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Don Lemon Tonight
National Archives Gave Green Light To House Committee; Fulton D.A. Giving Trump More Headache; Virginia Thomas Messing With SCOTUS' Business; Mitch McConnell Under Fire For Omitting One Word; One Police Killed In New York. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired January 21, 2022 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Thank you so much for watching. DON LEMON TONIGHT starts right now. Don?
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: OK. So, Brianna Keilar, a week of doing democracy on peril. I'm sure there has been a lot that you have learned. It seems that you are not at a lack of stories, trust me. What did -- what was the big takeaway this week?
KEILAR: You know, the big takeaway, I thought, was some of our great reporters going out there and showing us exactly what's going on. You know, like, tonight, Kyung Lah was out talking to election officials --
LEMON: I saw it.
KEILAR: -- about what it's like to be threatened. And so, you look at what they are going through and why one in four of them are saying, enough. You know, I'm worried about my family.
KEILAR: I'm worried about my safety, I'm not going to do this anymore.
LEMON: Yes. And yet we have this big political reporting today which shows exactly why you are doing the story at 9 p.m. Eastern here on CNN. It is very important. Brianna, have a great weekend. I'll see you on Monday, OK?
KEILAR: All right. See you later, Don.
LEMON: See you later.
This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. And for all Americans who want the truth to come out about the deadly January 6th insurrection at the capitol, you can mark today down as potentially a major turning point in the investigation.
The House January 6th committee is now in possession of more than 700 pages of documents from the Trump White House that the former president fought like hell to keep secret. The National Archives releasing the trove of information after the Supreme Court cleared the way earlier this week for the documents to be released to the committee. Throwing the former president's claims of executive privilege right out the door.
Now the documents likely will reveal the inner workings of the Trump White House after he lost the election up through the insurrection and in the days after. And it's not hard to see why he tried to keep them from public scrutiny.
Politico is reporting explosive new details on some documents the committee is reviewing. Including, a draft of an executive orders dated December 16th 2020 directing the defense secretary to seize voting machines. A member of the committee reacting to this reporting just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): It's incredibly concerning, you know, if this is in fact a verifiable document and that was drafted by somebody within the president's inner circle, the idea that the Department of Defense would become involved in elections, be seizing, you know, voting machines. So, I mean, we're looking at this very closely from the committee. And you know, at this point, you know, we're still determining if that reporting is accurate. But it is certainly very concerning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): And apparently, Trump allies were plotting with him right inside the Oval Office. Two days later on December 18th, discredited lawyer Sidney Powell urging Trump not only to seize the machines but appoint her as special counsel to investigate the election.
There's also the draft of a document titled remarks on national healing. We're also learning today about secret meetings held in the president's private residence at the White House in the days leading up to January 6th. That information coming from Stephanie Grisham, the former White House press secretary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There were meetings taking place up there, I don't have visibility into what was discussed and all of the people who are there. But I can say that, you know, Mark Meadows would've been there, as well as the legal team that was working on all of the bunkers little plan --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Grisham telling CNN she reveals this information to the January 6th committee as part of her testimony. And now I want to turn to the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell has been on the defense over the last few days over comments he made after he and every single Republican senator voted down legislation to protect voting rights. Legislation that's important to African-Americans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: What's your message for voters of color who are concerned that without the John Lewis Voting Rights Acts, they're not going to be able to vote in the midterm?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Well, the concern is misplaced because if you look at the statistics, African- Americans are voting in just as high percentage as Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Well, it looks like someone needs to remind the GOP leader that African-Americans are in fact Americans. CNN contacted the senator in his office, he said -- he said he left out a word, so there was blowback of his insulting statement, but McConnell's insulted people pointing out by people pointing out his insult.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: I want to take an opportunity out set here to address the outrageous mischaracterization of my history and record on voting rights and race relations as a result of inadvertently leaving out the word almost in my comments the other day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Almost? So, McConnell really meant to say, right, if you go with that he's saying, African-American voters are voting in just as high percentages as almost Americans? Still doesn't sound right.
