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Don Lemon Tonight
The January 6 House Select Committee To Hold First Public Hearing In Prime Time; DOJ Announces Team To Investigate Response To Uvalde School Shooting; Appeals For Gun Reform As Senators Seek A Deal; California's Primaries Send Message To Dems On Crime; Biden Talks Actions On Guns. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired June 08, 2022 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): The Select Committee has found evidence about a lot more than incitement here.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The committee has interviewed more than a thousand witnesses behind closed doors, including Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Rudy Giuliani, former Attorney General Bill Barr, and obtained more than 135,000 documents.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House, every phone call, every conversation, every meeting, leading up to, during, and after the attack.
BROWN (voice-over): The committee is clearly signaling to the Justice Department, which holds the power to charge Trump with a crime related to January 6th.
UNKNOWN: Do you believe it was a conspiracy?
CHENEY: I do. It is extremely broad, it's extremely well organized, it's really chilling.
BROWN (voice-over): Just this week, a federal judge again flagged possible evidence of a crime. That same judge issued a landmark ruling earlier this year, finding it was more likely than not that Trump and a conservative lawyer committed a crime in strategizing to overturn the election.
Trump has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing. He continues to downplay his involvement in the deadly insurrection while bashing the committee's work as another -- quote -- "witch hunt."
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: January 6th, what a lot of crap. It's another con job, just like Russia, Russia, Russia.
BROWN (voice-over): But for 187 minutes, committee members say Trump was derelict in his duty, watching T.V. and seemingly pleased supporters were fighting for him, even as Republicans pleaded for Trump to intervene in text messages to his White House chief of staff.
DENVER RIGGLEMAN, FORMER VIRGINIA REPRESENTATIVE: It is a roadmap. And I would have to say at this point, I think Mark Meadows is the MVP for the committee.
BROWN (voice-over): Denver Riggleman advised the committee, helping to decode Meadows texts among the more than 2,300 messages obtained by CNN. Donald Trump, Jr. texting, he's got to condemn this shit. ASAP. Meadows responding, I am pushing it hard. I agree. But it took Trump over three hours to release this recorded video.
TRUMP: So, go home. We love you. You're very special.
RIGGLEMAN: When you look at the totality of the evidence, it's pretty apparent that at some point, President Trump knew what was going on.
BROWN (on camera): The hearings are not only expected to explore efforts to overturn the election results, but the role of far-right extremist groups.
One month after the election, as you recall, President Trump tweeted about the protest in D.C. on January 6th. And in the following day, the Proud Boys begin to plan for the rally knowing they might have to break the law to stop the certification of votes. That's according to a plea agreement from one member of the Proud Boys, who is now cooperating with the federal investigation.
The DOJ escalating the criminal case this week, charging several leaders with seditious conspiracy. Don?
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Pamela Brown, thank you so much.
I want to bring in now CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig and congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles. Good evening, gentlemen. Ryan, to you first. What are you learning about what we might see and hear from this committee tomorrow?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, the first thing is that the committee seems pretty intent on establishing pretty early on in this hearing that they believe there was a premeditated planning going on leading up to January 6th, that this wasn't just an organic event that happened amongst a group of peaceful protesters that got out of control, that there was a concerted effort to come to the Capitol with the idea in mind to cause chaos and stormed the building.
And to that end, they're going to hear from two witnesses that had a direct contact with the Proud Boys, that right-wing extremist group that was very present at the Capitol that day and were part of those groups agitating the crowd.
The big question that I will have for the first hearing, Don, is that -- the committee has said that we could hear from some of the depositions, these closed-door pieces of testimony in which they've recorded them all on videotape and they could play excerpts of them during the hearing. We know that's going to come up at some point over the course of the month of June with all these hearings. The question is, could it come up as soon as soon as tomorrow night?
The committee chairman, Benny Thompson, was asked today if he thought maybe even Ivanka Trump's testimony could be heard tomorrow night. He did not rule that out.
