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Don Lemon Tonight

COVID Shows No Signs Of Slowing Down; CDC Warns About Omicron Spread; Entertainment And Sports Affected By COVID-19; Omicron Much Transmissible Than Delta; Airline CEO Tested Positive For COVID; Rick Perry Sent Text Message To Mark Meadows On January 5th; School Attack Spread In TikTok; Learning To Live Life Under Pandemic Period. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 17, 2021 - 22:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST (on camera): So, I feel the same way. I feel the same way. And no amount of browbeating is going to change their minds.

Thank you so much for watching all weeklong, I'll be back on Monday night. Please join me tomorrow morning, and every Saturday morning at 9 am eastern for Smerconish right here on CNN. I'm laughing. I don't know how that will look. But, OK.

Don Lemon starts right now. Hey, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: You've certainly had a week, my friend. Is this your oldest son, the one I've met? I forget his name, who was a baby when I met him?


SMERCONISH: You've -- you've -- yes, I know man, they've all grown. None are babies anymore. None are babies. I wish they were.

LEMON: They're full -- nice full head of hair, a good-looking young man, obviously he looks like your wife. That's the one I'm talking about. I forget his name.

SMERCONISH: Yes, you're correct. That is true.

LEMON: The crew is laughing over here. Michael, have a good show, bro.


LEMON: Have a great weekend.


LEMON: And I won't be here next week so you have a merry Christmas to you and your family.

SMERCONISH: You too, merry Christmas to you. LEMON: Thank you.

This is Don Lemon Tonight.

And I need everybody to pay close attention, OK? This is serious. Don't you think that we have seen this movie before? Right? I feel like I'm just, I keep reporting the same thing that I've been reporting for almost two years now. We are devoting a lot of attention, by the way, devoting tonight's show to the growing COVID crisis, because it's really, really important.

We want to help save lives, and to make sure people don't become infected if you do not have to. What is so sad is -- those are almost the same words that we were saying nearly two years ago when the pandemic first took hold in this country. Growing COVID crisis. I thought I finished saying that. Growing COVID crisis.

But here we are again. We should be over this pandemic by now, or at least, you know, have it somewhat under control, right? Aren't you tired? Aren't you fatigued by now? I'm exhausted. I know you've got to be. But the numbers don't lie.

The last time I reported the average daily number of new cases was just under 120,000. Today, the tracking data shows from Johns Hopkins University, shows that it is going up. Pushing that number way up to nearly 122,000. Hospitalizations are soaring.

The number of Americans dying every day from COVID 8 percent higher than just one month ago. Do I have your attention yet? Here is the problem we are facing right now. Too many of us have let our guards down. Look, I do it sometimes as well. Right? I do it sometimes as well. We all slip up once in a while.

You have the mask that's below your nose, you don't realize that you, we slip up little things. You know, we are in a room and we should have a mask on, and we don't do it. Nobody is perfect, OK?

We are in the midst of a surge of a highly contagious Delta variant, and now Omicron is here and spreading extremely quickly. That variant was detected in the U.S. only 17 days ago. And here is with the CDC director is now saying about it.


ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: At least 39 states, and over 75 countries have reported confirmed cases of the Omicron variant. And although Delta continues to circulate widely in the United States, Omicron is increasing rapidly, and we expect it to become the dominant strain in the United States as it has in other countries in the coming weeks.


LEMON (on camera): Experts are warning that Omicron will put more pressure on our hospital system which is already stressed out. The CDC warning that new hospital admissions could hit record levels in the coming weeks, and the list of cancellations, and postponements growing by the day.

The NFL, for example, postponing three games this weekend. The NFL, remember the beginning? That was it. When the NFL -- excuse me, when the NBA shut down, remember that? Professional sports started shutting down and that's when we knew, wow.

In hockey, a bunch of games have been postponed across the NHL. Right here in New York City where I'm broadcasting, not far from where I am broadcasting from, that's where the virus is spiking. A number of Broadway shows have had to cancel performances.

And Radio City's annual Christmas spectacular starring the Rockettes, canceled for the rest of the season. As Omicron spreads in the U.S. discouraging news from a study in Britain where researchers are reporting that there is no evidence that the variant is any less severe than Delta.

Everyone said OK, it doesn't appear to be as severe. Maybe a little sigh of relief. But the study is saying that's not. So, we'll see, we'll see.

