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Don Lemon Tonight
GOP Rep. Gosar Censured By House Over Violent Video; QAnon Shaman Sentenced For Role In Capitol Riot; Rittenhouse Jury Concludes Second Day Of Deliberations; Two Men Convicted Of Killing Malcolm X To Be Exonerated; One Day To Julius Jones's Execution Unless Governor Steps In. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired November 17, 2021 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): It is the first time the House vote to censure a sitting member in more than 10 years.
Plus, the so-called QAnon Shaman sentenced almost three and a half years behind bars for his role in the January 6 insurrection.
And verdict watch continues in the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial. Jurors set to resume deliberations at 10:00 a.m.
I want to get right now to the censure of Republican Congressman Paul Gosar and the GOP's refusal to condemn a growing culture of violence.
So, joining me now, CNN political commentator Charlie Dent and CNN senior political analyst Kirsten Powers. She is also the author of the new book "Saving Grace." We're so happy to have both of you. Good evening.
Charlie, I'm going to start with you. But before you're going to speak on this, I want you to hear what the GOP said today ahead of today's censure vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The video was deleted, but Democrats won't listen because they will do anything to distract from the failures of one party rule in one year, destroying a nation.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Today, we're critiquing Paul Gosar's anime. Next week, we might be indicting the Wile E. Coyote for -- for an explosive ordnance against the roadrunner.
REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): The left has nothing else to do but troll the internet looking for ways to get offended.
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): I'm told if you stop it frame by frame, you can see what Democrat friends are talking about. I couldn't see it.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Democrats in Congress later this week plan to spend two trillion more dollars, which we all know will only exacerbate the already 30-year high inflation. And what are they doing today? Censuring a member for a cartoon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): It was every excuse. Blame Democrats. Talk about immigration or inflation or, you know, they say, so what, it's just a cartoon. Anything but Gosar. How does this sit with you, Kirsten?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, the idea that it's just a cartoon, it doesn't really matter whether it's a cartoon or in what form it comes when you are portraying one member of Congress murdering another member of Congress. So, you know, this game that they're sort of playing doesn't work for me.
And the idea that if this was reversed and somehow this was done, you know, to Marjorie Taylor Greene or somebody that they actually care about, that -- that they would just say, oh, it's a cartoon, it's absurd, but they -- there just are no standards. They can't even come together on something as basic as members of Congress cannot depict themselves murdering other members of Congress.
LEMON: Charlie, am I bad (ph) because I posed the question to you before the soundbite and then I went to Kirsten? So, anyway, I just -- you know, I was just being nice. Anyway, what do you think of this, Charlie? How does that sit with you?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA REPRESENTATIVE: No, this is not okay with me. And the members that were just depicted there defending Gosar and deflecting, you know, are really more members on the fringe, to be quite honest. They're more -- I'll say the more pragmatic members. They were nowhere to be found.
But what's most troubling to me, Don, is yesterday morning, for an hour and a half, the House Republican Conference spent their time berating John Katko of New York, a Republican, because he voted for an infrastructure bill. That's what they did. And there wasn't about Paul Gosar. It was about John Katko, who by the way is a former assistant U.S. attorney.
If Congress is going to ever try to sanction members of, you know, for -- they should sanction them for misconduct or violating standards of conduct or just bad behavior. They're going after thoughtful members over infrastructure but then condoning people like Paul Gosar and MTG, you know, who are clearly bringing discredit upon the House through their -- through their misconduct.
That's what's so troubling to me, to watch this happen. It's painful to watch.
LEMON: I mean, I'm sure it's troubling, Kirsten. As the House was voting, Gosar was standing with Marjorie Taylor Greene, who Charlie just mentioned, Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert.
I mean, should we expect more characters like Greene and Boebert if Republicans take the House in 2022? They're saying, you know, we're going to get revenge if you continue with this. POWERS: I think we probably will see more of that, especially because those are the type of people that Donald Trump likes the most and endorses. And while they behave like fringe people, I think I have to disagree a little with Charlie that I don't think that they necessarily are the fringe. They should be the fringe. But they're not.
