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Don Lemon Tonight

U.S.: Russian Military Unit Executed Ukrainians; Ukraine Bears Brunt Of Heavy Artillery, Rocket Attacks; War Crimes Investigation Underway In Bucha; Kevin McCarthy Defends Remarks From Leaked Video; Rents Spike 20% On Average In Two Years. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 27, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. A new threat from Vladimir Putin to any nation intervening in Ukraine.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): If someone intends to intervene in what is happening from the outside and creates unacceptable strategic threats for us, then they should know that our response to incoming strikes will be swift, lightning fast.


LEMON: Prisoner swap with Russia. Trevor Reed, an American held in Russia for nearly three years, on his way home tonight.

And House Republicans divided. GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy doing damage control after his comments criticizing a Republican colleague after January 6th were caught on tape and released this week.

But I want to begin with the war. Let's go straight to CNN's Isa Soares in Lviv for us tonight. Isa, hello to you. We are learning that the United States has credible information that a Russian military unit executed Ukrainians who were attempting to surrender near Donetsk. What is the latest?

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Good evening to you, Don. This is yet again just more harrowing details of Russia's really aggression on the ground here that we've been hearing day in and day out. now, these comments, Don, are coming to us directly from America's ambassador-at-large for Global Criminal Justice, Beth Van Schaack.

She said that the U.S. has credible information that a Russian military unit that was operating in the east of the country where that offensive is in the vicinity of the Donetsk region, that, really, they've been executing Ukrainians who were attempting to surrender. Just harrowing to think of this.

She went on to say, Don, that she also had credible reports -- had heard credible reports, I should say, of individuals being killed execution-style, of bodies showing signs of torture, and then horrific accounts of sexual violence against women and against girls. Accounts that she added, Don, that are not the result of a rogue unit or individuals, but a pattern of systematic abuse. And this was her message for Russia.


BETH VAN SCHAACK, U.S. AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE FOR GLOBAL CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Let us be clear, those who unleashed, perpetrated, and ordered these crimes must be held to account, and the evidence of this criminality is mounting daily. Our simple message to Russia's military and political leadership and to the rank and file is this: The world is watching and you will be held accountable.


SOARES: And what we heard, Don, from the ambassador matches with what I've been hearing, what I've heard earlier this week from the U.N. Monitoring Mission rep in Ukraine, who told me that they have verified and they have recorded cases here of summary executions, of enforced disappearances, and rape. And the accounts that I heard from the U.N. rep were absolutely horrifying. Just chilling, Don.

LEMON: Yeah. Isa, you have been reporting on the thousands of Ukrainians who have been hiding from the Russians in the basement of a steel plant in Mariupol. What's the latest on that? What do you know?

SOARES: Well, the situation in Mariupol, just for our viewers to get a sense of what has been happening, remains incredibly dire. There hasn't been a humanitarian corridor there for days now on end. And there are about 100,000 people in the city of Mariupol, don, desperate to get out.

Now, inside that Azovstal steel plant, which has become kind of the last line of defense for Ukraine, roughly around a thousand or so Ukrainian soldiers, women, and children are holed up inside, having seen, by the way, no daylight for 50 plus days.

While I've been speaking to the employees of the steel plant, the very people who, by the way, Don, made the steel for the building you are in, Hudson Yards, they have managed to escape, the people I've spoken to, they've escaped the Russian onslaught in Mariupol, but they have been left scarred by loss as well as pain.


SOARES (voice-over): Ivan used to live on Mariupol's Peace Avenue.

You want your city to remain the same as it was in your memory, he tells me.

That city now lies in ruins, a shell of what it once was.


And the steel plant his family has dedicated three generations to, suddenly finds itself as Mariupol's last line of defense.

Seeing your city being destroyed is horrible, he tells me. You could compare it to a relative dying in your arms and seeing him or heard dying gradually, organ after organ failing, and you can do nothing.

For his colleague, Alexi (ph), it's also personal. He has lost not just friends but his mother-in-law to shelling when they first tried to flee Mariupol.

(On camera): How does this make you feel? You must be so angry.

(Voice-over): My emotions disappeared already there in Mariupol, he says. That's why there's nothing but hate.

Alexi (ph) has worked at the steel plant for 26 years. He's one of 11,000 employees who have kept the iron furnaces turning here.

A major player in the metal industry, Azovstal produces four million tons of steel a year. Its metal shining brightly in Manhattan's Hudson Yards and London Shard.

