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Don Lemon Tonight

Arizona's Election Audit Laid The Truth; Top Trump Aides Under Scrutiny; The View's Co-Hosts Tested Positive For COVID; Manhunt For Brian Laundrie Continues; It's A Make Or Break For President Biden's Goal; Charity Working Kids To Access Mental Health. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 24, 2021 - 22:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): That's it for us tonight. "DON LEMON TONIGHT" with the upgrade for Friday night, Laura Coates right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: How sweet of you. Nice to talk to you, nice to see you. We have so much. This has been a crazy week, Chris, absolutely crazy.

CUOMO: So, I hear. But you know what? The good news is that the momentum of Petito has allowed us to put lights, because look, we are not America's most wanted, we don't do a lot of missing person work. But that story is crazy and has a lot of intrigue but it's not the only one and it allowed us to right a little bit of a wrong and deal with stories about people of color who don't get covered the same way and hopefully, we get similar results.

COATES: Absolutely. You know, and it's something that nourishes the benefit of every one society, if we know that people care and are looking and are wanting to understand the value of human life, it will detour crime as well. You know, it's something that we have to also think about.

The idea if someone knows that that person is missing and loved and wanted home, hopefully we can actually stop it from even happening in the first place. Chris, nice to see you as always.

CUOMO: Always a pleasure. Have a good weekend. I look forward to the show.

COATES: Thank you.

And this is DON LEMON TONIGHT. I'm Laura Coates, in for Don Lemon.

And what we learned this week is more proof as if anybody needed more proof that our democracy is at risk. There is the Arizona fraud it, the one run by the so-called cyber ninjas, and the only that the audit confirm what we already knew by the way that Joe Biden won Maricopa County, he got 99 more votes than the county reported in November. But even though the former president and his cronies lost the battle

in Arizona, they are winning the misinformation war by keeping the questions out there and pushing for more investigations of the big lie of bogus voter fraud.

The latest in Texas. A state he won by the way, and also in Pennsylvania. All of this as the January 6th committee has already issued its first subpoenas to top Trump aides and allies Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, Steve Bannon, and Kash Patel.


UNKNOWN: Criminal contempt is on the table. We've discussed it. And if it comes to that, there will be no reluctance at all on the committee to do it.


COATES (on camera): The White House also said this week that it will release information to the committee about what Trump and his aides were doing on that day. And then there is the revelation. The one in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's new book "Peril," that John Eastman, a lawyer working for the then president's legal team, wrote a six-point scheme for how Mike Pence could dismiss the election results and hand Trump the presidency.

So, welcome to Groundhog Day. Because apparently, former President Trump felt so overshadowed by real news, and wants to give us all at least six more weeks of the big lie. Well, here is the truth, again. President Biden won the popular vote. President Biden won 306 Electoral College votes. You only need 270 to win. It was a fair and free election.

Democracy guarantees a fair process. It doesn't guarantee that you are going to get the result you want. Sometimes your candidate will win. Sometimes your candidate will lose, Dems the breaks. And yet, the former president, refuses to give us all a break on the promotion of the big lie.

Now, it's tempting to ignore it and believe me, we could if the lie was only relegated to say dark corners, but it is manifested in an attack on the citadel of our democracy. It has proliferated. It's even been codified.

In fact, several Republican led states including Texas now have voting restrictions in place that were premised in part on the big lie. Several states including ones that Trump won are moving forward with more fraud-its. The big lie even continues to influence the political landscape nearly after a year after the 2020 election. Buying into the lie, at least publicly, seems to now be a prerequisite for Republican candidacy. And we're just beginning to see how much the big lie was actually part of a big plot.

Just this week we learned that John Eastman, a conservative lawyer working with then President Trump's legal team actually had the audacity to outline a six-point plot for a sitting vice president to ignore a democratic result and simply gavel in a president.


An orchestrated plot to force Congress to prove the negative that Biden didn't lose, all the while making state election officials prove that your vote wasn't fraudulent. I mean, the number of contingency plans to undermine democracy it should make your spin. Attack the voting process. Attack the counting of the votes. Attack the Electoral College. Attack the capitol. And if all else fails just gavel in a president.

It would be laughable if the stakes weren't so high and if we hadn't seen the way movies like this can end when a man feels entitled to power simply because he wants it, and uses fear-based propaganda to sow disbelief in the government he wants to run when he convinces you that the result is only fair when he wins.