MCCONNELL: The omitted word is all, not almost. Sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Boy, good thing their staffers back at home base to clarify the wording, what comes out of his mouth. McConnell's office telling CNN the senator really meant to say other Americans. I have to give McConnell credit as the master tactician of the Senate, successfully blocking voting rights and other major items on Biden's agenda.
And despite the defeat on voting rights and failing to get build back better passed as one giant piece of legislation, the president is down but he is certainly not out, saying this week that he wants to try and pass big chunks of build back better. Biden addressing the conference of mayors this afternoon sounding optimistic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And we still face tremendous challenges though. But together we have proven that we can get big things done in this country. Last year, you help relay the groundwork, this year, we have to build. The biggest weapon in our arsenal is the Build Back Better Act. Nothing is going to do more to ease pressure on families.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): We'll see if he can get it done in year two. So much to discuss tonight with CNN's chief legal analyst, Mr. Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, good evening. Thank you very much. I appreciate you joining us.
Let's talk about this Politico reporting. When I read it, I was like this has to be an article from the onion. I mean, this is not real. But it turns out it is real. Politico has never released a draft of a Trump executive order that would've directed his defense secretary to seize voting machines?
Part of it I want to read. Effective immediately, the secretary of defense shall seize, collect, retain, and analyze all with machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention.
What would have happened, Jeffrey, if Trump had actually signed this thing?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Look, Don, you know, it's funny, what occurred to me was, you know, this felt like a South American country under dictatorship. You know, the Argentines during the period of the Falklands War when the military essentially took over the electoral process.
I mean, that -- that's the kind of country where the military seizes control of the ballots. So, you know, obviously we know it didn't happen, we're fortunate for that. But the thing that I found particularly chilling in the document was, the references to other national security material which actually is known only to a handful of people within the government.
The Politico journalist has pointed this out, that, you know, whoever wrote this was someone with access to a lot of information in the executive branch. It was not some not coming in from the outside. It was someone on the inside. And that's a very scary thing.
LEMON: Yes, it is. I want to bring in now Michael Isikoff who knows all about this. Michael, thank you for joining us. We're talking about the military potentially being ordered to seize voting machines.
This is the sort of thing we hear happening under authoritarian governments, as Jeffrey just pointed out. How does this news fit in with everything else we now know that was going on around that time?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Well, look, it's part of this whole, you know, campaign by the White House and Trump's allies, to overturn the election's election results. There's no caution about that. And you know, we know that Michael Flynn, for instance, was pushing
this idea. We don't know who wrote this particular memo. But it's worth pointing out that as spooky as it is to have a document like this, there was no way that this was going to happen.
First of all, it was blatantly unconstitutional. It talks about some sort of 60-day delay in certifying the president, you can't do that. The Constitution makes clear that come January, (Technical difficulty) inaugurated. There is no -- there is question that the U.S. military was not going to go along with anything along those lines.
I think General Milley made that pretty clear. So, yes, it is, you know, startling to see this in writing that they were thinking about such a crazy idea. But we should keep (Inaudible) it was not going to happen. It's part of the whole fantasy world that the Trump people were living. And it obviously --
LEMON: But Michael, I hear you - I hear you that it was not going to happen. But I think that, I mean, listen, Jeffrey, I'll say this to you because you wrote the book on what happens at the Supreme Court.
But it certainly could've created enough chaos and enough uncertainty where people would have been wringing their hands or wouldn't know what to do should this president be removed from office? How do we get the next president in office? We never faced a challenge like this and I think it would've really created uncertainty in the at least the American system, don't you think? Some chaos?
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, Mike, you know, brother Isikoff, I'm -- I have a little less confidence. I mean, remember what was going on at the Department of Defense in the last moments of the Trump administration. You know, he had fired the secretary of defense, he had put in an aide to Congressman Nunes, one of the real true believers as the chief of staff in the Department of Defense.
You know, the idea that this never could've happened, gosh, I mean, you know, fortunately, Michael, you're right it didn't happen. But I have a little less confidence that this was somehow outside the realm of possibility.
