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Don Lemon Tonight

Jury Deliberations In Rittenhouse Trial Begin In Hour; Steve Bannon Released From Custody Pending Trial On Contempt Of Congress Charges; Biden Signs Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Into Law; Biden Met With Xi Jinping; Ahmaud Arbery's Murder Trial. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired November 15, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. As you can see, we are finally back in our studio after almost two years. We are happy to be here. But there is still a lot -- we have a long way to go as it comes to COVID. We will continue to follow the protocols, but we are back in studio and happy about it. Good to see all of you, guys. You, guys, okay?

CROWD (voice-over): Yeah!

LEMON (on camera): All the guys in the studio? I'm used to working alone. Me and the camera. I am so glad that you could join us this evening. We have got new developments on multiple big stories. We are going to take you first to Kenosha. That is where we are just hours away from the beginning of jury deliberations in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial after a dramatic day that comes down to this. Was what Kyle Rittenhouse did, shooting and killing two men, wounding another, was it self-defense?


THOMAS BINGER, KENOSHA COUNTY ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: You cannot hide behind self-defense if you provoked the incident. If you created the danger, you forfeit the right to self-defense.


LEMON (on camera): Did he have the right to use deadly force?


MARK RICHARDS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Every person who is shot was attacking Kyle. One with a skateboard, one with his hands, one with his feet, one with a gun. Hands and feet can cause great bodily harm.


LEMON (on camera): That was just a little bit of a snippet of what happened today. In just a minute, we are going to walk through that self-defense claim. We ae going to do it point by point. In the meantime, Steve Bannon turns himself in on contempt of Congress charges for refusing to tell the January 6th Committee what he knows about one of the darkest days in our history, the insurrection at our Capitol.

And then there is infrastructure. Finally, this is really infrastructure week. Finally, signed into law by President Joe Biden Today. We got all that this hour. There is a lot going on. But I want to start with CNN's Omar Jimenez. He is in Kenosha with the very latest on the Rittenhouse trial.


BINGER: In this entire sequence of events from the shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday, August 23rd, 2020, all the way after that, everything this community went through, the only person who shot and killed anyone was the defendant.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After about two weeks, the prosecution and the defense of Kyle Rittenhouse had one last chance to leave an impression on the jury.

BINGER: You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): At one point during closing arguments, the prosecution even demonstrates a moment where they say Rittenhouse pointed his weapon prior to the fateful chase that ended in the killing of Joseph Rosenbaum, even pointing out that in the aftermath, people believed Rittenhouse could have been an active shooter and that the crowd had a right to defend itself that night.

BINGER: How are we supposed to know where he is going next? And I got to stop here for a moment and highlight the hypocrisy of the defense, because according to the defense, if someone has a gun, they are a threat. If someone points a gun, they are a threat. There is only one exception to that. The defendant.

By their logic, he gets to run around with a gun all night. But, oh, we are not supposed to take him as a threat. It doesn't work that way. There is no exception in the law for Kyle Rittenhouse.

RICHARDS: Garbage, just like his case.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): The defense doubled down on its argument this was self-defense.

RICHARDS: The state wants to call my client an active shooter. Kyle was not an active shooter. That is a buzzword that the state wants to lash on to because it excuses the actions of that mob. He runs two blocks from 63rd to 61st without firing his weapon.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Attorney Mark Richards argues Kyle Rittenhouse did what he did because he had to, especially in regards to Joseph Rosenbaum, the first of the two killed that night.

RICHARDS: Kyle shot Joseph Rosenbaum to stop a threat to his person. And I am glad he shot him, because if Joseph Rosenbaum had got that gun, I don't for a minute believe he wouldn't have used it against somebody else. He was irrational and crazy. My client didn't shoot at anyone until he was chased and cornered.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): But during rebuttal, the prosecution argued there were plenty of steps Rittenhouse could have taken before shooting Rosenbaum.