Marjorie Taylor Greene actually has quite a lot of influence. You can see how they all are running scared from her all the time no matter how outlandish and outrageous and unacceptable her behavior is.
LEMON: And she's saying that she's going to get more and better committee assignments. But go on.
POWERS: Right. So -- and she -- is she the one who gets censured or berated? No, she's not, right? And it is people who are -- you know, the idea that people who voted for the infrastructure bill are being berated when two-thirds of the country support that, it just shows how this is just this cultish group of people who have now this purity test that they have been holding everybody to for the last many years, which is how much do you love Donald Trump? Show us how much you love Donald Trump.
And anything Donald Trump is against, it doesn't matter if two-thirds of Americans like it, it doesn't matter if it's going to help people, because he says he opposes the infrastructure bill and we have to go along with this even though we know that it's good for the United States.
LEMON: Well, listen. Charlie, I want you to respond to what she said because I -- but I do think she has a point. Only two Republicans voted with Democrats who censured Gosar and that was Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. So, is it really the fringe or is it just where the party is because they were the only two who had the courage to do it?
DENT: Well, I think what happened -- I mentioned the Katko situation a few moments ago because I think in many respects, what they were doing to him and the other 13 who voted for the infrastructure bill, this is a brushback pitch. They threw it at Katko, basically sending a signal, you know, don't go after Gosar or Marjorie Taylor Greene because we can come after you.
I mean, they're actually worried about their own committee assignments right now. So, they're not in a position where they can go out and try to vote to censure another and remove someone from committees. So, they're vulnerable. So, I think they were really pushed into a very bad corner, the more reasonable ones.
I think if you did a survey of the House Republican Conference, I would think most of them are appalled by what Gosar had done and they realized that leadership should be dealing with this.
I mean, the way you deal with situations like this is that the top leader, the minority leader, in this case Kevin McCarthy, you know, has to have serious conversations with these members who step out of line.
I've said before, I served with John Boehner and Paul Ryan and I watched Nancy Pelosi. They dealt with members who became embarrassments or distractions, often getting them to resign. They could force them out.
That's not happening. They were trying to enforce standards of conduct as best they could and they did it oftentimes successfully without a whole lot of media attention, but they did it. That's not happening now. The standards bar has been lowered so low. I blame the former president a lot for that. It's so low that it just seems that they'd rather not deal with it.
And McCarthy wants to become speaker of the House and he doesn't want to alienate any member who might vote against him. They might end up putting the screws to him anyway. They did five years ago when he wanted to become speaker. The right-wing Freedom Caucus basically took him down. They may do it again. Taylor Greene just came out and said that she wasn't necessarily voting for him for speaker. So, he's trying to placate them, and I don't think it's going to be successful in the end.
LEMON: And Kirsten, to be clear, right, to clear things up, if the shoe was on the other foot, it had been a Democrat that had posted a video like that, would they have censured one of their own?
POWERS: Would the Democrats? Yes, I think they would. Yeah. I mean, I think -- I just think this goes so far beyond anything that anybody I can think of has done.
POWERS: You know, they like to pretend that something that Maxine Waters said once to some protesters was somehow the same as portraying yourself murdering somebody. You know, it's an apple to, you know, artichokes kind of comparison. And so yeah, I think if somebody posted an image of them murdering another member of Congress, yeah, they would be -- I think they would be held accountable for that.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it.
I want to bring in now CNN's chief media correspondent Mr. Brian Stelter and CNN global affairs analyst Mr. Max Boot. Welcome to the studio. It's good to see both of you.
Let's continue on with this conversation because today's vote, it's not -- this isn't happening in a vacuum. All right, Max? Because we still have January 6 investigation. There's furious opposition to that. There's Trump's revenge tour. When you add all of these things up, what is happening to our democracy?
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think what you're seeing, Don, is frightening polarization and an embrace of violence by some of the extreme elements in the Republican Party. There was actually a poll that came out this summer, which showed that something like 40 percent of Republicans think that violence is justified if political leaders are not -- quote, unquote -- "protecting the country."
