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Don Lemon Tonight

Chicago Students Returning To Classrooms On Wednesday; Growing Tension Between Jan. 6 Committee And Mike Pence; Judge Questions Whether Trump Can Be Sued For Capitol Attack; Biden To Make National Voting Rights Pitch In Georgia Speech; McCarthy Says He'll Boot Dems From Committees If He Becomes Speaker; Second Deadliest Home Fire In Almost 40 Years; Maya Angelou Becomes First Black Woman To Appear On U.S. Quarter As Treasury Begins Distribution. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired January 10, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): Here is our breaking news. Three hundred and forty thousand kids will be back in school starting Wednesday. A long fight with the teachers' union kept all Chicago public school students out of the classroom. That is until late tonight. Here is Chicago's mayor just a little while ago.


MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: I will always be on the side of our children and their families. I was you when I was a kid growing up in my public school. I needed my school. My school made a difference in my life. I'm not standing here today --


LEMON (on camera): And just ahead, will they or won't they? Two of the former president's closest allies playing coy over whether they'll talk to the committee investigating January 6th. GOP Congressman Jim Jordan, who we know spoke with the president, the former president that day, speaking to CNN tonight.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): For instance, if they offered you the opportunity to speak in a public setting, would you be willing to do something like that?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH) (voice-over): We have the letter. You can read my letter. That's our response.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): But the letter doesn't say that specifically.

JORDAN (voice-over): That's our response, is the letter.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): So, you -- are you still -- because you said before that you were, you know, you didn't have anything to hide. So --

JORDAN (voice-over): I got nothing -- I got nothing to hide.


LEMON (on camera): And as for the former vice president, there is apparently growing tension between the committee and Mike Pence. We've got that reporting ahead.

Plus, President Joe Biden going to Georgia tomorrow to lay out his plan for voting rights, but some major voting rights groups say that they're not going -- they're not going. They don't want a photo-op. So, they want action. We'll talk about that.

CNN -- joining us now, CNN political commentator and former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent and senior legal analyst Laura Coates. She is a former federal prosecutor and the author of the new book, "Just Pursuit; A Black Prosecutor's Fight for Fairness." Good to see both of you. Thanks for joining. Good evening.

So, Charlie, I want to start with the breaking news. "The New York Times" is reporting that the former vice president, Mike Pence, was considering cooperating voluntarily with the Select Committee, but now he's undecided. You think this is all going to come down to politics? What is in it for Mike Pence if he actually cooperates?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA REPRESENTATIVE: Well, yeah, it certainly is a very political matter for the former vice president. He knows that he is already on very fragile ground with Donald Trump and many of his supporters because he, in fact, did do the right thing on January 6th by doing his duty and certifying the election.

And so now, you know -- and of course, he's -- I would argue that he has consented that his former staff, Marc Short and others, have been cooperating with the January 6th Committee. So, I think there has been that level of cooperation. Now, I think Mike Pence is in this situation where he must -- I need to hear it from him.

Now, I don't know if they are going to find anything new from Mike Pence that they wouldn't have learned from Marc Short, but now is the time to hear from him. I suspect that there are all kinds of political considerations here, particularly if he is intent on seeking republican nomination for president in 2024.

This testimony could be very damaging to him among certain elements of the base, but I think the president -- former vice president has to make a determination. Does he want to do the right thing here like he did on January 6th or does he want to play politics?

LEMON: Well, he had no choice. He had no choice on January 6th. But listen, that's a political portion of it. Let's talk about the legal angle of it. Laura, I mean, if Pence refuses to cooperate voluntarily, what should the Select Committee do? What can they do?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: They should subpoena him and see if this game of chicken is going to end in cowardice because that's what you have to act like and feel if you're talking about not willing to provide information.

Remember, it's very odd and striking that Vice President Mike Pence, on the one hand, maybe he was hoping that by having members of his team cooperate and give information, he could provide and convey without actually having his fingerprints on to salvage whatever political ambitions he might still have, as Charlie noted.


On the other hand, remember, the gallows were built on the lawn and they were asking for the vice president of the United States. He was the persona non grata and that's being very kind about how he was perceived that particular day.

And so, he was at risk and it is very, very important for us to understand what the experience of the person who was in the second line, the person who could become the president of the United States if any injury to the president of the United States, what his experience was.

