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Don Lemon Tonight

Coronavirus Is Surging Across The United States; NY AG Subpoenas Ivanka Trump And Donald Trump, Jr. In Civil Investigation Of Trump Organization; Elizabeth Holmes Found Guilty On Four Out Of 11 Federal Charges; Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy On 1/6 Attack; Remembering Betty White. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired January 03, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): Coronavirus surging all across the United States tonight fueled by the Omicron variant. The daily number of new cases topping 400,000 for the first time. More than 100,000 people in the U.S. hospitalized with COVID. The White House saying that President Biden will make brief remarks tomorrow on the rapid spread of Omicron.

Also tonight, the former president and two of his children, Ivanka and Don, Jr., moving to quash subpoenas issued by the New York State attorney general who is investigating the Trump Organization.

And after deliberating over seven days, the jury reaching a verdict tonight, the fraud conspiracy trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the former CEO of Theranos.

But first, CNN's Alexandra Field has the latest on the spike in COVID- 19 cases.


ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at the uptick, it is actually almost a vertical increase.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new day tsunami of new COVID cases. The daily average topping 400,000 for the first time. The FDA making major moves to add layers of protection, authorizing booster shots for kids ages 12 to 15, shortening the window between the initial doses of a vaccine and the booster shot for everyone from six months to five, and authorizing a third dose of vaccine for some immunocompromised children between the ages of five and 11.

All that as the Omicron surge brings with it a growing number of hospitalizations. More than 100,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 for the first time in nearly four months. But even that stark figure is lower than we have seen during other surges.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: The one group that that may be a problem for is very young kid, very young children, toddlers, who have trouble with upper airway infections. We are seeing rise in hospitalizations among that pediatric segment.

FIELD (voice-over): The school districts across the country now struggling with how to bring students safely back to school. Five metro Atlanta schools going remote for the first week of the new year, while Seattle, Chicago, and D.C. schools delay their start dates to allow time for more testing.

But the largest district in the nation, New York City schools, is bringing students back to class with a new mayor committing to in- person learning.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: We're not sending an unclear message of what is going to happen day-to-day. I'm going to tell you what's going to happen day-to-day. We're staying open.

FIELD (voice-over): It is part of a shift being seen in more of the country towards finding ways to coexist with COVID. Crowds filling stadiums for holiday bowl games. The NFL and NBA easing restrictions on players last week after so many cancellations and delays.

But there are still consequences of the crushingly high case count and it isn't business as usual. New York City coping with a staffing shortage among first responders by instructing emergency medical services not to transport most stable patients with flu-like symptoms.

The headaches for air travelers intensifying. A mix of staffing shortages and winter weather now causing another 2,100 cancellations today.

Alexandra Field, CNN, New York.


LEMON (on camera): All right, Alexandra, thank you very much for that.

I want to bring in now Dr. Richina Bicette-McCain, medical director at Baylor College of Medicine, and Dr. James Phillips, assistant professor at George Washington University Hospital.

Good evening to both of you. I'm so glad to have you both on. Dr. Bicette-McCain, I'm going to start with you. We're seeing an unprecedented surge in cases. Hospitalizations are the highest that they have been since September. Tell us what you are seeing at your hospital, please.

RICHINA BICETTE-MCCAIN, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: We are feeling it here in Houston. We are not immune to the surge. Beds are full. Hospital beds are full. Emergency department beds are full. Patients are boarding in the emergency department for a prolonged period of time. Definitely seeing unvaccinated patients that are getting very, very sick from Omicron. LEMON: You say that any infectious symptoms, a runny nose, a sneeze, anything, is COVID until proven otherwise.

BICETTE-MCCAIN: Absolutely. I have seen a lot of talk about people trying to differentiate between a common cold, the flu and COVID. People, this is not for you to do at home. Get a test. If your head hurts, if you have a fever, if you have muscle aches, runny nose, whatever it is, it is not your allergies, it's not a cold, it's COVID until you have a test saying otherwise.

LEMON: And the test at home at every other day. In my house, there is someone who is testing and ordering online.