And Dr. Anthony Fauci reports that the two-dose vaccine regimen many Americans have already received may not be enough protection against Omicron, because the vaccines wain a bit. He says that the best medicine is to get the booster shot.



ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: And that's the reason why we are really encouraging very strongly, that when you are eligible for a boost to get boosted. Because the data I showed indicated that particularly with Omicron, that the level of protection goes really rather low in a range that may not be as protected as we like. But yet, when you get that boost, it goes right up there.


LEMON (on camera): So, before we can get the booster, guess what? We need to get the vaccine. In the midst of a surge, 72 percent of eligible Americans are still unvaccinated. Seventy-two. What are they waiting? For what are they waiting for?

COVID has already killed more than 800,000 Americans, and that toll is climbing as well. But, if you are not yet vaccinated, listen to this. This is a very blunt warning from Jeff Zients of the White House COVID team.


JEFF ZIENTS, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE: For the unvaccinated, you are looking at a winter of severe illness and death. For yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm. One hundred sixty thousand unvaccinated people have already needlessly lost their lives. Just since June. And this number will continue to go up until the unvaccinated take action.


LEMON (on camera): We are also learning today that the CEO of Southwest Airlines testing positive for COVID. Remember it was just two days ago that we reported that Gary Kelly testified at a Senate hearing unmasked, and downplaying the wearing of masks aboard airlines. Watch this.


GARY KELLY, CEO & CHAIRMAN, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES: I think the case is very strong that masks don't add much, if anything in the air cabin environment. It is a very safe, and very high quality compared to any other indoor settings.


LEMON (on camera): Well, and tonight, Kelly says that he now supports the federal requirements to wear face masks on airplanes. We certainly wish him a speedy recovery.

And a setback today of Pfizer's trials of its vaccine for little kids ages two to five. The company saying that two child-sized -- two child-sized doses it is testing as -- testing, excuse me, are not producing the expected immunity, so it is adding a third dose now. That's going to delay its application for an emergency use authorization from the FDA in 2022.


FAUCI: At least from what Pfizer is saying, by the time they get all of the necessary data, and go through all of the procedure of getting an emergency use authorization, unfortunately it is not going to be until the second quarter. But you really want to get the right dose, and the right regimen for the children. So, although you don't like there to be a delay, you want to get it right. And that's what they are talking about.


LEMON (on camera): So, tonight once again, I know it sounds like Groundhog Day, we've got a growing COVID crisis to talk about. So, I want to begin with Dr. Robert Wachter, he is the chair of the University of California San Francisco Department of Medicine.

Doctor, thank you so much for joining us. Let's get all these questions out, and educate the folks who are watching. Good evening to you.

You have seen this new U.K. study that has found no evidence that Omicron causes less severe disease than Delta. Many people have been relying on anecdotal evidence that it is milder, but one of the larger implications here? What do you think of the study? What should people know? ROBERT WACHTER, CHAIRMAN, DEPARTMENT OF MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA: It's a good study, but it is preliminary, Don. There are other studies from South Africa that are a little bit more hopeful. You know, a week or two ago, we didn't know any of the three variables. Is it more infectious? Does it evade the immune system? Is it more severe?

I think we know it's more infectious now, we know it evades the immune system as you discussed, and I think the severity question is up in the air. And that's a big deal, because the cases are clearly going to skyrocket. Throughout the United States they're already doing that, in New York, they're already doing that in Miami and some other regions.

If it turns out to be a little bit less severe or the same as Delta, then we are in pretty bad shape. We are going to see a ton of cases. It's got to be much, much less severe to save us. And I don't think there is a lot of evidence that it is much, much less severe.

LEMON: So, even if you said, again, for the viewer, even if it is a little bit, still trouble? It's got to be --

WACHTER: Yes. I mean, the math is sort of like this, let's say it's 30 percent less severe, but we are seeing three, five, seven times more cases. That still works out badly. That still means the average person has a little bit lower chance of going to the hospital, and getting super sick, and dying if they get this virus, but so many more people are getting infected that you are still going to overwhelm hospitals.

You are still going to have more people get super sick, more people go to the ICU, and more people dying. So, our hope is that it turns out to be much, much less severe. But the U.K. study makes that appear somewhat less likely than it would have been before that study.

LEMON: You know, this is anecdotal as well, but just, you know, hearing from people saying, my gosh, more people I know, more coworkers, more friends, more, you know, people I have come in contact would have -- with are testing positive. What the heck is going on?


