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Don Lemon Tonight
Select Committee Voting For Charges Against Mark Meadows; More Text Messages Revealed By January 6th Committee; Vaccinated Students Tested For Omicron Variant; Watergate Compared To January 6th Attack. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired December 14, 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): The 1.75 or 1.8, it's hard not to get up in -- get caught up in the numbers as supposed to the contents. I don't know. Jayapal thinks he's going to get done soon, we'll see.
Thank you so much for watching. I'll be back here tomorrow night. Don Lemon, DON LEMON TONIGHT starts right now. Hi, Don.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: When you talk about the number -- good evening to you, sir. When you talk about the number of people who believe that they are doing God's work, you know, I used to question it, Michael, that they really believe it, do they just want to believe it, I'm not sure if that really matters if they want to believe it or they actually do believe it. They still believe in some sense, right?
SMERCONISH: Well, they are taking action on it. You know, I mean, some would say, Michael, don't be so ridiculous, they know it's bogus, they're just trying to make it more difficult for people who are not part of their constituency to cast a ballot. But 60 percent of their constituents think it was stolen, and therefore it gives them the power to go in a state like Pennsylvania and say, you know that secretary of state position? Let's make it an elected gig, instead of an appointed job.
LEMON: You know, you talked about this before on your radio show and also on your weekend show here on CNN about, and I've often wondered if it's -- are people being co-opted? They being exploited by right- wing media or is it that they want to be? Is it naivete? Is it, you know, a combination of all three, of all?
SMERCONISH: Well, I -- the balkanization of the airwaves maybe a subject for a different day, but where people are -- Don, I watch you. I watch everything. I'm constantly using that clicker and listening to all perspectives. Too many among us, they're just listening to one particular outlet --
LEMON: One thing.
SMERCONISH: -- and getting just one take. That's not healthy.
LEMON: Yes. So, if we you and then they will watch me, and then after me they'll quick over to something else. I got to run. I'll see you tomorrow night show. Thank you, sir.
SMERCONISH: See you. Thanks.
LEMON: This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. Thanks for joining.
So, listen, we have some breaking news now and I want to take you live to the House floor. That's where the vote is set to happen at any minute now, any minute on whether, look at that, on whether to refer Mark Meadows to the DOJ, the Department of Justice for contempt of Congress.
This is unprecedented. I can't believe that this is all happening on our watch. This is a time in our history that people write about, as we have been saying, and this is a time in our history that really shapes the future where we go, and what we consider a working in normal democracy in this country.
Someone who is a member of that body to be able to defy and all of a sudden now that he's not a member of the body to say it doesn't matter what that body does. It's complete hypocrisy, because when they remember the body, they want people to follow the rules.
So, we're going to bring that. You're going to keep a close eye on a, you're not going to miss anything as soon as that happens. So, that as we are getting so many new revelations tonight, that they keep coming in one after another, one after another.
And the more we learn the more we see that the whole thing the big lie the that then president's attempt to overturn our free and fair election we see it in a new disturbing light. There's no other way to put it. No matter if you are a staunch Trumper, if you are a never Trumper, if you are completely left-leaning Democrat, if you are completely, there is no other way to see it or put it, unless you just want it to be.
I don't know, misled. Liz Cheney revealing today that a sitting member of Congress was working with Jeffrey Clark, the DOJ official who helped the then president come up with a plot to oust the acting attorney general, and give himself the job, get the DOJ to intervene, and you guessed it, Georgia to flip the state for Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): As Mr. Meadows non-privileged text reveal, he was communicating multiple times with a member of Congress, a currently serving colleague of ours who was working with Mr. Clark. Mr. Meadows has no basis to refuse to testify regarding those communications. He is in contempt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): It is outrageous. Adam Schiff reading out a text. We don't know who it's from. A text praising Clark and saying that he'll make a lot of so-called patriots happy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): One of the texts to Meadows on January third came from an unknown caller and referred to efforts to replace the leadership of the Department of Justice and said the following. "I heard Jeff Clark is getting put in on Monday. That's amazing. It will make a lot of patriots happy and I'm personally so proud that you are at the tip of the spear and I can call you a friend."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): As I said, unless you just want to look the other way. And then there is a text from an unnamed lawmaker the day after the election, the very next day as a matter of fact, putting forth a quote, "aggressive strategy to overturn the election."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): On November 4th, a member of this body wrote to Meadows, here's an aggressive strategy, one day after the election. Why can't the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other Republican controlled state Houses declare this is B.S. where conflicts and election not called that night and just send their -- just send their own electors to vote, and have it go to the SCOTUS.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): So that's the new stuff that we are learning tonight. Everything that we are learning tonight is on top of what we learned about how the Fox propaganda network's Laura Ingraham, Brian Kilmeade, Sean Hannity, begged Mark Meadows to get the then president to put a stop to the violence.
