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Don Lemon Tonight

Uvalde Native Calling For Congress To Act; Bipartisan Bill Being Discussed At The House; January 6th Committee Starts Its Public Hearing; Families Holding On To Their Hope For Change. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 07, 2022 - 22:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Thanks for watching. I'll be back tomorrow night. DON LEMON TONIGHT starts right now. Hey, Don Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Hey, Laura Coates, and we'll see you tomorrow night. A big show to get to tonight. Thank you so much.


And we are at a very critical point in this country right now. A crucial point, as a matter of fact, a moment when we get to decide whether we're going to do something about the gun violence that is killing more and more Americans every day, even if it's only a first step, or do nothing and just watch more and more funerals, more and more families torn apart.

This could be the moment, right? This could be the moment. I don't mean to get all preachy about it. But hopefully it could be the moment, a bipartisan group of senators working to hammer out a deal. It's no sure thing. Whatever they come up with will likely be less than what Democrats want and a tough sell in the red states.

They are looking at bolstering checks on 18 to 21-year-olds who want to buy semiautomatic weapons, red flag laws, school security, and mental health care. And the White House says that President Joe Biden is optimistic on negotiations and believes, quote, "any step is a step forward."

And you only have to listen to this to know how crucial all this is. A fourth-grade teacher shot in his classroom in Uvalde. Every one of his students killed. He's begging parents, please, don't be angry with me.


ARNULFO REYES, TEACHER, ROBB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, UVALDE, TEXAS: I lost 11 that day. And I'm (Inaudible), I'm sorry. I tried my best. I did what I was taught to do. Please don't be angry with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: And you only have to listen to the son of one of the ten people shot to death in a racist attack in Buffalo testifying in a Senate hearing on domestic terrorism today.


GARNELL WHITFIELD, JR., SON OF BUFFALO SHOOTING VICTIM RUTH WHITFIELD: My mother's life mattered. My mother's life mattered. And your actions here today will tell us how much it matters to you.


LEMON: I hope the folks sitting in that room were listening, and beyond. That was Garnell Whitfield, Jr. talking about his mother, Ruth Whitfield. I'm going to talk to him a little bit later on tonight.

At the rate we're going right now, this could be the worst year of mass shootings ever in this country's history. And Homeland Security is warning threats could get worse ahead of the midterms and with the coming Supreme Court ruling on abortion.

But like I said, this could be the moment. It won't be easy to get something done, but I just want you to listen to something else. This is why I didn't speak a long time with Laura because I wanted to make time because I want you to hear this. It's really important.

This is Matthew McConaughey, a son of Uvalde who says that he grew up as a responsible gun owner whose mom taught kindergartner less than a mile from the scene of the shooting. He made an impassioned speech in the White House briefing room just today, a plea for action on guns. Here it is.


MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR: It's come to the common table that represents the American people. Find a middle ground, the place where most of us Americans live anyway, especially on this issue. Because I promise you, America, you and me, we are not as divided as we are being told we are.

So where do we start? We start by making right choices on the issue that is in front of us today. We start by making laws that save innocent lives and don't infringe on our Second Amendment right. We start right now by voting to pass policies that can keep us from having as many Columbines, Sandy Hook, Parklands, Las Vegas, as Buffalos and Uvaldes from here on.

We start by giving Aletheia a chance to be spoiled by her dad. We start by giving Maite a chance to become a marine biologist. We start by giving Ellie a chance to read her bible verse at the Wednesday night service. We start by giving Irma and Jo a chance to finish painting their house, maybe retire and get that food truck.


We start by giving McKenna, Leyla, Maranda, Nevaeh, Jose, Xavier, Tess, Rojelio, Eliana, Annabelle, Jackie, Uziyah, Jayla, Eva, Amerie, and Lexi. We start by giving them our promise that their dreams are not going to be forgotten. We start by making the loss of these lives matter.


LEMON: He told personal stories about a lot of the children who died, about the family members, about the husband of the teacher who he said literally died a few days later of a broken heart. It was emotional. It was real. And it was common sense.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins was in that room as Matthew McConaughey spoke and he -- she joins me now. Kaitlan, good evening to you. That was really an impassioned plea from the actor who, again, is an Uvalde native, talking about gun safety. What was it like in that room hearing him talk about these victims?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Don, it's rarely that silent in the briefing room. It's obviously reporters tweeting, taking notes, asking questions of the press secretary. It was almost completely silent in the room as he was speaking and really eulogizing these 19 school children that were killed in his hometown.