They could actually subpoena him. Whether they want to go forward and hold a prior vice president in contempt of Congress is a different calculus. Remember, he might have a much more comprehensive claim of executive privilege for his conversations. We should test the waters because it is important in a cost benefit analysis to get that transparency.

LEMON: Laura, I also want to get your take on the hearing today on three lawsuits looking to hold the former president, former President Trump, his son, Don, Jr., also Rudy Giuliani, and Republican Congressman Mo Brooks, liable for their roles in the insurrection.

This is part of what the judge said. He said, you have an almost two- hour window where the president does not say, stop, get out of the Capitol, this is not what I wanted you to do. What do I do about the fact the president didn't denounce the conduct immediately and sent a tweet that arguably exacerbated things? Isn't that from a plausibility standpoint, that the president plausibly -- plausibly, excuse me, plausibly agreed with the conduct of the people inside the Capitol that day?

So, Trump's lawyer argues that anything he did as president is protected from lawsuits, but it seems like the judge is not buying that. How do you see this playing out?

COATES: And the judge should not buy that. Remember, you're talking about behavior that led to an attack arguably or to his word, plausibly, in a word of trying to attack --

LEMON: Easy for you to say, Laura.

COATES: -- of our democracy. And your right to emphasize -- well, no, you're right to emphasize it, Don Lemon, and believe me, I am not making fun on actual eloquence because you certainly have it, kiddo. But the idea here why that notion and why that word should hang on the tip of everyone's tongue and lips here is because you would have to stretch one's imagination to conclude that during a two-hour period, when the president of the United States had the wherewithal and the ability and the troops -- I mean, he is the one person in this world who can truly say things like, you and what army, and back it up when he has moments and choosing not to do so.

And so, you're talking, of course, between civil liability and criminal liability. It's a lower standard in terms what a president or anyone could be held accountable for. Remember, he is no longer a sitting president. And so, some of the liability issues that might have protected him as the president of the United States, there is an argument as to why it might not be there here.

However, he is still at the time of that particular conduct was the president and it's going to be a balancing act for any court to evaluate. Whether it was such essentially a detour from his presidential role, which is what you're supposedly protected under, if what he was doing was not in furtherance of his office but self- preservation in terms of his own power, that's a very different analysis for a judge to look at, to see if a president or former president should have those benefits.

LEMON: Charlie, speaking of liability, Laura just talked about that, what do you think about this idea of liability and the idea that they want to turn to -- that it could become the First Amendment issue?

DENT: Well, that's a great question, Don. I mean, yeah, this is a novel case from my estimation. I'm not the lawyer on the panel, but it's a novel case and I do think that as you look at the facts, you know, the defense will be that this is First Amendment issue here, and I think that's a real problem.

But we have to step back, though. There are three things going on simultaneously. There are the civil suits, there is the January 6th Committee, and then, of course, there is DOJ looking at things criminally. But this is all part of accountability project, trying to hold people accountable.

At the end of the day, you know, are we going to hold not just the people who directly assaulted the Capitol that day, who broke down the doors and fought with the police and desecrated the Capitol, but those who may have aided and abetted, including the former president?

That's what this is about. And so, if one of these three options do not prevail, whether it is DOJ, the civil suits or the 1/6 committee, where is the accountability for those at the top? That's what really this is about.

LEMON: Let's talk about Senator Mike Rounds firing back at the former president tonight, saying that he stands by his statement, saying that Trump lost the election. I quote here, "As a Republican Party, our focus should be on what lies ahead, not what's in the past. Elections are about growing support for your party, not further dividing it. Attacking Republicans certainly isn't going to result in a winning formula.


Neither is telling citizens not to vote. If we are going to win in 2022 and 2024, we have to move forward together.

So, Charlie, Trump earlier called Rounds a crazy, stupid, a jerk for opening -- saying that he -- openly saying that he lost. So few Republicans have had the courage to do that, but do you think it is going to matter to the base?

DENT: I don't think that it will. Good for Mike Rounds and John Thune. The two South Dakota senators seem to be on the receiving end of a lot of Donald Trump's ire. And in this case, Rounds, for simply stating something that was quite sensible and reasonable about -- talking about honesty and acknowledging facts, and that's not good enough in Trump's world.