I know it's anecdotal, but what do you make of that?

WACHTER: Well, it's anecdotal, but it's real. I mean, we are seeing now the data begin to come out. Because we don't -- we don't test as much as we need to for variants. But the places that are doing more testing are seeing substantial surges in cases, and they are mostly Omicron.

And so, yes, I'm having the same experience that you are. I've been doing this for two years now, and in the past, I've gotten more calls, questions, text messages, you know, so and so, my brother just got infected, what do I do? Do I need monoclonals? All of that stuff.

It is very real. If you look at South Africa, and then you look at England, and now you look at New York, I think what we can expect -- this one is not going to be in question anymore. We are going to see a very, very sharp uptick in cases.

But two weeks ago, I would've said not until January. But that was wrong, I think we are going to start seeing it in the next week. And the doubling time is two to three days, meaning that you go from one to two, to four to 16, to very big numbers, very quickly over the course of a very short period of time. Much, much faster than we've seen in our prior surges.

LEMON: OK. So then what's your advice to people if they're asking you? What do I do, do I need monoclonal antibodies? What do you tell them? Vaccine, booster --


WACHTER: Well, there is a trick -- there is a little nuance about the monoclonal antibodies. The old ones that we used for Delta don't work very well, and there is a different one that you need to use for Omicron. So, you have to figure out which of the variants that you have.

What I've been telling people is, as you just said, Don, you need to get boosted. You need to do everything you can to make your immune system as hard as it could be, because this virus is nastier and much, much more infectious than the ones we've seen.

I think you need to up your game in terms of trying to avoid infection. If we find out this thing is enormously less severe, then maybe we'll all say, you know, all right we are all going to get infected. But we do not know that yet. And I think at this moment we've got to be more careful.

So, I now wear an N95 anytime I'm going to be inside with people who I'm not 100 percent sure are boosted. I've stopped indoor dining. I'm still willing to fly to visit a family. If you are scheduled to do that in the next week, I think it's OK to do. But I would wear an N95, I try to keep it on for the entire flight, and be very careful when you get to your destination, particularly if it's seeing a surge.

I think we need to use the rapid tests more if you are seeing unvaccinated people, or people who are highly vulnerable, you can make the setting much, much safer if everybody test themselves that say or that morning.

LEMON: I'm selfishly asking this question, but this applies to most of the people in our audience. Should I still get on a plane and go see my mother who is a woman of a certain age for the holidays, because I don't want to bring something home to her, you know?


LEMON: And a lot of people have that question.

WACHTER: Of course. Assuming she wants to see you, Don. I would -- I would -- I would do it.

LEMON: Yes, that's true. WACHTER: And the reason I would do it is, you know, this is going to be a tough winter. But unfortunately, there is no guarantee that next winter is going to be any less tough. Unfortunately, we are kind of stuck with this thing for the foreseeable future. And we now have a lot of tools to make that encounter safe.

So, I think if you combine high quality masking, if you combine ventilation, and if she is truly vulnerable, I don't know what the certain age is, but if she is vulnerable, particularly if she is immunosuppressed or she's not fully vaccinated, if you test yourself an hour before you see her, and it's negative, you can be pretty, you can be quite confident that that encounter is safe and you can hug her.

And so, so I think at some point we have to say we are going to live our lives as well as we can. But we are going to try to diminish the risk to the degree possible.

LEMON: Well, that was my motto until this, until we got this, you know, surge in cases, in breakthrough cases. Now what about for the younger folks, like my great nephews who are, well, one of them is not old enough, or anyone who is in the audience who have young people in their family they're not old enough to get vaccinated. Would you suggest being around them? Would you suggest wearing mask? What's your advice?

WACHTER: Yes, I think it is tricky. I think that is another good use of rapid tests. You know, it would be best if everybody wore a mask around unvaccinated people, but that's, you know, it's tough to do. You are with your loved ones, you want to give them a hug, you want to be in the same room, you want to be comfortable.

So, I think that is a setting where if everybody tests themselves before the encounter, these are the rapid tests you can now buy hopefully at a pharmacy, they are not as she positioned be, but they are quite accurate in terms of the question you are trying to answer, which is am I infectious that day?

And so, if you, if everybody who is about to see the three-year-old tests negative with the rapid test, and if everybody is fully vaccinated and boosted, I think you can say that is going to be a safe encounter, and I think you -- I think we need to begin doing that kind of thing.


