight, the FBI announcing a federal arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie, saying it is related to his activities following the death of his fiancee, Gabby Petito. Now, Laundrie's family says that they have not seen him for nine days and search teams have reported no signs of him in the Florida nature reserve his parents pointed them to.

Amara Walker has more now.


AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A smiling Gabby Petito at Arches National Park, the photo posted on her Instagram page on August 12, the same day Petito appears distraught on body camera footage from police in Utah responding to a reported domestic dispute between the 22-year-old and her 24-year-old fiance Brian Laundrie.

GABBY PETITO, BRIAN LAUNDRIE'S FIANCEE: We've just been fighting this morning. Some personal issues.

BRIAN LAUNDRIE, GABBY PETITO'S FIANCE: It was a long day, we were camping yesterday.

WALKER (voice-over): Petito telling police she and Laundrie were just under a lot of stress.

PETITO: I just quit my job to travel across the country and I'm trying to start a blog.

WALKER (voice-over): The couple was living a self-described nomadic lifestyle out of this white Ford Transit van, travelling across the country, documenting their journey along the way.

PETITO: It is really nice and sunny today.

WALKER (voice-over): This YouTube video was posted one week after the run-in with Moab police. On August 25th, this last post was made on Petito's Instagram account. It was the next day, on August 26, that a woman tells the San Francisco Chronicle she saw Laundrie in his van in Spread Creek, a camping ground near where Petito's body was later discovered.

UNKNOWN: I'm 100 Percent certain that I did see him parking his van. It was just him. There was no Gabby.

WALKER (voice-over): A day later, the Petito family received what they believed to be the last text message from her. Quote -- "Can you help Stan? I just keep getting his voicemails and missed calls." Petito's mother found the text odd, telling police she never called her grandfather by that name. That same day, a Louisiana couple says they saw Petito in tears and Laundrie visibly upset during an incident at a Jackson Wyoming restaurant.

UNKNOWN: She was standing on the sidewalk crying. He walked back in. He was like screaming at the hostess. WALKER (voice-over): On August 29, this woman said she and her boyfriend picked up Laundrie hitchhiking in an area near where Petito's remains were later discovered.

UNKNOWN: He then told us he has been camping for multiple days without his fiancee.

WALKER (voice-over): The next day, the Petito family received the last text message from Petito's phone, but they're skeptical it came from her. Quote -- "No service in Yosemite." According to police, Laundrie suddenly returned to the North Port, Florida home he shared with Petito and his parents but without Petito. A neighbor says she last saw Brian Laundrie outside the family home the weekend of September 10.

UNKNOWN: I thought it was just again a normal -- you know, they were going for a walk, kind of, you know, things, so never thought anything about it.

WALKER (voice-over): It is the same weekend Petito's family report her as missing on September 11. The Laundries refused to cooperate with authorities.


UNKNOWN: Whatever you can do to make sure my daughter comes home, I'm asking for that help.

WALKER (voice-over): Days later, Laundrie disappears. His parents tell authorities their son left for the Carlton Reserve on September 14.

That evening, authorities execute a search warrant in the couple's van and recovered an external hard drive. But it wasn't until four days later, September 18, that the authorities begin a massive search of the Carlton Reserve for Laundrie.

The next day, human remains are found in a remote location near Grand Teton National Park. Autopsy results confirm the remains found are those of Gabby Petito. The cause of death ruled a homicide.


LEMON (on camera): That was Amara Walker. Thank you, Amara, for that. Now, more on our breaking news tonight, the big development in the case of Gabby Petito, the FBI saying a federal arrest warrant has been issued for her fiance, Brian Laundrie, related to his activities after Petito's death, which has been ruled as a homicide. This is happening as investigators are still searching for Laundrie in a swampy nature reserve in Florida and so far coming up empty.

I want to discuss now with Captain Ron Johnson who is retired from Missouri State Highway Patrol. Captain Johnson, thank you very much. It is good to see this evening and we appreciate you joining us. A federal warrant has now been issued for Brian Laundrie. This is now officially a nationwide manhunt. How does this change the investigation?