And, of course, you have mass approval of the -- what happened on January 6, the insurrection, the attack on the Capitol. Republicans have no interest in investigating that. Many of them are turning people like Ashli Babbitt, who was killed in the course of this attack, into heroes.
This is just a very frightening scenario where you have one major party in America, Don, being radicalized and flirting with violence. And, of course, Paul Gosar is exhibiter of that. it is just inconceivable that in any other workplace, you can get away with depicting the murder of a colleague.
LEMON: I want you to respond to something. I'll put up a quote. This is from your -- two of your colleagues at "The Washington Post", Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent. They said, in today's GOP, voting for infrastructure is heresy. Threatening violence is not. Do you think that they're right?
BOOT: Absolutely. I mean, we see the evidence that the 13 Republicans who voted for this bipartisan, popular infrastructure bill are getting death threats. You know, just a couple days ago, you had Liz Cheney getting drummed out of the party in Wyoming because she calls out the big lie and says it's not acceptable to lie about the election outcomes.
That has become heresy. It's become a litmus test within the Republican Party to embrace the big lie, to say that Donald Trump won. And you know, there is no appetite in republican ranks for condemning people who take the law into their own hands or who carry out acts of violence or advocate acts of violence. As long as it's in the MAGA cause, it's all okay.
LEMON: But let's talk about, Brian, with you about the echo chamber in which this has all spread, right? Conservative media, much of it through the Fox propaganda channel. There's so much disinformation out there fueling anger, potential violence.
Whether it is the aftermath of January 6 or it is a fight over school masks or mandate or if it's a fake thing about CRT, we see it every night on the Fox propaganda channel. What is the echo chamber doing to our culture?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's splitting the culture into two. That there is no single shared culture. No single shared reality. And I think all of us feel that in our personal lives, you know, whether we feel it at Thanksgiving next week or we just feel it, you know, kind of more commonly or more casually when talking about school meetings, when talking about what students are learning, when talking about where people are getting information.
It is a splintering of one culture into two where you have these Republicans who are making the argument that they are under attack from the left. And that is the narrative on Fox, which I think is really -- it's not pro-Trump anymore. It's anti-Biden.
The best way to view these right-wing outlets is they're anti-Biden in every way, shape, or form. They're not airing Biden's events live. They ignore his events. They only focus on the news that makes the party look good. They do not talk about the Gosar video. Fox barely mentioned the Gosar video today.
LEMON: I just want to ask you because I was watching -- I have to give props to a colleague at another network, Nicolle Wallace, when she had Chris Christie on. She said, how can you write a book and talk about the spreading and proliferation of misinformation --
STELTER: And not talk about Fox?
LEMON: -- and not talk about Fox News but talk about CNN and MSNBC. Disingenuous. And I thought her question was right on and it was brilliant.
STELTER: She -- you know, Christie complains in the book about bias from major networks but then doesn't address Fox. You know, that says it all.
STELTER: Look, you can't have a republican rescue the way Christie wants to have without addressing the disinformation poison that's --
LEMON: And where it comes from. Yeah. So, Rupert Murdoch addressed shareholders of Newscorp today, and he appeared to have a message for Trump. What do you think?
STELTER: He said -- this is really striking. I've never seen this before. Where he comes out and says, the conservative movement needs to have a loud voice and the public needs to be leading the way, but we can't do that if Trump is litigating the past. We can't talk about the past anymore, we have to build the future.
So, basically, Murdoch is sending a message to Trump, saying, we need to focus on the future, which I think is fascinating. It's kind of like saying, hey, to the arsonists in the room, if you just don't light any more fires, we can all move on and pretend like the fires didn't happen. We can all just move on.
But does anybody believe that Donald Trump is willing to move on from 2020? I thought it was so naive on Murdoch's part to come out and say, let's talk about the future, let's not focus on the past. Donald Trump is the one that's relitigating 2020. He's out there talking to Mike Lindell on the "My Pillow" delusional livestream.