So, it will be interesting to see how the committee uses all these resources they have at their disposal. Of course, they have a prime- time audience tomorrow night, so they're going to try and maximize that effort. No doubt at all.
LEMON: Elie, I spoke with Denver Riggleman earlier in the show, he is a former advisor to the Select Committee, and this was his message on the hearings. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIGGLEMAN: I can tell you that the one thing that the American public should look at, if there's one word they should concentrate on tomorrow and for the rest of the hearings and all the way until that report is released, is coordination. And that's what the committee is setting up tomorrow with the timeline. They're going to try to prove the coordination between multiple groups for the of January 6th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, you know, I went on to ask him if he thought it was -- if it was provable. And my question to you is, do you think the committee is going to be able to prove it, that it was part of a concerted effort to try to overturn the election?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Don, you asked the exact right followup in that statement. You said -- when you said coordination, do you mean within the Oath Keepers, within the Proud Boys, or you're talking about a link over to the White House? That is one of the biggest questions that I have.
Are they going to be able to prove that there was some coordination or connection between the extremist groups that physically stormed the Capitol and the power centers in the White House? We don't know. Maybe there is a connection. Maybe not.
But even if there is no direct link or even or indirect link, I think what the committee is going to try to establish is at a minimum, you had two separate conspiracies born of the same motive, the same incentive, born of the big lie, one to try to steal the election through fraud, through the elector scheme coming out of the White House, and the other, the more direct physical attack on the Capitol itself.
LEMON: Elie, we have this brand-new audio tonight of Kevin McCarthy describing what happened on January 6th. This is, to tell everyone, Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin. It is from their reporting. It's their new book, "This Will Not Pass." Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA) (voice-over): I made a phone call to the president telling him what was going on, asking him to tell these people to stop, to make a video and go out. And I was very intense and very loud about it. He did put a tweet out, and later, he did put a video out. I told him I didn't like the video he put out later. But the second day, I wish that video was first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: This is another iteration of Kevin McCarthy there. I mean, this shows McCarthy believed Trump had the power to stop the attack, did nothing for 187 minutes. How is this critical time period? How is this going to play into the committee's case, do you think?
HONIG: Well, this is the most important time period in the whole case, of course, the 187 minutes from 1:10 p.m. when the Capitol was breached to 4:17 p.m. when that tape went out.
This recording by McCarthy, by the way, kudos to Jonathan and Alex for finding this, because this is now part of a historical record. And guess what? We are not going to hear from Kevin McCarthy. He was subpoenaed, he blew it off, and the committee is doing nothing to enforce it.
This is the best we're going to do it. In a way, this is even more telling than anything he says now because this is what he said then.
And, Don, this drives some of the point that during those three plus hours, everybody knew only Donald Trump could call off that pack of rioters and Donald Trump did not do that, which raises another big question which is, what did he do, what was he doing minute by minute inside the White House during those three plus hours?
LEMON: Ryan, the committee has done thousands of interviews. They have tens of thousands of documents with the evidence still coming out. What do you know? What's the latest?
NOBLES: Yeah, Don. We should point out that these hearings this month are not the end of this investigation. We may only be at a midway point. The final report not expected until the fall.
And they're still collecting evidence as we speak. In fact, they won a big court case this week where a judge ruled that they could have access to more than 159 additional emails from the conservative lawyer, John Eastman. Among them, emails that the judge deemed could be evidence of a possible crime being committed.
In his ruling, the judge said that one of these emails in particular that will eventually be in the hands of the committee shows that Eastman was, you know, plotting to basically, you know, use legal theories, but not actually use the courts to enforce those legal theories but instead use it as a means to try to run out the clock or use it as an argument in the Congress on January 6th to try to prevent the certification of the election results.
And that could indicate fraud basically, that they knew that this wasn't a valid legal argument but instead were trying to (INAUDIBLE) the will of the voters.
So, this is still part of the investigation. You know, Don, they may not get them until next week, so it's unlikely that it could even be part of these hearings. So, it just shows that even after we learned all these things and the hearings by the end of June, there could be information that comes out between now and September that could be part of a report, that could be read by Merrick Garland, that could become part of a criminal investigation.
