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Don Lemon Tonight

President Biden Calling For Calm Over New Variant; GOP Politicizing The New Strain Of COVID; Congresswoman Lauren Boebert Doubling Down On Racist Rhetoric; House Committee To Vote On DOJ Official's Fate; Health Experts Learning More About Omicron; CDC Pushing For People To Get Booster Shots; Smash And Grab Happening In Cities. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired November 29, 2021 - 22:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): Time for the big show. DON LEMON TONIGHT and its big star D. Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Well, look who it is. The man who referred to the lovely and talented and very smart Laura Coates as the upgrade. What are you trying to say about me, buddy?

CUOMO: Better than you.

LEMON: Well, that part is true but still, I mean, you could at least fake it. You're supported to be my good friend.

CUOMO: I am. I love you to death.

LEMON: Yes. How are you doing? Hey, listen, before we go, I didn't get the --


CUOMO: One of the reasons I call her the upgrade is because I've been calling her that for over a year now.

LEMON: I know that. I know that. Good to see you.

CUOMO: Good to see you, brother.

LEMON: I know you had a great Thanksgiving. I know you did. I miss you and I'm grateful for your friendship and your love. I think that you are fantastic, one of the kindest people I know on this planet and there you go. I meant every word.

CUOMO: Well, I'm thankful for you in my life. It was great to see you having a good time. I like the friends-giving tradition.


CUOMO: For us it was great to be in the house for the first time and was all good, man. One memory at a time. It's always better with you, but it was good to know you were having fun here you were.

LEMON: I'm glad you got to be with your family. And you know, I used to spend -- I do friends-giving and then I do a big Christmas and New Years with my family before I head off and do the thing with Anderson and Andy but I'm a -- I am a little worried. We don't know what is going to come up. We don't know what it is.

I say better safe than sorry but don't panic, which is similar to what the experts are saying and what the president is saying. So, we shall see. We don't know. I certainly hope that it doesn't spread this Omicron variant. I hope it doesn't. But we'll see. I think it's something that people --


CUOMO: I'm OK with the spread. It's about what its impact is. I would adopt the know before you go strategy, which is I don't think the society has a lot of tolerance right now for mixed messaging. There are too many people set up to be too resistant to what they're told to begin with.

So, make sure you know what this thing is and what it isn't and that you put it out there and you put it out there everywhere and you stick to your story and you back it up with the data.


CUOMO: That's what the president has to do. He said he was going to do it today. Not chaos and confusion then don't continue the pattern of knowing things and not telling the rest of us and having to be found out.

LEMON: Listen, I think that's tough when you deal with the virus. I'm not expert but I know it mutates and changes and you have the variants.


LEMON: But I think that, again, you don't want to be -- I think you can never be overly, you can't be too overly cautious. I think that you -- and you do everything, everything in moderation but I don't know in this. It's like I get the flu shot. I'm going to wear a mask.

I didn't -- I usually get the flu every year. Even though I take the shot every year, I get the flu but not as severe. I've been getting the flu every year since I was a kid. This is something that happens to me. All right? So, something that just, you know, for me.

But whenever I get the flu shot, it's not as severe so I'm going to continue to wear a mask because the first time in my 28 years on this planet that I did not get the flu was during the pandemic because I think it was the hand washing, the mask wearing, the social distancing.

CUOMO: You and a lot of other people. The numbers tell the story. Look, I'm saying, look, be cautious, do what you can but let's base it on what we know about this --


CUOMO: -- and what bothered me about the first wave of the coverage was it was assuming every unknown would become a negative and that the idea that there were more questions than answers somehow suggested something unsatisfying in what we're being told. They don't know the answers.


CUOMO: So, take that as the answer until they say they have the data.

LEMON: I get what you're saying. Look, you're entitled to your opinion. I just think it's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback when you don't know. You don't know, you don't know. And if you are the leader of the free world, what you should do is tell everyone to be as safe and as cautious as possible, but also tell them we don't know.