Dr. Phillips, you are warning the hospitals across the country need to be prepared. Tell us what your E.R. is dealing with and does the rest of the country need to -- what is the rest of the country need to do to prepare?

JAMES PHILLIPS, PHYSICIAN AND ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Hey, Don. It's good to see you again. You know, I'll tell you, we're in the midst of two pandemics, and it's being said more and more.


It really does depend on if you are infected with Omicron versus Delta, and what's most prevalent in your community. Now, what we are seeing in Washington, D.C. where, I think, until today we have been sort of a global epicenter --

LEMON: Hey, can I stop you right there, doctor?

PHILLIPS: Yeah, yeah.

LEMON: So, what is the difference -- what do you say -- what is the difference between Omicron and Delta?

PHILLIPS: I'm getting there. I promise.

LEMON: Okay.

PHILLIPS: So, looking at places like New York and Washington, D.C. where the majority -- the majority of the patients that we're seeing right now are Omicron clinically. Now, when we look at, say, the statewide statistics of all 50 states, there are clearly states that have not had that upward tick. That is coming. And we can safely say that they're not seeing their Omicron surge yet.

Now, in the cities where Omicron is the preeminent, the primary variant that we are seeing, we are overloaded, but it's mostly with patients with mild illness who are crowding the emergency departments. Those patients, like has been adopted by EMS in New York City, need to be told they need to stay home and find alternative testing that is outside of the emergency department.

In places where Delta is still the primary variant, though, those patients are coming in with pneumonia, which we're not seeing in Omicron, and those patients are real emergency department patients that still need to be seen and should be transported.

LEMON: So, Delta, you think, is a much more severe variant? A much more dangerous variant? Is that -- is that --

PHILLIPS: Absolutely. Undoubtedly. Yeah. What we're seeing clinically and in hundreds of patients that we have seen in the last few weeks just during my shifts, I have not seen a single case of COVID pneumonia. That is excellent news because the majority of the people that got admitted for severe disease with Delta and prior variants have been because of the lower respiratory pneumonia and exacerbation of their preexisting comorbidities.

With Delta -- I'm sorry. With Omicron, we are seeing mostly bad cold symptoms, maybe mild flu symptoms. But it is the patients who have other sicknesses that are being exacerbated by the virus, just like it happened with RSV or influenza or other viruses. Those are the ones that seem to be getting hospitalized and doing poorly.

LEMON (on camera): Dr. Bicette-McCain, America's largest pediatric hospital has "staggering numbers" -- and that's a quote there -- of children that are coming in with COVID. That is according to a pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital.

My colleague Miguel Marquez was there. I just want to play part of the report that he filed and then we'll talk. Here is it.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four-month- old Grayson Perry (ph), his tiny belly rapidly expanding and contracting, one of many children here with COVID-19 struggling to breathe.

(On camera): Are you afraid they're going to have to intubate him?

UNKNOWN: Yeah. A little bit. It's just really scary. So, I just hope that, you know, he is able to get better and go home.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Gabrielle Goff (ph), mom to three, thinks her youngest picked up the virus at a Christmas family gathering. Her only job now, keeping her son in good spirits.


LEMON (on camera): So, Dr. Bicette-McCain, it is heartbreaking to see. Why are we seeing a spike in children now?

BICETTE-MCCAIN: Well, we're seeing a spike across the country, Don. If everyone is getting sick, children are not immune from COVID. That is the point that we have been trying to drive home for almost two years now.

I see a lot of parents that don't want their children to get vaccinated because they say, well, children don't have symptoms, children can't wind up in the hospital. That absolutely just is not true. And with Omicron spreading as rapidly as it is, we are going to start seeing more children get ill and be hospitalized.

LEMON: What is -- listen, when you talk to -- Dr. Bicette-McCain, when I talk to just, you know, folks who don't follow it as much as we do, which is most Americans, right, they're living their lives, they're trying to put food on the table, they are confused about a lot of things.

Like, you know, well, you know, if I test positive and blah, blah, blah, I don't know. People who are still unvaccinated and on and on. People who are vaccinated, boosted are still testing positive. And you said that kids were not, you know, as affected. I mean, what do you -- what are -- what are the biggest questions that people have?

