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Don Lemon Tonight

January 6th Committee Found Damning Information; David Perdue Files A Lawsuit; Omicron Is More Transmissible Than Delta; President Biden Highlights The Aim To Protect Democracy; Pandemic Stress Plays A Role In Murder Rate Increase; Arkansas Bracing For Bad Weather. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 10, 2021 - 22:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST (on camera): Pretty decisive result. Time for one quick tweet. What is it? I think the American public for surviving this. Not a bad answer, Nancy. Thanks for tweeting at me.

DON LEMON TONIGHT is in the on-deck circle and here he is.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Michael, what about some of the insurrection police officers like Michael Fanone or some of those guys? I think Michael is on the cover of Time magazine perhaps.

SMERCONISH: Look, a lot of folks said the, you know, protesters, insurrectionists call them what you will because that was January 6th the beginning of this calendar year. It's certainly the story that's dominated the news ever since. If you really want to go by a definition, how about the unvaxxed among us? As a group.

LEMON: The person as person or person --


SMERCONISH: Person or persons.

LEMON: Persons, I believe.

SMERCONISH: Remember, Don, who most dominated the news for better or worse.

LEMON: Well, there you go. I was thinking of some people who did something heroic but you're right, whoever better or worse.


LEMON: And the better is Michael Smerconish.

SMERCONISH: You're nice to say it.

LEMON: Thanks, Mike. You're on this weekend, right, this Saturday?

SMERCONISH: Tomorrow morning.

LEMON: Tomorrow morning.

SMERCONISH: Tomorrow morning.

LEMON: All right. I'll let you get out of here because you need rest.

SMERCONISH: You got it. Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. Have a great week. I'll see you next -- I'll see you tomorrow and I'll see you next week.

SMERCONISH: Thanks for saying that.


And make no mistake, the warning lights are blinking and they're blinking red. January 6th was not the end. It was really people. It was just the beginning. We were just talking about it. You know? What dominated the news cycle more? Was it January 6th? What was it?

Whatever it is both of them tell us that our democracy is at risk and we are running out of time to do something about it. The committee investigating the attack in the capitol issuing six new subpoenas just tonight and for the first time they have a direct connection between organizers of the January 6th rally and the former guy, the then president.

You may not know their names but these are people who know what was really going on behind those closed doors at the White House and the days leading up to January 6th. The committee says that two former presidential aides, Max Miller, Robert P. Jr. met with the then president in his private office on January 4th, two days before, right, to discuss the rally that was to be held just two days later. And who would be speaking at that rally.

Now the committee mentions the former Trump campaign official Katrina Pierson, remember, she was always on television as a Trump surrogate before he was elected and then she became, right, someone in the administration.

So Katrina Pierson is mentioned who was reportedly involved in organization of the rallies and has already been subpoenaed. She was in that meeting, too. Max Miller who is now a congressional candidate in Ohio tweeting his first vote would be to disband the committee that subpoenaed him today.

Bonus points for ever the ever popular in some circles anyway accusations of a witch hunt, right? And we've got a newly revealed memo tonight written by Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis. Yes, that Jenna Ellis the same one who stood up with Rudy Giuliani to push the big lie of bogus election fraud.

In a memo, the day before the attack on the capitol she said that then Vice President Mike Pence could ignore a federal law. The Electoral Count Act and just stop the certification process when they reach Arizona. That memo first reported by Politico.

So, let's not forget what happened when Pence refused to do just that, watch.


CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!


LEMON (on camera): Looking at that, seeing the violence at the seat of our democracy that day, it is just stunning to realize that less than half of the capitol rioters - listen to this - less than half of the capitol rioters who have been sentenced so far have gotten any time behind bars. That is according to a CNN analysis.

And meanwhile, the clock is ticking as the former president tries to keep his secrets from the January 6th committee. He's got less than two weeks to appeal to the Supreme Court with the conservative majority and three justices that he appointed.

Then there's Republican David Purdue who lost his Senate seat in that hotly contested Georgia runoff election the day before the attack on the capitol and is now running for governor of Georgia. He's got this whole new thing.

