Return to Transcripts main page

Don Lemon Tonight

Mark Meadows Sues Nancy Pelosi And The January 6th Special Committee; Former President Barack Obama Shot Down At GOP's Gerrymandering; Pfizer's Booster Protects Against Omicron; James Brown Claimed The CIA Spied On Him. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 08, 2021 - 22:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: And somewhere in the middle as is usually the case, lies the truth. Thank you for watching. I'll be back here tomorrow night. DON LEMON TONIGHT starts right now. Hey, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I have a nostalgic story about John Timoney.


LEMON: I remember I was in Rittenhouse Square covering the --


LEMON: -- it was the Southside rapist was it, I believe. I can't remember.

SMERCONISH: There was a jogging rapist.

LEMON: It was -- no, no. It was the one who was in doing it in Rittenhouse and above -- I forget what -- Center City.


LEMON: The Center City rapist. And John Timoney -- I was doing a live shot, and he like walked right up during the live shot when I was doing my story, I forget. And I got this great exclusive. But he was great. He was very open to talking to the media, and you know, --


LEOMON: He was a good gut.

SMERCONISH: Left us too soon. Good friend.

LEOMON: Yeah, absolutely. Great stuff. I'm glad you're brave enough again to read those comments. I would never do it, but more power to you, brother. I'll see you tomorrow night.

SMERCONISH: I'll see you. Thank you.

LEOMON: Have a good one. Thank you very much. This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. We've got a lot. Listen, got to wonder what Mark Meadows is trying so hard to hide. Seriously, think about this. The former president's chief of staff was cooperating until he wasn't, with the committee investigating the attack on the United States capitol on January 6th.

Now, Meadows is suing the committee and he's suing Nancy Pelosi as well. He wants a federal court to block the subpoena from the committee as well as one it issued to Verizon for his phone records. I mean, it seems like there is something in there that he really doesn't want you to see, and it's probably no coincidence that Meadows' lawsuit comes after the committee said it is moving forward with criminal contempt for that whole cooperating then and then not cooperating thing.

But the fact is, they've got plenty from him already like a November 6, 2020, text exchange with an unnamed member of Congress about a plan to appoint alternate electors in some states, a plan which that member in an impressive display of understatement called highly controversial. Meadows saying, "I love it."

There's also an early January text exchange between Meadows and an organizer of the January 6th "Stop the Steal" rally. It's all in there communicating. It was -- look, he was a member of the president's staff. The president was going to speak at this rally. They were communicating, but is it suspicious? I don't know. We'll see. We'll find out during the investigation.

It's no secret what the strategy is here, though, run out the clock. Stall until the midterms when the GOP is counting on taking control of Congress. And it seems like there are plenty of Republicans who are willing to sink to any level to spend their time trolling and feeding the fake outrage machine instead of actually governing.

And their so-called leadership is so spineless they're afraid to call out any of it. Kevin McCarthy is hiding instead of bringing the hammer down on members like Lauren Boebert for her blatant Islamophobia against Ilhan Omar with a disgraceful so-called joke comparing her colleague to a terrorist. That is happening as progressives are demanding Boebert lose her committee assignments.


REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): I'm confident that there will be action taken, and there must because inaction is to be complicit in Islamophobia. I am confident that we will reach a resolution resulting in accountability and every option must be on the table because without accountability, we embolden further action like this.

REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): We need to start this lying, Islamophobic, race-baiting violence, inciting white supremacist sentiment, spreading Christmas tree gun toting elected official who is out here straight up calling her colleagues terrorists. Lauren Boebert is a danger to this country. She is a danger to the Muslim staffers that work here. She is a danger to her fellow members of Congress. REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): And so it's important to know, of course,

Ilhan Omar, when I check up on her, she's like, sis, I survived war, I can survive this. She says that so I can stop crying, but I also know that this is hard. This is hard for all of us.


