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Don Lemon Tonight

V.P. Mike Pence Without Power To Overturn Election Results; Wrong People Pollutes Former POTUS' Mind; GOP-Led Commission Refuse To Certify Election Results; A Recession Is Inevitable; LGBTQ Got President Biden's Back. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 15, 2022 - 22:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The news continues. Let's turn things over now to Don and DON LEMON TONIGHT. Don?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: All right, Anderson, thank you very much. I appreciate that. This is DON LEMON TONIGHT.

And we're now just hours away from next January 6th public hearing of the January 6th committee's investigation into the attack on the capitol. The committee saying the focus of tomorrow's testimony will be the former president. Former President Trump's relentless pressure campaign on his vice president, Mike Pence, to overturn the results of the 2020 election even though the White House counsel's office told the former president that Pence did not have any authority to throw out the results.

A source telling CNN that Trump's pressure on Pence, and I quote, "directly contributed to the violent insurrection." I want you to take a look at this photo. It's obtained by ABC News showing Pence and his family in hiding inside the capitol as the building was being ransacked by rioters.

Pence's daughter on the left side of the photo. His wife Karen on the right pulling the curtains closed for extra safety. And Pence has good reason to be hiding. Some of the rioters brought a gallows to the capitol while chanting for Pence to be hanged.


CROWD: Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence.


LEMON: While this is Pence's former chief of staff Marc Short will not testify in person tomorrow but clips from his video deposition are expected to be played. And tonight, in an exclusive interview, Short telling our very own Wolf Blitzer who he believes is ultimately responsible for the January 6th violence.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Well, I just want to be clear, do you blame those surrounding the president for giving him bad advice or do you blame the then president himself?

MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: I think the buck stops with the president. He has responsibility to listen to advice or discard advice. But I also think that there's -- there were people around the president who I think served him very poorly and I think gave very poor advice.


LEMON: So, he is not the only former Trump White House aide who thought the president was listening to the wrong people. Campaign manager Bill Stepien told the committee that he was on team normal and not Rudy Giuliani's team which was pushing the election lie.

And former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann testified about the warning he gave a conservative, to attorney John Eastman the day after January 6th.


ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I said, I said I only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth from now on. Orderly transition. And then I said to him I don't want to hear any other effing words coming out of your mouth no matter what other than orderly transition. Repeat those words to me.

UNKNOWN: What did he say?

HERSCHMANN: He eventually he said, orderly transition. I said, good, John. Now I'm going to give you the best free legal advice you're ever getting in your life. Get a great effing criminal defense lawyer. You're going to need it. And then I hung up on him.


LEMON: Two people set to testify tomorrow, Pence's former counsel Greg Jacob and J. Michael Luttig. A retired judge and informal adviser to Pence. Both men advised the former vice president that he had no authority to overturn the election results.

I want to turn now, straight away to CNN political analyst Alex Burns and Jonathan Burns. Both are national political correspondents for the New York Times. They are the co-authors of the new book "This Will Not Pass." And we're glad to have both gentlemen on.

Good evening to you. Alex, I'm going to start with you. We have these new photos. They were obtained by ABC News showing Pence hiding on January 6th. He's across from his daughter. His wife closing the curtains while the attack was underway.

I mean, this comes as the committee is about to make the case that Trump's action directly contributed to the attack. What are we going to hear tomorrow do you think?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think we're going to get a whole lot of detail on just how much measure pressure Mike Pence was under to do the wrong thing on January 67th. Then we'll probably get more insight than we have had up to this point into exactly what the mechanics were that landed with him doing the right thing.

We know that everybody from the president on down who was determined to continue challenging the election was putting the screws to Mike Pence and the people around Mike Pence. And there's certainly from our reporting for the book, our reporting at the time for the paper, we never had the sense that Mike Pence was seriously tempted to go ahead and try to sabotage American democracy and trigger constitutional crisis of the kind of President Trump was pursuing.

But we've also never in recent history had an American vice president having his arm twisted by his boss, the dominant figure in the Republican Party, the sitting commander-in-chief of the United State to do something this wrong and stand up to him the way Pence did.

LEMON: Our Jamie Gangel is reporting, Alex, that the committee is going to focus on the threat to the V.P. throughout the attack including the gallows.