LEMON: And that is the big question here, Elie. What the DOJ is going to do with everything coming out of this committee's hearing, the committee hearings?
HONIG: Yeah, Don. Look, there are two audiences here. There is the American public. Of course, first and foremost, they have to persuade and inform the American public.
But DOJ is watching. We know that. Just a couple weeks ago, we learned that DOJ has asked the committee, hey, can we get a look at your transcripts? Now, that's backwards, by the way. DOJ and prosecutors normally ought to lead the way. DOJ and prosecutors have better and more powerful and more nimble tools to gather information.
So, I think part of what the committee is going to do here is try to make a case that's so powerful and so overwhelming that it really sorts of forces DOJ's hands. We'll see if they're able to do that.
LEMON: So, what is DOJ doing? Because we are hearing that some Democrats are getting frustrated with A.G. Garland. Ryan, talk to me about that. Elie, I want you to respond.
NOBLES: Yeah. So, you know, there are a lot of leading democrats who are on the record saying that they're upset that it's taking Merrick Garland so long to speed up this investigation, to start indicting people, to start bringing in witnesses and subpoenaing people that are connected to this investigation.
And they're concerned that the longer he waits, the closer we get into a political phase where it may be difficult for him to bring witnesses in and even potentially indict people because it will be seen as too political, particularly if Republicans were able to win back the House of Representatives in the fall, then you're talking about a whole another election cycle getting into the 2024 election.
There are many, including the third ranking House Democrat, Jim Clyburn, who told CNN this week that he believes Merrick garland needs to step it up. And there are also members of the January 6 House Select Committee who have said, you know, you don't need to wait for us. We're putting this information out there. If you want to act upon it, you can.
LEMON: So, as you said, Elie, the DOJ has sharper and more nimble tools to deal with this, you know, the subpoenas and all of that, getting information, investigating. Then, why aren't they doing it? Why are they leading from behind and why is Congress, you know, doing their work for them?
HONIG: It's a great question, Don. One that I echo. Here is the thing. We don't know sitting here now whether DOJ will eventually indict Donald Trump or really anyone around him.
But what I can say is this. The pace, the speed here is unacceptable. It's unusual. It's extraordinary because people say, well, investigations take time. I know. I was a prosecutor for 14 years. Yes, they take time. But we are going on 18 months now just about Since January 6th happened. Merrick Garland has been in office about 16 of those months.
That is not commensurate with the urgency of this case and with the urgency of the threat. If they were going to make a decision, they should have already done it. That's not to say they won't in the future. Again, we can argue about whether they will or they won't, but the pace to me is inexplicable.
NOBLE: And Don, one other point, you know, Donald Trump -- there is reporting that he may announce another run for president as soon as the 4th of July. Once he become a candidate for president, that makes this, you know, effort to try and make it or hold him accountable if there is criminal activity that is discovered, that much harder if he's the leading candidate to become the Republican nominee for president.
LEMON: Happy 4th of July, everyone.
LEMON: Oh, boy. Here we go. Thank you. I appreciate it.
HONIG: Thank you.
LEMON: The DOJ announcing its investigation of the response to the school shooting in Uvalde that killed 19 little kids and two of their teachers. And they're not the only one investigating.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: The review will be comprehensive, it will be transparent, and it will be independent.
LEMON: Today, the DOJ announcing the team to investigate the police response to the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. And more than two weeks after 19 children and two of their teachers died, local officials are still not answering basic questions about what happened that day.
Joining me now, CNN correspondent Rosa Flores. Rosa, good evening to you. How is this investigation from the DOJ going to work?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Don, the key takeaway here is that this investigation is not a criminal investigation. This is an after-action review, which means they're not looking for criminality here, they are looking to do an independent review of the law enforcement response.
