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Don Lemon Tonight

January 6 Committee Expected To Vote For Criminal Contempt Charges Against Former Top Justice Department Official; President Biden Calls For Calm Over New Coronavirus Variant; Coronavirus Pandemic: Omicron; GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert Doubles Down On Islamophobic Comments; Parents Upset Over Mask Mandates Attack School Board Chair's Child Online. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired November 29, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: The House January 6 Committee expected to vote this week for criminal contempt of Congress charges against Jeffrey Clark, a former top Justice Department official, for refusing to provide critical information to the committee while under subpoena.

Tonight, President Biden calling on Americans to remain calm over the new coronavirus variant Omicron, saying that while the variant is a cause for concern, it is not a reason for people to panic.

And Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert doubling down on Islamophobic comments aimed at her Democratic colleague Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

CNN's congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles is live on Capitol Hill for us this evening. Ryan, good evening to you. My question is, the January 6th Select Committee announcing they will vote on another criminal contempt of Congress referral this time for former top DOJ official Jeffrey Clark. What can you tell us about that?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Don, this is a significant move by the January 6th Select Committee. This is the second time that they have moved or planned to move on a criminal contempt referral for someone that they issued a subpoena for.

And Jeffrey Clark, they view, as a key cog in this investigation that they have underway. Clark was at the Department of Justice in the days after the November election leading up to the January 6th insurrection. He was the Trump ally within the Department of Justice that was encouraging his superiors to try and use the agency as a way to investigate these false claims of election fraud across the country.

Now, his efforts were rebuffed by then acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. But still, they believe that Clark could be a key link between the White House, these groups that were working outside of the White House, the Trump campaign, this other group "stop the steal," other organizations that could perhaps build this case of a coordinated effort to try and drum up all of this angst across the country related to the election that then served as the precursor to what happened on January 6th.

Clark initially did show up to be interviewed by the January 6th Select Committee, but once he got in the room, he just didn't answer any questions. He said he couldn't because of executive privilege and attorney client privilege.

A lot of legal experts believe those claims probably don't have a lot of merit behind them. That's why the committee is taking the step. They are going to move very quickly, Don. They are going to have a business meeting on Wednesday to vote it out of the committee. It could be voted on the House floor as soon as Thursday. And then it will be in the hands of the Department of Justice.

LEMON: Okay. So, I want to ask you moving this forward a little bit more because we are waiting to hear, Ryan, from the national archives. They have to turn over the records from the White House. Tomorrow, the appeals court will hear the former president's case. So, what do you expect there?

NOBLES: Yes. So, this is a key step in this collection of information that the January 6th Committee is hoping to do. They're looking for hundreds, maybe thousands of pieces of documents from the Trump White House in the January -- in and around January 6th.

And this is an appeal of a lower court ruling in which the court said that the national archives can hand that information over to the Select Committee but Trump and his legal team immediately appealed that decision. This will be a three-judge panel that will hear this case.

Two of these judges are Obama appointees. The other one is a Biden appointee. So, it is not a very good draw in terms of the former president and his hopes. And one of these judges actually already ruled in a case related to executive privilege in Don McGahn and wrote a very harsh opinion as it relates to executive privilege and what the Trump White House believed it had at that time.


And of course, that was opinion that was written when Trump was still the president. He's, of course, no longer the president and the Biden White House has said that they have no problem handing over these documents.

So, if Trump were to lose this appeal, he still could go much further. It could end up in the Supreme Court. But the fact this is happening so quickly, Don, shows that the courts are willing to help the committee out and move the legal process forward because, as we know, one of the legal strategies for Trump and his associates is to just draw this process out as long as possible, maybe even into the midterm elections where if the Republicans win, they'll likely shut the committee down.

LEMON: Ryan Nobles reporting this from Washington. Thank you, Ryan. Appreciate that.

NOBLES: Thank you.