LEMON: OK. So, one more question. You said that you don't dine indoors anymore. Is it a false sense of security? Because, and I ask this question last night to Andy Slavitt, here in New York City you have to show your vaccination card, right? Everyone walks in and usually they wear their mask until they get to the table, usually, not all the time.


LEMON: Is that a false sense of security that we are -- everyone is vaccinated. Everyone is boosted, you have to show card. Should we continue to those things?


WACHTER: Well, I mean, a couple of things come up. You know, first of all, you know, you can buy -- you can buy a fake --


LEMON: And not just in restaurants but in closed places is what I'm asking. I'm getting to the bigger point.


LEMON: Should we be in restaurants, should we be around a lot of people for New Years, that's my point.

WACHTER: Right. I am more careful than I would have been a week or two ago, and it's sad I don't want it to be that way. You can buy -- you can buy a fake card for $10 online. That's a problem. The carts now, most of the requirements that you are hopefully vaccinated, but that's two shots, that's not fully vaccinated anymore. You really need a booster in order to be fully vaccinated.

And so, I've gotten to the point where I think being indoors with other people whose vaccine status I am not sure of, in a place with relatively poor ventilation is not safe enough. And I'm comfortable dining outside, but I live in San Francisco I don't live in New York.

And so, I understand that's not really feasible right now. So, I am more careful. The good news is, this thing is probably only going to last for a couple of months. In South Africa, they saw a huge spike and it's already beginning to come down.

So, we may be in hunker down mode for a couple of months and after that it may burn through itself fairly quickly, and it is OK to go back to normal. But I do think we have to be more careful for the next month or two.

LEMON: Is that the same advice for holiday parties?

WACHTER: A big holiday party with people whose vaccine status you're not 100 percent sure of. And when I say 100 percent sure I mean, they've gotten fully vaccinated and they've gotten their booster. I would be very careful. If it's a big holiday party, and you want to go in, I would be wearing a mask. But you know, I've seen a lot of big holiday parties canceled, and I think that's the prudent thing to do right now.

LEMON: Wow. The best advice that we've gotten, Dr. Wachter. Thank you. I really appreciate it. We're going to have you back. Be safe. Happy holidays.

WACHTER: Thank you, Don. Happy holidays.

LEMON: Thank you.

WACHTER: Thank you.

LEMON: The holidays are upon us that we've talking about Christmas eve one week from tonight. New Year's Eve the following week. The COVID spike, causing a lot of concern about holiday gatherings. What are the safest ways to enjoy the holiday season? We're going to talk more about that. More answers, next.



LEMON (on camera): The Omicron variant sweeping across the U.S. NFL games postponed, The Rockettes cancelling their Christmas spectacular, and one of the nation's biggest school districts returning to virtual learning. A lot of people have questions about what this variant means, and how it will impact holiday plans.

I'm joined by Dr. David Rubin, the director of PolicyLab for Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and Joseph Allen, the director of the Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard School of Public Health and the author of "Healthy Buildings."

Good to have both of you, gentlemen, on. Good evening.

Dr. Rubin, you first. Christmas a week away, families are planning to be together. But with the Omicron spreading fast, it's making people uneasy. What is the safest way for people to get together this holiday season?

DAVID RUBIN, DIRECTOR OF POLICYLAB, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Well, first, I would say, you know, we tend to lot -- talk a lot about the different strains of the virus, but, you know, really, what makes the spread really accelerate are our gatherings, this is the travel.

And so, if we just -- if we're just practical about the strategies that we use as we're traveling to loved ones, the rapid tests that are now available as a way to try to reduce the risk during the gathering itself, and then, you know, if you can be outside, be outside.

But honestly, we have a whole host of defenses right now, and I think those who are vaccinated, and particularly who are boosted should feel some comfort that they may be exposed, they may get milder infection. But so far, we haven't seen a lot of evidence that there is higher risk of severe illness. But I think we have to avoid speculation in terms of what or may not happen in the next month or two, and trying to live their lives.

LEMON: Joe, it's good to see you. I don't think we'd be talking about this almost two years later. I mean, you know, the entire pandemic, we were talking about healthy and safe buildings, and here we are again.