But, you know, with some of the base, I still think that Trump is somewhat diminishing. I think there are a lot of Republicans who do not want him to be the 2024 nominee. Even though he still is the, you know, the 800-pound gorilla in the room, I think he's slipping a bit at least with some elements of the base.

And as long as people like Mike Rounds in a conservative state and other Republican leaders step up, I think that only helps to marginalize Donald Trump, but not enough have spoken up.

LEMON: Yeah, I agree with you on what you said about growing number of Republicans not wanting him for 2024. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

I want to turn now to CNN White House correspondent John Harwood and contributor Evan Osnos. He is a staff writer for "The New Yorker" and the author of "Joe Biden: The Life, The Run, and What Matters Now." Good evening to you two gentlemen as well.

John, President Biden is heading to Atlanta tomorrow to push for two voting rights bills. What can we expect?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We can expect a very aggressive speech, Don. We saw the president last week be quite sharp in his tone about Donald Trump and the insurrection, laying the blame for that at the former president.

And he's going to be talking tomorrow about the threat to democracy posed by all the incursions that Republican state legislatures are making to try to constrain voting rights, to change the rules of election administration in ways that make it easier for the next Republican candidate to succeed in jerry rigging the outcome of the election where Donald Trump failed.

Now, the challenge, of course, is that Joe Biden can only do so much with a speech. He's gotten a lot of flak from activists, saying, don't come down here unless you have a plan to pass the voting rights bill. But there is no plan that does not get all 50 Democrats and that's not in Joe Biden's control. You've got Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema at least who are resisting changes to the filibuster which would be necessary to get that bill to the floor and pass it because there is zero chance that 10 Republicans are going to cooperate with the Democrats on trying to pass voting rights.

So, Joe Biden is going to make the public case. And privately, there has been a lot of pressure and a lot of lobbying being done on Manchin and Sinema. You can't rule out the possibility that that may ultimately succeed, but it hasn't succeeded yet, and there is no guarantee that Joe Biden is going to be able to pull this off.

LEMON: So, Evan, the fight to save democracy amid election lies and voting rights issues is essential to Biden's presidency. What do we need to hear from him at this critical moment?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, AUTHOR: Well, what we've been watching from him over the last few months is this kind of quiet diplomacy, the inside game as it is known here in Washington. You know, basically trying to muscle or finesse or seduce or impress a guy like Joe Manchin to do on what you want him to do. And it hasn't worked, as we all know.

As John just described, he is now shifting into this different phase, which is going to be outside game. I mean, this is going to the public and saying, look, folks, this is -- this is as grave a crisis as we face in democracy, this is about really shoring up the things that we hold dear, and putting some pressure on the holdouts with this other instrument, which is to say the American public.

Some -- obviously, some -- as you heard, some advocates are saying they want action, not words. But the first step of beginning to get action is by saying it's time to get out of Washington, begin to put this at the feet of the people themselves, and remind people just how grave this is. This is an extension in some ways, Don, I think, of the speech that we heard on January 6th. This is a new phase in the president's language.

LEMON: Evan, in the new year, it seems like President Biden is ditching his unity message, going after Republicans more. Do you think this is aa deliberate move in an action year and why now?

OSNOS: I think it may run deeper than an election year. In fact, you know, he would argue to you that it's not about ditching the unity message, it is about redefining what the unity actually can mean in a country in which most people would tell you they want democracy.

Most people have actually -- most adults have, in fact, gotten the lifesaving vaccine that has been proven and available to them.


And it is about saying, look, we are not going to be held captive by people who resist either something like a vaccine or resist the belief that, you know, democracy is worth protecting. So, I think you can see it as something that's not just about an election year. It's really about not only his presidency, but making sure that he leaves this democracy in better shape than he found it.

LEMON: Yeah. Evan, John, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

So, I want to bring in now CNN's Omar Jimenez with our breaking news out of Chicago, the deal to reopen schools there. Omar, good evening to you again. So, walk us through this deal. Teachers will come back first, then students. What do you know?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, yeah, exactly as you mentioned, tomorrow, teachers will be back, and then students will be back on Wednesday. But, of course, this comes after many school days in a row without students being in classes.

Now, the details of this deal, we got some clues from the mayor and the teachers union not too long ago. We've known some of the major sticking points have come from metrics, on what it would take to take certain schools to remote.