JAMES KRAUS, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, KENOSHA COUNTY, WISCONSIN: No one is saying that Mr. Rosenbaum should have chased Mr. Rittenhouse. No one is saying that Mr. Rittenhouse did not have a right to defend himself. This case is about the right to use deadly force. Hit him, kick him, knee him, anything else. And Mr. Rosenbaum and Mr. Rittenhouse are alive.


JIMENEZ (voice-over): In total, Rittenhouse faced six charges until the misdemeanor of a minor in possession of a weapon was dismissed earlier in the day, over the gun not being long enough under Wisconsin statutes to be considered illegal in the hands of a minor.

But Rittenhouse still faces five felony charges, all of which he pleaded not guilty to. The most serious comes from the shooting and killing of Anthony Huber, second of two people killed that night. Rittenhouse faces first-degree intentional homicide.

But the lesser offenses of second-degree intentional homicide or first-degree reckless homicide could also be considered. Those offenses could be considered if the jury is not satisfied of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt on the original charge.

In regards to the shooting of Gaige Grosskreutz, who survived after being shot, Rittenhouse is charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide with the use of a dangerous weapon. The judge said the jury could consider the lesser offenses of attempted second- degree intentional homicide and first-degree recklessly endangering safety.

On top of those two charges, he also faces two counts of recklessly endangering safety tied to the shootings either at or near two people who are not killed and first-degree reckless homicide for the killing of Joseph Rosenbaum.

The jurors now get to decide the fate of Kyle Rittenhouse over a year after he killed two people and wounded a third.

BRUCE SCHROEDER, JUDGE, KENOSHA COUNTY, WISCONSIN: Members of the jury, the time has now come when the great burden of reaching a just, fair, and conscientious decision in this case will be placed totally with new jurors.


LEMON (on camera): CNN's Omar Jimenez live for us tonight in Kenosha. Good evening to you, Omar. So, all eyes are on Kenosha now that this is with the jury. What can you tell us about the National Guard being on standby ahead of this verdict?

JIMENEZ: Yeah, Don. As we understand right now, there are up to 500 Wisconsin National Guard soldiers on standby to respond, if necessary, in this. According to the governor's office, they are staging outside the city and again would be called in if requested by local law enforcement.

On the local side, the Kenosha Police Department and the sheriff's department say they have been monitoring the trial. They have been monitoring communications around it. They say they are adequately staffed to respond to whatever may come stemming from this decision.

And over the course of the trial, we have seen some protests come in and come out. They have been very small. Today, things ratcheted up a little bit. Even still, they were very small. All of it, of course, as we head into the most crucial part of this trial, 12 jurors of the 18 total being selected to deliberate on this case and more significantly decide the fate of Kyle Rittenhouse.

LEMON: Omar, appreciate you joining us. Omar will be there to the very end. Thank you very much, Omar. We appreciate it.

I want to bring in now two attorneys who both know the judge in this case. Joining me now, criminal defense attorney, Patrick Cafferty, and Paul Bucher, the former district attorney of Waukesha County, Wisconsin. So good to see you, gentlemen, both of you. Again, thank you so much for joining.

So, Paul, I'm going to start with you. Closing arguments are over. Do you think the prosecution proved that Rittenhouse -- they proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?

PAUL BUCHER, FORMER DISTRICT ATTORNEY TO WAUKESHA COUNTY, WISCONSIN: Well, I think on some of the lesser included offenses, I was just shocked because I was in court for a good portion of the day and I was trying to monitor the case, and the closing arguments seemed to never end. Every time I checked my phone, they were closing. I think the 2- 1/2 hours per side was excessive.

But your question is, do I think the government has proved Kyle Rittenhouse guilty of a homicide beyond a reasonable doubt? Yes, I do.

LEMON: You think the prosecution has proved him beyond a reasonable doubt?

BUCHER: Of a homicide.

LEMON: Of a homicide. Got you.

BUCHER: Yes. First-degree. I didn't say first-degree reckless.

LEMON: Yeah.

BUCHER: But you got to understand, pragmatically, I think you can't overlook just the reality of the situation. This was bedlam. This was craziness going on in Kenosha. I hope it doesn't repeat. And two people were tragically killed.

