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Don Lemon Tonight

Schiff: Response Will Come 'Fast' If January 6 Subpoenas Defied; GOP Clings To Trump As He Pushes More Election Lies; Record 4.3 Million People Quit Their Jobs In August; Raiders Coach Resigns After Homophobic, Racist, Misogynistic Emails; TX Elections Administrator Resigns After Being Hounded By Trump Loyalists; Virginia Governor's Race. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired October 12, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: The January 6th Select Committee says that they're not messing around. Congressman Adam Schiff confirming criminal contempt charges will be filed quickly for anybody defying their subpoenas.

plus, global supply chain issues jacking up prices for consumers as a record number of Americans quit their jobs. What does this all mean for the U.S. economy?

And growing fallout after Raiders head coach Jon Gruden resigns following his racist, homophobic and misogynistic emails coming to light. So, why are some claiming that he is becoming canceled?

I want to bring in now CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates and "The Washington Post" columnist Max Boot. Good to see both of you. Good evening.

So, Laura, just over 24 hours away from the deadline for some of Trump's key allies to appear before the January 6th Select Committee. As I just said they just said, look, we're not messing around here. Criminal contempt charges will be filed quickly if anybody defies a subpoena. How do you see this playing out, Laura?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, unlike last time when you had thumbing at the nose - thumbing of the nose - excuse me -- of people who had previously been subpoenaed, you have a very different White House, a very different attorney general right now who has been very adamant about the idea of the rule of law coming first. And what this means, of course, is that subpoenas are supposed to be complied with.

The average person couldn't just say, nah, I don't feel like doing that, and ignore it. Remember, any time somebody wants to challenge the validity of the subpoena or the question they want to respond to through privilege, you still have to do that on a question-by-question basis. You can't just say executive privilege (INAUDIBLE), therefore, I'm not going to come at all. You have to actually address it.

So, the idea of using the Department of Justice now to be able to, through a criminal referral, get people to comply is actually something that could, in fact, happen unlike a very protracted litigation on the civil side that we've seen before.

LEMON: But Laura, Trump is still pulling the strings. I mean, telling his former aides to ignore their subpoenas. Is this obstruction of justice?

COATES: It is. It is obstruction of Congress in which why you have the idea of how can you be held in contempt of Congress. That actually means being able to obstruct what Congress is supposed to be doing. They have a legislative initiative in terms of trying to understand what happened leading up to January 6th. It's a valid legislative purpose.

They had expressed that there was Select Committee. And the idea of telling someone to just say, don't show up at all, because I might assert executive privilege here, again, it's a question-by-question privilege. You don't get to say, I'm not going to answer any question. Privilege only relates to those questions that might be responsive and could have a valid exercise of the privilege.

There is a former president we're talking about. That privilege belongs to the current incumbent of the White House, and that is Joe Biden, although that is much, you know, debated, apparently to the big lie that is, in fact, Joe Biden holds the privilege and he is not the one asserting it.

LEMON (on camera): So, Max, Adam Schiff said that the committee will move as fast as possible. Here he is.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The former president of the United States is still out pushing the big lie, the same big lie that led people to attack this building and beat police officers and put our lives at risk. So yes, we feel a sense of urgency.


LEMON (on camera): You know, and just today, a Trump crowd that was four times larger than the local police expect to gather at the Michigan State Capitol, demand an audit of the 2020 election because Trump told them to. What does this tell you about the dangers ahead?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS SENIOR FELLOW, COLUMNIST FOR THE WASHINGTON POST: I think it tells us, Don, that the danger to our democracy is growing because these protests are not really about overturning the 2020 election. That is impossible. There is no way for Biden to be shoved out of office right now.

What this is really about is setting the stage or 2024 and preventing Biden from winning another term or any other Democrat winning another term, and basically getting Trump back into office by hook or by crook.


BOOT: This is essentially conditioning the Republican Party to throw out votes that don't go their way and intimidating republican office holders so that fewer of them will stand up to the Trump coup next time than occurred in -- after the last election.

So, I think this is a real danger signal for our democracy, the fact that Trump is still out there pushing the big lie, that he is conditioning the Republican Party to go along with him, and in fact something like 60% of Republicans still want him to be their leader, 60% still think that Trump was legitimately elected. That is a huge blinking warning sign for the next several years of our democracy.