And makes you distrustful of your neighbors and questions their right to even be counted. Dems aren't the breaks, that's how democracy breaks and that's the truth.

Joining me now, CNN senior legal analyst, Preet Bharara, and senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein.

Happy to have both of you here.


COATES: But a bit of this feels like deja vu and Groundhog Day. Because Preet, I mean, this Arizona audit it blew up in Trump's face but despite all of the failed recounts, and I mean all of the failed recounts, he's still pushing the big lie. So tell me, what is the point of the propaganda? I s just to keep sowing doubt in our elections?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think absolutely. You know, they are setting the stage to be able to themselves and to inspire other people who support them to basically take the position if we win, we win, if we lose, we also must have won. And so, part of this, I think, further to you point, I think you exactly right in the opening that setting the stage for a story telling kind of propaganda scheme so that no matter what happens, you lose an election. We didn't really lose.

You do an audit, the audit comes up empty even though they are sponsored by your folks and people who wanted you to win, no that's not right. They still claim victory even when there is a defeat. It reminds me a little bit of all those times during the Mueller investigations and other occasions where there'd be a document or some kind of memorandum or some other thing that implicated the president in something and he would say total exoneration.

He said about that call with the Ukrainian president. It was a perfect call. So, it's an Orwellian sort of design to say no matter what happens, we either won or we should have won and the other guys are crooks. And that's going to be replicated as you also suggest again and again and again in the playbook that we've just seen in Arizona and we'll see in Texas and other places.

COATES: In fact, Ron, I mean, you're nodding your head because we have seen this playbook --


COATES: -- and it's actually being followed. I mean, this is -- this is happening, by the way in district with long -- large minority communities. It is all about Republicans laying the groundwork as Preet was speaking about for say, 2024 or even the midterm elections?

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Absolutely. Look, we are facing the greatest threat to the American political order to our underlying democratic system since the Civil War. I think full stop. Robert Kagan, a New York conservative writer laid it out I though very effectively in the Washington Post today.

If you look at all the interlocking pieces that are coming together, all of these Republican laws in red states making it tougher to vote, all of these candidates who deny the reality of 2020 running for secretary of state, laws increasing in places like Georgia and elsewhere, political control over the counting of votes, the refusal of the vast, vast majority of Republicans to stand up against what we are seeing.

And the kind of the deepening in the Republican base of this idea as you said, that, you know, if we win, it's legit, if we lose, it's inherently fraud. I don't think Donald Trump is winning the argument about there being -- that the election was won with fraud. He is essentially convincing the people who want to be convinced among the poor Republican voters who are the most uneasy about the way the country is changing demographically.

Who believe that, by definition, they are the real Americans and any time the other side wins, it's illegitimate because those voters are not, quote, "real Americans." And really kind of the paradox of all of this is that the one opportunity Democrats have to push back against this multi-faceted kind of pincer that is developing against American democracy is their ability to pass a floor of new federal voting rights, protections for election workers, rules for the counting.

And at the moment Joe Manchin, and ironically, Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona are preventing them from doing that.


COATES: Well let's talk about what Congress is doing in another respect here, Preet. Because as Ron was talking about there is a moment in time when these so-called coincidences become coordination and they just sack of the coordination.

I want to get your take on the January 6th select committee issuing subpoenas for four key members to Trump's inner circle. You got Chairman Thompson says that if they don't cooperate, criminal contempt is on the table. And we know the White House is saying that President Biden does not expect to assert executive privilege to try to shield these Trump era records from the committee.

So, what does all this mean for an investigation? Are they able to compel these guys to actually talk and tell us what actually led up to truthfully January 6th?

BHARARA: You know that remains to be seen. You know, the people who have been subpoenaed are folks who have the ability to say I'm not coming. There are various methods for -- of enforcement when you go to court, there will be assertions of executive privilege. As you just mentioned, former President Trump has already said he's going to assert that.

It doesn't fly, as you know, because the right to assert executive privilege is held by the office of the presidency and whoever the current occupant of that office is. In this case, it's Joe Biden, not former President Trump as much as he wishes that were so.

It's also true that one of the four people was not even an employee of the government was in there, and there couldn't have been any executive privilege assertion of Steve Bannon, my guess is you'll see a back and forth and a lot of posturing. Criminal contempt I think it's nice to say that's on the table. We've really not seen them. It's a very difficult thing to pull off.