I find it hard to believe just pragmatically, not legally, taking off my lawyer hat, that the jury is going to let him walk away without a homicide conviction. The judge has given them a lot of choices and it's very confusing. You saw it was 36 pages of instructions, almost an hour, an hour and a half of charging. I think the jury is just dizzy from all of this.

LEMON: It is overwhelming. You are right about that, Paul. Patrick, let me just get you to weigh in on it. He said he believes that they did prove him guilty of a homicide.

PATRICK CAFFERTY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So, I think Paul may well be correct about that, particularly once the judge agreed to give the lesser included offenses with regard to the second homicide and the attempt homicide.

I found it compelling during the prosecutor's closing argument when he showed the video of Rittenhouse jogging down the street and various people confronting Rittenhouse verbally, why did you shoot him, and asking him different questions.


And Rittenhouse was getting different answers to different people. And in essence, the prosecutors argue he was lying about this, he was lying about that. What struck me at that moment and I think that the prosecutor did ultimately raise the issue was Rittenhouse very easily could have put his weapon down at that point, put his hands in the air and said, please take me to the police. But he didn't do that. He kept on jogging down the street with the rifle.

It almost looked to me at one point in time as if he pointed the rifle at someone who was verbally confronting him, which would have been consistent with what the prosecutor was arguing he had done earlier in the parking lot.

So, I think a jury that looks at that, particularly somebody who came to the box with a strong belief that resorting to lethal force should be the absolute last thing that somebody does, is going to look at that and say, yeah, this guy had other options. He didn't need to resort to lethal force in every one of these situations. So, Paul may well be correct.

LEMON: Paul, I see you shaking your head. I mean, I do have to say it seemed like today the prosecution finally had a story to tell the jury to explain what happened that night, that Rittenhouse was, their words, a chaos tourist, and he focused in on the four times he shot Joseph Rosenbaum even after the first one disabled him. Was that effective?

BUCHER: The closing arguments are just like opening statements. They are the time for the lawyers to get up there and pound their chest. It's not evidence. The jury is not taking notes. But I said from the very beginning and I stand by this, I believe the jury will find that he had a subjective belief. We talked about this before, Don. He had an objective belief that was reasonable.

I believe where the defense is going to fall short, there is no duty to retreat. That's for sure in Wisconsin. But I think the force he used was excessive, whether it was against Mr. Huber, Mr. Rosenbaum, but I think the force he used was excessive.

And it's not what he could have done. It's what if he had to really use deadly force at that moment. And I think the prosecution was able to prove this burden on the prosecution that he did not have to use deadly force. I think that's the weak spot, if you will, of the defense.

LEMON: I was just looking down, Patrick, at the makeup of the jurors. There are 18 jurors now, eight men, 10 women. It will be narrowed down to 12 tomorrow using a raffle tumbler. Two things for you. How much of the closing arguments will stick with these jurors, right? That's the last thing, last impression that they get of this, and how much will it matter who ends up in that deliberation room?

CAFFERTY: So, I'll answer in reverse order. I think it's going to make a huge difference as to who ends up in the box at the end of the raffle spinouts. Theoretically, you could end up with 10 females and two males. You could end up with some other combination, eight men and four women. And depending upon who is left in the box, that may ultimately dictate what the verdict is going to be.

I think lots of folks, including myself, have talked about the fact that there are plenty of people who showed up for jury duty with their minds made up already, and they weren't necessarily dishonest with the judge when they told the judge that they could be fair and open- minded, but somehow, some way they brought baggage with them. They have watched the video. They had seen the news. They had talked to their friends. And to some degree, they had their minds made up already.

So, depending upon which way their mind was made up, that will dictate how it is they vote. I think that some people just see what they want to see and there is plenty of evidence here to satisfy one side or the other. So, I think that's going to be a huge issue.

As far as how they were affected by the closing arguments, I think, again, that may depend on who the person is. So, for example, the defense attorney, Mark Richards, has what I would call an unapologetic style. He got up there and he owned everything that Kyle Rittenhouse did and put it in the prism of self-defense, self-defense, self- defense. He had to do it. He didn't back-pedal at all, he didn't apologize, he embraced the defense. For some people, men in particular, that may sound really good.

