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Don Lemon Tonight

The Fate Of President Biden's Agenda Hanging On The Balance; January 6th Commission Issuing Subpoenas; Matthew Dowd Running For Texas Lieutenant Governor; Rep. Katie Porter Is Interviewed On The Infrastructure Bill Vote In The House; Misdemeanor Plea Deals For Capitol Insurrectionists. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 29, 2021 - 22:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: So let's keep the conversation going. Thanks for watching me. It is now time for the big show, "DON LEMON TONIGHT" and its big star, D. Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So much on the line in Washington. I mean, everything from if we're going to default on our debts, meaning America. If America is going to default. If we're going to have --

CUOMO: We won't.

LEMON: If we're going to get an infrastructure bill. And when it comes to vaccinations. I'm interested in what you're thinking about the NBA players and them losing money, you know, when you, you know -- millions and millions of dollars from not being vaccinated.

CUOMO: Well, look, the league has to make that move. I think they're afraid of their players and they have the collective bargaining agreements to think about. They've already done it with their employees. So you already have a logical inconsistency. So if you work with players, you have to be vaccinated. But if you're the player, you don't have to be vaccinated.

That is about worrying about your contracts but also the contentment of your fans by alienating the talent. Look, I think that mandates work and I think it's very sad that we need them because we shouldn't have had to have them.

Now, what is the cultural value of a Lebron James? To me, personally, I know him. I interviewed him right before his first game. My kid loves him. I don't care what he thinks about most things other than sports. That's me. The society does.


CUOMO: And if he wants to talk about black lives matter and talk about very intricate racial and political things and I'm not saying he shouldn't, this should be a layup, pun intended.

LEMON: Yes. Yes. CUOMO: And the reason that it isn't, I think he has to answer for.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, you know, of course, people have their right and it's their choice and all that. Okay, fine. But these are unusual circumstances and these are unusual times. And you're right, if you're going to speak up and people are going to say, well, you can't pick and choose what you can speak up about. Well, yes you can.

CUOMO: You can.

LEMON: Is it inconsistent? Absolutely. It is inconsistent. Now, for Lebron, Lebron has said that he's done his research and he is fully vaccinated so good for him.

CUOMO: I loved his answer.

LEMON: So Kareem Abdul Jabar who's been on my show last night and the night before --

CUOMO: I love him.

LEMON: -- I agree with him. If you don't want to get vaccinated, fire them.

CUOMO: Well, the league has to make that move though.

LEMON: Fire them. If you don't get vaccinated here, what happens? You can't come here.

CUOMO: Well, you can have the collective bargaining agreement.

LEMON: You're gone. I know.

CUOMO: So you got to think about the law on it. And look, they are only these guys. And you don't know that if you go strong on the 10 percent, you don't have a few big shots say, well, I'm not playing either then. I don't need the money. I'll sit out.

LEMON: Okay, fine.

CUOMO: You don't do that to us.

LEMON: Yes, fine. Well, then, have them sit out.

CUOMO: You got to be careful because the fans want the players. They don't want to see the league win.

LEMON: Well, make an example. Look, the game is still going to be played. There is still going to be good players out there and you will set an example. You'll seat a marker and then maybe people will start -- as you said, mandates work. If people start losing millions of dollars, trust me, they'll be (inaudible).

CUOMO: Mandates work when people need the money. If the guy is worth as much as a small country and he discerns he doesn't like what you're doing -- LEMON: If you got a high burn rate -- if you got a high burn rate,

you're going to be -- I better go back and get that money. I got mouths to feed and bills to pay. Look, I'm not making light of it. I don't want anybody to get fired, but you got to do what you have to do. Again, you know, people will say, oh, I have my choice of this. People are dying.

CUOMO: Right.

LEMON: You have -- and it's only -- but it's 90 percent of the NBA that's vaccinated.

CUOMO: Yes. It's a high rate.

LEMON: Okay, so fine. So, stop thinking about yourself because then you're putting those 90 percent people in jeopardy. You're putting the kids of those 90 percent in jeopardy. You're putting the loved ones, the wives, the girlfriends, the grandmothers, the people who are living with them, you're putting all of those people in jeopardy because of some misguided knowledge or misinformation, quite honestly, that you have about a vaccine or some misinformation that you have about the history of African-Americans in this country for the black players about African-Americans and what happened with the Tuskegee project.

