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Don Lemon Tonight

Rep. Bennie Thompson Not Mincing Words; Liz Cheney Hopes To Shake The GOP; President Biden Met With Party Members; Thomas Jefferson Is Out. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired October 19, 2021 - 22:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): All right, thank you for watching. Is it now time for DON LEMON TONIGHT with its big star, D. Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: OK, the expectation of this committee is that all witnesses will cooperate with our investigation. Witnesses who have been subpoenaed have a legal obligation to do so, and then it goes on to say our goal is simple. We want Mr. Bannon to answer our questions. We want him to turn over whatever records he possesses that are relevant to the select committee's investigation. The issue in front of us today is our ability to do our job.

Finally, there seems to be some urgency in Washington regarding the subversion of justice, people trying to flout the law and subpoenas. And we need that urgency when it comes to getting something done, a deal on infrastructure, and especially voting rights. Where is the lie? Am I wrong?

CUOMO: Well, I agree with that. I don't know where the January 6 committee gets you in terms of what I believe the Hill was to die on for Democrats, which is putting voting rights into a place that they're safe based on what's happening across the country right now. But it's up to them what they decided to do. They're trying to get the spending bill and infrastructure bill done. We'll see how it takes them.

But the part of that document that matters most is the resolution creating the committee, --


CUOMO: -- which says you want to find the facts and then you want to find ways to make this not happen again. So, the media --

LEMON: Resolution 503.

CUOMO: And the reason for that is you can't argue effectively that they don't have a legislative purpose in asking for these documents and to hear about these conversations. So, doing that to beat the subpoena overbroad, there is no legitimate legislative purpose, I don't see how that wins.


CUOMO: The idea of privilege for Bannon, I don't -- first of all, it hasn't been asserted. I had one of the lawyers on tonight arguing it. Not a cogent case.


CUOMO: But the bigger question, Don, you got nothing to hide. Why not come and present to the committee, or at least if you want to show contempt for the committee, show up and plead the fifth.

LEMON: Because you want to, you know, -- it used to be Republicans would say no man is above the law. No one is above the law. We should all be treated equally. Law and order until this fellow, this sort of shady real estate kind of person came along, and then changed all of that, the narrative for the Republican Party and showed that well, some people are above the law, and that they're actually are going to stand and are standing behind the right they believe for people to be above the law.

And Steve Bannon is not. The former president is not, or should not be. But we haven't really seen that Republicans stand by that whole law and order mantra or motto that they say.


CUOMO: You haven't seen the Republicans stand up for anything. You had one guy from Nebraska.

LEMON: True that.

CUOMO: In a district that Biden won said that Trump talking about Colin Powell was graceless, which is about the most generous assessment that you can give about what he said, disparaging that man right after he died.

LEMON: Can you believe that?


CUOMO: Of course, you can.

LEMON: Of course, you can.

CUOMO: But what should be disgusting to people is not Trump. That's what he is. It's that other people are OK with it with their silence in a party that used to be about character counting.

LEMON: Well, that's what -- Chris, I'm just going let folks in on little, not even a secret, but just behind the scenes weapons. We talked about this on our taping of the Handoff this afternoon about how it is. It's mostly the people who are making excuses and are just not saying anything that that's the problem. That's the issue when it comes to -- CUOMO: All it takes for evil to succeed.

LEMON: Is for good men to do nothing or to say nothing, which is what's happening now. But I'm not sure that people are such good men and women when they're standing by and our democracy is being threatened and people are running roughshod over the republic and --


CUOMO: The rule is simple.

LEMON: -- its laws and institutions.

CUOMO: Don Lemon is a good man because he is what he does.


CUOMO: Chris Cuomo is a fraud man because he is what he does. We are what we do. And that's how the members of Congress are going to be measured. And I'm not one to pump the handoff podcast the way Don does. But I will tell you something. If you listen to the new version of the podcast, you will learn something about --


LEMON: Do not.

CUOMO: -- one of us. I'm not going to.


CUOMO: But you will learn something about one of us that you will appreciate more than I can adequately express.