And perhaps you should be more careful in your family gatherings and think about whether you want to expose people or be around people. So, I think that's all good advice. Yes, you are right. People shouldn't, you know, say things that they don't know but you don't know, you don't know, Chris.

CUOMO: I hear you. But that's what I'm saying I don't want to hear these big pharma guys say yes, it should be OK with our vaccine, it may not be as much.

LEMON: Right.

CUOMO: I'd have -- I'd have to see. Yes. So then shut up and, you know, and let's see what you know when you know it and it's better to do it that way because we should have learned our lesson by now.


And when people get the data of what the hospitalizations are and if what we've seen in this one province in South Africa holds and others, and in other countries that this variant is boosting hospitalizations, now you got something to work with to drive the message of having to be careful.

I know you'll cover it. I'll be watching.

LEMON: I got a lot to cover. So, I'm going to run. I'll see you. I love you.

CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon.

LEMON: I'll talk to you soon. Thank you very much, brother.

This is Don Lemon Tonight. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

There is a whole lot going on tonight. I was going go short there. Because look, I got a lot of news. And it's good to be back. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

There is a lot that you don't know and that you need to know, but the biggest story, the one that everybody is talking about is full of unanswered questions as we have just been discussing here.

So, the president of the United States Joe Biden calling it almost inevitable, that's a direct quote from him, that this Omicron variant will be here at some point and it's not already here, but urging Americans not to panic.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic. We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists and we're learning more every single day.


LEMON (on camera): So that's what the president is saying there and the CDC is also strengthening booster recommendations. They are now saying everyone 18 and older should get a booster shot.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The unvaccinated need to get vaccinated and those who are eligible to get boosted should get boosted. If you get the level of antibody high enough, the protection spills over to those other variants.


LEMON (on camera): Now, our very own Dr. Sanjay Gupta explained to Chris, and this was just a few minutes ago, why those booster shots are so important right now.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: If you then boost on top of it, you get a bigger cushion effect, which is why I think now the boosters are being recommended for all adults because even if those antibodies aren't as effective at Omicron, as they have been at Delta and Alpha and Beta, the more antibodies, hopefully the more protection.


LEMON (on camera): I know you have a lot of questions. Everyone I know has a lot of questions. They've been asking me. And look, we don't know everything. And we're going to explain all of you, to all of you and we're going to go through it to the best of our knowledge and explain what is going on with this Omicron variant first detected in South Africa, Southern Africa.

But there is a lot that we don't know and it could take weeks until we have the answers for you. It is -- is it more transmissible? I don't know. Is it more severe or dangerous than other variants? Is it more resistant to vaccines? Moderna's chief medical officer says this.


PAUL BURTON, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, Moderna: This virus probably emerged around early October in South Africa or Botswana, lays relatively low and then suddenly, in early November explodes to become the dominant strain displacing the Delta variant in South Africa.

And as you mentioned, as well, it's now in maybe 20 countries around the world. I think all the evidence points to the fact, Wolf, that this is a very transmissible virus and one that we need to take seriously.


LEMON (on camera): Again, if you want the information, stay tuned. We're going to get it to you. The experts are going to weigh in here tonight. And with all of that, with the world on edge wondering what Omicron will mean, I cannot believe the lies and the misinformation are spreading faster than the variant.

Here is exhibit a. Congressman Ronny Jackson, remember, he was -- let me remind you he's a doctor, right, he's the doctor for the former White House physician for the former guy, he is tweeting this. This is what he tweeted. Here come the MEV, or MEV, the midterm election variant. They need a reason to push unsolicited nationwide mail in ballots. Democrats will do anything to cheat during an election but we're not going to let them.

Again, a doctor trying to turn this variant into just another opportunity to push the big lie of bogus election fraud. He's not the only one.


PETE HEGSETH, CO-HOST, FOX NEWS: You can count on a variant about every October, every two years.


LEMON (on camera): OK. So obviously, not only is that a lie, it literally makes no sense. A new and concerning variant is not going to help Democrats at the ballot box. A variant that came to light in Southern Africa which for you, geography nerds out there is not in the United States.

