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Don Lemon Tonight

Facebook Stoke Fears and Division; President Biden May Use a Last-Ditch Effort; Brian's Laundrie's Sister Deny His Whereabouts; NIH Director Leaving from Post; Johnson & Johnson Waiting for FDA's Approval; President Biden's Agenda Still Under Negotiation. Aired 10- 11p ET

Aired October 05, 2021 - 22:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): They have to know what's going on. They -- you know, they can -- I can talk about, you know, I want a pig in a blanket for, you know, a party on Saturday. And all of a sudden, pigs in a blanket show up in my feed, in my Facebook feed or in my Instagram feed or my Twitter, wherever it shows up.

They know what's up. They know what people are doing. They know what people are looking at. They have the algorithms. And you know, they have -- more people have these than they have these boxes that they usually watch us on, than subscribe to cable. Everyone has a device. And on these devices, it comes with, you know, with a Facebook or with an Instagram or with a Twitter or whatever. So they know.

So, look, I think that they realize that it's long past time and they know that they're going to be regulated, they're just trying to hold it off.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: He's asking for regulation.

LEMON: Yes, but not the kind of regulation that they should have. And I think there should be even more parameters on the people who use it, how people are allowed to use it, that you should have to put your -- who you are, your -- you should be identified to the company. That doesn't mean the company has to share your information with law enforcement unless you do something that is, you know, detrimental to your fellow citizen, a threat or something like that.

But I think that that would cut back on the B.S. that's there. And you know, I also think that there should be regulations in large part for young people and for people's mental health because --


CUOMO: One of the things he says in the letter, just to dispense with this quickly as a parent, and I see all the messages I'm getting that you guys agree, but of course you do. You know, there's no other way to see it as a parent. He says in the missive supposedly, you know, aimed at his employees --


LEMON: I'm going over it with you. Go on.

CUOMO: He says, you know, we have to figure out how to balance, like how do you balance the privacy interests of teens and their parents' ability to monitor. There is no balance. Teenagers don't own the device. If they're emancipated, if they're paying for their own service, then fine.

They're minors. They are basically chattel. They are personal property of the parents until they reach 18. You don't balance that. Balance is the interest of how you keep them safe. And if you look at the language through there, even though I'm sure it was, you know, reviewed carefully, he talks about how he does things in ways that make sense for a company of this scale. It's not about the company. This company doesn't make widgets. They don't make donuts.

LEMON: Nope.

CUOMO: They don't make cars. This is basically the oxygen of the cultural environment in which we all exist now.

LEMON: You're shaping the culture, and many, many, many ways.

CUOMO: And they know it.

LEMON: And probably the most influential, they're shaping the culture. And they know it. And so, listen, I know that there are people at Facebook who believe that, well, we have to, you know, sort of -- I don't know. There's a fine line between disseminating information and having free speech and stopping people from saying what they want, censoring people.

But I think that we are well beyond that point. This isn't about censorship. This is about doing what is right. The same thing with the tobacco companies, which I'll talk about, where the tobacco companies fought tooth and nail with very similar arguments as to what Mark Zuckerberg and others at Facebook are saying in defense of themselves. Now, listen, we know it's not a cancer like a cigarette or disease like that. But it can be cancerous to our --


CUOMO: Plenty of people kill themselves.

LEMON: -- mentally and to our society. And other things. Not just kill themselves but they harm themselves. Right?

CUOMO: They harm others.

LEMON: And they harm others.

CUOMO: Just predatory behavior.

LEMON: You shouldn't be allowed to just bully people with, you know, with no defense. CUOMO: Right. And look, I actually flip this because you're going to

have the freedom fighters come at anybody who -- look, he wants to take away your rights, you can't decide for yourself, --

LEMON: It's not right.

CUOMO: -- the government has to do everything. Same kind of B.S. they did with the vaccine.

LEMON: It's a privilege. Yes.

CUOMO: But look, I say let's flip the script. You find me an area of our existence that is left alone the way this is. No newspaper you read. No television. No podcast. OK? No radio station. There's nowhere else that you take in information that basically just says hey, man, it is what it is.

LEMON: Well, well, it's not supposed to be that way, especially in traditional legacy media. There are -- podcasts, there's a wild, wild west factor to podcasts as well. They don't really have -- they're not regulated in a way. Now, and if someone in a podcast besmirches your character or they said something that's libelous, then you can -- there are ramifications.


