Return to Transcripts main page

Don Lemon Tonight

Multiple Mass Shootings Across The United States This Weekend; Great Replacement Theory Creeps Into Mainstream GOP Politics; Primary Elections Are Heating Up; Evacuations Underway From Azovstal Steel Plant. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired May 16, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. America is mourning after multiple mass shootings across the country this weekend at a grocery store, a church a few blocks from NBA game, a flea market. The most deadly of massacres in Buffalo. Ten people were killed in a predominantly Black area. Here's how officials described the racist attack.


JOHN GARCIA, SHERIFF, ERIE COUNTY: This was a straight up hate crime, pure evil.

LETITIA JAMES, ATTORNEY GENERAL, NEW YORK: You had the N-word which unfortunately was carved into one of his weapons. Clearly, he was bent on hate.


LEMON: Plus, major twists in key primary races with just hours to go before until polls open. In Pennsylvania, a Democratic frontrunner suffering a stroke and the Republican candidate who marched at the Capitol on January 6 rising to the top of the field.

And combat mission over. That is the message from Ukrainian forces after months of nonstop shelling at the steel plant in Mariupol. We are going to have the latest on the agreement with Russia that led to hundreds of evacuations.

For more on these horrific shootings, though, and the motivations behind them, I want to turn now to CNN's Omar Jimenez in Buffalo, New York. Stephanie Elam is in Laguna Woods, California. Good evening to both of you.

Omar, let's start with you. We are learning tonight from the suspect's social media post that he visited the market three times in March, casing the store, collecting information on who was inside. What more can you tell us about that?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Don. So, based on those posts, the suspect first left his home about 200 miles away from here to come to the to the Tops supermarket on March 8th. When he got here, he went into that store three times that day at 12:00, 2:00, and 4:00 p.m., taking notes on what he was seeing, particularly on how many Black people he was seeing versus white people when he was there.

Also, making a map of what is inside the aisles, the exits, and more, even, again, according to these posts, wrote that he planned to carry out this attack a week from then, on March 15th, but kept delaying. He also initially intended to potentially attack a church or an elementary school, but as we now know, Don, eventually settled on a grocery store.

LEMON: And Stephanie Elam, a horrible church shooting in Laguna Woods, California where you are right now. Officials are saying the suspect is David Chou, who was upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan. What else have officials uncovered so far in their investigation?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we did learn was more details today, Don. What we know is that this assailant, 68 years old, has been residing in Las Vegas, Nevada. He emigrated to the United States from China many years ago.

But we understand, based on some of the writings they found in his possession, that he had a lot of anger toward Taiwan, and that is what they do believe is behind the reason why he walked into this congregation and was there, when they were having this lunch and after their church service, they found four Molotov cocktails that were around the church.

They also said that he superglued some of the locks and change some of the doors, even nailing some of the doors to try to keep those 50 or so people inside of the church when he was going about shooting people at random.

He shot five people and we have seen that at least four of them have improved conditions, not clear about the other one, but they were between the ages of 66 and 92.

Then there was one person who lost his life, Dr. John Cheng, 52 years old, and officials today saying that he charged the shooter and that really did make a difference because it gave everyone else in the congregation a chance to then go ahead and disable this assailant. They were able to get his two handguns away.

And think about it, this mostly elderly congregation managed to get those weapons away, and then hog-tied this man until officials were able to get to the scene. They are saying because of that, this really did save a lot of lives, they are being called heroes, and especially Dr. John Cheng because of what he did it.


ELAM: It cost him his life, but his heroism may have saved what was really a tragic event yesterday from being much, much worse. I can also tell you that now -- tomorrow, we should see this assailant in court. He is charged with one count of felony murder and five counts of felony attempted murder. Don?

LEMON: Here we go. From coast to coast. New York and California. Awful. Thank you both. I appreciate it, Omar and Stephanie.

Now, I want to bring in Katherine Schweit, a founder and former head of the FBI's Active Shooter Program. She's also the author and podcast host of "Stop the Killing." Katherine, thanks so much for joining us. I appreciate it.


LEMON: So, this information --

SCHWEIT: Happy to be here.