So just to be absolutely clear, right, just to be absolutely clear, this new variant is not some kind of diabolical plot by Democrats. So, let's review, OK. Republicans had nothing to say when their leader pushed lies and deadly misinformation about COVID, watch.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I said suppose you brought the light inside the body in which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you're going to test that, too. Sounds interesting.


UNKNOWN: We'll get the right folks who could.

TRUMP: Right. And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs.


LEMON (on camera): OK. So that. And now they expect you to believe that this new variant is just a hoax. Tell that to the families of the more than 770,000 dead Americans. Tell them the Omicron variant is just a hoax, nothing to see here.

And of course, Republicans are trying to blame the current President Biden.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I took President Biden at his word. I took him at his word when he said he is going to get COVID under control. Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, more Americans have died this year than last year under COVID.


LEMON (on camera): Interesting. So that is really something, right? You know what might help get COVID under control? If more people were vaccinated which is exactly what the president is trying to do with vaccine mandates, but Kevin McCarthy is blaming the president while his own party is fighting the mandates.

Federal judge in Missouri issuing an order today partially blocking the Biden administration from implementing a vaccine mandate for some healthcare workers. You know what else would help fight COVID? Masks. But some Republicans are fighting those, too.

The QAnon congresswoman has been fined some $65,000 for refusing to wear a mask on the House floor. The GOP is just a circus right now. That's just the honest truth. It's a clown show. There is no other way to describe a United States congresswoman, Lauren Boebert proudly, proudly putting her own bigotry and Islamophobia on display with a disgusting so-called joke at the expense of one of her colleagues.


REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): Look to my left and there she is. Ilhan Omar. They said, well, she doesn't have a backpack, we should be fine.


BOEBERT: Looked over and they said, look, the Jihad squad decided to show up for work today.


LEMON (on camera): Did you hear that? She doesn't have a backpack like it would be a backpack, you know, with an explosive device in it or, you know, something like that in case I had to explain that to some people and then the Jihad squad.

There is no -- there is no excuse, there is no denying. You can't -- there's -- you know exactly what she's saying. This new congresswoman spoke on the phone today and it did not go well. Ilhan Omar putting out a statement saying, quote, "instead of apologizing for Islamophobic comments and fabricated lies, Representative Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments. She instead doubled down in her rhetoric and decided to end -- I decided to end the unproductive call."

Now, the congresswoman going on to tweet. Now this tweet it says a lot about where we are today. It says similar sentiments about certain people with certain attitudes. All right?

This is what she tweeted. She said there is only so much grace we can extend to others as humans before we must learn to cut our losses or hang up on someone in this case.

Now listen, I wasn't on the phone call. I don't know what happened but that last sentiment is certainly true. There is only so much grace you can allow certain humans at this point, especially in the middle of a deadly pandemic and when you've had an insurrection. And when you have the lies of a stolen election. Lauren Boebert says that she didn't want to, quote, "offend someone's religion" but she also doubled down with this prime example of sorry, not sorry.


BOEBERT: Make no mistake. I will continue to fearlessly put America first, never sympathizing with terrorists. Unfortunately, Ilhan can't say the same thing and our country is worse off for it.


LEMON (on camera): I mean, you just keep wondering where is the bottom? Where is rock bottom? But after, all Republicans refused to vote to hold Paul Gosar accountable for that anime video that appeared to show him killing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking the President of the United States.

And while the GOP circus continues, the investigation of one of the darkest days in American history, the attack on the capitol is moving forward. In a matter of hours, a federal appeals court will hear the former president's latest effort to stop the national archives from turning over documents from around January 6th to the House.


Now, he is claiming executive privilege but the current White House is saying that's not his call anymore since he is no longer the president of the United States.

That as the January 6th committee is about to vote on a criminal contempt of Congress referral for former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark. Jeffrey Clark stonewalled the committee showing up for an interview but refusing to answer questions.

