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Don Lemon Tonight
Another Loss For Donald Trump; Jussie Smollett Found Guilty; David Perdue Said Before He'll Not Certify Election Results; Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) Was Interviewed About The Progress Of The January 6th Committee; Oxford School District Facing $100 Million Lawsuit; Deaths Due To Accident Increases Up To 7.8 Percent. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired December 09, 2021 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST (on camera): One more quickly if I've got time but it will have to be a quick one. Kasparov. Journalism is dead. Well, I sure as hell, I hope. I thought Gary Kasparov is great.
Don Lemon is standing by. Thank you for watching. I'll be back here tomorrow night. Hey, Don.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Hey, don't go anywhere. I've got two things. I promise you they will be quick.
LEMON: One is, I was watching there, I was up late and I saw your rebroadcast. We had the same idea I didn't see it because I'm getting ready for this show, where you talked about some of the things that the people who are not exactly hell bent on doing policy on the right, sometimes I think Democrats should ignore it because it just elevates and it gives attention to it. We sort of said the same thing.
And Ana Navarro and I -- Ana kind of disagreed with me, but I agree. I think that sometime you just have to let coo coo be coo coo. Right? In certain point. Not everything on its own merits but sometimes you have to.
SMERCONISH: Yes. I was saying, you know, the silent treatment --
SMERCONISH: -- is sometimes the best approach because --
SMERCONISH: -- otherwise you're giving folks the platform that they crave, then they raise money, then they're here for a hell of a lot longer than they otherwise would have been.
LEMON: Yes. The other thing is I wept to a Catholic school. We prayed every day. We prayed before class, we prayed before lunch, we prayed before, we went to catechism, we went to mass on Fridays, and it was fine. My sisters, though, went to a public school and there was no debate.
My parents sent me to a religious school where we knew that we would be focused on religion. She sent my sisters to a public school most of the time. One of my sisters ended upcoming to the catholic school with me. But there was no -- they didn't pray before class. If they wanted to do it individually, they said the Pledge of Allegiance, but they didn't do it and it wasn't a big deal.
SMERCONISH: Look, I was the product of a K-12 education. LEMON: Yes.
SMERCONISH: Our children all went to a particular school where the chapel service was a big part of their education. But here's the thing. We paid for that education.
SMERCONISH: My wife and me and not the public.
LEMON: Amen. Same with my parents.
SMERCONISH: Yes. OK. And have a good night.
LEMON: And that's how it should be. I'll see you, Michael Smerconish.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
LEMON: See you tomorrow.
This is DON LEMON TONIGHT.
And we some breaking news. A big loss for the former president as he tries to keep his secrets from the January 6th committee, trying to keep it all, right, where nobody can see it.
A stunning verdict in the trial of actor Jussie Smollett, as well. The former "Empire" actor found guilty of five out of six counts of felony, disorderly conduct for lying to police, making false reports that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic -- homophobic hate crime in 2019, an attack prosecutors said that he staged.
We've got a lot more to come on this including whether Smollett could get prison time.
And a huge decision, a federal appeals court handed a major loss to the former president tonight in his so far completely unsuccessful quest to keep documents under wraps that might reveal what he was doing in the days leading up to January 6th.
A federal judge ruling against him last month saying presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president. And now a three-judge appeals court panel has ruled against him as well, again. The court pausing its ruling for two weeks so that the former president can take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.
His spokeswoman of course tweeting regardless of today's decision by the appeals court this case was always decided for the Supreme Court. The question is we're the highest court in the land, the conservative majority, and three former judges appointed by the former guy, will they take the case?
That as the committee investigating the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6th is flexing its muscles today. Chairman Bennie Thompson is saying that they'll vote Monday on holding Mark Meadows in contempt. Setting up a full House vote Tuesday evening.
The vice chair is Liz Cheney. She's saying that the committee has already met with nearly 300 witnesses, tweeting that they have got what she calls exceptionally interesting and important documents from witnesses including Meadows. And going onto say the investigation is firing on all cylinders, and the truth will come out.