BICETTE-MCCAIN: Well, what the CDC changing, recent quarantine and isolation guidelines. There are a lot of questions from people who test positive and need to know just exactly how long do I need to stay home, or people who may have had close contact with someone who was COVID positive. And although they may not have symptoms, questions surrounding whether or not they should quarantine.

I had someone today asked me today if she should get vaccinated because she typically gets pneumonia from vaccines. There are a lot of questions that are surrounding this pandemic. All we can continue to do is talk about the facts, talk about the data, reiterate the recommendations as they change because science is evolving and recommendations will change as the science changes.

LEMON: We lost her. We'll try to get her back. Dr. Phillips, let's move on. I want to ask you. Let's go back to children because in Illinois, the number of kids hospitalized has tripled since the beginning of December. And you heard the former FDA commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, talked about how Omicron may be adding to pediatric hospitalizations.


(on camera): Here is more from him.


GOTTLIEB: It appears to be more of an upper airway disease and a lower airway disease. That's good for most Americans. The one group that that may be a problem for is very young kid, very young children, toddlers, who have trouble with upper air way infections.


LEMON (on camera): So, how significant is this, Dr. Phillips, especially when the conversation on Omicron has been that it is less severe, as you just stated in your previous answer?

PHILLIPS: So, I'll tell you, Don, when I was -- the reason I'm an emergency medicine doctor, the reason I'm a doctor at all, is because at an a very early age, at five years of age, I made a decision to be a doctor because I was that wheezy, little, asthmatic kid that was sent to the emergency department all the time for breathing treatments, usually set off by a virus.

It could have been the shag carpeting, the two pets, and the two smokers I had in my house in the 80s, too, but certainly, every time I got a virus, I would get an asthma attack.

And that's what we're seeing in a lot of these pediatric patients who not only have reactive airway disease like asthma but some of whom are even younger who simply have smaller airways than adults.

And what maybe a bronchitis for you or me can really set off difficulty breathing and wheezing and a need for medical treatment for really young kids, even without diagnosed asthma.

And so, what we are seeing on top of the normal winter surge of pediatric admissions and it is normal that we see a rise in hospitalizations right now because of flu, respiratory virus, some of this standard sort of endemic viruses, but we are also seeing kids getting the same exacerbations of their diseases caused by COVID.

What I'm thankful we're not seeing a tremendous amount of is pneumonia being caused by the virus in those kids.

LEMON: Yeah. Dr. Bicette-McCain, New York's mayor is planning to keep schools open. Los Angeles school district is ordering mandatory negative tests for all students and employees. What is the Omicron surge mean for parents sending their kids back to school? I guess I have to put Delta in that as well because it is not just Omicron, right?

BICETTE-MCCAIN: It is not just Omicron. Delta is still around. But with how infectious Omicron is and how quickly it spreads, there is no doubt in my mind that we are going to continue to see this surge get worse as children get back to school.

I definitely think it's a great idea to implement a test negative strategy prior to children returning to school. But testing is an issue right now. Not just access to testing but the quality of test. We're hearing from the FDA that the rapid tests currently are not as sensitive to Omicron as they were to prior variants.

Also, when you're testing at home, you have to consider the technique that's being used. In Chicago, Chicago public school district reported that almost 70 percent of the at-home tests that students took before coming back to school were invalid for one reason or another. That is an issue.

LEMON: Dr. Phillips, the staffing shortages due to Omicron. I mean, they are a real issue now. People are out sick. Doctors, nurses, hospital staff exhausted. What toll is this taking on our healthcare workers?

PHILLIPS: We're having real problems there. That's exacerbating everything. You know, on busy days in the past with 60 people in the waiting room, we can manage. But when half of your nursing staff isn't available that day, in some places -- you know, I talked to a friend today who -- their E.R. is normally staffed with 10 nurses. They had two nurses that came in today.

And that's not only because of the nursing shortage that's happening, but it's being thoroughly exacerbated by the number of us that are getting sick and the prolonged quarantine we are all going through.