Even his own namesake, Don Jr., they knew the truth. They all knew exactly what they were seeing with their own eyes, even though now they're acting like nothing happened, no big deal, tourists.
The fraud was everywhere, everybody knew would happen. But they were watching live. Everybody knew that it was wrong. Those Fox hosts knew it, the Trump supporting lawmakers knew it, Trump's own family knew it. So now what?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I do think we're all watching as you are what is unfolding on the House side and it will be interesting to reveal all the people who were involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Interesting. It sure will be interesting, it will be interesting to find out exactly who said what to whom on January 6th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNKNOWN: Did you speak with President Trump on January 6th?
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Yes. I speak, I mean, O spoke with the president last week, I speak with the president all the time. I spoke with him on January 6th. I mean, I talk with President Trump all the time. And that's -- that's -- I don't think that's unusual.
I would expect members of Congress to talk with the President of the United States when they're trying to get done the things they told the voters in their district to do. I'm actually kind of amazed sometimes that people keep asking this question. Of course, I talk with the president all the time, I talked, like I said, I talked with him last week.
UNKNOWN: On January 6, did you speak to him before, during or after the capitol was attacked?
JORDAN: I have to go -- I -- I spoke with him that day after, I think after. I don't know if I spoke with him in the morning or not, I just don't know, I'd have to go back -- I mean, I don't -- I don't know that, when those conversations happened but -- but what I know is I spoke with him all the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): I'm going to -- what happened was. OK. So, look. That day I saw what was happening on TV, I called my producers and I'm like, you guys watching CNN right now? Are you watching air? And then I called my mom and said, are you watching CNN? Right?
Not even the President of the United States, but I remember because it sticks out in your mind, I remember what I did for 9/11. I remember getting called into work. Can you make it to New York? I don't know traffic, who knows?
On days like that, things stick out. And the President of the United States? Darn, he just can't remember when he spoke to the President of the United States the day the capitol was attacked by rioters?
Is the Brooklyn Bridge still for sale? If you believe that. Come on, people.
The more we learn about January 6th, the closer we get to the truth about the GOP's cult leader and their echo chamber personality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): For a party such as the Republican Party, that my parents were members of, for them to turn the whole party apparatus over to one person means you are no longer a party, but you are now a cult, and that is what is happening. And it's time for the right-thinking people in this country to step away from cult worship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Never forget what this is about. This is about an attempted coup. An attempt to overturn the results of our free and fair election. An assault on our democracy itself. We know more now tonight than we ever did before. And we are bound to learn a lot more.
So now what happens? CNN's Ryan Nobles is on Capitol Hill for us this evening. Ryan, as a matter fact, I remember I was staying in a hotel because we were going to be working late, because they were going to be working late into the night to certify the election.
I remember seeing it on the hotel television. I remember pretty much about everything about that day, were they going to get it certified. We are going back and forth with the bruises but he can't remember what happened who he talked to.
If he talked to the President of United States on that day. Come on, really? So, let's talk about why are there, Ryan. Good evening to you.
The House is set to vote at any minute to hold Mark Meadows in contempt. What's the latest, sir, from Capitol Hill.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: yes, that's right, Don. This vote has slipped late into the evening because of some procedural hurdles and some other bills that have come up on the floor of the House tonight. Right now, in fact, they are dealing with a couple of procedural votes before they'll pass the bill that will raise the debt ceiling which of course a bit of a concern a couple of weeks ago.
But the Senate passed their version of that after some debate and now the House will pass it as well so they will avoid the debt ceiling crash and that calamity that could come along with it.
But after they're all done with the debt ceiling which is about two procedural votes before they get to that point, they'll vote on this criminal contempt referral of Mark Meadows.
This is something that's already been voted out of the committee, they've already passed the rule to deal with this, they already had the full debate on it. And we expect that it will pass, marginally along partisan lines there will probably be two Republicans the vote yes, and that of course will be Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney who are members of the January 6th select committee.
