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Don Lemon Tonight

Senate GOP Blocks Voting Rights Legislation Put Forward by Dems; President Joe Biden Holds New Conference Marking Year Of 'Challenges' And 'Enormous Progress'; SCOTUS Clears Way For Jan. 6 Committee To Get Trump Documents; White House Clarifies Bidens' Remarks On Potential Russia Invasion; Biden Administration On COVID; FL Bill Shielding People From 'Discomfort' Over Historic Actions Gets First Approval. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired January 19, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): It's top of the hour. We have breaking news to start with. Senate Republicans blocking legislation to protect voting rights and Democrats failing to get enough votes to change filibuster rules.

Moments ago, President Joe Biden releasing a statement saying this: I am profoundly disappointed the Senate has failed to stand up for our democracy. As dangerous new republican laws plainly designed to suppress and subvert voting rights proliferate in states across the country, we will explore every measure and use every tool at our disposal to stand up for democracy.

Also ahead, a supreme loss for the former president. The high court giving a green light for the January 6th Committee to get more than 700 pages of documents from the Trump White House.

And the president laying out a roadmap for the second year of his presidency, are reflecting on the pros and the cons of his first during a wide-ranging news conference.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Tomorrow will mark one year since I took office. It's been a year of challenges, but it's also been a year of enormous progress.


LEMON (on camera): The president taking questions from the White House press corps for nearly two hours, and there is a lot to talk about.

I want to bring in now CNN political commentators Bakari Sellers and Charlie Dent. Good to see both of you. Can't wait to have this conversation. Bakari, President Biden defending his first year in office despite coming up short on some big promises. Does it feel like we are seeing Biden grapple with a political climate that has changed -- that is changing around him? Look -- and quite frankly, do you think finally he is starting to realize, hey, man, they don't want to work with you?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, it's -- I am hard pressed to believe that the vice president for Barack Obama, you know, was somewhat naive in taking office believing that he was going to have this new brand of republican work with him.

You know, the obstruction that Barack Obama saw was unlike anything we've seen in American history. That still exists today, especially when you are talking about things like voting rights and you have 16 or so Republicans who have actually voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act but won't come out of the shadows to do it today.

And so, you know, one of the things that this president has done and you have to give him credit for is the COVID relief package that he did in a bipartisan fashion, infrastructure that he did in a bipartisan fashion.

But you're right, those big issues of voting rights, of criminal justice reform, of climate change, Build Back Better, the crux of his agenda and the promises he made have stalled, and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that he had faith in Republicans and he should never have that faith.

LEMON (on camera): Charlie, I want you to listen to what President Biden said about Mitch McConnell.


BIDEN: The idea that -- Mitch has been very clear. He would do anything to prevent Biden from being a success. And I get on with Mitch. I actually like Mitch McConnell. We like one another. But he has one straightforward objective. Make sure that there is nothing I do that makes me look good in the mind, in his mind, with the public at large. And that's okay. I'm a big boy. I've been here before.


LEMON (on camera): Okay.


LEMON: I would not have that particular attitude. So, I would have a different energy about it. But he acknowledges, Charlie, that Mitch McConnell is doing everything he can to stop his agenda, and then he says, well, I like Mitch. That's as Biden as it gets. Do you think his strategy -- his strategy is changing?


CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA REPRESENTATIVE: Oh, to be fair, Mitch McConnell did support the bipartisan infrastructure bill for which House members voted for that same bill and they are being threatened with punishment for doing it. So, he actually did work with the administration on that infrastructure bill, which I would argue is the Biden administration's greatest bipartisan victory.

But, yeah, Mitch McConnell is the opposition leader and he is going to oppose where he can. I seem to think that the Biden administration certainly overreached on the first COVID bill. I thought it was too big.

And I think, again, they misread a mandate. They tried to do too much with Build Back Better. They have opportunities, I think, to do some things, to clean up some of the election problems through the Electoral Count Act and marry that with the Voting Rights Act reauthorization, which I voted for many years ago. And I think there is a potential here to get somewhere.