A source telling CNN that Meadows voluntarily handed over texts and e- mails from his personal accounts that relate to what the then- president, quote, "was doing and not doing during the riot." And those messages could tell us a whole lot about what was in the White House on one of the darkest days in American history while the capitol was under attack, and while rioters who were chanting about hanging the vice president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): So that source going onto tell CNN that those -- that some of those nearly 300 witnesses are, quote, "names we will recognize." In just a moment I'm going to speak with a member of the committee, Congressman Adam Schiff.
And the fight to protect our own democracy comes as the President Joe Biden hosts leaders from around the world for a virtual summit for democracy. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Democracy needs champions, and I wanted to host this summit because here is the -- here in the United States we know as well as anyone that renewing our democracy and strengthening our Democratic institution requires constant effort. American democracy is an ongoing struggle to live up to our highest ideals and to heal our divisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): That ongoing struggle the president talked about is front and center in this country right now. We see it in the investigation of the attack on the capitol on January 6th. We see it in the allies of the former president, still pushing the big lie. Republican David Perdue who lost his Senate seat in that hotly
contested Georgia runoff election before the attack on the capitol now running for governor of Georgia. Here's what he's telling Axios, that if he had been governor in 2020, he would not have certified the results of the presidential election.
And I quote here, "not with the information that was available at the time and not with the information that has come out now. They had plenty of time to investigate this, and I wouldn't have signed it until those things have been investigated, and that's all we were asking for."
OK. Here's the problem with that statement. We do know. He's acting like nobody -- we don't know. Who knows? We knew at the time. We knew after the time, and we know now. We know what was going on. We know that the election was secure. That's what our intelligence said, the most secure election in our nation's history.
The problem is that he is being disingenuous. We knew and know what is going on. They counted the ballots in Georgia three darn times. Three times in Georgia. The FBI, the GBI debunked all those claims of fraud. It's all been debunked by every single agency you could think of that has anything to do with making decisions about our election, all of them.
Republican legislature, it is a lie. Joe Biden won the state and he won it fair and square. David Perdue is still pushing a big lie. Does that make him a liar?
Meanwhile, the right-wing of the GOP is on a roll, trolling and feeding the fake outrage -- outrage machine instead of governing. Paul Gosar who posted a violent, violent video that appears to show the killing of a colleague in an attack of the President of the United States says he was empowered when Nancy Pelosi stripped him of his committee assignments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): So, when Nancy Pelosi took your committee assignments, did she victimize you or empower you?
REP. PAUL GOSAR (R-AZ): She empowered me.
GAETZ: Because now you get the wide-angle lens.
GOSAR: She's not limiting. She's actually expanding my horizons.
GAETZ: People don't get that. See, I think that they think they got you, but really, they unchained you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): And let's not forget Matt Gaetz's prediction about 2022. His prediction far right will take control, and they are the new GOP.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GAETZ: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): That is a -- a prospect. I think it's fair to say frightening prospect. Ladies and gentlemen, the lights are flashing red, and we need to pay attention if we want to keep our own democracy intact and sane.
I want to bring in now CNN's senior legal analyst, correspondent Paula Reid. Paula, good evening to you. Good to see you.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Don. Good to see you, too. A reminder that Congressman Gaetz remains under federal investigation. Just a reminder. Case is ongoing.
LEMON (on camera): Thank you for reminding us, Paula. So, Trump losing a big battle today in his efforts to keep his January 6th documents out of the committee's hands. How important is this decision, Paula?
REID: Well, this is an incredibly important decision for the committee. I mean, Trump has argued that as a former president he has the ability to keep secrets some of his White House records. But the lower court and now the court of appeals have both held that no, executive privilege is held by the current president, not a former one.
And in this case of course President Biden has said, look, this is not what executive privilege is meant to protect. These were extraordinary circumstances on January 6th. He's not asserted privilege because he believes that lawmakers should have access to these records.