LEMON: -- tonight that shooter cased the supermarket, a soft target with easy access to go on his racist rampage, does this spark more to speak -- I should say more to how he may have learned from previous mass shootings?

SCHWEIT: Yeah, I think we find all of these shooters learn from somebody else. You know, whether it's racism, depression or, you know, financial problems, marital problems, mad because your girlfriend broke up with you, you know, they go to the internet to look for somebody who is, like, kind (ph).

And that's generally what we're seeing in these kinds of situations, especially in the -- it seems like the worse mass shootings, very few do we not find a trail along the internet where they found somebody else who they could bond with even if it -- even if it was just their image or their story that was told.

And that's exactly what we saw here, right? Somebody who bonded over, you know, hate speak that he really hadn't really espoused before.

LEMON: So, when you think about the online community that he had, is it fair to say that he was, you know, a lone wolfer, that he was in this alone?

SCHWEIT: You know, that's -- you know, we use the term -- I say we -- when I was in the FBI, 20 years in the FBI, we use the term lone wolf or loner, we're talking about somebody who is not inspired by a foreign terrorist organization or an unfriendly foreign country. So, that's when we talk about a lone wolf.

But I think in this case, you know, it's kind of a misnomer that these individuals are loners or alone. The average age of a shooter of this type is 35 which is not -- and they're married, they have jobs, they have friends and associations with people.

Many people say, oh, I can't believe this, I was just with him last week, I was just with him at a party, we just went to the dance together, you know, we drink every night after work on Fridays.

So, they really aren't loners. They just create a world on their own as a little segment of their -- of their -- you know, whatever is frustrating them and torturing them. And that's where they find it, in these like kinds online.

LEMON: I want to show you -- put up the picture of this arsenal. CNN obtained this photo. The arsenal guns located in the shooter's car, Katherine. Writing on the weapons include white lives matter. He planned the attack for a long time. He bought the guns, ammunitions, the body armor. H had an incident in high school that led to a mental health evaluation. Still, no red flags. Why not?

SCHWEIT: You know, there were red flags. It is not unusual for somebody to plan for months and even years to do this kind of targeted violence. Somebody who is on a trajectory towards target violence like this does plan ahead of time. It's not a snap decision. People say, oh, he just snapped. No, these shooters are always -- these shootings are always planned.

And there is process that -- when I say there were signs, I say we'll find more and more of them. but we already know what some of them were. The incident at the school before and the mental health evaluation. And then, now, other kids are coming out that he went to school with their neighbors who say, oh, yeah, I remember this or I saw that. We'll find other things.

There is probably a long trail of -- behavioral indicators is what we call them, meaning atypical behavior, things that showed that he was on a trajectory towards violence, especially if you think of things like he buys ammunition, he buys camo clothing, he buys a steel plate to put in his vest.

You don't pick that up on Amazon without a little -- you know, somebody in your house should be saying, what? And the three guns, the hate speech that was all over those weapons that you just showed is indicative of what we've seen in some other shooters where they're trying to create a persona they want to be, because they don't have confidence in who they are. And I think that's what the tale will be about this young man.

LEMON: Katherine Schweit, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining us.


SCHWEIT: Happy to be here.

LEMON: I want to bring in now Darius Pridgen, the president of the Buffalo Common Council and bishop at True Bethel. Darius, thank you for joining us. I appreciate it.


LEMON: How you doing?

PRIDGEN: Not good. I keep saying okay, but the truth of the matter is not good.

LEMON: I understand you live two blocks from the supermarket, right? And you knew Aaron Salter, Katherine Massey. Talk to me about what has been taken from your community, the loss of these folks, and really so many others, Darius.

PRIDGEN: You know, across the country, when you talk about African- American neighborhoods, so many people think about crime or dilapidation. It's not like that here. It might not be the best neighborhood, but it's definitely not the worst. But everybody goes to a grocery store. At least here, they're not gangbangers, they're not people who are trying to hurt somebody. They're people who have money in their pocket to go and shop.

You know, Kath Massey sat in her house as she tried to make a better Buffalo. She wrote op-ed pieces against gun violence. The security guard, he was more than a security guard. He was a brother.