STELTER: There is no way to move past the damage this arsonist did when he is still out there trying to set more fires.
BOOT: And it's hard to believe that Murdoch is serious about this when he allows one of his highest-paid employees, Tucker Carlson, to air a multipart -- quote unquote -- "documentary" alleging that the January 6 insurrection was a false flag operation, which is just outright crazy and incendiary. And Murdoch does nothing to rein that in.
STELTER: You're saying Rupert should watch his own network before he comments.
BOOT: Right, exactly.
LEMON: As a former Republican.
BOOT: Yes, right.
LEMON: Since we're talking about all of this and the means through which it is spread, give us the final word here.
BOOT: I mean, I think we're in a frightening situation, Don, because I think what we're seeing is growing political violence. You have Kyle Rittenhouse on trial right now for taking the law into his own hands and shooting several people.
Remember, you had mass shootings during the Trump presidency at a Walmart in El Paso, at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. You had the storming of the Capitol with people who had gallows with them on January 6. And Republicans are really playing with fire. They are pouring fuel on this fire, people like Paul Gosar and others. This is going to end in tragedy.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. Fascinating conversation. See you soon. Good to have you here. Conversations are better when you folks are here in person. When we're all together. Thanks.
So, he was the face of the Capitol riot. Now, the QAnon Shaman, Jacob Chansley, is sentenced to 41 months in prison for his part in what happened on January 6. What will his sentence mean for other rioters facing prosecution?
LEMON: So, you know him, right? You know his face and the outfit or whatever, the get-up. One of the most well-known faces of the Capitol riot, the so-called QAnon Shaman, sentenced to more than three years for his role in the insurrection. There he is standing in the well. The judge showing little sympathy for Jacob Chansley, giving him one of the harshest sentences of any insurrectionists, any of the insurrectionists, 41 months in prison.
Chansley was one of the first 30 rioters inside the Capitol building on January 6, equipped with face paint, a bullhorn, and a flagpole as a spear.
So, joining me now, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams. Elliot, good evening. Good to see you. We're back to the QAnon Shaman here. Chansley became a symbol of this insurrection, roaming around the Senate chamber, yelling, carrying an improvised weapon. He even left a note for Mike Pence.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Yep.
LEMON: What do you think of the sentence, sir?
WLLIAMS: Yeah. You know, it's interesting, Don. It could have been higher. So, look, the way federal sentencing works is that you punch numbers in based on the severity of the offense, the crime he's charged with, his criminal history, any factors that might bump it up, were kids present or something like that.
You get a range. The range here was 41 to 51 months. A judge knows that if he or she sentences someone to within that range, it's going to be good, it's going to stand up on appeal.
Look, he could have gone up to 51 months. What the judge seemed to be convinced by was that he accepted responsibility and spent a half hour today in this stem-winder of a speech, the defendant did, saying how sorry he was, that he accepted responsibility and so on.
You know, we'll see how that plays in the future cases, right, and if these guys do say they're sorry.
LEMON: Well, let me follow up on that because he's one of the first felony defendants to get a punishment among more than 660 Capitol riot cases. Do you think it's going to set a standard for other rioters facing prosecution?
WLLIAMS: Let me tell you this, Don. It should because that's the way federal sentencing should work. But the system wants to get uniformity across all sentences and across all similar crimes. And so, when you have a body of defendants all of whom have committed the same or similar offenses, you want them to get other judges to follow sort of the lead that this first judge set.
Now, there are other factors that are going to bump up other people's sentences. Number one, people who helped plan and coordinate and bring other folks to Washington. Number two, people who engaged in acts of violence, you know, throwing bear spray and things like that. That may bump people up higher up in the range.
And again, acceptance of responsibility. If folks just dig in and say look, I'm not sorry, we're patriots here, then those are the kinds of things that might lead to higher sentences.
LEMON: There was a whole circus around Chansley's case. He asked the former president, the ex-president, for a pardon. Trump, right?