LEMON: And let us not forget Lauren Boebert's Christmas photo, I hate to even give this any air time. Christmas photo showing her four boys all holding guns in response to this one from Thomas Massie. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeting, "Tell me again where Christ said use a commemoration of my birth to flex violent weapons for personal political gain, LOL."

In all the years Republicans spent on cultural hysteria of society erasing Christmas, its meaning, when they're doing that fine all on their own. Listen, don't get caught up in the left right back and forth. That is exactly what they want you to do, to get caught up in the left right back and forth. Don't do it. We know what is going on here.


The gun toting or should I say the gun posing, posers, Republicans are putting on a show for the base. Outrage, owning the libs is what they do when they should be governing. You know, the job that they were elected to do. Kevin McCarthy is afraid to publicly call it out telling members behind closed doors not to attack each other. He is too afraid to take a stand. But some of his members aren't that afraid. Republican Dan Crenshaw blasting Boebert and company.


REP. DAN CRENSHAW (D-TX): There's two types of members of Congress. There's performance artists, there's legislators, and the performance artists are the ones that get all the attention, are the ones you think are more conservative because they know how to say slogans real well. They know how to recite the lines that they know that our voters want to hear.

We have grifters in our midst, not here, not like in this room, that's not what I mean. I mean in the conservative movement. Lie after lie after lie because they know something psychologically about the conservative heart were worried about what people are going to do to us, what they're going to infringe upon us.


LEMON: Wow! Grifters. That's what Dan Crenshaw called them, grifters, and lie after lie after lie. Interesting. Because when someone other than a Republican says that, then they are somehow a lib. Other Republicans have to stand up, have to come to some sense of sanity, someplace of sanity because of Kevin McCarthy's spinelessness as a leader allowing the crack pot wing of his party to hold him hostage and to hold the party hostage, and really to hold Americans hostage. But how do you solve a problem like Lauren Boebert? She's not the only one, but how do you solve a problem like that? Kicking people off committees could be a double-edged swords. Vulnerable Democrats telling CNN they don't want to vote on that. They're worried that it's an unnecessary distraction as they fight to hold onto the majority.

And look, you know, a lot of this stuff crosses the line. Sometimes losing their committee assignments is warranted, but you could also be playing right into their hands by giving them more attention, which is something that we struggle with every single night on this program.

Can we put the crazy grifty tweets of Lauren Boebert up because she's trying to make money off of an appeal to the crack pot wing nut faction of her party? Do we put that up? Does that actually help Americans? Does it inform our viewers and our electorate? In some ways I guess, they need to -- you need to know about it, but it's just playing right into her hands because she wants it out there because she thinks it's cool and funny and it's going to help her, and maybe it will. Who knows?

The real problem here, though, is the ineptitude of GOP leadership and their unwillingness to clean up their own mess. But will we just end up in an endless cycle of trolling and stripping assignments while people like Matt Gaetz hi-jack the party, demanding answers to what he claims is the FBI's involvement in January 6th? Again, something do we have to do it, but this is what the crazy folks are saying in the GOP, predicting that GOP will take power. Watch.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): We are going to take power after this next election, and when we do, it's not going to be the days of Paul Ryan and Trey Gowdy, and no real oversight, and no real subpoenas. It's going to be the days of Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Dr. Gosar, and myself doing everything to get the answers to these questions.


LEMON: Look, that's what you all want? That's what you all get. Meanwhile, there is real work to be done in this country and our democracy is at risk from the assault on the vote. Listen to what the former president, Barack Obama, says about that tonight.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Unfortunately, we've got one party that actually doesn't want to see government work and get stuff done. And rather than argue based on their ideas, they're trying to tilt the playing field, and they're not even waiting for Election Day to do it.

You know, their plan is to control state legislatures and congressional delegations before a single vote is cast. That's in the how democracy is supposed to work. And our democracy is essential to who we are. It is what makes America exceptional, and it shouldn't be a partisan issue. It did not used to be.