Again, in the Tuskegee Project, they were not injecting African- Americans with harmful substances. They were not -- they were giving them placebos, which did nothing for them, which didn't help the syphilis and they were giving other people with syphilis actual vaccination, penicillin and other things to cure them. And that's what the issue is.

It's a complete reverse, an opposite of what was happening with the Tuskegee Project. So, this is something that's good. Vaccines have been mandated. Polio, everyone says, well, you know, I saw -- I forget what's her name on the -- Jenner on --

CUOMO: Caitlyn Jenner.

LEMON: Caitlyn, on "The View" the other day saying, well, you know, I agree that it's, you know, it's my body, my choice and then my, you know, somebody with polio. That was mandated for certain groups of people (inaudible).

CUOMO: My body, my choice, as long as it's not women and reproductive rights.

LEMON: There you go.

CUOMO: Look, it is all symptomatic of us going out of our way to make our own problems. The United Airlines story is a ray of light that them doing the right thing is actually increasing their recruiting to replace the workers who don't want to do it.

[22:05:02] But you look what's happening in Washington. You know, you have the Democrats, they're making their own problems. We're going out of our way to do it in this society right now.

LEMON: Well, it's not necessarily -- well, Democrats, yes, but you also have two Republicans in the Democratic Party who are making problems for the Democrats, and that's Manchin and Sinema.

CUOMO: That's your opinion.

LEMON: No, that they, I mean, they are Republicans, come on.

CUOMO: No, that's your opinion. They're both Democrats.

LEMON: That's not an opinion. You just look at the way they go.

CUOMO: They are both Democrats. There's a D after their name. That's the fact.

LEMON: Yes. Okay. All right.

CUOMO: Don't let it get in the way of your opinion.

LEMON: No, no, no.

CUOMO: I don't want you to be burdened by that. I'm sorry. I shouldn't even have brought it up.

LEMON: I see them as Republicans so, maybe you're right. I see them as Republicans. They're acting as Republicans.

CUOMO: All right.

LEMON: All right, but listen --

CUOMO: And I see you as cheap, but I love you D. Lemon. Make your witness. A lot of big news.

LEMON: Thank you, sir. You're the best. I'll see you soon.

This is "Don Lemon Tonight." Listen, we've got a lot to get to. We have some breaking news on the investigation of the violent attack on the capitol and that's January 6th I'm talking about. The select committee has promised a steady drum beat of subpoenas and they dropped nearly a dozen tonight targeting people involved in the planning and organization of the so-called "Stop the Steal" rally right before the riot at the capitol.

So, 11 people affiliated with the organization that held the permit for the rally, Women for America first subpoenaed tonight. The committee looking at what coordination the group might have had with the White House.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, I think Donald Trump would certainly invite us to believe that it was some kind of spontaneous eruption of hugs and kisses towards the officers. That's pretty divorced from reality. There was obviously a lot of coordination and planning that took place and we are going to reconstruct it.


LEMON: A lot more to come on this tonight. And we've got some breaking news on Capitol Hill to tell you about. We're just hours away from a promised vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill even though progressive Democrats say that they won't vote for without a deal on the massive spending bill. A deal that is being held up by Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

President Joe Biden's agenda, the promises he made to the American people, the agenda that got him elected hanging by a thread. And remember, this is all about placating members of his own party. Manchin digging in his heels tonight with a statement saying that he won't support the spending bill and calling it fiscal insanity and that's got progressives steamed.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I can tell you that his statement has just probably created at least a bunch more votes on the House floor against a bipartisan vote.

UNKNOWN: So do you feel that now nothing --

JAYAPAL: I think he actually -- he actually called it insanity, which is the president's agenda that he's calling insane. So, I'm not going to comment any more on that statement. I don't think it deserves it.


LEMON: So what do Manchin and Sinema really want? What do they want? What's their end game? Progressives are at the point they are going on T.V. and they're begging them to say what they want.


REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Our two senate Democrats who have done a good job of articulating what they're against have so far kept a secret as to what they're for.