In some legacy media now, we know with the propaganda network they say whatever they want, they -- you know, I just -- I won't go there. But you know, they don't have any ramifications -- it doesn't seem to be any ramifications, but then they have to make things up --


CUOMO: But remember what they did. Right? They divided -- they don't tell you this. But the nighttime, the primetime line-up, is by the entertainment division. It's not part of the news division.

LEMON: Well, the morning too. The morning program too.

CUOMO: Everybody finds a run-around. You know, I'm just saying look, this matters. It's not about censorship. It's not just about Facebook. Not for me. I haven't been on Facebook in years.


CUOMO: What I'm saying is social media matters. It is part of our everyday reality. It is much more influential than any other product that is out there. And yet it has the least scrutiny on how it does what it does. And that cannot continue anymore. Even Zuckerberg says that.

LEMON: Regulate it, standards and practices.

CUOMO: But don't even use the word regulate. Because it triggers -- it triggers people who don't like government --


LEMON: You have to call a thing a thing, Chris. It's got to be regulated. And I know people don't -- just because he this hate the word doesn't mean that it should not be regulated. I will just say this.

CUOMO: I'm not saying don't use laws and guidelines and consequences for not following them but look, messaging matters. OK?


CUOMO: And if you don't think it does, look at the mess we're in with the vaccines because we had scientists doing the messaging. They're not good messengers.


CUOMO: What you say matters and how you say it matters. This isn't about restricting your rights. It's about making sure that people do what they do right.

LEMON: I'll end with this.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

LEMON: And this is a start for the social media companies. What is put on your platform at the very least should be true. Let's start there.

CUOMO: What if it's an opinion?

LEMON: And then we go -- it should be true.


CUOMO: An opinion.

LEMON: You can have opinions based in fact. OK? So, at the very least it should be true. And it should be based in some sort of fact. Beyond that then we can -- let's start at that base level, that baseline right there. And then we can go on with the rest of it.

CUOMO: I think the baseline should be that you should know who uses your product.

LEMON: That's true.

CUOMO: That should be the first step.

LEMON: I agree. And you should know who is responding to you and who's putting it out there as well. So, if someone says something about me, I should know that it's Joe Smith who lives in Wisconsin and it shouldn't just be a bot.

CUOMO: And somebody should be making --


CUOMO: -- a social media platform where everybody who's on it says who they are. You can have a different screen name.


CUOMO: But that everybody is registered so that they have to own it. In fact, I would like if people use their own names. I get the chilling effect. I get that people can come after you for what you do. So, you've got to figure out the right way to do it and the right place --


CUOMO: -- but we can do a hell of a lot better than we're doing now.

LEMON: I love you, brother. I got to run.

CUOMO: Make your witness.

LEMON: I'll see you later.

CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon.

LEMON: Thank you very much. We're going to continue to talk about this.


And we have been talking about why America is so angry, right? Because a lot of the B.S. that is all the misinformation that is spread out there, that's part of it. You know the anger that seems to be erupting everywhere from planes to school board meetings and beyond, the hate speech that turns into violence, the feedback loop that seems to be infuriating Americans.

Well, what we heard today may make you really angry. I want you to listen to Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. A 37-year-old former product manager who testified before Congress for more than three hours saying the company is putting profits before people and putting our democracy at risk.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: I believe Facebook's products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy. The company's leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won't make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people. Congressional action is needed. They won't solve this crisis without your help.


LEMON (on camera): So, here's what she's saying. She's saying that Facebook's systems only catch a tiny percentage of hate speech. Hate speech that is spreading all across this country. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAUGEN: The reality is that we've seen from repeated documents within my disclosures is that Facebook's A.I. systems only catch a very tiny minority of offending content and best-case scenario in the case of something like hate speech at most they will ever get 10 to 20 percent.


LEMON (on camera): Ten to 20 percent. Think about it. You think, 10 percent is a lot. But just imagine how much destructive hate speech is getting past them when you consider that they have gotten nearly three billion active users.

And with this company under siege Mark Zuckerberg is addressing the whistleblower's allegations in a post on Facebook tonight saying, and I quote, "I'm sure many of you have found the recent coverage hard to read because it just doesn't reflect the company we know," and going on to say that "many of the claims don't make any sense."


But you know, today's hearing, the outrage over Facebook's role in the spread of misinformation is just like what happened with big tobacco. I was just telling Chris that earlier.

