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Don Lemon Tonight

President Biden Holds Call With Pelosi And Schumer As His Domestic Agenda Faces A Make-or-Break Moment; New Dispatch Audio On Petito And Laundrie's 'Altercation'; Man Who Shot Reagan In 1981 Granted 'Unconditional Release'; Trump Lies Again About Winning Election Despite All The Proof He Didn't; R&B Star R. Kelly Found Guilty Of Sex Trafficking, Racketeering. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 27, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): President Joe Biden on the phone tonight with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as his domestic agenda hangs in the balance. The White House is saying the president may invite some Democrats over tomorrow to twist some arms as key votes are scheduled this week.

Also tonight, still no sign of Brian Laundrie, who disappeared about two weeks ago after the body of his fiancee, Gabby Petito, was found in Wyoming. Police in Florida say that the FBI is taking over the search for him and may scale back the effort.

And the Justice Department is agreeing to drop strict conditions on movement for John Hinckley, Jr., who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan more than 40 years ago. I'm going to ask the former president's daughter, Patti Davis, how she feels about that.

I want to bring in now though CNN senior political analyst Kirsten Powers and contributor Evan Osnos, staff writer for "The New Yorker," who's the author of "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury." Good evening to both of you. Thank you so much for joining.

Evan, Democrats say that they are getting really close to a deal on Biden's largest spending package. I want you to listen to what congresswoman and Progressive Caucus Whip Ilhan Omar told me just last hour. Here it is.


REP. ILHAN ABDULLAHI OMAR (D-MN): We are really getting close. The Senate majority leader continues to have a conversation with a few senators that are holding up progress. Our chairwoman, Pramila Jayapal, had a phone call and a conversation with Sinema. What we are waiting for is what is it that they are interested in seeing changed so that we can move this legislation forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON (on camera): Evan, simple question. Is the president going to be able to pull this off?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We are starting to see some of the kicking beneath the surface of the water begin to reveal itself. Yeah, we are into the horse trading phase now, Don. It is pretty clear that people are starting to put numbers on the table.

One of the big questions -- and this is what the chair of the Progressive Caucus indicated earlier in the week, was that look, this is going to come down to how many people can be covered by these changes, how long will they be in effect, will they be a few years, will they be permanent, but that's exactly the process they had to get to.

Biden has been sort of calm throughout this, trying not to say this is a five-alarm fire. But the stakes are enormous. At this point, the language, the body language you're hearing from everybody has changed from where it was a few days ago where there is a general recognition that this is a political necessity. They have to get this done.

LEMON: Kirsten, can you hear me? Are you having trouble? I think Kirsten is having trouble. So we are working on Kirsten. I'll continue to talk to you, Evan.

OSNOS: Sure.

LEMON: So just hours ago, the situation was very tense. Manchin was saying an agreement was a heavy lift. Progressives were standing firm. So, what do you think has changed, Evan?

OSNOS: Well, one of the things you are hearing was an important detail from Jim Clyburn, of course congressman from South Carolina. He is the one of the people who has been pushing for an expansion of Medicaid, saying we have to push this in the states that have said no on the (ph) Affordable Care Act for nearly a decade. He's starting to say, look, if we can't make this permanent, as he said today, we will take a half loaf, and we will put it in place for five years.

These are the kinds of changes that begin to get something moving.


OSNOS: But, you know, Don, I think the larger point here that is really interesting, too, is that you've begun to hear little bits of how Joe Biden is talking to somebody like Joe Manchin. Joe Manchin today is telling reporters that they are having conversations about the direction of the country, what needs to happen here.

That is the kind of the Biden approach. He is not going to say to somebody, look, I'm going to squeeze here. You have to do this for your own voters. He doesn't want to try to leverage it quite that way.

He's trying to put it in larger terms, competitiveness terms, saying, look, for the United States to be competitive in the 21st century, we have to have things like paid family leave of the kind that is standard in Western Europe. We have to have the kind of high-speed trains that they have in Japan, in China. We have to have the kind of broadband access you see when you go to South Korea.