Also in this decision, Don, not only more bad news for Trump but also for Mark Meadows. Because once again in this court of appeals they have affirmed that indeed this committee has a legitimate purpose in conducting this investigation.
Both Trump and Mark Meadows in his recent lawsuit have argued that they don't have a legitimate legislative purpose in pursuing the investigation into January 6th that was once again today projected.
LEMON: This ruling is another firm rejection of Trump's argument. The judges wrote, "former President Trump has given this court no legal reason to cast aside President Biden's assessment of the executive branch interests at stake or to create a separation of powers conflict -- a separation of powers conflict that the political branches have avoided. So that seems pretty firm there. So where does this case go next? What happens? REID: Well, former President Trump has the option to appeal to the
Supreme Court. His spokeswoman has signaled that he intends to do just that. He has two weeks to file that appeal. Now, it's possible, Don, that the Supreme Court might want to take this case up because it does raise some novel questions about executive privilege.
But if they take up this case, the bad news for the committee is that this would likely delay their work in receiving those documents. And again, it's unclear if the Supreme Court would side with them or former President Trump or try to find some middle ground.
LEMON (on camera): I want to turn now to January 6th, Paula, if you will. There's a lot of focus on Trump's allies not cooperating with the committee, but Liz Cheney is saying that they've already met with nearly 300 witnesses including some important individuals today. What are we learning here?
REID: That's right. Look, the committee has faced some roadblocks recently with Trump loyalists like Roger Stone and others saying that they're going to assert the Fifth Amendment. But really not going to give the committee much of anything but today it was clear they wanted to make a show of force.
The committee had a parade of four key witnesses up on Capitol Hill heading in to answer questions from lawmakers. Among the witnesses they heard from today, Chris Krebs, a former top cyber security official, Kash Patel, a former Trump Department of Defense official, and also one of the first witnesses subpoenaed by the committee stop the steal rally organizer Ali Alexander and of course, John Eastman, the attorney who tried to help former President Trump contest the 2020 election but a dubious legal theory.
Now all the four men were scheduled to answer questions but Eastman had made it clear he intended to assert his Fifth amendment right. And as you just showed, as these men were arriving on Capitol Hill, Liz Cheney sent out a series of tweets really trying to drive home the message that they are proceeding with this investigation. They are conducting a lot of interviews, many of which we haven't seen and we don't even know about yet.
LEMON: Paula, sources are telling CNN the January 6th committee getting a real window into what Trump was and what's not doing in real-time as the insurrection unfolded. What information could the committee have in their hands -- you know, what could they have right now that we haven't seen?
REID: What's so interesting, Don, much of what they're referring to there has come from former chief of staff Mark Meadows. Now, before Mark Meadows did this about face and said he was no longer going to cooperate with the committee that sued them, he was engaging. He said he was willing to sit for an interview and he handed over 6,000 pages worth of documents.
And in those documents, we've learned there are some communications related to what the president would be doing during the riot, and it really does offer a window into exactly what was happening inside the White House during that time. Such a critical thing for the committee and the investigation.
But, Don, as committee members point out, what's strange here is that Mark Meadows has said he cannot show up because he does not believe that the committee will respect any executive privilege claims he may make. But clearly, he turned over thousands of documents that he does thought, believe are privilege, and it's not clear according to the committee why he can't show up and at least answer questions about those and help provide context.
Again, no privilege claims there. Typically, how this works if you believe you have a privilege claim, you show up. And if ask a question you think covers some sort of privilege, you assert privilege. But it's clear he should be able to answer questions about documents he's already handed the committee.
LEMON: I had a reminder for you. He also wrote a lot about this in his book as well. So, not --
REID: Yes, he did. Out this week.
LEMON: That wasn't privileged.
REID: So true.
LEMON: Yes. That wasn't privilege.
REID: And reminding his case, really not helpful to his lawyers. Not helpful to his lawyers.