Mayor Lightfoot confirmed that agreement was part of what got things at least to the end. And the teachers' union said basically it would constitute 30% of a student population to be absent because of COVID during CDC-designated periods of high transmission and 50% during other times.

Now, another major point of contention was, of course, trying to increase the capacity for testing. And one important note there is that in recent days, Saturday, Governor J.B. Pritzker here in Illinois helped secure about 350,000 tests to then bring to Chicago public schools, and his office confirmed not too long ago this evening that all 350,000 of those tests were delivered. So, that likely had an impact on trying to bring the two sides together.

And then, of course, one of the final metrics was from remote learning itself. The teachers' union wanted to stay remote until January 18th or until the COVID numbers slowed down a little. The district said, no, remote education is too detrimental to our students, and they've seemed to reach an accord for at least teachers to come back tomorrow and students on Wednesday.

One thing to keep an eye on, though, the reason the mayor has not released specific documents about what this agreement has been is she wants to wait until the rank-and-file union members vote. Tonight, came a House of Delegates vote. The rank-and-file vote is expected to happen later this week. But in the meantime, teachers will be back and students will be back, and that's, of course, the most important part, Don.

LEMON: Omar, thank you so much. I appreciate that.

President Biden heading to Georgia to push for voting rights, a state where this happened when the Republican governor signed a new law restricting the vote. I'm going to talk to this Georgia lawmaker.


UNKNOWN: You said you gave her one more time like you're going to do something. Are you serious?

UNKNOWN: No, you are not.

UNKNOWN: No, she's not under arrest.

UNKNOWN: For what? Under arrest for what?





LEMON (on camera): President Biden is set to make his pitch on the future of voting rights tomorrow in Georgia, the state -- a battleground for voting rights and one of the newest states who enact restrictive voting measures. You may remember watching this just after Georgia's Republican governor signed the new law.


UNKNOWN: You said you gave her one more time like you're going to do something.

UNKNOWN: When? That's it.

UNKNOWN: Are you serious?

UNKNOWN: No, you are not.

UNKNOWN: No, she's not under arrest.

UNKNOWN: For what? Under arrest for what?

UNKNOWN: Why is she under arrest?

UNKNOWN: For trying to see --


LEMON (on camera): That is Georgia State House Representative Park Cannon getting arrested for knocking on the door as Governor Kemp signed the bill. She was not charged.

Representative Park Cannon joins me now. But there was certainly a lot of back and forth and we had no idea what was going to happen. Good evening. Thank you for joining.

PARK CANNON, GEORGIA STATE HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE: Thanks for having me. It was the first day of session today.

LEMON: Yeah.

CANNON: So, we've been working pretty hard.

LEMON: So, the president is expected to push two voting rights bills in Georgia tomorrow. What do you want to hear from him, representative?

CANNON: Well, The DNC is backing them and many senators and local legislators are too because we're at a desperate point, we're at a crossroads in Georgia. We feel as though we've done everything we can do and the last thing we need is federal intervention.

They've been doing a few cases to the attorney general's office and the press secretary has signaled that the president is here because he's coming to talk about how he will specifically help impact the right to vote in Georgia.

LEMON: The bills the president wants to see pass are not likely to go anywhere in the Senate unless a filibuster is dropped or the rules are changed. Senators Manchin and Sinema are sticking by their stance to keep the filibuster. What is your message to them?

CANNON: Well, I am not in continued support of the filibuster for sure because like many Georgians here, my polling places have been changing. Districts were just changed in November and many voters don't even know. So, we want federal intervention in the way of an executive order.

We need help. We need for there to be federal poll monitors. We would love if there would be an opportunity to talk about what happens if we get into elections where people, elections officials, are meddling where they shouldn't be. What kind of oversight do we have without an executive order? We really want to hear about it.

LEMON: State representative, several voting rights groups in Georgia, including Black Voters Matter Fund, have asked the president to stay in Washington unless he has a definitive plan to guarantee voting rights.


But if the GOP won't work with him and the filibuster isn't going away, are Biden's hands tied?

CANNON: We're serious about voting rights here in Georgia. And we make it really clear you got to get grassroots. You have to be hands- on. And so, we do want that hands-on approach from the president, from the vice president, the attorney general.