This is about making the United States fit for competition for the decades ahead. That is an argument that lands better with Joe Manchin than it does fighting with him about what his voters want and aren't willing to pay for.

LEMON: Very good assessment, Evan. Thank you for that. Kirsten, our democracy is under attack. Republicans are rewriting laws all across this country based really on a lie. President Biden has been clear that he thinks that the way to defend democracy is to show that government can work and do things to help people. So, how important is it for Democrats to come together in this moment with really so much else on the line here?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it is incredibly important. And actually, I would say, if they weren't able to produce some sort of deliver basically on Biden's agenda, I think it would be catastrophic. And so because there is so much on the line, that is why I've been saying I really do believe that the Democrats are going to figure this out.

And what we are seeing right now is just the saucer making. We're watching this happen and this is how it works. You have different factions in the Democratic Party, staking out their positions. They are fighting for the things that they think are the most important.

And because of the numbers, because of the fact that Joe Biden really doesn't have 50 votes that he can count on, of people who all think exactly the same way, he have to navigate a lot of different people who have different constituencies and different concerns.

And so that is what he's facing. But I think that they are going to figure it out because if they don't figure it out, it really would be disastrous.

LEMON: Kirsten, I knew that you're having trouble because I didn't think that you would be on with your commercial break glasses. I've only seen you wearing them on commercial break.

POWERS: I wasn't hearing the show. I heard nothing. And all of a sudden, I heard you're on camera, and I'm, like, awesome.

LEMON: Thank you, Kirsten. Thank you, Evan. I appreciate it.

POWERS: Thank you.

OSNOS: Thank you.

LEMON (on camera): Joining me now is Valerie Jarrett, the former senior adviser to President Barack Obama. Valerie, good to see you. Thank you so much. So, the former president is weighing in on Biden's spending plan. He is saying that the wealthiest Americans can afford to pay more to fund it. This is what he told "Good Morning, America" Robin Roberts. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that they can afford it. We can afford it. I put myself in this category now. And I think anybody who pretends that it is a hardship for billionaires to pay a little bit more in taxes so that a single mom gets childcare support or so that we can make sure that our communities aren't inundated by wildfires and floods and that we are doing something about climate change for the next generation, that's an argument that is unsustainable.


LEMON: (on camera): So the problem with all of that, Valerie, is that President Biden has not been able to secure an agreement from all Democrats. Do you think he will be able to get this over the finish line?

VALERIE JARRETT, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I sure hope so, Don. Good evening. Thank you for having me on. Listening to the items that President Obama mentioned that have to be taken care of, if we are really going to be a country that cares about our fellow citizens, we don't have any choice.

And so I know that President Biden is working hard at this but it is also up to those who are elected to not let perfect be the enemy of good and to move forward in a way because families right now are sitting around those kitchen tables, Don, trying to figure out how to make ends meet. They need help. That is what government is there to do.

LEMON: Valerie --

JARRETT: (INAUDIBLE) pay more taxes.

LEMON: Say again.

JARRETT: That means that people who can afford it have to pay a little bit more in taxes so that those who cannot afford it have a little help.

LEMON (on camera): The former president, Obama, also took part in a virtual chat and you're part of that. He said this about what threats -- about the threats to democracy. Here it is.


OBAMA: Because, I think, some of the frame or the crumbling of guardrails around how information goes out into the public, we now have certain portions of our populations that are operating on entirely different baselines of facts, of history, of how democracy is supposed to work.


OBAMA: We've got to figure out how we are helping people to distinguish between truth and falsehood, facts and opinions.


LEMON (on camera): So he went on to say that that may happen through the education system or how we think about the media. But this is an urgent problem, Valerie. What needs to be done right now?

JARRETT: It is up to all of us, Don, to start stressing the importance of engaged and active learning. It isn't enough to just pick something off the internet and think it is true. We have to be critical learners. We have to look at the data, where did it come from. And we have to talk to one another, not at each other.