But, you know, I don't -- look, Mitch McConnell is a sharp, shrewd guy. You know, he plays ball when he has to and he fights when he feels he has to. And I think that they still can get some things done on this voting rights and Electoral Count Act. Why they are not having conversations right now on that subject?

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, Charlie, he did acknowledge that he has never seen a time when political -- the political coverage. The choice of what the voters watch has had such an impact on what they believe. We're in this siloed environment. I talked about it at the beginning of the 10:00 hour here, 10:00 Eastern hour. Everything -- information (INAUDIBLE).

How does Biden cut through? He said he is going to get out and -- you know, get out of Washington, get out of the White House, but how does he cut through, Charlie?

DENT: How does he cut through? Look, he's right, it's tough to cut through because, you know, people get information from the sources that reinforce their existing opinions or biases. So, bottom line is he has to make his case to the American people out across the country and get picked up in local news and be out there. That's probably the best thing he can do at this juncture.

But you're right, Don. I mean, he is -- Look, again, there is some people he is not ever going to be able to persuade. He doesn't have to persuade anybody -- everybody. He just has to persuade enough of those people who are, you know, who are persuadable, those swing voters, and there are plenty of them out there who can make a difference.

LEMON (on camera): Bakari, President Biden was asked what he would say to those that were offended by his voting rights speech when he referenced Bull Connor and George Wallace. Watch this.


BIDEN: I did not say that they were going to be George Wallace or Bull Connor. I said we are going to have a decision in history that is going to be marked just like it was then. You either voted on the side that didn't make you George Wallace or didn't make you Bull Connor. But if you did not vote for the Voting Rights Act back then, you were voting with those who agreed with Connor, those who agreed with -- and so -- and I think Mitch did a real good job of making it sound like I was attacking them.


LEMON: So, I mean, this is -- this is what I have been saying. It's an important distinction. How will these -- how do you think these votes will be remembered?

SELLERS: I actually think Joe Biden was actually very clear and nuanced than his speech down in Morehouse in Atlanta. And I think that a lot of people don't give him credit sometimes for his nuance.

What he was actually doing was channeling -- was channeling what -- the same thing that Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his letter from the Birmingham jail in which he talked about the fact that the largest impediment to the negros success was the white moderate. And he called that a larger impediment than the white citizens council or the Ku Klux Klan.

He wasn't saying that the white moderate was burning crosses or lynching people like those individuals he was comparing them to. What he was saying was that they were in favor of preserving order over justice, which is Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.

So, when you are talking about these individuals, look, we are not saying that they are using dogs or water hose on black folk and negros throughout the south. But what we are saying is that their mindset to preserve order over having justice for people who look like me and you, Don, puts them on the same side of the historical coin as those individuals like George Wallace and Lester Maddox.

Now, the fact that we can't have this elevated conversation with nuance in today's media landscape, et cetera, is purely sad, but that is the fact. And if you are going to vote against these bills, then you have to be comfortable in making your bed that you will be in bed with those individuals in history.

LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it.

Voting rights legislation going down in defeat to defeat in the Senate tonight. I want to bring in now Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Senator, thank you for joining. I really appreciate it.

I know that you are disappointed. You fought hard for this. Is that why it was important to Democrats to have this vote and let the chips fall where they may even if it was defeated just to have it go down in history and to mark it in history?


SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): You know, you never know for sure where someone will end up until they have to call out their vote. And so, by setting a date and doing it in the context of this week in which we are celebrating Martin Luther King's birthday, we were saying we will take a vote, so it intensified the conversations a 100-fold and we hoped that those intense conversations would lead to success tonight. They did not.

I'm feeling very much the sentiment that Martin Luther King expressed when he said every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle. And we're in the middle of that tough phase.

I hope that when we go home now and hear from our constituents and they say, you know, this is a moment like it was in 1891 when the Senate filibustered voting rights and it led to 75 years in which Black Americans were denied the ability to vote -- this is a moment like that. You have to stand up to preserve the vision of our republic. And we'll come back and then hopefully have those 50 votes. So, we are not giving up.