RON JOHNSON, FORMER INCIDENT COMMANDER IN FERGUSON, MISSOURI: Well, I think he's been a suspect but now there's an arrest warrant out for him. That search should intensify, and so hopefully more effort will be in to bring him in.

LEMON: What kind of information would investigators be able to gather from those unauthorized devices?

JOHNSON: They can look at conversations back and forth. They can also find a timeline of what he was doing when they were together and afterwards. So I think it's going to be important what's on there and what they can find out concerning that relationship.

LEMON: Yeah. A timeline and maybe there is some surveillance video if they can piece together where he was at the time. You know, captain, tonight, CNN is reporting that Laundrie left his parents' home in North Port, Florida last Tuesday without a cell phone or wallet, and his parents were concerned that he might hurt himself. The FBI and police aren't commenting on that. How will that factor into this investigation?

JOHNSON: I think the parents will play a pivotal role of what's going on and they can tell us what he's thinking, what he's talking about. Then it's going to be important, when did they tell law enforcement that he left and what do they know about his whereabouts? Does he have any other means to money and other ways to communicate with people?

LEMON: I want to talk to you about another big case, captain. This one is in Louisiana. The former state police officer, Jacob Brown, indicted for use of excessive force. As you can see in this video that we're putting up now, when he was arrested Aaron Larry Bowman for a traffic stop, he repeatedly beat Bowman with a metal baton, breaking his jaw, some of his ribs, among other injuries. What's your reaction to this indictment?

JOHNSON: I think it's important that we continue to prosecute officers that engage in this behavior to the fullest. Their behavior hurts the profession and hurts those men and women that are doing the job to protect us throughout this country. So we have to continue on our justice system and our communities demand that police do their job in a proper way. And when they don't, we have to make sure the court system holds them responsible.

LEMON (on camera): Aaron Larry Bowman was a guest on this show. This is what he said about the incident.


AARON LARRY BOWMAN, BEATEN BY POLICE: I did exactly what he asked, and the next few minutes, he smashed me out of the car and swung me to the ground and went to beating on me. While he was doing it, the other cop was just standing around watching. He wasn't trying to help me. I was asking for the help. They weren't helping me. They just let him continue on hitting me with a flashlight.

LEMON: You didn't think you were going to make it, or survive that?

BOWMAN: No, sir.


LEMON (on camera): This is not the only case against this officer and it only came to light after Bowman filed a civil suit. Is this kind of behavior and then cover-up a systemic problem about some departments?

JOHNSON: I think it is. I think leadership -- we have to hold officers accountable. In these cases where we find that officers have multiple cases that are similar, I look at leadership and say, what are you doing? Are you holding your people accountable? And maybe we should begin to look at leadership and make sure that they have some responsibility in these incidents that happen.


JOHNSON: But we have to value people in our country no matter what your race and your gender. So this is a case where we definitely see where this gentleman wasn't valued. And when we talk about relationships in our country, especially communities of color, this is why those relationships are frayed.

LEMON (on camera): Speaking of that, there's another case that I'd like to ask you about, a missing 24-year-old geologist, Daniel Robinson, who disappeared in the Arizona Desert. This is what his father, who has been in Arizona looking for his son for the past three months, has to say.


DAVID ROBINSON, FATHER OF DANIEL ROBINSON: My son loved his family. He would not go anywhere without telling us. He would not have a desire to be away from his family. He would not go out into the desert. He would not try to john a monastery which was told by the buckeye Police Department. My son mysteriously disappeared. That's all we do know.


LEMON (on camera): Look, this has been three months. Gabby Petito's is more recently. This one did not get as much as coverage. The family suspects a foul play with police. They don't think so because of all his personal effects were found in his jeep. This is such a mystery. Is there more that should be done find out what happened to Daniel Robinson?