This brings us to an important role and I think the Obama Foundation has to play, a gathering place of people with great ideas who have done their research, who have done their homework. Evidence-based strategies that don't tell people what to think but how to think. How to be those critical thinkers and how to come together to solve the big problems that we have that lie ahead?

We know what the solutions are. If we are willing to look at the truth and be rigorous and disciplined and care about us, not just ourselves, to your earlier question, we can solve these problems together.

I think that is what he believes in and that is what he wants to see happen through this new Obama center, this foundation that he has created.

LEMON: Also, I want to ask you something about something I know that you care deeply about. That is police reform. Republican Senator Tim Scott told PBS last year that he supported police departments losing federal funding if they didn't make reforms. Now, he seems to be calling that defunding the police. Did he flip-flop? Is police reform in Congress doomed, Valerie?

JARRETT: I surely hope not. I think it is incumbent on all members of Congress to recognize we have to provide some broad parameters at the federal level about what is acceptable in policing, to give local law enforcement the tools they need, to do their jobs in a fair and equitable way.

And so in some cases, that might require them to receive more resources but those resources should have strings attached. They should've strings attached that show that these police departments are going to actually implement change, and so that Black families don't have to teach their children a certain way to interact with the police that the rest of the country doesn't have to do. That is in everyone's self-interest, Don.

LEMON: Yeah. You mentioned it a little bit. We didn't talk specifically about the Obamas' breaking ground on the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. Tomorrow, you talked about what he is trying to do with the center. We will talk about what's happening. You said it won't be a typical presidential library and more like an active campus. So tell us more about what we can expect.

JARRETT: Yes. On the south side of Chicago, we are going to have a weekend to vote (ph) that I think will help support change agents, to go around not just the city of Chicago but the world and be forces for good. It is going to begin here on the south side.

And as you know, Don, in Chicago, there has been a traditional disparity between the south side and the north side. This investment, this incredible economic engine, is going to help generate a ripple effect across the entire city.

But the goal, Don, is when you leave and you leave the center that you are not only inspired but you feel empowered to go back to your community and be a change agent. It is all about what we can do, not what I can do.

LEMON: Well, I can't wait to see it. I hope the opening is not in the middle of winter because I do know Chicago. That's how I met you and the former president.

JARRETT: It won't be.

LEMON: All right. Good. Thank you very much, Valerie. Always a pleasure to see you.

JARRETT: Take care, Don.

LEMON (on camera): And there is news on the Gabby Petito case. Newly released dispatch audio reveals what police were told about the altercation between Gabby and Brian Laundrie.


UNKNOWN: The female who got hit. They, both the male and the female, both got into the van and headed north.




LEMON: Tonight, there is still no sign of Brian Laundrie who disappeared from his Florida home about two weeks ago. The body of his fiancee, Gabby Petito, was found earlier this month in Wyoming. Her death ruled a homicide. Police in Florida say the FBI is taking over the search for him and will scale back the effort.

I want to bring in now Candice DeLong, a former FBI profiler who is a host of the podcast "Killer Psyche." Good evening to you, Candice. Thank you so much for doing this.

The FBI is now leading the search for Brian Laundrie. That is according to the North Port Poloce. They say that it is going to be now scaled back from last week's manhunt in the nature reserve. It will now be targeted based on intelligence. Tell me about this change in tactic.

CANDICE DELONG, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Well, the FBI has tremendous resources and always available to help out state and local law enforcement. So that's what's happening here. They apparently have collected information possibly from a variety of sources, what they found in their initial search, and possibly some tips that have led them to determine their search is now going to be more targeted. So I would call this good news.

LEMON: You know, Candice, yesterday, the FBI took personal items belonging to Brian Laundrie from his personal home to assist them with DNA matching. Does that mean they're assuming that they will be identifying his body at some point or could they use that to find him alive in this nationwide manhunt?


LEMON: What's going on here?