Now, as Russia's pummels its plant and production jolts to a halt, the CEO of the company behind Azovstal steel tells me at least 150 of his employees have been killed and thousands are still unaccounted for.

YURY RYZHENKOV, CEO, METINVEST: Out of the 11,000 employees of Azovstal, only about 4,500 people got out of Mariupol and got in contact with us.

SOARES (voice-over): This is our plant, Asmetapa (ph) says. He works here, says his little girl in promotional video.

Built in 1933 under Soviet rule, Azovstal was partially demolished during the Nazi occupation in the 1940s. Now, it faces the wrath of a president who says he's de-nazifying it, attacking the very foundation that this country helped build.

Holed up inside are thought to be around a thousand civilians hiding in shelters. Women, children, and the elderly who haven't seen sunlight in more than 50 days. And then there's the injured in field hospitals like this one. Russian forces continue to encircle the plant, and they are not budging.

RYZHENKOV: I don't think it's the plant that he wants. I think it's about symbolism.

SOARES (voice-over): A win in the port city of Mariupol would provide President Putin with a land bridge to Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

If fully taken, Rinat Akhmetov, one of Ukraine's richest men and the main shareholder of the group behind Azovstal steel, tells me via email, under no circumstances will these plants operate under the Russian occupation. Alexi (ph) agrees, telling me, after what they did, never.

A wall of steel defending to the bitter end. The place they have called home.


SOARES (on camera): And Don, these incredible acts of defiance -- and you probably can tell that Ivan, who you heard from there, he had a knot in his throat. And Alexi (ph), he was just so visibly angry by everything he has seen. And these are people who not only have lost their homes and been uprooted, but have lost loved ones. And now, they're hearing that 6,000 plus of their friends and colleagues are still unaccounted for.

And just to put it into context for our viewers, an advisor to President Zelenskyy told me just last week that they believe about 20,000 people have been killed just in Mariupol, Don.

LEMON: Goodness. Isa, thank you so much. I appreciate that.

Let us bring in now journalist and author Sebastian Junger. His latest book is titled "Freedom." Thanks for coming in.


LEMON: Horrific things that are happening. I want to talk about -- the Ukrainian military is acknowledging that they've had -- they've suffered several losses in the eastern towns and villages to the Russians. But they're also hearing the Ukrainian forces have repelled multiple Russian attacks in the Donbas. You say that Ukrainians will have the advantage by night. Talk to us about that. Where is this fight heading?

JUNGER: Yeah, I mean, that's often an insurgent advantage, is that they can't -- they can't really stand up to a -- necessarily to a modern well-armed military. But at night, they have much more mobility and they can if infiltrate the territory that was taken during the day, and they can sabotage the enemy, they can ambush the enemy, they can make possession of that land very, very costly for the invader.

And this is a long game, right? Like, even if Russia took over all of Ukraine, then they have to control it. You know, once you're in a city, once you've taken a city, say they take Kyiv, which I don't think they will, but say they did, they can no longer bomb it, right? They can't no longer shell it.


Their main advantage is to disappear once they own it. And that's when the insurgency really gets difficult. You know, just look at the United States. We completely dominated the Taliban militarily, but 20 years later, the cost of holding Afghanistan was not worth it. We pulled out.

LEMON: Listen, I want to get to what's happening in Kherson and other areas. But before we get to that, you -- there are some concerns. You said that you have about this explosion at a radio station in -- you said a rogue Russian state. JUNGER: Yeah. Transnistria is a strip of Russian-controlled territory. It is sort of a rogue state, a rogue Russian state in Eastern Moldova. And there was a war there in 1991. The rest of Moldova split-off and formed basically a democracy. Transnistria is basically a sort of criminal Russian state. It's not recognized by virtually anyone in the world, a lot of Russian mafia, a lot of Russian military.

And so, suddenly, I was sort of puzzled like there were these explosions in Transnistria at the radio station and it reminded me of what happened right before the second Chechnyan war where the FSB, formerly the KGB, the security apparatus in Russia, bombed their own apartment buildings in Moscow and in other Russian cities and killed 300 Russian citizens and wounded 1,000 more, claimed the Chechens had done it, and then used that as a pretext to start the second Chechnyan war.

In other words, they needed a reason that the Russian citizenry would not be -- would not question.