LEMON: So, joining me now, CNN White House correspondent John Harwood and former Nixon White House counsel John Dean. Good to see you both, gentlemen. Let's start with John Dean this evening. So, what do you think the Select Committee is going -- why are they going after Jeffrey Clark? We know officials who worked with him at the DOJ like Jeffrey Rosen who have already been talking to the committee. So, what are they after here, John?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, they do know a good bit about what he did and apparently why he did it. He expressed himself in a letter very clearly as to how he wanted the states to impose their own will on electors. It was an outrageous plan that he tried to get his superiors or colleagues, I should say really, at the Department of Justice to sign on to.

I think what because he dealt directly with the White House, the committee would like to fill that gap and know exactly what he was doing and with whom at the White House and get that into the picture. We don't have that information now and he's probably the only person that can really supply it.

LEMON: John Harwood, members of the Select Committee are telling CNN that they'll likely make a decision this week on what to do about Mark Meadows. What are you hearing about this? He played a key role leading up to the January 6th, but his situation is more complicated, correct?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's definitely more complicated, Don. First of all, he was extremely close to President Trump. And after all, the committee has as a core purpose to figure out exactly what the former president had to do directly with what happened on January 6th. So, Mark Meadows was in the thick of it, has a lot of information that they would like to have.

On the other hand, unlike somebody like Steve Bannon, who is not on the government payroll, he was the White House chief of staff. He was in the Oval Office. That gives him a more plausible claim to executive privilege than somebody like Steve Bannon can claim. That doesn't mean he would ultimately win in a court fight, but he has a stronger claim.

And I think at some level, there may be a further complicating factor, which is that Mark Meadows served with many of the members who are on this Select Committee. He was a fringe member of Congress. Republican leaders couldn't stand him professionally because of the trouble he caused them in trying to drag the republican House further to the right. But he had congenial personal relationships with some members of Congress, including Democrats.

So, I don't know how large a factor that is, but that's an additional thing that I think looms in the background. But the committee says they're looking to make a decision this week. And I think at the end of the day, they've had extended discussions with Mark Meadows. If he ultimately refuses to cooperate, I think they're not going to have any choice but to file contempt, but I think they're going to be slow to take that step.

LEMON: All right. John, I want to read something from -- this is part of the statement from Chairman Bennie Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney. They wrote after Meadows failed to comply with the Select Committee's subpoena.

Indeed, Mr. Meadows has failed to answer even the most basic questions, including whether he was using a private cell phone to communicate on January 6th, and where his text messages from that day are.

The language here is deliberate. What's the committee trying to accomplish by putting it out there like that?

DEAN: Is that John Dean or John Harwood?

LEMON: That's John Dean. Sorry about that. Two Johns here. John Dean.


DEAN: I think what they're saying is they believe that there is information that he has in his -- as we all do today, carry a lot of data with us, and that would be valuable to the committee. Whether that would fall within executive privilege is a good question. A lot of personal use is made of those phones.

A lot of the activities that the January 6th Committee is looking at should not fall within what is normally an executive privilege area. When you're up to no good in misconduct, that is something that's protected by executive privilege. That was established in the Nixon era when the court found and said there is such a thing as executive privilege.

So, I think that's what they're going for, Don. And again, I think it's a delay tactic by the Republicans and this is just going to go on for a long time before we get answers.


LEMON: Let me follow up on that because you brought it up. I mean, you know a lot about executive privilege. I mean, if the appeals court -- if the appeals court rules against Trump tomorrow, does that undermine all of the former president and his allies who were claiming that they are covered by executive privilege, John Dean?

DEAN: No, it would not. It would -- in fact, it would be surprising if the court expanded executive privilege to cover former presidents. There has been a very narrow privilege for ex-presidents. Harry Truman once invoked it and said, I won't appear in front of Congress during the McCarthy era and testify because of executive privilege. Nixon got a very narrow exception in a court case that went to the Supreme Court.

But this is, as I say, being used by Trump as if he were still president. But as the lower court reminded him, he's not king and nor is he president. LEMON: So, the other ones who are claiming it for themselves -- no, does not apply to them, correct?

DEAN: No, does not.

LEMON: Does not apply.

DEAN: It's the incumbent president's privilege.

LEMON: Yeah. John Harwood, you know, we're learning federal prosecutors indicted three alleged rioters for conspiring to be violent together on January 6th, including someone who is accused of assaulting D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone. What are you learning about this case?