I mean, the idea that someone had to buy the wood and the rope to build them, right, that could be an indication of premeditation there. They are going to want to know who came up with this.

BURNS: Sure. And look, there's a kind of violence symbolism throughout American political history of people being hanged in effigy or tarred and feathered in effigy. And you know, it doesn't rise to the level of an assassination plot as the burden of the committee to make the case if they so choose that does in this instance.

But Don, even before you get to the notion of whether people really, really truly had a well thought out plan to hang the sitting vice president of the United States, you have a very vivid picture, including those photos from John Karl today that really does flesh out just how much immediate danger Mike Pence was really in.

LEMON: yes. But Jonathan, if you, I mean, as I just said, we've -- we've seen, you know, presidents hung in effigy and world leaders hung in effigy but this is like a real, this is a real gallows that was constructed on the Mall. I mean, that's quite a different thing.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And look, I was in the capitol on January 6th. We have a lot of reporting in the book about just precisely what was happening in and around the building that day. And I don't think it's an exaggeration, Don, to say that we were seconds away, not minutes away, but seconds away from a lot more bloodshed that day, and potentially an exchange of fire within other parts of the capitol beyond just outside the House chamber.

Look, for example, if members of Congress aren't evacuated in a timely manner like they were, they could have come into contact with a lot of those rioters and you could have had an extraordinary mass assassination attempt. I don't it's an exaggeration to say. And I think we're lucky that didn't happen.

Pence, himself, you showed the picture there of Pence and his family. If the rioters get to that secure location in the capitol who knows what could happen to Pence and his family. And so, I think the day was serious, it was tragic. I think it's a black mark on American history, but Don, it could have been a heck of a lot worse.

LEMON: Yes. And Jonathan, Pence's former chief of staff, Marc short, was on with Wolf. I showed a little bit of it --


LEMON: -- in the opening of the show. He said ultimately the buck stops with the president but also felt like the people around the president --


LEMON: -- were giving him bad advice. How much of the plot to overturn the election came from the president versus the people around him?

MARTIN: I think he was certainly pushed by handful of people who knew that they could retain their access to Trump. They could stay in the room in those crucial days if they Told what he wanted to hear because, Don, Trump was surrounding himself in that period only with people who are reaffirming what he wanted to hear.

We have reporting in the book of Trump effectively breaking ties with Chris Christie because Christie tells Trump in November, basically concede and Trump says to him, Chris, I'm not going to do it. What else have you got for he? And so I think trump at this point only has folks who are trying to egg him on, and so are putting this in his ear, that yes, you can overturn the results of the elections and the more responsible actors are no longer in the room.

LEMON: Alex, here is more from Marc Short on why he warned the Secret Service the day before the attack that the vice president might be in danger.


BLITZER: And I just want to be specific, you were concerned about the vice president's security because of what the president was saying?

SHORT: Because it was about to become a much more public occasion. And I knew that the president was about to express that in are a more public manner that, again, I'm not sure the consequence of that were thought through by people around the president with thousands of people coming to Washington.


LEMON: He is essentially saying that the president put Pence's life in danger?

BURNS: Well, the president clearly did put Pence's life in danger. Right? That's a statement of observable fact at this point. The thing that's so striking about Marc Short's interview today and some of the information that we have about the run up to January 6th, is how many people at very senior levels of government, the White House and the Congress had this clear premonition that violence was imminent.

That he said that, Marc Short said that clearly the president or perhaps the not thought through the implications of what would happen when he goes out there and says these things when the Mall is full of these angry people who believe the election was stolen.

We had reporting in our book that Republican members of Congress meeting on the night before January 6th. Repeatedly raised the question with Kevin McCarthy of, you know, you have these thousands of people coming to town who actually think we're going to overturn the election and what is going to happen when we don't. We know what happened when it didn't.

LEMON: Yes. Alex, Jonathan, thank you, gentlemen. See you soon.


MARTIN: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: I appreciate it. The book again is "This Will Not Pass."

BURNS: Thank you.

LEMON: And I want to bring in now CNN senior legal analyst Preet Bharara, a former U.S. attorney. Preet, thank you for joining us. Good to see you.