LEMON: You have a new piece out explaining that you're not a Democrat but you will vote for them no matter what. And here is what you write in part. You said, I'm a single-issue voter. My issue is the fate of democracy in the United States. Simply put, I have no faith that we will remain a democracy if Republicans win power.

You say the choice is Trump or our democracy, Are Democrats doing enough to explain what is really at stake in these elections and are they paying close enough attention, meaning Democrats other than the folks in Washington?

BOOT: Well, I think even the folks in Washington, a lot of them -- it's very easy to get wrapped up in the current political battles and so there is a huge, you know, (INAUDIBLE) going on over his "build back better" bill. Is that going to be $3.5 trillion? Is it going to be $2 trillion, what have you?

And I think a lot of people are losing sight of the larger issue. It's not a matter of, you know, how much you are spending here and there. It's really a much more basic, fundamental question. Are we going to have a democracy or not?

And what I'm saying is that if Republicans can win elections in 2022, that is going to set the stage for a republican coup in 2024 that could well be more successful than the one they attempted in 2020. And really the only way to prevent that from happening is to vote for Democrats at all levels in state legislatures, governors, House and Senate. That is the only way to save our democracy.

And I'm saying that as somebody who is not a Democrat. I have disagreements with Democrats on a number of issues. But I just think that right now, all small "D" Democrats have to unite and support big "D" Democrats to safeguard our democracy from increasingly authoritarian Republican Party that Donald Trump is leading.

LEMON: Laura, ABC's Jonathan Carl is revealing new details about the video Trump posted to Twitter hours into the insurrection where he said the election was stolen, called his supporters very special. You know the one I'm talking about.

According to Carl's new book, Trump boasted about the crowd side and had to tape that message several times because he neglected to tell the rioters to leave the Capitol. What does that tell you about the state of mind that day?

COATES: Well, isn't it coming full circle that a presidency that began with trying to talk about and be obsessed with crowd sizes was equally concerned at the end of his presidency after he had already lost the election, and the focus should have rightly been on what was the attack on the citadel of our democracy.

And one thing that is so always been very curious for people about the former president has been the idea of a focus almost exclusively on his own incumbency as opposed to what the presidency is supposed to be about, the future successor as well, the presidential administration going forward.

And so, you see here somebody who had to be coaxed essentially and persuaded to try to call off a crowd, which included, by the way, people who were calling for the hanging of his own vice president. And I don't recall any of the Republicans who were on the floor that day, who had to be taken away, who had to go to safe shelter, opening the arms to the people who are coming in. Why? Because they knew that they were there to do no good and to actually harm.

And so, if the president of the United States with the power, the person who is able to answer the question, you and what army, if instead of focusing on trying to ensure the safety of our democracy, he is focused on how many people were willing to join the orbit of yes men and women, then that is really cause for concern, as Max was speaking about.

Just to underscore one point, if you are really concerned frankly about democracy, you have to also be concerned about the attempts to avoid or make sure people cannot get to the polls, to the rolling back of voting cases and rolling back of voting rights in this country because that's just as much about what we need to preserve as anything else.

LEMON: All right. Thank you both. Thank you, Laura, Max. I appreciate it.

I want to turn now to Fareed Zakaria, host of "Fareed Zakaria GPS" right here on CNN. Fareed, good evening to you. Look, it's clear that our democracy is in peril.


LEMON: Even establishment Republicans are going all in with Trump and his big lie, and Trump is trying to purge anyone who comes out against him and install supporters in key states. Do you see this as a slow- moving coup or a media-moving coup or fast-moving coup? How do you see it?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: It's very fast moving in the sense that the Republican Party is now completely taken over. It's not just that it is a personality cult. It is, as Max said, essentially become an anti-Democratic Party because it is vindicating and is repeating these lies about what happened in the election. It is trying to push from the ranks anyone who dared to tell the truth from secretaries of state to local officials to people to, of course, people like Liz Cheney.

It's slow moving in the sense that, you know, it's not happening today. What is happening is they're putting in place building blocks of a coup. What we have going on is a slow methodical effort to create the conditions in which the election of 2024 can be contested.

So, in a sense, it's a very -- you know, we would only have ourselves to blame if we were to be surprised in 2024, when the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, will declare victory no matter what happens in the election, because they are signaling that that is what they're going to do.