We're an executive branch DOJ official decides to bring a criminal case against someone else who is or was in the executive branch. It's possible. We'll see if that happens. But I think the select committee is on the right track, you know, narrowly focused on issuing subpoenas to four men who are intimately involved with what unfolded on the day of January 6th.

Communications, logistics, talking to various people, know what's the -- what was in the president's mind, former president's mind, Donald Trump's mind was incredibly important to understanding how responsible Donald Trump was. So, there will be some legal wrangling but at the end of the day, whether it's vindicated quickly or not, the side -- the right side is on the side of the committee.

COATES: Now, we know, gentlemen, of course, that if passes prologue it could be a very protracted time to actually understand whether they actually will testify or not. However, there is one road block that's removed and that's an executive that's willing at this point not to assert that privilege. So, we'll see what happens. And we always say what we saw January 6th was not the beginning of the story. We'll follow it along.

Thanks, gentlemen.

I want to bring in Arizona former Attorney General, Grant Woods now. Grant, nice to see you there.

Because the audit in your state, as you know, is confirming today what we frankly already knew that President Biden in fact won Arizona, which is five months, by the way, and over $6 million later. So, what did they actually accomplish, these cyber ninjas to have essentially a fait accompli here? GRANT WOODS, FORMER ARIZONA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, Laura, you made a

-- you made a good reference to Groundhog Day and today is Bill Murray is birthday so happy birthday to Bill Murray. And I expect to see him around him.


COATES: Happy birthday, Bill Murray.

WOODS: Because he walks up in Phoenix every few months and says hey, big news, Joe Biden won. We knew that. We knew that from the beginning and we know that again today.

But I think my view is that you've got some -- in Trump world, it is filled with grifters and it starts at the top and then it goes down from there. And you've got some grifters here who this is what they do. They, as you said, I think it's 6.7 million they milked out of Arizona and they're just trying to do that in other states.

So, these are just -- I mean, you probably prosecuted these people. I did. They just go onto the next one and the next one until someone finally stops them. And then you've got the dummies who are out there who just buy this stuff.

You know, today they're out at the capitol chanting stop the steal. You know, the same thing they were saying the day after the election. I think -- and I think that's because they memorized that and they don't want to have to start all over memorizing a new chant. They've got that one down.

So, they're still doing the same old chant, same old signs stop the steal. These people, there is no dealing with them. And then you have the people in the middle and that's when -- and they have actually accomplished what they wanted. And that is -- they see -- they understand that if they can't rig the system here by suppressing the vote in '22 and '24 there is no hope for the Republican, I believe, in the long term here and probably in the short term.

So how do you do that? Well, you're going to have to just make up lies, tell lies that will rationalize why you need to come up with these voter suppression laws. And then you do it, and then you do better in 2022 than you would have otherwise if everybody had an equal chance to vote, and then maybe you can win start winning and take over again.


It's all about politics. It's all about power and it's not about Republicans really --


COATES: And Grant, it does --

WOODS: It's about authoritarians.

COATES: Well, it seems like as you're talking about the idea of going state to state with these different audits trying to --


COATES: -- essentially move the clown car and make sure it's on wheels. And after the crazy conspiracies about bamboo ballots from China and ballots burned on a chicken farm, --

WOODS: Right.

COATES: -- true. Ballots burned on chicken farm is actually a statement that's been made. What is your message to the next state that gets entangled in this kind of mess?

WOODS: Well, just to realize what's going on. Why in the world would they be going to Florida and going to Texas given that Trump won there if they actually thought something went wrong and like they were saying in Arizona, Biden really didn't win?

They're going to those states because they need to suppress the vote in Florida and they need to suppress the vote in Texas. They know that and that's why they have gone to Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan. That's -- that's their goal here. It is no more complicated than that.

The problem is and Laura, as you know, I mean, anyone who is a student of history and world history, this is what the Russians have been trying to do and our enemies have been trying to do forever. To have us fall from the inside, have our own people doubt our democratic institutions and that's -- that's what at stake.

And I agree with Ron Brownstein. He's right on. I don't think we've had a threat to our democracy this severe in a long, long time. So, the answer is, people in Texas have got to fight back. People in Florida have to fight back. You've got great attorneys general in Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin, in Michigan in a lot of these states, key states.