Because even though the CDC has shortened this to five days, you have to understand, most or at least many jurisdictions have not chosen to implement that. We're still on a 10-day quarantine and there is no way to test out of it at this point. Hopefully, that changes as the CDC takes a more look on this one.

LEMON: A little bit of advice, Dr. Bicette-McCain, before you go for the viewer, because I know that many people had just have COVID fatigue. I don't mean from, you know, obviously, a lot of people are sick. I mean, they are just tired of it. They want it to go away. They are tired of talking about it. They are just -- they are just -- what's your advice?

BICETTE-MCCAIN: Do not get blindsided by the narrative that Omicron is a milder version of COVID. Because of the number of cases we are seeing, there are people that are going to be significantly ill and die from this particular variant.

Do not be fatigued. Wear your mask. High quality mask, meaning KN-95 or N-95. Get vaccinated if you are not already. And if you are vaccinated and eligible for a booster, then you need to get boosted, because when we look at hospital numbers, those people who are on ventilators and those people who are in the ICU are overwhelmingly unvaccinated.

LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate the advice and the expertise. We will see you soon. Be well. Be safe out there. Thanks.

BICETTE-MCCAIN: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: More legal trouble for Trump world.


The former president's daughter and eldest son fighting subpoenas from the New York Attorney General's Office. Will they be forced to answer questions?


LEMON: New tonight, two of the former president's children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., subpoenaed for testimony as part of the New York attorney general's civil investigation into whether the Trump Organization manipulated the values of its properties.

Plus, new details about the Trump children, what they saw and said during last year's attack on the Capitol.

Let's break it down now with CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig. Hello, Elie. Good to see you. So, listen --


LEMON: Happy New Year to you as well.


Just tonight, lawyers for the Trump children have responded to the subpoenas, saying that New York Attorney General Letitia James is trying to leverage a civil investigation to help the criminal investigation led by the Manhattan D.A.'s office. They say that the subpoenas should be quashed. Will they get their way?

HONIG: Well, Don, I'm going to say something I don't say too often, which is Donald Trump's lawyers have a point here. It is very difficult to quash a subpoena. Let us start with that. But they make two arguments. First, they said, Letitia James is on both sides of this, right? There is a civil investigation that Attorney Letitia James is doing, then there is a criminal investigation that the attorney general is doing with the district attorney.

And they are they are saying, she's trying to use the civil process. She asked them to give a civil subpoena because she can't do that on the criminal side, because if she did that on the criminal side, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. would get immunity. So, she doesn't want to do that. So, instead, she is using this sort of backdoor and trying to get them to testify in the civil process.

The other argument they make is this is a political investigation and candidly it is, because look at Letitia James's own words, she ran for office in 2018 on the number one campaign promise of vote for me and I'll nail the Trumps.

Now, I don't think that is a good idea primarily because it's counterproductive, because it gives Trump a way to say, this is political. Now, he is arguing it to try to defeat these subpoenas.

LEMON: Yeah. I've actually been surprised by some of the interviews that she has done and to how she speaks about this investigation. How much trouble could Ivanka or Donald Trump, Jr. be in in this civil case?

HONIG: Well, obviously, civil case, there's a lower standard than a criminal case, right? In a criminal case, you have to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt. That can involve prison time. In civil case, you only have to prove your case, Letitia James, if she brings in, by what we call a preponderance of the evidence, 50.1 percent.

The penalty is there. It would be primarily financial. They could be serious enough, depending on what could be proven, that they really could compromise the business future of the Trump Organization and there could be, you know, we could be looking at enormous amounts, well into the millions or tens of millions of losses if the attorney general can prove that.

LEMON: You are -- you have a former colleague at the SDNY, Alvin Bragg. He is now the Manhattan district attorney. What is the latest on the criminal investigation to the Trump Organization, for Trump and his children?

HONIG: Yes, so important people understand, he is a friend of mine, he is a former colleague from the Southern District of New York, we were trained in the same way. The first thing that he is going to do, he has made it clear in his public statements, is review all of the evidence. And I believe Alvin Bragg, in the contest to the attorney general, did not run on an explicit campaign of vote for me and I'll nail the Trumps.