LEMON: So, you're worried that they may do the same thing. Blame the Ukrainians as a reason to continue their brutal assault and to go in further?

JUNGER: Yeah, it's a justification for renewed aggression. It makes me think that it's a preparatory step, a rationale for possibly trying to take Moldova.

LEMON: We will watch. We're getting new video of an apparent Ukrainian offensive strike in the Russian-held city of Kherson that I want to show you. Watch this.



LEMON (voice-over): So, this blast is in the vicinity of a T.V. broadcaster as reported by the respected news outlet, Ukrainian Pravda. What would the Ukrainians be trying to accomplish here, Sebastian?


JUNGER: Maybe showing that they can do that. I don't know. I'm not sure. I mean, I don't know enough about the situation to really analyze it. It was an impressive explosion.

LEMON: Yeah. Other video I want to show you there, these images of the aftermath of a Russian strike hitting one of the only two working hospitals in Luhansk region. A top Ukrainian military official telling CNN that the Russians knew the hospital wasn't vacant. Is this part of Putin's playbook?

JUNGER: I mean, look, it's a really ruthless war and one of the things he's trying to do is depopulate the regions that he wants so that he can occupy them. And one way you do that is by executing people, right?

You do it by bombing civilian population centers. You do that by raping women, by torturing people. All those things were done by the Bosnian Serbs in Bosnia. It was part of the strategy of ethnic cleansing of that area. I think it is pretty clear that's what Putin is trying to do.

LEMON: Yeah. This is something that you know about. I want to talk about Trevor Reed, who was being held in Russia, former marine detained in Russia since 2019, freed today in a prisoner swap for Russian citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko. It's great news, but it's also remarkable given the extreme tension between the U.S. and Russia. How do you make sense of the timing here?

JUNGER: I mean, the timing may not be relevant. I mean, it may -- these negotiations take months or years, and I think they probably happen when both parties have something to gain. It may have just happened now. I think these negotiations probably happen separate from the ongoing hostilities clearly, and Russia clearly wanted something out of this as well and they made it happen.

LEMON: What does a prison swap mean? Because, you know, Brittney Griner is there. And also, Paul Whelan is there as well.


LEMON: What does that mean for them?

JUNGER: You know, I think -- listen, I'm not a diplomat, but I imagine that we would have to come up with two people that they want. I mean, it's a one-for-one trade, right? I don't know who we're holding. I mean, I have no idea. But I imagine we're going to need a one-for-one trade, people that they really want.

LEMON (on camera): So, Putin is continuing to talk about nuclear. He's doing this nuclear saber rattling. Just a month ago, I interviewed the secretary of defense and I asked him directly about nuclear weapons. Take a listen.


LEMON (on camera): What about the use of tactical nuclear weapons? That is a concern, that he may use so-called small nukes. Are you concerned about that?

LLOYD AUSTIN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, you know, again, the use of a nuclear weapon is a thing that nobody wants to see.


I think -- I think, you know, any kind of excessive rhetoric about nuclear weapons and the employment of nuclear weapons is not helpful.


LEMON (on camera): So then, look, more than a month later, you still have people, you know, Russians, experts or whoever talking about the possible use of nuclear weapons. What should we do with all this rhetoric?

JUNGER: My understanding is that there are procedures that precede using a nuclear weapon, and that the United States monitors those really, really carefully and that none of those have commenced.

So, rhetoric is one thing, but actually starting to go through those procedures is another. I think the rhetoric is a reflection of the fact that the war is not going very well and Putin is trying to scare people.

I think it's pretty simple. There's probably a red line that he can cross where we would start to take the possibility very seriously. Right now, I don't think anyone in the U.S. government or military is doing that.

LEMON: Sebastian, thank you. I appreciate the book "Freedom." Sebastian Junger's new book is called "Freedom." He just brought me a copy of it, a signed copy. Thank you so much.

JUNGER: Thank you.

LEMON: Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine entering its third month. Intense attacks in the east. Ukraine fighting back. How long could this go on and what will it take to end it?




LEMON: Ukrainian forces acknowledging losing several towns and villages in the east as Russia steps up its ground offensive. There's a lot to discuss tonight with CNN military analyst and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. Colonel, hello. Thanks for joining again.