And the U.S. DOJ has done this in the past. They did it after the San Bernardino attack and after the Pulse shooting. And here is how it works. This is led by the U.S. DOJ with the support of subject matter experts. So, these are members of the FBI, for example, or police chiefs, sheriffs. And what they do is they interview witnesses. They look at the training, the policies, the procedures.
And the goal here for the U.S. DOJ is to prepare a report of best practices and also learnings so that they can share those with first responders so that first responders are more prepared for the next active shooter event.
But again, Don, the key here is this is not a criminal investigation. They're not looking for criminality here.
LEMON: Yeah. The Texas legislature is kicking off their own investigation into the massacre. What can we expect as their fact- finding mission begins tomorrow morning?
FLORES: You know, this is going to be interesting because most of what will happen tomorrow will be in executive session, which means it happens in secret, it happens behind closed doors.
What we do know and what we've learned is that more than one member of the Texas Department of Public Safety will be testifying under oath. The members of this committee will also be examining evidence. Now, that could be police reports, logs from first responders or 911 calls, things like that. They're going to be reviewing evidence behind closed doors.
So, very similar to the U.S. DOJ investigation. They are not looking for criminality here. They are on a fact-finding mission.
So, if you're wondering, why are all these bodies trying to figure out the facts? Well, because there is mistrust, because the public was provided misleading and conflicting information in the immediate aftermath of this shooting.
So, now, different bodies are trying to figure out the facts, including this investigative committee, and their goal is to prepare a report that focuses on the facts and then hand it over to two legislative committees here in the state of Texas that will then recommend legislation. And when are we expecting thing report? According to a source close to this committee, Don, they're expecting to complete the preliminary report by the end of this month.
LEMON: Rosa Flores in Texas for us. Thank you, Rosa. I appreciate that.
I want to go now to the former FBI supervisor, Special Agent Steve Moore. Steve, good evening.
STEVE MOORE, FORMER SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: Hey, Don.
LEMON: Thanks for joining. This DOJ review will -- it is going to be a big undertaking. You compare it to when investigators piece together a plane crash to find every piece of what went wrong and why. Tell us more about what goes into an investigation like this.
MOORE: What they're going to look for, Don, is they're just going to write it as if they were writing a documentary on really the entire event. They're going to start with every single officer at the scene, every single -- the incident commander, everybody. What was their training? When was their training? How adequate was their training?
And then they're going to compare their training to the response. And there is very possibly going to be a gap between the training and the response. And then like the NTSB, they go in not -- the NTSB doesn't go in because they hate airline pilots, they go in so that future airlines will be safer. And in this case, they need to get the facts on this right down to the second so that this type of tragedy isn't going to happen again, at least as far as the police response.
LEMON: You know, Steve, days after the shooting, it became clear that the Texas Department of Public Safety had shared false information like claiming that the teacher had left the door propped open. Does that raise the stakes for a federal investigation to get the whole truth out to the public?
MOORE: It absolutely does. And I think that's why the Department of Justice was asked to come in, because it doesn't matter even if you get somebody who comes in and has a flawless report. Unless they're viewed as unbiased by the public, it's not going to mean anything.
So, DOJ has to come in. And, you know, if you look at their report here, they've got -- look at their crew on this, they've got Laura McElroy. She's with McElroy Media. So, obviously -- and she's very involved in law enforcement. So, obviously, they're bringing somebody in who is an expert on that piece.
LEMON: How much -- how much of this investigation do you think is going to be focused on that hour-long period in which officers did not confront the shooter and why they didn't confront the shooter?
MOORE: I think that's going to be the major part of this investigation. That is the -- that is the tragedy. That is the crux of the issue. We have law enforcement officers around the country. Every single one of them know active shooter protocol. An active shooter protocol, the best way I can explain it, is like a lineman going to sack the quarterback. That lineman does not stop until the whistle blows the play dead or the quarterback is on the ground. That's the way active shooter needs to go.
And so, when they said initially, well, there was a barricade situation as part of this, everybody who has been taught that or who taught it like I did, thought, wait, there is no barricade situation in an active shooter in a room with victims.