HARWOOD: Well, I think this is significant in the sense that they are honing in on the violence against police officers and it's related to, I think, the broader purpose of what the congressional committee is attempting to discover, which is what was it that precipitated this violence?

And so, the Justice Department has not by any public indication initiated a direct investigation of Donald Trump for his interference. There are Democratic members of Congress who are restless, who would like to see Donald Trump subject to a serious investigation, possibly even prosecuted. But they -- the Justice Department is getting closer to the source of the violence.

And if they can somehow -- as they determine the connections among these rioters who plotted violence as they approached the Capitol and talked about it after they left Washington, if they could somehow tie that to the White House, then some of those Democratic members of Congress might get what they're looking for, which is a stronger nexus with the president and more action by the Justice Department.

LEMON: All right, gentlemen, thank you. Thank you to John. You guys can figure out which one I'm talking.


LEMON (on camera): I appreciate it. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving. I'll see you both soon. Thanks.

I want to turn to the growing question and concerns about the new coronavirus variant spreading around the world. U.S. health officials say it's just a matter of time before it is detected right here.

CNN's Athena Jones has more now.


ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, the president calling for calm --

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.

JONES (voice-over): -- as Omicron, a new coronavirus variant, first detected in South Africa spreads around the world.

PAUL BURTON, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MODERNA: This is a new wrench that's been thrown into the fight against COVID.


JONES (voice-over): Raising new urgent questions.

UNKNOWN: We don't know everything we need to know about this new variant yet.

ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't know yet what the level of severity will be.

JONES (voice-over): Omicron has at least 50 mutations, including some share with the highly contagious Delta variant that drove a deadly summer surge in the United States. The new variant has become the most dominant strain in South Africa less than two weeks after it was first detected.

The strain now confirmed on five continents in more than a dozen countries, including Canada. The U.S. is joining the European Union and other countries in restricting travel from certain Southern African nations, a move health experts say may slow down the variant spread but won't stop it.

FAUCI: When you have a virus that has already gone to multiple countries inevitably, it will be here.

JONES (voice-over): U.S. federal health officials are bracing for Omicron to be detected here with the CDC sequencing coronavirus genomes and working closely with state health officials. But it won't be clear for a few weeks how transmissible Omicron is, whether it causes more severe illness and whether it can evade the immune protection offered by vaccines.

SALIM ABDOOL KARIM, CO-CHAIR, AFRICAN MINISTERIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON COVID-19: The reality is we only have known about this virus for just over a week, so we don't really have the kind of data require to answer those questions definitively.

JONES (voice-over): Scientists and pharmaceutical companies are working to get those answers.

ALBERT BOURIA, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, PFIZER: I don't think that the result will be the vaccines don't protect. I think the results could be, which we don't know yet, that the vaccines protect less.


JONES (voice-over): Vaccine makers like Pfizer and Moderna stressing they are ready to respond quickly if changes to their vaccines are needed.

BURTON: We think within, you know, weeks, maybe two to three months, we would be able to have an Omicron specific vaccine booster available for testing and then for administration.

JONES (voice-over): And until more is known about the new variant, health officials say the best way to protect yourself is for the still unvaccinated to get vaccinated and for those eligible for booster shots to get them.

COLLINS: We expect that most likely the current vaccines will be sufficient to provide protection and especially the boosters will give that additional layer of protection.

JONES (voice-over): Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


LEMON (on camera): So, here is a question a lot of folks are asking. Do we need vaccines specifically designed to target the Omicron variant and how fast can we get those shots in arms? Expert advice, next.



LEMON: Okay, so, more of an explanation for you on what is going on. There are a lot of unanswered questions. We'll try to answer as many as possible. The CDC is out today with new guidance, strengthening their recommendation for booster shots over the Omicron variant, saying all adults 18 and older should go get their third shot. This is more than 50 nations, including the U.S., restrict travel over the Omicron variant.