REP. MARK POCAN (D-WI): If someone won't show you their cards, you don't know what you're doing and that's the real problem. We need Manchinema to do their jobs.

REP. RHO KHANNA (D-CA): Literally one senator, one senator, Kyrsten Sinema is holding up the will of the entire Democratic Party. The president keeps begging her, tell us what you want.


LEMON: So, really? What do you want? Why won't they say? So did that senator layout and detail exactly where she stands and what she wants? Nope. Kyrsten Sinema who's met with White House officials four times in two days is just stone walling her own party.


UNKNOWN: What do you say that progressives, progressives that are frustrated that they don't know where you are?

SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ): I'm in the Senate.


LEMON: That's why I said what I said to Chris. This is an issue Democrats are supposed to be working on together. Instead, two senators holding their own party hostage. All this as Congress has to act before midnight tomorrow to avert a government shutdown. Chuck Schumer says that he's got an agreement with Republicans for a stopgap funding bill and they will vote on that in the morning.

And no pressure, but they've also got until October 18th to suspend the debt ceiling so the U.S. Can pay its bills. The House voted to do just that tonight, but the bill is all but certain to fail in the Senate. And let's remember what's at stake here.

If Congress doesn't act to raise the debt ceiling, social security payments get hit. The stock market tanks, plummets. Mortgage rates rise. And we could lose millions of jobs, millions of jobs. All that and the GOP is willing to take the country to the brink to score political points.

Let's remember, Mitch McConnell is refusing to vote for something that he has voted on for 32 times in the past. That's according to the "Washington Post."


And there were more fireworks on Capitol Hill today as the nation's top generals face Republicans trolling and grand standing on Afghanistan. Yes, that's what it was. Liz Cheney calling out the members of her own party for their attacks on the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): General Milley, on January 6th, we had a violent attack on our capitol. You found yourself in your constitutionally prescribed role standing in the breach and for any member of this committee, for any American to question your loyalty to our nation, to question your understanding of our constitution, your loyalty to our constitution, your recognition and understanding of the civilian chain of command is despicable. I want to apologize for those members of this committee who have done so and I want to thank you for standing in the breach when so many including many in this room failed to do so.


LEMON: But Liz Cheney is in the minority in her own party. And I said it before, they used to be called the party of Lincoln. How far they have fallen? Not too many of them are just putting on a -- now, too many of them are just putting on a big old show, grand standing or trolling, anything to get and attaboy from the base.

Matt Gaetz, who was on the record saying that there was never a bad day to end the war in Afghanistan, putting on a -- you have to watch this. A really disgraceful performance. Here it is.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): You seem to be very happy failing up over there, but if we didn't have a president that was so addled, you all would be fired because that is what you deserve. You have let down the people who wear the uniform in my district and all around this country. And you're far more interested in what your perception is and how people think about you inside of Washington books than you care about winning because this group is incapable of doing.

REP.ADAM SMITH (D-WA): The gentleman's time has expired.


LEMON: Do I really have to tell what is going on here? Do I? Okay. I probably have to tell you. Here it is. I don't, but I will. Okay, so what is happening here is the louder he yells, the clearer it is that it is nothing but an over the top deflection from his own problems. You know the investigation into whether Matt Gaetz allegedly broke federal sex trafficking, prostitution, and public corruption laws and whether he allegedly had sex with a minor who was 17 at the time?

Gaetz has not been charged and denies wrongdoing but this whole thing is right out of the former president's playbook, deflect and distract. Give the base something to cheer about and take the heat off of yourself at the same time.

And then there is remember him, Ronny Jackson. The disgraced former White House doctor who according to a Pentagon watchdog made sexual comments, drank alcohol and took Ambien while working as a White House physician, the White House physician. That Ronny Jackson. He's demanding that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs resign.


REP. RONNY JACKSON (R-TX): General Milley, will you now resign?

MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I serve at the pleasure of the president, Mr. Jackson.