And as you noted, just a mile from where his mom used to teach kindergarten. And he talked about guns while he was in there, he talked about how high powered the rifle was, the gun was that the gunman used here, saying it disconfigured the bodies of these children.

And going into graphic detail about this, Don, talking about how some of them could only be identified from a DNA swab from green converse sneakers that his wife was holding alongside the corner of the briefing room for one of the victims who --


LEMON: I want to play that, Kaitlan, for the audience --


LEMON: -- and then we can talk about it. Here it is.



MCCONAUGHEY: Maite wore green high-top Converse with a heart she had hand drawn on the right toe because they represented her love of nature. Camilla has got these shoes, can you show these shoes, please, wore these every day, green Converse with a heart on the right toe? These are the same green Converse on her feet that turned out to be the only clear evidence that could identify her after the shooting. How about that?


LEMON: Kaitlan?

COLLINS: It was just a stunning moment where really no one in the room was speaking, just listening to what he was saying, given they drove down there the day after the shooting happened and they spent -- they were supposed to be there just for a few for a matter of delays, I believe. They were there for over a week, he said.

Obviously, clearly talking to a lot of the families here about what their kids were like. He had pictures of some of their - the students' artwork. He had pictures of the students themselves. He talked about at one point really graphic, Don, talking about those who do makeup on bodies before a funeral, before or something like that.

He was saying they could not do their job here because the bodies were so disconfigured by those high-powered weapons that they needed reconstructive work done instead of just makeup done that would typically be done in a situation like that. He got very graphic and really talking about the effect that this had on the community there in his hometown, saying that counselors are going to be needed there in a long time.

And Don, you saw how emotional he was. That came after he had met with President Biden. He's been here meeting with lawmakers as well with his wife, Camila there as well, talking about what they believe needs to be done. This, a lot of the similar things that you saw President Biden called for in his evening address last week.

LEMON: How much did the president, how much involvement did he have with trying to, and trying to get a deal on Capitol Hill?

COLLINS: Well, that's something that you also saw come before the president had met with Matthew McConaughey today. He met with Senator Chris Murphy who is one of the leading Democrats on the talks that are happening on the Hill right now, not just even in the bigger outside group. He is one of the core Democrats working on this issue and it's notable that he met with President Biden in the Oval Office today for about 40 minutes.

The White House advertised it because so far, he has not gotten -- and by he, I mean President Biden, directly involved in these negotiations because aides said he wanted to give them space to work out, he wanted to let the senators to talk amongst themselves really.

But today you saw that change with President Biden having one of the top negotiators come into the Oval Office and speak with him about this. And the White House says he feels optimistic because he was in the Senate once, he knows how much work it takes to actually come anywhere near a consensus or compromise or agreement. They say he feels closer than they've been in decades.

But I did ask the White House if there isn't those -- or if there aren't those things, those priorities that President Biden called for in his evening address in whatever package he eventually gets if it's just whatever bipartisan dealt those senators come to an agreement, should they come to one, is that something President Biden would sign? And, Don, they said they believe any step forward is a step forward. [22:15:02]

LEMON: Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Kaitlan, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

I want to bring in now former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, and former Democratic Senator Doug Jones.

Gentlemen, good evening to both of you.

You know, Doug, you don't usually get emotional like that coming from the briefing room. What did you think of McConaughey's remarks?

FMR. SEN. DOUG JONES (D-AL): I thought it was just a stunning and just incredible remark. It takes that kind of emotion, I think, sometimes for someone that's not a politician, somebody that is not in the forefront, not a stakeholder in the sense that we normally think of that to really hit home to America. That's what it was.

And Matthew McConaughey hit that chord. He hit every chord. I just thought it was an amazing -- not performance. He was not performing. This was from the heart. This was from his own instincts and his gut. And I think it was just -- and I hope people watched and I hope they were listening to what he was saying, and seeing and feeling the pain that he has for his hometown of Uvalde.