In 1994, you may recall that the executives of the big tobacco companies stood up in front of Congress. They swore to tell the truth, denied their product was addictive, putting their profits ahead of Americans' health.

And here we are tonight. Facebook having its own big tobacco moment as Americans get angrier. Another school board meeting, another shouting match over vaccines.


UNKNOWN: I'm speaking this way because --


UNKNOWN: Order. We're on a new topic --

UNKNOWN: No, we're not! We are not!

UNKNOWN: You're being disruptive. You're being disruptive.

UNKNOWN: So last night --

UNKNOWN: We're going to adjourn, take a five-minute recess.


LEMON (on camera): Exhibit a. Parents yelling and screaming about vaccines that could save their children's lives as more than 700,000 Americans have died in this pandemic. And let's not forget the anger that exploded into one of the darkest days in American history, bloodthirsty rioters attacking the seat of our democracy on January 6th. Let's not forget they tried to overturn a free and fair election. And let's not forget the rioters put up a gallows outside and chanted hang Mike Pence!


CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!


LEMON (on camera): Let's not forget that then vice president and his family had to run for their lives. Don't believe me? Look. There's the video right there. We can never forget what we saw. But apparently, Mike Pence has forgotten all about it. Imagine that.

I want you to listen to him resorting to page one in the Trump playbook, blame the media. Really, he's trying to blame the media, trying to blame the media for the attack by violent rioters, Trump supporters, an attack that forced him to run for his life with his family.


MICHAEL PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I know the media wants to distract from the Biden administration's failed agenda by focusing on one day in January. They want to use that one day to try and demean the character and intentions of 74 million Americans who believed we could be strong again and prosperous again and supported our administration in 2016 and 2020.


LEMON (on camera): Google Stockholm syndrome. Trying to get on the good side of the man who stood by and did nothing while Pence's life was literally in danger, all because he did his job instead of trying to overturn the election as his boss wanted him to do.

And what happened on January 6th? Not just about one day. It's about the very real threat to our democracy, the anger, the misinformation, still out there, the big lie of non-existent election fraud still out there. laying the groundwork for the next time. But far too many Republicans are putting their political lives ahead of the defense of our democracy.

Nikki Haley. OK? Nikki Haley telling the Wall Street Journal the former president is a friend and saying that she consults with him before throwing her hat into the ring for a White House run. I feel like I know how that conversation would go. And I probably can't repeat the exact words that he might use.

Remember when she said that she was disgusted by his treatment of Mike Pence, disgusted? Remember when she said that she didn't think the former president was going to be in the picture anymore? Now she says they need him in the GOP. The last thing they need.

And then there is former Trump White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. You know, the one who never held a press briefing, which was her job. Now she is warning if the former president were to win a second term he would surround himself with the January 6th crowd.


STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have said people such as Sidney Powell or Rudy Giuliani or some of the people who believe wholeheartedly in these conspiracy theories, I believe that if he were to win in 2024 he will pick whoever stood by him, you know, defended him, and he will place those people who will have defended the indefensible into the White House.


LEMON (on camera): OK. There's so much I want to say. Where were these people when it was happening? When they were -- hold -- just hold the prompter.


Where were these people? When they were -- where was this attitude when they were on Fox News saying the most insane -- the most insane stuff, defending the most insane behavior talking crap about CNN and the fake news, not holding press conferences, making excuses for everything that Trump did, playing cleanup on aisle 45. Every day. The fake news -- now they want to come on CNN.

Why do you want to come on CNN to sell a book when all you did was talk crap about CNN, huh, or any other network? Go on the Fox propaganda network and sell your book. Why didn't you stand up for our democracy when you had the chance to do it? When it mattered? Before there was a January 6th because you saw it coming.

Stephanie Grisham, the fact is she saw plenty when she was in the White House herself. She could have warned America then. She didn't do it. Now she's running to Jake Tapper, talking about the then president was trying to stage a coup? No crap.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You think the president was essentially trying to stage a coup?

GRISHAM: I do. When you look at what he was doing to Vice President Pence, when you look at how many ways he was trying to get people, in phone calls even with Georgia and Arizona and then again with pressuring Mike Pence with all he wanted to do and in that memo that has now come out about all the ways to overturn this election, I do. It's dangerous.