LEMON: Thank you, Paula Reid. Good to see you.
So, today's appeals court ruling is a huge loss for the former president as he tries to keep secrets from the January 6th committee. Next, I'm going to speak to a member of that committee, and that is Congressman Adam Schiff. Don't go anywhere.
LEMON (on camera): The former president losing a key battle in his effort to block his White House records from being released to the committee investigating January 6th. That as CNN is learning more about what former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows handed over to the committee.
So, joining me now Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. He's on the select committee investigating January 6th and is also a chair of the intelligence committee. Congressman, good to have you. Thanks for joining.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Thank you. Good to be with you.
LEMON: Most likely this defeat for the former president goes next to the Supreme Court with a sic to three conservative majority, and three Trump appointed judges. Are you concerned about what the court might do?
SCHIFF: Well, I think you always have to be concerned about this particular court. The issue is really whether they're a conservative court or a partisan court. If they're a conservative court, this should be very easy.
Indeed, I think if they're a conservative court they don't need to take this case from the court of appeals. The court of appeals made a very powerful argument, which I think is the right one, that both branches of government -- the executive branch and the legislative branch agree these records should be turned over.
And why on earth should the courts step in the middle of that and decide against both branches? So, I think there's a compelling reason for the court to say, you know, we don't need to see this case and allow the court of appeals decision to stand.
LEMON: A source is telling CNN, Congressman, that Meadows has provided the committee with texts and e-mails that he was exchanging with a wide range of people during January 6th, during the attack. And they relate to what Trump was doing. Can you tell us anything about them, and have they given you new leads to follow here?
SCHIFF: You know, there are only a couple that the committee has disclosed in a letter from the chair and ranking member, but they certainly do reveal that Mark Meadows has provided the committee with very relevant e-mails and text messages that go to January 6th, that go to, you know, whether the military would be needed, that go to the plans of legislatures to try to overturn the election and just how controversial that would be. And the fact that the chief of staff loved that idea.
So, he's very much in the thick of things. And they so dramatically undercut this argument that he can't testify because it would be somehow privileged when he provided all these materials to us, which he acknowledged are not privileged.
LEMON: Your colleague on the committee, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, saying the investigation is "firing on all cylinders." That's a quote. And that the panel met nearly 300 -- met with nearly 300 witnesses including four today. How confident are you in all the information that you have right now?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I'm very impressed, frankly, with how fast we're moving, how many people are cooperating, the nature of the information that we're getting. As the vice chair pointed out, we did four depositions today, so that's pretty remarkable.
And these were -- you know, these were important depositions. So, we're going to get to the bottom of this. As you can see from the information that is coming out, there is a lot the public doesn't know yet about the president's role in all of this, people around him, what level of coordinated strategy there was and all these other efforts to overturn the election culminating in the attack at the capitol. We want to expose that to the light of day and legislate in a way that protect the country going forward.
LEMON: Let's put up some of the key people who you have spoken with. Many should have a lot of pertinent information to pain a full picture of what happened leading up to, and on January 6th for the cooperating witnesses. You know, what kind of details do you have?
I thought we had a full screen of the people you spoke to. But there it is. OK. There it is right there. So, the cooperating witnesses, what are they sharing?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I can't go into the particulars of the testimony. You know, it's a range of things. We haven't had hundreds of people cooperating with our investigation. You know, some of the most prominent are in the news because they're refusing like Mark Meadows or Steve Bannon or showed up and didn't answer questions like Jeffrey Clark or are suggesting they're going to assert the Fifth Amendment.
Some who may come in, they may give us good, useful information or they may try to dissemble. And even then, we can learn useful information sometimes without the witnesses even being aware of what they're revealing.
So, we're learning an awful lot. We're putting the pieces together. We're gathering documentary evidence. We've already had information that we had to pursue certain phone records.
As a way, frankly, of being able to determine who's in touch with whom and when and test whether we're getting truthful testimony or not but also to lead us to new witnesses.