He -- I would go -- I live, like you said, two blocks away. Moved into the neighborhood three years ago. Grew up in this neighborhood, actually. When I would go and get my groceries, he would walk with me to my car having conversations. Not just him, so many other people in that store. It's not just a regular grocery store. It's our meeting place.

LEMON: I spoke to his son today. He said, you know, he just wanted his dad to be honored. I mean, he's a hero in all of this. You know, I don't really know what to say, Darius. It's just I'm at a loss for words when it comes to what happened.

PRIDGEN: You know what, I'm really working hard to keep it together, to do all the interviews, and to be a leader in our community that's strong. It's really tough. But his dad and all of the other people, Miss Young, Mother Young -- like because Buffalo may be the second largest city in the state of New York, we're not really a large city when it comes to the Black community. Every single person who was lost has a connection like one degree or two degrees from everybody else.

And so, from the guard to Miss Young to Kath -- I keep going down the line. The young man who came in town who get his -- to get a cake, we all know his family. So, it's like really tough because we're not in New York City where maybe you don't know your neighbors, you know, two blocks down. We know our neighbors.

And at the end of the day, we know that there are still people in the United States who feel like, oh, it's just urban areas, it's just Black people. It's just not true. And we never expected this. I was going to Tops like 20 minutes before, to this Tops, and decided out of my laziness to just go and buy food that was already cooked.

My kids, you know, we were about to allow our teenagers to walk around the corner this year by themselves to Tops. You know, everybody is on edge now. He changed a lot of things, but he didn't win.

LEMON: Yeah.

PRIDGEN: He did not win.

LEMON: Darius, I want to point this out because I think it's similar. I don't know if you saw the top of the show about what I said about calling it what it is unless you face it, right?


LEMON: In your sermon yesterday, you called out those who tell you that they are friend of the Black community but remained silent. I just want to play that for our audience. Here it is.


PRIDGEN: Don't tell me you love all people and you don't stand up against racism and you don't stand up against hatred and you don't stand up against white supremacy. You do your church over there. But as for us over here, we're grieving. And if you do not stand behind those holy deaths and acknowledge that there are still people who hate Black people, you can go to hell with the shooter for all I care.


LEMON: Hmm. There's a collective trauma that --


LEMON: -- that we have as a community. And now -- look, this is when you want your allies, right, to say something. This is the time to say something because this moment will pass and then there will be another one and then people won't stand up.


LEMON: And they won't say and they won't call it what it is and they'll hem and haw about it and they don't want to offend people or this person, I didn't mean that. We know what it is. Everyone knows what it is.

PRIDGEN: Absolutely. Listen, I -- here is what's tough for me. I had so many people. I represent our denomination, New York State, on the level of a bishop or a conference. I've had people, white and Black, reach out to me and say we're with you.

But here's my problem. They say -- many of them have said, how are you? I wasn't in Tops. It's not about just how I am. But here's what agitates me. At the end of the day, that's where they stop. You can't ask me how I am and not decry how horrible this crime was, especially if you're not African-American. Then what you're saying to me, I'm not worried about you because I know you, but I'm not worried about African-Americans across this country.

And I've been playing. I probably have lost some friends. And here's my message. Pass me up if you're calling me saying or anybody else or you're at work saying, oh, how are you? Oh, I have Black friends. Pacify me with that.

At the end of the day, if you can say that, then right then you should say, and what happened in Buffalo, New York and what happens across the country with racists, with white supremacy, is wrong.

And if you don't say that, find other friends. Leave me alone. I don't want to come to your church. I don't want a kumbaya. I don't want to do a prayer meeting when which we go -- we shall overcome. I will overcome and our people will overcome.

If you don't stand up to whoever is watching, whoever is listening, and you are part of white or Black America and then you don't stand up and say, this is wrong and he was wrong, then shame on you. Leave me alone.

LEMON: There's nothing else to say, Darius. Thank you, sir. I appreciate you joining.

PRIDGEN: Thank you, sir.

LEMON: Thank you.

PRIDGEN: I appreciate it.