You decide if you think it's grift because he's still pushing the big lie of bogus election fraud filing a lawsuit just today more than a year after the election, a lawsuit to inspect absentee ballots from 2020.

As I have been saying here, it's been reported everywhere. The ballots were counted three times. Georgia officials have said over and over and over that there is no evidence of widespread fraud. Joe Biden won the state by about 12,000 votes. But that is not stopping David Purdue from running on the outlandish claim that he would have stopped the certification of a lawful election.


Like I said, the warning lights are blinking red. Democracy is in peril with Republicans running on the idea that they would refuse to certify legitimate elections. There was a time that some Republicans knew what was right.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump and accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term.


LEMON (on camera): What happened to that? The January version of Kevin McCarthy? What happened to him? now completely knuckling under to a disgrace twice impeached insurrection-inspiring former president. The GOP is unchecked and it's leaderless. Members push hate. They push Islamophobia, they push all kinds of bigotry, lies. They proudly posts Christmas cards showing their kids holding guns. They post violent videos that appear to show a Democratic colleague being killed.

And then there is Florida's Ron DeSantis sending out a fundraising e- mail today calling for Dr. Anthony Fauci to be put in prison complaining about what he calls medical authoritarianism and claiming Fauci lied to Congress. And then going on to shield for cash because that's what this is really about.

That and getting attention. Trolling and feeding the fake outrage machine instead of governing. It's really about the money, power, attention. And that is where we are tonight.

But think about where we were just last year at this time. Did anybody, did any of you, did any of us ever imagine what was going to happen on January 6th, blood thirsty Trump supporting rioters attacking the United States Capitol?

What will we think when we look back on this time, when we look back on the nationwide assault on the vote, candidates like David Perdue running on how he would have stopped the certification of a lawful election?

Local officials who stood up against the big lie replaced by others who might not stand up the way that they did. Will we think we missed the warning lights that I've been talking about, the ones that are blinking red? The warning lights that our democracy is in peril.

Right to the new round of subpoenas now. Now I want to bring in CNN political commentator Charlie Dent, former Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, and senior legal analyst Laura Coates, a former federal prosecutor.

Good to see both of you. Good evening.

Do you disagree before I go to the first question, each of you, just quickly, yes or no? Is our democracy in peril, Laura?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it absolutely is. With voting rights being curtailed, with people trying to metathesize further a big lie and our integrity of our elections constantly questioned, it absolutely is.

LEMON: Charlie Dent?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think our democracy is at risk and there is backsliding but I really blame one person, the former president because he continues to poise in the dialogue by saying the whole system is rigged and he was robbed even though all these other people who won were not robbed. They won legitimately.

LEMON: Yes. Laura, let's get to the six new subpoenas and focus on the people involved in planning of the rallies leading up to the capitol attack. Some who even met directly with Trump just days beforehand. What do you think the committee wants to get out of them?

COATES: The keyword here is beforehand. Remember, there hasn't been really a correlation as of yet that we're aware of where there was direct communication or something about the planning with the former president from the rallies to the insurrection.

So, we're actually going systematically at this point to figure out what happened, what were the events leading up to it and really, what led to what is being suggested as you wrote in the head in your piece, the idea of the transition of thought from who will bear more responsibility to what happened later.

There is no way that there was a coincidence that everyone seemed to attack the citadel of our democracy try flying a kite in most places in Washington, D.C. Imagine how the actual lumber be brought on, gallows be built and have this all-coordinated effort with a target towards trying to hurt or harm in some way members of Congress.

This is not happenstance. So, the committee is trying to figure out what led up to it, who was involved in the planning? It could have been and obviously was more than one person who was involved in it to what extent people were complicit or are they acquiesce.


Remember the goal of Congress here in their committee ways in which there were shortcomings and investigate ways to have an oversight function further and legislate a way to fortify our elections further.

And so, all this is within eye towards figuring out and confirming what we all frankly saw with our eyes. This wasn't coincidence and happenstance. This appeared to be strategic and planning.