Every other Republican will probably vote no. In fact, the Republican leadership is encouraging their members to vote no on this particular measure. They are not officially whipping it but that's been a clear message and Republicans have largely stuck together when it comes to this.
There are enough Democratic votes to get this over the finish line, from there it goes to the Department of Justice who will decide whether or not to prosecute.
But, you know, Don, I don't think that we can really put enough significance on the fact that not only was Mark Meadows a former White House chief of staff, as high as you can get an American government in a non-elected capacity, but he was also a member of this body, a member of Congress.
It is remarkable that this Congress of which he was a former member of will take the step of holding him in criminal contempt. It's something they don't do very often and rarely, if ever do to one of their own. Don.
LEMON: Let's talk about some of the evidence that they are presenting. The lawmakers revealing new text messages today sent to Mark Meadows. What did we learn, Ryan Nobles?
NOBLES: Yes. It seems like every day we are getting new bits of information out of this trove of documents that Meadows shared with the committee voluntarily. He handed these over and said they were privileged pieces of information.
That's part of what the committee wants to ask him about. There were two that stood out to me today during the presentation on the House floor. The first and I think you've already played it, but I want to read it again.
I heard Jeff Clark is getting put in on Monday. This was a text from an unknown person to Mark Meadows in January 3rd. That's amazing. It will make a lot of patriots happy and I'm personally so proud that you are the tip of the spear and I can call you a friend.
Jeff Clark is by no means a household name but he's a former Department of Justice official who is currently under subpoena and has actually been referred for criminal to attempt by the select committee because he too has been defiant, but he is considered to be one of the key architects inside the Department of Justice who was attempting to convince the leadership of the department at that time to look into these false claims of fraud in the election results.
And Mark Meadows, the fact that he would've been in contact with someone who thought this was a good idea, and we know from our own reporting that he was in direct contact with Jeff Clark, that is significant, and it shows exactly where the committee is going in terms of their investigation.
The other one that's important, and it was a small one, and it was short, but it is very significant. Is from a member of Congress to Meadows where all they said was, please check your signal.
So, if you're familiar with signal, that is a messaging app that is encrypted and the messages often disappear. So, keep in mind, this is a member of Congress in communication with the sitting White House chief of staff and they were basically saying we're going to have a conversation here that won't be recorded in history.
Mark Meadows was, you know, a member of the administration. His communication especially with another member of Congress and the federal government that's something that is of the public record and should be stored in the national archives.
Remember, we had a whole debate over Hillary Clinton's e-mails if you remember, and the committees is very concerned that there are many, many messages and communications that Mark Meadows may have had that are gone to history because he either deleted them or he's using these encrypted apps or apps that delete the messages after the fact, and that there's a lot of information that they won't get from that.
It's part of why they want to talk to him, Don. They want to get him in a room and ask him these questions so that they can learn more about the role that he played, not only on January 6 but in the days and weeks leading up to what happened here on that day.
LEMON: And Ryan, you're going to be there until it happens. Right? We'll get -- come back to you. You'll be covering it.
NOBLES: That's right, Don. I'm here for you. I'm not going anywhere.
LEMON: You're here for the viewers. When we are here for you but you are here for the viewers.
NOBLES: That's right.
LEMON: Ryan, thank you. We'll be checking back in, if you get any new info or it starts to happen, let us know we'll get you right back on.
LEMON: So that's Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill. Listen, they know. The lawmakers know that day will stick in their memory, OK? Look, there -- I'm sure like you there are days I don't remember like, what did I eat for dinner. Like five minutes ago you don't remember when it went.
But on days like that, when there is an insurrection, when something happens like 9/11, or when there is a giant tornado that hits the south and the Midwest, you remember things. It sticks in your mind. They remember. We all do because we saw it playing out with our own eyes and we couldn't believe it.
And now, we are learning more and more about what happened on January 6. But think about this. We didn't know how bad Watergate was, right? Another thing that sticks out in your mind. Until Woodward and Bernstein pieced it altogether.
So, what does Bob Woodward think about all of this? He is here, he is next.
LEMON (on camera): So, we are back now with our breaking news. The vote is set to happen any minute now on the capitol floor, on the House floor they are doing other things now. But as soon as that happens, we're going to bring it to you.
But whether -- they're -- you're looking at live pictures now. That vote is going to be about whether to refer Mark Meadows to the DOJ for contempt of Congress. Now, you need to remember that Meadows already -- has already turned over 9,000 documents to the January 6 committee. But refused to show up to answer questions.