LEMON: Let's listen to a little bit more of Matthew McConaughey.


MCCONAUGHEY: The common threat, independent of the anger and the confusion and sadness, it was the same. How can these families continue to honor these deaths by keeping the dreams of these children and teachers alive? Again, how can a loss of these lives matter? So, while we honor and acknowledge the victims, we need to recognize that this time it seems that something is different.


LEMON: Is Washington listening, Charlie?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I certainly hope so, Don. I mean, there once upon a time in politics when there were crises, and this is a crises these mass shootings as there's much crime in the country. It's a crisis. There was a time where politicians could come together and actually try to solve a problem.

And Don, I'd like to point out that some of the things they're talking about, expanded background checks, raising the age limit to buy a long gun to 21, red flag laws, banning bump stocks, these are not -- these are not proposals that are going to infringe on anybody's Second Amendment rights. So, I think it's important that the Congress get something done.

Hey, they might go as far as I might like, but incremental progress is better than nothing. I do think they are listening, and McConaughey -- McConaughey's presentation today was powerful. It was emotional. It's hard not to get upset listening to what he had to say today. So, I think we've got -- I think Washington is listening, whether or not they can deliver, that's another matter, but I hope they can.

LEMON: Let's talk about some of the things that are on the table. You just saw it there. We'll put it back up, incentivizing states to pass red flag laws, waiting periods for 18 to 21-year-olds, school safety and mental health, likely off the table, raising the age to buy AR- 15s, banning assault weapons, universal background checks and restricting magazines.

That is interesting, Doug, that those things are off the table because most of the American people want all of the things that were listed there, even the ones that are off the table. Again, my question is, I asked Charlie if Washington was listening. It doesn't appear that they are listening.

JONES: Well, I think that they're listening, but I'm not sure that they're going to follow through. I think the things that are off the table are exactly what the American people want, exactly what they're demanding, but there is a small base of folks that vote in certain primaries that do not want those things.

And the things that are on the table, look, I think they're great. A waiting period. I'm all in favor of waiting period. But the fact of the matter is it does not do the kind of job that a ban for 18 to 21- year-olds, raising that limit would do.

The Uvalde shooter, Don, had a waiting period. He asked his sister to buy him a gun when he was 17 years old and she refused to do it. So, he waited till he was 18. So, I think we have to be realistic.

There's one thing though, that I haven't heard anybody talk about being on the table, which I think is really important. And that's the fact that the Senate ought to immediately confirm Steve Dettelbach to be the head of ATF. ATF has not had -- and that's the, for those that don't know, that's the federal agency to enforce federal gun laws.

Everybody talks about enforcing the laws that we have on the books. But yet, there has not been an ATF permanent director in over seven years. They need to have a permanent director to help with the strategy, pass some laws to help implement a strategy to enforce the laws that are on the books.

The Senate in a bipartisan way confirm Steve Dettelbach and it would send a message, I think that they are serious about enforcing the nation's gun laws.

LEMON: Charlie, this is -- this is where we are right now, he says the ATF needs a permanent head. OK? I understand that.


But he also said a small voting bloc who doesn't want those things. Again, a small voting bloc, that's the minority of people in this country. So why are we listening to a small voting bloc? Why are lawmakers listening to a small voting bloc instead of what the majority of Americans want?

DENT: Again, they're worried about primary pressure, to be sure. But I would also argue that -- Don, I served in the Pennsylvania legislature in the 1990s. We had a Republican Governor Tom Ridge from Republican legislature. We passed expanded background checks that included private sales of pistols. We did that. The NRA agreed to it. They agreed to it.

And you know what? No one's ever complained about it. No one lost a primary over it. I would argue that nobody is going to lose a primary who are voting for background checks on private sales of long guns or pistols. They're not going to lose an election over raising the age limit to buy a long gun to 21 or red flag laws.

It's not going to -- Rick Scott, the senator from Florida, he was the governor, he passed the law in Florida as governor. And guess what? He was elected to the Senate. They just -- they can do these things. There's no reason to be so fearful because these outside groups, the NRA, they worry about losing members to the gun owners of America. And that's what this is about if. If they compromise, they lose members. That's their politics. It shouldn't be the politics of the members of the Congress.