LEMON: Thank you. Thank you. I hope you all heard that. The suspected Buffalo gunman is a believer in the great replacement conspiracy theory, the false belief that white Americans are being replaced by people of other races.

It's also creeping into mainstream GOP politics. Not creeping, it is there, because many of the folks, supposedly sensible Republicans, don't want to call it out. So, what does that make you? An enabler. Some Republicans, though, some are pushing back against it. We're going to talk about that next.




LEMON: An online tirade (ph) attributed to the suspect in the Buffalo shooting rooted in replacement theory, the false idea that whites are being slow and intentionally replaced by minorities and immigrants.

Only the alleged shooter is responsible for his actions, but the racist theory has been mainstreamed online in GOP politics and right- wing media. And tonight, some GOP lawmakers are speaking out against it.

Joining me now, CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Scott Jennings. I say some. Some. Thank you both for joining us. Good evening to you.

Ana, GOP Senator Thom Tillis told reporters tonight that replacement theory is garbage. There are some Republicans like him, Liz Cheney, publicly condemning it. Thank goodness for them. But where is everybody else, Ana?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hiding under a rock because they know they bear responsibility and because they know they've been complicit with this incredible and bullshit that is coming out of the Republican Party, these made-up manufactured cultural wars against gays, against Latinos, against Black people, you name it. Is it CRT, is it GRT, is it don't say gay?

And it is about driving people through the polls through fear, through anxiety, through angst instead of offering ideas and solutions. And that can't be the fallback brand (ph).

Listen, great replacement theory used to be a fringed theory for crazy people. But it's been embraced by mainstream Republicans, by republican leadership like Elise Stefanik and so many others. It has been embraced by Fox News, by Tucker Carlson, by Laura Ingraham.

I want people to name names. I want them to be called out because the stuff they're saying, the words they are uttering, is leading to far worse, as Liz Cheney said today. It is leading to the death of people.

Don, you and I were here, and we sat and we talked about the white supremacists who killed 23 Latinos at Walmart in El Paso in 2019. He drove hours and hours to go hunt down my people. And now we have another white supremacist domestic terrorist who drove hours and hours to go hunt down Black people, who figured it all out.

This 18-year-old didn't make this up from thin air. He got radicalized from the internet, from watching the Facebook ads that Elise Stefanik said, from listening to all of this stuff that is going on. So, this cannot be the new normal for the Republican Party.

LEMON: Ana --

NAVARRO: And any Republican who has a conscience and some principles needs to stand up and call this out and name names.

LEMON: Listen, I don't know if he watched Elise Stefanik's Facebook ads, but I do get your overall point, Ana.


LEMON: And Scott, listen, Congressman Matt Gaetz promoted this racist theory. High-profile GOP candidates this election cycle have alluded to it. Ohio State Senate candidate J.D. Vance released an ad saying an open border is flooding Ohio with Democratic voters.

I mean, but what -- okay, they can't vote, but what do you say to them? People -- you know, immigrants can't vote they come into the country. But go on.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDNET TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah. I think that -- couple things. Number one, what this guy obviously saw on the internet is psychotic. It's deranged. It's racist. It is -- I mean, it is the worst of humanity put into a place where someone who obviously has mental illness issues could get to it, become radicalized by it, and then act upon it. And so, it should be very easy for all of us to point that out. Number two, it's not clear, you know, what all his sources of information were, and so I don't think actually you can sit and blame somebody's Facebook ads for this tonight. I do think it's very easy, though, to see exactly what happened. A deranged young person got access to information and it took a very, very bad turn. It should be easy to say this for any politician.

One of the things, honestly, Don, that jumps out at me in addition to the racial component of this is the fact that this person apparently last year had expressed some violent views in his own school and he had apparently undergone a mental evaluation. And somehow, that information just evaporated. And then, obviously, he wound up carrying out a similar violent act, you know, in Buffalo, tragically.

One of the legal or lawmaking issues that I think we ought to look at is how did that happen? How could it be that someone expressed as violent views and then it just falls through the cracks only for us to have this tragedy all these months later? So, I really think there is a couple of issues here that need to be looked at, issues you've raised in addition to this issue.