LEMON: We made the same face, the same face as General Milley. Really? And then there is Ted "Cancun" Cruz tweeting support today for NBA players who are unvaccinated or declining to say whether they had been vaccinated. See that hashtag? You're body, your choice. Really? Ted Cruz, your body, your choice, that's what you believe? Really? Tell that to the women in your home state with the most restrictive

abortion ban in the country. Your body, your choice. Come on, bro. Tell it to the women in Texas who could be forced to bear the child of her rapist. Tell her about your body, your choice, that stance that you have which you apparently only believe in for a professional athlete, men who don't want to roll up their sleeves for vaccines that could save their lives and the lives of their teammates and their families.

Really? Your body, your choice. The hypocrisy is stunning. I wonder if he's (inaudible). I wonder if he was part of the whole shut up and dribble crowd. He's friends with those people. Friendly, on that network all the time. The shut up and dribble folks, dribble. And now he's like I stand with them. Your body, your choice. God.

That's where we are tonight. Battling misinformation and lies and hypocrisy. Misinformation on the virus that is killing us.


Hypocrisy that's killing us, lies that are killing our democracy just as surely as the virus. And those lies fueled the assault on the seat of our democracy on January 6th. Now, the select committee investigating the riot is subpoenaing the organizers of the "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded it and they want to know what coordination the group might have had with the White House.


RASKIN: The vast majority of the people do want to know the truth. The vast majority of Congress wants to know what happened and we're going to get the information. And there are people who think that they can somehow hide from this. They're badly mistaken.



LEMON: So here's our breaking news tonight, 11 new subpoenas from congressional investigators targeting people involved in the planning of the "Stop the Steal" rally ahead of the January 6th capitol insurrection. Now, these new subpoenas coming about a week after the first batch against four aides and allies of former President Trump. And joining me now, CNN's chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN senior legal law enforcement analyst and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe. He is also the author of "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump."


Gentleman, good evening. Good to see both of you. Jeffrey Toobin, the first batch of these subpoenas was for people inside the White House. This new one is for outside who people who might have been planning or planning to "Stop the Steal" rally. What does that tell us about where this investigation is heading? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the investigation is

asking the right question. Who planned this attack on our democracy? Who authorized it? And who knew it was going to happen before the attack on the capitol began? These are all very good questions and they are unanswered to this point.

The problem is will this committee be able to get these answers and I think one of the things that the Trump forces have learned is that it's easy to run out the clock on congressional investigations and that is likely to be the strategy here.

LEMON: Andrew, I want you to listen. This is Congressman Jamie Raskin, what he said to CNN's Ryan Nobles about these new subpoenas. Here it is.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think it's possible that you're going to find that there was more coordination there than we know about or that it was just one of these things where there was a bunch of people that came together and got a little bit out of control? Is that part of what you're trying to figure out?

RASKIN: Well, I mean, Donald Trump would certainly invite us to believe that it was some kind of spontaneous eruption of hugs and kisses towards the officers. That's pretty divorced from reality. There was obviously a lot of coordination and planning that took place and we are going to reconstruct it the best that we can.


LEMON: So, they want to show that it was a coordinated attack, but what kind of evidence, Andrew, would indicate that people intended to storm the capitol and may have even had help in doing it?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Don, I think what Jeff said is exactly right. What the committee is doing is starting at the beginning. So they're looking first at those people who organized the rally and particularly what interactions or communications they may have had with the White House.

I think it's also important to note that the subpoenas first, of course, call for the production of documents. So before these folks come in and are interviewed behind closed doors, the committee will already have seen their e-mails, their communications with the White House or communications with each other.

And so they'll begin to develop a sense of whether or not these folks were aware of or planning any sort of move to the capitol. Whether they were aware of the possibility of violence. Whether they discussed any of these topics with the president. So, there is a lot of ground to be plowed here starting right at the beginning.

LEMON: You know, Andrew, one of the -- go ahead, Jeffrey. Go on.

TOOBIN: Well, I just -- you know, that is exactly the right questions for investigators to ask. But think of this. What happens if all 11 of the people subpoenaed today, they go to their lawyers, they say what should I do and the lawyers say, you know what you should do? You should plead the Fifth. Just not answer questions. Say invoke your right against self-incrimination.

What is Congress do then? Well, they could try to give them immunity, but that's a long process and this is the problem that this committee faces. The refusal to answer questions from the key witnesses, whether it's the first four witnesses citing executive privilege, which would then have to go through the courts. Or this group taking the Fifth, it's just very hard to get people to answer questions in this kind of investigation.