LEMON: Doug, recently the former head of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, said the U.S. May need another Emmitt Till moment to show the real harsh of mass shootings. Should lawmakers and the American people see the real consequences of inaction? Is that what's going to get them to do something substantive?

JONES: Wow, that was pretty strong. I mean, I read Jeh's comments, and we saw that happen with Emmitt Till. I mean, there are things that I think that have been shown across the world in different places. We just saw -- I think it was the anniversary of the Vietnam picture of the young lady -- girl running down the street with no clothes on, running down the road after the Napalm.

I mean, those are powerful images, and it may very well be to take that. It is so easy -- and I found as a lawyer sometimes it is so easy to distance yourself from what's going on, to see something happening on television.

When I tried the church bombing cases, Don, we didn't use the photographs of the little girls. But what I did do was I let the jury hold the shoes of one of those little girls that died in that bombing. I wanted to bring that home. We got to figure out a way to bring this back to the American people in a way that's just not on a television set, which allows that distance to maintain and you can say it can never happen here, it can never happen to my family.

They need to understand this is happening all the way, that gun violence is the leading cause of death for young people in this country. The leading cause of death. That is just unbelievable to me that that is happening in United States of America.

LEMON: We're at a point now I think where most people in this country, no matter where you live, what neighborhood, you can no longer say that this -- nothing like this ever happens in our neighborhood because it is happening everywhere all over America.

Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

JONES: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Two weeks since 19 little kids and two of their teachers were shot to death in their classroom in Uvalde, two weeks, but not a whole lot of answers from officials about what happened.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Do you have confidence in Chief Arredondo?


UNKNOWN: Excuse me, sir. Excuse me.

UNKNOWN: I have no -- I haven't pursued --

PROKUPECZ: Excuse me, sir. Don't push me out of the way. I want to back up. OK, sir.


UNKNOWN: I'm making --

PROKUPECZ: Don't -- that's fine, please don't get in my way.

UNKNOWN: The American people want the truth.

PROKUPECZ: Please don't -- well, he has -- he's been avoiding our questions.




LEMON: We learn the horrible news two weeks ago, the horrible news that 19 little kids and two of their teachers had been shot to death in their classroom in Uvalde, Texas, 19 children who should've been beginning their lives, two teachers who died trying to save them. But in those two weeks there have been more and more questions about what happened.

CNN's Omar Jimenez joins me now with the very latest on that. Good evening, Omar.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Don. So, for starters, the city has now announced that they have requested a review from the Department of Justice into the investigation of the response at Robb Elementary School, according to the mayor, as he also admitted there were missteps in the release of information as we all know at this point. Separately, the Uvalde District County -- or the Uvalde County

district attorney said it's going to be a while, to use her words, until we get the reports from Texas DPS or the FBI. So, in the meantime, families, those affected are left either searching or waiting for answers.


DON MCLAUGHLIN, MAYOR, UVALDE, TEXAS: Our priorities are for the families who lost children --

JIMENEZ: despite a special city council meeting, few answers from public officials.

MCLAUGHLIN: There's an investigation going on and we'll find out what happened. I want those answers just like everybody else. I want to be transparent. I want to be clear.

JIMENEZ: It's now been two weeks since the shooting, but the pain hasn't gone anywhere.

REYES: I said if I die, don't let it be in vain.

JIMENEZ: Arnulfo Reyes was teaching his fourth-grade class when they all began to hear the gunshots.

REYES: The kids started asking out loud, Mr. Reyes, what is going on? And I said I don't know what's going on. But let's go ahead and get under the table. Get under the table and act like you're asleep. As they were doing that and I was gathering them under the table and told them to act like they were going to sleep is about the time when I turned around and saw him standing there.

JIMENEZ: Reyes was then shot and says he had to play dead for over an hour. Much of that time law enforcement was just outside the door.


REYES: You're supposed to protect and serve. There is no excuse for their actions, and I will never forgive them. I lost 11 that day. And to the parents, I want to say I'm sorry, I tried my best. I did what I was told to do. Please don't be angry with me.