There's been intense fighting in the east and the south. Russia making gains but the Ukrainians are holding off other attempted advances there. Where does this fight stand on the battlefield tonight?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, RETIRED AIR FORCE COLONEL: So, Don, the biggest areas that we're talking about here are right here in the east. So, everything that's associated with the Donbas region, the area basically south and east of Kharkiv, and then of course north of Mariupol which we just talked about, plus the area right around Kherson right here, those are the areas that we're going to look at.

So, let's take a quick look at the Donbas area. The Russians are moving down this way towards Sloviansk. Kramatorsk in their sight right now. At the moment, the Russians seem to be bypassing Kharkiv although they're shelling it and it is making for some very dismal conditions in that city.

However, they don't seem to be making a main effort here. The main effort seems to be in this general direction and to some extent into the northwest from the Luhansk area. These areas right here are also scenes of fighting. So, this is really where most of the fighting in this part of the country is at right now.

LEMON: Do you think Russia can hold on to these eastern towns and villages, because we're told this war could go on for months or even years, and we've seen how determined Ukrainian forces are.

LEIGHTON: That's right, Don, they're very determined. And I think one of the things that Sebastian mentioned in the earlier segment is quite key here, and that is this: During the nighttime, the Ukrainians control a lot of these areas. During the day time, sometimes the Russians control them, sometimes it goes back and forth between the two countries.

But this is an area where there is so much that can happen that is quite different from what you would normally expect. So, as these lines seem to be somewhat static, expect them to be a bit more fluid in that some of these areas are going to switch hands.

Even some of the bigger cities can sometimes switch possession between Russia and Ukraine over the course of this, as far as how long this goes. It could absolutely last months, possibly even years unless there's some kind of a ceasefire.

LEMON: There were blasts heard in three regions bordering Ukraine, one of them at an ammunition depot in the Belgorod region. Ukraine hasn't claimed credit. But an adviser to president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that karma is a cruel thing. Is this a smart move for Ukraine? Do they need to be striking out against Russian territory to win?

LEIGHTON: Well, if I were a Ukrainian senior officer and I was giving advice for planning the battle, I would absolutely be doing this because the Russians are located in places like Belgorod and some of the other cities that Ukrainian struck about here and here.

And the reason for this is this is where all the forces and all the logistics comes from. If you strike at this, you basically are telling them that not only are you paying attention but you're preventing the southern monument of the logistics trains, of the convoys, of the tanks, of all the things that could potentially harm you.

So, what you're trying to do is you're trying to cut them off, and that's why it's very important to actually keep this -- this area controlled and to make it very clear to the Russians that they can't really hide on their own territory.

LEMON: The Pentagon is confirming more than half of the 90 howitzers the U.S. is sending to Ukraine are now in country. How much firepower could that give to Ukraine on the battlefield?

LEIGHTON: So, that could be a substantial increase, Don, because what the howitzers do is they give the Ukrainians the ability to strike at various targets that they've been able to hit before but in a more haphazard fashion than what they can do now with these howitzers. The howitzer can hit a lot of the tanks that the Russians have, the T72s, for example, that they're going be using against the Ukrainian forces.


Of course, the Ukrainians have their own T72s or will soon have them. These howitzers are very powerful, very precise, and they have radars associated with them that can really strike at targets in a very quick and precise fashion. That can change the equation on the battlefield. This can be very, very important for the course of the war. These weapons are absolutely critical to that.

LEMON: Colonel, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Don.

LEMON: An investigation into war crimes underway in Bucha. Our Anderson Cooper has the story. That's next.




LEMON: Breaking news, CNN getting an up-close inside look at the Ukrainian town of Bucha and the horrors that remain when Russian soldiers retreated. Innocent civilians dead in the streets. And now, Bucha's prosecutor is collecting evidence of war crimes, saying he has photos and videos of atrocities despite Russian denials.

Tonight, our Anderson Cooper gives us a first-hand look at the aftermath in Bucha.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In Bucha, blood still stains the streets. When Russian troops pulled out, this is what they left behind on Yablonska (ph) Street. The bodies of several men shot to death. Hands tied behind their backs. Further down, this person was shot to death on their bicycle, and another and another and another and another and another.

(On camera): What happened here?

RUSLAN KRAVCHENKO, BUCHA PROSECUTOR (through translator): Local residents were killed on this street by the Russian military. They were shot and killed even just going out to the street, around their business, or going to pick up humanitarian aid.

COOPER (voice-over): Ruslan Kravchenko is Bucha's prosecutor. He is now collecting evidence of war crimes.