LEMON: That does need to be raised, but the thing is, the overall thing is, if those ideas weren't there for him to pick apart and to absorb, then perhaps, even if one (INAUDIBLE). So, the access to guns. Let's not forget that. That perhaps we would not be in this moment. But here we are. Listen, I --

NAVARRO: Listen, all of those things that you guys are mentioning -- and Scott, I know you to be a good person -- all those things you're mentioning, mental health, access to guns, are things that require legislation to change. And if it didn't change after over 20 little kids were killed in Sandy Hook, it's not going to change.

But what we can all change as individuals and call for change is the mainstreaming of this great replacement theory that has led to the death of people. And it needs to be called out without any reservation. And absolutely, I am pointing a finger at Elise Stefanik. And absolutely, I am pointing a finger at Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. And everybody else who has made this mainstream.

Scott, when you and I became Republicans as young people, this was a fringed theory. A conspiracy theory for crazy people in the fringe. It has become mainstream by GOP leaders and by GOP influencers on Fox News. And that needs to be called out because it is costing the lives of people who look like Don and who look like me.

So, I'm not going to shut up. I'm not going to talk about leave it to mental health. There is a hell a lot of crazy people in America. But they're not killing Black and brown people. This guy had more than having a mental issue. He is a racist, white supremacist radicalized through great replacement theory. and this needs to be called out. It needs to be called out loudly and by all of us.

LEMON: Ana Navarro, Scott Jennings, thank you both. We will be right back.




LEMON: Former President Trump trying to give embattled GOP Congressman Madison Cawthorn a last-minute boost in his primary race. Just one day before North Carolina voters head to the polls, Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform, when Madison was first elected to Congress, he did a great job. Recently, he made some foolish mistakes, which I don't believe he will make again. Let us give Madison a second chance.

But Trump is talking about Cawthorn bringing a gun to the airport twice, one time it was loaded, also claiming his fellow Republicans invited him to cocaine-fueled orgies, sexual harassment allegations, and getting pulled over for driving with a revoked license also twice. So, do voters think those were all foolish mistakes?

CNN's Dianne Gallagher finds out.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mountainous, tree-covered landscape of Western Carolina has become an ugly political battleground --

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Cawthorn will lie about anything.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): As Republicans wage an all-out war on embattled but Trump-endorsed Congressman Madison Cawthorn. He faces off against seven GOP challengers in Tuesday's primary, who cast the scandal-plagued representative as absent, fame hungry, even dangerous.

WENDY NEVAREZ, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR NC 11: A lot of things that he has said and done recently has aired another country as propaganda that goes back to a national security issue.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Pitching themselves to the very red district as more serious, less distracting alternatives.


CHUCL EDWARDS, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR NC 11: Instead of talking about what lingerie that our congressman might like to wear in his spare time, we need to be talking about inflation and real issues.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Republicans have rallied around the other candidates like State Senator Chuck Edwards, who has the backing of North Carolina's most powerful players, including Senator Thom Tillis.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Putin used Cawthorn's claim.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): And the six figures that Tillis's connected super PAC has dropped on attack ads.

REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): I've really never seen the swamp launch such a coordinate attack against any individual politics except for Donald Trump.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Former President Donald Trump endorsed the 26- year-old Cawthorn more than a year ago, though he has general stayed away from the race. But on the eve of the primary, Trump posted on his Truth Social platform, re-hashing Cawhorn's background while adding, recently, he made some foolish mistakes, which I don't believe he'll make again. Let's give Madison a second chance.

We found plenty of voters in Cawthorn's hometown of Hendersonville who plan to do just that.

UNKNOWN: Well, I think he is a good kid. It's political. Everybody is trying to do what they can to make themselves look good and make the opponent look bad.

UNKNOWN: A lot of it is made up, fabricated stuff.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): But for others between the unflattering headlines for congressional attendance and fights over whether he shut down district offices, it's just too much drama.

UNKNOWN: He's narcissistic and I'm just not into that.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): North Carolina's 11th district is massive and rural, making voters both physically and digitally hard to reach. But one Cawthorn misstep that did seem to reach the entire district, his move late last year when new maps were drawn to leave it behind.