LEMON: Yes. Do you want to respond to that, Andrew?

MCCABE: Yes. I mean, that's absolutely right. That can happen. But there are costs to doing that. So any individual witness is going to think twice about cloaking themselves in the Fifth Amendment, which I assume they have the right to do.

But it comes with the creating the impression that you have something to hide. You are guilty of something and you are afraid of exposing that guilt to Congress. So, there are costs to doing those things. I agree with you, Jeff. They're going to do everything they can to drag this out as long as they can, but they're going to have to play some serious hardball to pull it off.

LEMON: Yes. One of the new subpoenas is against Amy Kremer. She was one of the loudest voices in encouraging lawmakers to object to certifying the 2020 election results. She peddled all kinds of election conspiracies. How central is she to this investigation, Andrew?

MCCABE: Well, I think she's incredibly central to it, right. So, the question is she and the other organizers of this rally really set off the events that ultimately culminated with the attack on the capitol. So the question is, did they -- was that their intention? Did they take efforts in furtherance of that plan? Was it something they even were aware of or did they discuss the possibility of violence?

So, there is really a lot to be uncovered here as Jeff says, if we can get the witnesses to sit down with Congress and actually share what they know.

LEMON: Jeffrey, what other evidence -- go ahead. Go ahead Jeffrey.


TOOBIN: Well -- I'm sorry. Go ahead, Don.

LEMON: No, that's all right. Go on. Go on.

TOOBIN: Well, no. But I'm -- you were going to say what other evidence. One area --

LEMON: Right, I'm wondering what other evidence will the committee be looking for looking into in terms of these groups, the activities that day and the days leading up to January 6th and I think you were going there.

TOOBIN: And that's exactly where I was going. In one area where I do think they might have success in gathering evidence is going to the phone companies, going to the internet companies and saying let me see the text messages, let me see the e-mails among all these people.

You know, most people are not as cautious as they should be in what they send in texts and e-mails and I think that's probably the most promising outlet for this investigation because I think the Verizon's of the world, the Facebook's of the world, they will cooperate with Congress.

And those text messages and e-mails and, you know, other sorts of communications electronically, those will be available to Congress and I think that's going to be the most promising outlet that they'll have.

LEMON: All right. Thank you Jeffrey. Thank you Andrew. I appreciate you helping us out on this breaking news.

So, he was George W. Bush's chief strategists and now he is running for office as a Democrat. Matthew Dowd is here. He's next.



LEMON: A former Republican and George W. Bush aide is running for a top job in Texas as a Democrat and you may know him from this show. Matthew Dowd announced his run for lieutenant governor in a video today and he is taking on Texas Republicans and the current lieutenant governor. Watch.


MATTHEW DOWD, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The GOP politicians have failed us especially the cruel and craven lieutenant governor. Dan Patrick has been lying and deceiving, fracturing the bonds we share and endangering all our lives. He does not believe in the common good. He seeks only to represent himself and the 5 percent of the state that goes along with all this. He puts his me over our we.


LEMON: So joining me now is Matthew Dowd. Matthew, thank you for joining us. Big announcement today.

DOWD: My pleasure, Don.

LEMON: You running as a Democrat for Texas lieutenant governor. You are running against a party you dedicated years of your life to because you see the GOP as a threat to democracy now. So what's at stake not just in Texas but the whole country do you think? DOWD: Well, what's at stake -- thank you for having me, Don -- what's

at stake is our very foundation of our democracy and actually the lives of millions and millions of citizens in Texas, but across the nation. And it's not a choice anymore between two sort of equal political parties that have different ideological beliefs.

It's a choice between team democracy, which is the Democratic Party that still believes in majority rule, and team autocracy, which is the Republican Party that believes in tyranny of the minority. And every single decision they do, whether it's they don't believe in science, they don't think telling the truth is an important value anymore. They don't think protecting the common good in communities is an important value anymore.

And there is only one party that believes in those things. And that's the choice Americans have to make. That's the choice I've made in this and that's why I'm running especially against somebody like Dan Patrick who basically runs the state senate here like a dictator and has done everything in his power to hurt the majority of Texans. So that's the choice today.