LEMON (on camera): He wanted to testify at Trump's impeachment trial. He went on a hunger strike to get organic food. He spoke to "60 Minutes" from jail without permission. Let's watch some of it. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACOB CHANSLEY, QANON SHAMAN: My actions on January 6, how would I describe them? Well, I sang a song and that's a part of shamanism. It's about creating positive vibrations in a sacred chamber.
I also stopped people from stealing and vandalizing that sacred space, the Senate. Okay? I actually stopped someone from stealing muffins out of the break room. I also said a prayer in that sacred chamber because it was my intention to bring divinity and to bring God back into the Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Okay. Listen, I mean, right? The judge -- what did you want to say?
WLLIAMS: Delusion is one hell of a drug.
LEMON: He did get rebuked from the judge for that. It seems like he didn't really take anything seriously. So, how does this -- how did it play into --
WLLIAMS: You know what's interesting, Don? You know, I'm actually not surprised but it's interesting that they could even get him to enter what's called a knowing and voluntary plea. The guy has to know the charges, understand the charges against him, and know that he's pleading guilty and so on. I don't think this guy is altogether.
And at times, if a defendant can't understand in effect the words that are being said to him or what he's agreeing to, you can't actually get him to plead guilty.
Now, look, here, he's smart enough or savvy enough to be giving interviews to "60 Minutes" and so on, but this is clearly not a well individual. Now, I'm not intending in any way to justify this conduct, this reprehensible conduct, but this is -- you know, we can chuckle about it here. But this is somebody who's just not altogether.
LEMON: Yeah. Well, I'm not going to do the psychoanalysis here, but I understand the thrust of what you're saying. Listen, I want to ask you about Steve Bannon pleading not guilty to contempt of Congress. This comes ahead of Bannon's hearing tomorrow before a judge.
He's doing his best to make -- to really drag this on, make it last as long as possible, no?
WLLIAMS: No, absolutely. Now, what he is to do tomorrow is waive a formal arraignment. He's not going to come in and sort of hear all the charges that have been brought against him. Now, look, it is still an opportunity to make a circus. There's going to be a hearing. I would think we would hear from Steve Bannon tomorrow. But this is -- you heard his own words about how this is the misdemeanor from hell and we're going to dig in and we're going to make a fight. This is a P.R. opportunity for him far more than anything else.
LEMON: Elliot Williams where I'm from, Louisiana. Elliot Williams, good to see you, sir.
WLLIAMS: How's your mom and them, Don?
LEMON: They're good. Thank you. I appreciate it. I'll see you soon. Sixteen hours of deliberation and no verdict yet. But the defense is calling for a mistrial. We're going to tell you what happened in the Rittenhouse trial today.
Plus, two men convicted of killing Malcolm X set to be exonerated 55 years later.
LEMON: Day two of deliberations in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. The jury wrapping up after seven and a half hours today and there's still no verdict. The jury had more questions for the court and asked to review video evidence.
Joining me now, Paul Bucher, former district attorney for Waukesha County, Wisconsin, and Robert Hirschhorn, a jury and trial consultant. Thank you, gentlemen, for joining us this evening. The conversations we've been having on the subject with the two of you have been the most enlightening. So, we are -- I should say most enlightening. So, we're happy to have you back.
Robert, another day --
ROBERT HIRSCHHORN, JURY AND TRIAL CONSULTANT: Yes, sir.
LEMON: without a verdict. Our reporters on the scene say jurors looked fatigued. What do you think is happening in that jury room?
HIRSCHHORN: Yeah. Number one, not surprising we don't have a verdict yet, complicated charges, 36 pages of jury instructions, there's lots for them to go through, it's a really good jury, they're being thorough.
One of the things they asked for today were the videos, Don. And the question is, why was the jury asking for the videos? And I'll tell you because I think I know exactly why --
LEMON: Well, let me show it up as you talk about this, right, because I want to warn our audience. The video you're about to see, it is graphic. It's from the night Rittenhouse shot three people, some of which is up on the screen right now. There it is. The jury spent about 45 minutes looking at this video this afternoon. So go ahead. Continue, Robert.