So, joining me now, legendary journalist, Bob Woodward. Bob Woodward is the co-author of the book, "Peril," the bestselling book, "Peril." Bob, thank you for joining. Good to see you, sir. Good evening.
BOB WOODWARD, CO-AUTHOR, PERIL: Thank you.
LEMON: Let's talk about your reporting with our very own Carl Bernstein, expose the Watergate scandal, including President Nixon's chief of staff, H.R. Halderman's involvement. How would you assess what is happening now with Mark Meadows, former President Trump, and January 6?
WOODWARD: I think these are all some very significant pieces of the puzzle. And to understand the importance of Meadows and his pieces. If you go back to Watergate, as you suggested, where Nixon was the driving spirit of the criminal conspiracy, but hold him and his chief of staff, was the operator.
And I remember it was a very significant development when we discovered that Watergate was a Halderman operation. He had to do the dirty work, the implementation, it turned out he wrote a book after he left office, after he left jail, and really, turned on Nixon. He kept a diary, also.
So, in the case of Meadows, I don't think that he kept a diary, but understand that you are dealing with the person Meadows has his book out now, called "The Chief's Chief." That's an accurate description. I haven't read the book, but the guy who has that job is 24/7, you have -- you have a president who has ideas, who is breathing down your neck, fix this, find this, do that.
And of course, we are at that moment on January 6th, very important, that this was Donald Trump taking the position that the election was stolen, that it was fraudulent. And as we know, there is no evidence to support that claim.
LEMON: Yes. What an ego. There is no way I can lose. Well, you did lose. It's just his ego is lying. The text messages, Bob, other documents turned over by Mark Meadows, it paints a very damning picture. If that is what he voluntarily shared, what do you think he doesn't want the committee to see?
WOODWARD: Wow, that's, you know, you really need somebody to testify, and you know, nothing -- the whole truth, nothing but the truth. I don't know that Meadows is inclined to do that. Turning over this much information voluntarily, as we know in this process, somebody can always obstruct, delay, refused to cooperate.
At least there is partial cooperation here, and as those text messages show, there is communication with members of Congress, presumably, Republicans. They are working together. They are thinking together. And this idea of that fraudulent, stolen election. Robert Costa and I spent months looking at this, because if we found
evidence that there was fraud, that something was stolen, we would have an obligation to publish it. And we looked, and looked, and discovered that some of Trump's biggest supporters, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, investigated these claims. They're on Trump's side, and came up with absolutely zero evidence.
So, you know, we are still waiting to see that. Normally, when a politician, a president makes that claim, there is some basis. This case, no basis that I have seen at all.
LEMON: None. None. Look, you reported extensively for your book, "Peril." You talked about the reporting that you did for your book "Peril," just in your answer before. You reported extensively in that book about the people in President Trump's ear leading up to the insurrection, Bob, like John Eastman, Steve Bannon.
Was Meadows in the loop on all of those outside efforts to overturn the election, overturn this election?
WOODWARD: Well, he was there. We didn't have much -- we did not have the kind of detail that has surfaced on this. But again, that -- he is the one, a few days before January 6th who called a meeting in his office, the chief of staff's office, just down the hall from the Oval Office with Senator Lindsey Graham and some others. And said, OK, what have we got here?
Rudy Giuliani, Trump's lawyer, was there. And turned over these incredible documents which we have published and shared with people, where they say, tens of thousands of young people voted when they weren't eligible.
And as Lindsey Graham pointed out, it's held to get even 18 years old to vote. How could you get 10,000 people? And again, you look at the names, they submitted names. It does not hold up.
WOODWARD: It's just not there. And when something is not there, then you dig. And of course, that's where the committee is doing. And I think it's one of the more important investigations Congress has conducted ever.
LEMON: Yes. Agreed. So, I've got to ask you about some of these new texts from lawmakers, Bob, like the one the talks about, and I quote here, "an aggressive strategy to overturn the election."
It wasn't just Trump or White House officials or his allies at the DOJ, it was also members of Congress. How does the scope of this compare to Watergate? Because in Watergate, you have the president and a few people. But how does the scope of this one compared to that?
WOODWARD: Well, it's much larger, and I think the central mystery and it is still a mystery, who were the operational coordinators? Don, you know, if you want to get three or more people together, it's almost impossible. In this case, on January 6, which is in the law, in the Constitution, designating that is the day, and one o'clock is the time, when they will certify who won the presidency.