On the other hand, you may have females or more liberal-leaning people who didn't appreciate the style necessarily, didn't appreciate the lack of apology, didn't appreciate what they may have perceived as a lack of respect for human life in that defense argument.


So, again, it may depend on who is in the box and who is listening and that will dictate.

LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. I got to move on. I appreciate it. Undoubtedly, we will be seeing you guys back here again. Thanks again.

So, this whole case is likely to come down to one key question. Was it self-defense? So, CNN's senior legal analyst Elie Honig is here in the studio with me to walk us through the self-defense claim. Elie, good to see you. Thank you for joining us. It's been a while.

I want to get into this idea about provocation, right, because the defense is accusing the prosecution of lying when they say Kyle Rittenhouse provoked violence in Kenosha. This idea of provocation, explain why that's really important in Wisconsin. It's an attempt to knock down Rittenhouse's self-defense argument.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, provocation is the way you overcome a self-defense argument. So, let's take it back for a second. Self-defense cases, first of all, are really difficult for prosecutors. It can be actually easier to prosecute a whodunit than a he did it but he had a good reason.

So, self-defense has a very specific meaning. It means a person can only use lethal force, force that's likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, if he reasonably believes, reasonably, so that's why we are going to be asking what was reasonable for Kyle Rittenhouse to believe that night that the force is necessary to prevent imminent death or bodily injury. Imminent means close at hand.

So, if he can establish that, the prosecution can overcome it if they showed that he, Kyle Rittenhouse, provoked this attack. Now, provocation does not mean, and I think the prosecution fell a little short here, it does not mean he was out of place. It doesn't mean he shouldn't be there. It does not mean he was a punk, up to no good. It means that a person specifically provokes an attack for the specific purpose of -- excuse me, intending to use the attack as an excuse to attack the person who comes after him.

So, it has to be focused at a specific person. The idea has to be, I want to get that person to attack me, so I can use lethal force against him. That's very specific.

LEMON: So, that is what -- this is what prosecution is saying. The prosecution is saying that Rittenhouse provoked all of the violence. But the defense is saying something else. Here it is.


RICHARDS: Kyle Rittenhouse shot Mr. Rosenbaum because he was attacking Kyle. Every person who was shot was attacking Kyle. One with a skateboard, one with his hands, one with his feet, one with a gun. Hands and feet can cause great bodily harm. I am sure the state is going to get up and say, well, he didn't have great bodily harm, so it doesn't matter. That's not the standard. The standard is could cause great bodily harm.


LEMON (on camera): So, who is right here? Is he right? Is that enough to warrant Kyle Rittenhouse shooting someone with this assault-style rifle?

HONIG: So, that's a key question for the jury. I am not sure it was a good idea for the defense lawyer right there to lump in gun, skateboard, hands and feet because they are not all created equal, right? The question is, was Kyle Rittenhouse in reasonable fear for his life? Imminent fear for his life.

Now, the gun is one thing, right, that the witness Gaige Grosskreutz said, I had my out and pointing towards him. I mean, that is much more reasonable to fear for your life than hands or feet. I mean, the jury may have a little bit of a hard time of accepting, okay, he could be kicked, he could be punched, therefore, it's okay to turn around and shoot. That's where the prosecution may have some traction here.

LEMON: Yeah, listen, I have to run. It went a little bit long with the guys before you. These lesser included, what does that possible mean?

HONIG: This means the prosecution can win even if they don't prove the top charges. It gives the jury a middle ground. If they're having a problem back there in the jury box, which happens, they may compromise and say, not guilty on the first-degree but guilty on a lesser charge, which would be a win for the prosecution.

LEMON: Then you think that is possible because the judge did consider and say -- did say that they can consider it.

HONIG: I think it is way more likely than convictions on the top charge. Let us put it that way.

LEMON: Elie Honig, always a pleasure.