LEMON: Something that everybody gets wrong about me.

CUOMO: But it is so right. You will be so happy that you listened to this episode of the Handoff. I've never pumped the handoff before.

LEMON: All right.

CUOMO: I'm telling you, this is worth it.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, Carmen.

CUOMO: Don't play. Don't play, D. Lemon. I love you.


LEMON: I love you. I'll see you. I got to get to the breaking news. I'll see you. I'll see you later.


And as we started talking with the committee and what the chairman Bennie Thompson is saying in his opening statements -- in his statements tonight, this committee that's investigating the January 6 assault on the capitol taking action tonight. Urgency, finally.

Every single member, Republicans, Democrats voting to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for ignoring their subpoena. The chairman Bennie Thompson with a warning for anyone else who just might try to defy the committee.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Maybe he's willing to be a martyr to a disgraceful cause of whitewashing what happened on January 6 by demonstrating his complete loyalty to the former president. So, I want our witnesses to understand something very plainly. If you're thinking of following the path Mr. Bannon has gone down, you are on notice that this is what you'll face.


LEMON (on camera): The vice chair Liz Cheney who lost her leadership position in the GOP for taking a stand against the former president is saying the privilege argument suggests that Trump was personally involved in planning what happened at the capitol.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Mr. Bannon's and Mr. Trump's privilege arguments do, however, appear to reveal one thing. They suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6, and this committee will get to the bottom of that.


LEMON (on camera): Let me just say this about Liz Cheney. You may not agree with her politics and whatever it is, but what she's doing I think is pretty heroic. Even I was watching, I've been watching. Wow. She even looks lighter, like there is a load lifted off of her shoulder.

Look at her. She looks great. I don't mean that in a sexist way. You know when people finally make a decision to do something, they do the right thing, that's what Liz Cheney looks like. Hey Republicans, that's what freedom looks like.

So, make no mistake. This is not just about Steve Bannon. This is about -- this is really much bigger than that. This is about an attempt to overthrow the cornerstone of our democracy, our free and fair election. An attempted coup is what it's about. And this is about what may be really the last chance for Congress to hold anybody accountable.

So, let's discuss now and talk about what is going on and if there is enough urgency and all of the questions about what is happening. There you see him on your screen right there. And if you're listening on Sirius, you're about to hear his voice.

Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland who is a member of the committee. Representative Raskin, I appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Thanks for having me, Don.

LEMON: Your committee is voting, voting unanimously. They moved ahead. The full House is going to vote on contempt charges on Thursday. It's a rare and serious step. So, talk to me about what is at stake here?

RASKIN: It's blatant contempt of the Congress. We had a subpoena for him to turn over all of his documents on the 7th, and then to come and testify on the 14th. And he literally just blew us off.

You know, very few Americans would do that. The vast majority of people we've subpoenaed or approach have had come in and testified. Very few people would think in such a sneering and derisive and contemptuous way of governmental process like that. But he did. And it's a crime in the district of Columbia punishable by up to 12 months in jail for doing that.

Now he could come in and say, answering specific questions, I plead the fifth amendment. I might incriminate myself if I answer that. You know, there is a privilege against self-incrimination. We can protect you from that by extending to you use immunity, meaning you can testify and nothing that you say can be used against you in a prosecution.

But you don't have the right to decide you're just not going to show up. La-di-da. And you know, these vague implications of executive privilege are just a joke. He didn't even work for the executive branch. He was fired by Donald Trump in August of 2015. These events took place in January of 2021.

And, I mean, the president doesn't even have executive privilege about it because they're claiming that the president really had nothing to do with it, so if he knows anything about it, it was obviously a crime and not any kind of communication about official presidential business.

LEMON: Let me --


RASKIN: But in any event, Steve Bannon is on another galaxy. He's got nothing to do with executive privilege.

LEMON: Let me ask you this, because you mentioned it. You said listen, I'm not sure this is up to your purview, but here -- this is what I want to ask. An individual who is found liable for contempt of Congress would be guilty of a crime that may result in a fine and between 1 and 12 months in prison. OK.