LEMON: Look, we talk about these things all the time and I want to continue to discuss him because you and I have talked many times about your concerns of the GOP and race. Earlier this month, the current lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick that you were just talking about, went on the Fox propaganda network, promoted the racist great replacement theory. How did that play into your decision or did it play into your decision to run?

DOWD: Yes, it did. I mean, over the course of the last, I would say, nine months after in the aftermath of January 6th, which was a big part of like what can I do to help democracy where we had the worst attack on our democracy since the start of the civil war.

And then watching the Republicans in the state legislature, especially Dan Patrick who runs basically the state legislature and all the things -- not only that he said which was just god awful, but the things he did, taking away a woman's right for freedom over her own body. Taking away voting rights. You know, passing gun bills so people didn't have to have permits or training.

All of those things have factored into this where a majority of Texans oppose what he's doing, but he does it anyway because he's only worried about 5 percent of the state, which has bought into his agenda in this. And so all of that, if you would ask me, Don, on January 1st if I was going to run statewide in Texas I would have probably laughed and said no way.

But I think all of us have to ask our questions and ask ourselves a question in the aftermath of January 6th. What can we do with our god given talents and abilities in the blessings we received to help the people out there that are getting run over in this? And I made that choice. I'm running.

[22:34:56] I'm going to spend every day the next 405 days telling the truth about Dan Patrick. He's not going to like it, but I'm going to tell the truth about what's going on in Texas and it isn't good. I'm embarrassed as most Texans are by what the GOP leadership has been doing here.

LEMON: So, you said a month ago. You know, I asked you last week if you were going to run for governor and -- you remember that moment, right. What were you thinking?

DOWD: Yes, I remember when you talked about whispers, whispers.

LEMON: What were you thinking when I asked you that question?

DOWD: Well, I knew -- I knew that I was, you know, contemplating this run. I wasn't obviously ready 100 percent to sort of say I was all in on this. I knew I wasn't as I think I said, I wasn't running for governor and somebody else is going to take that and maybe at some point Beto will announce.

And if we both get through the primaries, we'll be on a ticket together and I'm sure we'll be running in a very concerted effort about what's gone wrong in the state. So, I mean, you know, this is politics. I want to tell the truth. I want to be as transparent as possible, but at that moment when you asked me that, I wasn't ready to sort of say for sure what I was going to do.

LEMON: Yes. All right. Or it could be, you know, whispers of all right, all right, all right. It could be Matthew, another Matthew McConaughey so, we'll see.

DOWD: Yes, you could have got the wrong Matthew. You could have got the wrong Matthew in that (inaudible).

LEMON: I want to turn now to the capitol chaos, right, because President Biden has said that one of the best ways to protect democracy is to pass his agenda, to show that government can still work. Is that happening or do you think it's at risk of all falling apart tonight?

DOWD: Well, everything we've watched and you've watched it unfold, I mean, it's completely dysfunctional. And the bad thing about what's Washington is it's become like a virus of dysfunction that's now spread across the country, which is awful. It never used to be that way in state capitols, but now it is.

But Washington is the center of dysfunction. The idea, Don, that an infrastructure bill that Republicans, you know, know -- they drive on roads and they drive over bridges and they drink drinking water from public facilities and they do all of that.

So they're as much in danger of us not getting this done as Democrats or independents or whatever. But for some reasons, the Republicans completely bought into this idea that they're not -- their interest is only political and not interest of what's happening to every community including their own voters across the country. And so it's really, really unfortunate that something everybody should

agree to about what we do on fixing this that we can't get a major political party even an element of it to go along with the idea of putting your differences aside and doing what's right for the best interest of the country.

And now -- so that means, in my view, we no longer have majority rule because of minority of the country can block all these things from happening. It means our democracy is at a very, very frail point and isn't functioning properly.

LEMON: Yes. Well, Matthew Dowd, thank you for coming on. Thank you for answering my questions honestly because you did say I'm not running for governor, but you did say I will do whatever I can do to help save our democracy.

DOWD: Thank you.

LEMON: Yes. I really appreciate it. I'll see you next time. Good luck.