LEMON (on camera): Yes, it's dangerous. You could have done that when you were the press secretary. And a disgraced twice impeached one-term former president plotting to get back into the White House is absolutely a threat to our democracy. Meanwhile, the duly elected President of the United States is taking his case to America as his agenda hangs in the balance.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: These bills are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive or anything that pits Americans against one another. These bills are about competitiveness versus complacency. They're about opportunity versus decay. They're about leading the world or continuing to let the world pass us by, which is literally happening.


LEMON (on camera): And considering the nuclear option, a carve-out of the filibuster to raise the debt ceiling by October 18th.


UNKNOWN: Are Democrats considering using the nuclear option to raise the debt limit? Using a carve-out with the filibuster to raise the debt limit?

BIDEN: I think that's a real possibility.


LEMON (on camera): So, if you think the debt ceiling doesn't matter to you, OK? If you're thinking -- I want you to really think about this. OK? Because this is something that affects every single American. Not just in the long term. Not just in the short term but in the long term. OK? So, think about this.

What if you don't get your social security payment on time? What if it really affects your 401K and it gets hammered? What if mortgage rates skyrocket and you can't afford a house? What if you lose your job? That is what could happen if Republicans refuse to do their jobs. That's how toxic our politics have become.

So, the tell-all people who worked for the administration, you could have headed this off before it got to this point. Where were you? And why now? Didn't just fall off the turnip truck.

What will it take to fix Facebook, protect our democracy? I'm going to ask the senators who questioned the Facebook whistleblower today.


HAUGEN: As long as Facebook is operating in the shadows, hiding its research from public scrutiny, it is unaccountable. Until the incentives change, Facebook will not change.




LEMON (on camera): We're back now and we're talking about the breaking news. Facebook on the defensive following powerful testimony by whistleblower Frances Haugen. She told a Senate subcommittee that she believes the social media company harms children, stokes division, weakens our democracy and says congressional action is needed.

But CEO Mark Zuckerberg disputing her testimony late tonight, saying a lot of Haugen's claims, well, they don't make any sense and denying that Facebook puts profits ahead of safety and well-being of its users.

So, joining me now is Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat who is a member of the subcommittee. I know this is near and dear to your heart. You fight for to get all of this in working order. Thank you, senator. I appreciate you joining us.


LEMON: You heard that Mark Zuckerberg is disputing the whistleblower's allegation, the testimony made. He flat out says that they do not prioritize profit over safety and well-being and that many of her claims, and I quote, "don't make any sense." What do you say to that, senator?

KLOBUCHAR: I think every parent knows that's not true. Why? So many of our kids today are getting addicted to this product. We now learned from the whistleblower that Facebook was well aware that because of the way their algorithms work young children were getting targeted with information on eating disorders that was not good scientific information at all.


We know as you just showed that over 50 percent of the people that aren't getting vaccinated believe something that was a lie that they read on social media. Yet Facebook continues to include this content.

While I will note YouTube just recently banned all of it from their platform. And we also know that the violent content exists. So, he can say what he wants, that he, you know, set out to have a product like this, I doubt it. But the truth is he set out to make a ton of money. And they've made -- they are now worth over a trillion dollars.

And while he's sitting on his sailboat writing this post there are kids that are basically getting hooked on their product. And one thing we learned from my antitrust hearing, every quarter they make 51 bucks off of you, Don Lemon. Every single quarter they make $51 off of every American that's a user.

And I just think enough is enough. Privacy laws, they've stopped them as well as these other platforms. We don't -- we haven't updated our competition policy. Innovation could help us here. But they are the big bullies on the block, and I think this whistleblower, Frances Haugen, is finally going to be the tipping point.

LEMON: You questioned Frances Haugen over the spread of misinformation surrounding the 2020 election. I want to play it.


KLOBUCHAR: On 60 Minutes you said that Facebook implemented safeguards to reduce misinformation ahead of the 2020 election but turned off those safeguards right after the election. And you know that the insurrection occurred January 6th. Do you think that Facebook turned off the safeguards because they were costing the company money, because it was reducing profits?

HAUGEN: Facebook changed those safety defaults in the run-up to the election because they knew they were dangerous and because they wanted that growth back, they wanted the acceleration of the platform back after the election, they returned to their original defaults. And the fact that they had to break the glass on January 6th and turn them back on, I think that's deeply problematic.


LEMON (on camera): So, this theme of growth before safety and this amplification of misinformation, what worries you most after hearing this testimony, Senator?

KLOBUCHAR: What worries me most is that will we finally act? Because we've had hearings like this before. Colleagues on both sides of the aisle I think are truly horrified by it. But then they turn the corner in the capitol, Don, and they see a lobbyist paid for by tech.