So, let's discuss now. Tom Bollyky is the director of global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "Plagues and the Paradox of Progress. Tom, we're so glad you're here to help answer these questions. This -- good evening to you. Global anxiety over the Omicron variant is palpable. Much of it sparked by worries that, you know, it might -- you know, that it might and we don't know, but might undermine the vaccines. How concerned should we be about that?

THOMAS BOLLYKY, AUTHOR, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL HEALTH AT COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I agree with the president. We should be concerned but not panicked. What we do know from data from South Africa is there is some indication that cases involving this new variant may have spread rapidly. And we know that for mutations and areas of concern with regard to the virus of the spike protein, the binding receptor areas. And those may mean that it is more transmissible, more severe, and may undermine the effectiveness of our vaccines.

We just don't know the degree to which yet or even for certain if it does. What this does suggest, though, is that what we must be doing is really redoubling what we should be doing heading into a winter surge of the already very contagious Delta variant and focusing on those kinds of efforts that we can control at this time.

LEMON: Let's talk about this travel ban, if you will, to Southern Africa. That was announced over the weekend. Travel restrictions, if you want to call it, that went into effect today includes exemptions for U.S. citizens. Does that make any sense because the virus doesn't care, right, which country you're from and what your nationality is? Does that make any sense?

BOLLYKY: It at best makes modest sense. You know, travel bans in general have not been hugely effective in this pandemic unless you're an island nation that isn't seeing a lot of travel from affected areas and you got the bans put in place really, really early. Very few other nations have benefitted. You know, at best, it delayed the arrival of cases a week or two. In this case, it's unlikely even to do that.

LEMON: You think it's here already?

BOLLYKY: Yeah, this variant is probably already here. This variant is already in 13 countries in Europe. It's in Canada, it's in Israel, it's in Hong Kong, it's in several countries in Africa. It was mentioned before on five continents. I wouldn't be surprised if in the next week, we find cases of it here.

LEMON: Yeah. Is there some concern -- are you concerned that new -- that the countries now, you know, with this new variant, that they won't report possibly because of the fear of a global backlash or even a ban that might affect their economy?

BOLLYKY: I am concerned. Already today on social media, one of the scientists involved in identifying the sequences was making pleas for the restarting of flights because they can't get the materials that they need to conduct further tests because there are bans on flights to South Africa. That's a terrible sign.

And, you know, one of the things we really do need to do with the evidence we have around the virus is to start to do genetic or genome surveillance. We need to do it domestically to see if we have cases and to lift these travel bans sooner than later. Whatever effect they have is going to be quite modest. We shouldn't punish these countries further.

LEMON: This is a question that a family member of mine had, also a member of my team here in the studio had as well about boosters. Moderna says it's working the vaccines specifically for Omicron or even possibly upping the dose of the third shot. So, the question, should people get a booster today or are they possibly going to have to get another one for Omicron if it is -- if they later develop one?

BOLLYKY: So, they should definitely get. If they're eligible for a booster, they should definitely get a booster today. You know, as we talked about and as you rightly said, there is a lot we don't know about this Omicron variant. There is a lot we do know about the Delta variant. We are in for a rough ride this winter as it is, particularly in unvaccinated population.

[23:24:57] The U.S. is still only at 59 percent of the population being fully vaccinated. Eighty-three percent of the deaths we've seen since June 1st are in unvaccinated populations. The smartest thing we can do to get ahead of that winter surge of the Delta variant and whatever might come from Omicron variant is becoming fully vaccinated.

It's highly, highly unlikely that whatever this new variant -- new information we learned about this new variant will be that it completely undermines vaccine -- the effectiveness of these vaccines. It may take a hit, still worth getting.

LEMON: So, the answer to both is get it. And yes, you may have to take another one if it gets to that, correct?

BOLLYKY: That's right. We'll find out if we do. If we do, particularly the MRNA vaccines can make that modification relatively quickly. The bigger challenge will be manufacturing and get convincing people to take it.

LEMON: Thank you, Tom. I appreciate it.

BOLLYKY: My great pleasure. Nice to see you.

LEMON: You as well. GOP Congresswoman Lauren Boebert defiant after a phone call with Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar over doubling down on her Islamophobic comments toward Omar.