JIMENEZ: For the survivors, it's going to be a long road to normal. The grandfather of Leann Garcia, another young survivor who was shot in the face told CNN --


JIMENEZ: -- she still hears bullets, he says, and even now gets scared at the slightest sounds. It's why her mother, along with the parents of three other young survivors, are now suing the estate of the shooter for damages alleging in part he intentionally injured these young children, stole their innocence, and forever changed their lives.

It's trauma Reyes miraculously survived, and now he's not going to settle with just being alive.

REYES: I will go anywhere, to the end of the world, to not let my students die in vain. They didn't deserve this. Nobody in this world deserves this kind of pain. I will go to the end of the world to make sure things get changed.


JIMENEZ: And that, of course, becomes the question. Tomorrow we're expecting to hear testimony on Capitol Hill from a fourth grader at Robb Elementary School, Miah Cerrillo. We're also expecting to hear from the parents of Lexi Rubio, she was the 10-year-old killed in this attack, a mother of someone who was injured in Buffalo and more, all of them hoping that at least some portions of their story can have an impact on any long-term change, Don.

LEMON: Omar Jimenez in Uvalde, Texas. Omar, thank you very much.

They considered options to get the then-president to the capitol on January 6th. That's what Secret Service personnel are testifying to. The details, next.



LEMON: Less than 48 hours from the January 6th committee's first primetime hearing, we are getting new information about then-President Trump's plans of the day of the riot, of the capitol riot.

CNN congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles is here with more. Ryan, good evening to you. We are learning that there was a plan discussed to get Trump to the capitol on January 6th. What more are you learning?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And this is really a different story than what the former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said in the book that he wrote about his experience in the White House where he suggested, when Trump told that crowd of his supporters at the ellipse outside the White House that he wanted to march with them to the capitol, that he was just adlibbing off the cuff and never meant it seriously and there was never a plan to do it.

Well, what we are learning is that the Trump administration, White House officials were in active talks with the Secret Service to try and find a way to allow the former president, he was president at that time, to go to the capitol on that day.

And even as he was giving the speech, they were talking about finding a way to get a motorcade safely to the capitol on that time. They even reached out to the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., who said that they would not be able to assist a plan like this. Ultimately, the Secret Service shut it down.

But, Don, it really speaks to what was in Donald Trump's head at that time, you know. There have been Trump supporters that have tried to suggest that it was not his people that stormed the capitol, but the fact that he wanted to be there with them as things were starting to unfold shows that he was at least hoping his supporters were marching on the capitol on January 6th.

LEMON: Ryan, you also have new details about what we can see in the select committee's hearing on Thursday. What can we expect?

NOBLES: Yes, that's right. In fact, the committee officially announced this afternoon, we did report it yesterday that they're going to feature two witnesses who have a direct connection to the activities of the Proud Boys, that right-wing extremist group, who had a large presence on Capitol Hill on January 6th.

Caroline Edwards is a former -- or is a current capitol police officer. She was involved in a violent altercation with members of the Proud Boys, she was badly injured on that day. And then Nick Quested is a documentarian who was embedded with the Proud Boys for a significant period of time leading up to January 6th and on the day itself.

And Quested's testimony could be interesting, Don, because the committee views him as a firsthand fact witness. He was essentially a fly on the wall with the Proud Boys during this period of time. And one of the things the committee is trying to establish is that there was some level of pre-meditation here, that this wasn't just an organic riot that came out of a few peaceful protesters who ended up getting out of control, that there were actually people there with plans to cause chaos and that the Proud Boys were among them.

Quested is someone who can speak to that because he was there while some of these plans were taking place.

LEMON: Ryan Nobles in Washington, thank you, sir.

NOBLES: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: So, the bar is high. Stakes are even higher. The January 6th committee's public hearings coming up in just two days. Stay with us.



LEMON: So, this time on Thursday, the House committee investigating January 6th will be holding its first public primetime hearing after its 10-month investigation. Committee members promising the hearings will include new information and be focused on former President Trump's direct role in undermining the election results.

Joining me now, CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams, and Amanda Carpenter, political columnist at the Bulwark.

Hello to both of you. Thank you so much for joining.