LEMON: OK. So, let me ask you a bit more there because you mentioned both of these people, and it appears that there's two types of people you're talking to. The public stone-wallers like Steve Bannon that you just said. The private testifiers like Marc Short, you just mentioned. The stone-wallers want to run out the clock. Do you think you'll get enough from the testifiers to show what really happened?
SCHIFF: I do because, frankly, we're getting a lot of cooperation, and there are multiple sources sometimes for the same important fact. Not always but sometimes. Indeed, one of the reasons the court of appeals ruled the way it did in the records case is that for some of those records there may not be any other source, and that may be true for a great many of them.
But we are approaching the investigation from many different perspectives. I do think we are putting the pieces together. Is it possible because some people like Steve Bannon would rather go to jail, rather thumb their nose at the law than help the country prepare to defend itself against any future political violence? Yes, there may be some missing pieces that they take to the jail with them. But I'm confident we're going to get the answers we need to protect the public. LEMON: We didn't talk about John Eastman. John Eastman, did he -- did
he answer any questions or did he take the fifth over and over?
SCHIFF: I can't comment on that. I think he made clear before his appearance that he intended to assert the fifth. But as to how on what basis or how often we're not commenting on that.
LEMON: So the House tonight passing your bill that's called the Protecting Our Democracy Act and it's meant to combat presidential abuses of power, but its future in the Senate is really unclear, Congressman. Are you worried we could face another January 6th if this doesn't become law?
SCHIFF: I am worried that our democracy is at deep risk. And if this legislation doesn't become law, if HR1 and the John Lewis voting rights bill, those two foundation of those don't become law because we rely on this archaic Senate rule of filibuster, then our democracy is in grave jeopardy.
You know those first bills on voting rights, those are foundational. If we don't have that, if people are disenfranchised. If the GOP losing another presidential election succeeds in overturning the election, that's pretty much lights out for our democracy.
But even in the future, if we don't pass the legislation we took up today, which is our own set of post-Watergate-like reforms that strengthen the independence of the Justice Department, protect inspector generals and whistleblowers, expedite congressional subpoenas, stiffer penalties for violating the Hatch Act, a way to enforce the Emoluments Clause.
If we don't do those kinds of things then we may very well have a president who abuses their power and further tears down the walls of our democracy.
LEMON: Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: The verdict is in. A jury founding Jussie Smollett guilty of reporting a fake hate crime. Now he could be facing time in prison.
LEMON (on camera): So here is the breaking news. A jury in Chicago finding actor Jussie Smollett guilty of five of six counts of lying to police when he falsely claimed to be the victim of a racist and anti- gay hate attack. A judge will decide if he'll face time behind bars or get probation.
I want to discuss now this verdict with CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson, a criminal defense attorney. So far -- good evening, Joey, -- you've been right on with your assessment with all of this your analysis. What's your reaction to the verdict?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I think, Don, good to be with you. It's the proper result. When you look at the case, you look at circumstances, you look at everything else, you know, many people have said that this is a case about credibility and he said, she said.
I disagree. I think this is a case -- every case relies upon credibility, but it's also about a narrative that makes sense. You know, we, lawyers, before we go before juries and we pick them we say always use your common sense and good judgment. And when you weave a web and tell a tale and it doesn't make sense it becomes problematic. I think that's what happened here.
His narrative that Mr. Smollett's did not just carry the day, as a result of that the jury really discerned that something was amiss and they found him accountable. So, I think that it was the right result.
LEMON: All right. Let's talk about that before I go to that, what do you think of the strategy of his to kind of throw, you know, everything against the wall, muddy everybody, mock it. What did you think of his defensive strategy?
JACKSON: You know, I think certainly from a defense perspective you have to raise the specter of reasonable doubt, but you have to do it in a way that pokes holes in a prosecution's case. It's difficult to do that when already you're locked into a story.