LEMON: Steve Moore, thank you, sir. I appreciate you joining.
MOORE: Thank you.
LEMON: Everyone in D.C. talking about optimism around gun legislation. This is the closest that they have been in years. But really? What's the GOP going to agree to?
LEMON: Heart-wrenching testimony on Capitol Hill today from survivors of gun violence and family members of victims, giving a clear call to lawmakers for action on gun violence.
The White House says that President Biden is encouraged by talks on new gun legislation on Capitol Hill. But the final scope of the deal and how many Republicans might go along, well, that remains to be seen.
So, let's discuss this now. CNN political commentators Charlie Dent and Scott Jennings both join me. Gentlemen, good evening.
Charlie, you first. Negotiations seem to be going strong but Republicans still divided on the package here. Some are casting doubts about what is currently on the table. Senators like James Lankford and Steve Daines expressing doubt about incentivizing states to pass red state laws. Josh Hawley opposing it as an attack on the Second Amendment, on Second Amendment rights. Is this going to get done?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA REPRESENTATIVE: Well, Don, I do think something is going to get done. It may not be as much as many people like, maybe not as much as I would like. I would urge my Republican colleagues in the Senate, to let them know that nobody is going to lose an election over expanding background checks to private sales of firearms. Not going to lose an election over that.
I'd tell them taking the age limit to 21 for long guns purchase is not an infringement on anybody's Second Amendment rights. I support Second Amendment rights. Red flag laws, you know, Rick Scott has proved positive that red flag laws won't cause you to lose your primary as he became a senator after signing it into law as a governor.
So, bottom line is I think they will get something because the American public expects something to happen. There is a crisis here over these mass shootings.
And I think they -- Congress' default position, Don, typically, is to do nothing. That's usually what the default position is. But in this case, this is a time to act. And so, they have an opportunity to do something. They will get something, but there will be a lot of disappointed people as a consequence.
LEMON: What do you think of it, Scott? Do you think something will get done this time?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDNET TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, I do. Actually, I think on these complicated contentious issues, you know, for the Rubik's cube to spin and click just right, you know, things have to fall into place.
We are at a place now where I think both parties actually have an incentive to do something. For the Democrats, they're obviously not going to get everything they would want here, but they have to do something. They have to show their base that they can get something done.
And for the Republicans who have said for years, for years, that hey, we want to focus on mental health, we want to focus on keeping people with mental health issues from getting guns, well, now is the time to do that and it sounds like that's where the focus is in this package.
So, I agree with Charlie. It looks like it is going to be narrow. It looks like it is going to be really targeted. And Republicans ultimately need to go home. As Charlie knows, he ran for Congress before and was in Congress, you have to be able to tell the people who love the Second Amendment, I didn't do anything about gun control, what I did something about here was criminal control and the controlling of people who have mental health issues.
If a Republican can argue that, I think this could get 20 to 25 votes. Probably 25 senators won't vote for anything. But if you got a package out of the Senate with 70 or 75 votes, you know, it may not be 100% of the loaf that you want but I would encourage Democrats to take that loaf if they can get it.
LEMON: You know, when asked about the calls from witnesses on the Hill today to do more on what is proposed in the current talks, Senator John Cornyn telling CNN -- quote -- "We want to do something that will save lives and make their sacrifice not in vain. That's our goal here. Nobody knows exactly what we're going to do, including me." Scott, I'm going to ask you, will passing only small steps be enough for Americans who are demanding action? I know you talked about, you know, Republicans can go back and talk to their constituents. But for Americans overall, who are overwhelmingly on the side of the sensible gun legislation, do you think that's going to be enough?
JENNINGS: Well, it won't be enough for everybody, but I hope that it will be enough for people who have been watching in action for a very long time and who want something to happen here. So, I think candidly, the bar is pretty low for Congress on most issues.
And so, if they do something and if it gets a big bipartisan vote -- I think that is one of the reasons why Senator Cornyn and the Republicans who are working on it in the Senate are looking for something that can get a big bipartisan vote, because that will show the American people that you can work together on big problems and forge compromise.