KRAVCHENKO (through translator): People were killed at this point. There were bodies here and there. There were people riding bicycles who were killed by the Russian military.

COOPER (voice-over): Russia denies it all. They say that more than 300 bodies found in Bucha after Russian troops withdrew were staged. As for these satellite images taken in mi-March when Russia was occupying Bucha, which show bodies in the exact same locations they were later found on Yablonska (ph) Street, Russia says they, too, are fake. But the evidence already overwhelming continues to grow.

(On camera): Prosecutors have been gathering evidence for weeks and now reveal to us that they have photographs and videos taken over the course of several days as the killings occurred here. They say the images were captured by a person in this house on their cellphone camera.

(Voice-over): It was through these windows he saw the slaughter. This is one of his first pictures, taken on March 5th. Two bodies reportedly killed that day were visible outside his window.

On March 6th, when this picture was taken, a third body is visible on the street. This video taken on March 7th shows at least two more bodies.

Ruslan Kravchenko says these images and the data in the camera phone they were taken with provides important proof of exactly who was killed and when.

KRAVCHENKO (through translator): It will prove that it was a particular phone, that the pictures were taken at least, and also the time and the location that they were taken. The Russian federation will not be able to continue on saying that this was setup video or fakes.

COOPER (voice-over): We tracked down the man who risked his life to take these photos and video. We agreed not to show his face.

(On camera): Were you scared to take pictures? I mean, if they had seen you taking pictures, you could have been killed.

UNKNOWN (through translator): Of course, there was fear, but I had to prove that it was them, that they killed people who were civilians. I had to do something.

COOPER (voice-over): Do you remember the first person killed on your street?

UNKNOWN (through translator): The first one to get killed was a man on a bicycle to the left of my house. On March 6th, there were more dead people. There were seven people dead on the street on March 6. Seven dead people. I couldn't capture all the bodies from the window. There was a wall in the way.

COOPER (on camera): What do you want to see happen to those Russians, to everybody in the chain of command?

UNKNOWN (through translator): They must be punished. There was a young guy who was putting potatoes in a bag maybe for his family. The stores were closed. There was no water, no heating, no water. He wanted to help and he was killed. What does they deserve? Only punishment.

COOPER (voice-over): But punishing the guilty won't be easy.

(On camera): There were a number of different Russian units that I understand who were stationed here at one time or another. Do you need to try to identify which unit it was, what the chain of the command was?

KRAVCHENKO (through translator): And it's very important to identify not only the commanders but complete troops who committed the crimes and have them held accountable.

COOPER (voice-over): Kravchenko says 10 Russian soldiers in Bucha have already been identified using eyewitness accounts along with drone footage and images like this one, taken by a traffic surveillance camera not far from the Yablonska (ph) Street.

But whether he can learn the identities of the Russians stationed on Yablonska (ph) Street is unclear. The man killed on March 5th on his bike was 68-year-old Vladimir (ph) Brovchenko. His wife, Svitlana, lives not far away.


They were married for 45 years and have two kids and three grandchildren.

SVITLANA BROVCHENKO, HUSBAND WAS KILLED IN BUCHA (through translator): We told him not to go to work because there were tanks on Yablonska (ph) Street. We told him not to go. He said, no, I have to go to work, I have work to do. I don't know what to tell you. It's awful.

COOPER (voice-over): It is all so awful. The bicycle her husband rode is still on the Yablonska (ph) Street near the spot where he died. She doesn't want it back. The horror of what happened is just too terrible to face.

Anderson Cooper, CNN, Bucha, Ukraine.


LEMON: Anderson, thanks so much.

The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, defending himself today after leaked audio shows how worried he was about the rhetoric of some in his own party after January 6th. What he said, next.




LEMON: The House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, now doing damage control with far-right members of his conference today at a closed- door meeting. Defending comments where he expressed concerns about some GOP members' rhetoric possibly inciting violence in the days after the January 6th insurrection.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA) (voice-over): Tension is too high. The country is too crazy. I do not want to look back and think we caused something or we missed something and someone get hurt. I don't want to play politics with any of that.


LEMON: Sources say McCarthy told his members that leaked audiotapes don't reveal the full context of his comments and that foes are trying to divide Republicans.

A lot to discuss with CNN political commentator Charlie Dent, a former Republican congressman. Hi, Charlie.


LEMON: You're like lucky me.