JOHNSON: No. I think sometimes, we try to look at cases and make them similar. I think each case has to be looked at on its own merit. I think we do need to make sure that we're giving all the effort that we can. Listening to that father, my heart goes out to him, but we have to make sure that all cases are valued.

This is a case that -- you're right, we're not hearing about it in our country, and when we can put it out in the media, put it out in our community, we have a better chance of solving these cases because people are more aware and they can help law enforcement.

LEMON: We always appreciate having you on. Thank you, Captain Ron Johnson.

JOHNSON: No problem.

LEMON: The CDC saying yes to booster shots but not to everyone getting them. Who they say should and shouldn't get the extra shot.




LEMON (on camera): Take this. CDC advisors endorsing COVID booster doses of Pfizer vaccine for people ages 65 and older and those with underlying conditions as young as 18. But the advisors voted against recommending a booster dose for people whose jobs put them at high risk of breakout infections. The endorsement will help millions of Americans increase their ability to fend off the delta variant.

But the reality is that another 2,000 Americans die every day from COVID, completely preventable deaths. Far too many Americans are dying because they have been fed outrageous conspiracy theories and lies about vaccines and masks.

And the mask wars are raging in school board meetings all across the country, the latest in Round Rock, Texas where the school district has voted to extend their mask requirement. One man somehow took that really a step on the road towards 1930s Germany.


UNKNOWN: No one knows history. No one remembers history. I am calling on churches, active duty military, veterans, freedom-loving Texans. We're calling on you guys and we need your help. The 1930s Germany has many similarities here. They censured everybody and all the people went with the government. We know in this room who would have turned to Anne Frank. Let's just show your colors.


LEMON (on camera): The lies and the misinformation killing us just as surely as the virus. I want you to look at this. Tonight, the White House lit up in gold to mark childhood cancer awareness month, cancer being a very personal issue to President Joe Biden and the first lady.

As our viewers may know, our CNN family lost two babies to pediatric brain cancer this past year, Francesca and Blake. Our thoughts are with them and every family facing this horrible illness.

I'm going to put links on my social media. Make sure you check it out. Check out Twitter and Instagram to see how you can help.

And up next, Melvin Van Peebles was the legend who inspired black storytelling in Hollywood. His son is here to remember him after this.




LEMON: Tonight, I want to honor and remember a giant who forever changed the film industry: Director, actor, writer and trailblazer Melvin Van Peebles. Van Peebles died this week at the age of 89. The icon known as the godfather of black cinema brought us films like "The Story of a Three-Day Pass," "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" and "Watermelon Man." Tributes to the legend are pouring in.

Barry Jenkins is saying that he made the most of every second in every single damn frame. Spike Lee on Instagram is saying that we have lost another giant. And David Alan Grier stating we lost another icon. Another lion, I should say.

Van Peebles's son and longtime collaborator, Mario Van Peebles, joins me now. Mario, thank you, sir. I appreciate you joining us this evening. I know it's a tough time for you, but we want to celebrate the legacy of your father and your father's life. So, my condolences. Let us talk about him, okay?


LEMON: He had a huge influence on so many directors. What does his legacy mean to you?


PEEBLES: Well, first of all, understand something that the modern day colonizer doesn't use whips and chains. They use imagery. They use schools. They use churches. They use television and film.

When you grow up as a kid of color and you see Easter bunnies white, all the presidents and vice presidents are white, the people in the movies are white, people in Vogue are white, you start to believe you can do it. The first step to freeing your mind is -- the first step to getting the chains off is freeing your mind and seeing the possibility that you can win.

And so when Melvin Van Peebles said we are tired of being the (INAUDIBLE), we are tired of being the serving class, we want to whip some ass, and he puts black revolution on the screen with "Sweetback," it changed the whole game.

Kids like me, kids like Spike, kids like Julie, kids like Casey Lemons, we saw that and we said we want to do that. It was a game changer. Seeing us finally winning, the possibility of winning, being a lead in film, Don, meant maybe one day you could be a lead on television or be a lead in a political movement. All those things are possible if you can see yourself that way.