Obviously, the parties are far apart on some of these issues. But that's why, to me, it's important not to get 10 Republicans to get to 60. It is important to get 20 to 25 to show the American people that, hey, we're talking, we hear you, and we're doing what we can given how far apart the parties are on some of these issues.
LEMON: So, listen, Charlie, the reality is that Republican lawmakers seem to be pointing to everything but guns as the reason for mass shootings. I mean, this is just some of what we heard today alone. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): To me, the shootings are a symptom of a larger problem, which is the failure of our mental health system in America.
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): Maybe if we heard more prayers from leaders of this country instead of taking God's name in vain, we wouldn't have the mass killings like we didn't have before prayer was eliminated from school.
STEVE SCALISE, MINORITY WHIP OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Airplanes were used that day as the weapon to kill thousands of people and to inflict terror on our country. There wasn't a conversation about banning airplanes. There was a conversation about connecting the dots. How can we try to figure out if there are signs we can see to stop the next attack from happening?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What the hell are they talking about? Okay, anyway, go on, Charlie.
DENT: Look, I would say, of course, mental health is a part of this problem. And I would say this, if people are serious about mental health, we should tighten up the background check law so that health care institutions can more easily transfer mental health data to the instant check systems, which hasn't always been the case. The HIPAA laws need to be adjusted for that.
Having said that, look, nobody is talking about banning weapons in these proposals. They're simply talking about background checks. They're talking about red flag laws, you know, to prevent people who are mentally disturbed at least temporarily from purchasing firearms, raising the age limit to purchase firearms for the most part as well as banning bump stocks.
So, this is really not an infringement on the Second Amendment. That is what I think these -- I think they're missing the point. Some folks -- look, there are these outside groups, not just the NRA, but even groups further to the right of the NRA, they raise money off not compromising.
DENT: And so, to the extent that they compromise, they're called sellouts, and then these groups are vying with each other, trying to poach members. There is a lot of money involved here. People raising money off this.
JENNINGS: And I think the elected officials have to set that aside and do their duty because, you know, the public is not where those groups are on this issue and the public really does want action. And many issues are 80, 90% issues. So, I don't understand the -- I don't understand all the hysteria and opposition.
LEMON: Well said, both of you, because you pointed out that there is a lot going on behind the scenes that people don't know about, right? And then, as you said, Scott, Democrats are not going to get everything that they want, but at least it's a start. And I think that, you know, everybody has to compromise here.
LEMON: So, good points, both of you. Thank you. Go ahead. What did you want to say, Scott? Quick point?
JENNINGS: Well, I was going to just say one more thing. Charlie raised the issue of raising the age from 18 to 21. I personally support that. It doesn't sound like that is going to be in the package, but to throw some nuance in here, what it does sound like, they may be talking is adding an extra layer of scrutiny on purchasers between the age of 18 to 21.
So, again, that is an example here of some nuance going on behind the scenes, some incrementalism. But I do think that's a good thing. It's a step in the right direction. If they get there, will it be enough for everybody? No. But, you know, certainly, it would be better than nothing if you're really trying to prevent these tragedies, which I know a lot of people are negotiating in good faith to do.
LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. Do Democrats know what voters want? We're going to take a look at the primaries so far. Read the tea leaves for the November midterms. Stay with us.
LEMON: President Biden weighing in on yesterday's primary races, saying it's time to invest more money in police departments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think the voters sent a clear message last night. Both parties have to step up and do something about crime as well as gun violence. And I sent, as you recall -- with the first major bill we passed, we gave the states and localities billions of dollars -- billions of dollars they have -- and I encouraged them to use it to hire police officers and reform the police department. Very few have done it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Let's bring in CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and political commentator Paul Begala. Gentlemen, good evening. Ron --
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey, Don.
LEMON: Two liberal cities -- San Francisco voted to recall --
LEMON: -- District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Los Angeles billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso ran on being tough on crime and he got enough support to force a runoff come November. So, is the president right?