DOWD: I'll see you next time. Always love being on with you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. We love having you.

So, what happens if nobody blinks? The factions within the Democratic Party in a showdown and the Biden agenda is trapped in the middle. I'm going to speak with a key member of the Progressive Caucus. There she is. Congresswoman Katie Porter, where we're going to do it right after the break.



LEMON: Its breaking news and it's important that you listen to it because the future of the country at stake now, on the line. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi still planning to hold a vote on President Biden's bipartisan infrastructure bill in a matter of hours even though she may not have the votes to pass it.

Pelosi in full on negotiation mode tonight trying to save Biden's domestic agenda and making calls during the Congressional baseball game. Progressive Democrats saying that they will not vote for the legislation unless there is an agreement on the larger social spending package that includes priorities like climate change.

But Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema refusing to go along with that bigger bill as it stands now saying that the $3.5 trillion price tag is just way too much. So joining me now, Democratic Congresswoman and Deputy Chair of the Progressive Caucus Katie Porter, a key figure in what's happening right now.

Congresswoman, we know it's a very busy time for you so thank you so much for joining us. Good evening.

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Thanks for having me.

LEMON: Manchin says there is no way there will be a deal by tomorrow. He and Sinema signaling that they are open to a deal on the social safety net package this year, a very different timeline. What is your position tonight because your progressive colleagues are telling us that this makes them even more likely to vote down infrastructure?

PORTER: Well, I think what we're looking for is people to show character. We're looking for Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema to tell us what they stand for. They need to tell the American people if they have concerns about this bill, what are they? If there are programs that they don't support or they want to fund at a different level, they need to lay those out.

LEMON: So, Congresswoman, let me ask you. They have not given you any indication about what their uncomfortable with, what they want, nothing.

PORTER: No. Not only have they not given it to me, I think the important thing to understand is they haven't given it from all reports to President Biden. They haven't given it to Senator Schumer, their leader. They haven't given it to Speaker Pelosi.

And so without knowing what their objections are, we simply can't start changing this bill and trying to guess at what might make them come around and engage and be the leaders that the American people elected them to be.

LEMON: Do you have any idea of why they're not doing it? Is there any -- do you have any inkling? Is there any talk about what's holding them back? Is it the money? Is it their constituents back home? Are they -- what is going on?


PORTER: Well, I think Senator Manchin has expressed some concern about the climate provisions for example, and from all reports, is engaging in discussions about what, you know, what he would support, what his concerns are. You know, all we heard from Senator Sinema today when she was asked, you know, people want to know where you are, progressives in the House, progressives in the Senate, everybody in the House, everybody ind the Senate wants to know where you are.

Her answer was I'm right here in front of the elevator. And I just want to repeat again, this is not a time to be cute. This is a time to show character. If Senator Sinema has concerns about helping American families afford child care, about reducing the cost -- making two years at community college free, making health care more affordable, doing something about climate change.

She needs to tell the American people as well as hr colleagues in the Senate and the House what those concerns are. Until she does that, we have to press forward delivering the president's agenda to the American people.

LEMON: Speaker Pelosi said that there is -- the vote is still going to happen tomorrow. Do you think there is going to be a vote?

PORTER: I honestly have no idea and I will tell you that what we've been told is literally question mark, question mark, question mark. That was today -- that's tomorrow's schedule. So we actually do not know exactly the timing. We do know that we're going to take a vote to fund the government, to continue to fund the government.

That's a very important step, making sure that we do not repeat having a government shutdown. With regard to infrastructure and the reconciliation package, we really need Senator Sinema, Senator Manchin. They are the two holdouts.

They need to step up and tell us where they are. Until then, whether we have the vote or don't have the vote, the bottom line is we're going to be able to move forward on any part of the president's agenda.

LEMON: So is that an indication on you, how you plan to vote on infrastructure?

PORTER: Yes. I will -- if infrastructure comes up by itself with no other supporting -- no support for families, no support for other industries, no support for all of the other pieces that our economy needs to be strong and stable and globally competitive, then I will have to vote the infrastructure bill down.