LEMON: Yes, it wasn't a tourist visit to the capitol. Charlie, CNN also learning about memos from Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis. Remember her, the one that stood with Rudy Giuliani -- Giuliani. Supposedly, they outlined theories of how V.P. Mike Pence could overturn the election. That's on top of the memo that we know that came from John Eastman. Was this all right out in plain sight do you think?

DENT: Well, I don't know how out in the open it was. But I think everybody recognizes that it was -- these were absurd arguments that the Vice President had no authority to overturn the state certification of elections. I mean, the Vice President understood that.

Dan Quail explained it to Mike Pence and they were right. And so, I mean, these lawyers were coming up with these outrageous theories in an attempt to prevent the peaceful transition of power and it's as simple as that. And again, I lay the blame at the former president.

That's why we're having these conversations today. I know that most Republicans with whom I've dealt with who served were currently in office believe they were all elected legitimately. And if the Democrats are going to steal elections, they wouldn't have just stolen the presidential election. They would have just stolen it all and they all know that.

So, I think this is a -- it's really sad that we're in this position in this country right now.

LEMON: Laura, the national archives --


DENT: And others are watching.

LEMON: Yes. Say again?

DENT: And others are watching. As America backslides, you know that's really spells trouble for the Democratic institutions around the world because they always look to us for leadership. We were the paradigm. We were the model. Not so much anymore, unfortunately.

LEMON: National archives, Laura, are working with Mark Meadows to get records that he had on personal accounts and may not have been given to the agency. Now we don't know what those records are, but I want you to listen this is Congressman Adam Schiff, what he told CNN when asked about it tonight.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): What he says to his lawyer is that the reason he had an about face was that the committee wanted his phone records. Now, why would that change his willingness to cooperate unless he felt perhaps that those phone records might contradict what he's -- that what he was preparing to say or show context that he wasn't disclosing to the committee?


LEMON (on camera): What do you think? Can these phone records be critically important?

COATES: Absolutely. His skepticism, Adam Schiff's skepticism is warranted as to what would transform your otherwise cooperation. And by the way, I don't want anyone to have this false notion that cooperating with a subpoena issued from Congress is somehow optional.

The idea of voluntarily complying is something that we should think in our minds, it's the opposite of being held in contempt but it's the expectation that voluntary compliance is the bare minimum.

And remember, you have to be able to appear and you can assert if you have a valid privilege question by question but an overall thumbing of the nose, saying you want a carte blanche not to appear. You can't answer what your name is.

You can't answer to any conversations that weren't with the president of the United States. Personal correspondence with members of Congress, with your own family, anything else and you have the records to cooperate that this indeed did happen and might --


LEMON: And you can put some of it in your book, Laura?

COATES: Remember, he also -- what did you say?

LEMON: You can put some of it in your book but then you can't go and speak before Congress, before a committee?

COATES: I mean, in many respects it harkens back to the criticism of John Bolton, right? The idea that no, you can't appear to testify for impeachment proceedings or be in any service to the impeachment managers and the hearing for transparency because it might run up against a book publication.

Here, McCarthy is -- Mark Meadows has published information, he has spoken about it and even before having information in a book, he has essentially publicized conversations through non-privileged communications. And so, cherry picking based on your preference what you give and provide to an investigative committee is shocking.

And I just reminded and Congressman Dent, you know this quite well, this was a former member of Congress who is saying that there is no authority for Congress to investigate and have oversight or have a proper legislative function over an attack on members of Congress.

I wasn't in the capitol that day. You weren't in the capitol. Don, you were not there. We were not the ones who were immediately in danger but our democracy was.

Our elected officials were and to have someone say there is no oversight and I'm not going to give the information because I'd rather compartmentalize in some way or provide for a book, that's one of the reasons why democracy is in peril.


LEMON: Yes. Charlie, I want to get your response to that and also, you know, you were just talking about how ridiculous this is, David Perdue filing this lawsuit that calls to inspect absentee ballots now that he's running for governor. He lost the Senate election and now he's running for governor and now he's suing a year after the election.