LEMON (on camera): All right. listen, you were on the floor tonight talking in favor of the talking filibuster. That failed, too. And there was a moment when Senator Manchin asked if there could be a talking filibuster without rules change. I just want to play the end of your exchange with him. Watch this.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I understand the way this rule reads right now, sir, during which all amendments, motions and points of order are not in order and any appeals shall be determined without debate. No amendments whatsoever?

MERKLEY: And the vision, the vision of this --

MANCHIN: That's the way -- what we're voting on right now.

MERKLEY: Excuse me. Go ahead.

MANCHIN: I'm saying that's what we are voting on right now.

MERKLEY: What we are voting on right now is to go to final passage with continuous debate and the majority leader's team has crafted this to ensure continuous debate.

MANCHIN: No amendments? No amendments?

MERKLEY: That would be -- had we gotten to the ill and been able to --

MANCHIN: No amendment -- we never had amendments on the bill. No amendments, no motions, no points of order.


LEMON (on camera): So, explain what Manchin wants here, because we also saw you talking with Sen. Manchin earlier today with Sen. Debbie Stabenow speaking on voting rights. MERKLEY: Yes. So, when we had previously tried to bring the bill to the floor, we had offered to the Republicans unlimited germane amendments. Germane, meaning directly involved in the contents of the bill. And the Republicans said, we have no interest in amendments. And to be able to consider even a single amendment takes republican cooperation. You have to get 60 votes to close debate on an amendment.

And so, with the Republicans saying they had no interest and no willingness to engage, the majority leader said in that situation, when it's impossible to consider amendments, we are going to go to the question of final passage of this bill, because that's the only option open to us.

And so, that was the point. And once you're on final passage, then you can invoke a conversation that can take weeks or months. If every senator can speak twice and they speak an average of five hours each and there is 100 of us, that's 1,000 hours. The longest debate in Senate history was 400 hours, 1964 Civil Rights Act.

So, in no way does this diminish the leverage of the minority, but it does say that in some eventuality, if we never reach consensus, never reach an agreement, never reach a compromise, ultimately, we will get to the vision of the original Senate that after hearing everyone, there will be a vote and the path laid out by the greater number will triumph over the path of the lesser number.

LEMON: Senator Merkley, come back late and often. We appreciate having you on the program.

MERKLEY: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

I want to bring in now Derrick Johnson. He is the president and CEO of the NAACP. Derrick, good evening to you. Thank you for appearing on the program.

Voting legislation is virtually on life support right now. Senate Republicans unanimously voting against this bill. You have fought so hard for this. You had strong words tonight about what happened on Capitol Hill. Talk to me about that.

DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Understand the Voting Rights Act took three times before passage. So, the exercise we have seen tonight is only a part of the process. It's not over. It cannot be over. We cannot allow the American public to be let down and have limited access to voting.

So, I would encourage all of the members of the Senate, all 100, because this is not about one party. This is about upholding our Constitution, protecting the right to vote. More importantly, for all the people who have the flowery words, in commemoration of Martin Luther King, it is about his legacy.

[23:14:57] JOHNSON: So, when they go on recess and come back, NAACP, all of our partners, we will continue to push for voting rights protections. It's not a partisan issue. It is the right thing to do to protect our democracy, to protect our Constitution.

LEMON (on camera): Earlier, President Biden was asked about a key constituency of his, and that's Black voters. Watch this.


UNKNOWN: What do you say to these Black voters who say that you do not have their backs as you promised on the campaign trail?

BIDEN: I have had their back, but part of the problem is, as well, I have not been out in the community nearly enough. I have been here an awful lot.

I find myself in a situation where I don't get a chance to look people in the eye because of both COVID and things that are happening in Washington, to be able to go out and do the things that I have always been able to do pretty well, connect with people, let them take a measure of my sincerity, let them a take a measure of who I am.


LEMON (on camera): Is the White House doing all they can? Is the president living up to his promises to Black voters? What did you think of that and what he said?