Now, you know, is it certain that it will happen? No. But it's -- I think it's fair to say -- you know, this is a very difficult time, Don, because everyone wants to talk about everything else that is going on. And as Max said, you know, there is debate about -- the Democrats are spending too much or too little or Biden got out of Afghanistan well or badly.

It's all fair game and it's all important. But there is this one elephant in the room, which is that there is a slow motion, systematic effort to try to undermine America's democratic institutions. And I know it sounds like one is just going to constantly harping on it, but it's kind of a big deal.

LEMON: It is absolutely a big deal. Biden has been telling the world that America is back, democracy is back. He obviously wants that to be the case. But were those comments early on in his term, were they premature?

ZAKARIA: It's premature because everybody that I've talked to around the world says, how do we know this doesn't happen in 2024? How do we know that Biden is not a brief respite between two Trump terms? How do we know that -- you know, the American people won't vote for somebody just like Trump?

I think the big wake-up call for people around the world and frankly for people in the United States, and it's fair to say for people like you and me, was that 60, 70% of the Republican Party is going along with this. That means, I don't know, 35%, 40% of the American people are going along with this.

And, you know, you never get everybody. I mean, 35% of people approved of Joe McCarthy after the Senate (INAUDIBLE). Thirty-five people supported Nixon after Watergate. But it does feel like we're closer to 45 now than 35, and I wonder whether you can have a functioning democracy with almost half the country, you know, accepting what is deeply anti-democratic practice and an authoritarian figure like Trump.

And I want to make one point, Don, which is whatever you thought of Trump as president, you know, I was not a fan, but there were some -- but there were occasionally things he did that I agreed with. The point now is, what we are talking about is what Donald Trump did on January 6th and the weeks before that. That is a wholly different cloth.

And again, that is not a debate about policy. Did he cut taxes too much? did he get too few troops out, too many troops out? This is a debate about what he is doing to American democracy. And we really have to not confuse these issues. You can agree with Trump's tax cuts, but you still have to believe that what he did on January 6th maybe in historical terms the single greatest assault on American democracy since the Civil War and its aftermath.

LEMON: Listen. As we know, there is no nuance anymore. It is either all or nothing, especially when it comes to, you know, the Trump party.

There is a potential crisis brewing between China and Taiwan. China flying aircraft into Taiwan's defense zone. Taiwan is showcasing missiles, a war of words. How worry should we be? You know, should the U.S. be -- that we're going to get dragged into military confrontation there?


ZAKARIA: I think, right now, there is an imminent danger. Some of what is happening, the media is overreacting. This always happens. There are these dueling speeches, China's National Day, then Taiwan's National Day. The Chinese are escalating. I think China clearly feels Taiwan is kind of escaping from its grasp. It feels like -- it had always thought it would be able to keep this renegade island under control, and it's not easy. Taiwan has an amazingly, vigorous and vibrant democracy.

But, remember one thing, first of all, there is the Olympics. China is not going to do anything before the Olympics because it wants to make sure it has a very successful Olympics.

But there is a large issue there, which is China knows the price it would pay if something like this would happen. And the task of the American diplomacy is to rally the world and to make sure that China understand that if it would engage in something like an invasion of Taiwan, that is the end of normal relations with the United States, with Europe, with most of its Asian trading partners. That is a very big cost. Remember, China is a big part of the world economy.

So, I think we have a lot of leverage. I think the Biden administration is handling this reasonably well. The problem the Biden administration has is it has to tackle all these complicated foreign issues. But at the same time, it is dealing with the challenge to American democracy at home.

LEMON: Fareed Zakaria, thank you. Good to see you. I can't wait to see you in person, Fareed. Soon.

ZAKARIA: Me, too. LEMON: Someday, soon. Thank you very soon. For more with Fareed, make sure you tune in to "Fareed Zakaria GPS" at 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. on Sunday right here on CNN.

So, gas prices are high, supplies of basic products low in stock, and people are quitting their jobs in record numbers. What is going on with the economy and how is it going to affect you? But my real question is, where did all the workers go? Why are all the signs up, hiring, everybody is hiring? I can't find good workers. Where did all the workers go? That is next.




LEMON: Okay, let's talk about the economy. There are warning signs about the U.S. economy tonight. Inflation concerns are already growing and now consumers facing the highest prices of the gas pump in years with the global supply chain out of whack. What can the Biden administration do to right this ship?

Let's discuss now with Kai Ryssdal. He is the host of Public Radio's "Marketplace." Kai, thank you.