DENT: First, I just want to say, Don, that Mark Meadows is one of the senior members of the House oversight committee when he was in the majority. And if somebody defied a subpoena that they issued I guarantee you he would have a conniption fit. He would have gone and he would gone wild.

Now on Senator Perdue, former Senator Perdue, look, he lost his election largely because Donald Trump suppressed the vote in the runoff election. He told Republicans the system was rigged they didn't show up and that's why you have a Democratic majority and Ossoff and Warnock winning.

And so, now I hate to see people to base themselves to the former president in this way but he's simply trying to become governor and he's blaming -- he's blaming the current governor and the secretary of state down there who actually did their jobs and recognized they couldn't decertify an election.

And that was an honest election. And so, bottom line is, he wants to be a governor and he feels he needs the president's support in the primary to do so. So, he will say things that he has to know are simply not the case or not true.

LEMON: I'm wondering since Trump lost does he need that in Georgia? It's just weird. They're doing, they're running a weird strategy. We'll see, though. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

So how do the threats to our democracy look to the rest of the world? Charlie was just talking about that. He mentioned it. Are autocrats empowered at home, as well. Big questions from Fareed Zakaria. Fareed is next.



LEMON (on camera): The President of the United States Joe Biden today delivering a message about protecting democracy to leaders from around the world, but as the president tries to bolster democracy across the globe, the U.S. is struggling to protect its own institutions here at home.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Defending democracy demands a whole society effort, it requires all of us, the leaders of governments we have a responsibility to listen to our citizens, to strengthen the guard rails of democracy and to drive reforms that are going to make transparent accountable governments.


LEMON (on camera): So, joining me to discuss is Fareed Zakaria, he is the host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS. Fareed, thank you so much.

I was just sitting here thinking, you know, he had to do this summit today, he's dealing with the economy, he's dealing with COVID. He had the funeral or whatever. I was like, who would ever want to be president of the United States? My gosh. What a job.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: The bandwidth you need to be dealing with all these issues.


ZAKARIA: And you know, people often forget they think like OK, it's now foreign policy week. It's not -- that's not how it works. There is a great biographer of President Kennedy which points out that in every day you're dealing with all these issues simultaneously.


ZAKARIA: So like you're in a meeting about inflation and somebody comes in and says Putin just moved another 50,000 troops into the border of Ukraine, and then somebody else comes in and tells you something about the Ohio runoff election and then, you know, it's all happening every day all the time.


ZAKARIA: It's -- yes. It's the only guy who I don't think who seem to -- who didn't seem to age in the job other than that everybody ages was Donald Trump.

So, you notice, you know, no grey, who knows what his hair looks like. But I was struck by the fact didn't seem to make much difference to him because I mean, he was tweeting the same way he'd be doing in Trump tower.

LEMON: There was a lot of executive time there. But I mean, listen things on the current president's plate including, you know, we are -- we have witnessed a relentless deliberate plot to tear down institutions and norms and across the country Republicans are passing laws to restrict voting.

The former president's refusal to accept his loss causing mass distrust in our elections. I mean it's tougher for the U.S. to preach about democracy right now, no?

ZAKARIA: Well, look, you're exactly right, Don. It's a very tough time. Because if you think about it, what we are trying to do is to talk about Democratic backsliding. That's the whole point of this democracy summit.

It's not so much about the democracies versus authoritarian regimes. It's about how -- I mean, the problem in some sense is not the China and Russia undermining it. Is that, it's all getting undermined from within places like Hungary, places like Poland, places like Turkey and of course, places like the United States.

That is the principal problem here, which is as you rightly say, there is every day, every week evidence that the United States is moving towards a constitutional crisis. Look, it's very clear what Trump and his minions are trying do which is give state legislatures the power to overturn elections.

And if that happens, you end up in 2024 with a constitutional crisis. So, how do we go around telling people, you know, democracy is important, the rule of law is important. Election -- free and fair elections are important when we're undermining those very things right now in a way that could be very consequential.