You're saying that the current playbook for dealing with this pandemic isn't going to work the same way with Omicron. Things like contact tracing, or isolating for 10 days. So, talk to me about that. What needs to change here, sir? JOSEPH ALLEN, DIRECTOR, HEALTHY BUILDINGS PROGRAM, HARVARD T.H. CHAN

SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, Don, it's good to be on again. And we have been talking about ventilation for two years. The same as same halls. We have very little, if any, spread outdoors, so what do you do? You tried to make the indoors look a lot more like the outdoors. Bring in more outdoor air. We've been talking about ventilation with you and others for two years now.

But you know, we have a new threat, but we also have new tools. And I'm optimistic in the sense that we're not defenseless at this point. Clearly, Omicron is ripping through and the next eight weeks is going to be really difficult. And the playbook changes, and it has to change because the kinetics of the virus are different.

It replicates much faster, so things like taking a test 72 hours before a flight is meaningless at this point. Because we see people test negative on say one and then positive with a rapid test 24 hours later. So that's an important change.

Also, contact tracing is going to become a lot less effective, even the best, most quickest contact tracing we have is not enough to match how this virus spreads between two people. So those kinds of tools have to go away, but some of these basics still work.

And clearly, vaccines, most important they're safe, number one, they're effective, and fully vaccinated in 2022 is going to mean boosted. That is very clear at this point. And I want to, I think it's really important for your audience to know, it's not too late.

The benefit of the booster takes effect within days, so you go out tomorrow and get that booster shot if you're already vaccinated. If you're unvaccinated clearly you need to get vaccinated. And that benefit, most of that benefit also kicks in very quickly.

LEMON: Dr. Rubin, the Houston Mayor, Sylvester Turner, who I talked to a lot during the pandemic as well, during quarantine, he says that he tested positive. He thought that he was suffering from allergies or sinus infection. What's your advice? When should people get tested? And how often?

RUBIN: Well, I think most importantly, around our gatherings. If you can't disregard the mild cold symptoms of sore throat this Christmas or New year's. You know, you should get tested. I think if you are going to attend a gathering, get tested a couple of days before, and then get tested the day of. That gets a little bit more reliability.


But nothing is impenetrable to the potential spread, I think. But we have to be realistic that those who are vaccinated or maybe boosted really do have a low risk of severe infection. And that has not changed, at least as what we're observing thus far with Omicron.

LEMON: Yes. Joe, let's talk about, you know, these are -- these things are held in buildings. Right? We're seeing Radio City Rockettes canceled the rest of the season, some Broadway shows have been canceled. Should people avoid going too large holiday events?

ALLEN: Well, you know, I think it comes down to the fundamentals and the basics here, Don. We know how to keep -- we know how to keep people safe in buildings. We know what to do. That hasn't changed. Omicron does not change. The recommendations we've been making at things like ventilation have not changed.

So, I think it's going to matter about the context and what protections you already have in place. If you're vaccinated and boosted, and everyone in the space is vaccinated and boosted, that's good protection. If everyone is also rapid tested negative, we're seeing a lot of organizations move to this. It's another strategy. Then I would feel pretty good, very good in fact in that environment.

I don't think the size of the gathering matters, right, they are going to family events, I'm going to be with family, my extended family. I'm feeling really good everyone is vaccinated, boosted, I'm not worried about that as a high-risk event.

I think the reality with the Omicron it is so infectious, I think the reality is many are going to be exposed to this virus in short order. And the virus is they are going to find us with you a naive immune system, one that's primed with the vaccine and the booster.

And I think it's very clear at this point which way you want that virus to find you. But we should still do our best to minimize the likelihood of that we catch it or spread it to others.

I agree the last comment, pay attention to those early signs of symptoms because the symptoms are coming on early with this virus. So that's an early indicator. Don't ignore those things.

LEMON: Joe, I'll ask you the same thing that I ask Dr. Wachter. What about eating out at restaurants? Should people go back to eating outdoors if they can?

ALLEN: Absolutely. Outdoors are definitely safer than indoors. I've been in New York a couple of times recently. I've been eating at restaurants. I think it's about your risk factor. The two biggest risk factors are age, and vaccination status.

And again, if everyone is vaccinated, I like what New York City is doing. Everyone is vaccinated or tested, and then we can go back to some of these things. I think, Don, the reality is, we are going to have to learn how to coexist with this virus. That's going to be the big change in the 2020 playbook.

NBA is dealing with, the NFL is dealing with this, Broadway is dealing with this, universities are dealing with this. We're seeing some go into virtual classes. But there's a lot of discussion of say, OK, if the threat of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, is largely remove from vaccination and booster, how do we coexist? Can we keep going to restaurants?