So, usually it doesn't involve prison, but it could. Now are you willing to go that far? And are you willing to make an example of Steve Bannon to anybody else who says, yes, subpoena, I don't -- I don't care. RASKIN: Well, luckily that's not our call. That's what the separation

of powers is about. What we've done is we've referred him for contempt to the U.S. attorney given all the evidence of our interactions and our attempts to get him to come in. And all of that --


LEMON: But you could certainly suggest to the U.S. attorney that, you know, as you are making your case, or whoever is making your case for you, --


LEMON: -- that you would like to see him held to the fullest extent of the law that is not outside of your purview to do that. It's up to the U.S. attorney to decide what happens.

RASKIN: Yes. And then the U.S. attorney brings to it the grand jury.

LEMON: Right.

RASKIN: The grand jury indicts, and then it goes to court.

LEMON: Right. Right.

RASKIN: And the prosecutor has to make a recommendation. Assuming he is found guilty, of course he has every right to due process. But if he is found guilty of what I think he is blatantly guilty of, then the prosecutor makes a recommendation, and there are certain sentencing guidelines and precedents and so on that the court will look at.

And look, the point is not to make him suffer. The point is to get people to testify. I mean, it is a criminal statute that exists for deterrent purposes and for the purposes of making sure that everybody obeys the law.

LEMON: Yes. Yes, but if you don't follow the law, then one must, whatever ramifications in that, that is suffering in some sense. I get your point, though.


LEMON: Listen, but, you know, I just mentioned Liz Cheney and how I think what she is doing is, she is really being a stand-up person doing this. And it takes, you know, it takes a backbone to do and conviction and morals to do what she is doing.


LEMON: So, she is the vice chair. She is making the point that Bannon and Trump's claims of privilege show Trump was personally involved in the planning of the execution of January 6. So, talk to me about that. Do you have specifics as to why the committee thinks Trump was personally involved, representative?

RASKIN: Well, of course the whole impeachment trial demonstrated that he incited violent insurrection against the union, but we're looking for further evidence that he helped to organize it. I mean, we know that he was mobilizing people from all over the country to come to that third ring, as we call it. The outer ring was the ring of the demonstration that turned into a riot.

The middle ring was the insurrectionists, the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the three percenters, the Aryan Nations, the militia men, the QAnon followers, and the very

And inner ring was the ring of the coup. And it's a funny word in American context because we think of coups taking place against presidents. But this was a coup organized by the president against the vice president and against the Congress.

But the effort there was to get them to reject electoral College votes in a completely unlawful and unprecedented way in order to lower Biden's total below to 70, kick it into contingent election in the House where the GOP had 27 state electoral -- 27 state votes. And I don't think Liz Cheney representing Wyoming would have voted for him, but he would have still had a majority of 26. And that was -- that was the political coup that was the at the inside of all this violence and all this insurrection.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, as taking a play right out of the Trump playbook, and that is litigation, right? That's what Donald Trump uses to drag things out. Bannon is doing the same. He knows that this legal fight could take years. He wants to drag this out. And Bannon in the --


RASKIN: He thinks it's going to take years, yes.


RASKIN: But I don't think it will. I think this can happen very quickly. Remember, all that's been used so far is criminal contempt. But there is also civil contempt that's very much out there. And then the inherent contempt powers that Congress continues to have. And Donald Trump just sued us. So that creates yet another opportunity for us to get at Trump's team.

LEMON: So, you don't think that he could drag this out until Congress turns over possibly and becomes Republican -- Republican majority?


RASKIN: No way. No way. Because remember -- no. I mean, they're thinking about the McGahn litigation, but McGahn had a president who was on his side who was trying to exert executive privilege. Donald Trump didn't come to Steve Bannon's aid. He didn't contact our committee to assert executive privilege. We haven't heard a peep out of Donald Trump about trying to, you know, assert executive privilege on behalf of Steve Bannon to stop that.