LEMON: Yes. But even the fact that we need a summit like this to protect democracy around the globe shows that it is on the -- it's on defensive right now.

ZAKARIA: Right. LEMON: And all of these democracies ultimately have to deal with their own domestic politics so what can a summit -- I mean, can this -- will this accomplish anything?

ZAKARIA: Honestly, I think that, you know, I don't know whether Biden thought about it this way but the best thing we can do right now is to strengthen democracy in the United States.

LEMON: Right.


ZAKARIA: Which means to turn the issue of voting rights into a national non-partisan issue and I mean, if I were President Biden, I would make an Oval Office address and say nothing less is at stake than American democracy and it's a very simple proposition that everybody has the right to vote and everybody's vote should be counted.

Now let me tell you what is happening in these various states. And here is why you have to mobilize. You have to support Congress when it tries to pass legislation. I would, for this case, suspend the filibuster and talk to Manchin.

You know, if we give that sense of urgency and crisis, it may get through because I think the danger here is this is a kind of slow- motion coup. There is no one day where something is happening that is undermining democracy.

It's in about 12 states that assures (Ph) of small measures have been taken. You know, in Georgia the secretary of state is stripped of the powers that he was meant to have, and instead, it's being given to the legislature.

Similar thing is happening in Wisconsin. So, you know, when do you report that democracy is that threat? There is no one day and the one person who could create a crisis and create an event is the president of the United States.

LEMON: Well, I mean, that plus we're seeing some people in the U.S. embracing autocrats in an unprecedented way. The Fox propaganda network even defending Putin on this week. Listen. It's crazy.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: So, at this point, NATO exists primarily to torment Vladimir Putin who whatever his many faults has no intention of invading Western Europe. Vladimir Putin does not want Belgium. he just wants to keep his western border secure.


LEMON (on camera): I mean, this would have been unimaginable 10 or even -- I mean, even five years ago. How troubling is this sympathy on the American right with authoritarians like Putin in Hungary's Viktor Orban? ZAKARIA: It's stunning and it's startling. So, let's remember unpack

what was just said. Putin is not planning to invade Western Europe. In other words, what Tucker Carlson seems to be saying is that it's OK if he has designs on Eastern Europe.

Now for the last 25 years, there has been bipartisan agreement that one of the great successes of the American foreign policy was the victory in the Cold War and the consolidation of that victory was to free all those captive nations that had been colonized by the Soviet Union, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, the Baltic states, and, you know, anchor them in freedom and democracy and in the west.

What Tucker Carlson seems to be saying is we're just worried about Western Europe. We're worried about Belgium and France. If Putin wants all of Eastern Europe, well, you know, that's OK.

A very odd concession and a very odd turning of one's back on one of the really most extraordinary achievements of western strategy for the last 30 or 40 years. I mean, and even let's look at Ukraine. This is, Ukraine is a country where these people desperately want a future that is anchored in liberty, democracy, capitalism, the west and shouldn't we be supporting that?

LEMON: One would think. Unless you --


ZAKARIA: They are willing to fight and they are fighting and dying for it. Right?


ZAKARIA: They are asking for a moral political support, some arms. And that we can give because it makes Vladimir Putin feel insecure.

LEMON: Yes. Can we talk about domestic issues? Let's talk about the economy.


LEMON: Also, a huge concern in the U.S. New reports showing that key inflation measure hit a 39-year high in November. It's more than just gas prices. I just want to put this graphic up, it's furniture, food, clothing. I mean, these are necessities. How does this weigh on everything else Americans are dealing with right now?

ZAKARIA: This has got to be President Biden's number one concern. The thing to understand about inflation and the reason it's been so destabilizing throughout history is unemployment affects only a small number of people. Right? Most people have jobs and so the unemployment rate is 8 percent. It's the 8 percent of the people who don't have jobs who are upset.

But inflation affects 100 percent of the people. One hundred percent of the people when they go to the gas station, when they go to the grocery store, when they go to buy, you know, something at a store. They all feel the pinch.