So, they found that vulnerable moment, 1,000 people, how did, who got 1,000 people together? Certainly, not Donald Trump. And I would like to know, and I think lots of people, I think there are names out there that we don't know.
Because to do this, to care to execute it, actually is horrifying as it is, it's a marvel of organization. It just didn't happen. And so, you need all those communication links. And of course, what Meadows has provided is very significant.
And, you know, they're saying that January 6th committee has lots of people cooperating, lots of, you know, people to talk to, knock on doors, and invite them to come tell their story. And if they have been charged unfairly, clear their name.
LEMON: I got a long quote that I want to read for you here. And it's about General Kellogg, testifying today that he -- testifying today that he was a national security adviser to the former vice president, Mike Pence.
You reported on his interactions on Trump on January 6. This is a quote from the book about what happened, when he went to see Trump in the Oval Office to tell him about what was happening, and that Pence was safe, OK?
"Mr. President, he added, you really should do a tweet. On Capitol Hill, nobody is carrying a TV on their shoulder. You need to get a tweet out really quick; help control the crowd up there. This is out of control. They are not going to be able to control this, sir. They're not prepared for it. Once the mobs start turning like that, you've lost it, he said." "So, yes, Trump said. Trump blinked, and kept watching television."
WOODWARD: Yes, and here, General Kellogg, a true Trump loyalist, somebody who was national security adviser to Pence, and you know what is Pence doing now. Is he cooperating? People around him seem to be doing what Kellogg has done here.
I think very significant that somebody in this position would be telling what happened. And our reporting from participants and witnesses shows what you quoted.
I mean, here is a retired general, literally begging, in a nice way the president of the United States, wake up, it's what Laura Ingraham said in the text that emerged. It was a version of you are going to destroy your legacy.
LEMON: Bob, always a pleasure, sir. Thank you very much.
WOODWARD: Thank you. LEMON: Thank you.
Congresswoman Liz Cheney repeatedly pointing to efforts to block the process of counting electoral votes. Is she laying at the committee's legal strategy against Trump and his allies?
LEMON (on camera): So, here's our breaking news tonight. The House set the vote at any minute on whether to refer Mark Meadows to the DOJ for contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the January 6 committee.
Let's bring in now Kim Wehle. Kim is a professor of law at the University of Baltimore School of Law, and she's the author of "How to Read the Constitution and Why."
Good evening. I'm so happy to have you on, Kim.
So, Congresswoman Liz Cheney spoke in the House floor ahead of tonight's contempt vote. I just want to play some of what she said and then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: All of these texts are non-privileged. They are text that Mr. Meadows has turned over and they are evidence of President Trump's supreme dereliction of duty for 187 minutes.
And Mr. Meadows testimony will bear on another fundamental question before this committee, and that is whether Donald J. Trump through action or inaction corruptly sought to obstruct or impede Congress's official proceeding to count electoral votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): So, what's she's saying there corruptly thought to obstruct or impede an official proceeding -- she's now repeated it a few times, she is referencing a criminal statute.
KIM WEHLE, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE: Eighteen USC section 1512, Don, yes. And this is a statute that the Justice Department has used or attempted to use with number of the actual insurrectionists. It tends to be historically used for witnessed hampering type of things.
We've never had an attempt to stop certification of the Electoral College votes. We've never had this type of violence in the capitol. So, DOJ has been using the statute. And recently, a Trump appointee in the district court in Washington, D.C. held that it can be used for January 6th, and defendants across the country have been saying listen, it's improper, this isn't supposed to be used counting of electoral votes. And this judge said, no, it's an official proceeding a, and b, you don't have to be actually damaging evidence or tampering with witnesses, or destroying documents so long as you corruptly attempt to impede those votes, that's enough to get past a motion to dismiss the indictment.
So, that's the question. I think for Donald Trump, it will come down to whether the concept of corruptly, it's typical Donald Trump can apply to him. Or he says, listen, I thought that Mike Pence had this power, I didn't mean to do what people think I meant to do, you know, it wasn't up -- it wasn't my fault. I didn't know.
And that's really been an argument that has done well for him in the civil litigation realm before he took the White House and then also with the various investigations that went on including the impeachments while he was president.