Melvin helped us see it that way, and I think that although his vision was different than other people's vision, the vision of freedom was one that was super attractive to all of us.

LEMON: He paved the way for so many. I was speaking just today, actually, about your father and his legacy and what he did. I was speaking with Lee Daniels. Everybody pays homage. And when you bring up Melvin van Peebles, they bow down and say he was the king, the originator.

Your father rose to prominence with the release of his landmark film, "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song." But people may not know that he did it all, right? Directing, scripting, editing, scoring, marketing, financing. I mean, on and on.


LEMON: What did that movie mean to Black cinema and independent filming? Go on.

PEEBLES: First of all, I grew up -- as a kid, I grew up on that film. I was learning about editing. We were learning about acting. When you grow up with Melvin Van Peebles by any means necessary filmmaking family, you learn it all. That is actually good because dad would say, I don't play ball well. Some dads could teach you to play basketball. I'm going to try to teach you how to own a team.

And when he did "Sweetback" and I was there as a kid, I saw Hollywood, look at this and say this is a movie about a black sex worker who becomes a revolutionary (INAUDIBLE) consciousness. They didn't want that, but they wanted that revolutionary movie. And so they had a film about a white detective and they just did it in black and called it "Shaft."

And after that came "Superfly," which was -- it was a great film in many ways but it did sort of make drug dealing look hip, and that was hurtful to us as a community, but it was too late. We were now seeing ourselves on screen with afros and bellbottoms and black was beautiful, not at the expense of white.

When we say Black lives matter, it doesn't mean other lives don't matter. It is just that after all this time of being inundated with all the imagery and not even thinking that god looks like you, we were starting to see ourselves win on screen. That was an immense thing for folks of color.

After that, 20 years later, I did "New Jack City." After that, I got a little juice in Hollywood. You know, you never take it too seriously. After that, I wanted to do a western. I got to direct my dad in my western posse. And Hollywood made more westerns than any other.

But traditionally, we didn't do too well. Black folks were shuffling, Native Americans were shot, Mexicans (INAUDIBLE), women were pale and frail, and a good Indian was a dead Indian. But in my movie "Posse," I wanted to see us win together. It was about taking control of your imagery whether you wanted to be Malcolm or Madia (ph). We could do it all. And that's --



LEMON: I write about that in my book and I talk about the imagery and I talk about Madia (ph) being really a giant F you (ph) to Hollywood, the way the title is doing down in Atlanta and really paving its own way. Again, I'm sure he would agree with this in large part because of what your father did.

I just want to say a couple of things and I want to ask you about. You told me a very poignant story yesterday when we talked about this. "Sweetback" was dedicated to all the brothers and sisters who had had enough of the man, and in 2020, it was selected for preservation by the library of Congress. That is a distinct honor.

Can you talk to me about what you said to me about how your father passed and what that moment was like for you, if you don't mind sharing it with the world?

PEEBLES: Yeah, man. I knew dad didn't want to pass at a hospital. We knew he was getting old. I got him home. He heaved this beautiful sigh of relief. I slept in the room with him. He slept on the bed. I put a cot next to him. At 2:30 in the morning, something told me to wake up, Don. I put my hand on his chest.


PEEBLES: I told him I loved him. And he had passed. And I felt that I was, as a kid, able to see this man, know that good allies come in all colors, teach me how to be the boss but also how to be the assistant, and have respect for everybody.

I got to see him live his life well and I got to see him exit it well. We think of a life well lived. We think of birth is a miracle. Death is a tragedy. It is different sides of the same mortality coin. To see your dad and, brother, he is lying there peaceful like a Buddha and let it go, I was like, may I be so lucky, Don?

LEMON: I will tell you this.

PEEBLES: In his bed with his kid right there.

LEMON: Yeah. Your dad did not age, you do not age, and I'm so grateful that you're here that we can honor your dad and talk about his legacy. Thank you.

PEEBLES: Brother, he's right here on my t-shirt. He's right here on my t-shirt.