HIRSCHHORN: Okay. So, Don, the jury, what they're trying to figure out is what was this defendant's intent? What was going on in his mind? They heard what he said on the witness stand, but these videos represent what he was doing, his actions, his conduct on this particular night.
So, because the jury has to decide this case based on what his conduct was, that's why they asked for and that's why they spent so much time looking at the videos. Do you agree, Paul? Do you think that's right?
LEMON: Hang on one second. Hang on one second because I'm going to get to Paul. Again, what does this tell you about the deliberations of the jurors? Anything?
HIRSCHHORN: Don, they're in for a fight. There are people on both sides on this one. Remember last night, I said to you, it's a second amendment case. There are some people that are gun rights kind of jurors. There are other people that are gun control jurors. The gun rights and the gun control jurors are duking it out because they see that that video, Don, looks different depending on your perspective.
LEMON (on camera): Okay. Now, let's bring Paul in. Paul, you can answer him, and I think -- my question, you'll get to it, because the defense is also calling for a mistrial today over a technical problem. They're having a whole back and forth over the state providing them with a lower-quality video for a key piece of evidence. Let's listen and then you'll respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: We would have done this case in a little bit different manner if that was the situation. We didn't have the quality of evidence that the state had until the case had been closed. I'm going to be asking the court for a mistrial.
UNKNOWN: But their client lied about this on the stand is the state's position. There seems to be evidence to support the position that he lied on the stand about raising the gun. He was confronted with the exhibit. He denied it. The jury wants to see these exhibits.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Okay, Paul, so, your turn here. You know the judge. Do you think there's a possibility of a mistrial over this?
PAUL BUCHER, FORMER DITRICT ATTORNEY FOR WAUKESHA COUNTY, WISCONSIN: No, absolutely not. They got a crappy video. Okay. Big deal. I get really bad copies. I get bad photographs. They got them. You know, part of the defense is to make sure that they ask for -- they call it the best evidence. I know Leo has called it the best evidence and others. It's really a matter of what you have and if you can't decipher it, which I've had, you ask for a better video.
It's not grounds for a reversal. What are grounds for reversal is the comment on the defendant's silence after arrest. But I think they're laying the groundwork, they're throwing -- just like the government threw as much as they could against the wall when they charged, the defense is throwing as much as they can against the wall for post- conviction motions.
I know it's not going to be -- that's not a basis for mistrial. But I think it would be ineffective for them not to at least ask for it. And the government has been playing cat and mouse the whole game.
HIRSCHHORN: Hey, don, can I add one thing to this, please?
LEMON: Go on.
HIRSCHHORN: What would they have done different? Like how would that have changed their defense? The fact that it's a clearer showing of what their client did, that now they're going to change their defense? I don't think so. I completely agree with Paul. They have to do their job and preserve the rights for appeal. But the judge would not grant a mistrial based on that.
LEMON: So, Paul, I want to go back to something Robert talked about and he asked you, because I said what is this when you think of the judge allowing them to see this video, right? What do you think that means? And them asking for it. Quickly, if you can. Sorry. What do you think that means for the jury and for the possibility of what's to come here?
BUCHER: Nothing. And I'm sorry to burst everybody's balloon. I mean, 75 percent or thereabouts of this entire trial has been video, video, video, video, video. And so, it's not surprising that the jury wants to see the video. What's surprising is the jury wanted to see 36 pages of jury instructions.
So, I'm not surprised. I think they're past the self-defense. They've already made that decision in my opinion. And now, they're looking at the substantive offenses. I would guess, and it's a guess, I'll defer to Robert, he's the expert in this area, that we can expect a jury verdict tomorrow.
My experience has been after the jury sends out notes for readbacks or more evidence, whatever it is, that you normally get a jury verdict shortly thereafter. I think they've come to 80 percent of certainty in this case. What that certainty is, I have no idea, but I believe we'll have a verdict sometime midday tomorrow.
LEMON: Okay. So, I can tell from Robert's expression he doesn't think that will happen.