We love what the press secretary has been saying, but these voting rights groups here in Georgia have the real pulse of what has been happening since Senate bill 202 was passed. I have to say with today being the first day of legislative session, we have had signals that there will be additional bills in government affairs committees to change the district line safer in Atlanta or in Fulton County. And we can't do voting rights protection without the federal government's help. So, we hope his hands are untied and we will try to help him get that undone, too.

LEMON: First lady Michelle Obama is urging people to vote like the future of our democracy depends on it. She wants to register a million new voters before the midterms. If legislation is at an impasse, do Democrats need to start mobilizing voters and fast?

CANNON: Oh, certainly. And that's what we do here in Georgia. We've seen the importance of just providing people basic necessities like food and water in line to help people access the vote. But unfortunately, this time, it is going to have to be a lot deeper. As I said before, many voters don't even know that their polling places have changed since 2021.

So, we need get out the vote message that's not just about actually casting the ballot in a specific place, but about knowing the overlying systems of inequity that are impacting black and brown communities from voting.

LEMON: Yeah. Representative Parks, thank you -- Park Cannon, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

CANNON: You, too.

LEMON: You be well.

A threat coming from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to Democrats. What he says he'll do if Republicans take over the House. That's next.

Plus, the second deadliest home fire within the last 40 years. What happened?




LEMON (on camera): House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is vowing to boot Democrats from key committee assignments if Republicans win back the House. He says it is a standard set by Democrats after they remove Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar and such from their committees for inflammatory rhetoric. Watch.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The Democrats have created a new thing where they are picking and choosing who could be on committee. Never in the history have you had the majority tell the minority who could be on committee. But this new standard, which these Democrats have voted for, if Eric Swalwell cannot get a security clearance in the private sector, there is no reason why he should be given one to be on Intel or Homeland Security. So, that will not -- he will not be serving there.

UNKNOWN: So, you're going to -- MCCARTHY: Yes.

UNKNOWN: -- if you are the speaker of the house, you are going to remove him from those committees?

MCCARTHY: Ilhan Omar should not be serving on Foreign Affairs.

UNKNOWN: What about any committees for Ilhan Omar?

MCCARTHY: You know, this is a -- this is a new level of what the Democrats have gone. You look at Adam Schiff. He should not be serving on Intel.


LEMON (on camera): Okay. So, I want you to remember that Democrats removed Congressman Gosar from his committees for posting a disturbing video, showing him appearing to kill Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Joe Biden.

Congresswoman Greene was removed from her committees after it was found that she previously repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democrats and supported a whole lot of conspiracy theories.

Okay. So, joining me now, CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Scott Jennings. Good evening. There is a lot to discuss here. So, Ana, let's start with you. Republicans may very well win the House back in the midterms. That will make McCarthy speaker. But is there any comparison between what he is threatening and what happened to Gosar and Greene?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you just took for granted that it will make McCarthy speaker should Republicans win back the House. And I think part of what you are seeing is McCarthy worried about his right flank, worried about the Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Louie Gohmert, the Paul Gosar, the Matt Gaetz, who have threatened him, who have put him under pressure. And I think he is trying to win some points with them, garner their support, should there be a vote.

Remember, it is not automatic. It will go up to a vote and there's nothing saying that he won't get a challenge from the right. I think, by many, he is seen as an establishment Republican who is just pretending to be a Trumpster. And I think McCarthy is right. It is a new level, it is a new standard, because we've also hit a new low in Congress.

I think it is so important, Don, to tamp down the vitriol, to tamp down what is happening in Congress amongst colleagues. We have heard the horrible threatening, violent voicemails left in some congresspeople's messages. We have seen people like Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Detroit and her office ransacked and broken into.


This needs to stop on both sides.

LEMON: Um-hm. Scott, listen, Gosar and Greene were removed over pushing content and theories of violence against Democrats. It is that not fair reason?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDNET TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm not going to defend their conduct. I think they did reprehensible things. But you have to understand that the average Republican -- the fringe elements in the Democratic Party are Schiff, Swalwell, Omar, you know, other people on The Squad. So, the way the average Democrats see the members you just mentioned, the average Republicans see the analog on the left.

And I'll have to say, you're not going to find too many Republicans who are not going to look at this and say what is good for the goose is good for the gander here. Democrats went down this road. They knew what it was going to lead to. And now, they are going to have to deal with the consequences.