Clark would be the second person to face contempt charges for defying the committee after Steve Bannon was indicted. Bannon himself hoping to be the ring master of his own media circus trying to convince a judge not to bar him from publicly sharing documents he receives from the DOJ before his trial.

In the face of all that the GOP is just loading up the clown car of their never-ending circus. Almost makes you think they're trying to distract you from something.

So, like I said, the President of the United States, Joe Biden is calling this new variant a cause for concern, not a cause for panic. We're going to get answers to some of those unanswered questions coming up.


BIDEN: You have to get your vaccine. You have to get the shot. You have to get the booster. Sooner or later, we're going to see cases of this new variant here in the United States.




LEMON (on camera): The Biden administration working to reassure Americans over the new Omicron coronavirus variant. Tonight, the CDC responding by strengthening their booster recommendations now saying all adults should get booster. So, what does Omicron mean for the future of the COVID pandemic?

So, joining me now to discuss is Dr. Richard Besser, he is the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

I'm so happy to have you here, doctor. Thank you so much for doing this.

It is too early to know just how dangerous this new variant is, whether it's more transmissible or deadlier. But are vaccines the best tool to fight Omicron until we know more about. Vaccines, booster and so on?

RICHARD BESSER, PRESIDENT & CEO, ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION: Well, you know, Don, it is too soon to know. This is a period of incredible uncertainty and I think the fact that it's being taken seriously around the globe is really important.

You know, whether or not our vaccines are going to work effectively against Omicron variant, we don't know. We do know that the vaccines work extremely well against the Delta variant and almost 1,000 people in America are dying every single day.

And so, upping our protection, upping our levels of immunity to this current strain and then looking to see how effective it is against Omicron, those are both really important things to do.

You know, from my read, it's likely that there is going to be some level of protection from the current vaccines to the Omicron strain. The big question is how high that level of protection will be and I think that's why the call is hey, look, go ahead and get boosted. It will definitely help you against the Delta variant and hopefully it will add some protection against this new strain.

LEMON: I appreciate that advice, doctor. So, the Pfizer CEO spoke to Anderson Cooper tonight and he is confident that his company can respond with the new vaccine quickly if needed. Listen.


ALBERT BOURLA, CEO, PFIZER: There are a few things that we don't know about the vaccine but there are a few things that we know for certain. We don't know if it will be more virulent, we don't know if it's going to transmit faster or have a higher disease. We don't know if it will escape the protection of our vaccines but we know the secret of the virus. We have it. And this is how everything starts.


LEMON (on camera): Now he says that they have the secret to unlocking Omicron specific vaccine and can do it quickly. Is he being overly optimistic here?

BESSER: You know, I don't think he's being overly optimistic. The mRNA technology, so much of what was developed with our tax dollars to the NIH is extremely versatile and so they can make slight changes to the vaccine to adjust to changes that are seen in the virus.

You know, the fact that the South African scientist so quickly identified this, shared the genetic information with the globe and said, hey, look, here is something to be concerned about. That is huge. It puts us way ahead of the situation we were with when COVID initially struck but it also says to me that we need to ensure that if there are new vaccines needed that those vaccines are distributed much more equitibly than vaccines have been so far.

Because South Africa, so many countries in Africa have had a real challenge getting vaccines because wealthy nations have cornered the markets.

LEMON: There are people who are now due to get their boosters, doctor, who might be thinking that they are going to delay in case a new booster if it's developed that it fights off this variant, as well. What do you say to them?

BESSER: I say don't wait. You know, I got my booster three weeks ago. I still see kids in clinic and I was in a recommended group. Now the CDC is recommending for every adult 18 or older who is at least six months out from receiving the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two months out from receiving the J&J vaccine it's -- that it's worth getting a booster.

And we are seeing that. You know, we've seen that around the country, thankfully the protection remains quite high for hospitalization and death but we're seeing a lot of breakthrough cases as immunity wanes. Milder more moderate infections. But those infections can cause real problems in people's lives and they can ensure that the virus continues to spread.

So, upping our levels of protection it's a good thing to do personally and in terms of reducing spread in our communities.