JOHNSON: Well, you know, what I'm focusing on voting rights, for us, we're looking for the outcome. And first of all, the Senate must do their job. We were hoping this president, with all of his senatorial experience, was able to muster up the type of momentum to get us across the finish line.

But again, the Voting Rights Act took three times to get passed. This administration, they did a good job with the COVID recovery. We needed that. Reverse the white supremacist behavior that was coming out of the White House. That was really important. Make the commitment to have the most diverse cabinet. Delivered on that. Ensure we had a robust, the most robust infrastructure package in history. That was absolutely necessary.

But police reform is still outstanding. Voting rights protection is outstanding. We still have student loan debt crisis.

But we are only one year into this administration. So, the judgment of what they could have, would have done, I have never been a proponent of (INAUDIBLE). I am an advocate. We are talking about what needs to happen tomorrow. And we look for this administration, this Senate to step up for not only the African American community, but for our democracy.

LEMON: Derrick Johnson, thank you. I appreciate the book you have over your right shoulder there. It is sitting on my coffee table as well. NAACP 20 -- was it -- yeah, 2020. JOHNSON: 2020 black.

LEMON: 2020 black, yeah. I love that. Thank you very much. I love that book. Thank you, sir.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

LEMON: And I appreciate having you on.

So, we may know soon exactly what the former president was fighting to keep under wraps and why the Supreme Court clearing the way for the release of more than 700 of his White House documents. We will talk about that next.




LEMON: A massive legal defeat for the former president at the Supreme Court tonight. The January 6th Committee will soon get their hands on more than 700 documents from the Trump White House. These documents could give the January 6th Committee insight into what was happening at the White House in the lead-up to the insurrection.

Let's discuss now. CNN's senior legal analyst Mr. Elie Honig joins us. Elie, good evening to you once again.

This is a major Supreme Court decision and a victory for the January 6th Committee. We are talking about activity logs, schedules, speech notes, three pages of handwritten notes from the then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. So, what can they get from this?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Don, what makes these documents so potentially important and powerful is that they are contemporaneous documents. This shows what was happening, what people were doing, saying, thinking, and reacting on January 6th.

This is before they had the talking points in place. This is before the spin kicked in. This is before people had to start going down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring. This is the unvarnished reaction on the spot. That is why this kind of documents can be so telling to whether it's prosecutors or in this case congressional investigators. So, I think these documents could be really key.

LEMON: What does that decision mean from the Supreme Court for the future of executive privilege?

HONIG: Yeah. So, one of the interesting things about executive privilege is we don't know that much about it. Historically, really there has been two eras where we have learned about it. One was Richard Nixon and the other is now because presidents tend to invoke executive privilege more when the scandals strike.

The big lesson of today is there actually could be some right by a former president to invoke the privilege. But the Supreme Court today said, we don't need to address that because even if Donald Trump was in office right now, he would still lose on executive privilege because he has got nothing on the merits.

And if you listen to the argument, Don, I listened to the Supreme Court argument, the justices kept asking Donald Trump's lawyer, okay, even if we say you can try to invoke the privilege, what is so special about this case? What is your objection? And all they had was, we just don't like it. And the justices were very unimpressed by that answer and you see that in today's ruling.

LEMON: Only Justice Clarence Thomas said publicly, you know, that he would have supported the former president's request to block the documents. What does that tell you about the rest of the court?

HONIG: Well, it tells me first of all, Donald Trump got absolutely annihilated throughout this legal process. Let us run it down. He lost in the district court. He lost 3-0 in the court of appeals. He lost 8- 1 today in the Supreme Court. If you add it up, it's 12 to one.

And of those 12 justices that ruled against Donald Trump, five of them are republican appointees, conservative justices. Three of them, of course, are Donald Trump's own nominated justices.

So, it tells me that this is an issue that was so clear cut that it really transcends politics or ideology. Sometimes, right is just right in the law.

LEMON: Yeah. And the one again was Clarence Thomas. Could all these documents lead to even more requests from the committee and more subpoenas to witnesses?

HONIG: Absolutely. That's the nature of any investigation, one lead leads to another. That's why they're called leads. We used to say sometimes you pull on one thread, sometimes you can unravel the whole sweater.