And one of the things that we've learned about President Trump and his -- is that whenever he said things as outrageous as they were, there was a chorus in the Republican Party to say, well you know, he is right, let's follow along. So, I mean, you really confident it never could have happened?
LEMON: Go ahead, Michael, you want to respond?
ISIKOFF: I mean, look, with General Milley and the joint chiefs have gone along with, you know, seizing election ballots in the United States. It is so far beyond their -- what they are assigned to do, what they believe their mission is. They don't get involved in domestic law enforcement, Posse Comitatus Act.
The idea that they would get involved in solving elections has since like, you know, pretty crazy. Yes, they were thinking about it at the White House, yes, they were pushing, but, you know, thankfully we'll never have to resolve this question.
LEMON: Yes. Well, I just need you to find me this 11,000 -- I mean, if someone has the gumption to do that, who knows what they would they do. I just --
ISIKOFF: Yes. I should point out --
LEMON: Michael, I'm with Jeffrey. I'm glad --
ISIKOFF: -- that all the developments --
LEMON: I'm glad it didn't happen.
ISIKOFF: Of the developments --
LEMON: But -- go on.
ISIKOFF: -- this week that want to watch this Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney saying she is convening, asking for special grand jury. I think that is the single biggest legal --
LEMON: Michael, why don't you -- why don't you hold that thought. Let's talk about -- I got to get a break in and I'll have -- when we come back on the other side, I'll have you discuss that. Let's wait till the other side of the break.
LEMON: So stay with me, both of you. Much more to talk about Trump's growing legal troubles, as well. The committee now analyzing 700 plus pages of his White House records and investigations of his activities heating up in Georgia and New York. We'll be right back.
LEMON (on camera): Back now with Yahoo News chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff and CNN's chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Michael, before I have so rudely interrupted you, do you want to talk about Fani T. Willis and what's happening in Fulton County, Georgia. She's looking into election -- criminal charges for election interference. So, what did you want to say about that?
ISIKOFF: Well, I do think of all the legal threats that Donald Trump has on his plate, this is the most serious. It seems to me. You've got, you know, hard evidence in the form of that phone call talking about find -- find me the 11,000 votes that I need to flip the state. You have other evidence of pressure being put on the Georgia election officials. Mark Meadows himself go down, there's the phone call (Technical difficulty) and with Brad Raffensperger.
So, there's a lot that Fani Willis has to work with. And I should point out that if you just look at this week, she did write a letter to the chief judge in Fulton County, that's a special grand jury that (Inaudible), she is serious. And look, it's a Fulton County grand jury that will decide and if they choose to indict (Inaudible) it's a Fulton County jury that will decide Donald Trump's fate.
And one other point I should, you know, worth mentioning here is, if you look at the specific criminal statutes that Fani Willis has sided as the basis for her investigation, there is corruptly trying to influence state officials and racketeering, both of those under Georgia state law have mandatory minimum prison sentences.
So that's something that I think Donald Trump and his lawyers are going to have to think about as they try to navigate --
ISIKOFF: -- Fani Willis investigation.
LEMON: Go ahead, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: I mean, I agree completely about what a serious threat the whole Georgia situation is, let me just add a couple more points. Not only do these statutes carry mandatory minimums, you know, this district attorney is not under the same time pressure as the January 6th committees in Congress.
You know, she can conduct a thorough investigation at her own pace. She is not going anywhere. There is another part of this investigation which is the U.S. attorney, not the state prosecutor, but the federal prosecutor, and the U.S. attorney in the northern district of Georgia in Atlanta was forced out at precisely the time the president, President Trump was trying to manipulate the outcome.
That's another part of this whole Georgia investigation. And I think it's a really troubling situation for the president because he doesn't have a lot of leverage there. And Georgia, you know, the Atlanta district attorney is not worried politically about taking on Donald Trump. And you know, she's often running and we'll see where she goes.
LEMON: You know, Michael, beyond that, right, the January 6th committee now has 700 plus pages of Trump White House records from the National Archives, including documents from the press secretary's briefings -- briefing book.