They'll fight the battle and if you don't have those great attorneys general, which you don't in other states, then the people are going to have to just realize what's going on and don't sit back and say, well, we won last time, we'll probably win next time. Because there is some insidious stuff going on here. We stop them here in Arizona for now, but we're not going to give up here and we're not going to let them win, and ultimately, I think we can prevail.

COATES: Fighting through the ballot and fighting through democracy, not against it. Grant, thank you so much for your time.


COATES: I appreciate it.

WOODS: Thanks, Laura. It's good to see you.

COATES: Me, too. A dramatic moment today on The View. Why Ana Navarro and Sunny Hostin

left the set just before an interview with Vice President Kamala Harris. There is more to the story than you may think.


UNKNOWN: I need the two of you to step off for a second.

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, ABC: OK. Ana and Sunny.


UNKNOWN: Please. And we're going to bring you back later.


BEHAR: And we'll tell you why.

UNKNOWN: More information later. It's a tease.




COATES (on camera): A pair of dramatic positive COVID tests postponing an interview with vice President Harris on The View today.


UNKNOWN: I need the two of you to step off for a second.

BEHAR: OK. Ana and Sunny.


UNKNOWN: Please. And we're going to bring you back later.


BEHAR: And we'll tell you why.

UNKNOWN: More information later. It's a tease.

BEHAR: We'll tell you why in a couple of minutes.

UNKNOWN: Here you go.

UNKNOWN: I need to go over here.

BEHAR: So, shall I introduce the vice president?


BEHAR: So, Vice President -- UNKNOWN: No.

BEHAR: No? OK. Shall we dance? Let's do a tap dance.


BEHAR: What happened is that Sunny and Ana both apparently tested positive for COVID. No matter how hard we toy of these things happen. They probably have a breakthrough case and they'll be OK, I'm sure because they're both vaccinated.


COATES (on camera): Now V.P. Harris did the interview from another room after the positive test and did not come into contact with Sunny Hostin or Ana Navarro before the show. Sources say that later in the day both of them tested negative on two different types of COVID tests. Ana describing the experience to Anderson Cooper earlier tonight.


NAVARRO: We had just been told in our ears that we are, you know, we're -- what did you say? Did I just hear you right?


NAVARRO: And this is in the middle of live TV.


NAVARRO: And as you know, Anderson, the show must go on.


COATES (on camera): And indeed, it did. Joining me now to discuss, CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner. He is the director of the Cardiac Catheterization Program at George Washington University Hospital.

Dr. Reiner, well, let's just start with how this was handled at The View. I mean, they clearly got a protocol, right, and the vice president didn't interact with them beforehand, but this really shows you just how important testing is. It was really a near miss.

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, I'm not sure what to make of this because I think that we might even learn more about this tomorrow. This is really unusual for two reasons.

First of all, these antigen tests are pretty specific and although they can miss a positive test in somebody with low levels of antigen, someone who is maybe symptomatic or asymptomatic, in people who are contagious or when someone is test positive, usually that test is pretty reliable.

Secondly, it would really be unusual to have two false positive tests simultaneously in the same place on two different people. So, there is something very odd about this story. But I do think, you know, overall, the bigger story is, I think businesses around the United States do not utilize testing nearly enough, and our schools do not utilize testing nearly enough.

There is an opportunity, for instance, to keep schools open if we were to test our kids going to school once or twice a week. We would limit the number of kids who test positive in class and we would reduce the number of students who would subsequently need to be quarantined. So, there are a lot of pieces to this story. It's very interesting. I think we'll probably hear more about this over the weekend.


COATES: You know, when you're saying that about, sort of, what seems strikes you as odd, you know, I'm reminded back earlier in the pandemic when there were discussions about the efficacy and the utility of actually testing. And are you suggesting that perhaps it's going to lessen the confidence in testing if you have these false positives or we need to wait and see to learn more what this truly means before people change their minds about the appropriateness and the need for testing?

REINER: No, I think this is -- you know, this one instance is a curiosity. I think we've gotten testing wrong over and over again in the United States since the beginning of this pandemic. You know, we were very slow to ramp up testing in the United States, embarrassingly slow.

We finally got to a reasonable amount of test towards the beginning -- towards the sort of the middle of the winter and then it steadily dropped off and now we're doing a fraction of the number of tests that we did at the height of the pandemic last year. And we've grossly underutilized these rapid antigen tests which offer the promise, you know, to let people do a quick diagnostic test at home before they go to work or before they go to school.