LEMON: But here we are, and here we are with the developing news now. Mark Meadows, that lawsuit against the Select Committee investigating January 6th. Let's discuss now, CNN correspondent -- congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles is here. CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates joins us as well. The author of a book that I have read and it is great, "Just Pursuit: A Black Prosecutor's Fight for Fairness." I would suggest that you pick it up. Is it in preorder now or is it -- it is? Okay. So.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It is, absolutely. Thank you, Don.

LEMON: We'll discuss all of that later. Let's get to the news at hand though. So, walk us through, Ryan, what this lawsuit from Mark Meadows is about. What is he arguing here?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Essentially what he wants to do, Don, is having a court tell the January 6th Select Committee that he is not needed to follow through on their subpoena request, and he has a number of legal theories that he kind of throws at the wall here to try and compel the court to do so.

Among them, claiming that the January 6th Select Committee doesn't have authority because of its partisan makeup and a number of other things. He also makes passing reference to executive privilege claims from the former President Donald Trump, but at the end of the day suggests that the committee just doesn't have the legal authority to access his personal information.

And he talks specifically about a phone records request that the committee has subpoenaed Verizon, the telecom company to provide them. Now, the committee just really isn't buying this. They feel as though this is just another stall and delay tactic on the part of Mark Meadows.

And Liz Cheney who we caught up with this evening after the lawsuit was filed said, "This committee has received a number of extremely interesting non-privileged documents from Mr. Meadows. These include text messages and e-mails from his private cell phone and private e- mail account. He's produced these documents, they are not privileged."

And that's kind of the interesting part in all of this, Don. You know, just a couple of days ago Mark Meadows has said that he was going to cooperate with the committee. He handed over 6,000 documents. He was scheduled to sit for a deposition this morning. And those documents revealed a lot of information, text message exchanges with members of Congress, with rally organizers and others.

And then for some reason within the last 24 hours, he decided he did not want to comply, did not want to cooperate, filed this lawsuit today and now he's facing a criminal contempt referral. LEMON: Laura, you know, the Trump era has become the lawsuit

litigation era. I mean, you heard from Congresswoman Cheney there, she is throwing cold water all over Meadows' lawsuit. Does it hold any legal water?

COATES: No, it doesn't and she should throw a cold water. I mean, imagine that, you are able to hand over 6,000 pages of documents and think you can be questioned on none of it. Executive privilege is a way about the scope and the specificity of the questions. You can't just essentially say I don't want to show up at all. I don't want to appear for whatever reason.

What you have to do as any other person in litigation with the federal government, if you're issued a subpoena, you must comply. You must answer the questions that you believe you are entitled to answer, of course, and don't have -- if you have no valid claim of privilege you must answer. You can litigate the specific questions.

But just coming in and saying, you know what, I've already handed over --I've already made public to you documents. I've produced 6,000, not one question can be answered? How about your name? How about the communication with people who were not the president of the United States.

The funny thing about privilege is once you start to articulate and convey the information, you only (ph) can actually talk about the privilege. If you and I are in litigation and I talk to my attorney about something and then I tell you or the public, whatever privilege correspondence I had with that attorney, if I disclose it to the public realm, well, that privilege is no longer actually tenable.

It's similar for the executive branch of government because, remember, even though he does have some colorable claim as the chief of staff, we want the chief of staff to have candid conversations with the president of the United States, every single thing you've said during the tenure in the executive branch is not necessarily privileged, and the 6,000 pages of documents, fair game.

LEMON: Yeah. Brian, you and Laura both mentioned the 6,000-paged documents, okay. So, pages of documents that the committee got from Mark Meadows. Now that we've talked about it, what is in there? That's a lot of documents by the way.

NOBLES: Yes, and we don't know the full scope of it, Don. But the committee in their letter to Meadows gave us a hint as to some of the information that he turned over. This is just a sampling of it. In early January, text to January 6th rally organizers. January 5th, an e-mail about having the national guard on standby.