And I will also just add, this is applicable to many things in Washington right now. If Democrats alter the filibuster in the Senate, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. I mean, opening these doors leads to unintended consequences. I don't know -- I mean, I think McCarthy is stating what is going to happen. I don't think these are conceptual ideas. I think you can take it to the bank.

LEMON: So, Scott, Congresswoman Omar apologized after she faced backlash for tweets condemned by both sides of the aisle as anti- Semitic. We haven't seen any apologizing from Gosar. And Greene has apologized for some of her comments and conspiracies but not all. There is a difference, no?

JENNINGS: Like I said, I'm not going to defend any of the conduct. And you and I had conversations about Gosar and Greene on this very show, but I've never heard Eric Swalwell explain or apologize about his being compromised by a Chinese spy.

I've never heard anything coming out of Adam Schiff apologizing for going on a lot of television networks and saying a lot of things that turned out not to be true for a number of years about a very serious matter involving the president and Russia and other issues.

And so, there are serious issues to discuss with these Democrats that McCarthy has named. And I think until Democrats are willing to deal with the people in their own ranks just the way we try to hold Republicans to account for the ones in ours, you're going to see McCarthy and the republican majority take action because it's an authority now that the majority has claimed under Nancy Pelosi. So, if she's allowed to have that power, McCarthy's reasoning is why can't I?

LEMON: Do you think it's comparable, Ana, to what he's saying about Eric Swalwell and others, Ilhan Omar and Gosar and Greene?

NAVARRO: Okay, I think a majority leader needs to deal with what happens while he or she is the speaker of the House. And I agree with Scott. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander. And so, if there is a Democrat who posts animes killing colleagues and harming the president of the United States, they should definitely be stripped of their committees.

And if there's any Democrat who tweets out threats against colleagues, who tweets out comparisons of the yellow star of the holocaust with the vaccine cards and spreads misinformation and conspiracy theories, yes, absolutely, they should be stripped from committees.

But I -- so, yes, what is good for the goose is good for the gander, but there is a new low. What we've seen from some of these newer Republican members -- look, they're even getting criticism from some other Republican colleagues. As Scott knows, Congressman Dan Crenshaw of Texas has been very critical of Marjorie Taylor Greene for what he calls performative behavior and outrageous behavior that shouldn't be accepted.

And I think it speaks badly of the Republican Party that these folks have become stars, not because they have legislative accomplishments, not because they have intellectual curiosity, but because they are outrageous and offensive and threatening and violent and despicable and pathetic and lame excuse for Congress people.

LEMON: So, look, the interest of truth here, Eric Swalwell has denied turning anything with a spy and has cooperated with officials through an investigation.

McCarthy has targeted Democrats that the Fox propaganda channel loves to attack. Those Democrats are also targets of the former president. Is this all about -- do you think this is, Scott, staying in Trump's good graces at all, some of this?

JENNINGS: Well, I'm sure Donald Trump loves it. But I'll just tell you, you know, as someone who is in touch with a lot of every day grassroot Republicans, this is exactly what they want to see out of a new House majority. They want to see them hold Democrats to account that they think have gotten away with a lot of stuff. They want to see a new republican majority hold Joe Biden to account.


This is the kind of aggressive politics that the republican grassroot is going to want to see. So, to the extent that Kevin McCarthy is practicing politics here and I fully acknowledge that he is, it serves two purposes. Yes, it keeps Donald Trump happy, but there is a lot of grassroots candidates, donors, you know, activists around the country who are like right on, brother. This is exactly what we want to see you doing.

LEMON: Hey, Ana, quickly, how are you doing?

NAVARRO: From which of all the things that I'm going through, are you asking about -- I'm on my third day of COVID.

LEMON: Healthwise, yeah. COVID-wise.

NAVARRO: I'm good. I got mild symptoms. And look, my recommendation to anybody is because testing is so difficult and getting those at- home kits are difficult, if you start feeling bad, if you start feeling a tickle in your throat, if you start feeling any of the symptoms, you know, be conscientious. Be good to your fellow human --

LEMON: Okay.

NAVARRO: -- and stay home and try to isolate, and let's try to get this thing to stop.

LEMON: Well, get better soon. Thank you. Thank you, Ana. Thank you, Scott. I appreciate it. We'll be right back.