HIRSCHHORN: I don't think he is. Don, I hope he's right, but I don't think he is.
LEMON: All right.
HIRSCHHORN: I think this goes at least till Friday.
LEMON: All right. Thank you, gentlemen. And we will see you tomorrow or the next day whenever it happens. Thank you. I appreciate it.
BUCHER: Thanks, Don.
HIRSCHHORN: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: So, they were found guilty 55 years ago. And now, two men convicted of killing Malcolm X are about to be exonerated. Stay with us.
LEMON: Two men convicted in the 1965 assassination of civil rights icon Malcolm W will soon be exonerated. A 22-month investigation found evidence of their innocence was withheld at trial. Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance saying today, and I quote, "This points to the truth that law enforcement over history has often failed to live up to its responsibilities."
So, joining me now, CNN national correspondent Athena Jones. Athena, good evening. This is fascinating, what is happening now. These exonerations are coming after Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, it's a big deal, but 55 years in the making? I mean, how did this happen?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is a big deal. It's rare to see a reversal in such a high-profile case like this. And these men spent the prime of their lives, decades behind bars. Once they were released, they still had to spend years dealing with the stigma of being wrongfully convicted of this.
Now, this came about because of a documentary that aired on Netflix last year. It was a six-part series called "Who Killed Malcolm X." It was hosted by a Howard University educated man who had converted to Islam, a historian, writer and a journalist. And it raised enough questions about the case that the Manhattan D.A., Cyrus Vance, said that they would be reinvestigating, they would be essentially reopening the case.
And they did so with the help of the Innocence Project, which we know is the non-profit that works to help the wrongfully convicted, and lawyers for the two men. But Don, one of these men, Khalil Islam, died in 2009. The other one, Muhammad Aziz, is 83 years old.
JONES: So, they waited a long time to have their names cleared.
LEMON: They maintained their innocence for a long time, Islam and Aziz. What are their lawyers saying tonight?
JONES: Well, their lawyers are saying, among other things, that this was long overdue, this result was long overdue, and that these convictions were the result of gross official misconduct and of a criminal justice system that is weighted against people of color. Now, Muhammad Aziz, we reached out to him and he gave a statement, saying, while I do not need this court, these prosecutors, or a piece of paper to tell me I am innocent, I am glad that my family, my friends, and the attorneys who have worked and supported me all these years are finally seeing the truth we have all known, officially recognized.
LEMON: The third man convicted said that Aziz and Islam were innocent. The Innocence Project says that there was no physical evidence linking them to the murder. Aziz had an alibi. What is the Innocence Project saying about how these convictions even came up in the first place? I mean, it doesn't seem like they had a strong case.
JONES: Well, no. As you mentioned, we're going to hear more about this in a press conference tomorrow but "The New York Times" is reporting several details. Among them, this idea that there was a third man who testified in the trial. He confessed to being part of the killings. And he said these other two men were not his co- conspirators, they were innocent. He insisted this on the witness stand.
We know both of these men had credible alibis. We also know in the reinvestigation, a lot of these witnesses are dead, they can't re- examine this evidence. But the people reinvestigating did find a witness who corroborated that Aziz was at home that day, at home at the time of the shooting.
We also know that while prosecutors say that Khalil Islam, the man who has now passed away, was the man holding the shotgun, another witness said, no, the man holding the shotgun looked completely different. He was short, he was stocky, he was dark-skinned, he had a beard. Khalil Islam was light-skinned, clean-shaven, lean. So, there were a lot of problems with this case.
And one other thing that came up is that prosecutors did not disclose there were undercover officers in the ballroom, in the Audubon Ballroom on that date in 1965.
So, all of this leading to what Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project saying the assassination of Malcolm X was a historic event that demanded a scrupulous investigation and prosecution but, instead, produced one of the most blatant miscarriages of justice that I've ever seen. Officially correcting the false historical narrative around one of the most significant events in the 20th century U.S. History allows us to learn from and prevent future miscarriages of justice.