It's difficult to do that when you say you don't know anything about it, but they show you a video and show you various footage where you're at that actual scene and potentially it's you planning for something that happened. It's difficult for you to say I don't know and I wasn't involved and then they present text messages to you with certain brothers who were involved with you.
And you say I really haven't been really communicating with them, but then there are phone records that match you with up with them. And then they say, the police, let me have your phone and evaluate them. And you say, no, I don't think so. But we're trying to help you. No, I won't give you my phone today.
And when you do, you block out and redact certain things. It's just difficult. You know, we're going to -- we want to take DNA, we want to help -- I don't think I want to give you DNA. And so, there's just so much overwhelming evidence here. And I get the defense wanting to put the police department on trial and I don't believe in the police department, and why would he really cooperate with them, but I just think it was too much.
And then when you testify and you tell a story, the dynamics of which just belie common sense, I think this is what the result is. Talented person, very sad state of affairs, but at the end of the day there are consequences to your actions. I think the jury pronounced him guilty I think really spoke to that. And a judge will speak to what specific those consequences will be.
LEMON: They to make too many lies as to why they didn't want to certain things like to cover like another lie and that, you know, I guess he got caught up in that because he took the stand himself. He got angry with the prosecutor as the prosecutor poked holes in his story calling only -- the only other witnesses liars. I mean, do you think that hurt him, him taking the stand?
JACKSON: It's devastating. Now, you know, I get why he would because of the fact he's compelling and he can tell a story and he seems sincere. And he seems as though, you know, what he says should be believed and relied upon unless you said something inconsistent prior, right, when you go on TV. I never took then you (Inaudible). But you said before that you really did.
Just so many things. And so, when you go onto the witness stand, and there are certain things, Don, you can explain, but then you have to explain. But then you have to explain. And then how many things can you possibly explain?
Thirty-five-hundred-dollar check, it was for nutrition, you know, nothing to see here. The $100, also, you know what, I don't know anything about these guys. I thought that they were, you know, pale, they were white, I'm sorry, they left. Just too many things.
I think when you're really on trial for telling a lie and then you compound that by actually lying, it makes a judge who sits in judgment of you when you're sentenced, really troubled. And I that's the thing I think he's going to be facing here when he looks at a judge who has to pronounce sentence on what he actually was accused of and convicted of.
LEMON: Here's what folks are concerned about, that what he did might undermine future victims, legitimate victims of hate crimes.
JACKSON: Look, I think there's a few things a judge is going to look at. When you look at sentencing, you always look at punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation. Obviously, he's a young man with what was a bright future. His prospects of rehabilitation are absolutely there.
But when you look to punishment, you have to punish conduct like this. Why? Two reasons. You mentioned one of them. There are people legitimately who were the victims of hate crimes, and how do you diminish them by coming up with something that's a farce? That's troubling and you have to punish that.
Secondly, there are resources expanded from a police perspective in a city that needs them, right? Why do we take away those resources to focus on something that didn't happen when there's so many things that did happen that we really should be focusing on? So that's the second thing.
The third thing is if you come into a courtroom and you take the stand, which is your right, but you fabricate and you're caught in those lies I think a judge really is taken aback by that. And so, that's what he's looking at when he goes to be sentenced. And look, Don, he's facing we know probation to three years. The judge has been --
LEMON: Is he going to get prison time?
JACKSON: What's that?
LEMON: Is he going to get prison time?
JACKSON: I think so because he's facing three years. A judge can give him probation. But I think when a judge looks at all those things, punishment, deterrence. You don't want people acting this way. Hate crimes, you made it up. People really have hate crimes.
You look the issue of expending of resources. That's a problem. You get on the stand and you lie about it. So, I think the judge has to fashion a remedy appropriate not only to him but to send a message to all others that you probably should not be doing.
LEMON: Joey Jackson, thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
JACKSON: Always, Don. Thank you.
LEMON: She was shot. Her sister was standing right next to her, and now they're suing the Oxford school district for $100 million. Stay with us.