We should have the ability to basically send these tests out to every home, imagine if you had several in your house and could test your kids, you know, once or twice a week or you take a test before you went to work and there are some businesses that are doing this.

And I think that going forward, this is going to be part of our strategy as we learn to live with COVID maybe at lower levels in the United States but that we incorporate rapid testing into -- into what we do.

COATES: Dr. Reiner, so thoughtful on the idea of having to learn and use the past occurrences to actually guide us. That's part of an effective comprehensive strategy actually being able to learn from what we have here. Thank you for your time. Nice hearing from you.

REINER: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

COATES: We'll follow that curiosity you talked about.

You know, a federal arrest warrant is now out for Gabby Petito's fianceE. So where is Brian Laundrie? That's next.



COATES (on camera): Investigators in Florida say they'll be working all weekend searching for Brian Laundrie in a swampy nature reserve. He disappeared 10 days ago and he is now the subject of an arrest warrant for his activities following the death of his fiancEe, Gabby Petito. And while the hunt for Laundrie goes on, a memorial service for Petito will be held of Sunday.

More from CNN's Leyla Santiago.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, authorities still searching for Gabby Petito's fiancee Brian Laundrie that's not been seen for over a week. A source close to the family telling CNN that Brian Left the house headed to a nearby nature reserve without his wallet or cell phone. The multi-agency search at that massive park so far turning up no clues to Laundrie's whereabouts.

JOE FUSSELL, COMMANDER, NORTH PORT POLICE DEPARTMENT: It's upon us to search this area as best as we can, as massive as it is with the resources that we have to try to find Brian.

SANTIAGO: Police say Laundrie returned to Florida on September 1st without his 22-year-old fiancee. The Petito family reported her missing 10 days later and said they couldn't understand why Laundrie wasn't helping to find her.

UNKNOWN: I don't think anybody has an answer for that. It doesn't make sense.

SANTIAGO: Laundrie's sister did speak out on ABC's Good Morning America before Gabby's body was found, saying how close she and her sons were with gabby.

CASSIE LAUNDRIE, BRIAN LAUNDRIE'S SISTER: Me and my family want Gabby to be found safe. She's like a sister and my children loved her. And all I want is for her to come home safe and sound and this to be just a misunderstanding.

SANTIAGO: Laundrie now the subject of a federal arrest warrant after a grand jury indicted him for his use of unauthorized access devices following the death of Gabrielle Petito. Investigators say he used a debit card that wasn't his making charges for more than $1,000 between the dates of August 30th and September 1st, the day he returned home.

The lawyer for the Laundrie family quick to respond saying in part, it is my understanding that the arrest warrant for Brian Laundrie is related to activities occurring after the death of Gabby Petito and not related to her actual demise.

The FBI urging anyone with knowledge of Mr. Laundrie's role in this matter or his current whereabouts to contact the FBI. No piece of information is too small or inconsequential. Near the Laundrie home where the couple lived with his parents, a memorial has been set up in Petito's name.


SANTIAGO: This woman drove more than 50 miles to hang a poster memorializing Gabby.

DESESSO: I'm a grandmother and I'm a mother and I feel for both parties. I feel for them and I for the lost girl's parents.

SANTIAGO: Meanwhile, in New York, a memorial service will be held this Sunday in Petito's hometown. The service will be open to the public. In lieu of flowers, her family is asking for donations to a future foundation that will be set up in Gabby's name.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Venice, Florida.

COATES: Such a tragic story all around.

Stalemate, a whole lot of meetings and so far, nothing to show for them. President Biden's entire agenda is on the line. Stay with us.



COATES (on camera): President Joe Biden is describing his agenda as having reached a stalemate. This as Democrats in Congress continue to debate the size and scope of his sweeping economic proposals, but that's not his only challenge. We had a crisis at the border and confusion in the rollout for booster shots. They've capped off a very rough week for this president.

Joining me now, CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod. David, nice to see you.

But I got to tell you, it's all on the line. Right? When the Democrats have quite a critical upcoming week in Congress. I mean, earlier today, President Biden described as a stalemate. Now he's saying tonight that he has little more clarity, but you got the White House saying that they spoke to House Speaker Pelosi, to Schumer. Do we have the beginnings of a deal maybe? What do you think?