So, it's much more widespread and it's much more, it makes -- it makes people feel they have been robbed off their savings of their, you know, of their income. So, look, some of this is beyond his control. There is frankly a lot of weirdness in the way that the entire global economy shut down and then he's restarting and it turns out this is not a seamless process.


You know, when you restart an economy, it turns out a bunch of people who were working places have quit jobs. A bunch of factories closed down and a bunch of countries still have COVID restrictions.

So, there is a lot of, you know, jerkiness in this opening but also what's happening is frankly, you know, it is the flip side of a good news story. There is a lot of demand. People have cash. They're buying stuff. And that fuels inflation. People are being paid more.

You know, one of the great drivers of inflation right now appears to be wage inflation but Donald says they're paying 10 percent more for their people across the country. That's good news. On the other hand, they are raising they're passing some of those costs onto the consumers.

So, it's a mixed bag but, you know, one of the things, inflation is often seen as a test of presidential leadership and even though in some ways the Federal Reserve has more to do with it. It's to show that he's thinking about it long and hard.

And let me -- let me point to one thing in particular. It's not just gas prices. It's energy prices. If people start feeling like heating their homes, going to the gas station, all those things are going to cost more, that -- you know, you don't want to go back to the '70s when you had an energy crisis and Jimmy Carter was president and it didn't end well.

LEMON: Yes, I was there for it. I remember that very, very well.

ZAKARIA: You're too young to remember that.

LEMON: It's the makeup and lighting. I'm not that young. Thank you very much. You're very kind. Fareed Zakaria, it's always a pleasure. I've really enjoyed the conversation. So, I'll see you soon. Be well.

ZAKARIA: Thank you, sir.

LEMON: And make sure you watch Fareed Zakaria GPS Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. right here on CNN.

The CDC is out with their first analysis of the Omicron variant in the United States. What they're finding about who is getting affected and how severely, next.



LEMON (on camera): The CDC out today with their first evaluation of Omicron cases in the U.S. Their study looked at 43 positive cases and found most had mild symptoms but a majority of those people infected were vaccinated, and 14 of them already had boosters. Interesting.

Let's discuss now. Dr. Leana Wen is here, a CNN medical analyst. Good to see you, doctor. Thanks for joining.

LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Great to see you, too, Don.

LEMON: So, doc, some experts say this shows that Omicron is not the doomsday variant but others like Dr. Anthony Fauci are looking for more data. What's your read on the CDC report?

WEN: I still think that it's too early for us to tell exactly what's going to happen with Omicron. So, there is good news and bad news. I'll start with the bad news first. The bad news is that it looks like it's contagious. It might even be twice as contagious as the already very contagious Delta variant. That's really not good.

But the good news is that it doesn't seem like Omicron is causing more severe disease although the caveat is even if something doesn't cause more severe disease but it spreads a lot more easily, it could still end up overwhelming our hospitals.

And already in some parts of the country we're already seeing a lot of these hospitals being overrun. We've also seen this week that there is some degree of immune escape, meaning that vaccinated people can still get the Omicron variant. They're not very well protected.

However, if they are boosted, that does give them a very high level of protection. So, I think bottom line is if you're not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you're not boosted, please get that booster now. It's not just a luxury item. It's something that is essential at this point.

LEMON: Say it again, I mean, if you're not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you're not boosted, get boosted. It's the best that we have now and wearing masks.

So, like I said, most of the people and the report who for -- who got Omicron were vaccinated and some even boosted, so you're telling people to do it but that's got to be, you have to have some level of concern about that, doctor.

WEN: Well, most Americans at this point thankfully are vaccinated. So, the fact that most people who in this initial case series who got Omicron are vaccinated, that really should not be surprising, especially because a third of those individuals according to the CDC study are people who had international travel so they're much more likely to be vaccinated for that reason. So, I think the --


LEMON: So, you have to look into the number to show what they mean? WEN: Right. So, I think the take away from this very small case

study, so we're talking about 43 people that the CDC is reporting on thus far, a third of them have international travel but what's concerning is that two-thirds do not which means that there is some level of community transmission that's occurring.