LEMON (on camera): A Michigan community is still reeling from the Oxford High School shooting that left four students dead and several injured. Now the family of a student who was shot has filed lawsuits against the school district, school officials and employees that argues that they willfully misrepresented the dangers of potential shooting and that they acted recklessly. And they are seeking damages in excess of $100 million for each suit.
So, joining me now is the attorney behind the suit. His name is Jeffrey Fieger. And we thank him for joining us. Good evening to you, Mr. Fieger.
GEOFFREY FIEGER, ATTORNEY SUING OXFORD COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT: Good evening.
LEMON: You represent the family, the 17-year-old Riley Franz was severely injured, shot in the neck. And 14-year-old Bella Franz who watched as her sister was shot, what have they been dealing with since this -- that horrific day?
FIEGER: And her friend shot dead next to her.
FIEGER: Her funeral was just -- these are the type of things children don't recover from, not easily, not ever, being shot in the neck and having your best friend killed in front of you, having your sister shot down, a 14-year-old girl coming out of a high school bathroom, that's not something 14-year-olds or 16-year-olds should ever have to deal with or comprehend.
And it is irremediable and it is unrecoverable in their lifetime. It will have lingering effects but of course, this is not something that is unusual in this country since over 200,000 children have been exposed to it in the over 300 shootings and over 300 deaths of children in the 20-year since I first represented two of the victims of Columbine in 1999.
LEMON: I remember you from that, sir. In this case, though, school officials were alerted twice before the shooting by two teachers who reported concerning behavior from Ethan Crumbley. They met with his parents --
FIEGER: They had him --
LEMON: Go ahead.
FIEGER: They had him in hand. They weren't just --
LEMON: Yes, they met with his parents hours before the rampage to talk about these disturbing pictures that he drew but allowed him to return to class. And, you know, supposedly looking for ammo, you know, on his phone on the internet. Any explanation for any of that?
FIEGER: Well, I can't think of any explanation for it. And if people want to understand, this isn't simply a lawsuit for money. This is a lawsuit for answers. It's a lawsuit to take action, to stop simply talking and giving lip service to what's now they're doing the kumbaya at Oxford high where everyone is expected as part of the school community to come together and join and overcome it.
When you can't overcome it without answers, what answers and I would like and the parents would like them -- give me the answers to why a mass killer was allowed to in the face of knowledge that he was writing things that would make a reasonable person believe that he was about to commit some type of crime.
That he was drawing pictures that showed mass murder, that he was seeking ammunition on the internet, all known and all possessed by the teachers, brought down to the counselor's office by teachers. There is a school liaison police officer that was never involved in it. The parents were brought in. They were told admittedly -- and the prosecutors revealed this -- that the teachers and the counselors felt he needed to have immediate --
LEMON: We lost him. Sorry about that. Geoffrey Fieger is representing the Franz family. And we'll see. We must remember that the four families lost their children. There were other students who were severely injured in here. The community is really shaken by that. And the question is, will this lawsuit expand or will they add on other lawsuits? We'll follow it all. Sorry about that. We'll have him back.
An unprecedented number of fatal car crashes in this country. What does it have to do with the pandemic? Stay with us.
LEMON (on camera): Thirty-eight thousand six hundred eighty deaths on U.S. roads last year. The most fatalities since 2007. And that's even with pandemic precautions drastically reducing the number of drivers on the roads. So, what gives?
Well, some experts are saying that this is due to an overall lack of civility in our society, a lack of civility that we have seen in school board meetings.
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UNKNOWN: OK. Right here. Look right here. So, as you can see, fists are now flying. All of this on live television. Fists are flying.
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LEMON (on camera): Over mask mandates.
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UNKNOWN: We know who you are.
UNKNOWN: Keep it calm.
UNKNOWN: You will never be allowed in public again.
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LEMON (on camera): And on airplanes.
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UNKNOWN: Let's go. Come on.