Michael Luttig, the conservative judge who advised Pence that he can't -- that he couldn't overturn the election, he's testifying tomorrow. He had been approached by Pence's personal lawyer. And on January 5th, provided legal reasoning via Twitter, for why Pence had to certify the election. What do you think we are going to hear from him?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think we're going to hear from somebody who is a conservative jurist. Left the bench but it was on the bench for a long time, who has credentials within the conservative community, ideologically, who has been a supporter of Republicans, appointed by Republicans and was on the short list to be on the Supreme Court himself under Republican administrations.

And the fact that he is going to opine about the way he opined before, that the Eastman memo and other, you know, memos and pieces of advice that were given to Mike Pence were utterly ludicrous. And without foundation and without merit.

And I think at least, you know with respect to the conservative community, he carries a lot of weight. There is all this discussion about whether or not people on the right and supporters of Trump are listening to the hearings, whether it is a witch hunt or not. You have someone with his credentials and his background and his track record saying as a legal matter, this was nonsense, I think is significant.

LEMON: The January 6 committee, Preet, has e-mailed -- email correspondence between conservative attorney John Eastman and Gini Thomas, a conservative activist and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. I mean, this is according to a source familiar with the committee's investigation. It's not clear with the content of these e-mails are. But how important do you think this is?

BHARARA: It depends on what's in the e-mails. We don't know the content but it's probably not cooking recipes. Because we know about Ginni Thomas' activism with respect to the big lie before. And we have lots of evidence of that.

And we know about John Eastman and his activism both in writing that memo, in his memo that Judge Luttig will say is ludicrous and nonsense. We also have two other confrontations between John Eastman and institutional lawyers for the government under Trump.

There's one occasion where John Eastman had an altercation a confrontation with the chief counsel to Mike Pence, on or about June 6 when Eastman says this violent -- this violence is because of Mike Pence not doing his duty.

And then you have the clip that you showed earlier in the program between a lawyer and a White House counsel's office and John Eastman who says that the day after the insurrection, so after the violence has been seen by the entire country, John Eastman is pushing the idea of taking some action in Georgia and that lawyer said, you need to get a great effing criminal lawyer.

So, the story with respect to John Eastman and Ginni Thomas in those e-mails is just part of the story. John Eastman is everywhere in this.

LEMON: The committee release surveillance footage showing Representative Barry Loudermilk giving a tour the day before the insurrection. And one of the people on that tour was seen on January 6th outside the capitol screaming threats at House members. Watch this.


UNKNOWN: There's no escape, Pelosi. Schumer. Nadler. We're coming for you. We're coming in like white on rice for Pelosi, Nadler, Schumer, even you AOC. We're coming to take you out. We'll pull you out by your hairs. How about that, Pelosi?


LEMON: I mean, these people are just whack-a-dos. Loudermilk so far refuses to speak to the committee, Preet. What do you think about his involvement in all of this?

BHARARA: Well, part of the problem with Loudermilk is that he's giving confusing and contradictory statements about what he did. I think initially he denied giving anyone a tour. Then he had, you know, minimized what he did and now you have documentary evidence not just only of what you showed.

I don't know if Loudermilk -- if Loudermilk heard those communities but you have a tour that he gave where it showed people taking pictures in the office complex where members of the House of Representatives work and their staffs work. Taking pictures of things like stairwells and hallways that are not usually the kind of things that, you know, conscientious and legitimate tourist take pictures of.

So, you have contradictions in his own statements about this. It's weird behavior. And you have evidence that some of these people did things that they shouldn't have done. So, you know, all of this together I think paints a terrible picture.


LEMON: It is -- look, I don't know what's going to happen with this video or what's going to happen with Loudermilk, but just looking at the video it is suspicious. And it does need to be investigated.

Preet, thank you. I appreciate it.

BHARARA: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Trump election lies spreading across the country. New Mexico secretary of state suing a Republican-led County commission for refusing to certify primary election results. She joins me next.


LEMON: The big lie is alive and well all across the country. In New Mexico, a Republican-led commission in Otero County refused to certify primary results because of baseless claims about Dominion voting machines.

So, New Mexico's secretary of state, Maggie Toulouse Oliver sued and she joins me now. Thank you so much for joining us, Ms. Oliver. I appreciate that. How you doing?

MAGGIE TOULOUSE OLIVER, NEW MEXICO SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm doing OK in these strange times. Thank you for having me, Don.