And I think the answer is yes. We are going to have to figure that out. In the next couple of weeks notwithstanding, there are going to be a lot of cases. And I think anxiety is going to be high. And we're seeing these pressures mount on a lot of these industries already.

LEMON: Quick last word, Dr. Rubin.

RUBIN: Yes, I agree with everything he just said, you know. I think the key is that there is a low risk of severe disease. And just to remember that the seasonal surge we're seeing we tend to talk about the virus, but we expected this seasonal surge, it started out in the Midwest. And what we're seeing is it's been fairly predictable. It's just that, you know, there is someone certainly now how long will it last with Omicron. And how quick the recovery will be.

But we have lots of evidence that after the New Year, there's going to be a recovery. Cases are going to come down, they have to push through here, and find a way to live our lives and coexist with this virus. I couldn't agree more.

LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. Be safe and happy holidays to you. I really appreciate it.

ALLEN: Happy holidays.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you.

Sources telling CNN who the January 6 committee believe sent a text to Mark Meadows about overturning the 2020 election result. Our CNN exclusive is next.



LEMON (on camera): Exclusive CNN reporting revealing members of the committee investigating January 6 believe they now know the identity of the person who sent Mark Meadows a text message about overturning the 2020 election results.

Sources telling our Jamie Gangel and Jake Tapper that panel members think former Trump energy secretary Rick Perry sent a text to Meadows on November 4th just one day after the election.

Jamie Gangel joins me now. Jamie, good evening to you. Incredible reporting once again. Remind us of this text and why it is so important please?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Don, let's put it in perspective. It is, as you said, the day after election day. The votes are still being counted. The election has not been called. But Trump loyalists, apparently don't think he is going to win.

So, according to our sources, members of the January 6 committee believe that Rick Perry sends this text to Meadows. Quote, "here's an aggressive strategy, why can't the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and other are controlled state houses declare this is B.S., where conflicts on election not called that night, and just send their own electors to vote and have it go to SCOTUS." So, Don, for the record a spokesman for Rick Perry says the former governor denies sending the text. But when my partner in the story Jake Tapper asks the spokesman well, how come it came from Perry's phone? The spokesman had no explanation. For the record, we confirmed with multiple people who know Rick Perry well, who have his number that is in fact his number, the committee believes it's his number.

So, just imagine this is a text saying ignore the voters. Subvert the will of the people, here is a plan. Aggressive strategy to steal the election, Don.


LEMON: Yes, I want to -- I want to pick up on something that you said.


LEMON: The timing of the text, right?

GANGEL: Right.

LEMON: It's absolutely critical. It was sent the day after election day. Many states weren't even called yet, right?

GANGEL: Correct.

LEMON: And it is just one text from the many that the committee now has in their hands, or that they revealed. How does the panel plan to piece together all of this information, Jamie?

GANGEL: So, look, we have seen Trump loyalists defy the committee and not testify. But this is very important because it's what is going on behind the scenes. I'm told this test -- text is significant, but it's one of many significant texts at the tip of the iceberg. And what we are going to see is the committee is going to put together a timeline.

And now they have, it's not just testimony, they have these texts in black and white, real-time evidence of what was being said, and this is all going to come out in the hearings with names attached to the text. Just to underscore, we have to remind everyone, Mark Meadows handed this over without any claim of privilege, Don.

LEMON: So, we can't forget what Perry said, right? When he was running as a presidential candidate. This was back, let's remind everyone, this was back in 2015, -he was running against Trump.

GANGEL: Right.

LEMON: Watch.


RICK PERRY, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY: Let no one be mistaken, Donald Trump's candidacy is a cancer on conservativism and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised, and discarded. It cannot be pacified or ignored. For it will destroy a set of principles.


LEMON (on camera): So, what happened?

GANGEL: Beware the videotape. I don't know, Don. Rick Perry should know better. All of these people should know better. I don't know how we got to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Rick Perry was the longest serving governor of Texas, three terms, he was cabinet secretary, he kept it pretty low profile.

But I want to read you one more line that Rick Perry said that day about Trump. Quote, "he offers a barking carnival act that can best be described as Trumpism. A toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense that would lead the Republican Party to partition if pursued." Rick Perry, apparently forgot his own warning, Don.

LEMON: And now, the text.