According to Representative Elaine Luria, it includes conspiracy theory, ideas on how to steal the election. She is saying that this basically went up to the very top. ISIKOFF: Well, certainly, Trump's efforts to overturn the results of
the election, of course went up to the very top. It was driven at the very top by Donald Trump. There is never been any question about that.
I do -- look, of the material that the January 6th committee release this, you know, this week, particularly the letter to Ivanak Trump, I mean, they describe some of what they are seeking from the National Archives, in particular the tapes of Trump's video statements, the unused tapes of Trump's video statement where they were trying to get him to get the crowd to leave the capitol and calm down.
You know, the idea -- and the committee says, the National Archives has that, they are seeking it. We now know as a result of the Supreme Court. They are likely to get it. I think watching those tapes, which is aides are trying to get him to condemn what's going on, and from all accounts, he is resisting, that's going to be politically damaging. There is no question about that.
LEMON: Jeffrey, I've got --
LEMON: Yes. I have to get to the break. But I see you smirking, I want to know what it's about.
TOOBIN: Well, no. I mean, I think -- as we learned about the January 6th investigation, there are two parts of it that are central. One is the whole effort to coerce Mike Pence into betraying his oath and betraying the Constitution. Also, the three-hour between the start of the riot and when the president finally issues that sort of halfhearted request, we love you, but please stop.
Ivanka Trump is central to both parts of that investigation. And we'll see if they ever get her testimony.
LEMON: All right. Michael, Jeffrey, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
TOOBIN: All right.
LEMON: She is a right-wing activist who claims America is an existential danger because of the so-called deep state. Is the wife of Clarence Thomas, Justice Clarence Thomas a threat to the Supreme Court? My next guess explores that question in a blockbuster piece. Stay tuned.
LEMON (on camera): You know, this week saw the most important legal decision to date in the investigation to January 6th. The Supreme Court giving the green light for the committee to get a hold of more than 700 documents from the Trump White House.
The only justice to publicly descent to that was Justice Clarence Thomas. And today, I knew and blistering report in the New Yorker, it highlights how his wife, Virginia "Ginni" Thomas has become a growing issue for the court.
And I quote from it, it says, "her political activism has caused controversy for years. For the most part, it has been dismissed as the harmless action of an independent spouse. But now the court seems likely to secure victories for her allies in a number of highly polarizing cases on abortion, affirmative action, and gun rights."
Now the author Jane Mayer joins me now. She is the chief Washington correspondent for the New Yorker. Jane, this piece is fascinating. I was just saying, she's been doing this for years but now, there may be some consequences for it.
Good evening to you.
You know, you lay out certain conflicts of interest that Ginni Thomas is really involved in and I just want to get more specific on some of those before you respond. But first, you title this piece, is Ginni Thomas a threat to the Supreme Court. Most people have even heard of her name. So, what's your answer to that question?
JANE MAYER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Of course, we don't write the titles ourselves, but I hope people will read the piece and they can make up their own minds. I think that she's posting some really disturbing questions about the court's independence, about her husband's independence. Politically from the activity she's involved in because she is actually engaged and has close ties to many of the cases that are before her husband's court.
LEMON: So, let's lay out what are some of the reasons why you asked this question, right, is she a threat. Thomas has given out awards for conservative groups and some other recipients have had or could have business in front of the court, and you write this.
At the 2019 event, Ginni Thomas praised one of that year's recipients, Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood employee who become an anti- abortion activist for her riveting indictment of Planned Parenthood's propagation of lies. That year, Thomas also gave a price to Mark Meadows, then a hardline Republican in Congress, describing him as the leader in the House right now that we were waiting for."
SCOTUS is facing a huge abortion case right now. Mark Meadows could end up before the court if he keeps fighting the subpoena.
There -- some of the biggest issues before the court right now. How alarmed is the legal community about her influence?
MAYER: I think quite. I mean, and that was one of the interesting things was talking to many of the most kind of respected experts on judicial ethics, people like Stephen Gillers at New York University whose kind of the gold standard for this, who said, and he's always very cautious about what he said, and he said, what she's doing is reprehensible. And what he said was that it's hurting the administration of justice because when you look at the rules for how judges behave, it's not just that they are supposed to have no conflicts, but it's also considered just as important that they have no appearance of conflict, because the appearance of justice is important for the public's trust in the courts.
And this kind of behavior undermines it. And it's forbidden really for all the lower courts beneath the Supreme Court. There's a judicial code of ethics that binds the lower courts. But the justices and the Supreme Court hold themselves above the ethics code and say that it's basically optional for them.
So, it's -- it's a really troubling situation, I think for all the people that I've interviewed. And, you know, and it's going to get more so as the court takes on these issues that are so explosive in front of the country. And it becomes so much the place where very, very important policy decisions are made that are going to affect every American.
LEMON: I want to -- this group that she is involved with a new reporting, in your article, you report that she has been the chair of the group called Groundswell, that has tried to smear people like Alexander Vindmann and the former national security adviser H.R. McMaster for speaking out against the former president. What can you tell us about her involvement in that -- in this group Groundswell?
MAYER: It's such a strange group. I mean, they've been -- they've been at it for many years but what happened during the Trump years was that Ginni Thomas started using, I think, her husband's prestige to get access to the White House. She was petitioning the White House for a long time to try to bring her friends and. And when she did finally get in, and she's a consultant, a paid consultant and a lobbyist, when she got in, she presented a enemies list to the president himself saying, these people need to be, basically, perched from your administration. They are disloyal.
And she suggested her own people that she wanted to have given jobs. And you know, I mean, it's kind of an extraordinary situation really. And the president himself thought so -- the President Trump actually apparently quite liked Clarence Thomas. But said to somebody that I interviewed that he regarded Ginni Thomas as, what he, the way he put it, was a wacko. But there she was being able to lobby him.
LEMON: I mean, and that's not -- that's not deserving enough, but then it goes on because you note in your reporting on the morning of January 6th that Ginni Thomas encouraged her Facebook followers to watch the day's events unfold posting, quote, "love MAGA people." The posts are no longer public but, I need you to explain the ties, you know, she has to people who were involved in the rally that day.
MAYER: She's got -- she's got multiple ties. I mean, and I think, you know, what was surprising to me was how many ties she's got. Not just to these cases in front of the court, but I mean obviously, the January 6th investigation itself it has great potential to wind up in front of the Supreme Court in many different ways. And it already has this week.
We've seen on Wednesday where Clarence Thomas as you mentioned was the sole justice to say that Trump shouldn't have to turn over his records. And Ginni Thomas, meanwhile, not only tweeted in favor of the protesters. But for instance, if you take a look, she's got -- she's been on the advisory board of Turning Point USA, it's one of the groups that's been -- that's under investigation for having been an organizer of the protest.
Another organizer of the protest is Moms for America. And the head of that, somebody named Kimberly Fletcher, is on Ginni Thomas's web site, giving Ginni Thomas sort of a shout out for how great she is. They go back 10 years together.
Another person who Ginni Thomas has connections too who's one of the organizers of the January 6th protest was Ali Alexander. Ginni Thomas and Ali Alexander were part of this group Groundswell that you mentioned before. And you can see it because there were some leaks of their communications that go back 10 years.
I mean, it's very unusual to have a Supreme Court justice's wife wrapped up with so many extremists whose issues are now directly in front of her husband's court.
LEMON: Hey, Jane, I want to get to something. I want to play some sound but just real quickly, given what you just said, he was the only one who voted, you know, with the former president, the thought that this record shouldn't be released and so on. Is that enough for him to recuse himself for anything that has to do with January 6th?
MAYER: Well, this is a thing, the Supreme Court doesn't hold itself to the standards of the other courts. The standard is, in the low courts, is if your spouse has an interest in a case, and particularly if your spouse is on the board of an organization that is a part of your case, then the judges are expected to recuse.
And if it's seen that they have some kind of conflict of interest that would cause an ordinary person who's fair-minded to think that they couldn't be impartial, they are supposed to recuse. But the Supreme Court doesn't follow the same rules as all the rest of the judges in this country.
LEMON: Got you. So Justice Thomas himself has tried to insist that the court isn't political. This is what he said, this is just last year, Jane.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARENCE THOMAS, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE U.S. SUPREME COURT: Well, I think the media makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference. So, if they think you are antiabortion or something, personally, they think that that's the way you always come out. They think you for this or for that. They think you become like a politician. And I think that's a problem to the -- when -- I think you are going to -- you're going to jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Listen, it's always easy to blame the media, as you know as being part of the media, but the court tries to pride itself on being above politics but is that really the case here when you look at what's happening with Judge Thomas and his wife?
MAYER: You know, Justice Thomas in that speech was blaming the media, as you say, but I mean, I think in his particular case, the problem is a little closer to home. You know, he needs to talk to his wife about this. And so, you know, and I do agree with him on one part of that speech which is that it is a problem. And you can see it in the polls that the trust and respect for the Supreme Court is at a historic low right now.
And part of the reason is when people are asked, they say they think that it's just becoming a political, just another branch of politics. And that is a problem because we need to believe that there is something called justice. And that everybody has access to it, regardless of their political point of view.
LEMON: Jane, it is a fascinating article in the New Yorker and I hope everyone picks it up and reads it. We really appreciate you appearing, it's called is Ginni Thomas a threat to the Supreme Court? And it's by the Jane Mayer who is here right now with us. And we appreciate you joining us. Thank you. Have a great weekend.
MAYER: Thank you for having me.
LEMON: So, he meant to say almost. He meant to say all. He meant to say other. But he didn't. Talking about Mitch McConnell sparking outrage after making comments that make it seem like he thinks African Americans are somehow different from the rest of the people in this country. Stay with us.
LEMON (on camera): The Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, defending himself and his civil rights record after getting forgetting a word when talking about Black voters. This is what he said earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: What's your message for voters of color who are concerned that without the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, they're not going to be able to vote in the midterm?
MCCONNELL: Well, the concern is misplaced, because if you look at statistics, African-American voters are voting, and just as high percentage as Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON (on camera): OK. After that, his office told CNN that he left out the word other before Americans. And today, McConnell sought to clarify but got that missing word wrong again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: I want to take an opportunity at the outset here to address the outrageous mischaracterization of my history and record on voting rights and race relations, as I inadvertently leaving out the word almost in my comments the other day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Then, at the end of his meeting with reporters, this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: And the omitted word.
MCCONNELL: The omitted word is all. Not almost, sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): As the kids say, cringy, right? Or just cringe. Joining me now political analyst Toluse Olorunnipa. Toluse, hello to you. That's cringe, right?
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I guess third time is the charm for this, the minority leader. It seems like a Freudian slip, but a lot of people, especially online, said he said what he believes, which is Black people, Black Americans are second class citizens, or maybe not even qualifying as citizens.
And for that reason, they aren't worthy of the kind of protections that Democrats are trying to give them when it comes to the vote. We have seen Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans under his leadership block any attempt to give voters of color some additional protections to support the Voting Rights Act which the Supreme Court gutted almost a decade ago.
And you know, he's come under fire for position on that, and his inability to get his talking points straight over sort of whether or not voters of color should receive some of that protection, really kind of exposes, kind of where he's coming from. And that's telling that it took him so long to try to clarify where he stands on this issue.
LEMON: Well, it's kind of -- it kind of otherizing that he hits a nerve for obvious reasons. Right? He is otherizing African Americans.
OLORUNNIPA: Yes. Black voters for decades have tried to essentially say that, I too, I'm an American. I, too, deserve all of the rights that are given under the Constitution. And that's been the struggle of the civil rights movement, the struggle of Black Lives Matter movement, and all of the movements that have happened over the past several decades including the push for voting rights, including something that the Biden administration is trying to push for right now but having difficulty getting through, in part, because of the blockade that Senate Minority Leader McConnell and the Republicans have put up towards any kinds of actions to, you know, protect a voter, to expand the Voting Rights Act, to write additional support for people to be able to vote.
One of the things that McConnell said was that, you know, Black voters vote at the same rates as other Americans. And that kind of shades over the fact that it's a much more difficult for voters of color in many instances in many states to vote.
We've seen those long lines, hours long lines that people have had to withstand just to cast their ballot, and we've seen how difficult that has been. And you know, there is a push to get new legislation to make it easier to vote, to give people more opportunities to vote, providing for early voting if they maybe making federal election day a holiday.
Because you know, voters of color and minority voters and people who are lower income have sometimes had trouble making it to vote on a day when they're at work. So, all of those things are things that that Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues have blocked, and that's part of the reason why he's coming under so much fire for what he says a misstatement that took him quite a while to clarify.
LEMON: McConnell went on to defend himself, again, saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: I was there for Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech in the audience. When I was a student at U-Louisville helped organize the march on Frankfort for state's public accommodations law. Thanks to my role model, Senator John Sherman Cooper, I was actually there when President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in the capitol in 1965.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON (on camera): Does his defense come across this hollow?
OLORUNNIPA: Well, he is talking about things that happened decades and decades ago. Black voters and a number of voters of color are wondering what he's done for minorities lately. And what he's really done is block some of the movements to expand on some of things that happened during the Civil Rights movement.
And that's part of the reason why he's come under so much fire, not what happened in the 1960s but what's happening now in the most recent years where he has the most power that he's had in his career.
LEMON: Toluse Olurunnipa, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
So, this story is just coming into CNN, one police officer is dead, another critically injured tonight in New York. The mayor and the police commissioner speaking out just moments ago. We're live on the scene right after this.
LEMON (on camera): So, this is a breaking news I mentioned before the break, a New York City police officer killed tonight in a shooting incident. Another officer in critical condition. It happened in Harlem when the officers responded to a domestic call. A civilian who is believed to be involved in the incident is also dead.
Our Shimon Prokupecz is at the hospital where the officers were taken. He joins me now live. Shimon, hello to you. What happened?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. So, John -- Don, just a horrific situation here. Two officers responding to a 911 call from a woman who is in a family dispute with her son. When police got there, this happened all just about after 6 o'clock, around 6.15 here in Harlem. When police got there, they were talking to the mother, and the mother said that the son that she was fighting with was in the back room.
And as police went to the back room where the son was, the man just opened fire on them. Shooting two of those officers, one of them sadly has died. He was only 22 years old, Don. On the job, probably just about a year or so.
The second officer also shot. He is fighting for his life, he was in surgery, and doctors here trying to do everything they can to save his life. But the city and this police department and the mayor are all just reeling from this. The mayor just a short time ago spoke about this, spoke about what this means for the city. Take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NY): It is our city against the killers. It is our city against the killers. This was not just an attack on three brave officers. This was an attack on the city of New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ (on camera): And Don, that suspect, police say, he is alive, he was shot and he was in surgery as well. And so, at this point, he is still alive. But what this moment means for the city is not lost on this mayor. Mayor Eric Adams also saying that we must save this city together.
He was speaking to the nearly 200 officers who are gathered here at the hospital waiting for word on that officer who's fighting for his life. He also said, speaking to those officers, telling them that it's time to save the city. So, this is not lost on anyone here. And what this means, this is a
city that has seen four officers shot already this year. Violence that it has not seen, really in quite some time. People being shot. Recently a child was shot. The mayor talked about that.
Gun violence in the city certainly not lost on anyone here, and the mayor making a point of this and telling the officers we must continue to fight. And just quickly, Don, the weapon used here by the suspect was a 45, but it had a magazine that can carry as many as 40 bullets.
That weapon police say was stolen in Baltimore and police officers are investigating that. But the key thing here right now, is that they are trying to hope and pray that this one officer survives, Don.
LEMON: Yes. And listen, it's only 21 days to the New Year. Thank you, Shimon. We appreciate it. We'll be right back.