MADISON: I will be running for Congress in the 13th congressional district. This move is not an abandonment.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): But a lot of people took it that way.

UNKNOWN: So, when Madison Cawthorn decided to leave the congressional district and run in Charlotte, he asked me to step in and run as the America first candidate.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): And when the court redraw the maps, Cawthorn came back.

(On camera): Something that adds a little of unpredictability to tomorrow's race, the unaffiliated voter. More than 40% of the ballots that have been cast in Republican primary during early voting in this district comes from an unaffiliated voter. There was a movement to push Democrats to change their affiliation and moderate voters to vote against Madison Cawthorn.

Don, one other thing that is going to factor in North Carolina law, it requires a candidate to get 30% of the vote in order to avoid a runoff. Experts say that could actually help Madison Cawthorn because the field bind to unseat him is so large.


LEMON: Dianne, thank you very much. I appreciate that. A curve ball in the Pennsylvania primary. One of the leading contenders for the democratic Senate nomination suffering a stroke just hours before the vote. That story is next.




LEMON: Major twist ahead of tomorrow's crucial primary races in Pennsylvania. Here is new video of the top democratic Senate candidate in the hospital recovering from a stroke. And that is where he is going to spend election day. John Fetterman's wife speaking to CNN. She says the lieutenant governor is on his way to a full recovery.

And on the republican side, a controversial Senate candidate with the history of bigoted comments is making a sudden surge to the top of the field.

A lot to discuss with CNN political commentator Charlie Dent and Republican Congressman -- former Republicans Congressman, I should say, from Pennsylvania he is, and also senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. Gents, hello to both of you.


LEMON: Blue suit night. I don't know. Maybe Ron is (INAUDIBLE), but we are all pretty similar. Good to see both of you. So, Charlie, before we get to Pennsylvania, I've got to ask you about what you heard in Dianne Gallagher's piece. Will Trump saying give Madison Cawthorn a second chance make a difference?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA REPRESENTATIVE: I tend to think, no. I mean, frankly, Madison Cawthorn strikes me as a very troubled, young man. He needs an intervention. He needs help.

And I think really that's really the bottom line here. This fella isn't well. He should not be in Congress. I can't imagine that Trump semi-endorsement is going to be very helpful. I think this young man has a lot to overcome both politically and personally.

LEMON: Ron, another democratic frontrunner, John Fetterman, recovering from the stroke in the hospital right before the Senate primary. What kind of an impact, do you think, is going to have on this race because you say that Democrats can't hold the Senate without picking up Pennsylvania?

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah. Look, Pennsylvania is sensible race for them in the Senate. It is their best chance to take a seat now held by Republicans. Pat Toomey, the Republican senator, is retiring. They've got four tough incumbent races of their own to defend and it's hard to imagine that they can win all of those in this environment. So, I think without winning Pennsylvania, it's going to be hard for them to keep the Senate. Look, John Fetterman is a relatively young man. He's 52 years old. He is a big guy. He has projected good health. And I think -- I've talked to several people in the state today who feel that as long as in fact he makes a complete recovery, and he looked solid in that video that they released today, that they do not think that this will be a big issue in the general election.


BROWNSTEIN: I mean, he is in a strong position in the primary. I think he's got a half a million ballots return. Unlikely that it cost him the primary. And as long as he recovers, unlikely to be a major factor in the general election.

LEMON: Charlie Dent, on the republican side, the Senate primary in your home state is now essentially a three-way tie. Do you think that Kathy Barmette could pull off a win tomorrow night? Because even Trump is saying that she's too extreme to win in November. And that's saying something.

DENT: Yeah, it sure is. Well, look, I think Kathy Barnette clearly has surged. But I will also say that I've saw a lot of ads over the weekend. The rest of the republican establishment spent one hell a lot of time pounding her. And they may have tamped her down a little bit. I saw some polling suggesting that she was behind Oz but ahead McCormick.

But she would be -- I said the other night, Don, that this would be a double nightmare scenario in the event that she would win the primary. If she were to win the primary and, of course, Mastriano win the gubernatorial primary, things would look very bleak for the Republicans going into the general election.