Amanda, I'm going to start with you. We watched what happened that day with our own eyes. We have heard from the officers who were attacked, the lawmakers who had to evacuate. What is the burden of the committee starting on Thursday night?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's most important to ask, is telling the story, one, about what happened on January 6th, but keeping the focus in mind that this is not just some examination of something that happened in the past.


This is -- what the January 6th committee will be delivering is very much an active threat assessment. And that is because all of the political conditions that led to the violence on that day are still very much in play.

Donald Trump is still the uncontested leader of the Republican Party. The Republican class from bottom to the top are still willing to indulge and enable these big election lies. The base is eating it up and nominating election-denying candidates to a lot of key positions in swing states.

And Don, what I find the most alarming is that the extremists who were on the ground that day, we're talking about the people outfitted in tactical gear who led the charge to the capitol, who are facing indictments, you know, organizations like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers now have footholds in a lot of state and local Republican Party organizations.

You know, the state chairman of the Republican Party in Wyoming trying to oust Liz Cheney from Congress right now is a member of the Oath Keepers. Proud Boys are leading Republican parties in Miami, Florida. So, the threat hasn't weakened at all. It's very much present and in many cases stronger.

LEMON: You know, Elliot, the committee appears to have put together a behind-the-scenes story of Trump's conduct that day and fill in the blank, you know, the missing gaps on the logs. Remember, they say that new information will be revealed as well. What is the bar for success for this committee? I mean, what do they -- what do they really need to do here?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. That's a really important question, Don, and really, we should step back and look at what's the point of a congressional hearing or a congressional committee. What can Congress do? And they can do a lot of things.

Number one, they can refer criminal charges if they come across information that suggests that somebody committed a crime. They can certainly let the Justice Department know about that. That's one power they have.

Frankly, as all of us have as and Congress because they can investigate. Right? Number two, they can change laws and rules to ensure that such things never happen again. For instance, there were breaches and lapses in congressional security. So much of this is focused on Donald Trump's conduct, but we really need to look at security of the capitol and how did this happen and what lapses got there. Right? So, you know, so number one, you got the legal remedy, number two, or you know the criminal remedy. Number two, the legal one for Congress. And then number three, ultimately, it's sort of the political question, right? And at the end of the day there are elected officials at the center of this and Congress can shine light on the matter. And raise questions about whether some of these folks should be elected to office again. So, there's a lot of things Congress can do by focusing the public's attention on what happened that day.

LEMON: Let me just remind the viewers of what Trump said just before the capitol attack. Watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy. And after this we're going to walk down -- and I'll be there with you. We're going to walk down -- we're going to walk down, anyone you want, but I think right here we're going to walk down to the capitol --


TRUMP: -- and we're going to cheer on our brave senators and congressman and women, and we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them.


LEMON: So clearly, you know, amping up the lie, getting the folks riled up. We know the Secret Service that day considered options to secure a motorcade to the capitol but then it found it unfeasible and the Secret Service officials testified that to the committee. How does that tell the story of what was happening that day, Amanda Carpenter?

CARPENTER: Well, what you saw in that clip was evidence, clear evidence that Donald Trump deliberately summoned the mob to Washington on that day. And wound them up and deployed them to the capitol for the purpose of denying Joe Biden the presidency. And a lot of people want to say -- like, what is the story of January 6th about? What is the story that we're going to hear?

To me, the story is how Republicans, starting with Donald Trump all the way to those guys on the ground outfitted in tactical gear, bearing his flag, what they were willing to do to keep Donald Trump in power. And that was an escalating series of actions, right?

It started with the lies, it went to the lawsuits, ultimately it just ended in force because that was the last resort. But what is going to make these hearings exceptional is the fact that because this is largely a Republican drama, you are going to hear from the Republicans who saw it first-hand.


That is what we're going to get from the hearings that we haven't gotten before. So far, it's been so hard to track what happened because you had to, like, read every tell-all book and watch every interview and read every blockbuster investigative story.

The January 6th committee has the power that no newsroom has had to date, 1,000 interviews, all kinds of testimony, video. They're going to put together a presentation we've never seen before, told by people we've never seen tell it.

LEMON: Elliot, she said the story of January 6th is and she described it. So, what is the story of Thursday night? Is it about what happened what Trump did before, what folks did before? Is it about the people in the crowd? Is it about all of it?