He also texts Trump to issue a statement to stop the attack. There was e-mail or text going back and forth about encouraging the former president to put out some sort of a statement on January 6th. There was also a PowerPoint presentation, a 38-page PowerPoint presentation all about election fraud and the impact that that could have on the January 6th event.


And, you know, I think part of the question that the committee has, though, Don, is even though he handed over this massive document dump, as we pointed out, 6,000 pages of documents, there's still a good chance that he cherry picked that information. He was the one in control of handing it over.

And even though the committee got that information from him, they're also talking to a lot of other people that are in and around the events of January 6th, and that were talking to and connected to Mark Meadows. So there's a real good chance that if he got in front of the committee and they started asking him some tough questions, they'd start to see the gaps in this information that he provided them.

And that may have been one of the reasons why he backed away and said he didn't want to have this conversation anymore because they could have put him in a difficult position where he'd be forced to answer questions that he didn't want to answer.

LEMON: There's so much here, Laura. Let's see, Meadows, by the way, is the third person that the committee is moving against for criminal contempt referral after Steve Bannon and Jeffrey Clark. Trump's allies are doing all that they can to stonewall this. It looks like the strategy is to run out the clock here. Do you think that is going to work?

COATES: Well, it is, but of course the Court of Appeals in D.C. does have a case where the former president is asserting executive privilege, and they would rule, you know, conceivably prior to at least the July trial date of Steve Bannon, who as I note does not have the kind of claimed executive privilege that somebody who was actually in the administration might or somebody who had not disclosed over a podcast might.

But if the strategy is to run out the clock, remember, this is actually the norm. The idea of if Congress issues a subpoena and you thumb your nose at it, you're not in compliance with the subpoena. You're required to do so. If this were everyday prosecutions not involving Congress, guess what happens? You go and must comply with the subpoena or you are held in contempt or sometimes jailed for not doing so.

So this is actually what you're seeing a return to normalcy. What is not normal is the continued obstinance of trying to refuse to comply. And remember, as Ryan articulated, not just the volume of documents are at issue here. This is a former member of Congress in Mark Meadows who is arguing that Congress does not have a legitimate oversight or legislative purpose in investigating what happened on an attack on the citadel of our democracy.

I mean, Congress can't legislate effectively without investigating as to what happened. They either fortify something with respect to the Capitol Police. Are there additional measures for election integrity to re-convey the American people to codify in law in some way, shape, or form? For him to suggest because he does not want to offer, at least not

outside of his book that he's selling, doesn't want to offer the information is really stunning given he served in Congress, knows full well about this being a co-equal branch of government with legislative and accompanying investigative authority.

I hope the courts see through a manipulative assertion of privilege to the extent that it's outside of the range of documents that might fall within it.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you very much, Ryan. Thank you very much, Laura. Again, Laura's book is called "Just Pursuit." It is in preorder now. If you want to know anything about the legal system we're talking about here on this show and beyond, I would suggest that you pick up this fascinating, very insightful book by Laura Coates. Thank you both. I shall see you soon.

Mark Meadows is doing everything he can to get back on his former boss's good side, even risking the possibility of criminal prosecution, but will any of it matter to the former president? We'll discuss.



LEMON: The committee investigating January 6th saying it will still go forward with criminal contempt proceedings against Mark Meadows despite his lawsuit against the panel. Meadows now refusing to cooperate with the investigation despite having already turned over thousands of pages of documents. So, joining me now is the chief White House correspondent for ABC News, Mr. Jonathan Karl, also the author of "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show." Jonathan, such a pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much, sir.


LEMON: Meadows fiercely pushing back against the committee after earlier having some level of cooperation. We know Trump can't be happy with him or his new book. Is he trying to get back in the former president's good graces? What is this all about?

KARL: Well, as a legal strategy, it makes no sense what he was doing because, as you point out, he already turned over a lot of documents. He already said he was going to testify. He already, you know, turned over those e-mails, text messages, private e-mails, not just government e-mails, and he was going to come in and he would have been perfectly within his rights to attempt to assert privilege on any question or any specific documents that they wanted to get that he was not turning over, and there were the back and forth.