And in any event, he's not president. And we have a real attorney general, not an attorney general who is just a sycophant to the president making political judgment. So, I think that that was, you know, an absolutely freakish sequence of events that led to three and a half years for McGahn. I think we're going to be able to get a ruling much, much quicker than that.


LEMON: OK. You know, I don't know if you saw Chris at Dan Scavino's representative attorney on tonight. And so, my question is Representative Adam Schiff saying that he doesn't know if Mark Meadows, Trump's former chief of staff is acting in good faith when it comes to engagement with the committee.

Are Meadows along with Kash Patel and Dan Scavino, this is why I mentioned his attorneys on, are they cooperating? And what can you tell us about these conversations, if anything?

RASKIN: Well, I'm not involved in the day to day negotiations with these people, but the lawyers have told us that they are engaging with the committee. So, they are in an explorative deliberations and discussions with them about what they will turn over and when they will testify. Something that Steve Bannon never did.

But the point at which it's clear that they're just playing games or they don't intend to participate, again, we will go back to the full panoply of sanctions we have for people who are disobeying a subpoena of the U.S. Congress. It has the same authority as a subpoena from a court.

LEMON: Yes. I had so much I wanted to ask you just to make sure before I move on. So, there is no contingency plan in this investigation to drag out if Republicans take over the House in 2022. Right?

RASKIN: No. We're moving as quickly as possible.


RASKIN: We already have tons of information. I mean, we want as complete a picture as possible. But we owe the American people a complete and comprehensive report under our authorizing resolution about what happened on January 6 and what were the different lines of attack coming against the U.S. Congress, what was the attempt to overthrow the election, what was the attempt to activate different parts of the government to act in league with the insurrection, and what do we need to do to prevent this from happening again.

And we're talking about the survival of the world's oldest modern democracy. And the democracy upon which we used to -- at least used to think the rest of the world depended on. As a Democratic leader, I like to think we will be a leader for democracy and human rights and freedom around the world again.

LEMON: If I can get to, I want to get back to Liz Cheney. I mentioned her earlier. Look, she is appealing directly to her Republican colleagues, saying this. Watch this.


CHENEY: Almost every one of my colleagues knows in your hearts that what happened on January 6 was profoundly wrong. You all know that there is no evidence of widespread election fraud sufficient to have changed the results of the election. You all know that the Dominion voting machines were not corrupted by a foreign power. You know these claims are false.

I ask my colleagues please consider the fundamental questions of right and wrong here. The American people must know what happened. They must know the truth. All of us who are elected officials must do our duty to prevent the dismantling of the rule of law and to ensure that nothing like that dark day in January ever happens again.


LEMON (on camera): Are any of her colleagues willing to go along with what she is saying, which is the truth? Any of the Republicans? Because this is going to go for a full House vote on Thursday. Do you think the Republicans are going to vote against it? Do you think Liz Cheney may have changed some minds?

RASKIN: I know we got at least two votes. We've got Liz's vote and we got Adam Kinzinger's vote. We had 10 votes in the House to impeach Donald Trump and we had more than three times as many for the original bipartisan commission that was unfortunately blocked by Republican leaders in the House and the Senate.

That was a beautiful moving, stirring speech. I told Liz afterwards, and it is a question of basic political morality and ethics. You know, I think anybody who has not really drunk the Kool-Aid here understands that Trump's big lie is completely contrary to the facts.

I mean, Joe Biden beat him by more than seven million votes, 306 to 232 in the Electoral College and 61 different federal and state court case brought by Donald Trump refuted all of his claims of electoral corruption and electoral fraud.

So, we have a meticulous documentary record across the country how all of those things are lies. And as you know, Don, even when they concocted that project in Arizona, their own people came back and said Joe Biden even got a few more votes than originally, we thought to begin with.

So, we've got to -- we have to put this to rest. The election is over. It's a major threat to American constitutional democracy to have an entire political party challenging a valid authentic election result for months and years after the election is over. How can we survive as a democracy with that kind of derangement and electoral lunacy?


LEMON: The most secure election in our nation's history, by the way. Congressman Raskin, thank you. I appreciate your time. Good luck.