I've never seen such a failure to GOP leadership to condition or shape a field. They just really didn't do it. They left a vacuum and it was filled by Donald Trump who endorsed Mastriano, endorsed Oz. And a lot of the Republican leadership is upset. But they have no one to blame but themselves because they chose not to endorse, not to intervene when they could have made a difference.

LEMON: Ron, you've been studying all these races and what they mean for the midterms come November. What is the most important thing you are going to be looking for in the results as they come in tomorrow night?

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I think the issue isn't really so much who Donald Trump endorses but who endorses Donald Trump. I mean, all of the Republican candidates in the Senate race in Pennsylvania are basically fighting over who is the Trumpiest. We see this in Ohio, in North Carolina.

The big story, I think, is that with or without Trump's personal affirmatory, Trumpism is consolidating its hold over the Republican Party. And the question will be, as in 2010 and 2012, whether that produces nominee in some states that allows Democrats to overcome what is overall a very tough environment for them with inflation this high. I think what we are going to be watching tomorrow, I think the likelihood and the evidence is going to show, continued consolidation of Trump's hold over the Republican Party with or without his personal endorsements panning out.

LEMON: Thank you, gentlemen. Premature. Such an Ivy League word. I love it.


BROWNSTEIN: It's a Sunni word. A good Sunni word.

LEMON: Hey, look, (INAUDIBLE) here. I mean, you say premature, I say (INAUDIBLE). I mean, you know, maybe -- I'm sure I'm wrong. Tomato, tomato.

DENT: Tomato.


LEMON: Thank you, guys. I appreciate it.

DENT: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Evacuations at the Azovstal steel plant, missile strikes in Lviv, a lot of updates tonight in the situation in Ukraine. Colonel Leighton is here to take us all through it. That's next.




LEMON: The nearly three-month-long siege at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine seems to be nearing its end. Russia says an agreement has been reached to evacuate wounded soldiers from the region.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy confirming tonight that at least 260 have left the plant. This happening as Sweden and Finland say that they will apply for NATO membership.

CNN military analyst and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton at the magic wall for us. Colonel, good evening to you. Hundreds evacuated from Azovstal steel plant, including 53 seriously wounded. Ukraine defense ministry saying tonight the fighters have fulfilled their combat mission, calling them heroes of our time. If it is over there, how important was it to the battle that they held out for so long?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, RETIRED AIR FORCE COLONEL: Well, Don, good evening. There are so many aspects to this, but I think the most important thing is this, that they held out for so long. Those words that you just said are the key thing here. The fact that they held out in this particular area for this amount of time, for the weeks and really months that we saw them do this, that took away from what the Russians were trying to do in other areas.

So, Russians had to bring their troops, their weapons, their bombs into this area in an effort to subjugate it and to completely obliterate it. That was the main goal, was to tie up the Russians. And for a large part of this period, they actually were able to do that.

So, in that sense, the Ukrainians have gained a bit of a victory here, although the Russians, of course, will now have this area. It's fairly clear that they're going to take over in the next few hours or so.

LEMON: Colonel, Ukrainian forces in the north near Kharkiv have pushed Russia all the way back across their border. Talk about their gains. What kind of motivation, that kind of advance can give them?

LEIGHTON: So, this is very important. You know, when you look at this particular area, Don, we have a lot of the Russians concentrated right here in the northeast. But you look at the area around Kharkiv and you see the Ukrainian movement right here.

But what is really important about this, this is kind of a propaganda victory for them because at the Ukrainian-Russian border, that's what this border marker is supposed to represent, these Ukrainian forces are there, and the important thing is that they're right there on Ukrainian soil touching Russian soil. This means they've pushed back the Russians back into their homeland.


LEIGHTON: And that's what they are trying to show with this video.

LEMON: Colonel, thank you so much. Have a good night. I'll see you tomorrow.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Don.

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


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause.

Ahead this hour, the racist massacre in a Buffalo grocery store appears to be months in the planning, and if not surrendered to police, investigator say the suspect wanted his killing spree to continue at other target locations.

Surrender at the Azovstal steel plant. For 82 days, outgunned and outnumbered, Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol held off the Russian military. But now, that battle is all but lost.