I think he did it the right way. He kept politics out of prosecution. He's going to get all the evidence. It is going to take him some time. This is a long-term investigation. And if the facts are there, the justified criminal case based on the way he and I were both trained, I believe he will bring a charge. And if not, I believe that he will not.

LEMON: Let's talk about the January 6th investigation. Congressman Liz Cheney says the Select Committee has firsthand testimony that during the Capitol attack, that Ivanka Trump twice asked her father to stop the violence. We previously learned that Donald Trump, Jr. texted Mark Meadows. He has got to condemned this, you know, ASAP. They know how bad the insurrection was. Will they be compelled to testify?

HONIG: They will be right in my crosshairs if I was on the committee. I mean, firsthand testimony, first of all, that the committee says it has, that means it is coming from somebody in the room. But look, the fact that these are the president's children, they get no immunity, they get no special treatment.

This is a congressional investigation. They need the truth. They are entitled to the truth. I would seek their testimony. I would subpoena them if necessary. And if they fight it, I would put them on the Steve Bannon track to contempt.

LEMON: You may remember that Ivanka Trump tweeted on January 6, calling the rioters -- quote -- "American patriots" and asking for the violence to stop. Then she quickly deleted that tweet. But could anyone had stopped the violence besides her father?

HONIG: Oh, I don't think so. I think only Donald Trump. And by the way, that tweet is very similar to the one Donald Trump sent at 6:01 p.m. on January 6th, just an hour or so after this ended, when he called the rioters, the people who just torn apart the Capitol -- quote -- "great patriots," and he said, remember this day forever.

To me, that is such compelling evidence that those rioters did exactly what Donald Trump wanted and hope, and I think that quickly deleted tweet from Ivanka says a similar thing.

LEMON (on camera): Congresswoman Liz Cheney had this to say about the former president's 187 minutes of inaction during the insurrection. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The president could have at any moment walked those very few steps into the briefing room, gone on live television, and told his supporters, who were assaulting the Capitol, to stop. He could have told them to stand down. He could have told them to go home. And he failed to do so.

It is hard to imagine a more significant and more serious deliberation of duty than that. I think that there is absolutely no question that it was a dereliction of duty. And I think one of the things the committee needs to look at is we are looking at a legislative purpose, is whether we need enhanced penalties for that kind of dereliction of duty.



LEMON (on camera): I mean, listen, she's right about that. He could have gone to the briefing room. He could have -- bring a camera to the Oval Office, whatever. She calls it a supreme dereliction of duty. Is that criminal? Could the former president face charges for that?

HONIG: Well, let me put it this way, Don. The failure to act for three hours and seven minutes is a dereliction of duty. But to me it's about so much more than that. It is about the fact that he set it in motion and then failed to act, right?

I mean, the analogy I would make is, it is one thing to walk past the burning building metaphorically speaking and do nothing. It is another thing to flip a match on to it, set it on fire, and then do nothing. And I think that is a better analogy for what the president did here.

I've said before, I believe he should have criminal liability here for attempting to obstruct Congress in counting the electoral vote, for election interference, potentially for inciting the riot. But I think there are several bases that he needs to be investigated in a very serious way criminally by the attorney general, Merrick Garland.

LEMON: Elie Honig, thank you, sir. I appreciate it.

HONIG: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Verdict reached. Elizabeth Holmes found guilty on multiple charges, and she is now facing up to 20 years in prison. Those details are next.




LEMON: So, here is the breaking news. After deliberating for a full week, the jury reaching a verdict late tonight in the fraud and conspiracy trial of Elizabeth Holmes. Elizabeth Holmes is the former CEO and founder of Theranos. Finding her guilty on four out of 11 federal charges, but deadlocking on three of those charges. Each guilty count carrying a maximum of 20 years in prison.

I want to discuss now with Harry Litman. Harry Litman is a former U.S. attorney. Harry, good to see you. Thanks for joining.