RASKIN: All right. I very much appreciate you're doing this. Bye-bye. LEMON: The full House votes on Thursday on the contempt of Congress

resolution for Steve Bannon. What does the attorney general Merrick Garland do now?


THOMPSON: Mr. Bannon stands alone in his complete defiance of our subpoena. That's not acceptable. No one in this country, no matter how wealthy or how powerful is above the law.



LEMON (on camera): We're back now with our breaking news. The House select committee voting to find Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt for defying their subpoena. So, does this move tonight get the committee closer to the answers they need?

Joining me now to discuss CNN senior law enforcement analyst and the former FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe. Andrew, good evening, sir. I appreciate you joining.

The committee is making it clear tonight that they are not messing around. What message are they sending?


ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Don, that is by far the most important thing that they're doing right now, which is sending a very clear message to all of the other potential witnesses that might be subpoenaed to come before the committee.

I think the committee knows that this saga with Bannon could very well drag out for a long time, and at the end of the saga it's possible that, you know, if he's -- if the Justice Department decides to proceed with the referral and he is charged and he goes to trial and he is convicted and he is sentenced to some period of time, he could just serve that sentence and never provide any information to the committee.

So, they know that. But what they want to be clear to every other witness is that unless you want to get entangled in a criminal prosecution, you better full well comply with this lawful subpoena.

LEMON: OK. Let's good through the process, all right, and what happens next. The full House votes on Thursday. Then the case goes to the DOJ. So, Andrew, take us through the decision that Eric Garland has to make.

MCCABE: Sure. So, the full House votes. Then the speaker would certify that result, assuming the vote passes. And then it's delivered to the U.S. attorney for the district of Columbia who is required by law to present to it a grand jury.

But really, Merrick Garland, the attorney general has to decide whether or not DOJ is going to actually pursue that prosecution. This is a huge, huge decision for him to make. I think most observers believe that he really doesn't have much of a choice here.

If Garland decides not to pursue the referral, he is basically cutting the legs out from under the committee. He is basically saying that Congress has no ability to enforce compliance with their subpoenas, and that would be a very, very, very bad thing, a bad thing for all of congressional oversight efforts. So, I fully expect that Garland will pursue the criminal referral.

LEMON: I think I said Eric Garland. I meant Merrick Garland. But everyone knows that. I got the Garland part right.

MCCABE: There you go.

LEMON: So, listen, Representative Cheney is zeroing in on Bannon's actions, in particular on January 5th, right, in a war room organized at the Willard InterContinental Washington, D.C. hotel. And public statements made the very same day. This is what he said.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It's not going to happen like you think it's going to happen. OK? It's going to be quite extraordinarily different. And all I can say is strap in. The war room a posse. You have made this happen, and tomorrow it's game day. So, strap in.


LEMON (on camera): OK. I mean, wow, Andrew. Cheney saying Bannon appears to have had advance knowledge. Look, it sounds pretty right on to me. Advanced knowledge of January 6, the plans there. And likely an important role in formulating those plans. But can they compel him to cooperate?

MCCABE: They can. They can. They can by going through the process they're going through right now. Look, he has a few pretty clear exit ramps from this, right? He could comply with the subpoena. He could come in front of the committee, and he could invoke his fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination and never say a single word, and there is nothing they could do about that.

He can fight them in this process. He can go to trial. He can try to beat them at trial. He can appeal a negative verdict. So, he can delay this and really bind them up and try to run out the clock. But at the end of the day, he can't just ignore it. He's painted himself into a corner with those words that he used on January 5th, and they have every legitimate right to find out what he meant by when he said those things.

LEMON: When you hear that, what does it sound like to you?

MCCABE: You know, it sounds very much, Don, like a guy who knew what was going to happen the next day. I mean, that is undeniable from those statements. And it's certainly relevant for the committee to want to sit in front of him and say, OK, what did you mean when you said that?

And then they're going want to look at his documents, the communications that he has exchanged with other people in the lead up to January 5th and January 6 to see if there are other statement there that indicate that he knew it was going to happen or that maybe he planned what was going to happen with others. So, he is definitely a very relevant witness.