LEMON: Tonight, GOP Congresswoman Lauren Boebert doubling down on anti-Muslim comments aimed at her Democratic colleague, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. They spoke by phone today, but Omar says she hung up after Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge words she said, suggesting Omar was a terrorist. Boebert then posting this statement on social media.


REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): 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): Look, you got to know about it. I hate running because it gives her more attention. That's exactly what she wants. But it's important story since it's about anti-Muslim, hate, islamophobia.

Let's discuss now with CNN political commentators Charlie Dent and Alice Stewart. Good evening to both of you. Charlie, you served in the House of Representatives for seven terms. What do you think when you heard Boebert spew some more bigotry and GOP leadership basically staying silent?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA REPRESENTATIVE: Look, it's clear that she is now defiant. She really doesn't feel any sense of remorse or contrition. And Don, when I was on the Ethics Committee for eight years, two years as chairman, when I've dealt with members who are about to be sanctioned from misbehavior or misconduct or bringing discredit upon the House, they usually felt some sense of remorse and regret. And they were contrite.

And it just seems now that people like Boebert and Taylor Greene and Gosar, they just won these standards of conduct. And they found a way to monetize this. And they're going to run with it. And it's really tragic that the standard's bar has been so lowered, that this kind of conduct now doesn't really shake things up as much as I thought they would.

It used to be that kind of conduct was -- it could be a career ending event and it would incur serious reputational damage. Now, it's been monetized and they see political advantage and opportunity.

LEMON: Alice, I see you shaking your head there because you are calling on minority leader, McCarthy, to condemn Boebert's anti-Muslim comments. He is yet to publicly do that. Why not and wouldn't a real leader stand up? What are your thoughts on this?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SENATOR TED CRUZ: Absolutely should. Whether he's done it privately or not, he should certainly do it publicly and make it clear that her comments are not reflective of Republicans, whether in Congress or across the country.

And Charlie is exactly right. We tragically, unfortunately, have new members of Congress who feel as though their positions in Congress gives them the authority to say and do whatever they want, as opposed to serving and doing whatever their constituents need.

And here is the -- the tragic part is what Congresswoman Boebert said was awful and disgusting and she should first of all never have said it in the first place. She should publicly apologize not just to what she has done to the Muslim community but to her colleague, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, but also make sure that she is not going to do this again.

And here's the tragic thing. We have these members of Congress who are, as Charlie said, becoming national figures out of this, using this to increase their prominence as well as increase fundraising.

Look, if this is what they want to do in their newfound congressional quick celebrity, they need to step away from Washington. They need to make the talk show circuit. In that way, they can say whatever they want to say, completely an incumbent by the institutional constraints of Congress.

Let them spout their mouths off and say exactly whatever they want because they're certainly not doing so by serving their constituents. And what she said, it is not reflective of Republicans. And let me just say this. It goes without saying this goes across the aisle, on both sides. We don't need to have outlander statements, whether they're anti-Muslim, anti-Israel, antisemitic. There just needs to be taking the high road in Congress and the road to disparaging comments needs to come to a dead end.


LEMON: I want to read, Charlie, this is part of Representative Ilhan Omar's response today. She said, this is not about one hateful statement or one politician. It is about a party that has mainstreamed bigotry and hatred.

I've heard your comments before. You said that people are capitalizing and monetizing and what have you. But is she right that those things are becoming mainstreamed in the GOP? It certainly seems so.

DENT: Well, what changed so much since I left Congress in 2018 is that we're better able to marginalize fringe elements within the republican conference. You saw what happened to Steve King in 2019 where Kevin McCarthy did the right thing. He did punish Steve king for making racially, incendiary comments on a repeated basis. And Steve King lost. And that's what is missing here.

It's that kind of leadership that Milley will step up and set the standards. Somebody has to lower the broom. This is not fun. When I was on the Ethics Committee, I did not like being head of internal affairs of the police department for Congress. That is no fun. Nobody signs up for that when they run for Congress.

But it has to occur. And until the leadership says enough and really deals with these things internally and forces these members -- Taylor Greene, she should have never been thrown off the committee by the full Congress. Republican leadership should have done it on their own.