BROWNSTEIN: By and large, I think he is. Look, I don't think what we are hearing from the voters, particularly Democratic voters and democratic-leaning cities, it's not like they want to erase the summer of 2020.
It's not as if most voters and, as I say, particularly most Democrats, don't acknowledge that there are systematic inequities in the criminal justice system. I think what you're seeing, though, is a clear signal of a need for a course correction and a view on the voters that a reform in the system has to proceed with ensuring public safety.
You can't elevate one goal over the other to the extent that you produce irrational policies. I mean, many people felt that the Boudin and George Gascon, the D.A. here in L.A. facing similar criticism, are kind of taking these admirable goals to an illogical, extreme, and as a result, public safety is eroding. And also, honestly, the DAs and the police and the whole criminal justice reform issue is being sucked into a larger whirlpool that has more to do with this order and homeless than about many of the specific reform policies that advocates have been pushing for in the last few years. And the cities -- Democratic-run cities really have to get a handle on that. It's clear that's a big part of the discontent.
LEMON: Paul, the president has rejected the progressive call to defund the police. That is not new. Is the party listening? Is the party changing how they talk about police reform and public safety?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think so and I hope so that the elites are, the leaders are. The base of the Democratic Party is saying it loud and clear. Right? The base -- this is like the (INAUDIBLE).
Yeah, I just listened to your conservation with Scott Jennings and Charlie. The republican base is increasingly radicalized. Right? Seventy, 75% of them believe the big lie, that Biden didn't win legitimately. Ten to 15, 10 to 20 even believe in QAnon, a really eccentric theory. Democrats are moving to the middle. The base. Not just the politicians. The politicians will follow. The base voters.
You talked about Los Angeles, you talked about San Francisco, in New Jersey yesterday, Donald Payne, Jr. and Rob Menendez, Jr., namesake sons of legendary Democrats in that state, both defeated more leftist challengers.
We saw -- by the way, on policing in Minneapolis where George Floyd was murdered, nobody wants reform more than the folks in that city and yet they rejected to defund the police saying because the committee thought it was too extreme.
So, it's the democratic base that's moderate. Democratic politicians will follow that base.
LEMON: But that's -- do you think the public -- I mean, do you think the average voter realizes that? Because Ron, I mean -- I guess it's on messaging. The Democrats aren't so good with that.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, one thing that's been true for really at least 40 years and very much in the past decade is that Republicans are more successful at targeting kind of the mainstream Democrats with the views of their ideological vanguard than Democrats are at targeting more centrists Republicans with the views of their ideological vanguard.
I mean, there are more ads that are being run -- you know, Republicans want ads associating Democrats with The Squad and Nancy Pelosi and Democrats (INAUDIBLE) ads touting their bipartisanship.
And I think one of the challenges for Democrats in this election is to walk and chew gum at the same time. I mean, they do have to -- it is pretty clear after yesterday that they do have to reassure voters that they are focused on their day-to-day concerns, which in the case of L.A. and San Francisco, centered on climate and homelessness writ large across the country, it's inflation and gas prices and the continued destruction of COVID.
But they also have to find a more effective way to make a case about the radicalization of the Republican Party, what is happening in red states, the prospect of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, and the lockstep opposition to almost any meaningful gun control that, you know, we're seeing play out in Congress.
Those -- Democrats are not going to be able to make this solely about Republicans, but they have to bring them into the equation if they are going to avoid the worst in November.
LEMON: Paul, just respond to my question that I just said to Ron there. Just put this up really quick. Democrats identify -- this is a CNN poll. Democrats identify ideologically, 64% say they are moderate conservative, 17% say they are somewhat liberal, 17% say very liberal. Again, is this just a messaging problem for Democrats because Democrats, I don't think, are as liberal as most people believe that they are.
BEGALA: I think some of it is this disconnect between some of the elites and the grassroots base of the Democratic Party, especially the most moderate Democrats I've come across in my career are the non- white Democrats. Right?