HONIG: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: It is good to see you.

HONIG: You, too.

LEMON: So, former Trump advisor Steve Bannon appearing in federal court after being charged with contempt of Congress, and he is acting tough towards the Democrats.




LEMON (on camera): Former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon turning himself in today. He is charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to appear for a deposition and refusing to hand over documents requested by the January 6th Committee. But Bannon is not going quietly. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST AND SENIOR COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: This is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden. Joe Biden ordered Merrick Garland to prosecute me from the White House lawn when he got off Marine One. We are going to go on the offense. We are tired of playing defense. We are going on the offense on this and stand by.


LEMON (on camera): I mean, what are you going to do? Some hair, too, right? Bannon was released from custody pending trial. I want to bring in now CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez. So, Evan, here we go again. He is turning this into a circus as one would expect. He was live-streaming outside the courthouse today. He is facing up to one year in jail for each count. Is this all a game to him?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, it's a production. As you pointed out, he showed up live-streaming from -- in front of the FBI, the local FBI office where he turned himself in. And then after the hearing, where he -- by the way, during the hearing, he was very respectful. He had a totally different tone. He steps out and then that's what you see at the end of that hearing.

But he was met by a production team that had arranged his press conference there with the microphones. So, yeah, it is a bit of a spectacle. I think you can see there he was name-checking all of his perceived enemies, the people who he believes are -- obviously, these are stars on his reality show.


LEMON: It's all about clicks, isn't it?

PEREZ: Yeah, and his podcast. He has a loyal following on his podcast.

LEMON: Yeah. So, President Trump's impeachment lawyer, David Schoen, is taking on Bannon's case.

PEREZ: Yeah.

LEMON: How -- wasn't he critical of him, Bannon of him? How did that happen?

PEREZ: Yeah, I mean, I don't know. Actually, you're right. I mean, during --

LEMON: It can happen these days, but go on.

PEREZ: Yeah. I mean, look, exactly. And there is nothing that is rational about any of this stuff. But Bannon, as you pointed out, was very critical of him during Trump's impeachment, criticized him for not using the vote fraud lies as part of the former president's defense. And so, yeah, it's kind of interesting. I think he needed Schoen because he needed somebody who was barred -- who is barred in D.C. to represent him before this hearing today.

LEMON: Evan, we have this reporting from ABC's Jonathan Karl that on New Year's Eve 2020, Trump's then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows emailed Mike Pence's top aide, a detail plan for overturning the election. Meadows is also ignoring a subpoena to go before the January 6 Committee, but they are not ready to put forward contempt charges. What's up?

PEREZ: Yeah. I think they are struggling, Don. I think you can see why, right? Because what -- by bringing -- by going to the Justice Department, having the Justice Department prosecute Steve Bannon, that kind of closes the book on Steve Bannon. They are not going to get anything from him. Even if he is convicted, it doesn't mean he is going to be able to -- they are going to get anything from him.

So, they want stuff from Meadows. Meadows is key to understanding what was happening. And I think, frankly, what Jonathan Karl has revealed is extremely important because it tells you a lot more about the ultimate plan that they had, which is for -- on January 6th, Mike Pence would turn this back, right, to the states, and then eventually set up a system whereby the congressional delegations would vote for president and they believed probably they were right, that that's the way Donald Trump then wins a second term.

So, disregarding the voters in six states and instead going to Trump loyalists in Congress to get him a second term. That was the plan. And this is a memo written up by Jenna Ellis, who was before becoming in Trump's orbit. She was a traffic lawyer. So, this is the kind of thing that they were coming up with and a lot of it was really shoddy legal work, but it doesn't matter because it almost worked, if it wasn't for a few key people standing up.

LEMON: Yeah. Evan, another story we will be following, another courtroom drama.

PEREZ: Yeah.

LEMON: Thank you very much. I appreciate it, Evan Perez. Should the House Select Committee refer Mark Meadows for criminal contempt of Congress? That's a question for congresswoman and former Trump impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett. She is next.