GANGEL: Correct.

LEMON: Thank you very much.

GANGEL: Thank you.

LEMON: Jamie Gangel, I appreciate it.


LEMON: Broad but big threats of the school violence spreading across TikTok, putting schools across the country on high alert. The threats weren't seen as credible, but is this the new normal?



LEMON (on camera): Parents and school officials on edge today. Vague and incredibly broad warnings of violence in schools across the nation going viral on social media overnight. Schools from Minnesota to Texas canceling classes or ramping up security in response to the warning that originated on TikTok.

The Department of Homeland Security says there is no evidence the threats are credible, still authorities are asking the public to remain in alert. Another day of anxiety in the country already on edge.

So, let's discuss not with Juliette Kayyem, a former official at Homeland Security, and Ken Druck, a mental health expert who is the author of "The Real Rules of Life."

Good evening to both of you.

Juliette, I'm going to start with you.


LEMON: Here is the thing. Whether or not this threat was a hoax, the everyday threat of school violence is very, very real. And so, is the fear behind all of this, is that correct?

KAYYEM: It's not irrational in the terms -- in terms of it's not inconceivable that someone would walk into a school these days and tried to shoot children, whether it's another student or a stranger. I think the challenge is that the threats that we face, and the intelligence that is just being thrown at us every single day, is really hard to manage for the lay person, for the school official, for the parents.

So, you hear that there is a threat, and you are just making calculations every day of, you know, should I wait? Should they go to school or should they not? And these are risk calculations that most people don't, either want to live with, or haven't lived with for most of their lives.

And I think that's the challenge that we are facing now in this particular case, because the threat was so generalized, and it was sort of thrown out there on TikTok, it wasn't a specific individual, it was a lot of kids were responding to it. Either joking or amplifying it.

I think most people would've looked at that and said, it's unlikely that it's going to trigger a school violence. But that's a -- that's a, you know, that's a hard calculation for any individual school to make. So, I'm sympathetic to the ones that closed, although I think they were incorrect.

LEMON: Well, especially in this environment, right? When you look at what just happened.


LEMON: And what keeps happening. So, TikTok, Ken, putting out a statement today saying all they found is -- what Juliette indicated here, found there's videos of people discussing the rumor. Adding, quote, "local authorities, the FBI, and DHS have confirmed there is no credible threat. So, we are working to remove alarmist warnings that violate our misinformation policy."

What is this kind of thing do to kids who see it and believe that they are in danger?

KEN DRUCK, AUTHOR, COURAGEOUS AGING: You know, we live on edge. We live in a world on edge. This is another edge for the kids. It's another edge, should I go to school? Is it safe to walk into my class? And it's also their parents are hovering and saying, is it safe to send my kid to school?


So, in this new not normal world, you know, as Juliette said, we are having to live with questions and process and think critically about things that we never really had gotten in game shape to be able to decide about. And at times, we are going to overreact. And at other times, we are just going to dismiss it and live in denial.

But we have to find that balance and we have to depend upon people to assess and help us assess whether it's a real threat, or a false threat.

LEMON: Juliette, there is a Washington Post reporter named Dan Zak, who recently called the threat of school violence a terror attacks we all pay. And in Oxford, the school shooter faces a terrorism charge. Is it time to recognize this as a form of terrorism?

KAYYEM: It is. And I don't like to use that word to -- I don't like to generalize that word. It has a specific meaning and the reason why I want to keep it specific is I actually do think it applies to conduct that we are seeing in another realm, right, in this sort of anti-Democratic realm where people are using violence or the threat of violence to control our democracy, and to control our levers of government.

So, terrorism is different than terror. I think the challenge that we have right now, the exhaustion we are all feeling, especially not -- you don't have to have kids to feel this exhaustion, but the calculation many parents are making right now is -- or one hopes is, you cannot get the risk to zero.

So, get that out of your head. So, whether it's COVID, or school violence, or whatever it is, right, so as a parent, or as anyone out in society, you are just trying to minimize risks in the best way possible. You are trying to maximize the protections that you give your children, right, whether it's a bike helmet, or it's a booster shot, or it's the vaccine. Or, it's see something, say something.

But remember, there is a third piece to it. Right? It's not just minimizing risk or maximizing our defenses. It is also maintaining who we are. And I think sometimes we're forgetting that, our sort of fears, whether it is a new outbreak and how we should live. We should be cautious, how we should live or keeping us and our children may be more hindered than they should be.