LEMON: Good to see you, Charlie. You say the comments McCarthy made in private are spot on, but then you see what he actually did publicly by going down to Mar-a-Lago after the insurrection to kiss the ring. Is this what it takes to lead the GOP?

DENT: Regrettably, that's the case. I think too many of my former Republican colleagues, you know, are very fearful of the Trump base and Trump in particular. And by letting Trump off the mat after the insurrection, they empowered Trump and, frankly, many of the fringe elements of the party. I think this has been a big problem. I like to describe what I'm calling the fear caucus.

I wish those guys were generally good, honorable people. They need to stand up, speak out because their failure to do so has empowered fringe elements who are never afraid to say outrageous things or incendiary things publicly.

So, that's been the challenge, and I'm afraid that Trump has a lot of leverage and power over certainly McCarthy and many in the conference. And that's not going to help them if they get the majority because then they're going to have govern and this will be a monumental task for them.

LEMON: Charlie, McCarthy is saying that this is all part of an attempt to divide the party ahead of the midterms. But all this audio comes from GOP calls. So, I mean, what do you think? This is self- inflicted.

DENT: Well, yeah. I mean, this is kind of a predicament of Kevin's own making in many respects. Look, republican leadership always wants to say we're unified, we're unified, even when they're we're not. And clearly, there are some divisions over this, as you pointed out.

I think that Kevin McCarthy, he probably wiggled out of this for the moment or for now, but I think there are still some fissures here. And remember, Donald Trump has not yet endorsed him for speaker.

So, there are still problems out there. They want to talk -- basically, division is Trump. He's the one who wants to talk about the past, the insurrection. I think many Republican members do want to talk about the future and the Democrats. But the division, I think, is largely driven by Donald Trump and his obsession with the 2020 election.

LEMON: Yeah. I want to play more of the leaked audio. McCarthy singles out representatives Matt Gaetz and Mo Brooks for endangering fellow Republicans. Here it is.


MCCARTHY (voice-over): So, I'm calling Gaetz. I'm explaining to him. I don't know what I am going to say but I am going to have other people call him too. But the nature of what -- if I am getting a briefing, I'm going to get another one from the FBI tomorrow - this is serious shit, to cut this out.

STEVE SCALISE, MINORITY WHIP OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (voice-over): Yeah, that's, I mean, it is potentially illegal what he's doing.

MCCARTHY (voice-over): Well, he's putting people in jeopardy.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Brooks apparently said, "today's the American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass," which I would say is even a step further than kind of a rhetorical take you know.

MCCARTHY (voice-over): If you think the president deserves to be impeached for his comments, that's almost something that goes further than what the president said.


LEMON: Well, I mean, Gaetz went on Fox tonight to rail against McCarthy, comparing him to a liberal college professor or MSNBC staffer. It just shows you how the GOP is divided.

DENT: Yeah, sure. By the way, what Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise said there, they were spot on about the reckless incendiary comments of some of their members, you know, at a very difficult time in our nation's history. So, they were right.

And look, I've always said this. Kevin McCarthy will never be able to outflank the far-right of the party. There's always going to be somebody out there, Tucker Carlson or some group.

[23:44:59] They are always going to be the right of him. Frankly, that's their business model. They want to go out there and say, you know, they're the vanguard of the conservative movement or I should say the illiberal movement. And that's what they do.

And so, I think it's a mistake to try to placate too many of those elements because then you'll see control to them. And he will find it out. If he becomes speaker, that element is going to then basically try to hold the whole conference hostage. So, I think it's better that, you know, like I say, don't feed the crocodiles because they'll eat you sooner or later.

LEMON: It's interesting that he's comparing it to a liberal college professor and MSNBC staffer because, as you said, what Kevin McCarthy was said was actually the right thing. So, is he saying that a college professor or MSNBC staffer is someone who is acting in the right manner? Does he not realize what he's saying?

DENT: I think what Tucker Carlson was saying there is that --

LEMON: It was about Matt Gaetz.

DENT: Matt Gaetz, excuse me. What Matt Gaetz was saying there is that what Kevin McCarthy said, I think, was a very reasonable thing. This was outrageous, what happened, what those members said.

Look, these guys like Matt Gaetz, you know, I'm surprised he's going out on television talking about anything right now given, you know, his own troubles. Ordinarily, a member with that kind of problem out there would kind of keep a low profile. But maybe that's one way --

LEMON: It has become the theme to double down now. I think that is sort of -- that is the -- you know, the Trump tactic is to double down.