LEMON: This is a mixed verdict. She is convicted on all of one count of conspiracy on -- excuse me. She is convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and three counts of wire fraud against specific investors. But you are saying it is essentially a severe as if she got convicted on everything. How is that?

LITMAN: That's basically right. So, first, you are right. It is a split verdict. The jury, essentially, did not believe the government had it carries its burden when it comes to her bilking of patients, and they did believe it when it came to investors.

But, yeah, it's a total knockout blow because it carries about the same sentence as if they had run the table because in fraud cases like this, the sentence is driven by the amount of the loss. The patient counts had not very much loss at all.

We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. Rupert Murdoch, $100 million alone. The Devos family, $100 million alone. And when you apply that in the guidelines, you're looking automatically at a sentence, a real sentence, unless the judge decides to depart downward significantly in about the 15, 16, 17-year range.

Moreover, the sentencing judge can even take account of the conduct that the jury didn't find her guilty ever, even acquitted her of. So, it sounds a little like a mixed bag. It isn't. It is a thumping, and the government is triumphant today and holds its camp as despondent.

LEMON: What happens for the three charges where the jury couldn't get a verdict? Will there be a mistrial on those counts?

LITMAN: Well, there is already because they couldn't reach a verdict and it will be the government's prerogative to try him again. I don't think they will.

LEMON: So, it is a mistrial. I thought they were coming back to that to decide what they could do. It is a mistrial already?

LITMAN: Well, as to these very -- right, it is technically, in this proceeding, those three are mistrial. They go neither one way or the other, meaning that the government can decide. Does it want to come back and retry those three?

Now, remember, there is a big trial in -- still to happen with her kind of coconspirator whom she blamed everything on, Sunny Balwani. How that turns out could, potentially, influence. Does the government want more? But I think it got more than enough today, and those three will just go away. She will be sentenced on the floor and it will be a very substantial sentence. LEMON: In 2015, Elizabeth Holmes was the richest self-made woman and

youngest female billionaire in the country. She convinced so many wealthy, influential people to invest in her company. Has there been a precedent for this kind of fall from grace in Silicon Valley?

LITMAN: In Silicon Valley, no. She is the first CEO to actually get convicted of anything like this. But in America, it feels like it to me, Don, it feels like this is the kind of mythic case that automatically becomes more than the sum of its parts.

It has got, you know, (INAUDIBLE). It has got Jay Gatsby but it has got P.T. Barnum. You know, this kind of thing. And especially the way she was able to hoodwinked the most -- the richest people in the country who are scared of missing out, the so-called fake it until you make it culture of Silicon Valley, that, to me, feels like a new chapter in an old American book.

But it is new as the Silicon Valley, definitely as to female CEO, as you say.


She was the richest, self-made woman in the world as of 2015, and now she is looking at a very long prison sentence. So, that, in a sense, is unprecedented. But the story itself feels to me mythic in broader American ways of great rise and precipitous fall.

LEMON: Did you say P.T. Barnum and Gatsby? Is that what you said?


LEMON: Yeah. So --

LITMAN: Yeah, that's what I was saying. Or, you knoe, Barnum made off --

LEMON: Right, right, right.

LITMAN: -- or, you know, (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: So, what does this mean for start-up culture at large? Will there be more legal oversight in a sector where criminal prosecution had essentially dried up?

LITMAN: Great question. These are really rare cases. People consider them very hard to bring. And, you know, I work cases like this on the civil side and it is pretty routine. They will call when they're called on it. Oh, just puffery, et cetera. But it is a lie. I think now this will send shockwaves through start-up culture. They will know these kinds of fake it until you make it. Lies can really, you now, completely destroy not just the company but, you know, people's liberty.

And yeah, I think you're going to have a lot of people who are making sort of confident pitches to venture capital folks really rethinking it going forward and really afraid.

LEMON: Harry Litman, thank you. Happy New Year to you. Good to see you.

LITMAN: Same to you, Don. Great to see you.

LEMON: They are blaming the Democrats. Republican leadership gaslighting their own when it comes to January 6. Stay with us.