There will be a risk to our children, there will be a risk to us. And it's not -- it's not good, but the alternative is what? Right? I mean, the alternative is living a life that's not very desirable.

LEMON: But, can you be overly cautious in this environment? And again, this is really terrorism. More with Juliette and Ken right after this break. Don't go anywhere.



LEMON (on camera): Back with me now, Ken Druck and Juliette Kayyem.

So, Ken, you're first up in this segment. Kids have just come back from over a year of learning remotely. They've been through a ton of disruption. And now you have these episodes like this. What do kids need right now from adults and their communities?

DRUCK: Well, you know I think, and your question at the end of the last segment about overreacting. I think we can't be running around with our hair on fire. We need to be balanced. We need to be talking to other parents, we need to be talking if we are in a couple relationship, we need to be balancing these things out so that we are effective with our kids.

We are opening a lot of communication, especially with listening. By asking open-ended questions we are going to find out how our kids feel about all of this. What they think the good options are. And so, we are in a conversation rather than feeling like we have to do all the work, we have to all affect.

Look, we live in the world where a lot of people are in denial. Whether we are talking about COVID, the overreaction is there. We could be overreacting to all the people who are under reacting. We are in denial about what needs to happen. And we are allowing new variants to multiply.

So, we need to not overreact and touch ourselves being, you know, saying nobody else is doing this, I feel helpless, I'm fearful. And balance ourselves and be calm with our kids to the extent that we can be and ask them the open-ended questions so it's a conversation.

LEMON: Juliette, true words have never been spoken because you say people want to be done with COVID, they want clear answers about how long we need to worry about it and when it's all going to be over. How do we approach a world where these threats just continue?

Because you know, look, for almost two years now I've been saying, and the growing threat, the growing COVID crisis, and it's still growing after two years?

KAYYEM: So, it is. It is and it isn't. So, a couple of ways I think about this now. I mean, the first is of course as the previous panel with my friend Joe Allen -- look, this is not 2020. So, let's not say it's 2020.

I mean, in other words, the tools we have whether it is vaccination or boosters or treatment now which is completely underplayed. You know, the treatments that we have, better testing make us stronger, make us more resilient against a virus that continues to not end. But this is then the second part.

I think this idea of a time when, you know, we get to unicorns and rainbows, just get it out of your head. Right? I mean, in other words, we keep talking about this new normal as if there is a place. There is no new normal. Right? This is normal.

And I think one way to ground ourselves in particular, our kids, is to stop saying in two weeks, remember two weeks? And then it was two months, and then it was if we could just get through Christmas. In other words, what normal is now is we are learning to adapt and manage around a virus that is killing people who are not -- who do not have the defenses against it, and is harming or infecting people to a much lesser extent, who do have the defenses.


And we are going to adopt around that sort of unfortunate division in society right now and try to push people to vaccinations. But I've gotten over talking about the end of COVID. I talked about, you know, and wrote about, you know, this sort of adaptive recovery stage. When we are just kind of adapting to every day, I call it the now normal. That's what I say at home is the now -- we're here now. And don't talk about some finish line because that will drive you nuts.

It's the holidays, many of us can't see our family, maybe not in the same circumstances we had hoped. And that's now, right? And we'll see what happens tomorrow and just, you know, get vaccinated, do everything you can for those defenses. But stop thinking about a finish line.

LEMON: Yes. That's a very good attitude. I have a friend who says, OK, I look at it as this is what we are doing right now.


LEMON: Maybe in a year it will be something else, we shall see.


LEMON: Good advice. Good attitude.

DRUCK: We also have the opportunity to mobilize. Each one of us can do things. Not only personally, but in our community, in our family to be part of the solution, to move away from becoming part of the problem.

And I think we all need to do that self-audit that says, am I doing anything to escalate?


DRUCK: Am I doing anything to contribute to the problem? And, is the way I treat other people, is the way I'm addressing this, is the time I commit to making my community a better safer place is contributing in some way to the solution. And we all have that opportunity. And for me, that -- that is true patriotism.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you. Thank you both. Happy holidays to you both.

KAYYEM: Happy holidays.

LEMON: Thank you.

DRUCK: Happy holidays, Don.

LEMON: The Omicron variant rapidly spreading across the U.S. as the country braces for a viral blizzard of infections. One expert suggesting to CNN this country could even see a million new cases a day. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)