LEMON: Yes. I'm glad you said that. Because I have a family member who said maybe I should wait. I said no, get the booster and then see what happens because you need to be protected as best you can.

Now, doctor, the CDC now says anyone over the age of 18 should get a booster before I think it was, you know, can't get a booster. They said May before that. Should the messaging about boosters have been better, you think?


BESSER: You know, I don't think so. And the reason, the big challenge with COVID and with any new emerging infectious disease is that you want recommendations to be based on science. And as the science changes, you want to be able to change those recommendations.

What you have to do though, is set up the public for that and saying here is what we're recommending now as information changes, our recommendations are going to change because we want you have the best most current recommendations based on the latest information.

And the information in terms of boosters changed. Early on the evidence showed those above 65 were the greatest risk and the increasing risk of hospitalization and death the further out they were from vaccination. But the younger people were still pretty well protected.

Well, over time, we're still seeing a high protection in terms of hospitalization and death but we're seeing so much spread still in communities. We're seeing that on the rise now and the feeling is as we go into the winter where viruses do so much better anyway, it's a good thing to get everyone that increased level of protection. And I do think that's a good idea.

LEMON: Yes. The Biden administration has put travel restrictions on South Africa surrounding countries, as well. But I mean, Omicron cases have now been found in at least 16 countries, doctor, and U.S. citizens are being allowed to return. I mean, do these travel restrictions make any sense? Can they make a real difference, real significance at all? BESSER: Well, you know, the travel restrictions have been shown to be

beneficial for only short periods of time early on. So, you know, back in 2009 when we are facing the swine flu pandemic, there was a big call for travel restrictions into the United States. Well, we had more cases in the United States than any other country. And so, it made absolutely no sense.

In this situation a short period of restrictions so that we can learn more about whether our vaccines work, we can learn more about the severity, we can learn more about whether this is more transmissible, we should know that information within one to two weeks.

After that period of time, it makes no sense to maintain restrictions and it becomes just punitive especially punitive to a country that has done a lot to ensure that the world is more prepared for this variant than the world was for the Delta variant.

LEMON: We're so happy to have you here your expertise and knowledge. Thank you, Dr. Besser. I appreciate it.

BESSER: Thanks so much. Good to be here.

LEMON: And President Biden urging every American to stay safe as we learn more about Omicron but some Republicans are more interested in ginning up conspiracy theories over the new variant including a doctor in Congress.



LEMON (on camera): So, President Biden urging Americans not to panic about the new coronavirus variant but as Omicron spreads, it is fueling more attempts to politicize the pandemic.

So, I want to bring in now CNN's chief political correspondent Dana Bash, and CNN's senior political analyst, Mr. John Avlon.

So good to see both of you. Happy belated turkey Thanksgiving. I hope you had a great one.

So, let's discuss. John, I'll start with you since you're sitting here with me. You know, the president, President Biden is urging Americans not to panic while, you know, we still learn more about this new variant. But what does that mean for the president who has promised, right, to return to normalcy?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST & ANCHOR: Well, look, to some extent obviously, he's in a catch 22. The Republicans are trying to make hey of saying he promised to eradicate COVID. He failed to do so. Now of course that overlooks two big things.

First of all, this is a global pandemic, new variants emerge which is why attempts to cast this new variant as some kind of Democratic conspiracy are such self-evident nonsense.

LEMON: It's from southern Africa.

AVLON: Yes, for example. Right. This is the second thing is that part of the problem we have is that we've had a continued epidemic among the unvaccinated --

LEMON: Right.

AVLON: -- and a lot of these same folks are the people who are pushing the conspiracy theories that stop -- cause people to not get vaccinated so it's a self-perpetuating problem. What Biden is doing is trying to confront this with the information we have, saying we're not going to lockdown, we're not going to overreact but we need to deal with this and talk to people like adults. What a concept.

But the simple fact is that these variants are going to come. They're going to take a toll on his ability to take control of the situation and we're going to have to learn how to live with this and deal with this and he's got to tell his story, which is say we're not going to have lockdowns, we're not going to panic, we're going to try not to politicize this, we are going to deal with it.