LEMON: So, the former president is suing to stop the National Archives from handing over documents to the committee. But the judge assigned to the case, Judge Tanya Chutkin has spoken out against January 6 defendants and handed down some really harsh sentences. Could this move through the legal system faster than people are anticipating?

MCCABE: Well, it could certainly move faster than many similar cases did under the Trump administration. You'll remember that, you know, I'll take for one example the effort to subpoena Don McGahn to appear in front of the house committee investigating the impeachments.


I mean, it took over two years for McGahn to finally show up in front of the committee. So, I'm hoping that this suit could be dispatched in much shorter time, but, you know, the former president is certainly going to go back into his bag of tricks and try to run out the clock. It worked for him in the past, and it may very well work for him here.

LEMON: Andrew McCabe, thank you, sir. I appreciate it. Be well.

MCCABE: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: So, they're cutting and slashing, slashing, cutting. Finally, though, it seems like there is some progress. Let's see. Democrats finally negotiating on their big economic bill -- bills, and it means major concessions for President Biden. We're going tell you what they are, what they're leaving in, what they're taking out. That's next.



LEMON (on camera): So breaking news. President Biden making major concessions, trying to cut a deal on his social spending package. Will it be enough to get this bill over the finish line?

Our chief White House correspondent is Kaitlan Collins, and she is following all the developments for us. You see her there at the White House late this evening.

So, you know, she's got news and something is working. Kaitlan, I just got handed a note about what you are about to tell us now about the president being possibly close to a deal, but he is making some major concessions. What do you know? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Don, so

the president had this marathon of meetings today with lawmakers, starting with those two holdouts, of course, Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema this morning. Then this afternoon he had very long meetings with progressives and with moderates separately here at the White House to talk about where they're going to end up on this deal.

And we are told that during those talks today the president talked about a new price tag that we have not really heard before. It is something that had been floated privately at the White House. But it's a new price tag about $1.75 trillion to $1.9 million. Of course, that is something that the White House still believes is a number where they can still get their priorities in that reconciliation package if that is the price tag.

But it is very much different than what we had initially heard progressives talking about, which is of course that $3.5 trillion that the White House had initially proposed, though, of course, it became kind of clear that it was going to have to come down from that because people like Senator Manchin, Don, were saying no, it needed to be closer to $1.5 trillion.

So, this is definitely closer to his neighborhood than it is to the $3.5 trillion. Though we should note the price tag is not final. We have not seen any kind of agreement coming out of the White House yet, though that's a big one. And I think, Don, what that question raises is, what's going to be cut and what's going to be scaled back if that is the new number.

And we know today that during these meetings, President Biden did say he doesn't think that they are going to get the two years of free community college in this. That had been a major White House priority, and certainly a priority of his and one that he has been touting. But now it seems unlikely that's going to be in here.

The other thing, Don, the child tax credit that is something the White House and Democrats wanted to extend for several years. Based on the talks today, it sounds like it's going to be closer to just one year of an extension, though we should note there are some things that progressives kept in here that they wanted that includes that Medicare expansion that they really that, people like Senator Bernie Sanders, the budget chairman had been pushing for.

Those things still seem to be in here which note, none of this is final. This is just where the discussions were today. But it is giving you an idea of how these talks are going and what's going to make it and what may not make it.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, I'm going to speak with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal a little bit later only in the program in the next hour. But what I want to ask you is, you know, you said the two years of college probably not going to make it. It is still unclear how Democrats are going to resolve the climate change issues, but if the rest of the bill is any indication, do you think Manchin is ultimately going to get his way, Kaitlan? COLLINS: Well, he could when it comes to part of the climate

provisions. Now there have been moderate Democrats who said we don't want to scale back the climate change aspect of this, because that is really important to us.

But we know Senator Manchin, of course, is in a very different position. He comes from West Virginia. Coal is obviously a top priority for him. And so, when looking at what this is going to look like, he is someone who has been on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to what exactly these provisions should look like.