LEMON: What, Kim, just for the strange for a little bit. What has happened that the truth doesn't matter, the law doesn't matter, it doesn't apply to me because I'm not getting what I want. I will continue to defy the law. Like, what is, have you ever seen anything like this in your -- in the years that you have been doing what you do? It just -- it just seems -- it's crazy to me.
WEHLE: Well, you know what? Don, what, as I tell my law students, if the speed limit doesn't actually make people slow down. It's the consequences for speeding. Right? So, if there's something hiding in the bushes, a machine that's going to put the ticket in mail the next time you drive down that street you slow down.
The question under the Trump years is what are the consequences for blowing through all these stop signs and red lights that we call the United States Constitution. And there haven't been any, so people are becoming emboldened.
And we saw it, it started of course, you know, in the White House, and then the U.S. Congress, and then it's leaked into the courts. This was the problem with the 60 lawsuits from a law professor's standpoint, from a lawyer standpoint, these lawyers time and again flouted the basics of civil procedure by filing bogus lawsuits.
Then you have people publicly, members of Congress and others, claiming -- and politicians and, you know, Trump loyalists claiming that these are legitimate. Claiming, for example, that Mark Meadows can raise executive privilege.
We can have a half an hour conversation about how bogus that argument is as a legal matter, but when regular people hear it over and over again it sounds like there's there.
LEMON: It sounds legit. Yes.
WEHLE: There really isn't. LEMON: There is nothing there. There's nothing -- what Donald Trump
has injected into society is just --- it's yet to be seen the magnitude of the dishonesty and litigation and on and on and on. The corruption that he is injected into this society. I don't know if we'll ever go back to normalcy or if we'll ever get over it. But --
WEHLE: Well, no. I mean, it's also the enablers. And the problem is -- and I think Liz Cheney understands this very well -- the problem is, we might see the end of democracy in the coming years. January 6th was no joke, and it could happen again successfully. And that's why all of this voting legislation is so important, that's why the midterms are absolutely vital.
WEHLE: Because if the U.S. Congress goes to the Republicans, this process, the January 6 commission will probably stop, and if we have another January 6 with the Republican Congress and a Democrat wins the Electoral College, we could see a successful overthrow of the voters. Not politicians, the voters.
And that is the end of American democracy, when votes are canceled, ignored, thrown out. Then we're no longer we, the people, it's we, the powerful.
LEMON: I love having these conversations with you, Kim. We'll have you back and we'll continue on. Because there's a lot more to talk about. This can continue to go. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
WEHLE: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: Thank you.
So more than 800,000 people -- 800,000 people, 800,000 people dead from coronavirus in the United States. Now there are concerns growing over the Omicron variant, as an explosion of cases hits Cornell University. Is it a sign of what's to come?
LEMON (on camera): OK, so our breaking news as we told you is going to happen now at any moment. And it is now happening. The House has begun voting on the resolution to hold Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress. And we are going to bring you the latest as it happens.
Listen, it's going to take a while for them to count the votes, and to go through the process. But again, they're voting now to hold Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress. We said it's going to happen anytime.
So, there we go. Keep an eye on it, and we're going to talk about everything that is happening, because we have some breaking news about the United States now reporting more, sadly, than 800,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
That grim statistic, as Dr. Anthony Fauci says, Omicron is on its way to becoming the dominant coronavirus variant in this country.
Cornell University shutting down its campus after reporting more than 900 COVID cases among students over the past week. Imagine that. More than 900 cases of COVID during the past week.
A lot to discuss now with Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor and dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
Doctor, thank you. Wow! More than 800,000 people, and now then we have Cornell University reporting more than 900 students that have tested positive for COVID just this week. These students were fully vaccinated. Schools says most of these cases are the Omicron variant.
Just how contagious is this variant, and how effective are the vaccines against it, sir?
PETER HOTEZ, INFECTIOUS EXPERT, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY: Yes, some tough news today. First of all, that 800,000 number, it's not slowing. We are still headed for a million American deaths by the first quarter of next year, of 2022, tragically because of so many people refusing vaccination.
So, park that one. And then, now we have the fact that the Omicron variant is rising faster than many of us expected. And the reason I say that, Don, is when you look at the Alpha variant that came in from the U.K., or the Delta variant that came in from India, then went to the U.K. When it hit the U.K., we had about a four to six-week lag before things started picking up here.
So, I had thought that this would not really be ascending or accelerating like this until January, but it is already starting. And we heard some pretty startling news from the CDC director, Rochelle Walensky, this morning that New York -- New York and New Jersey, 13 percent, one, three of the virus isolates are the Omicron variant.