LEMON: That is very, very well put. So, listen, Trump's election lie is not just about the 2020 election. It's now menacing your 2022 primary. New Mexico's Supreme Court has now ordered the commission to certify the results. The deadline to certify it is this Friday. Are you confident the votes will get certified?


OLIVER: Well, I mean, let's be honest, we're in unchartered territory here. We've never had a situation like this happen. Our county commission act as our board of canvass in the counties to basically just review and approve the canvass report, make sure the results are accurate. If there's any questions to of course ask those and they have a very, you know, narrow set of processes they can follow but they haven't. And so, you know, again, we're in this era of what is going to happen

next. So, I would like to think that these individuals who sworn an oath do the Constitution and laws of the state once ordered by the Supreme Court will do the right thing and just follow the law, quite simply. But at this point, to be quite honest, we don't really know where this goes from here.

LEMON: So, problems for the general election. What problems could this present?

OLIVER: I do think this is a canary in the coal mine situation. I mean, of course, we are all extremely well aware of the lies and mis and disinformation that have been spread since 2020. And I think now, what we're seeing is individuals, you know, and again, regardless of the fact that they are sworn up to hold an oath or, you know, whatever else binds them to follow the rule of law they that are ignoring that. They are flouting it. They are saying I don't have to do that because I feel a different way about the election process.

And I am concerned that not only could this activity spread to other counties in my state but that other entities in other states could undertake the same activity. So, I hope the message we're sending here in New Mexico is that the law has to be followed. There are pathways for relief, pathways to get questions answered that are legal but this is not it.

LEMON: And you just say that, Secretary, that we reached out to the -- to members of Otero County Commission and we haven't heard back from them. But you say the criminal profession and removal from office are on the table against these commissioners, correct?

OLIVER: Absolutely. We've alerted the attorney general. The attorney general is looking into it. When you violate the law in New Mexico, particularly the actions that have been taken by this group of county commissioners, they violated on their face multiple state statutes with regard to the election process. These are fourth-degree felonies. So, the attorney general could absolutely have the purview to undertake a removal from office or a criminal prosecution.

LEMON: Dominion machines, you know, they've been at the center of Trump's conspiracy theories connected to the 2020 -- 2020 election loss. This is how Trump's former attorney general talked about it in his taped testimony for the January 6th commission -- or committee, I should say. Watch this.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: The claims of fraud were bullshit and, you know, he was indignant about that. And I reiterated that they wasted a whole month on these claims on the Dominion voting machines and they were idiotic claims.

And I specifically raised the Dominion voting machines, which I found to be among the most disturbing allegations, disturbing in the sense that I saw absolutely zero basis for the allegations but they were made in such a sensational way that they obviously were influencing a lot of people, members of the public that there was this systemic corruption in the system and that their votes didn't count and these machines controlled by somebody else were actually determining it which was complete nonsense and being laid out there.

I told them that it was -- that it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time on that. And it was doing a great, great disservice for the country.


LEMON: So, the overall thing that Barr is saying about this whole, you know, lies, that it's B.S. but he calls the Dominion voting machine claim idiotic. So, to see this still playing out, I mean, can you put the genie back in the bottle?

OLIVER: Unfortunately, I don't think you can. I think there are a number of people and I think we would count this group of county commissioners among them who have completely ascribe to these false claims, it's confirmation bias. If you tend to believe the mis and disinformation and the why's you are going to accept that information and you are going to reject factual information.

You know, the facts are, Don, as you know, we never put a voting machine out into public use by the voters without testing it first to make sure it's counting accurately. We never connected to the internet. We do post-election canvasses and audits here in New Mexico and in many other states to make sure that these machines are counting accurately.


The machines are a tool. They're not the end all, be all. But again, to your point, these claims are just completely farcical. And just saying that you have feeling about them that you don't trust them or whatever is not a reason to violate state law.

LEMON: So, you mean your machines are not connected to the internet in Venezuela? That was -- that was being -- I'm being sarcastic.

OLIVER: No, especially not to Venezuela but not to anywhere else here.

LEMON: Thank you, Secretary Maggie Toulouse Oliver. I appreciate you joining us. A little sense of humor, right?