And of course one big one that has been floated in recent days after Manchin expressed opposition to a key -- a critical climate change program that would good in here was the carbon tax. That is something that Senate Democrats were floating. But Senator Manchin said today that he -- that is not even on the board for him. That they are not discussing that at all.

We know that other senators had put that forward. And so, I think ultimately you can see this look a lot closer to what Senator Manchin wants it to look like when it comes to the climate provisions. It's not going to be this progressive or as aggressive I guess I should note, as what the progressive members had wanted initially when they were laying this out.


COLLINS: But I still think there is a lot of disagreement and debate over what exactly the climate provisions will be. And so that kind of remains to be seen right now.

Meanwhile, in the immediate future, though, the president is going to Scranton, Pennsylvania tomorrow to sell this bill, Kaitlan. But, again, as you said, it is far from finalized.

COLLINS: Right. And so that's what makes that job difficult. I'm going with the president tomorrow to Scranton, Pennsylvania, of course, a place that is very dear to him. But this has been the struggle for the White House, which is that they want to be out there selling this bill because you have seen polling that shows people don't really see how it would affect them.

They're not really sure their lives would be better off if these two bills actually got passed. And so, the White House is trying to work to combat that by having the president on the road selling it. But the issue is they don't exactly know what's going to be in this bill.


And so, we got an indication last week that those two free years of community college might go by the wayside because the president said he may not get it in there this time. That is something, Don, that he has touted time and time again on the campaign trail and on the road of course now that he has been in the White House and laid out these proposals. And now it seems like it may not make it into this bill which is very

significant because that is such a priority for the president. And so, I think that gives you a sense of just how much the White House wants to come to an agreement here, not just when he is on the road in Scranton, but also when he goes to a major climate summit at the end of next week.

They want the have the climate provisions that we were just talking about figured out by then, and they're not there yet. Though they're hoping to get there at least by the end of next week.

LEMON: Kaitlan Collins at the White House, late this evening. Reporting to us live.

COLLINS: Always.

LEMON: Thank you, Kaitlan. I appreciate it.

COLLINS: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: A CNN exclusive. President Joe Biden takes questions from the American people. Anderson Cooper is going to moderate a CNN presidential town hall with Joe Biden. It begins Thursday night right here on CNN, eight o'clock.

Another statue down. This time Thomas Jefferson is out, out of the New York City Council chambers. Is that just what happens when history goes up against the test of time?



LEMON (on camera): In a unanimous vote, a commission overseeing New York City's Public Art has voted to remove and relocate a statue of Thomas Jefferson. The move requested by members of the city council's black, Latino, and Asian caucus.

Caucus members say that the representation of the slave-owning founder makes them deeply uncomfortable and is inappropriate. So, what about other statues of Jefferson and other founders across the country?

So, let's discuss now. Michael Higginbotham is here, professor of constitutional law at the University of Baltimore and the author of "Ghosts of Jim Crow." And CNN political contributor Scott Jennings joins us as well.

Good evening, gentlemen, to you.

Professor, let me start with you. What do you think? Does the statue, does the Jefferson statue removal go too far? Do you think it's just the beginning for how the country locks at statues of the U.S. founding fathers?

MICHAEL HIGGINBOTHAM, PROFESSOR OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE SCHOOL OF LAW: I think it goes too far. Certainly, Jefferson had a place in our history. But I don't believe he should have a place in the highest order. And public statues are such places.

I'm not surprised that we're having this debate in a society where we have a history of racial discrimination and oppression, and we've now said we want to prevent that. It's not surprising that people are reevaluating their heroes. But in this reevaluation process, it's got to be more sophisticated.

Former President Trump said all the founders are the same. They all supported slavery. And that's just not true. Some founders supported it. Some founders did not. Some founders owned slaves. Some did not. And so today, we have to be more sophisticated in our evaluation.

There are founders that opposed slavery publicly like George White, a friend of Thomas Jefferson's, and he should be in a position of highest public respect, have a statue. Thomas Jefferson, I don't think should.