DELONG: It could be they're just getting it for a just in case scenario. However, what struck me first was that we know they have recovered Gabby's remains and we do not -- we know it was a homicide but we don't know how she was killed. Was she hit with a tree branch? Was a knife used? We just don't know.

But they may have a weapon or things surrounding her remains that they have tested and they can use the samples they've received from Brian's parents to test and see is there any of Brian's DNA there or not. Additionally, frequently when people, especially women, are in a struggle for their life, they will scratch the offender and get DNA from skin tissue under their nails. This we know.

And so they will -- if that is the case with her remains, they will want to be comparing Brian's DNA with anything they found at the crime scene.

LEMON (on camera): There is newly released dispatch audio that reveals that the Utah police officer who pulled Gabby and Brian over in August was told that he was the alleged aggressor, not Gabby. Let's listen to some of that recording.


UNKNOWN: But the female who got hit. They, both the male and the female, both got into the van and headed north. RP states a male hit a female, domestic. He got into a white Ford Transit van.


LEMON (on camera): So the dispatcher refers to Gabby as the female who got hit. The Moab City Police Department is now under investigation for its handling of this incident. What went wrong here, Candice?

DELONG: Well, I've watched that interview with the two police many, many times. And it appears to me that Brian was pretty skilled at hoodwinking people. When he approached the police, he was what I call C-3. He was cool, calm and collected.

Gabby was the opposite. I'm not going to say she was hysterical but she couldn't stop crying. She could hardly complete a sentence. She was clearly upset. And Brian kind of, with a wink and a nod, almost says to the police, well, she gets this way, and when she gets this way, I have to distance myself. And then he plays the classic abuser's card. Well, you know, she's crazy. So, that was all bad, bad for Abby.

LEMON: Yeah.

DELONG: Gabby, I'm sorry.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, according to their attorney, the family of Gabby Petito will be holding a press conference tomorrow afternoon. What do you think this could be about?

DELONG: I can't imagine other than maybe they are aware of the manner of death. That would surprise me. Usually, medical examiners or investigators make that announcement public. Perhaps they have received information that they want to share. And maybe they simply want to thank the public for all the support.

LEMON: That's it. Well, Candice, we always get such insight from you, and we thank you so much for joining us.

DELONG: Thank you. And Don, tomorrow, on my podcast, "Killer Psyche," we are devoting an entire episode to this story. We usually do historic cases. We thought this was important enough that we focus on it right away, and we'll be addressing a lot of these issues and questions.

LEMON: We'll be listening. Thank you, Candice.

DELONG: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: He tried to assassinate a president, but he'll be completely free in June. That president's daughter speaks out right here, next.




LEMON (on camera): So the man who tried to kill Ronald Reagan, John Hinckley, Jr., is about to be free. A judge says all remaining restrictions on him will be lifted and they're going to do it next year.

Hinckley got the idea to kill the sitting president after seeing the movie, "Taxi Driver." He identified with the main character played by Robert De Niro, who plotted to assassinate a presidential candidate. Hinckley thought his own attempt would impress an actress in that movie. The actress was Jodie Foster. This is how it played out on March 30th, 1981. I want you to listen to CNN's Bernard Shaw.


BERNARD SHAW, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: John Hinckley, Jr. was rushed as we saw in that videotape to district of police headquarters. We are told that he is going to be charged -- will be charged is the phrasing, with assault with intent to kill a police officer.


SHAW: He'll be charged with attempting to assassinate the president of the United States.


LEMON (on camera): I remember that day very vividly. Joining me now is the author of the new book, "Floating in the Deep End," President Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis. Patti, it is so good to see you again. Thank you very much. It has been a while.


LEMON: Are you doing okay?

DAVIS: I am okay. Yeah, thank you.

LEMON: I think I've shared this with you. By the way, thank you for the beautiful picture of your dad that you sent me.

DAVIS: Oh, you're welcome.