He would not have been held in contempt. There may have been, you know, I'm sure there would have been a lot of push and pull between the committee and Meadows. But now he is almost certainly going to be held in contempt by the full Congress. By the way, Don, not an insignificant thing. He will be the first

former member of the House to be held in contempt by the House of Representatives. That's quite an ignoble distinction for this guy who, you know, prides himself on being a former member of Congress. So, it makes no sense.

The only explanation here is that Donald Trump is livid. He's livid at what happened when Meadows' book came out, the way he was portrayed, the suggestion that he went into that debate COVID positive, that he hid that information. Now, keep in mind -- keep in mind.

LEMON: This is giving up this information for free. No one asked him.

KARL: Yes.


KARL: Yes. I mean, absolutely. And look, Meadows thought Trump was going to love this book. He wasn't trying to dime out his boss here. I mean, he thought he was --

LEMON: But didn't Trump support it at first until he actually found out what was in it? Not that he read it, I'm not sure, but.

KARL: Oh, my god. Trump put out statement. You got to go back and look at it. He said that if you want to know the truth, read Mark Meadows' book, and it comes out and he's furious about what's inside the book.


So you know, so Meadows is trying to get in good graces with Trump, so he's creating this blowup with the committee.


KARL: He was in no jeopardy whatsoever.

LEMON: Well, let me ask you about that because you mentioned that these, you know, he's handed over thousands of documents to the committee, and in your book, you outlined how Meadows on New Year's eve, Jonathan, that he forwarded an e-mail to Mike Pence's office about how Pence could overturn the election.

Now, we know Pence's aide that -- Marc Short, who is Pence's aide, is cooperating. How much information do you think the committee has here?

KARL: Well, you make -- you raise a very important point. This is a critical document. He's forwarding a memo written by Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis that outlines the whole scheme, the whole scheme for getting Pence to reject the electoral votes from six different states, sending them back, putting a deadline. Congress reconvenes on January 15th is the way this memo outlines it. They vote by congressional delegation, 26 Congressional delegations are controlled by Republicans. Voila, Trump wins re-election. I mean, it was a crazy, illegal scheme, but it was the plan. It was

the plan for overturning the presidential election, and it was written by Ellis, but it was forwarded to the vice president by Mark Meadows. And here's the thing, you raise a very important point.

You know, Marc Short is cooperating, we know, so it is almost certain that that e-mail they have from Marc Short because, remember, there are two people on the e-mail chain here. And this goes with a lot of other -- in my book I report that Meadows was trying to reach out to Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state in Georgia, using his personal Gmail account.

And that Raffensperger actually was ignoring these messages because he thought it was some kind of a prank. I mean, why would the White House chief of staff be trying to reach out to him using a Gmail? Especially after we remember that whole thing with Hillary Clinton, you remember, the private e-mail.

LEMON: I was just going to say, but her e-mails and this private server. What gives here?

KARL: But it turns out that it was really Meadows. So the committee has gone for the private accounts as well and, you know, Meadows has attempted to claim privilege even as he turned over a lot of this stuff. He turned over what's called a privilege log.

These are the documents I'm not going to turn over because they are privileged. But in a privilege log, it shows the e-mail, who it was sent to, who was cc'd, what was the subject line of the e-mail is and when it was sent. So guess what, there are more than 200, nearly 300 people cooperating already with the committee. So they know to go to the other side of that e-mail exchange. And so Meadows is already facing, you know, lots of exposure here. Not testifying doesn't actually help him, doesn't protect him.

LEMON: Let's put up Jonathan's book again. Jonathan Karl's new book, and it is -- I just want to make sure I have the name right. "Betrayal." Jonathan Karl, new information in that book and you want to read it. Thank you, Jonathan. Always a pleasure to see you. Come back soon.