They basically bought out a bunch of people in this town, they throw a lot of money around and now is the time to act. No federal privacy laws for over a decade. No updates. No updates when it comes to our competition policy. We should be as sophisticated as these companies in how we approach them.

So, what I hope is that my colleagues will join us, those of us, Senator Blumenthal, Senator Blackburn, myself, Senator Grassley, who are willing to take this on. And we need to move forward.

LEMON: Well, we'll see what happens. I'm not sure. Do you think that can happen in a divided Congress?

KLOBUCHAR: It's not just about divides on this issue. It's about a whole lot of people that are listening to a whole lot of lobbyists instead of listening to that whistleblower. And the time has come for action. We can have more hearings. We can do more investigations.

But I think the House investigation made it clear these are dominant platforms and we need to make sure that we allow innovation and competition, that he we don't let them discriminate against their competitors and exclude competitors and that we finally put a privacy law and some algorithm transparency in place. This is a lot on our agenda but if we don't do this, we're literally letting believing them when they say trust us. LEMON: Yes.


LEMON: Thank you very much.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: I'll let the viewers answer that. Thank you very much, Senator Klobuchar.

KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.

LEMON: I appreciate it.

So, Brian Laundrie's sister's saying that she has no idea where her brother is but is urging him to come forward. As for Gabby Petito's parents, they say he's a coward.



LEMON (on camera): So tonight, Brian Laundrie's sister telling CNN that she hasn't spoken to her parents in two weeks, saying their lawyer is advising them not to discuss the case with her. And she is speaking out about her brother today saying that she doesn't know where he is. And that she'd turn him in if she did.


CASSIE LAUNDRIE, BRIAN LAUNDRIE'S SISTER: I do not know where Brian is. I'd turn him in. I would tell my brother to just come forward and get us out of this horrible mess.


LEMON (on camera): All right. Let's discuss this case now. Everything that's gone on with the former FBI special agent Stuart Kaplan. There he is. Stuart, good to see you. Thank you for appearing again on the program.


LEMON: Good evening. So, Cassie Laundrie, her name is Cassie, says that she doesn't know what role her parents have played or might be playing if any at all in Brian's disappearance. Their lawyer says that they haven't and aren't assisting Brian. Clearly, there is a split happening in this family.

As an investigator is there an opportunity to learn more information about, you know, what the family is doing and they're not really presenting a united front? Is this where investigators go in and find the edge and get the information?

KAPLAN: Well, I think she revealed a little bit this afternoon, that she has already been debriefed not only once but twice by law enforcement to include the FBI. But let me digress for a moment. You know, this idea of vigilante, mob mentality of protesting outside her house with respect to feeling that she's obligated to talk to us I think is misplaced.


I mean, Don, one of the greatest constitutionally protected rights that we all have as Americans is there is no obligation to talk to anybody. And I think the fact that she came out today really because she was afraid, she indicated that she's hunkered down at her house with her husband and her two kids. I think was kind of a sad statement with respect to the way this thing is playing out.

There are many reasons why she should not be talking to anybody, to include the press or, you know, other people. I think, you know, she was interviewed. I think the FBI, law enforcement is satisfied that the only thing she's guilty of if you want to even use the word guilty is she's related to Brian Laundrie --


LEMON: No, I understand. Listen, Stuart, I understand what oar saying. And I don't disagree with that. But this isn't about that. Look, she deserves to have just as much privacy as anyone else. I get that. OK. Fine. Let's lay that aside.

What I'm saying, though, is when you had that in the family -- she's saying I haven't spoken to my parents in weeks. Their lawyers have informed them not to even speak to me. I'm wondering if this is an opportunity that law enforcement investigators will exploit, this lack of united front with this family.

KAPLAN: I will go out on a limb and tell you that they've already interviewed her. As a matter of fact, I would not be surprised that she's already been before the grand jury. I mean, there's an indication that she was with Brian Laundrie and the parents on September 6th.

Now, just so the viewers can understand, September 6th was Labor Day. That was a holiday. She indicated the next day, or the reason she left after six hours is because her kids were going to school the next day, which would have been Tuesday. The FBI, law enforcement can easily corroborate and verify whether or not just on that fact alone as to whether or not she was being honest by just her digital footprints, calling the school, seeing if the kids were back in school.