LEMON: And I'm going to talk a little bit more about that. But Dana, you see, I'm sure, how some in the GOP are already responding to this new variant, the GOP congressman, former White House doctor, Ronny Jackson tweeting that this is part of a Democratic plot to rig the 2020 election. I mean, it is absurd more than irresponsible. What is going on here?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's unclear based on that comment what is more absurd or irresponsible, the fact he's a doctor or the fact that he's a politician because that political analysis just doesn't work on its face based on what you said at the beginning of the show and what John was just saying.

Let's just take that absurd statement and play it out. How would it possibly help the Democrats? How would it possibly help Joe Biden if there was another surge or a real variant really took off and a very detrimental way. It wouldn't.


And the other point that he is, I think, trying to make is that Democrats will use it as an execution for mail in ballots. Well, he's from Texas. Texas has already passed one of most stringent restrictive laws going forward in 2022 to make sure things like that don't happen.

So, I mean, it's just on its face ridiculous. And the reason, though, that we are talking about it. But I know you wanted to bring it up tonight is because there are people who listen to the Ronny Jacksons of the world.

Because it is amplified on media that is kind of an echo chamber for people who aren't getting vaccinated or who actually do believe these conspiracy theories, which is part of the reason that in America, there is this epidemic still of the unvaccinated, which could get even worse if this variant turns out to be -- turns out to be bad and we don't know yet if that's the case.

LEMON: But John, he does have -- he does have COVID successes to point to, I mean, vaccines are widely available. People are able to get -- you know, be with their family for the holidays but that doesn't seem to be sticking, right? Because he keeps getting dragged down with this.

AVLON: Well, look, I mean, COVID is not going to proceed to anyone's political calendar no matter what the Republicans try to say. We made enormous strides in this year. Let's not forget that, you know, in January and February cases, hospitalizations and deaths were spiking.

And the rollout of vaccines, the amount of Americans who have gotten at least one dose is extraordinary. The boosters are now being available. They are plentiful. They are ready. The problem is that we still have some folks who are holding out.

And increasingly we see that partisan divide around vaccinations, which is going to be real bad news for folks who haven't got vaccinated. But the operationalization of the vaccines is extraordinary accomplishment.

Perfect is not on the menu here, people. We're dealing with a global pandemic.


AVLON: But there are real gains to be made and one thing that the Biden administration needs to get better at is telling their story. Because what they are confronting is a non-stop disinformation industrial complex that pushes one narrative all the time and it sticks in the minds of their supporters. And so, you've got to be able to come out with a consistent story.

LEMON: You mean, six -- you're talking about with a vaccine mandate or that kind of thing? is that what you're --

AVLON: All the disinformation. The talking points of the day. Those filter through. And I think the White House is starting to realize that they need to start doing a better job telling their story.

LEMON: Well, Speaking of that. I mean, I heard you agreeing with him saying huh, Dana, but you know, we just talked about Ronny Jackson. What about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis? I mean, he's an example of vowing to protect Floridians from another lockdown due to this variant.

To be clear, right, President Biden is saying lockdowns are off the table for now. And, you know, his strategy for this winter doesn't include shut downs or lockdowns, just more politics.

BASH: No. Of course, it is. He's going to protect people in Florida for something -- from something that isn't going to happen. But it's one of the rules, the unfortunate rules of modern politics in this arena in which we live right now which is if you have somebody like Governor DeSantis say something like that enough, people who are listening will start to believe it. And potentially believe that the president is considering lockdowns. Which he said explicitly today when asked at the White House the answer is no.

Things could change but that is in nobody's interest because we are at the point where unless this variant or another variant turns out to be completely resistant to the vaccines. We're at the point where we are beginning to need to live with this pandemic as part of our lives and at the point where the pandemic is going to become endemic as they say in the scientific community.

They say that we're not there yet but we could be there soon and at that point, the question is, will this stop being politicized? We can only hope so --

LEMON: John?