HONIG: So, I'm sure the committee, if they may have these documents at this very moment, if I was on the committee, I would have sent somebody over at the archives at 6:30 today as soon as that ruling came out. But I am confident they are -- will be going through these documents in the upcoming hours and days and you always have to follow up.

LEMON: Yeah. Elie Honig, thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

HONIG: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: President Biden saying that he expects Russia will move into Ukraine and giving a frank assessment of how the U.S. would respond to what he calls a minor incursion. Now, the White House is trying to clean up his comments.


LEMON (on camera): Tonight, the White House is cleaning up comments by President Biden on Russia's potential invasion of Ukraine.


BIDEN: So, I think what you're going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades. It depends on what it does. It is one thing if it's a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to and not do.


LEMON (on camera): So, the White House clarifying those remarks, saying if any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that's a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our allies.

Let's discuss with CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger. He is a White House and national security correspondent for "The New York Times" as well. Good to see you, David. Thank you for appearing tonight.

A Ukrainian official told CNN that Biden's comments give the green light to Putin to enter Ukraine at his pleasure. This was a gaffe? What are the implications? Do you agree it was a gaffe and what are the implications here?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, WHITE HOUSE AND NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, thanks for having me on, Don. This was in response to a question that I had asked the president about whether or not he believes that the United States and Russia were headed back into a sort of new form of cold war, because six months ago in Geneva when he met President Putin, he had said he didn't believe so.

So, what he said in the run up to this was he didn't believe that we -- that Russia was interested in the full-scale war. And then, he basically laid out the options that he has heard in briefings. And he laid them out accurately, which is that if Russia does a smaller invasion in the eastern part of the country, the Russian-speaking part, it might be hard to keep all of the NATO allies, all of the other Europeans together on sanctions. They fear that they are going to pay a big price for it.

The problem is that when you describe it as honestly as he did, you then, of course, seem to be inviting the Russians to do something less than a full invasion.

LEMON: Okay. So -- and he was -- he kept -- he was very -- he moderated himself. He caught himself and he kept saying, how do I say this, how do I say this? So, David, not to put too fine a point on it, but was he saying the quiet part out loud because you said this is what he heard in briefings? So, was this a case of that?

SANGER: Yeah, I think he was. I mean, he gave a pretty lengthy, pretty deep, and very interesting answer about Vladimir Putin's psychology, said that he feels caught -- thinks Putin feels caught between the west and China, is trying to find a place for himself, still is harboring anger about the breakup of the Soviet Union. It was a pretty interesting analytical discourse coming from the president.

I think the difficulty the White House ran into is that they have been running around Europe trying to make sure that all of the allies stay in line and they view this as sort of exposing the fact that the allies have different opinions, as you would expect they would.

It also a bit undercut what our response would be if there is a major cyberattack. Last week, we saw the beginnings of cyberattacks presumably by Russia against Ukraine and the president seemed to put those off into a different category. Of course, you could do huge damage to infrastructure with a cyberattack.

LEMON: President Biden says that his guess is that Putin will invade. The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said yesterday that Russia could launch an attack at any moment. But the start of a full-scale invasion might actually look like an incursion or an isolated incident. So, what exactly is the White House on the lookout for, David?

SANGER: Well, that is the problem. You put your finger right on it, which is an invasion got to start someplace. And you don't know when the Russians first start rolling, whether or not -- assuming that they do, whether or not they've got orders to stop someplace, someplace in the east.

Maybe grab the land around Crimea rather than just Crimea itself and get that land bridge to Russia, or whether they would be interested in running all the way to Kyiv.

And so, as the west is trying to figure out how to react, you have to have a pretty good understanding of how far the Russians are willing to go, and you simply would be unlikely to know that at the beginning.

LEMON: At this press conference, the president defending the -- defended the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which many Americans saw as a total failure, even though they thought this endless war, as they call it, we shouldn't be in this endless war, but just the withdrawal, the exit, they thought was pretty bad.