So, I think she honestly has provided whatever information she knows. Now, I do read a sense that I don't necessarily go out on a limb for mom and dad. I think mom and dad have played a much greater role in protecting their son, and I do believe probably the right advice with respect to their lawyer is there is a reason why they have cut the ties between mom and dad and their daughter --


LEMON: And probably everybody.

KAPLAN: -- with the obvious reason to protect each side.

LEMON: They don't want them --

KAPLAN: Absolutely.

LEMON: They don't want them talking to anybody. Let's talk about Gabby's parents now, Stuart.

KAPLAN: Absolutely.

LEMON: And her stepparents appearing on Dr. Phil today. They talked about how frustrating it was when the Laundrie's didn't return their calls when they were looking for their daughter.

KAPLAN: Yes, I mean look, my heart bleeds for that family --


LEMON: I want you to listen to this.


LEMON: Listen to the sound bite and then I'll get your response.


UNKNOWN: I can't tell you how many times.


UNKNOWN: She called.

UNKNOWN: You called.

UNKNOWN: And what was -- what did you get?

UNKNOWN: No response.

UNKNOWN: Voicemails.

UNKNOWN: Voicemails.

UNKNOWN: Then I would send texts on top of that.

UNKNOWN: No response.

JOSEPH PETITO, GABBY PETITO'S FATHER: One of the texts, I mean, we're going to you will ka the police, right? Just letting you know. No response. A normal parent, when you text someone that they're going to call the cops because you can't find your child, they would reply.


LEMON (on camera): So, listen, they're demanding somebody start talking. Silence isn't necessarily a sign of guilt but it's not a good look.

KAPLAN: Yes, I mean, it's heartbreaking. And certainly -- you know, let's go back before September 11th. There obviously was efforts days before September 11th that the parents were reaching out and trying to get in touch with their daughter. And clearly there is no doubt that the Laundrie family, mom and dad, were giving misinformation to the Petito family.

Now, mom and dad could honestly take the position Brian did not tell us anything, we thought maybe the kids had a tiff or some falling out and Brian is on his way back to, you know, Wyoming because after all as a parent you would say how could you leave a young girl out there to drive back on her own. I mean, maybe the parents were misled.

But however, it's an indication that the Laundrie family clearly was more interested in protecting their son than in doing what was probably better for the Petitos to get out in front of it because certainly the delay definitely hampered the investigation in moving, you know, faster and quicker to an end result, obviously.

LEMON: Always great information and insight. Stuart, thank you. I'll see you next time. Have a good evening.

KAPLAN: My pleasure. You too.

LEMON: Thank you.

LEMON: Republicans putting America on the path to economic catastrophe, refusing to budge on raising the debt ceiling. Democrats still arguing over two critically important bills. Will President Biden be able to put out the fires?



LEMON (on camera): Tonight, a number of moving parts in President Biden's attempts to secure passage of his social safety net plan, telling House progressives the price tag has to drop to somewhere between 1.9 trillion and 2.2 trillion from the current 3.5 trillion.

And Senator Joe Manchin, who has been insisting he won't go higher than 1.5 trillion, now hinting that he might.

A lot to discuss with CNN's senior political commentator David Axelrod. David, good evening. Good to see you, sir.


LEMON: So, President -- President Biden -- thank you very much. President Biden telling Senators Manchin and Sinema decide what you like in the plan and then they'll go from there. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: One of them said they very much like the child tax credit but they'd like to see it phase out sooner than later. I said, well, come up with a number. Come up with what you're for. And when they add it up, each of them added up all that they think they like, it got them a higher number. But whether they settle on, that remains to be seen.


LEMON (on camera): So, Joe Manchin told CNN that he would not rule out 1.9 to 2.2 trillion, that price tag. You have seen these sorts of tight negotiations before.


LEMON: What is it going to take to get this done? How close are they, do you think?


AXELROD: I think -- you know, I've been pretty consistent on this. I've always felt they're going to get there. I am familiar with it. As I've said before, I watched the last rites being read over the Affordable Care Act a thousand times before it became law. This is the legislative process.

So, you know, I think you see the president had a meeting, virtual meeting with progressives from the House yesterday. They came out of that essentially speaking about the same kind of range, the same number. So, I think what's important now are just working out the details of what's in, what's out and how they get to this number. You could shorten the period in which a particular program is funded. And so, it would have to be re-funded earlier down the line.