KARL: Thank you, Don. Great to talk to you.

LEMON: Thank you very much. Voting rights completely stalled in Congress as states make it harder and harder to make your vote count. And tonight, the former President Barack Obama's got something to say about that.


OBAMA: This time they're going further, systematically undermining our democracy and making it harder for people to vote.



LEMON: The former President Barack Obama issuing a stark warning about the state of democracy tonight, and he is blaming it on Republicans. Listen to this.


OBAMA: Unfortunately, we've got one party that actually doesn't want to see government work and get stuff done. And rather than argue based on their ideas, they're trying to tilt the playing field, and they're not even waiting for Election Day to do it. You know, their plan is to control state legislatures and congressional delegations before a single vote is cast. That's not how democracy is supposed to work. And our democracy is essential to who we are. It is what makes America exceptional and it shouldn't be a partisan issue.


LEMON: It shouldn't be. The former president speaking at a virtual fundraiser for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. Let's discuss now, civil rights attorney Charles F. Coleman, Jr. is here and senior CNN legal -- excuse me -- political analyst, Ron Brownstein. I almost gave you a new job there, Ron. Thank you both gentleman for joining us.

Charles, I'm going to start with you because the former president is essentially saying that democracy is in peril because Republicans are rigging the system. What's your reaction?

CHARLES F. COLEMAN, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: My reaction is it is bad form, in my opinion, to make this a partisan conversation. And the reason I say that is the minute you do that from a Democratic standpoint, you walk into the conundrum of the following four words. Where is the policy?

You have a majority in the House that has passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but you can't get it done in the Senate. And so when you start talking about an administration that is currently more comfortable in terms of litigating their way around voting rights as opposed to legislating their way into voting rights, when you make it a partisan issue, it looks bad on your own party that you can't get it done.


And so while the rhetoric was correct, and why I do think that it's important to understand the gravity of what we're dealing with, you walk yourself into a very tenuous space because the question then becomes, what are you doing about it when you have, you know, these legislators that aren't getting the job done?

LEMON: Yes. And Ron, I want to bring you in because I want -- but first, I want you to listen to what the former President Barack Obama said about the extreme gerrymandering taking place across the country. Here it is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: If you want to win in a competitive district, candidates need to try and appeal to everybody, to put progress ahead of party. If you have tilted, skewed politically gerrymandered uncompetitive districts, that's going to attract candidates who are more extreme and only care about firing up their base, which means compromise becomes more difficult, which means a lot of voters simply get ignored. And that is bad for our democracy.


LEMON: So Ron, you know, gerrymandering isn't exclusive to the GOP. Democrats have done it too, but they have also been far and away more supportive of independent commissions and fair maps. What's the reality check on this?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the president, the former president said is exactly right. You know, if you talk to the people who are following this most closely, my colleague David Wassermann at the Cook Political Report, they would argue the biggest thing that's happening in redistricting is the decline of competitive districts, which has multiple impacts.

One of which is that if Republicans can win a majority in 2022, they are creating so many safe Republican seats that it's going -- it may be difficult for Democrats to win it back even if there is backlash against that potential future Republican Congress.

But the other impact is what the president, the former president noted that you're going to have more districts in which -- particularly on the Republican side, it's going to be safe for more extreme measures -- members.

You can imagine kind of Trump-inspired primary challenges in many of these districts being very formidable and casting -- having a huge influence on the way legislators behave, making them even more worried than they are now about potential primary challenges sponsored by Trump. Can I just say one thing on the first point?

LEMON: Sure.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, whatever you call it, whether you want to acknowledge it or not, what we're talking about is a partisan dispute. I mean, these laws -- these laws are passing in red states, making it tougher to vote. They are passing entirely on party line votes.

And what's happening in Washington is that two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are giving a veto to Republicans in the Senate on whether to countermand what's happening by Republicans in the states are doing.