This is only going to escalate now and Republicans will probably take the House back. They're going to turn around. And as soon as one Democrat steps out of line arguably right or wrong, they're going to lower the boom. And this is just going to spin out of control. When ethics is used as a political weapon, there will be no winners, but the institution will suffer greatly. And I think the GOP really needs to do more to raise the standards bar back up. And Donald Trump in many respects is responsible for lowering that bar.

STEWART: And the problem with that also to his point is that while we have this fringe element and the three people just recently that have faced some kind of condemnation for their comments, they are the loudest voices but they are by no means the most representative of the party.

And unfortunately, there are some rational Republicans and responsible conservatives here in Washington that are trying to get the people's work done and unfortunately, they're being sidetracked by these fringe elements that are really taking a lot of air out of the room.

LEMON: That has got to be the last word. Listen, I don't disagree. Maybe you're right. It doesn't represent -- there are people who are trying to get it done. But when they don't speak out, Alice, it makes it seem like they are representative of the entire party. And when the leadership, as you have said, doesn't speak out, it makes it seem that way as well.

Thank you both. I hope you both have a good Thanksgiving. It is good to see you. Talk to you soon.

DENT: Thank you.

STEWART: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Thank you. Tensions flaring at school board meetings over masks and diversity and inclusion. Now, angry parents in one Minnesota town are going after a woman who was the chair of the school board and targeting her transgender child.




LEMON (on camera): Over the last few months, we have seen school board meetings turning into ugly shouting matches over mask mandates and hot button issues. But in one Minnesota community, the ugliness has reached an entirely new level. Angry parents outing a school board member's transgender child.

The story tonight from CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro.


CHRIS WAITS, PARENT: I took him in the car.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kelsey and Chris Waits and their kids Abby and Kit live in their dream house in Hastings, Minnesota.

WAITS: Another pancake? Okay.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): For a few more weeks, anyway.

WAITS: Order up. Oh, look at the steam on that one.

When I left the Navy, when I left active duty, I had a job opportunity here and I flew out. Kelsey said, well, I hope the interview went well because we're moving here. This town is great. This town is perfect. This is what I want.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): How do you feel about Hastings now?

KELSEY WAITS, PARENT AND OUTGOING SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT: I can't unsee the things that have been sent to me. I think with time, I will find forgiveness.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Kelsey is one of those school board incumbents defeated this year by parents angry over mask rules.

UNKNOWN: Masks should be a parents' decision.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): And diversity and inclusion programs.

K. WAITS: This community was very split.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): She voted for masking. She supported diversity and inclusion programs, choices that energized parents in a Facebook group opposed to pandemic restrictions. The group was formed in July under the name Conservative Parents of Hastings. A few weeks later, the name was changed to Concerned Parents of Hastings. It a small town. She knows a lot of the parents in this group.

K. WAITS: I'm fine with it. That's politics.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): One day, a parent wrote a long post complaining about Kelsey and masking. In the replies, things got ugly.

K. WAITS: Someone responded to that post by saying, Kelsey needs to be in jail because her youngest daughter is a boy.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): A parent outed Kit because of Kit's mom's politics.


K. WAITS: This is my most precious secret. The thing I protected most and the thing I was most afraid of ever being used in a political way. I dropped to the floor and I cried.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Other parents soon piled on. One attacked the Waits, calling them woke parents. Another wrote, my heartbreaks for any child who has parents that push this (bleep) on them. One moderator of the group hid some of the ugly posts. But another moderator posted more. It kept going.

C. WAITS: It's just a kid trying to impress their woke parents. And I'm like, my God, I voted for Bush every time he was on the ballot. My wokeness, if you want to say that my understanding of what it is to be transgender makes me woke, it's because Kit woke me up. Kit taught me, not the other way around.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Kit is eight years old using the pronouns they, them. The Waits has asked we not show their face on camera.