There are so many things that they could do. And this is what's -- this is what's going on behind the scenes right now. I just think everybody recognizes, as I've said consistently, to walk away empty- handed would be abject failure. And it wouldn't just be the president's failure. It would be a failure for all of those legislators.

And I think they sincerely want to be able to go to voters and say here is what we've done. They want to be able to deal with some of the problems that they've been talking about for years. So, I think they're going to get there, Don, but you know, it's a painful process. I still have the scars from some of those negotiations.

LEMON: But you're not bitter or angry at all, right?

AXELROD: Not in the least.

LEMON: Let's talk about reconciliation because Biden is saying that he would sign the reconciliation bill even if the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funds from being used for most abortions, even if it's included, even though he and progressives are against it. Is that going to create more problems? AXELROD: Well, you know, I understand why people are concerned about

that. This debate has been going on for years and years and years. The Hyde Amendment has been appended to spending bill after spending bill. And you know, people need to make a decision as to whether that overrides all the other concerns that are being addressed by this legislation.

It's a painful decision. But it's one that Democratic legislators have made over a period of years. And after all, there's a larger fight over abortion rights going on in the country right now that should be the focus of attention.

LEMON: So, you think they'll get all of this done?

AXELROD: I do. I think they'll get it done, yes. No one will be completely satisfied, which is the way legislative negotiations always end up. But if they -- let's just put this in perspective. If they land on a package that is $1.2 trillion for infrastructure, the largest investment in 100 years, and another 2.2 for the social safety net dealing with things like child care and health care and education, that's a pretty big accomplishment. I mean, that's historic in scope.

And you know, the one thing that would be really bad for Democrats is if having accomplished that they walked away and said, well, it was OK, it wasn't what we wanted. That would be a huge mistake. I saw that with the Affordable Care Act too. And, you know, there were tens of millions of people who have health care today who would beg to differ.

LEMON: Yes. David Axelrod, thank you, sir. See you soon. Be well.

AXELROD: All right, Don. Good to see you.

LEMON: The director of the National Institutes of Health announcing he plans to resign, and it's sparking concerns there could be a leadership void at the NIH and the FDA, which still doesn't have a permanent commissioner, by the way.



LEMON (on camera): So, Dr. Francis Collins stepping down as director of the National Institute of Health after 12 years of service. Dr. Collins trying to ease worries that we could be headed to a leadership in our health institutions given that there still no permanent FDA commissioner.

So, let's get CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner's take on this massive departure. Good evening to you, doctor. So, Dr. Collins told Wolf earlier tonight that he is sure NIH is just going to be fine when he leaves. But where is the permanent of the FDA? It's been nine months.

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Being blocked by various senators. This administration apparently was very interested in having Dr. Janet Woodcock, who is the current acting commissioner to be the permanent commissioner of the FDA but current various senators are blocking her.

I think it's key that that position be filled, and I think it's key that the NIH position be filled expeditiously. You know, who would have thought, you know, a year ago that something as apolitical as the director of the National Institutes of Health, really the preeminent research organization in the world, would be so politicized and so subject to, you know, the craziness in the United States Senate, but here we are. And I think anything is possible.


LEMON: Yes to the vaccines now. Johnson & Johnson asking the FDA to authorize a booster shot for their COVID vaccine, but the company is leaving it up to the FDA and the CDC to decide who should get them and when. Who do you think should get that shot?

REINER: You know, it's unclear. You know, there are sort of two sets of data as it pertains to the J&J vaccine. One data set suggested that the vaccine was perhaps significantly less effective than the mRNA, Pfizer or Moderna shots. But recent data from the company itself suggest that not only is the efficacy for both serious infection and any infection are pretty good at around 80 percent, but also that it doesn't really wane.


You can boost that with another dose. They have a very good data that suggest you can do that. I think the big question for the FDA is going to be does that single dose need to be boosted and which patients should get that.

So, I think the data is less clear which might be one of the reasons why J&J has actually not suggested to the FDA how to approve their booster.

LEMON: All right. Doctor, short segment tonight. I'll see you next time. Thank you very much. I appreciate you coming on.

REINER: My pleasure.

LEMON: Operating in the shadows, fanning ethnic violence, harming children. It sounds like language describing a criminal gang but it's actually what we heard at today's Facebook hearing.



LEMON (on camera): Breaking news tonight. Facebook CEO disputing the powerful testimony by whistleblower Frances Haugen. She told the Senate subcommittee that she believes Facebook harms children, stokes division and weakens our democracy. And says congressional action is needed.