LEMON: Good evening. I want to get to the overall picture. I want to talk to you about something specific that I want to ask you about. So, we got to talk about what Americans are feeling now, right, at the gas pump, these inflation concerns, supply chain completely out of whack. What is happening? What is going on here?

RYSSDAL: Well, you said the magic word, right, supply chain. Look at gas prices. Oil closed today, the U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, above 80 bucks. North Sea Brent Crude, the global benchmark, $83. We're seeing that at the pump. It is like $3.28. There it is right on the screen.

The $3.28 says AAA, the highest it's been for oil in seven years. Why? Well, look, there is no more supply coming. You see the Biden administration asking OPEC to pump more. U.S. producers are pumping what they can. But there is huge demand. We just want to drive, we want to get out, and we want to get around. And what happens is supply, demand, you wind up paying more. That's that.

LEMON: It's a sign of recovery because more people want to get out and they want to be driving.


LEMON: But there is -- yeah, there is a catch to it.

RYSSDAL: You bet. You bet.

LEMON: The chip shortage. Let's talk about congestion at the ports. A lot of truck drivers. Moody's warning supply chain disruption will get worse before it gets better. So, can they do anything, you know, to fix this?


LEMON: Is Biden to blame?

RYSSDAL: Well, look, nobody is to blame unless you want to really look in the mirror, right, because we want -- we, global consumers want what we want when we want it, especially after a year plus of being stuck at home and ordering online and all of those things, and now we can spend money on goods and experiences and it's just not coming fast enough.

I was at the port of Long Beach the other day, Los Angeles and Long Beach. Sixty-six ships waiting at anchor. Average wait time to get in to unload their stuff, 11 days.


RYSSDAL: The usual average, zero days.


RYSSDAL: These guys take their arrival times. They are out on the water two weeks. They hit arrival time within 30 minutes after two weeks on the water. And now, they are waiting 11 days to unload.

LEMON: Okay, so --

RYSSDAL: The supply chain thing -- wait, I got to say this.

LEMON: Yeah.

RYSSDAL: Supply chain thing is going to go on for a while and nobody should expect that once we get through the holidays, it is all going to be better. It is really important people understand it's going to be around for a while.

LEMON: It's interesting because there is -- I always say that the Democratic Party is bad at messaging. It's interesting because there is a demand from consumers. They want the economy to turn around. They are investing in home, doing all this stuff, trying to buy stuff, and it's so much of a demand, right, that it's backed up. Am I wrong?


LEMON: This is a sign of the recovery, that we're doing great, that --

RYSSDAL: Yeah, it's not a messaging failure, right? The economy is doing reasonably well. Growth is slowing down. We've seen that unemployment -- while the employment rate is going down, we are adding fewer jobs in the last couple of months. LEMON: I want to talk about that.

RYSSDAL: That is also a thing that people are worried about. But you can have -- pick your president. You can have anybody in the White House and this would still be happening.

LEMON: Okay. So let me talk to you about that. I want to know where are all the workers? Everywhere I go, it doesn't matter what business I'm talking about or I go or I see, whatever, everyone is hiring. People are saying, I can't get workers. Americans are quitting their jobs at a record pace. 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August. That is 3% of the workforce. Think about that. Where are the workers? Where are they?


RYSSDAL: Think about 3% of the American workforce in August said, I'm out, I'm not doing it anymore. Here is where they are. Number one, they're afraid to work, depending on what line of work they're in. Restaurants, that is tough. Education is tough. They lost people. So, people are afraid to work. People still have child care concerns from the pandemic.

Wages, people are seeing that there are -- this is a worker environment, right? There are so many open jobs, workers are saying, I'm going to hang out and wait for a better paycheck. And then there are some who are saying, and I have seen it in my own professional life, I'm sure you've seen in television, people are saying, I don't necessarily want to do this anymore. I want to take a minute, think about what I want to do. It's been a really rough year and a half. Let's regroup. That is what has happened.

LEMON: Okay, so then -- just -- I have a short time here.


LEMON: But is -- does that -- I don't think we realize how COVID has changed the job market because the numbers that we're looking at for the unemployment rate and the employment rate and all of that, do they actually fit the actual times that we are in when it comes to --

RYSSDAL: That's a really good question. What are you giving me, 30 seconds to answer that one? So, look, here's the thing.