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Listen, I think that this is the legislative process and what we've been -- we haven't seen what's going on beneath the surface. But there are multiple conversations going on in all levels here.

And I do think that most Democrats understand that to walk away with nothing would be a catastrophic defeat for not just for the president but for members of Congress who were running for reelection in 2022. So, you know, but I think they've all learned another lesson, which is

when you have a 50/50 Senate and an almost 50/50 House, every single member has leverage and they're all trying to use their leverage to promote their priorities and, you know, it's a little bit of a game of chicken, and at some point and at that point is coming very quickly, maybe as early as next week, everyone is doing to have to turn over their cards.

COATES: And I wonder to that end, I mean, as you mentioned, the idea of this game of chicken but we see pretty clearly. I mean, the House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told CNN that he is bringing the bipartisan infrastructure bill to the floor on Monday. But you know, the progressives have said they're not going to support it without the massive human infrastructure bill.

So, is there realistically knowing that, is there any way that this Monday vote happens or even at all next week?

AXELROD: Well, look, I think they're required under -- it was included in the rule that they passed a few weeks ago in order to move all of this forward procedurally. I think they have to. But, you know, Laura, one thing I learned in my years in Washington is there are always ways, you know? If there is a will, there is a way.

And if they're talking and if there is a fundamental commitment to make sure that they don't go over the cliff here and come away with nothing, I think that they will -- I think that they will find a way?

COATES: Well, you know, it's easier to find a way if you got this as a singular focus but we know, David, I mean, look at this week. We got the rollout for booster shots, messy at best. You got the pictures that we've seen at the border, the horrific pictures, by the way.

You got the crunch to get the agenda pass, the approval rating of the president under water. I mean, how does the president turn things around? Can he?

AXELROD: You forgot the debt ceiling situation. Yes. Look, this is --


COATES: I don't want to add insult to injury but there you go.

AXELROD: There is a -- this has been a bad seven weeks for the president, rough seven weeks for the president. You know, he had a great spring. He got the vaccines going, the economy was beginning to hum, and there was a real sense of optimism about us kind of clearing that tremendous hurdle.

And then, you know, things reversed. And then came Afghanistan and, you know, a series of other things that you listed and it has hurt him. There is a sense that things are a little loose, things are a little chaotic right now and that you know, he needs to establish control.

If he passes these bills, I think that will help. I think that will help sort of ease the sense that he has lost control of the environment around him. But I have great sympathy for him and for people in the White House.

One thing you learn very quickly and I thought about this last spring when, you know, everybody was so exultant, there is always something around the corner. That's part of the job. It is never easy. And oftentimes, these kinds of situations aggregate at once. And it feels in that moment like this is the decisive epic in the -- in your administration. That's not true.

You know, President Obama in 2011 had a miserable summer in 2011 right before he ran for reelection to the point where people were doubting whether he could win a re-election and he ended winning a very solid victory, you know, 13 months later.

So, you know, we'll see how this works out. But I do think that this legislation is very important. He made this the centerpiece of his -- of his administration getting these two pieces of legislation passed. He's done a good job of getting them to this point. They have to get across the finish line. If they don't, you know, there is real long- term damage there.

COATES: Absolutely and the idea here of, you know, you never know what's right around the corner. But I'll tell you, in a four-year term we often know that it's really month to month that the presidency can actually be determined. Thank you. We'll many right back.



COATES (on camera): They might not make headlines but they're smashing barriers and lifting humanity up. This week we're highlighting everyday people who are champions for change like Sean Perry and We R HOPE. We are bringing individualized mental health care to schools at no cost to the parents. Here is CNN's Alisyn Camerota.


SEAN PERRY, FOUNDER, WE R HOPE: When I walk out the door and I'm headed to work, knowing we are literally saving and changing lives, that's the most powerful thing.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): In a rural community tucked between the border of Vermont and New Hampshire, the seeds of a mental health revolution are quietly being planted. Sean Perry, co-founder of the nonprofit We R HOPE is bringing mental health services to schools at no cost to the students.

PERRY: Hello, everybody.

UNKNOWN: Hello. Good morning.

PERRY: I am here to make sure that if you guys have a difficult day, that you have somebody to talk to.


We are able to help kids that would not normally have access to mental health support. That's how we are changing the status quo.

BECKIE ODELL BETHEL, MOTHER: When the pandemic hit, I didn't recognize my babies anymore.