OLIVER: Yes, absolutely.

LEMON: It's serious stuff but thank you. We could all use it. Thank you. I appreciate it.

OLIVER: Thanks.

LEMON: Credit cards, mortgages, car loans, all about to get a lot more expensive. That is next.


LEMON: U.S. stocks finishing higher today. This, after the Federal Reserve announced its largest rate hike since 1994, raising interest rates by three quarters of a percentage point. The historic move comes as the Fed tries to gain control of record high inflation that has left Americans paying more for things like groceries and gas.

Lot to talk about with Kai Ryssdal, host of Public Radio's Marketplace. Kai, we love having you on. You're tough to get, man, you're tough to get, but we're glad you're here.


LEMON: Thanks for a appearing. I appreciate it. Kai, the Fed is now breaking the glass to try to tame inflation.


LEMON: After a disastrous report last week showing prices surging across the entire economy. You think this move is enough to get this under control?

RYSSDAL: Well, no. And Chair Powell basically said that today. He said, look, we're going to continue do raise interest rates until we have it under control. Inflation can't go down until it flattens out, he said. And that's what I think he's really looking for.

But let me back you up for a minute to that report that came out on Friday.

LEMON: Right.

RYSSDAL: Eight-point six percent inflation year on year. That scared the heck out of everybody. But what really scared the Fed were some reports that people are starting to think that inflation is going to be higher for longer. And when that happens, when inflation expectations become unmoored then people start buying now because they are worried it will be more tomorrow and that keeps driving inflation up. So, Powell really wants inflation expectations to be under control.

LEMON: Well, speaking of, the former treasury secretary, Larry Summers, was on this program last night and he told me --

RYSSDAL: I saw it.

LEMON: -- that this high level of inflation could last for the next year. What do you think?

RYSSDAL: I think that's not unreasonable. Look, the Fed said today that they expect inflation at the end of this year to be 5.2 percent. Honestly, I think that's kind of optimistic depending on what the Fed does. I don't think -- I don't think former Secretary Summers is wrong. It could last into next year. That's totally possible. LEMON: Yes. He said it may ease off a bit but it was going to last

for a while.


LEMON: Americans are already feeling the pinch, Kai, and this rate hike will mean even higher borrowing costs on everything from mortgages to credit cards, car loans, et cetera.


LEMON: I mean, times are going to get even tougher for Americans, most Americans.

RYSSDAL: Well, yes. But let's keep our eye on the ball here. Right? What Powell is trying to do as he makes life more difficult in the short term is bring stability to prices. Without stability on prices, we can't have a functioning and normal labor market, we can't have a normal economy, we can't have normal economic growth. Right?

So what Powell is betting on here and I asked him this when I talked to him a month ago, I said, listen, are you ready to have people lose their jobs in the name of fixing the bigger problem. And he said, look, of course we don't want anybody to lose their jobs but we have to understand that without price stability, without inflation under control, we cannot have a normal economy. And that's what he's trying to do. I

LEMON: Kai, you saw it last night I asked Summers about the possibility of a recession.


LEMON: Listen to what he said and then we'll talk.



LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I think we are likely to have a recession. I think we have overheated the economy and gotten some bad luck that when it depends on swings too far one way it tends to swing back the other way. I think we are likely to have a recession sometime in the next two years.


LEMON: So, he said that but then he said we shouldn't try to avoid a recession because that could actually make things worse.

RYSSDAL: Well --

LEMON: I mean, go on. What you want to say?

RYSSDAL: Well, so look, two things. Number one, recessions are normal. They happen. We survive them. We get through them. Right? What Powell -- what Summers is saying when he says we shouldn't try to avoid it, is that if we let inflation stay high, that's worse. Right? That is bad for everybody.

If we have recession, if it's mild or a moderate recession, yes, some people will lose their jobs and unemployment will go up a bit. but that effects a tenth of a percentage point of the population. Right? Inflation goes from 3 -- unemployment goes from 3.6 percent to 4. 4.5 percent, right? That's a bad thing for people who will lose their jobs. I get that. But everybody dealing with inflation at 8.6 percent is the entire population.

LEMON: Do you remember I had you on a couple months ago and I said do we have the right metrics to measure the economy especially after COVID because you're saying it's going to affect a small percentage of the population. But and then we have low unemployment but we have this high inflation. So, what the heck, what the heck is happening here?