The way this pandemic is showing up physically with open store fronts and people not being able to get what they want when they want it, right, in the supply chain question, it's showing up even more in the psyche of the American and global worker because- they are taking this time to re-evaluate and see what they want to do, and that gets reflected in, you're going to your favorite restaurant and them saying, I'm sorry, I can only see two tables outside because I don't have enough wait staff.

LEMON: You're talking. That's my life, Kai. Well, I appreciate it. I have to have you back to talk about this more. I think maybe we should -- maybe we should rejigger the way that we talk about employment and unemployment because I think this is --

RYSSDAL: Or capitalism, right?

LEMON: Yeah.

RYSSDAL: I mean, look, the capitalism has been stress-tested the last year and a half.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, Kai. Always a pleasure. Good stuff. I appreciate it.

RYSSDAL: Bye-bye.

LEMON: So, a Black president, a gay player, a female ref. Take a look at former Raider's coach Jon Gruden's targets, and you'll see a pattern. That's next.




LEMON: Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden resigning after emails come to light showing him using homophobic, racist and misogynistic language. The emails written while he worked as an ESPN analyst. But is this more than a sports story?

My next guest certainly thinks. Mike Freeman, "USA Today" editor for sports, race, and inequality, says that Gruden's emails are not just an NFL problem but symbolic of white grievance. He joins me now. Good to see you, sir.


LEMON: I'm doing very well. Thank you for appearing. So, explain why you believe Gruden's email scandals much bigger than sports is actually white grievance.

FREEMAN: Well, I think it just -- he hits on all these sorts of right-wing talking points you've heard really since Obama was elected in 2008. And a lot of this to me is a reflection of sort of the changing dynamics, the changing racial dynamics, the changing power structures in the country.

If you look at all of Gruden's emails, it reflects all of that. He rails against Colin Kaepernick. He rails against the increasing power of women, gays asserting themselves, transgender asserting themselves.

He really goes against all of these things which represent to me -- I don't think it's controversial, Don. It represents just the way the country is changing and the way people of color, the way women are asserting power, gaining power, and it makes a lot of people like Jon Gruden very uncomfortable. And you see a straight line between all these things in Gruden's emails and most importantly to me, how they parallel a lot of these things that the right-wing have been saying for a long time, and they're just almost identical to things he talks about when you compare them to some of things that the right-wing have been saying.

LEMON: Yeah. You said that Gruden was possibly supercharged by the NFL environment. But isn't the league really just a microcosm of the rest of country? You said it is a right-wing, but, you know, look at the reaction to social media protests -- social justice, excuse me, protests.

FREEMAN: Yeah. I mean, there is some truth to that. I mean, what happened with Colin Kaepernick, he was really sort of the energizing force for people like Gruden, who just hated the fact that to them, football was their game, and Colin Kaepernick was disrespecting their game and Colin Kaepernick was disrespecting police and their American flag.

Years later, of course, we see the irony of people who hated Colin Kaepernick storming the Capitol and attacking police officers with American flags. But he really got a lot of people, I think, more Republicans, people like Jon Gruden, really upset, and he represented, again, to me, the sort of changing dynamics of how the country is just shifting.

It's changing racially. It's changing the power structure. It is changing. All of it is shifting very quickly and very dramatically. Kaepernick represented -- in a big way, Kaepernick represented that shift. He was the center of that shift. He calls a lot of people in the NFL to get mad.


FREEMAN: You're right about how it's a microcosm, but when you look at the NFL, it really, really energized some of the more real conservative elements in the league, and Gruden is one of those guys.

LEMON: Yeah. The criticism of the former president, Barack Obama, and the current president and former vice president, calling him all kinds of names as well. So, yeah, you're right.

Listen, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have announced that Gruden has been removed from the team's ring of honor membership. He led the team to its Super Bowl title. The shoe brand, Sketchers, terminated his endorsement deal with him. Is this being canceled or is that a consequence of his actions?

FREEMAN: Well, I've heard -- I think you've talked about his earlier in your show -- about cancel culture and how people are saying it is being canceled. I mean, cancel culture doesn't write emails the last I checked. He canceled himself. He did this. This is his responsibility. This is all on him.

I will say, Don, one of the most interesting parts of this to come next, I think, are these emails, hundreds of thousands of them. The NFL, so far, is refusing to release them. But I think you may agree with me, there is a thousand Pandora's boxes in those emails. And there is probably a lot more Grudens in those emails. That is the next big part of the story.