LEMON: Thank you. I want to tell our viewers that (INAUDIBLE) featuring Melvin Van Peebles' essential films is set to be released next week and a Broadway revival of his play "Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death," (INAUDIBLE) return next year. Our thanks to Mario Van Peebles. We'll be right back.



LEMON (on camera): When Paul Jay Fronczak was a young boy, he discovered he had been kidnapped as a newborn and reunited with his family nearly two years later. Or so he thought. As an adult, Paul started doing more research and discovered that everything he thought he knew about himself was a lie.

Now, the new CNN film, "The Lost Sons," takes an intimate look at Paul' story. An unimaginable journey he has taken, searching for himself. Here is a preview.


UNKNOWN: My mom was upstairs, my dad was at work. I was 10 years old, and I was snooping around the house, looking for Christmas presents. I thought this is a great time to go into the crawl space. I know it's a great place to hide presents. I saw a lot of boxes. I thought this is it, the big score, right? This is like papers and things. This isn't a present. I opened another one, bunch of cards, more letters, and newspaper clippings.

I went, this isn't Christmas? So, I got a look at one, and it said 500 searched for kidnapped baby. Another one is Fronczak baby still missing. So I started to read it. And it said, Paul Joseph Fronczak, kidnapped from the hospital. I saw a picture of my mom and dad. They look really, really sad, heartbroken, and distraught. I thought, wait, that's me. What happened?


LEMON (on camera): Wow. Joining me now is the director of "The Lost Sons," Ursula Macfarlane. Ursula, thank you. Such a relatable story. It drew me in. Everyone is looking for Christmas presents, and then you come up on that. It's truly bizarre. How did you first hear about the story and why do you want to help Paul tell it?

URSULA MACFARLANE, DIRECTOR: I was working with (INAUDIBLE). He made identical strangers (INAUDIBLE) CNN films, and there was (INAUDIBLE) for this kind of stranger than fiction stories. And they asked me if I'd come along and make this film with them.

I met Paul and I was just so drawn to his story of wanting to know who he was because I think we all deep down, we need to know where we come from, and if we don't, that is a big void in us. We need to find out. I just felt it was a story about identity, family, what family really means. He is a charismatic guy, he was on a journey. As filmmakers, we want to go on that journey with him.

LEMON: Ursula, the story raises so many questions about identity, about what actually defines us as people. What do you think the film tells us about that?

MACFARLANE: Absolutely. It's all about that. I think it is the fact that we really need to know who we are. So, as I said, if we don't, there's a big hole. It also tells us about family. What is family? Is family the people that we are born into? Is it the people that love us and bring us up?

I think that family is -- we are all living in an age where there are blended families and dysfunctional families and difficult families. We all understand that. Every viewer can relate to that. Family is not necessarily who you were born into, and that is what Paul discovers at the end of the film, when he discovers some really difficult, deep dark secrets about his biological family.

So, that was fascinating to us, and I think we were swept up in that journey, that Paul has and still on. It's an ongoing journey.

LEMON: Ursula, by the way, isn't giving away anything. Paul still needs lots of things answered. What, ultimately, do you think he will ultimately get the answers he's looking for?

MACFARLANE: Well, that's a difficult question. When people see the film, they will understand that there is a big piece of the jigsaw still missing.


MACFARLANE: He has found many of the answers. Some of the answers are very difficult for him to take, very disappointing and very distressing. I don't know. The story happened in the early 60s. A lot of the people are no longer with us.\

I hope -- I don't think he is going to stop looking. I think he's going to continue looking. I hope that maybe he can find some peace with whatever the answer is. But I think, you know, if you need to know those things, you need to know those things, and you're not going to stop searching.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, you never know, you never know, especially in this day and age. Maybe he will get those answers. It's a fascinating film. Thank you so much, Ursula. We appreciate you joining us.

MACFARLANE: Thank you so much for having me.

LEMON: Absolutely. Be sure to tune in. The all new CNN film "The Lost Sons" premieres Sunday night at 9:00 only here on CNN.

And thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.