LEMON: What do you think, Scott? Has this gone too far?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. I mean, I can't believe we have to sit here and defend the literal author of the Declaration of Independence from these attacks. I mean, they told us at the beginning of this statue madness that it was just the confederates. And then we've seen Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, noted confederates Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.

I mean, it's statue after statue. And the issue is not slavery, with all due respect to the professor. The issue, in my opinion, is gutting the founding principles and the pillars of this country. Because if you can tear out root and branch the pillars and the foundation on which this great country was founded and the great people who built I along the way, then you can really change it into anything you want and something that they did not intend it to be.

The Declaration of Independence was one of the greatest leaps forward in human history, and we're sitting here talking about how Thomas Jefferson deserves a place, but not a big place. Give me a break.

LEMON: Professor?

HIGGINBOTHAM: Well, it's certainly not an attack. It's not an attack on our history. It's an attack about lies and distortion. What we need to do is tell the truth, and that's a problem that we haven't done for many, many years.

There is a lot of lies in our history. One of the biggest lies is that the Civil War was about states' rights. It was not. It was about the state right to have slavery. There is another lie that we tell about these confederate statutes -- statues. They weren't put up to honor military service.

They were put up in defiance of segregation of the Supreme Court rules that segregation was wrong. And so, we've got to stop telling these lies. We've got to tell the truth. And the truth will set us all free.

LEMON: Yes. HIGGINBOTHAM: This is what I think we need to do. It's not an attack on our history. We are attacking the distortions, the half-truths that have been told for so many years.

LEMON: And they're moving it to a place, I think they're moving it to a museum where they can have a conversation about Jefferson's role in the history of this country. Instead of the history --


HIGGINBOTHAM: And that's where it belongs.

LEMON: -- moving to the historical society. But listen, in the council chamber, it will get much more discussion at least in the new place because more people will see it rather than just people coming into the council chamber.

Don't go away. We'll be right back. We're going to continue this discussion.



LEMON (on camera): All right. Back with me now Michael Higginbotham and Scott Jennings. So, Scott, as I mentioned before the break, so the Jefferson statue isn't being destroyed. Why is having statues moved to educational sites or museums going overboard?

JENNINGS: Well, if you read the commentary of the people who are moving it, they're not moving it to have more conversation about Thomas Jefferson. They're not moving it to do something good here. In fact, one of the people that has been trying to remove it for 20 years said in the paper tonight he wishes it would be destroyed.

And so, let's not make a mistake about why it's being done. You have people who want to get rid of this thing. They want to send a signal to their political supporters that, hey, we are standing up for what you believe in by getting rid of the founding fathers and everything else. And I just don't think it's right.


The professor, by the way, made some points about the Civil War statues. The confederacy statues that you know I agree with. I don't like the romanticization (Ph) of it. I don't like the lionization of Lee at the expense of Lincoln and Grant and Sheridan and Sherman and others.

But what I don't like is using the confederate statue argument as the gateway drug to get rid of everything else. And in New York City we had Teddy Roosevelt come down already, which I was very unhappy about, and now Thomas Jefferson supposedly being moved supposedly to a different site. We'll see where it winds up.

LEMON: I want to -- (CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: And I just think there is something deeper at work here.

LEMON: All right. I have a short time so I want to get the professor in. Professor, last word, please. A short time here.

HIGGINBOTHAM: Well, as Scott mentioned, Jefferson has made some significant contributions, but in looking and evaluating the whole person, we have to consider not only the contributions he made but also his lack of standing up for morality. The moral debate at the time over slavery, and he dropped the ball on that. Even he acknowledged it when he said, I fear, I tremble for my country when I know that God is just. When he was talking about slavery.

So, he knew it was morally wrong, yet he didn't do anything about it. People like George White, the founding father, friend of Jefferson, he did something about it. He stood up publicly against it. Those are individuals that belong in the highest pedestal.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

Up next, contempt of Congress. Contempt of congress. A big announcement from the January 6th committee.

Plus, President Biden making huge concessions as he negotiates within his own party. I'm going to speak with the head of the progressive caucus right after this.