LEMON: I told you -- I think I told you this before. I remember that day. I was getting out of class and it was when your dad was shot. I was driving my 1972 Volkswagen beetle and I had the radio on and I just got in the car and I was trying to drive and everybody was on the bus or walking, and I said, the president has been shot!

Nobody believed me. They thought I was joking. I guess they finally figured it out later. But that day remains very vivid for me. I'm sure that it is engrained in your memory. What do you think about Hinckley's upcoming release?

DAVIS: Well, obviously, I have all sorts of negative thoughts about it. The one thing I didn't feel was surprise. I mean, I think this was inevitable. Barry Levine has been working for this for many, many years and he wasn't going to stop until he got all the restrictions taken off of John Hinckley.

You know, Hinckley has been out and about for many years. I mean, I spoke to Sarah Brady a couple years before Jim Brady died, and she lived in sort of the same region as John Hinckley, and she said, you know, every time I go out somewhere, I'm so scared that I'm going to see him.

So he's been around for a while. But the last restrictions were about him having to have mental health check-ups and also not being able to contact any family members or Jodie Foster. All of that is being removed.

LEMON: You were in your 20s back then when it happened. Can you take us through what that day looked like for you?

DAVIS: Yeah. I was actually in a therapist's office. And one of my Secret Service agents, like, barged in. At first, I was so angry because I thought, oh, my god, I can't even have a therapy session without the Secret Service barging in. But I looked at him and he was just white as a sheet. And he said there's been a shooting.

And, you know, the day just sort of careened from that point on. I wasn't able to get through to the hospital. I really didn't know much more -- sorry, my cat just joined this interview.

LEMON: We like animals in their appearances. Go on.

DAVIS: She does it every time. I don't know. You know, I was really getting my news from the Secret Service and from the television, and they finally put me and Michael and Maureen on an army transport plane that night. They wouldn't let us fly commercial because they didn't know if other people were going to try to kill the whole family or something like that. So they put us on an army transport plane and we ended up getting into Washington at 2:00 in the morning, something like that.

You know, my mother was already asleep. It was just -- I didn't know -- none of us knew if my father would live. And he came very close to not living.

You know, I wrote in "Floating in the Deep End" about the memory of being so terrified that he would die that day, and obviously he didn't. But when Alzheimer's claimed him, the piracy of Alzheimer's was actually a little less scary for me. It was still scary but less so because I could wrap my head around that. I could wrap my head around the piracy of Alzheimer's. I couldn't wrap my head around someone taking a gun and going and taking another life. And I still can't.

LEMON: It's the immediacy of it. And I certainly understand that.

DAVIS: Yeah.

LEMON: Listen, I want to read part of your new op-ed out today. It said, recently, a decision to recommend parole for Sirhan Sirhan divided the Kennedy family, as well as much of the public. A half- century has passed since 1968, one of the arguments for his release went. But the family who objected knows this: When someone you love is gunned down, time doesn't move on from that day, that hour, that moment. That event is your prison and there is no release from it.


LEMON: Hinckley's assassination attempt took place 40 years ago, but it's not over for you, as you write there.

DAVIS: Yeah, but, you know, also I reread today Rory Kennedy's "New York Times" op-ed about Sirhan Sirhan and objecting to his release, and he's been incarcerated for 53 years. And she wrote -- she brought up a really good point about the lost to the country. Obviously, her father died. My father did not die that die. But when something like this happens, when somebody tries to assassinate a president or assassinate a public figure or a presidential candidate, they affect the entire country.

I mean, you remember the day that my father was shot. I remember very clearly when Robert Kennedy was shot. The country is paralyzed. So you're not just affecting the family and the loved ones, you are affecting the entire country.

LEMON: Well, Patti, listen, I wish we had nicer things to speak about when we see each other via satellite. But I appreciate your candor and I appreciate you coming on. You'll be well, and I hope to see you soon. Okay?

DAVIS: Thank you. You, too.

LEMON: And by to the cat.

DAVIS: Yes, many says goodbye. Come on!