LEMON: The committee investigating January 6 says that they have got testimony that the then-president did nothing as he repeatedly urged -- he was repeatedly urged to stop the rioters at the Capitol. But leaders of his party, well, they want you to look elsewhere. They want to distract you with the Trump presser at his Florida club or focus on the Democrats.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sending a letter to his caucus calling what happened on January 6th lawless, then attacking Democrats for using it as what he calls a -- quote -- "partisan political weapon to further divide our country."

I want to bring in CNN political commentator Scott Jennings and CNN senior political analyst Kirsten Powers. She is also the author of "Saving Grace." By Kirsten Powers, of course. Good evening to both of you. Thank you for joining. Happy New Year to you both.


LEMON: Thank you. Kirsten, this letter from McCarthy doesn't mention the former president who told his supporters on January 6 to -- quote -- "fight like hell" and said he is attacking Democrats for, he says, dividing the country. The facts really don't matter, I guess, to many of the members of the GOP anymore.

POWERS: Yeah. It is surprising that he would be trying to rally his troops around opposing the Democrats and criticize the Democrats. But his critiques around January 6th, in terms of the Democrats not getting to the bottom of how this breach of the Capitol occurred, well, that really is the purpose of the January 6 Committee, something that he really hasn't taken seriously.

The people that he chose to be on it were people who really -- or just going to be destructive. They weren't people who were, you know, seriously interested in getting to the bottom of what happened.

So, he is acting like the Democrats are not trying to figure out what happened when in fact that's exactly the point of the January 6 Committee.

LEMON (on camera): Yeah. And a reminder to all, you know, Scott, the committee investigating the insurrection is bipartisan. I want you to listen to Republican vice chair of the committee, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, and what she is saying about her own party.


CHENEY: The Republican Party has to make a choice. We can either be loyal to our Constitution or loyal to Donald Trump. But we cannot be both.


LEMON (on camera): What do you think? Is she right?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, she's raising a really, I think, clear point about the Constitution and what happened to the Constitution on that day.

I mean, the Congress was engaged in one of its constitutional duties. A group of people that have been whipped up by the president went up to the Capitol to try to stop them from doing those duties.

The president also has a constitutional duty here. He took an oath of office to the best of his ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, which was being literally done that day at the Capitol. And so, did he, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution that day? No. Of course, he did not. Anybody with eyes and ears and a TV can tell that the day it was happening.

And so, all these things we're learning now are not of any great surprise because we saw it all unfold on live television. So, the point she is making about the Constitution is very important, and I think it is why you actually had some constitutional conservatives. You know, people who call themselves that, end up voting to certify the election that day because they didn't agree, you know, with the concept of trying to overturn an election that clearly had been won by the other party.

So, it is a -- the word Constitution here is thrown around often. In this particular case, it has real meaning, because it really mattered on an important day.

LEMON: Hundred and fifty or so Republicans voted against it, certifying the election.

JENNINGS: Yeah, they did. They absolutely did.


And look, I recognize -- any of them could come on here and raise what they would say or -- you know, legitimate points about this, that or the other. But here is the bottom line, the Congress's job here was to certify the election results. The states and the electors, it's the state's job to do that. And the vice president had a ceremonial role. And the president of United States, when presented with evidence, that people were trying to overturn the constitutional order, clearly did nothing!

So, the only constitutional thing I care about is whether it was being protected, defended, and preserved. And in this case, it was not.

LEMON: Kirsten, I want you to look at this poll. It is from CBS News/YouGov. It shows that 62 percent of Americans are expecting violence from the losing side and future presidential elections. Most of us don't want that or anything close to it. So, what do we do? How do we avoid it at this point? Can we?

POWERS: Well, I think the first thing is for people to really take this seriously and not just act like, well, it's just going to happen and there's nothing we can do, right? Because that's not true. And I think people are correct when they fear that this is going to happen, though I'm not sure why people think Democrats are going to be violent. That hasn't happened. So -- or even just your generic Republican. I think what we've seen is it is Trump supporters. This is the only time this has happened.