WILLIAMS: Well, look, what we know right now is that two of the witnesses who've been announced are people that engaged with the Proud Boys, number one, a documentary filmmaker who had been following them prior and then a police officer who was injured by them on that day.

Clearly, what we know about the indictment yesterday about the Proud Boys is that they played a role in the weeks leading up to January 6th. So, I think the case is being made that this just didn't start that day, number one.

Number two, we know that a former news executive is helping them put it together. So, there's an element of stage craft to this, as there is to all congressional hearings. And I think what they're trying to do is put this in a digestible manner for the American people.

And just along with Amanda's point, you know, this -- you know, t's a long-running matter that extended far before the day of, I think they just need to focus the public's attention on it.

LEMON: All right. Elliot, Amanda, thank you both. I appreciate it.

So, he's calling on Congress to do something. Garnell Whitfield. Jr.'s mother died in that racist attack the Buffalo grocery store and he is making sure those with power hear what he has to say.

Plus, polls closing in California in just minutes. Major elections are taking place and we're going to have the results for you.



LEMON: Today, the Senate judiciary committee holding a hearing on the increasing threats posed by domestic terrorism just three weeks after one of the worst domestic terror attacks in recent history. Speaking at the hearing was Garnell Whitfield, Jr. whose mother Ruth Whitfield was one of the victims of the racist massacre at that Buffalo supermarket. Here's just part of what he has to say. Listen.


WHITFIELD: The faces of your mothers as you look at mine, and ask yourself, is there nothing that we can do? Is there nothing that you personally are willing to do to stop the cancer of white supremacy and the domestic terrorism it inspires?

Because if there is nothing, then, respectfully, senators, you should yield your positions of authority and influence to others that are willing to lead on this issue. The urgency of the moment demands no less. My mother's life mattered. My mother's life mattered. And your actions here today will tell us how much it matters to you.


LEMON: Garnell Whitfield. Jr. is here along with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump. We'll speak to them right after the break.



LEMON: So, you heard his powerful statement at the Senate hearing on domestic terrorism talking about his mother who was killed in the racist attack in Buffalo, and challenging senators to take action. He said, quote, "my mother's life mattered, your actions here today will tell us how much it matters to you."

Let's discuss now with Garnell Whitfield, Jr. and civil rights attorney Ben Crump. Thank you so much for joining us, both of you, gentlemen.

Garnell, I'm sorry that we have to meet under these circumstances. But what you said today was so moving when you spoke today about, you know, what you think senators should do, what they should be doing. What do you think, do you think they heard your message? Do you think there's going to be some action?

WHITFIELD: I think they heard the message, whether there is going to be some action remains to be seen. These discussions been going on for a long time now so I I'm not naive to think that, you know, everything is going to be OK after today.

LEMON: It must be tough for you sitting there so soon after your mother's death to be able to -- you know, sitting there and talking to these elected officials. Why did you -- why did you do it? Why was it so important for you to do this?

WHITFIELD: My family and I are very private, but we made a conscious decision when my mother was murdered that we had to speak up. My mother always advocated for the least for this, she was always advocating for underdog and for persons that were, you know, left out. And we felt compelled to do that for her in her passing.

LEMON: Ben, you held a press conference after the hearing today with victims of the Buffalo massacre along with Senators Durbin, Schumer, and Blumenthal. What are they going to do to help stop this violence?

BENJAMIN CRUMP, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: You know, they are pressing -- so Schumer has said he's going to keep pushing to have a vote where the Republicans have to at least not be cowardice enough to say we don't even want to vote so people won't know where we stand. It was a sin how that monster killed Ruth Whitfield and the buffalo

ten. And it's equally sad that the Senate, especially the Republicans won't act. How many of our families, how many of our children have to be killed before they at least act?

LEMON: A bit more of your powerful testimony now, Garnell. Listen to this.


WHITFIELD: Our lives are forever changed, forever damaged by an act of profound hate and evil. And nothing will ever take away the hurt, the pain, or the hole in our hearts for her to be murdered, taken away from us by someone so full of hate is impossible to understand and even harder to live with. But we're more than hurt. We're angry. We're mad as hell.



LEMON: The threat of a violent white supremacist is growing in this country.