And that contrast, as I've said before, very starkly to what happened in the years after the Civil War when the Lincoln-era Republicans passed the 14th and 15th amendments and all of the other post-civil war -- civil rights bills on a party line basis because they knew the Democratic party of that era could not be a partner in safeguarding those national rights.

And that's what has broken down that Manchin and Sinema at this point are still giving a veto to Republicans who are unlikely to step in against what their fellows in the party are doing in the states.

LEMON: It is really, I mean, it is so sad. Charles, the DOJ -- I just reported on this really -- and with the DOJ suing Texas alleging that the Republican-led state violated the Voting Rights Act by drawing districts that discriminated against minorities. Do you think the DOJ needs to be more aggressive in challenging these attempts to disenfranchise voters?

COLEMAN: I think they do. I think they are doing a good job, and Kristen Clarke doing the civil rights division over there. The DOJ is doing a spectacular job in terms of that litigation and its agenda. I understand that since we have seen Shelby versus Holder break down basically the VRA to nothing almost and Section 6 was completely gutted where preclearance was taken out and these sorts of things going to happen.

There aren't many tools that the DOJ has to use. And so what they're doing is they're relying on Section 2, which is the remaining sort of standing section that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in terms of diluting the power of the vote from certain communities in the basis of, you know, race or ethnic background.

They're using Section 2 as their conduit to get to where they need to go. I don't know how successful it's going to be because there are a number of different ways that they have to establish that it actually has had this result. And as that remains to be seen and from the Supreme Court.

But until we sort of have a definitive guideline, these are the weapons that you have and you have to use them. So I do think it's important that they keep the foot on the gas, keep pressing and keep filing these cases in different districts.

LEMON: Charles, Ron, gentlemen, thank you both. I'll see you both soon.

Are you fully vaccinated if you've gotten two shots or three? Lots of new information and mixed messaging -- messages coming out about that. And we're going to make sense of all of it for you. That is next.



LEMON: Pfizer saying today a third dose of their COVID vaccine produces a robust antibody response in omicron. They say studies found that two doses would provide some protection from severe disease, but they note there is a substantial drop in antibodies. This as the CDC is saying that a quarter of adults who have already been vaccinated are now also boosted.

So joining me now is Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the CDC. We're so happy to have you on, doctor. Thanks so much. What's your reaction to this news from Pfizer? Are we in good shape with our current vaccines?

RICHARD BESSER, FORMER CDC ACTING DIRECTOR: You know, it is positive news. I always like to see confirmation by having scientists, independent of the company, look at the data. But it is encouraging that a third dose increases the antibody response. It's not clear to me yet though that that's something that's even going to be necessary.


When you think about the immune response that we have, it's a pretty incredible thing. One piece of it is the antibodies that they're measuring in the blood. The other piece of it is what's called cellular immunity, and that's done by your B cells and your T cells. And those are designed to be able to protect you from viruses that look like viruses you've seen before.

So it may be that even with a lower level of antibodies, your body once it sees the omicron variant, will kick up, generate antibodies and use the other forms of your immune response to knock this down. And that may be why we're seeing less severe disease, at least the initial reports are less severe disease out of Africa and South Africa where they've been seeing more of the omicron.

LEMON: So Dr. Besser, currently the CDC is only recommending booster shots for everyone 18 and older. So what does this news mean, this Pfizer news mean for kids? Are they still protected against the omicron variant with the regular two-dose regimen?

BESSER: Well, I think it's going to be some time before we have more data on children, but I would encourage everyone who is currently recommended to get a booster to do so. You know, right now we are still losing more than a 1,000 people a day, 1,000 people a day dying from COVID, and it's not from omicron. It's from the delta variant.

And it's important that people get vaccinated, and even more importantly than people getting boosted is reaching out to anyone you know who hasn't been vaccinated at all because the vast majority of people who are dying from COVID in this country are people who haven't received any vaccines. That's true around the globe as well. Ninety percent of people in Africa have not had access to any vaccines at all, and that's something that has to change.