LEMON: If Putin successfully invades Ukraine, will that be another international failure for President Joe Biden? How will Americans see that?

SANGER: It's an interesting question because, you know, in the Afghan case, most Americans said, if you believe the polls, we should get out of Afghanistan.

LEMON: Right. SANGER: We don't -- we are not going to make much further progress, but getting out was messy. And the president said today, you can't be in Afghanistan for 20 years and leave neatly, as much as he regretted the deaths.

Now, of course, if you look at his polling numbers, that's about when they started falling off, right, because of the way that seemed to be handled.

In the case of Russia, it's a little more complex because if Putin goes in, he is going in in defiance of President Biden's demands. And so, I think it would probably be pretty incumbent on President Biden to do everything in response that he has promised: financial sanctions, technology sanctions, helping an insurgency come along. And so, at that moment, everybody's got their reputation on the line. Putin does and Biden does.

LEMON: David, thank you. Always a pleasure, sir.

SANGER: Great to be with you.

LEMON: Thanks. President Biden says there is a lot of frustration and fatigue over COVID, but he is defending his response and promising to step up testing.




LEMON (on camera): President Joe Biden defending his record on COVID in his one-year press conference today, one-year anniversary being in office, saying that he is satisfied with how his administration has dealt with the virus. Listen to this.


BIDEN: Am I satisfied with the way in which we have dealt with COVID and all the things that go along with that? Yeah, I am satisfied. I think we have done remarkably well. You know, the idea that on testing we've done -- we should have done it quicker, but we have done remarkable since then.

What we have is, we have more testing going on than anywhere in the world, and we are going to continue to increase that. Did we have it at the moment exactly when we should have moved and could we have moved a month earlier? Yeah, we could have. With everything else going on, I don't view that as somehow a mark of incompetence.


LEMON (on camera): So, this as the White House announced today that they will distribute 400 million N-95 masks to the public for free.

So, joining me now, CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner. Good to see you, doctor. Thank you so much for joining.

So, the president is saying that he is satisfied with how his White House has handled the coronavirus pandemic, but acknowledges that they could have done better with testing, but it's not a mark of incompetence. It does seem like a pretty big failure, though. Do you agree with that or no?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Look, I think -- I have been saying for months that this administration should have sent tests out to every household in the United States. But what I think the president should have said today in response to that question is he should have said that no one could have predicted that fully 25 percent of Americans would refuse to get vaccinated, 70 million people, and that they would then -- they would not vaccinate their children.

And that the former president of the United States, the person who took credit for these vaccines, would refuse to enforce vaccines for an entire year. And 100 members of Congress, who follow the former president's lead, refused to disclose to their constituents that they were vaccinated, and that right-wing media would propagate frank vaccine misinformation.

That's really the essential problem over the last year, that 25% of adults in this country have refused to get vaccinated for all of those reasons. That's why we are where we are now.

Sure, we should have gotten on the testing bandwagon earlier, everyone should have had high-quality masks months ago, I wish there had been an air travel mandate, but the essential irrefutable problem is that so many people in this country have refused to get vaccinated.

LEMON: Listen, we are going into year three. I mean, it's hard to believe. Just today, it is almost two years into this pandemic. The Biden White House is announcing that they will be distributing 400 million N-95 masks to the public for free. I mean, they are going to be available at local pharmacies and community health centers by early February. The free COVID test ordering site went live as well. I mean, this is all helpful, but, you know, what took so long?

REINER: I don't know what took so long. Look, this administration put all of their eggs in the vaccination basket. You know, hoping that we could vaccinate the vast majority of this country by the middle of the summer, and we would have if the population had gone along with that. But that didn't happen.

We also needed to do the other things that we know work, including getting effective masks to people. We have known since the beginning of this pandemic that this is a respiratory virus, and the more effective mask you use, the better protected you are. And we have had for almost a year now these really very accurate easy to use rapid home tests that should have been in all of our homes, you know, this summer.

[23:45:00] REINER: So, these are, I think, unfortunate mistakes. I am glad now that the administration is really on this in a big way. And yeah, getting better masks to everyone will be important.