UNKNOWN: Be civil.
UNKNOWN: You gave me one (muted) warning. One warning.
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LEMON (on camera): But with more than 229 million licensed drivers, the risk to you and your family are higher than ever.
Joining me now is Pam Shadel Fischer, from the Governor's Highway Safety Association. So glad to have you on. Thank you.
This is crazy. As I said there's more than 38,000 deaths on U.S. roads last year. That's a 7.2 increase over 2019.
PAM SHADEL FISCHER, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL ENGAGEMENT, GOVERNORS HIGHWAY SAFETY ASSOCIATION: Yes.
LEMON: And there were few drivers on the road I have to say. What is the increase about? Is it stress? Is it anxiety? Can you make sense of these numbers?
FISCHER: It's a combination of so many things but it really does come down to a lack of regard for themselves and everybody else out on the road. I mean, people are taking incredible risks, driving at high rates of speed, driving impaired on alcohol, drugs, sometimes multiple substances at the same time. Not wearing seat belt, which people say to me. But everybody wears a seat belt but they aren't wearing seat belts.
They're using cell phones. They're engaging in behaviors that not only put themselves at risk but everybody else out there. So, there is this disregard. And it's like this lack of civility has really carried over on to the roadway system.
And we're paying for it. We're paying for it with lives. Families are, you know, losing loved ones at numbers that we have not seen in decades. It is so frustrating to all of us in traffic safety because we were making gains and now, we're going backwards.
LEMON: I'm sure there's -- I hope there are studies done in other industries and other areas to see if this is happening across society. I think it will probably show that it is.
One expert told the L.A. Times that and I quote here, "I fear we have adopted really unsafe driving habits and they are going to persist. Our roads are less safe than they were pre-pandemic."
Another said "we might decide what does a seat belt or another beer matter anyway when we're in the middle of a pandemic?" Is this type of behavior going to outlast the pandemic do you think?
FISCHER: We hope not because we had been seeing tremendous gains happening prior to the pandemic. We were getting the numbers to go back down. And so, you know, we reverse it. I think there's just been so much stress, so much, you know, just feeling like you're losing control, and so people are getting out there on the road.
And they saw open highways and they were saying, wow. I can really put pedal to the metal. I can push it. I can do things just to relieve some of that stress.
A lot of people have been medicating, using alcohol, using drugs because they are so stressed out. When you put that combination of alcohol and drugs and you get behind the wheel and you are literally a powder keg ready to explode. You could cause damage and really kill someone. And that's what's happening out there. So, we have to think about the
decisions we make. Those things that we make and we do behind the wheel have a ripple effect. And it's not just you that's impacted by it but many other people.
LEMON: Let's talk a little bit more about what you said and what I said as well. Because again, it's not just reckless driving. There are fist fights on airplanes, people attacking each other over masks. You see people fighting in the streets, I mean, in the supermarket. It is like something is broken with how we treat each other, Pam.
FISCHER: Yes, there really is. I think it's a matter of we have a lost sense of as we said civility.
FISCHER: But also, just thinking about looking out for each other, right? And I've often I've heard this. I've worked in traffic safety almost four decades. And people say to me, well it's a very private thing I'm doing when I'm behind the wheel of a car.
I'm in my own vehicle minding my own business but the decisions that you make, the things that you do really do affect other people. And these are all preventable things. So, we have to think about how are those actions that we're taking affecting our neighbors, our friends, those other people that are out on the road with me?
Let's get back to looking out for each other, recognizing that we are living in difficult and very stressful times, and let's take the actions we can whether it's on the road or other places to help each other not hurt each other. Because that's what's happening.
LEMON: I learned a lot. Pam, thank you so much. You be well. Be safe out there.
FISCHER: Thank you.
LEMON: Thank you.
FISCHER: You, too.
LEMON: President Biden says the economic recovery is the one of the strongest ever but what about the rest of his party's goals. I'm going to ask Senator Elizabeth Warren right after this.