Gruden is a significant part of it. He saw the beginning to it. But the next big part of it is what happens with these emails? Do they get released? What is in them, because in those emails, I guarantee you, just ton of bombshells, some of which that may make Gruden just look small.

LEMON: Do you think there are maybe some nervous people out there in the NFL going on -- or just in professional sports going, oh, shoot?

FREEMAN: The first that you said. Absolutely.

LEMON: That part -- Mike, thank you. I enjoyed reading it. "USA Today," Opinion: Jon Gruden's emails not just an NFL problem. They're symbolic of societal white grievance. Thank you, sir. You be well.

FREEMAN: Thank you.

LEMON: A nonpartisan election official forced out of Trump -- forced out by Trump supporters and replaced by someone who posts election conspiracies. That election official speaks out right here next.




LEMON: Forced out of office. An elections administrator in North Texas resigning after Trump loyalists spent months attempting to remove her from her job. She is now going to be replaced by an elected county clerk who has been promoting conspiracies and allegations of voter fraud, including "stop the steal" and "impeach Biden" memes on her social media.

So, I want to bring in now Michele Carew, the elections administrator for Hood County, Texas. Michelle, I'm so glad you're here. I can't wait to hear what you have to say about this. Thank you for joining us.

You took this job about two months before the presidential election. Since then, you have been bombarded with false accusation and attempts to force you out of your job. Explain to our viewers what is going on.

MICHELE CAREW, ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATOR FOR HOOD COUNTY, TEXAS: Well, hi, Don, and thank you for having me here tonight. Basically, I have been asked this question a lot today and I'm really excited to share this with you.

Basically, what has happened here is I was brought in seven weeks before the biggest election in Hood County history. I was able to get everything put together. It went off without a hitch. We even received a report from the Texas secretary state's inspector saying that I had done everything fairly and accurately. But unfortunately, that wasn't enough for a lot of the people here.

LEMON: Yeah. Your job is to be an independent elections administrator. But you say that when you emphasized to some officials that you are nonpartisan, they actually told you nonpartisan means Democrat.

CAREW: That's correct. That has actually been said in the commissioner's court meeting and taken into minutes.

LEMON: Really? I mean, these are Republicans, Trump supporters going after you, right? Do you think they would be content since, you know, Trump won 81% of the county? What is it about how you go about your job that is so concerning to them?

CAREW: Well, to a lot of them, they don't feel that I am loyal to the Republican Party. As a nonpartisan elections administrator, it's my position to treat everyone the same, and that was frowned upon. They wanted me to do as they say, and I always followed the Texas election code. But to them, that wasn't enough.

LEMON: Can we talk about your replacement, Katie Lang, as the county clerk, right? She made headlines in 2015 after she refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple. As I said earlier, she has been sharing election misinformation online. What do you think of her -- what do you think of her filling your job?

CAREW: Actually, they haven't appointed anybody yet. It's any understanding -- they have posted my job as an elections administrator to be replaced with an elections administrator. I know that there has been talk about abolishing my position and placing it back under Katie. At this time, the county is still looking for an elections administrator.

LEMON: Yeah. You have got over 14 years, more than 14 years of experience overseeing numerous elections.


LEMON: Have you ever seen anything like this?

CAREW: Never. I have never been in this type of predicament ever. This is -- coming in Hood County was an experience I never imagined I was going to have. I mean, when you walk into a low (ph) location and you pull off their biggest election in less than seven weeks, you were able to get everything done, you have glowing reviews from the secretary of state, you're following all of the best practices, you know, any time there was an issue, I would check with the secretary of state for their advice.

Unfortunately, a small group of people here in Hood County feel as though I should not be listening to the secretary of state, that I should be listening to them.

LEMON: What is the danger here if -- if someone in your position felt differently than you and was to be beholden to one particular party?

CAREW: Well, I mean, first off, it's illegal. When we take the elections administrator position, we come in as a nonpartisan. We treat everyone the exact, same whether you're Republican or Democrat, independent. No matter who you are, we treat you the exact, same. So, unfortunately, I don't know honestly how to answer your question other than it is against the law. It's not something that we can do.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, let's hope folks are listening. Michele, thank you so much. Best of luck to you. We appreciate you appearing.