BEGALA: San Francisco is 60% non-white. L.A. is 74% non-white. That's always been the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. Some of these elites, I think, maybe have stopped listening to the real grassroots and the base of the party, and maybe it's because the white liberals of which I'm one, punch above their weight. They tweet a lot. They work in the media.
But when politicians listen to the base of their party and the Democratic Party, they come out in a much more successful place but also much more moderate place.
LEMON: Yeah. Right on. Thank you both. See you soon.
BEGALA: Thank you, Don.
LEMON: President Biden making the rounds on late night T.V., might be a comedy show, but he's being asked serious questions. We're going to play it for you, next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: President Joe Biden stopping by "Jimmy Kimmel Live" during his trip to L.A. for the Summit of the Americas. The late-night host asking Biden about taking executive action on gun violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY KIMMEL, TALK SHOW HOST: Can't you issue an executive order? Trump passed those out like Halloween candy.
BIDEN: Well, I did.
KIMMEL: Isn't that something that could happen?
BIDEN: Well, I have issued executive orders, within the power of the presidency, to be able to deal with these, everything having to do with guns, gun ownership, whether or not you have to have a waiting -- all the things that are within my power.
But what I don't want to do, and I'm not being facetious, I don't want to emulate Trump's abuse of the Constitution and the constitutional authority.
BIDEN: And I mean that sincerely, because I often gat asked, look, the Republicans don't play it square, why do you play it square?
BIDEN: Well, guess what? If we do the same thing they do, our democracy would literally be in jeopardy.
KIMMEL: Well, yeah.
BIDEN: It's not a joke. And --
KIMMEL: I understand that argument, but also, it's like you're playing Monopoly with somebody who, you know, won't pass go, who won't follow any of the rules. Then how do you ever make any progress if they're not following the rules?
BIDEN: You got to send them to jail, you know.
BIDEN: That little box --
KIMMEL: Directly to jail?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: All right. Let's discuss now with CNN political commentator David Swerdlick. David, thank you. Look, it's important, what he said tonight, that he won't abuse executive action to enact regulations -- restrictions, I should say, but aren't we at a critical moment where you -- it's not exactly abusing the rules, it's doing what you have to do in a moment of crisis.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, ASSISTANT EDITOR FOR THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah, Don. I think the president is making a good decision to go on Kimmel, and I think that was a pretty good answer to that question. It's something that people can understand and it was measured. He had that little joke at the end.
If you're a Democrat, what you also want him to say is to lean in a little bit and say, hey, I believe in passing laws through Congress, the old-fashioned way, I was in the Senate for 36 years, when I was the Judiciary Committee chair, we passed assault weapons ban and then Congress let it expire, let's do something like that again.
You know, Biden is in comfortable territory there with Kimmel. It's like the reverse of a Republican going on the Fox News shows, a friendly interview. But it's the kind of thing where we're in crunch time now if you're a Democrat and if you're a Republican, too, and the president has to try and pull as many of the folks in his party over that line in the midterms.
LEMON: Democrats are under pressure to get something on guns.
LEMON: Did the president have a solid excuse for what action he has and has not taken?
SWERDLICK: Well, I think he's right that there's only a limit to what you can do with executive orders. Even if some executive orders on guns were constitutional, you risk a Republicans backlash if they get control of Congress in November. And then overwriting those executive orders, you risk litigation going to the Supreme Court and having it not only sink your executive order but also be a political debacle.
So, I think Democrats are right right now to try and negotiate and get what they can, if anything, with Republicans in the Senate, and then try to get more.
One thing that I think Democrats have gotten caught up in in the last year and a half is thinking that policy is everything. Policy is important. And obviously, when kids in schools are getting killed, gun policy is important.
But it's also about instilling confidence in voters and telling a story about where you're taking the country overall, and they haven't done that as well as they might have if they look back on last year.
LEMON: David Swerdlick, it's been a minute. Don't go away so long. Come back soon. Good to see you. Thank you.
SWERDLICK: I will. Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Thanks. And thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.