CAMEROTA: Seventeen-year-old Lindsey and 12-year-old Jacob struggled with anxiety and depression during the pandemic.

UNKNOWN: It kind of, felt like there was this icy ball in the back of my throat. I just felt so hopeless.

UNKNOWN: It just felt like I was stuck in a cage, that I couldn't escape from.

BETHEL: I didn't know how to help them. If we didn't have We R HOPE available through the school, I could have lost my kids down a dangerous little path.

CAMEROTA: One of the top causes of death for teenagers is suicide.

The statistics are really frightening. I'm the mother of three teenagers. So, I'm always attuned to their moods and their mental health. And then I personally remember being a teenager. And for me those were turbulent years. Between the time I was 15 and 17, I lived in six different houses. There was a lot of upheaval. It did end up affecting my mental health.

Did you have some of those same issues?

PERRY: You struggled significantly with anxiety. In my 20's I was hopeless, alone. I made a deal with myself that I was going to go to the local park and just end everything. And I woke up and I was like, I'm still here, I'm still here. My purpose right now is to make sure that there's not another kid on this planet that has to feel the way that I felt.

How's it going?


PERRY: Are you guys excited?


PERRY: I'm excited too.

CAMEROTA: How does We R HOPE function in the school?

PERRY: We have a coach in the school for six hours. We get to see 12 students five days a week for about 60 to 90 days. And then we rotate then out and get another 12 students in. It's very individualized. Typically, when we see our kids it's because of a behavior, blowing out of class, throwing a desk, not doing your homework. We work backwards from that behavior. We teach our kids thoughts and create emotions which influence or impact our behavior.

CHRISTINE BOURNE, PRINCIPAL, HARTLAND ELEMENTARY: Before We R HOPE entered our school four years ago, we had two school counselors for roughly 300 kids. We did our best but it wasn't enough. We R HOPE is what I consider a missing piece in education if students get the support to cope with things (Inaudible).

CAMEROTA: We gathered at the Hartland diner to hear from the kids themselves.

How many people felt more anxiety or more depression during the pandemic? All of you.

UNKNOWN: It was a really big negative impact on my life.

UNKNOWN: Getting into fights and stuff.

UNKNOWN: I was nervous a lot.

UNKNOWN: I had a lot of anxiety.

UNKNOWN: My depression hit me so hard.

CAMEROTA: Give me the technique that We R HOPE taught you.

UNKNOWN: I learned this like new breathing technique called birthday cake breathing. You smell the birthday cake and then blow out the candles.

CAMEROTA: How do you smell the birthday cake? How many of you, show of hands, feel hopeful? Even though there are tough things in the world.

That's so great.


CAMEROTA: How do you explain what we just saw here?

PERRY: We keep changing the culture. We listen to what they need and then give them the skills to learn how to work through it.

CAMEROTA: At the end of your day, when you're alone --


CAMEROTA: -- and you're driving home, what's in your head?

PERRY: How do we reach more kids. That's what I'm always thinking about. I want to be everywhere in the United States. I do not stop. I'm beyond relentless.


COATES (on camera): Alisyn, it's so impressive and so impactful what they are doing. And you know, throughout the pandemic young people seem to be having a much harder time trying to deal with anxiety and having coping mechanisms. So, why organizations like this are just so pivotal, particularly right now?

CAMEROTA: Well, look, obviously the pandemic exacerbated all of our mental health challenges. But even before that, just being a teenager, just being an adolescent, just being a kid presents its own mental health challenges.

And I mean, Laura, I was talking to Sean Perry who started We R HOPE about the irony of how much time every week my kids, my three teenagers spend in algebra and trigonometry that I'm not sure they're ever going to use for the rest of their lives, versus virtually non- existent mental health classes or coping skills.

And so, I mean, he's trying to just rearrange the priorities in schools let everybody know it's OK to talk about it and it's really good for kids to have some tools to deal with what they're struggling with.

COATES: And for parents to know it's actually happening. Because we also learn through our children and it's OK not to be OK. I love having these tools and our young people being able to have this available to them.


Alisyn, as you know, if you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text talk to 741741, because you are not alone.

And be sure to join Victor and Alisyn and some of your favorite CNN anchors for a special night spotlighting everyday people changing the world for the better. Champions for Change airs tomorrow night at 8 Eastern.

Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues.