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Don Lemon Tonight
Russia Declares Victory; Russian Troops Wants To Kill POWs; Another $500 Aid Going Into Ukraine; Barack Obama Warn Of Attacks On Democracy; Kevin McCarthy's Lies Caught On Tape. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired April 21, 2022 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Thank you, Laura. Part of our big team here and we're doing our best to tell those stories. We'll keep telling those stories. I'm going to be here in Ukraine tomorrow for "CNN TONIGHT" along with Laura reporting from Washington. DON LEMON TONIGHT starts right now. Don.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: And you're absolutely right, a big team doing incredible work, our correspondents, producers and camera folks on the ground, even, you know, our minders and folks who are there helping us.
LEMON: Jim, similar to what Laura just said, it has been two months since this invasion began, and the images we are seeing like that alleged mass graves, those graves outside of Mariupol, they're overwhelming to look at. We can -- this is something that we should not get used to. The world cannot get numb to this.
SCIUTTO: This is a war told in deeply painful personal stories and there are literally millions of them, right? We told one the last hour, a teenager who had to hide in his basement for days to avoid Russian shelling and living off of grain and the family had to bury the bodies of friends of neighbors in their own backyard.
We're going to tell a story tomorrow about a mother and three children who fled Bucha. They're safe, they're in Spain now, I saw the happy faces of their children today, that's inspiring, but their mother told me they'd been reaching out to friends and family in Bucha. They learned that their children's teachers were among those killed. A kindergarten teacher.
And she's now confronted with having to tell her child that story. That is what happening in this war, there's evidence, real evidence of war crimes, we'll be doing our best to tell those stories but the folks at home I would just say we all got to keep watching and listening.
LEMON: Yes, absolutely. Jim, good morning, good evening as we are here in the United States, morning as you are in Ukraine.
SCIUTTO: Good morning. LEMON: We will see you tomorrow. Get some rest. Thank you very much.
This is DON LEMON TONIGHT.
Here's our breaking news. A newly released recording tonight from Ukraine's military intelligence another alleged Russian communications intercept, this one referring to what appears to be an order to kill Ukrainian prisoners of war in the city of Popasna in the eastern region of Luhansk which is bearing the brunt of Russia's renewed attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN (on screen text): What can I tell you, damn it. (Inaudible) You keep the most senior among them, and let the rest go forever.
UNKNOWN (on screen text): let them go forever, damn it, so that no one will ever see them again, including relatives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: CNN cannot vouch for the authenticity of the recording and has reached out to Russian, the Russian minister of defense for comment. That, as Vladimir Putin claims Russia's assault on Mariupol is what he calls a success and orders his forces to blockade the steel factory where hundreds of desperate people are seeking shelter so even, quote, "a fly can't get through."
CNN is not in Mariupol, but Reuters shot this video. And this is what Putin's so-called success looks like. New and disturbing satellite images showing what appear to be mass graves near Mariupol. You see them at the top of your screen there. More and more graves being added every day.
Ukrainian officials say that Vladimir Putin's forces dug multiple mass graves, each measuring about 100 feet just outside of Mariupol and repeatedly dumped truckloads of corpses in them. Thousands of corpses, hard to wrap your head around it, thousands of them.
Ukraine says 79 people successfully evacuated from Mariupol today, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says thousands of civilians still trapped inside the city. That, as the United States of America President, Joe Biden, announces another 500 million in U.S. assistance for Ukraine's government in addition to the 800 million in military aid he pledged today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We won't always be able to advertise everything we -- that our partners are doing to support Ukraine's fight for freedom, but to modernize Teddy Roosevelt's famous advice, sometimes we'll speak softly and carry a large Javelin, because we're sending a lot of those in as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: I want to bring in now CNN's Ben Wedeman, he is in Kramatorsk
for us tonight. Ben, hello to you. You are in part of Ukraine that is facing heavy fighting. What are you seeing?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We went to a town called Rubizhne which is very near the Russian frontlines, in fact, it is a battle zone, the northern part of the town is controlled by the Russians, the southern by the Ukrainian, and the amount of artillery that's being exchanged back and forth is fairly intense.
Now we made our way into the southern part of the town, we went to a theater where we found about a dozen people hiding out in a dark, dank basement.
WEDEMAN: "I want to go home," she says, "I've suffered too much, I've seen the fire and the smoke, I've seen it all. I'm scared."
Nina's plea, simple. "Help us, help us." Her daughter Ludmila (Ph) struggles to comfort her. "We're praying to God to stop it," she says, "to hear us." Yna (Ph) says "I have nowhere to go. I have no friends, no relatives."
WEDEMAN: Now we were there for exactly 36 minutes because it was very dangerous. We were there in that time about seven artillery rounds landed just around that building itself. Now those people have been in there, some of them for as much as five weeks and like so many, the people who have stayed behind as the fighting has gotten closer and closer, they told us they just have nowhere else to go. Don.
LEMON: Ben, this is just one snapshot in this war, to think of how many other people who are unable to get to safety, the whole thing is really just beyond tragedy.
WEDEMAN: I mean look at the big picture. Today, we were focusing on these people. I don't know how many other times we have seen other people huddled in basements and bomb shelters for weeks and weeks on end and you look beyond that.
For instance, according to the latest statistics, somewhere in the area of almost 13 million Ukrainians have either had to leave their homes to other parts of the country to find safe ground or have had to flee the country all together. I think more than five million people have left Ukraine.
So, the scale of this is mind-boggling and, you know, the fighting is going on and on. I mean, for instance, here in Kramatorsk overnight, heard a variety of loud explosions in the city and so even though the Russians have been pushed out of the area around Kyiv, the Ukrainian army has successfully in really sort of holding the ground and taking back some territory. Nobody really knows how much longer this war is going to go on and you
have ongoing tragedies as in Mariupol, where it's believed more than 10,000 people have been killed. So indeed, the tragedy, the utter horror of this war is mind-boggling, Don.
LEMON: Ben Wedeman, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Now I want to turn to Mykola Trofymenko, he is the rector at Mariupol State University and he joins us from Kyiv. So good to see you again. Thank you so much. How are you doing?
MYKOLA TROFYMENKO, RECTOR, MARIUPOL STATE UNIVERSITY: Hello. Now is better, actually.
LEMON: You're better.
LEMON: These images, though, this horrifying news coming out of Mariupol tonight, satellite images bolstering the claims by Ukrainian officials of mass graves outside the city, sickening to think how many innocent civilians are being killed. How do you even process that?
TROFYMENKO: Actually, we will witness, I think, tens, thousands of killed people and they -- and the Russians and their occupation of this region, they're trying to hide all these results of their liberation of the city, actually. They are telling us that they organize and restoring the regular life in Mariupol but it's totally disinformation and lies.
They're trying to tell to the people that are still in Mariupol, and they are hopeless, they're tired of attacks and weeks of living in shelters and without any houses, without any food or water, without electricity, without nothing.
LEMON: You know, Mykola, Putin is saying now that his forces will blockade the defenders still in the city, cutting them off from food and supplies, he says that they should have the chance to surrender but President Zelenskyy is saying that that won't happen. If Mariupol falls, how will these defenders be remembered?
TROFYMENKO: I believe that they will stay alive and they are really heroes because they capture and holding huge powers of huge forces of Russian troops in the -- in this region. And actually, Mariupol, it failed the Putin's plan, threw the Putin's plan to conquer the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the administrative borders until the victory day, until May 9th actually.
And now, yesterday, we've seen that the minister of defense of Russia reported to Putin that Mariupol is totally captured but it's not the truth actually. Because we have still the fighting in the region of the metal plant, Azovstal and it's a huge territory, it's like a city in a city and the Russian forces, they are trying to take their main forces north to help their main forces to capture another city as we've said previously, in your stories. LEMON: Listen, and adding, really, insult to the horror being
committed by his forces, Putin is saying that they are liberating Mariupol even as they turn it into ruin, but many of the people caught up in this are Russian speakers, the ones he claims to be protecting. Am I right about that?
TROFYMENKO: Yes. Mariupol is a totally Russian-speaking city. It's a more than 5,000 -- 500,000 people Russian-speaking people city. So, I don't know what he is liberating us from, but actually, for sure he liberated us from our regular peaceful lives, from our happy lives, from our homes, from our works, and I don't know why he did this, actually to Mariupol.
He's some egoistic plans to create some corridors from Crimea to Russia but you can't do this to the huge city with a metal, steal industry, with a port, and he just ruined it. And yesterday, we've seen this story, the video of the Chechnyan soldiers that they were reporting and they were standing outside the main building of the Azov steel, of this plant, Azovstal, of the office of this plant, actually.
And they were reporting that we fulfilled the order of the -- of our commander in chief, we ruined -- we ruined the city and we captured it. So the order was to ruin actually. Because they bombed the civilian neighborhoods and the civilian houses. I don't know. It's a crime against humanity and genocide and I don't know what proofs do we need else?
LEMON: Mykola Trofymenko, thank you. Be safe. We'll see you soon. OK?
TROFYMENKO: Thank you so much.
LEMON: Thank you. Let's turn to Ambassador Steven Pifer, the former ambassador to Ukraine. Steven, thank you so much. Ambassador, thank you. I really appreciate you joining us here.
Good evening to you.
President Putin claiming Mariupol has been liberated but the Pentagon says that Ukrainians are still fighting for it. What is Putin trying to do by claiming a win here? Is this just to save face? Who is this meant for, what does it mean? What is he doing?
STEVEN PIFER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I think look at it from the point of view of Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin. This war has not gone well, the Russians had to retreat from Kyiv, they failed to take Kharkiv after two months of fighting, even that city is only 20 miles from the Russian border. Their advance toward Odessa stopped six weeks ago, and made no progress.
So, I think in the Kremlin there's almost this desperation to declare a victory somewhere. And so, it looks like they've decided to declare victory in Mariupol even though there are still are Ukrainian forces fighting and by the Russians own count, perhaps as many as 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers in the Azovstal steel mill that are fighting but they decide to declare a victory and I think it's because they are trying to show some kind of positive result from this disastrous war. LEMON: Ambassador, we've seen these images, are horrific, these new
satellite images of mass graves near Mariupol. There's now so much evidence of war crimes. I just want you to listen now to the former Ukrainian prime minister on CNN earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARSENIY YATSENYUK, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF UKRAINE: This is -- this is just unbelievable what is happening, unbelievable, and the world has to stand its ground. We need not just to send the message, we need to send a legal team to every single spot where Putin committed these crimes and actually orchestrate a legal case against Putin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Ukrainians and others are collecting evidence all over the country but will Putin or any of his top commanders ever face any consequences?
PIFER: Probably not. Because they can remain in Russia where they will be protected. But I still think it is useful, it is important to document these war crimes which unfortunately seem to be pretty much standard procedure for the Russian army.
I mean, look at Mariupol where the mayor says as many as 20,000 civilians have been killed. Going and fighting in a city is difficult for any military, because you have buildings where the defenders can hide and fight back from, but if you just go and destroy everything, those defenders can hide just as effectively in the rubble.
So, all you've done is inflict indiscriminate bombing and shelling, you've destroyed civilian structures, you've killed civilians, and I believe the Russians think that this is somehow useful in terrorizing the population, but I believe it's one more miscalculation in a string of miscalculations they've made in Moscow because this kind of thing is actually strengthening the resolve of the Ukrainians to resist.
PIFER: And you heard that --
LEMON: And infuriating people around the world. And galvanizing the allies and NATO. But listen, you said it's important to document this and I think everyone agrees with that. The U.S. State Department looking at labelling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, President Zelenskyy wants that to happen. Is this more -- this is more than just symbolism, correct?
PIFER: Don, I think it is. I mean, it's a -- it puts Russia on a very small list of countries, I think there are only four currently on the list of state sponsored terror and this is not what we normally define as terrorism, but certainly from the perspective of the Ukrainian populations who are suffering this in Mariupol and have suffered this in other cities, you know, it certainly is a form of terrorism. It's not legitimate warfare. And as I said, unfortunately, you're
seeing it's not an isolated case. You're seeing this in Mariupol but we've seen atrocities committed elsewhere. You have the report of possible orders to the Russian military to shoot Ukrainian prisoners of war, and unfortunately that looks to be standard operating procedure for the Russian military.
LEMON: Ambassador, much appreciated. Thank you so much.
PIFER: Thank you.
LEMON: President Joe Biden announcing another $800 million in military aid to Ukraine. Will it be enough, though, to turn the tide in the battle against Vladimir Putin's forces?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): They are accumulating forces, driving new battalion tactical groups to our land, they're even trying to start the so-called mobilization in the occupied regions of Ukraine, none of these steps will help Russia in the war against our state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: An additional $800 million in U.S. military aid is on its way to Ukraine. President Biden saying the package will include drones, vehicles and more heavy artillery that could be key in the battle in Donbas. So the president stressing this aid comes in a critical window really of time as Russia ramps up its attacks in the east. If approved, the new package means the U.S. has committed roughly $3.4 billion in assistance to Ukraine since Russia's invasion began.
Let's discuss now, CNN military analyst General Wesley Clark, also the former NATO supreme allied commander, the perfect guest to discuss. General, good evening to you, welcome.
Ukrainians need weapons like artillery for the battle in Donbas and they need it now. The Pentagon say that they are training Ukrainian soldiers on how to use them. How quickly can they be making a difference in this war?
WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think a few days. The artillery in particular is that kind of artillery piece, it's towed artillery, it doesn't have to be towed by a U.S. truck, it can be moved. These are sophisticated forces in Ukraine, a lot of these soldiers are college-educated, they know their own equipment, so learning a different type of equipment is a matter of few days just getting their manuals sent, looking at the firing exercise or two and making sure they know how to maintain the equipment. That's not a long process.
And getting it in there a couple of days. Just got to get it to the right spot as rapidly as possible inside Ukraine. Ukraine is a big place.
LEMON: Let's talk about the president's remarks today, President Joe Biden nodding to the fact that the public doesn't know everything being sent into Ukraine. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We won't always be able to advertise everything that we -- that our partners are doing to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom, but to modernize Teddy Roosevelt's famous advice, sometimes we'll speak softly and carry a large Javelin, because we're sending a lot of those in as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. I was actually surprised that he said that, but is it safe to assume that Ukraine could be getting weapons not listed in these big flashy aid packages and broadly, what can they possibly be?
CLARK: Well, I think they could be getting weapons, they can also be getting things like other capabilities, and intelligence information, other things that could be critical. And there are some things that just never get spoken about.
But Don, I do think that what we've seen also here is a marked shift in the administration's stance on Ukraine. When this began, it was about holding NATO together, keeping NATO unity and well we're going to do as much as we can to help Ukraine, may not last very long, blah, blah, blah.
Now it's clear that the administration starts to recognize how vital, how significant this battle is in Ukraine to the future of NATO and to the rules-based international order and they recognize it's going to be determined in the near-term more on the military side than it will on the economic sanctions side.
So, they've used economic sanctions quite well to bring NATO together, now it's about putting the military, support in there to enable the Ukrainians not only to hold Kyiv in some critical areas but I hope to push the Russians back and even out. That will enable negotiations to end the conflict.
LEMON: I just -- looking at, I want to talk to you about some of what the new aid includes, right, that these, there are phoenix ghost drone systems that were made by the air force specifically for Ukraine.
The Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby says that they are similar to switchblade drones but wouldn't elaborate on the differences. How could they use tools like this and do you know the difference? Difference?
CLARK: Well, the most important thing you can do with these is either take out the artillery or even more importantly the command post that are directing the artillery or the radar sets that are activating the Russian acquisition system.
So, they're going after high value targets. You can loiter with them, they have obviously got a low radar cross section so they're probably more difficult for the Russian air defense to work against, and I would suspect they have a larger warhead than the switchblade.
LEMON: This could be the second classified system sent into Ukraine, our Barbara Starr reporting that there were talks about sending unmanned boats to Ukraine as well. What does it mean that the U.S. could be providing really, such high-tech weapons and quite honestly, what if they fell into the wrong hands, general?
CLARK: Well, it says the United States has assessed both Ukrainian capabilities to deal with high-tech weaponry and the vulnerability of the Russian forces and feels that in the balance between taking a risk and getting results, we're putting more equipment in there, we're willing to sort of push up the bar against Mr. Putin and are very encouraged by what President Biden said today that there's no way Putin's going to win. When the president says that, following through with the U.S. Government, there's no way Putin's going to win. He should recognize it.
LEMON: Listen, I want to ask you something, we had someone on who is helping there, and trying to get the weapons to the right folks, he was on earlier in the week and he said that they're having trouble getting the necessary equipment to the frontlines out of Lviv, a lot of the stuff that's going in, not being documented, not showing up on any lists tallied.
How do you respond to that? Is he correct, and could we be doing more to chronicle or at least write down or in some way show what equipment is being used where, what's being sent and to get it to the front line quicker where it's needed?
CLARK: Well, I think really, it's up to the Ukrainians themselves to get the equipment to the front lines. We don't want our own people in there doing it. We said we weren't going to put our people in there. As of now, I'm sure that policy stands, but we also should tell the Ukrainians we expect to have some feedback on where the weapons are, how they've been used, what's happened to them.
It's not that we, we have to worry about the Ukrainians take the weapons and doing something else with them like giving them away or something. They're not going to do that. They desperately want these, but it's still just a matter of just helping the Ukrainians themselves strengthen procedures.
There's a lot of confusion at a time, in a battlefield like this and a command center at various levels with the bombardment and the losses and the changing situation, so the more that we can structure the logistics and help them do that from afar, the more effective they'll be on the battle field.
LEMON: General Clark, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
The former President Barack Obama speaking out today delivering a warning to the world today, and we'll have that for you after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're living through another tumultuous, dangerous moment in history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The former President, Barack Obama delivering a stark warning to the entire world on the threats, disinformation poses to democracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: People like Putin, and Steve Bannon, for that matter, understand it's not necessary for people to believe disinformation in order to weaken democratic institutions. You just have to flood a country's public square with enough raw sewage, you just have to raise enough questions, spread enough dirt, plant enough conspiracy theorizing, that citizens no longer know what to believe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: He's not wrong. It's happening here in the United States, it's been happening a long time, a lot of people in the category he's talking about, and he went on to highlight the challenges we now face in our, quote, "fully-connected world."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Social media did not create racism or white supremacist groups. It didn't create the kind of ethno-nationalism that Putin's enraptured with. It didn't create sexism, class conflict, religious strife, greed, envy, all the deadly sins, all these things existed long before the first tweet or Facebook poke.
Solving the disinformation problem won't cure all the ails of our democracies or tears at the fabric of our world, but it can help tamp down the visions and let us rebuild the trust and solidarity needed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The former president concluded with a forceful plea to social media companies in a hope that they're listening, saying that their decisions impact every level of society and with that power comes accountability.
CNN political director David Chalian is here. And the former president talks about -- David, hello to you. The former president talks about disinformation, the big lie. We got breaking news tonight on that, on this. Plus, Kevin McCarthy, what he said about asking the then President Trump to resign in his own words on tape. David, right after this.
LEMON: So, we're back now with our breaking news tonight, a new tape that shows Kevin McCarthy was not telling the truth when he denied having said that he would call then President Trump and tell him that he should resign, an attempt to bolster the big lie, which is exactly the kind of thing you heard former President Barack Obama talking about.
The New York Times is reporting that Kevin McCarthy wanted Trump to resign in the wake of January 6th, the account coming from a new book by two Times reporters, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, "This Will Not Pass," is the name of the book, "Trump, Biden, and The Battle for America's Future."
McCarthy called the reporting, quote, "totally false and wrong." But tonight, those reporters are releasing the audio of McCarthy in his own words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Liz, you on the phone?
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Yes, I'm here. Thanks, Kevin. I guess there's a question, when we were talking about the 25th Amendment resolution --
CHENEY: -- and you asked, you know, what happens if it gets there after he's gone? Is there any chance? Are you hearing that he might resign? Is there any reason to think that might happen?
MCCARTHY: I've had a few discussions. My gut tells me no. I'm seriously thinking of having that conversation with him tonight. I haven't talked to him in a couple of days. From what I know of him, I mean, you guys all know him too, do you think he'd ever back away? But what I think I'm going to do is I'm going to call him. This is what I think, we know that it'll pass the House. I think there's a chance it'll pass the Senate, even when he's gone. And I think there's a lot of different ramifications for that. Now, I haven't had a discussion with the Dems, that if he did resign, would that happen? Now, this is one personal fear I have, I do not want to get in any conversation about Pence pardoning. Again, the only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign. I mean, that would be my take, but I don't think he would take it. But I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: I mean, how much more, so much for the denial, right? CNN has reached out to McCarthy's office for a response but we haven't heard back.
So, joining me now, CNN political director, David Chalian. David, listen, we caught people in lies before on video tape. We've heard it and, you know, on audio tape and still, they somehow wrangle and wiggle out of it and pretend that it didn't happen. McCarthy denied that he told colleagues that he would push Trump to leave office and we just heard him in his own words. So what?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, and when McCarthy offered the sleeping denial earlier today, he clearly wasn't dealing with the particulars of the reporting. He was just trying to dismiss it all in its entirety which, of course, you know, this is a thoroughly reported book from two of the best political reporters in the business.
It seemed not the best approach from McCarthy to sort of just dismiss it out of hand and now, of course, they have the goods to back up their reporting with this tape. So, what I think is important here is, yes, it is a fascinating insight, just four days after the insurrection, Don, to hear McCarthy in this conversation with his leadership team about the prospect of President Trump being impeached.
It's amazing to hear him say, you know, it's going to pass the House, and they're going to convict him in the Senate even though he's gone and it's exactly that rationale that he would be a former president that Republicans used in the Senate to not convict him in the impeachment.
So, this is a moment in time and then just within days of this, you saw Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, all back off this attempt to try and diminish Trump in the party.
LEMON: How do you, how you do as a Republican, and you're not a Republican, but just, you're an analyst here, how do you, as a Republican, believe anything that comes out of Kevin McCarthy's mouth or any of the other folks who deny these things and then there is evidence that they are lying? How do you continue to believe them and to be on the Republican and the Trump train? It is inexplicable to me.
CHALIAN: Well, I mean, there are -- there are believes about things that are so proven false in reality, such as the legitimacy of the 2020 election like you were talking about Barack Obama including that in his speech out in California, and his speech in Chicago a couple weeks ago about how the disinformation that has spread that nearly 40 percent of Americans believe that Joe Biden wasn't legitimate elected that the election was rigged, even though there's been proof that there was no widespread fraud.
So, people can believe in what they want to believe. As it comes to whether or not Republicans on the Hill, in McCarthy's conference are going to believe his denial, well, we'll have to hear what his response is now that the audio is out there, but I don't think they're all that interested in litigating, whether or not McCarthy was telling the truth when he denied the story. LEMON: Is there any chance that the -- you know, we talked about the
former president, so you just, and you answered that part of the question, I mean, it really just sort of bolsters what the former president, Barack Obama was saying about the big lie, festering people just making up ridiculous claims. And you just have to put it out in the ecosystem, people don't really have to believe it in order to poison the well.
But is there any chance the GOP will break from Trump, the big lie and his disinformation at this point, David?
CHALIAN: You know, you asking me is there any chance the Republican Party breaks from Trump has now been a question for the last seven years, since Donald Trump --
LEMON: No matter how many ways, we will -- I'm going to keep asking you as many different ways as I can.
CHALIAN: -- came on to the scene.
CHALIAN: But, you know, we'll see if Donald Trump maintains the power that he seems to still have within the Republican Party. But Don, this is the concern here. This is why this is beyond just a political intrigue of what McConnell and McCarthy thought initially in the immediate hours and days after the insurrection.