That was pretty shocking. So, this thing is going to be upon us before Christmas or around the time of Christmas. And so, what are the things that I'm looking for? Well, one, you know, we saw a lot of pediatric hospitalizations in South Africa with the Omicron variant.
So that's one of the things I'm looking for. So, I'm worried about our children's hospitals that we're going to see a lot of pediatric cases, maybe more so than what we have seen previously. So that is one piece.
The other, Don, is even though we are hearing that if you get three doses of the vaccine, you get a big bump in your protective immunity against symptomatic illness. Seventy to 75 percent, that's what's coming out of the U.K.
That's not as high as 95 percent, so that means we're going to see a lot of breakthroughs symptomatic COVID infections. And additional concerning news, is out of Germany, showing that virus neutralizing antibodies after that third dose decline pretty quickly. So that can mean that 70 to 75 percent is the high point, and that it
could come down accordingly. So, the reason I bring that up is because I think we're going to -- we could see a lot of healthcare workers in our hospitals who actually have symptomatic COVID. And not so much that they are going to get very sick and go to the hospital, but it's going to knock them out of the workforce.
So that can create a very destabilizing situation where you have a lot of people going into the hospital, but not enough people taking care of them. So that's -- that's -- so there is a lot of moving parts to this very, very fast-moving epidemic here in the United States.
And I think we have to take it very seriously, and especially our healthcare administrators, our hospital administrators need to get ready for a very concerning surge over the next few weeks.
LEMON: It is very concerning. Listen, so concerning there is much more to speak with you about. Doctor, if you stick around, I want to get back with you after the break, again, because very serious one. We're coming more than 800,000 people. The doctor says we're going to -- it's going to -- he predicts a million people are going to die from -- because of COVID-19.
We have these 900 students testing positive at Cornell University. And we also had from the CDC director, Rochelle Walensky today, we're going to hear about that on the other side of the break.
But I want to tell you that vote has begun. Mark Meadows, former president's chief of staff, they are voting tonight, the House is, whether to hold him in contempt of Congress, criminal contempt of Congress. That vote is happening now. We'll have the results soon. Don't go anywhere. Lots to cover.
LEMON (on camera): So, as we watch the vote on the House floor, we're going to continue to talk with Dr. Hotez, because we have this new -- this developing news regarding the Omicron variant.
So, as I said, we're going to talk about what the CDC director says, she said the science is evolving, saying today that the Omicron variant is doubling every two days, or so, meaning it may become the dominant variant in the United States sooner rather than later.
It may ultimately prove to have less severe symptoms, but the rapid spread means a lot more people could get it. So, what does that mean for our population, and our hospital system? You were saying before the break that it's going to take a toll, correct?
HOTEZ: Yes, I think that's the weak link that not enough people are talking about. Because if you have a lot of healthcare providers, Don, who are getting sick with COVID, even though they have gotten a third dose. If they have breakthrough infections, even if they're mild, it's enough to knock them out of the workforce.
So, the question is, you know, what's going to fill the gap. And I think we don't really have adequate planning here, or really thought enough about the potential for that kind of surge on our hospitals in light of partially incapacitated workforce. That's how aggressive this Omicron variant is.
And so, even though there are reports that there's -- it's milder illness, and it's hard to really count on that, because we have had reports early on with the Alpha and Delta variants that didn't turn out to be true. And we also are seeing a lot of children get hospitalized, so I'm particularly worried about some of our children's hospitals as well.
So, I think, you know, we really need some very careful planning at this point. The other possibility to think about, Don, is if vaccine immunity against the Omicron variant is declining quickly even after a third dose, should we think in order to stabilize the healthcare workforce, and keep them in the workforce, whether they should be considered for a fourth immunization?
HOTEZ: And I think that has something that must be put out on the table as well.
LEMON: Doctor --
HOTEZ: Just to keep them, to keep them going.
LEMON: It's hard enough to get people to get one or two. Now, we're going to have --
HOTEZ: I know. I know.
LEMON: -- three or four.
LEMON: Thank you.
HOTEZ: I know.
LEMON: Thank you, doctor. I appreciate it. We're going to get our breaking news. I'll see you soon.
Our breaking news tonight. The House voting on whether to refer Mark Meadows to Justice Department, to the Justice Department, excuse me, for criminal contempt of Congress. We'll be right back.