LEMON: Only a quarter of adults who are already vaccinated are boosted. That's, you know, 49 million people. There's a long way to go. How do we get these numbers up?

BESSER: Well, you know, I think we do it a number of ways. We reach out to people. We explain. We're transparent about information. We share what we know in terms of the value of boosters. Clearly for people who are older, for people over 65, these are reducing hospitalizations, they're reducing deaths.

For people who are younger than that, it's reducing overall infections, and that's a good thing too, but we have to recognize that some people will take time on this, will take time to make their decisions, and we have to create space for that. The more we can do to get people who aren't vaccinated at all, and that's about 30 percent of people in this country, to get them to get vaccinated. That will take us the furthest on this.

LEMON: Dr. Fauci is saying today that the definition of fully vaccinated at some point will change to three doses. Currently we have to, you know, wait six months after our second shot to get that booster shot. If the definition of fully vaccinated is going to change, will the vaccine schedule change as well?

BESSER: I don't think the schedule will change. You know, I'm a pediatrician and ,you know, as we've learned more about childhood vaccination, what it means to be fully vaccinated has changed. When I first trained, people only got one measles vaccine at age 1, and then over time we recognized they needed another one at age 4 to age 6.

That may be the case with COVID that over time we learn what it truly means to be vaccinated to be fully protected. And I wouldn't be surprised at all if over time that that includes not just the primary series, those first two doses, but a later dose as well.

LEMON: Doctor, you know, this news from Pfizer seems positive, but people are anxious as, you know, we're approaching Christmas and New Year's. This is a recent "Axios" poll and it shows one in four Americans are likely to change their travel plans due to omicron variant, and one in three will stop dining indoors. Do you think this is the right move? Are these the right moves?

BESSER: Yes, you know, when it comes to behavior, a lot has to do with your own individual risk. Are you someone who is at greater risk for severe infection? Is there someone in your family who can't be vaccinated because they're too young? And what's your tolerance for risk? And you want to weigh those things.

And if you -- if it comes down that traveling will be emotionally stressful because you're concerned about omicron, then this may be a year that you hold back on that travel. If you're someone who's at greater risk and you want to have more information, may be a year where you hold back on travel.

Our family, we're traveling. We're lower risk and we feel comfortable. But I fully understand people who are thinking about changing their plans or at least making sure they're flexible in case they need to change at the last minute.

LEMON: Doctor, thank you. Be well. Appreciate it.

BESSER: Thanks very much.

LEMON: So James Brown said the CIA spied on him, and when CNN tried to get information on the accusation, take this, they wouldn't answer.


[22:50:00] LEMON: So take this, James Brown, the legendary Godfather of Soul was known as the hardest working man in show business, but was he also spied on for years by the CIA? Fifteen years after Brown's death, the CIA, well, it still isn't saying.


LEMON: Ah, man, I miss that kind of performer. I miss James Brown. No one could light up a stage like him. And he long claimed that the CIA monitored his moves going back to the late 1960s.


In a memoir published in 2005, Brown wrote that government agencies including the CIA were concerned about the rise of the Black Power Movement and the role of prominent entertainers like himself. In August of 1968 for example, a few months after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Brown released say it loud "I'm Black and I'm Proud."


LEMON: Everybody in the studio is dancing by the way. So then the song -- that song resulted in the CIA spying on Brown. As part of a deep dive into the story of James Brown, CNN looked for the answer here. Earlier this year, this network sued the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act trying to get any files that it has on the Godfather of Soul.

The agency is not allowed to spy domestically on Americans so if it did, that's important information. CNN's lawsuit is in the courts and a judge is expected to make a ruling sometime in 2022, but here is what I can report, okay? In keeping with this long-standing practice, the CIA refuses to confirm or deny that it has any records on James Brown. But says disclosing whether it has records on him could, and I quote here, "cause serious damage to U.S. national security." Things that make you go hmmm.

Up next, he is suing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the entire January 6th Committee. What is Mark Meadows not want you to know?