LEMON: There are new developments tonight in the investigation of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Steve Bannon appearing in court today after being indicted for contempt of Congress while other witnesses like Mark Meadows could face contempt charges of their own. So, let's discuss now. House delegate Stacey Plaskett is here. She served as an impeachment manager in the former president's second impeachment trial over what happened on January 6. Good evening. Good to see you, congresswoman. Thank you so much for joining.


LEMON: I want to --

PLASKETT: Thank you for having me.

LEMON: Absolutely. I want to start with this reporting from Jon Karl of ABC, reporting that White House Chief of State Mark Meadows sent the then-vice president's top aide a memo from the Trump campaign with the plan to undo Biden's election when -- I'm talking about Vice President Pence, by the way. The committee is going to meet tomorrow about him. So, what do they do?

PLASKETT: Well, I think they're going to do what they've continued to do, which is to try to gather as much evidence, corroborating evidence, really pressuring witnesses to testify based upon information that they are uncovering.

You know, we talk about Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows, but the committee, the Select Committee on January 6 has interviewed 150 witnesses who have cooperated thus far. And that includes plenty of Trump former loyalists and individuals who worked in that administration.

So, I really believe that they will be on track for at the end of the summer, beginning of next fall, to have a report, which really shows not only what happened, but remember the other portion of the Select Committee is to make recommendations to Congress on to how to ensure that our democracy stays intact.

LEMON: Well, look, you know, Mark Meadows was a congressman for seven years. I mean, he knows how congressional subpoenas work. What do you think of his defiance?

PLASKETT: I think his defiance is -- you know, I served with him on the Oversight Committee. I think he is someone who has been become enamored with the president and with power, who is someone who has become a sycophant and is following the orders of Donald Trump even after he has left office.

I think, you know, the limelight that many of them believe that they have from doing this really doesn't let them see the long-term damage that they are doing to the democracy. And, in the end, the sting that is going to be on their names as traitors to our nation.

LEMON: Congresswoman, Steve Bannon was, speaking of defiant, he was defiant leaving court today after being charged with two counts of contempt of Congress.


Do you think other witnesses will follow his lead or wait to see what happens?

PLASKETT: Well, I think we are seeing what's happening and that is that the grand jury has indicted him. There will be a charge -- there are charges now and that case is going to move forward in criminal charges against Steve Bannon.

I don't think at the end of the day that most people want to have criminal charges against them. You know, Steve Bannon is a special kind of crazy in the Trump orbit and is willing to be as performative as possible to the end game of what they believe is Trump ascendancy or Steve Bannon's continued influence in American politics.

LEMON: You were at the White House today when the president signed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law. What do you think of this massive bipartisan achievement, congresswoman?

PLASKETT: I think this was a glorious day for the American people. I think that as the bill states, this is an investment, an Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. That's the formal name of the bill.

This and "build back better" are going to bring 1.5 million jobs per year for the next decade. That's 15 million new jobs in America. Increasing the GDP over that same period of time by $3 trillion. And that's from independent analysis of Moody's, which came out on November 4. You know, I think what the president is doing is absolutely game-changing and really creating a continuing American innovation.

I think it's so interesting, Don, that you first talked about Select Committee and then talked about the infrastructure bill. You know, as the president continually says, President Biden, that we're in an inflection point. And during the ceremony, they talked about other inflection points where other presidents and other administrations and congresses have invested in this country.

But I think it's also important to note that, you know, after the civil rights movement, we had both the civil rights bill, the Voting Rights Act, which were defensive mechanisms to protect our democracy while at the same time extending the great society to bring more inclusion, more investment into our country.

And again, we're doing this right now, right? We have the Select Committee and we're going to continue to push for a voting rights bill for George Floyd Justice in Policing to protect our democracy, to shore up the areas which are frayed, which are still developing while at the same time investing in American innovation. And as the president said, to ensure that we can always bet on America to be the forerunners in the competitive race in our global society.

So, I believe in just sitting there with my other colleagues that, yes, we have done what's needed to be done for this investment in our infrastructure and to include jobs, and we're going to do what is necessary to get "build back better" across the line to ensure that American jobs and American families can take advantage of the baseline that we put for them.