BASH: -- because how many times have we said this is about public health, this is not about politics nor it should be.

LEMON: John, I'm going to give you the last word but let me just get this question in. Because I think that the administration the president is facing something similar to what we in the news media face. We can say the truth and facts and give people the proper information until we're blue in the face but they have bombarded and I think you had this similar sense earlier.

With so many people who are thriving off of disinformation, --


LEMON: -- that it is -- it becomes almost impossible to get the message through. You still have people who are listening to ignorance.


AVLON: We have self-segregated into separate political realities. On the social media and the algorithms that drag people down these rabbit holes make it worse. Over time, the truth will tell. The truth will win. But in the short run, you run into this wall of disinformation that you need to confront and call out and some people will still refuse to see it.

Sometimes up until the point they're hospitalized in the case of COVID denial. Here is the reality checks that I think are so important. You know, Dana made important points about learning to deal with this virus as the pandemic evolves around the globe. The importance of focusing on what we can control, vaccines, boosters and then also looking at the hardcore realities that we've gotten numb too.

I'm talking about Ron DeSantis in Florida. More Floridians have died from COVID than Americans died during the Vietnam War. We don't notice that. More Americans have died of COVID in the last year almost two years than died during the Civil War, America's deadliest war. We become numb to that.

At what point do we wake up from this partisan stupor we're in and to realize the deadly serious as this of what we're dealing, how much we disrespect the dead by retreating to the denialism and to disinformation.

LEMON: Yes. And how much we disrespect the living.


LEMON: Right. Who potentially will become sick and die, as well, unfortunately.

AVLON: That's right.

LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. Good to see you.

BASH: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: A wave of smash and grab robberies hitting several American cities with thieves making off with all kinds of expensive jewelry and devices. What police are doing to try to stop it. That is next.



LEMON (on camera): You've got to watch this because you need to know and you need to be on the lockout and you just need to know what's going on as the holiday shopping season is kicking into high gear, high end retailers and police departments across the country are dealing with a growing phenomenon. Smash and grab robberies turning violent.

More tonight from CNN security correspondent Josh Campbell.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In Minnesota, more organized smash and grab robberies at two separate Best Buy stores last Friday. TVs, tablets and hoover boards stolen by brazen mobs mimicking the thieves that hit an Apple store near San Francisco. Grabbing and running off with expensive electronics.

The robberies adding to a recent spade of similar large-scale thefts hitting big retailers and designer stores in major cities last week including this Louis Vuitton store in San Francisco.

WILLIAM SCOTT, CHIEF, SAN FRANCISCO POLICE DEPARTMENT: We have been seeing this wave of people invading stores in large numbers. There is no way in my mind that we can have a situation where 20, up to 80 people can invade a store or series of stores and there not be some communication and some organization.

CAMPBELL: On Friday, a Home Depot near Los Angeles was robbed by as many as 10 thieves who stole sledgehammers, crowbars and other tools like those used in smash and grab thefts. Four men have been arrested in that robbery. On Saturday a security guard died after being shot during an armed

robbery of a news crew covering the smash and grab robberies in Oakland. Kevin Nishita, a former police officer was shot while guarding the crew earlier in the week and later died from his wounds.

JOHN MUNSEY, POLICE CHIEF, COLMA POLICE DEPARTMENT: He was just a tremendous human being and he is such a loss for our law enforcement community, as well as our community at large.

CAMPBELL: The Oakland Police Department using tactical teams to deescalate threats as other police departments across the country ramp up efforts to combat thefts that are becoming more frequent, more violent and more deadly.

SCOTT: We've arrested some of these folks and we've recovered millions of dollars' worth of property. Some is just motivated by greed and motivated by people that are just brazen and don't want to abide by the laws that we have. So, we're going to attack this at all angle.


LEMON (on camera): Brazen is the word. Josh Campbell joins me now. Josh, good to see you, it's alarming to see this in multiple American cities. What is going on here?