And if you notice, the president wears an N-95 or a KN-95 mask when he is in public. He models that behavior. I'd like them to acknowledge that the president actually wears a more effective mask, and I think everyone should do that. They are not hard to wear. I wear them literally eight hours day in the hospital.

LEMON: Yeah. Soon after the Supreme Court shout down the president's vaccine mandate for private businesses, Starbucks is coming out and saying that they will no longer make them mandatory for employees. General Electric is abandoning it as a requirement as well. Will this be a setback in the push to get people vaccinated if more employers back down on these mandates?

REINER: Yeah, I certainly think so. I think employers should take United Airlines' lead. Look what they did. They were maybe the first major United States corporation to mandate vaccines. And although they have, you know, currently about 3,000 people out with COVID, they have zero people in the hospital. You know, they were averaging a death a week of employee. They haven't had a death in months now. That's a pro-employee company. That's a company that cares about the lives of their employees.

So, when you are mandating masks, you are telling your employees that you care about them. You are also telling your investors that you care about business and keeping your business open. I don't understand why the chamber of commerce isn't, you know, massively behind this. A mask -- a vaccine mandate is a pro-business initiative.

LEMON: Thank you, Dr. Reiner. See you soon.

REINER: Have a good night, Don.

LEMON: You, too. So, we have seen fights over mask mandates, efforts to ban critical race theory. Now, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is pushing a bill to shield white people from feeling discomfort when being taught about discrimination.




LEMON: A bill making its way through Florida's state legislature and being pushed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis would bar public schools and businesses from making people feel discomfort or guilt when being taught about the history of racial discrimination in America.

So, let's talk more about this with CNN reporter Steve Contorno. Steve, hi. Okay, so, good evening to you. This would prohibit public school and private businesses from making white people feel discomfort when being taught about discrimination. What does this bill actually do? What does it mean?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Let me actually read you what the actual language of the bill is, Don. It says, an individual should not be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race.

Republicans say that does not prevent schools or workplaces from teaching about darker moments of history like the holocaust or slavery or apartheid, but what they can't do is teach kids that certain races should be blamed or be felt guilty for events that happened in the past.

Democrats say the bill is far more ambiguous than that, that it will have a chilling effect in classroom all across the states, teachers will feel afraid to talk about race and racism in the classroom and to talk about these kinds of points of history, and will have the impact of lessening or further lessening the black experience and the teaching of black history in our country.

LEMON (on camera): Steve, this comes after Governor Ron DeSantis first introduced the anti-critical race theory Stop W.O.K.E Act. That was in December, where he invoked the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Listen to this.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You think about what MLK stood for. He said he didn't want people judged on the color of their skin but on the content of their character. You listen to some of these people nowadays. They don't talk about that. No taxpayer dollars should be used to teach our kids to hate our country or to hate each other.


LEMON (on camera): It's clear that he's playing to his conservative base by pushing this legislation, but with what impact, do you think?

CONTORNO: Well, if you think back to what we saw in the Virginia governor's race just a few months ago, this was -- critical race theory was obviously a big piece of Republican Glenn Youngkin's campaign down the stretch, and I think a lot of Republicans across the country took notice.

This is certainly something that has rallied Governor DeSantis' supporters. Republicans here have pushed this bill in fund-raising memos and literature like that. And it's something that he talks about when he is speaking to not just a Florida audience, but also when he is speaking on a national stage. And Governor DeSantis is someone who is widely considered a future presidential candidate for his party.

LEMON: What is next? Real quickly, I have about 15 seconds here.


LEMON: Where does it go next, this bill?

CONTORNO: It's right now in a Senate committee and it still has to get approval of both the House and the Senate. But they're both controlled by Republicans. There is interesting division. DeSantis wanted parents to be able to sue if they see critical race theory in their child's instruction (ph) that is not in the current legislation (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Steve, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Tonight, a president on the defensive tries to regain the initiative and a former president's battle to keep his White House documents away from the January 6th Committee ends in defeat at the Supreme Court.