The good news so far, is that all of these individuals seem to have pretty mild symptoms, mainly cough, fatigue, overall, not feeling well. One person was in the hospital but was then briefly -- was briefly there and has since been discharged.

So, all of that seems promising so far but I do also want to remind people that we have the Delta variant to contend with right now. We're seeing over 100,000 new daily infections because of the delta variant.

We have the holidays still coming and so this is the time for us to be vigilant. I would definitely still keep wearing masks while in indoor crowded public spaces. If you're gathering with others make sure that they are fully vaccinated, ideally boosted as well, and also testing can be a really good strategy.


If you're gathering with people, especially who are immunocompromised or an elderly or who are young kids too young to be vaccinated, it would be great if everybody can be tested that morning before the gathering.

LEMON: You talked about older folks. Let's talk about young people. The CDC is now saying that kids over 16 years old can get a Pfizer booster but for kids younger than that they're still not authorized for that booster shot. What do parents need to know to protect their kids right now, doctor?

WEN: Yes, so I think if there are kids who are 16 and older, adolescent 16 and older they should definitely get a booster now that it is available to this age group. For parents in the five and above group who have not gotten their kids their initial doses, now is the time to do that especially with Omicron and the threat of Delta, as well.

For people who have younger kids including me, I've got two little kids below the age of five, we have to keep on being vigilant because it does appear that Omicron we know from the U.K., for example, seems to be spreading really quickly including in households.

And so, I think again, this is the time to be vigilant and not let down our guard. I'm not saying don't gather with people but rather, just be careful when doing so. Ideally make sure that they are also vaccinated and boosted and if they're not, that testing is going to be really important.

LEMON: How long have we been working together? Almost two years now that you've been on CNN and we have never met in person and we just met the other day since we're allowed to go back in the building. It was nice meeting you in person and it's nice having you on. Thank you, doctor.

WEN: Thank you. Great to see you and great to meet you in person, too, Don.

LEMON: Nine of the country's most populous cities seeing a record number of homicides. We're going to take a look what's behind the alarming rise in violence. That's next.



LEMON (on camera): Just three more weeks until 2021 comes to a close but it's already going down as a year with a soaring number of homicides all across the country. The murder rate in some cities breaking records. Experts say that stress from the COVID pandemic definitely playing a role here but the major factor, guns.

More tonight from CNN's Ryan Young.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Across the country, police departments, cities and towns and communities are dealing with an alarming increase in the number of homicides from Portland.

UNKNOWN: Everybody has their head on a swivel.

YOUNG: To Birmingham.

UNKNOWN: Let's go right over to the street.

YOUNG: Now to Austin.

JOSEPH CHACON, CHIEF, AUSTIN, TEXAS POLICE DEPARTMENT: This certainly is not the right reason, not something when we're setting this type of a record that we want to be in the news for.

YOUNG: Where the fast-growing city shattered the yearly record for homicides making 2021 the city's deadliest year on record. A CNN analysis of more than 40 of the most populous cities in the U.S. shows nine that have already set homicide records before year's end.

Indianapolis has surpassed their 2020 total or 215, Philadelphia with 524 homicides to date and Albuquerque, New Mexico with 103. And Austin, Texas.

YOUNG (on camera): What's it like to see the numbers of homicides that you guys are experiencing right now?

CHACON: You know, it's just really disappointing quite honestly.

YOUNG: Austin police chief Joseph Chacon says there is no one reason for these record high numbers but he has noticed a disturbing trend.

CHACON: We have seen really a spike in gun violence. So, you know, just a proliferation of the illegally owned weapons on the street. YOUNG: Nationwide, more homicides are being committed using gun than

ever, shootings have increased nearly in all major U.S. cities that track that data. And there have been 88 homicides in Austin so far this year according to the police department.