It's their decision, actually, to acquiesce to Trump and when they realized they didn't have their own conferences behind them in taking them on or trying to ex-communicate him from the party because the base of the party was not interested in doing that, it's in that moment, it's in that moment that the lie was given new life.
So, Donald Trump leaves office and then continues to spout the lie about election fraud to the point that there's a whole movement now, Trump-aligned movement to get people elected into offices with oversight over our elections who are blatantly committed to a fraudulent story about legitimate election. What does that mean for the legitimacy of the next election if indeed these folks are in charge of the actual vote count.
LEMON: I mean, it is frightening, and it's not frightening because it's Republicans, it's frightening because it's being allowed to be done. I mean, look at what Ron DeSantis is doing with Florida, with redrawing the lines, he is redrawing the lines and then he gets to approve it himself.
And then what you said about, you know, the whole misinformation about the election and the people who are going to be in charge of the election. Listen, I think this is personal for the former president, this whole idea that he's raising this red flag about disinformation because he was the victim, remember, of the birther conspiracy which was a lie. Now another conspiracy theory is threatening our very democracy, the
midterms just around the corner, David. Where is this all heading? I know I'm talking to you as if you have a crystal ball but --
CHALIAN: Yes. No, it's precarious. Our democracy is in a precarious position and that's why Barack Obama is talking of course about democracies around the world but also, as you note, really raising the alarm about the democracy, our democracy right here at home and how disinformation is destabilizing the very foundations of our democracy, the foundation of the democracy, a free and fair election.
And so yes, you're right, Obama has a history of this. This is a passion project of his for the entirety of his post-presidency. He's consumed by conversations about this because he sees a real potential danger and that's not just this November in '22, in '24 and beyond. This is a call to strengthen the pillars of our democracy in this moment because we're in a perilous place.
LEMON: We are, because this is beyond -- and I want people to really understand what I'm saying -- this is not about left versus right. If this was about left versus right, it would be about well, you know, what are the principles on the left, what do you want to do for people, what's on the right, small government, right, Jack Kemp and that sort of -- the Republican Party is in a place, now, of disinformation and lies and conspiracy theories.
And no matter how many times people say this is not my Republican party, this is -- this is where they are. Because when people do it, they defend it. Or they don't say anything, which is a passive, you know, defense without saying anything. It's a lie or a sin of omission so this is no longer about left versus right, this is about --
LEMON: This is about our democracy in peril right now and who is going to stand up for it.
CHALIAN: Yes. Certainly, a significant enough swath of the Republican Party fits what you're describing. There are obvious examples where that's not the case. Liz Cheney who you heard on that tape one --
LEMON: One example.
CHALIAN: -- she was just awarded the profile and courage award --
CHALIAN: -- from the Kennedy Library because this is somebody who is remained committed to putting principle above party. LEMON: One. There needs to be more. One. And just for the sake of
democracy. Again, not about left versus right, but for the sake of our democracy. David, thank you. I appreciate it.
CHALIAN: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
LEMON: This Sunday night on CNN, the unbelievable true story of the man who took on Putin and lived to expose the truth. This is a quick preview of the Sundance award film, CNN film Navalny.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXEI NAVALNY, RUSSIAN LAWYER (through translator): It's Alexei Navalny calling and I was hoping you could tell me why you wanted to kill me?
UNKNOWN: Remarkably, Vladimir Putin faces a legitimate opponent, Alexei Navalny.
NAVALNY: I don't want Putin being president.
NAVALNY (through translator): I will end war.
NAVALNY: If I want to be leader of a country, I have to organize people.
UNKNOWN: The Kremlin hates Navalny so much that they refuse to say his name.
UNKNOWN: Passengers heard Navalny cry out in agony.
NAVALNY: Come on, poisoned? Seriously. We are creating a coalition to fight this regime.
UNKNOWN: If you are killed, what message do you leave behind to the Russian people?
NAVALNY: It's very simple, never give up.
UNKNOWN: Navalny Sunday night on CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)