LEMON (on camera): The investigation underway into the second deadliest U.S. fire in nearly 40 years. At least 17 people are dead after a blaze ripped through a Bronx apartment building overnight. Eight of the victims, children. The youngest just three years old. Dozens of people injured in the fire that investigators say began with a malfunctioning space heater.

The New York City fire commissioner saying the mechanisms on several of the building's self-closing doors didn't do their job, allowing smoke to spread across floors. Earlier, one of the survivors told CNN what it felt like escaping that blaze.


UNKNOWN: I went to the stairs to open the door. It just blew me back in the house and I panicked and I told my husband, let me in the house, I can't see, I'm blind, I can't see, I can't see. If I stayed out there another three seconds, I would have been gone, too.


LEMON: My goodness.

Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Ritchie Torres. His district covers much of the South Bronx. Congressman, I'm really sorry that this happened and what the families and what you're dealing with. I know that you grew up in public housing like this. What do you think happened here?

REP. RITCHIE TORRES (D-NY): Well, for me, the deeper problem is systematic disinvestment from the lowest income communities of color like those in the Bronx. We failed to properly invest in affordable housing. And when we allow affordable housing to be chronically underfunded, we're putting the lives of tenant at risk.

I see housing quality as a matter of public safety, as a matter of life and death, and it's no accident that the four worst fires in New York City's history in the past 30 years have all been in the Bronx, and it's because the Bronx is an ageing housing stock.

LEMON: So, obviously, there is -- it's a mechanism -- mechanisms allowed the fire to spread across floors. So, I guess -- I guess the fire commissioner is -- that's the initial cause. But yet and still, just because the cause is unacceptable, the Bronx Borough president is pointing out that this is a federal section eight housing project.

The point of programs like this is to give low-income families safe homes. I know you're looking into legislation and policies that might have contributed to this disaster, but how do things even get to this point?

TORRES: It's a lack of investment. These doors were supposed to be self-closing. And the question is, why did these doors fail to close as required by law? Both the apartment door and the stairwell door were left wide open, causing the smoke to spread widely throughout a 19-story building.

And since the building has no fire escapes and since the stairwells were full of smoke, the tenants had no means of escape. The tenants were trapped and victims were found on every floor. There were tenants who died from severe smoke inhalation, from cardiac and respiratory arrest. So, housing conditions have implications for the safety of tenants, especially when it comes to fire prevention.

LEMON: Yeah. This is what investigators are pointing to, a malfunctioning space heater, those self-closing doors that didn't work. Are there officials making sure other public housing buildings are safe right now? What should they be doing and what are you doing?

TORRES: It's true that the space heaters are a fire hazard and people need to be extraordinarily careful with space heaters. The most common category of fires or the second most common category of fires is heating fires which tend to involve the use of space heaters.

We have to ask a deeper question, why are tenants using space heaters in the first place? There are situations where landlords are denying tenants sufficient heat and hot water. And even when the landlord is providing the legal minimum, what the law requires in New York City often fall short of the amount of heat the tenants need to remain warm in their apartments, especially when the temperatures are freezing.

So, the feeling of freezing in your own apartment is what caused tenants to resort to space heaters out of desperation.

LEMON: You think that that was the issue here, that they weren't providing a sufficient amount of heat?


TORRES: The housing department in New York City claims that there was heat in the building. But as I noted, what the law requires falls short of what tenants need. Even if the temperature is zero degrees, the temperature that's required inside of this apartment remains the same. It is 62 degrees during nighttime.


TORRES: And this particular space heater was left running for hours and hours. It could have been running for 24 hours and therein lies the fire hazard.

LEMON: Yeah. Representative Torres, again, my condolences to you that you are having to deal with this and especially the families that are involved in this. Thank you so much.

TORRES: Of course. Thank you for having me.

LEMON: If you are looking for information about how you can help the victims of the New York City fire, go to

A black woman on the quarter four, take this, the first time. We'll tell you who it is after this.




LEMON: Take this. Legendary poet, storyteller, and activist Maya Angelou making history yet again, becoming the first Black woman to appear on the quarter. The coin depicting her with arms uplifted now officially in circulation. It shows a rising sun and a bird in flight behind her, a nod to some of her famous works like "Still I rise" and "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."

Her work, well, it gave voice to an entire generation, fighting for civil rights and social justice. And while she was one of the first, she certainly won't be the last.

Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.