CAREW: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

LEMON: Absolutely. The former president, Barack Obama, getting ready to stump for Democrats in Virginia. The governor's race coming down to one key issue right now. How much control parents have in schools? Stay with us.




LEMON (on camera): Democrats raising the alarm over the tight race for governor in Virginia. And in the closing days of the campaign, the role of government in schools becoming a key issue as voters begin casting their ballots.

More tonight from CNN's Jeff Zeleny.


AMY DODSON, VIRGINIA VOTER: I'm historically an independent voter. I have voted every which way you could vote.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amy Dodson is not defined by political labels.

DODSON: I was not a fan of President Trump. I didn't vote for him and I didn't vote for Biden. But I did vote.

ZELENY (voice-over): That makes her an important wildcard in Virginia, where she cast her vote early this week for one reason above all.

DODSON: What led me to vote for Glenn Youngkin this time around was education.

ZELENY (voice-over): Education is a central issue in the final stretch of the closely-watched Virginia governor's race, where the power of the parent's movement is suddenly front and center.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE).

ZELENY (voice-over): In dueling TV ads --

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Terry McAuliffe putting politics over parents.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Glenn Youngkin will bring Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos's education policy to Virginia.

ZELENY (voice-over): Terry McAuliffe, the state's former Democratic governor, and Glenn Youngkin, a Republican businessman, are locked in a bitter fight over the role of government in schools.

DODSON: My name is Amy Dodson. I have two students at James River High School.

ZELENY (voice-over): During the pandemic last year, Dodson became an unlikely activist, attending school board meetings for the first time, arguing students should be in the classroom, not learning virtually.

DODSON: By myself, I felt very powerless. As a collective group, your voice is stronger and holds more power that we never had before as just an individual parent lining up to speak at a school board meeting.

ZELENY (voice-over): The power of that collective voice is alarming some Democrats like Michael Karabinos --


ZELENY (voice-over): -- who has also been attending school board meetings to provide a counterbalance.

KARABINOS: They're doing a good job of stirring up at anger and emotion. When it comes down to actually walking into the voting booth, that there are enough of us who are able to look at the science, look at education with a level head, and look at this race with a level head. We don't need somebody as extreme as Youngkin in the governor's mansion.

ZELENY (voice-over): As early voting is well underway, that view is being tested here in Chesterfield County, a sprawling suburban stretch of Central Virginia, just below Richmond.

UNKNOWN: Thank you. You do the same.

ZELENY (voice-over): The longtime GOP stronghold has gone Democratic in recent elections. This race could signal whether Republicans are resurgent with Trump on voter's minds, but not on the ballot. Renae Schumann cast her ballot early today, saying it's still a vote against Trump.

RENAE SCHUMANN, VIRGINIA VOTER: If you are not actively against him, I feel like you're for him. And I in no way feel that Youngkin showed or has stated that he is firmly against him.

ZELENY (voice-over): But Amy Dodson says many voters also see this contest as a check on full democratic control.

DODSON: I always like to see a little bit of blend. You know, I don't like any party to roll through without having any sort of challenges.


LEMON (on camera): And joining me now is Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, good evening to you. This parent's movement seems like it's playing a big role there in Virginia. Is this the key issue for the race right now?

ZELENY: Don, it's certainly is one of the driving issues with three weeks remaining in this very close contest. I mean, certainly, there is anger at the government from some parents over the mask mandates, but there is also, you know, anger on the other side at these parents who have been standing up to this.

So, it's unclear how this is going to turn out. But there definitely is a driving sense throughout this parent's movement, if you will, that's animating the final chapter of this race, unlike most political races we have seen.


LEMON: Yeah. How nervous are Democrats? This is three weeks before the election, Jeff, election night.

ZELENY: Don, significantly. Three weeks from tonight will be election night and they really are sending in everyone. We learned earlier today that former president, Barack Obama, will be coming to Richmond, Virginia. In about a week and a half or so, first lady Jill Biden coming. A lot of other surrogates.

Democrats are very worried about this. They thought Virginia was a solidly blue state. They're learning that may not be the case at all. Of course, Chair McAuliffe has been around a long time. Glenn Youngkin, the outside, the newcomer, is really catching on here. So, the next three weeks are very critical, at least in the eyes of Democrats, Don.

LEMON: Jeff Zeleny joining us from Virginia. Jeff, thank you very much. I appreciate it. And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.