LEMON: Listen, I caught that bit of criticism and I receive it. So, you know what you say when you get a message from church? I received that. I got it. Thank you, congresswoman. I appreciate it. Always a pleasure to see you.

PLASKETT: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. An increasingly rare sight in Washington, D.C. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle gathering for President Biden signing of the infrastructure package. Will we see another display of bipartisanship any time soon?



LEMON: President Biden just wrapped up a high-stakes virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Biden stressing that he wanted a candid discussion about how to manage competition between the two countries.

The meeting coming amid rising tensions as China expands its nuclear arsenal. You know, it has been a really big day for the president, finally signing into law his $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

So, joining me now, presidential historian Jon Meacham. He occasionally advises President Biden, by the way. He is also the writer and narrator of the "It Was Said" podcast.

So, Jon, good evening to you. I've been tough on the administration lately, as you know. But I have to say, progress. They got it done. Two things. It is finally really infrastructure week after years of infrastructure week. And as the former vice president said once, this is a big f-ing deal.

JON MEACHAM, WRITER, HISTORIAN AND PRESIDENTIAL BIOGRAPHER: It is. It's a generational investment, clearly. I think it's the largest public work investment since the 1950s, since President Eisenhower and the interstate highway system.

The argument over infrastructure goes back to the beginning of the republic. This was one of the things that divided Henry Clay from Andrew Jackson. And the idea of could a federal government expand its power to build projects that might just be of local significance, and we ultimately decided yes, and this is a manifestation of that.

The first bill, I think, got 68 republican votes in the Senate, which in a polarized year is like getting 104, if you do the delta on that. I think it's a big day. I remember, I first read about the infrastructure crisis, as I remember, 28 years ago, seeing a report on that.


And it took us a long time as a country, and I think that the president and the members of Congress deserve our thanks. LEMON: Listen, you know, we kind of joke when we say, you know, every

-- we had so many infrastructure weeks. But every week, it seemed with the former president, it was infrastructure week, and nothing really got done. I mean, folks should remember that.

He never managed to get infrastructure deal himself and he is now promising to oust every Republican who voted for the bill when he was trying to get an infrastructure bill through himself. What are the chances Democrats and Republicans actually work together again, Jon?

MEACHAM: I think that it gets harder. It gets harder self-evidently because these bills were supposed to be together and they aren't. The hardcore infrastructure has been signed today. Again, presidents get about a sentence sometimes. Bill Clinton used to say that. Lincoln saved the union. FDR won the war.

Joe Biden went a long way (INAUDIBLE) his sentence with this piece of legislation. And I think this next piece of legislation is going to be more contentious again, obviously. But Joe Biden got 81 million votes. A lot of these measures on their own are popular. And I think the sudden evangelical fervor of the fiscal hawks on the right is pretty rich.

When Republicans spend as much money as they spent in the last four, five years, say, oh, we have suddenly decided that we can't spend this much money, it reminds me of the great line in Tom Sawyer when Sawyer says (INAUDIBLE) that a preacher came through town who was so good that even (INAUDIBLE) was safe until Tuesday. So, these folks are safe until Tuesday. But, you know, this is broadly popular stuff.

LEMON: Yeah.

MEACHAM: Some of it will get through. Some of it won't. But guess what? You and I are having a coherent conversation about the allocation of public resources for public good.

LEMON: Yeah.

MEACHAM: We aren't talking about an insurrection. We aren't talking about a president who pops off demonizing other people. We are actually talking as a mature democracy, and that is something that we have to guard and try to nurture as much as possible.

LEMON: A president who actually gets something done. Listen, the conversations we've had because -- you know, he doesn't tout, in some folks' estimation, what he does, right, to sort of sell the message, but this is actually a president doing what a president does rather than appearing in front of the cameras.