LEMON: Wow. Wow. Wow. Great reporting. Thank you so much, Athena. Fascinating story. We'll see you soon.
And there's another case that you need to know about. Twenty years on death row, only hours left until the deadline, a man's life fully rests in the hands of Oklahoma's governor, who hasn't said what he will do. Julius Jones's mother and best friend are here next.
LEMON: This is an important one, y'all. Pay attention to this. Pressure growing on Oklahoma's governor to grant clemency to Julius Jones, who faces execution in less than 24 hours, for a crime he says he didn't commit.
The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voting three to one to grant Jones's clemency and commute his sentence, putting his fate in the hands of Governor Kevin Stitt. But the governor has still not said whether or not he will accept the recommendation. The family and supporters have waited outside his office hoping to speak with him.
Earlier this month, Jones's mother, Madeline Jones, and his best friend, Jimmy Lawson, were on this very program and they return with me this evening. Good evening to both of you.
MADELINE JONES, MOTHER OF JULIUS JONES: Good evening.
JIMMY LAWSON, BEST FRIEND OF JULIUS JONES: Good evening.
LEMON: Madeline, I can't -- last time, I said if I can call you Madeleine, you said yes. Listen, I am so sorry that you're going through this. I can't imagine what you're dealing with, pins and needles. I'm sure the fate of your son is in the hands of Governor Kevin Stitt tonight. You were feeling hopeful the last time we spoke. Any communication with the governor since then, and how are you now?
JONES: No communication with the governor. And I was just stating today to Jimmy that I just feel like -- feel empty. Unidentifiable. No identity. You know, earlier this week, we went to visit with the governor. No response, even though we delivered a letter to him.
And I feel -- I guess I shouldn't say this, but I feel like a second- class citizen. I'm a voter, I'm a part of our community, and yet no response from our honorable governor. So, I feel a little bit invisible.
LEMON: You describe your son's scheduled execution as a lynching. Talk to me about that.
JONES: Well, I feel like it's a modern-day lynching. I think about the word "lynching." I was discussing with my son over here. You might enjoy sports and compatibility (ph) but this lynching, to me, it seems like a barbaric thing.
LEMON: You know, Jimmy, let me bring you in because Julius says you're a longtime friend. Parole Board found fundamental breakdowns in the system tasked with deciding his guilt and they said that there were -- there was racial bias among his jury, an inexperienced attorney, alleged prosecutorial misconduct. I can't understand. Why do you think the governor has pushed this decision down to the wire?
LAWSON: You know, it's a great question because, you know, we provided what the governor asked for. So, after the first commutation, we passed but he came back and said, well, I'm trying to decide and I want you guys to go through clemency right. So, we did that. And guess what? The Pardon Parole Board voted in favor again for the second time.
So, we provided him not one time but a second time of approval. So, we provided the governor exactly what he asked for. Now, we're coming right down to the wire, you know, with pure silence on his behalf. It's kind of surreal moment. It feels like one of those dreams that you're in that doesn't seem real but it is real.
LEMON: Listen, you never know who's watching or what could happen.
Madeline, do you have any words for the governor tonight? Anything you want to say?
JONES: First of all, I'd like to really know the governor. I haven't had the opportunity to meet him as I have other governors and politicians. And I really don't know what to say to him because he had assured us that he would make the decision swift. And if this is swift, we're in trouble again.
LEMON: Please, keep the faith.
JONES: But I would like for him to do the right thing.
LEMON: Yes. Keep the faith. At least -- and at least, at the very least, there can be some communication. So, keep the faith.
LEMON: You know, the Lord works in mysterious ways. So, thank you both. Best of luck. God bless.
LAWSON: We appreciate you, Don. Thank you for allowing us to be here and believing in what we're doing and believing that we still could pull off a miracle. The miracle could happen.
LEMON: Yeah. Amen to that. Thank you both. Thanks for watching, everyone.
JONES: Thank you.
LEMON: Thank you, thank you. Imagine what that poor family is going through. I can't really imagine. Our coverage continues.