So, that really, I think, should be the primary fear, though it does seem this country is just on this collision course that I think that people are rightly very, very concerned about it. But one of the things that the Democrats are spending a lot of time on right now is protecting our electoral system and voting rights and these kinds of things which are protecting democracy.

And I think that when you envision something happening like violence, you can see how it would happen when there is no faith in the election or, you know, somehow the election is perhaps actually overturned next time, right? Was this just a practice run? And next time, it's successful, and then there is violence. So, do we have to take this seriously? We have to engage it as the threat that it is.

LEMON: Scott, from the big lie to the COVID conspiracies, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has been permanently suspended from Twitter over COVID misinformation. She no longer has the powers of social media channel. But she is still in power to legislate. How dangerous is that for our political leaders are so distant from reality.

JENNINGS: Well, I mean, there are a number of political leaders in both parties who are well beyond what I will consider to be near reality. She is one of them. There's plenty in the other party as well.

I'm a little uncomfortable candidly with the idea that an elected tech bureaucracy can unilaterally ban an elected official from its platform. I mean, I guess it's their right to do that. But I think it does raise serious questions about the role of these platforms in our overall political speech arenas.

So, we'll have to sort that out as a country. I do think it is a little -- I mean, there's plenty of misinformation out there. Not all of it is coming from people who carry Marjorie Taylor Greene's political ideology. Some of it is coming from the left. They don't seem to get banned. I think it raises a lot of questions.

I don't agree with some of the things she said. Most of the things she says I find to be, you know, looney tunes. At the same time, I'm pretty protective of speech. When people are banned from platforms, I think we have to think real deeply about that as a country.

LEMON: The tickle. Kirsten, sorry --

POWERS: Oh, it's okay.

LEMON: I don't know if you ever gotten that live. Listen, I want to turn to voting rights right now. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer looking to change up filibuster rules in an effort to get Democrats voting rights bill passed. He is planning on calling up a vote to ease up those filibuster rules on January 17th, but he is facing pushback to his own party from senators Manchin and Sinema. Do you think there's any chance the rules will change?

POWERS: I think it's really, really small. I'm not -- you know, I know that obviously this is something the Democrats feel very strongly about, the need to be done, and I think that's correct. But I think we've been down this road with Joe Manchin before.

So, there have been reports that there has been some sort of movement with him, but his public statements have not changed. And so, you know, a lot of effort has put into moving him and he doesn't move. And he has been very clear about the fact that he does not support, you know, getting rid of the filibuster.

Can they come up with some sort of really specific carve out that he would agree to? It will be a miracle, if it happens, I think. It doesn't mean it can't happen but I think it will be a miracle.

LEMON: Thank you, Kirsten. Thank you, Scott. Sorry for coughing in your ear. Sorry about that. Happy New Year to both of you.



LEMON: She was so active, so iconic, that her death in 1999 shocked the entire country -- shocked the world, really. We're going to remember Betty White right after this.


LEMON (on camera): Tonight, a farewell to an icon. Betty White, a phenomenally funny actress with a decades-long entertainment career, passed away last week just before her 100th birthday. I had the honor to sit down with Ms. White in 2016. Watch.


LEMON: You are younger than me. You're 94 years old.




LEMON: And a quarter.

WHITE: Yeah.

LEMON: And I -- Ms. White, I see you everywhere. I see you --

WHITE: Ms. White?

LEMON: Yeah.

WHITE: Oh, boy.

LEMON: Can I call you Betty?

WHITE: Oh, yes, you may call me Betty.

LEMON: Thank you.


LEMON: I see you late night. I see you early morning. I see you during the day. I see you everywhere.

WHITE: Are you trying to tell me you're sick of me?

LEMON: No, I'm not sick of you. I just wonder where you find the energy because I get exhausted watching you.

WHITE: Oh, I just -- I just love -- I just love it. It is a feeling that is so great because you're talking to friends who've been loyal to you for 90 years, and I just enjoy it.


LEMON (on camera): She was even more affable off air, in our conversations. Betty White, you will be missed. Everyone loves you. And we are all grateful for the opportunity to have watched you do what you do. And what you loved.

Thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.