CAMPBELL: You know, Don, if you talk to criminologists, they'll tell you that trends and crime are complicated. They sometimes take weeks, sometimes months to establish this pattern. And so, that state what we're hearing from experts is that two things are true when you look at the targets that these robbers are going after.

One, this is obviously coming up on the holiday season, store shelves are full and there also remains, Don, a very lucrative market for stolen goods. So those things taken together make this crime targets.

Now there is also a political angle to this, as well. We heard today from the Democratic mayor of the city from Oakland. She spoke to our colleague Kate Bolduan and said that in her view, the lack of police officers, not enough police on the street are partially to blame. Take a listen to what she said.


MAYOR LIBBY SCHAAF (D), OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA: Let me be clear, Oakland needs more police. We have been impacted by staffing reductions, COVID interrupted are recruitment and training processes and the defund rhetoric is challenging our ability to attract and retain recruits.


CAMPBELL (on camera): So, all those things taken together, the targets themselves prime for these robbers staging their acts and at least in the mayor's view there, the lack of police on the street is the perfect storm that's allowing this to continue. It's also worth pointing out that there are things that police officers are trying to do both behind the scenes and things that we can see with our own eyes.

We know that they are working together, trying to build out the networks. You know, would gather intelligence, recruit sources to try to figure out who is running these groups, who is operating them and directing them so they can try to detour and disrupt this activity.

There is also what's being seen with our eyes, that is the uptick in patrols, police departments around the country increasing the numbers of officers in front of this retail locations both as service deterrents but also in order to help collect evidence.


If they see these groups coming, people perhaps casing some of the targets having law enforcement officers there on the front end, rather than responding to something after it already happened is what they are trying to achieve.

And then finally, it's worth noting the retailers themselves also obviously have a main interest here. They are losing money any time one of these stores is robbed and then also that effect of, you know, shoppers saying well maybe we don't want to go out and shop if these places are unsafe.

Retailers trying to relay concerns telling us today that they are working hand and glove with law enforcement around the country again to try to ensure a safe shopping experience but obviously, a major issue here for public safety that we're seeing in not one, not two but many states around the country.

LEMON: Josh Campbell, thank you very much, sir. We'll be right back.

CAMPBELL: Thanks, Don.



LEMON (on camera): So, take this. A former defense secretary taking on the Pentagon. Mark Esper is suing the Department of Defense after they told him to redact parts of his upcoming book that recount his time working under the former president.

In his first interview since the lawsuit, Secretary Esper telling CNN's Jake Tapper that Americans deserve to know what Trump was up to.


MARK ESPER, FORMER UNITED STATESSTATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: My view is that the American people deserve a full and unvarnished history of the last presidency of the Trump administration. And what I aim to do is to provide important insights and anecdotes and color to what was arguably one of the most tumultuous second has of an administration in history.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON (on camera): So that is putting it lightly. Esper broke with

Trump periodically during his tenure as defense secretary, opening a rift with his then boss after Esper said that he opposed using active- duty troops to crack down on the massive protest across the U.S. after the death of George Floyd.

And when he distanced himself from the infamous photo op outside Saint John's Church in Washington, D.C. as well, Trump ultimately firing Esper via tweet just days after losing the 2020 election.

So, what can we learn from the excerpts at issue here? Remember that Bob Woodward's recent book "Peril" reveal just how concerned joint chiefs chairman General Mark Milley was about what the then president might do to hold on to power.

Former Secretary Esper insisting that nothing in his book is classified information. He is calling the redactions arbitrary and capricious. And he is revealing today that the January 6th committee has contacted him.


ESPER: Yes, they have reached out to me. We haven't been able to connect yet and you're right, I wasn't there at the time. It was a terrible tragic event and it obviously struck all of us pretty deeply.


LEMON (on camera): He is right. It was a terrible tragic day, and it's why Americans need as much daylight on the Trump presidency as we can get.

The January 6th committee is about to make a big move in trying to get more information about what happened around that tragic day. The panel set to vote on a referral for criminal contempt for a former -- former top DOJ official and Trump ally.