And that is not to say that I don't support this bill. I do. But I was elected to represent lots of different industries, lots of different kinds of workers, lots of different families and lots of different people of two different political parties. And so I need to see a package that's going to meet the needs of the American people and infrastructure alone doesn't get it done.

LEMON: And what if that vote leads to the president not getting his agenda done and also leads to Democrats being in a minority and you possibly not being re-elected?

PORTER: If we don't deliver anything for the American people, if we don't address the fact that women's work force participation is at a 30-year low, if we don't address the fact that seniors cannot afford to get care in their homes, if we don't address climate change, then we will not be re-elected.

The party that's going to win in 2022 is the party that delivers for the American people and that means addressing the full needs of our economy, no one bill is going to be enough to get it done.

LEMON: All right. Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining. Good luck. Good luck.

PORTER: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you. So, they broke through windows, they barrel through doors, they threaten lawmakers. Judges are asking, why are so many insurrectionists getting a slap on the wrist? Why is that? CNN investigates next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


LEMON: Tonight, Olympic gold medalist, Klete Keller, the star swimmer pleading guilty of felony charge of obstructing the elector Electoral College proceedings during the January 6th insurrection. Other charges being dropped as part of a plea deal, Keller agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors. He still faces prison time.

Nearly 90 rioters have now pleaded guilty in connection with the insurrection, nine already sentenced, but some federal judges overseeing the plea deals are questioning whether prosecutors are downplaying the damage done on January 6th. More tonight from CNN's justice correspondent Jessica Schneider


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dawn Bancroft sent a video selfie to a friend January 6th saying she had searched for Nancy Pelosi and wanted to shoot her in the friggin brain. But when entered her guilty plea this week in federal court, it was for just one count of illegally protesting at the capitol, a misdemeanor.

Judge Emmett Sullivan question why Bancroft wasn't charged with more. It's horrible. It's outrageous, he said of Bancroft's rhetoric. Judge Sullivan then addressed prosecutors to ask, does it not rise to the level of threat?

Prosecutors explained that Bancroft made the caught on tape comment as she was leaving the capitol, making it harder to prove that the threat to Pelosi was serious. Several other charges will be dropped at sentencing as part of the deal.

But this isn't the first time a federal judge in D.C. district court has questioned DOJ's deals with rioters. Chief Judge Beryl Howell expressed skepticism about prosecutors offering misdemeanor plea deals to non-violent capitol rioters.

That means any jail time is capped at six months, saying in court about one case, "Does the government have any concern about of a defendant joining a mob, breaking into the capitol building, terrorizing member of Congress. This could be a circumstance that arises every four years." Noting misdemeanor deals might not be enough of a deterrent.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The idea is you have to send a message that what these folks did is not okay. That they need to be punished and that anyone thinking of doing this in the future will be punished seriously. And I think DOJ has really fallen short on that and I don't think they have succeeded in sending the message to people who may be thinking about similar acts in the future.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): A new survey from the Pew Research Center shows about half of Americans, 48 percent agree saying that criminal penalties so far have not been severe enough. Meanwhile, Republican support for the prosecution and investigation into January 6th has been plummeting.


When asked if it's important for law enforcement to find and prosecute those responsible for the capitol attack, just 57 percent of Republicans think it is. That's down from 79 percent in March. Prosecutors are still in the early stages in most capitol riot cases as they get lower level defendants out of the way to concentrate on more complicated cases that allege violence or conspiracy which can take a lot longer.

HONIG: I think what DOJ prosecutors may be trying to do here is draw a distinction between on the one hand, people who entered the capitol, destroyed properties, smashed windows, threatened public officials. And on the other hand, those people who, yes, entered the capitol but didn't do all of those things. With that said, I disagree with that distinction.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): A total of 619 people have been charged with nine sentenced so far. And we could see a lot more defendants sentenced to jail time in the coming months. Just today, two men received 45 days each for their role in the riot. Prosecutors had pushed for four months but the judge decided on a month and a half saying he had to balance the gravity of the insurrection with the fact that these defendants aren't accused of violence. Don?

LEMON: Jessica Schneider, thank you so much. First, it was the most loyal Trump supporters. Now, it's the people who organized the rally before the riot. The committee investigating January 6th issuing new subpoenas tonight. Stay with us.