You're the perfect person to talk about this because I mentioned that you sometimes advise the president. Let's talk about his polls. There is a CNN poll of polls. It shows President Biden's approval rating in just 45 percent, Jon. Do you think this victory will change that number because most Americans won't feel the impact of this bill for quite some time? Meanwhile, inflation is at a 30 year-high. Gas prices are through the roof. You know what I'm saying?

MEACHAM: Absolutely. Look, this is a tough, tough period. There's no doubt about that. The political marketplace stands not to give you credit for a while. And then you also don't get credit in many cases for keeping bad things from happening.

And the biggest bad thing that Joe Biden is keeping from happening is tearing up the Constitution. I think you and I have talked about this before.

I think we have to look at this not in a week-to-week way but as a decade-long way and realize that 10 months ago, right, 10 months ago, a mob attacked the Capitol and tried to overturn an election. And we now know, from the reporting you have been talking about, there was a lot of (INAUDIBLE) non-rioting way to try to do the same thing.

And so, my own view is that to some extent, Joe Biden is not on trial. We are, as a country. Can we suppress our appetite and our ambition and our instant gratification to see that give and take is essential? And you can't just take all the time in a democracy. There has to be a moment where you give.

LEMON: Yeah.

MEACHAM: And that may sound, you know, sentimental or something, but it has the virtue of being true.

LEMON: Jon Meacham, I love our conversations. Come back more often late and not early often, late often because we're on late. Thank you, sir. Always a pleasure.

MEACHAM: Thanks.

LEMON: We will be right back.



LEMON: The judge in the trial of the men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery rejecting the defense's request for a mistrial and slamming one lawyer's comments objecting to Black pastors in the courtroom.

CNN's Ryan Young has the story for us.


TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, SUPERIOR COURT, STATE OF GEORGIA: I will say that is directly in response to Mr. Gough, to statements you made, which I find reprehensible.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The judge presiding over the murder trial of Ahmaud Arbery ripping in to defense Attorney Kevin Gough today.

WALMSLEY: The Colonel Sanders statement you made last week, I would suggest, maybe something that has influenced what is going on here. YOUNG (voice-over): Judge Timothy Walmsley reacting to statements like this one from Gough, who is representing William "Roddie" Bryan.

KEVIN GOUGH, ATTORNEY FOR WILLIAM "RODDIE" BRYAN: That's it. We don't want any more Black pastors coming in here or other Jesse Jackson, whoever was in here earlier this week, sitting with the victim's family, trying to influence a jury in this case.

YOUNG (voice-over): That comment in response to Reverend Al Sharpton appearing in court Thursday, not Jesse Jackson.


YOUNG (voice-over): He did apologize, but then today --

GOUGH: We have always community leaders fearful that the city is going to burn down.

YOUNG (voice-over): This time, civil rights icon, Reverent Jesse Jackson, was in the room, and Gough again taking issue.

GOUGH: Which pastor is next? Is Raphael Warnock going to make -- be the next person appearing this afternoon? We don't know. You honor, I would submit with all respect to Reverend Jesse Jackson that this is not different than bringing in police officers or uniformed prison guard in a small town where a young Black man has been accused of assaulting a law enforcement police or corrections officer.

WALMSLEY: I'm done talking about this, Gough. I have heard the motion. I understand what your position is. And if it's simply just to point out that an individual is in the gallery, it has been done.

YOUNG (voice-over): All three defense attorneys asking for a mistrial.

GOUGH: I move for a mistrial.

WALMSLEY: Based on?

GOUGH: Based on the presence of people in the courtroom.

YOUNG (voice-over): The judge is denying their request and Jackson isn't going anywhere.

JESSE JACKSON, BAPTIST MINISTER: I'm by people who are in need and whose backs against the wall. It's what we do. So, we are going to keep sitting with this family. It is a priority focus of ours now.

YOUNG (on camera): Don, the drama is not done here just yet. The National Action Network plans to have 100 Black pastors here in town Thursday to create a wall of prayer right in front of the courthouse. That is going to happen Thursday. So, as more of this plays out in court, it is starting to rise the temperature in this area. Don?

(END VIDEOTAPE) LEMON (on camera): Ryan, thank you so much. And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.