LEMON: Have a great night, both of you. So, he won't give up. He lost the election. It has been proven over and over and over. But instead of accepting defeat, the former president is digging in. What does it mean for the next election?




LEMON: The disgraced former president is spreading the lie that he won the election, he didn't, and attacking Arizona's fraudit that round up confirming Joe Biden's victory. The fact is he lost Arizona, he lost the popular vote, and he lost in the Electoral College. So, why all the lies?

Joining now to discuss is Ruth Ben-Ghiat. She is a professor of history at New York University. Hey, Ruth, thanks for joining us. Good to see you.


LEMON: The twice impeached, serial-lying, disgraced former president who tried to stage a coup is still out there spreading these lies. He is calling the shot for the GOP and could very well run again in 2024. I'm often frankly tired of talking about him, but why is this so important to keep an eye on? What is he up to?

BEN-GHIAT: Yeah, I sympathize with those who are tired of speaking about him and wish they never had to hear his name again, but we can never underestimate the tenacity of somebody like Trump who is a highly skilled propagandist and will stop at nothing to get back in the White House which we saw on January 6, only because he needs immunity from prosecution.

He's been extremely obsessive in effective way at chipping away at the idea of fair and free elections very effectively. What better domination play is there to make, you know, tens of millions of people believe that you actually won the election? So he's a formidable adversary for democracy.

LEMON: At this point, though, do you think that he's actually making people believe that or is it more about the people wanting to believe that than him? Because at the end of the day, they're adults.

BEN-GHIAT: They're adults but they're adults who have been swept up in what's truly an authoritarian personality cult. It ticks all the boxes of all the strong men I've studied. And when you -- when people bond with somebody who has considerable skills, you know, Trump cultivates them. He tells them he loves them. He's really very skilled at this. They believe him because they believe in him. And they want to believe everything he says.

And so think about January 6. It was a leader rescue operation. And there's nothing they won't do to keep him -- to keep the idea of him alive.

LEMON: Yeah.

BEN-GHIAT: And he knows that and he plays that very well.

LEMON: I think you just articulated what I was trying to say much better than I did. It's mostly about the idea of him. Yes, it is him, but it could be someone else who espouses the same ideas as him. They want to believe in him. But he happened to be particularly skilled at getting them to do that. We saw in Arizona the fraudit. When the truth comes out, it doesn't shake Trump supporters' faith. It only reinforces their loyalty. And you compare it to a cult. Why?

BEN-GHIAT: Because also conspiracy theorists, they provide a seamless (ph) explanation for the world. Trump says, well, this is just more evidence of the fake news lying to persecute me, because the strong man has to have the victim complex, and that's how he gets people to feel protective of him.

What's so dangerous is that the more evidence that could come out that makes him vulnerable, the more that he could -- he's been cultivating people to embrace violence as a way of solving problems. And we saw that with January 6. He's already shown he's willing to go there.


BEN-GHIAT: And so the more he feels endangered, the more reckless he becomes, and that's how we got to January 6 in the first place.

LEMON: Yeah. The big lie has only gotten worse since November. Election officials stood strong in 2020. But now, Republicans in at least 16 states are trying to change laws, move authority over final election results to the legislature. Is this a bomb waiting to go off in 2022 or 2024?

BEN-GHIAT: Yeah, It is. It is a devastating combination of legal changes that could give an appearance of legality and give the legal mechanisms to do this. But it is also a (INAUDIBLE). It is a psychological operation.

You know, Donald Trump intends to take down American democracy, not only through loss, not only through possible repeat of a coup or violence. He has been cultivating people through disinformation to make them feel that democracy is already dead in America, that the election system is already a total sham.

And once you get people into feeling that there is no freedom, that Biden as a socialist dictator, all of this incredibly focused talking points that the whole GOP and republican universe has been turning out, in Fox News, that prepare people for an alternative which is authoritarian rule, that is built as saving our freedoms, and that is what January 6th was for the believers, it was saving our freedoms. That is why it is so dangerous.