Double last year's total and the city's homicide rate has ticked up to 8.5 percent putting it on par with numbers not seen consistently since the '80s. But it's not guns alone. Police chiefs, activists, and experts say COVID-19 is still a contributing factor.

THOMAS ABT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE: You have something of a perfect storm where the people who are at the higher risk for violence are being pressed more than ever.

YOUNG: Experts recommend looking into community-based approaches to reduce the violent crime.

ABT: Police need to be at the table and police are part of the solution but they are not the whole solution. You need community-based organizations and law enforcement agencies working together.

YOUNG: Activists agree.

CHRIS HARRIS, DIRECTOR OF POLICY, AUSTIN JUSTICE COALITION: Maybe if we were sending other types of resources, other than police into our communities we would be having different outcomes.

YOUNG: Chris Harris says he's seen more guns on the street leading to not just violent but deadly consequences.

HARRIS: Guns are just more accessible across our country and across our community, across our state, in particular.

YOUNG: Austin P.D. is working to turn the tide using its real-time crime center and new office of violence prevention.

UNKNOWN: If these guys were fighting, we can watch exactly what's going on.

YOUNG: Other cities are also looking into violence reduction strategies to combat violent crime.

MAYOR BRANDON SCOTT (D), BALTIMORE: We have a problem that is much deeper than Baltimore City.

YOUNG: In Baltimore, the mayor there says they have taken 2,000 guns off the streets this year but the city's homicide rate has remained steady in recent years. Mayor Scott says it's something many mayors around the country are dealing with.

SCOTT: We still have the historical things that are happening, the drugs, the gangs, the money but so many more people are dying of a small inter personal dispute.

MICHAEL HARRISON, COMMISSIONER, BALTIMORE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT: They are using gun violence to solve petty beef. It is a culture. It's a way of thinking.

YOUNG: As the country grapples with the increase in the homicide rate and a reimaging of the police departments, back in Austin they are looking for solutions as fast as they can.

CHACON: We need to get ahead of that problem and as a community as a city, that's what we're doing.


YOUNG: And Don, as you know, this is Friday night so a lot of people go to have a good time. It's also when we see the spikes in crime across the country because when you add alcohol or when you add people in large crowds going out, sometimes violence happens.


In the city like Austin, they are watching the downtown area very closely on nights like this. They confiscate a lot of guns across the country. What they're hoping to see though, is some of these new strategies that are being put into place tamping down some of the crime that's being experienced across the country. Don?

LEMON: Ryan Young, thank you very much. Let's hope it works.

More than 55 million Americans at risk of severe storms tonight. We're going to tell you who is in the path of the storm, next.


LEMON (on camera): Hey, pay attention, everyone. Tornadoes touching down in Arkansas tonight. At least two people dead as a powerful storm system puts more than 55 million Americans at risk.


Our meteorologist Derek van Dam he joins us now from the CNN weather center. Derek, good evening to you. Who is in the path of the storm and what should they expect?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Don, unfortunately, it's turned out to be a deadly and very dangerous night across northeast Arkansas and to western Kentucky and Tennessee. We've got another eight hours of this storms, these lines of storms moving through the region.

A very large expansive and multi-faceted storm with snow through the north and six current tornado watches ongoing from Indianapolis all the way to Shreveport, Louisiana.

Let's focus in on the storm that caused the fatalities across northeast, Arkansas. Just outside of Jonesboro and a small town called Monette, this is long tracked, long duration tornado that stayed on the ground for the majority of the past two hours. It's traveled over 100 miles and it's particularly dangerous because it's taking advantage of that very unstable environment out ahead of the main line of thunderstorms.

So that storm is expected to continue to be tornadic going forward. It's not the only tornadic thunderstorm. We have severe thunderstorms walloping St. Louis, another line moving into Memphis. We've got an active night ahead of us and these storms all taking place under the shroud of darkness tonight. So, keep your phones on not mute tonight.

LEMON: Yes. Be very careful. Derek van Dam, thank you very much. Derek will be covering it, and make sure you stay tuned to CNN as well. And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues with a special CNN report White Power on Trial return to Charlottesville.