C. WAITS: I like that your socks never match. You got style, kid.

K. WAITS: For Kit's fourth birthday, Kit asked for one thing. They really, really wanted the Kit Kittredge American Girl doll. I was standing right there in the kitchen and Kit walks up to me and goes, mom, can you call me Kit? And I said, sure, still my little boy. And Kit goes, no, your little girl. And I was, like, absolutely sweetie, you got it. And then I ran into the other room with a panic attack and called daddy in Japan and said, what the heck just happened?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): It was a journey for these parents.

C. WAITS: I remember a conversation I had with a family member that said, you know, have you ever just considered doing more manly things with Kit and less nurturing things? At that moment, it was kind of, well, wait a minute, what am I trying to do here and what is really -- what is wrong with this?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): The Waits has decided the right course was love your kid. They let Kit be Kit.

K. WAITS: We lost our friends when Kit first came out and we lost family.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): The family kept all of this a secret from most people. For a simple reason. Safety.

K. WAITS: You out a kid before they're ready, you're subjecting them to that sort of behavior that's going to increase their risk of suicide. This is not about my parenting practices. This is about the lives of kids.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): After Kit was outed online, Kelsey realized family might not be safe. She wrote a letter to the local newspaper. She appealed to decency.

K. WAITS: I basically said, there is still a line, don't cross the line, and then I continued my letter, saying, here are the great things, here is how we come together as a community.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): On Facebook, some parents responded with glee. We made the paper, one parent wrote.

K. WAITS: They are proud of what they did.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): CNN reached out to parents in the group. We reached to the moderators. No one responded. But Concerned Parents of Hastings blocked us. She knows these parents. She sees them in the grocery store. They know each other. And yet when it came to a political debate, they chose to out her child. How do you see that happening? Where does it come from? What's going on?

NINA JANKOWICZ, AUTHOR: I think there has been a behavior like that that has been modelled by a lot of politicians in the United States over the past several years. I think normal people who are looking at these small issues at their school board and their local election, say, well, there is not a consequence for those people and I'm just a small fry so there isn't going to be a consequence for me.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): This family is not sticking around this neighborhood to find out what comes next. They're moving.

C. WAITS: That's where we're at right now, that there are people that we know that are not safe for our kids in our neighborhood and that we can't trust our kids alone at the bus stop waiting for the bus. Not because of the kids necessarily but because of the parents. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON (on camera): That is great reporting by Evan who is here right now. And Evan, there is an update on all of this, what this family has been dealing with here. We're going to talk about that next. Evan is going to join us.




LEMON: Angry parents in one Minnesota town outing the transgender child of a former school board chair who voted in favor of masks in school and other controversial issues. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro covering the story of us joins me now. But, again, great reporting on that. It is really sad. We saw what Kelsey, Chris, the family faced. What is next for them?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, in addition to getting a new house, which they are excited to do and move somewhere where if you (INAUDIBLE) in town, don't know where they live, Kelsey says that she is going to keep fighting for these issues herself. She's not on the school board anymore, but she says she's not going to let these bullies win. She is going to keep fighting which I think was very inspiring.

LEMON: You know, we have been watching all of these arguments and this violence. Really, you can call it madness at these school board meetings over everything from CRT to mask mandates and on and on.


LEMON: What else are these -- what are these debates in particular, these school board debates in particular? Why does it bring out these kinds of reactions in people?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: That is why I wanted this story in the first place. Because Kelsey says we need to put a flag in this year. We need to remember what this was like because this is something new, she says. That what's happening right now is parents are being told that people who run the schools, teachers in the schools are suspect. They're somehow evil or driven by a strange agenda.

This is not an old way of thinking about, but this is a new way of thinking about schools. And it really, really works. And what happens to people like Kelsey and other incumbent school members I've been covering all across the country is they get afraid and they either drop out or they lose and they don't want to run again.

What Kelsey says is this is not just about the schools or about one school board member. She says this is about actually our democracy, that this kind of fear all the down the neighborhood could really have an impact on the rest of the country moving forward.

LEMON: And both parents were conservatives, right?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: They were originally. I mean, that's how (INAUDIBLE) came into politics in the first place.

LEMON: Thank you, sir. It is good to see you.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Good to see you, too.

LEMON: And thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.