LEMON: Listen, we will be having you back on to discuss this as we get closer to 2022 and 2024, and as the rhetoric continue to remain high for the former president. Thank you very much.

BEN-GHIAT: Thank you.

LEMON: R. Kelly facing life in prison. Found guilty of nine counts, including sex trafficking and racketeering. Stay with us.




LEMON: Disgraced R&B star R. Kelly found guilty today on nine counts, including sex trafficking and racketeering. The jury is convicting the former singer after hearing weeks of powerful testimony.

Joining me now to discuss is CNN legal analyst Areva Martin. She is the author of the upcoming book, "Awakening: Ladies, Leadership, and the Lies We Have Been Told." Congratulations on the book. Good luck with that.

Let's talk about R. Kelly. The acting U.S. attorney saying today this -- quote -- "forever brands R. Kelly as a predator." His defense attorney says that he was surprised. I mean, what do you think of today's decision, Areva?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Not surprised at all. I can remember sitting on this network having this conversation about a year ago with you, Don, where I said, we wanted justice. Today, we got justice. Obviously, this won't change the hurt, the trauma, the pain that so many of the women endured that got caught in R. Kelly's circle.

It sent a strong message that the kind of conduct that he was engaged in is not acceptable and that he will be held accountable, and anyone involved in that kind of conduct will be held accountable.

LEMON: These kinds of accusations have followed R. Kelly for a very long time, Areva. In 2019, the scathing docu series, "Surviving R. Kelly," put new scrutiny on his behavior. Why did it take so long, so many years to get to this point?

MARTIN: Well, it isn't just R. Kelly, Don. It's taken us a long time for women, in general, to be believed when they come forward to tell of being sexually assaulted, sexually harassed. We have seen this change.

This movement, you know, really centered around me too where the first time in a long time, and I've been doing this kind of litigation a lot for a long time, we are now understanding that it is a very complicated process for women to come forward. Oftentimes, they don't come forward at the time they experienced the trauma.

But we are now seeing a difference in the way women are treated, the way their stories are handled, and women are being believed. I think, for a long time, we just put our heads in the sand. We revered certain entertainers like R. Kelly. We dance to their music. We bought his concert tickets. And we just ignored the pain that he was inflicting on so many women. And today, that ended.

LEMON: The first woman we heard from in the trial, Jerhonda Pace, took to Instagram today, posting, and I quote here, for years, I was trolled for speaking out about the abuse that I suffered at the hands of that predator. I'm thankful to stand with those who were brave enough to speak up. Will today's verdict help some of the victims get closure?

MARTIN: On, absolutely. You know, what will happen in terms of their psychological well-being? Probably it will, you know, years and years of therapy and counselling. But knowing that the justice system worked, that he will be held accountable, he faces up to life in prison for these charges, the nine counts that he was found guilty of, I think it gives some of these women a great deal of closure.

We know there is strength in numbers. And when one victim comes forward, it gives power to the next victim and that gives power to the next victim. So, there are over 50 witnesses, Don, who testified in this trial. It went on for almost a month.

There was graphic video evidence that was presented. There was audio that was presented. Some of are so graphic in nature. The judge said he didn't want to play it back for the jurors. He didn't want the press to have access to it.

So it wasn't just a compelling testimony of the victims and those around him. His ex-employees also testified during this trial. But it was that graphic video, I think, that also seared into the minds of these jurors.


LEMON: I've got five seconds here. You weren't surprised by this verdict at all. This is what you're expecting.

MARTIN: Not surprised. The evidence was overwhelming, expected it to be guilty on all counts, and it was guilty on all counts.

LEMON: Areva Martin. Areva, thank you. Again, congratulations on the new book.

MARTIN: Thanks, Don. I appreciate it.

LEMON: And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We have just gotten piece of evidence tracing the journey of Gabby Petito and the disappearance of her fiancee who remains at large. Dispatched audio from the day the couple fought and police were called. The letter RP you'll hear stands for the reporting party.