DENT: Absolutely. Basically, own your notoriety and then monetize it. That's what they do. That's why politics has changed so much. I mean, there was a time when people who got into that kind of trouble couldn't raise a nickel.

LEMON: Speaking of, it's all a grift. I mean, we know that. You know that, Charlie. it is all a grift. I want to ask you about Congressman Madison Cawthorn, cited for bringing a loaded handgun to TSA checkpoint at Charlotte airport. Second time he has been stopped for this in just over a year. Also facing charges of driving with a revoked license for the second time. And then there are the allegations of sexual misconduct. What do you make of this behavior from a sitting congressman?

DENT: Well, as a former chairman of the House Ethics Committee, I'm just stunned. I'm sure that the committee -- they're not going to tell you. I'm sure the committee is investigating some of these activities of his.

Remember what he said, too, Don, a few weeks ago. He said that members of Congress are doing cocaine and there were orgies, and it was a ridiculous statement. Good for Congressman Steve Womack of Arkansas for calling him out publicly for that kind of nonsensical statement.

So, he is just making reckless statements that not based in truth or fact. It's pretty clear that his colleagues -- seems like nearly all his Republican colleagues have had enough of him.

LEMON: Yeah.

DENT: I'd be shocked if this guy could survive a primary down there in North Carolina.

LEMON: Thank you, sir.

DENT: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: I appreciate it.

New York politicians said the rents are too damn high? Well, it's true now, right after this.




LEMON: Rising inflations eating away at the budgets of American families. But it's a double whammy for people renting their homes. Rents have spiked nearly 20% over the past two years, and that has many Americans fearing that they could end up on the street.

More tonight from CNN's Venessa Yurkevich.


LAURA GUILMAIN, FLORIDA RENTER: Less and less and less.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Laura Guilmain and her daughter, Carson (ph), have 30 days to find a new home.

(on camera): How many properties do you think you've explored?

GUILMAIN: Thousands. Thousands.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): For three years, Guilmain has been paying $2,100 a month for this three-bedroom in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. But last month, she got a letter from her landlord.

GUILMAIN: Due to unforeseen circumstances --

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Her new rent, $3,200 a month. An attorney for her landlord tells CNN, rising property taxes and mortgage rates are to blame.

GUILMAIN: I freaked out. We can't afford it, can't do it.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): There's a housing affordability crisis. Home prices are sky high, forcing more Americans into a competitive rental market.

Guilmain, a single mom and disabled veteran, is reliant on rental assistance from Housing and Urban Development or HUD. She already had fewer options. But now, landlords looking to capitalize on rising rents are less willing to accept the strict guidelines of her rental voucher.

(On camera): How critical is the HUD voucher to your existence?

GUILMAIN: That is our existence. Without it, we would be homeless.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Rents are rising across the country. Up a record nearly 20% on average in two years. Double that in cities like Memphis, Tampa, and Riverside, California. But the Miami Palm Beach area tops them all at 58%. Nearly three times the national average.

GUILMAIN: When there's a hurricane, it's illegal for gas stations to jack up the prices. Why is there not a cap in the state of Florida? Why am I looking at a 43% increase?

YURKEVICH (voice-over): In fact, it's illegal in Florida to impose rent controls.

SARA ESPINOZA, FLORIDA RENTER: Actually, it gives me a lot of anxiety.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Sara Espinoza is facing a 106% increase on her rent in Coral Gables, Florida.

ESPINOZA: Try to put it together.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): For 22 years, she has called this three- bedroom home. She raised her son here.


She says the $1,700 she pays in rent is below market value, but the $3,500 her new landlord is charging is out of her budget.

ESPINOZA: It's not reasonable at all. I guess right now, everybody is just price gouging because people need somewhere to live.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): She set a new budget of $2,800. This week, she found an apartment right next door, but it's smaller and overbudget by $400.

(On camera): How does that rationalize in your mind?

ESPINOZA: It doesn't. It doesn't rationalize at all, and I just think it's very unfair. It makes me upset.

GUILMAIN: You know how many people have reached out?

YURKEVICH (voice-over): For Laura and Carson (ph), their search continues with no prospects in sight.

So, where does that put you?

GUILMAIN: Puts me on the street.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Vanessa Yurkevich, CNN, Miami, Florida.


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