RYSSDAL: Well, so look, I think, first of all, the American economy is at $23 trillion beast. Right? And the try -- and the idea that we try to measure it to granular degree is a little bit crazy. But we do have really, really low unemployment. The labor market as Powell said today is really healthy. In fact, it's too healthy because there are too many job openings and that's letting workers try to get higher wages, which is good for them but it's bad macroeconomically.

In terms of gross domestic product and the larger economy, look, you measure what you can and see what you get. I mean, it's the (Inaudible) flip answer, but that's the truth.

LEMON: What do we do about gas prices? What can the -- what can the -- can the government, so to speak, meaning the White House and officials in Washington, the leaders in Washington, lawmakers there, is there anything we can do about gas prices?

RYSSDAL: Look, the short answer is no. I know the president understands the political peril he's in. Right? That's why he sent that letter today, that's why he's been blaming big oil. That's why he's been talking about inflation and how it's his highest priority.

But the fact of the matter is, the presidents, whoever they are, Republican or Democrat, can only affect macroeconomic things on the margins. They can't actually influence what's going on in the details of this economy. Higher gas prices. Consumer demand. Those kinds of things. That's really hard.

LEMON: Kai, you break it down on everyday man's language and we love having you here, so please come back. Thank you for appearing, sir.

RYSSDAL: You bet.

LEMON: Thank you.

RYSSDAL: Good to talk to you, Don. LEMON: You as well. A senior White House official telling CNN that President Biden standing up to MAGA laws that bully kids. Right? We're going to tell you what they're about, that's next.



LEMON: It is pride month and President Biden is commemorating it with action signing a sweeping executive order to shore up equality for LGBTQ Americans. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Right now, there are young people sitting in their bedroom, doors closed, silent, scrolling through social media, staring at the ceiling wondering if they'll ever be loved, ever marry. Ever have a family and be accepted by their own family some times.

No one knows better than the people in this room that we have a lot more work to do. A lot more work to do. I don't have to tell you about the ultra MAGA agenda attacking families and our freedoms.

All of you in this room know better than anyone that these attacks are real and consequential for real families, for real families.


LEMON: So, the executive order coming in response to anti-LGBTQ legislation being introduced and passed by Republican -ed state legislatures all around the country.

Let's discuss this now with CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Alice Stewart are both here. We appreciate it. Goo to see.

Ana, I'm going to start with you. LGBTQ advocates are applauding this executive order. This is what it's supposed to do, protect children from conversion therapy, safeguard programs to prevent youth suicide. It includes a new initiative to protect foster youth. It aims to safeguard inclusive health care and housing. What do you think? Do you think this will be effective?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it matters because for the last few months, it feels like there's been this manufactured culture war by Republicans targeting LGBTQ. Right? So, whether it's don't say gay in Florida. Now, it's all about, you know, it's all about drag shows.

You know, what angle to the LGBTQ thing can we pick, targeting people who talk about it as pedophiles, as you're grooming kids. It's so ignorant. It's so wrong. And so, I do think this is effective in sending a different message. We love you. We see you, we embrace you, we respect you. You are entitled to equality and to respect. So yes, it matters. LEMON: Let's talk about some of the state bills that this is meant to

counter. Ana mentioned some of it. So, the most famous come out of Florida that she just talked about, the don't say gay bill, which other states are adapting now.

In Texas, their attorney general there says that gender affirming health care for trans kids is child abuse. Tennessee is banning any discussion or instructional materials on LGBTQ issues in public schools. Oklahoma is banning books from school libraries. And these are really just a few of the laws going into effect. So, Alice Stewart, why is this a priority for these GOP-led state legislature -- legislatures?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Don, if I can just first start off with saying I applaud President Biden for taking steps to support the LGBTQ community and providing protections and doing away with any type of discrimination that we can do.

The important thing to keep in mind and I support the provisions in there to provide counseling for suicide prevention for youth. But look, in terms of these laws you are referring to, kids bully kids. These laws are meant to allow parents to protect their kids from life altering decisions that would be better made when they're not minors.

And a lot of the states that you mentioned, whether we're talking about hormone blockers, whether we're talking about gender reassignment surgery or transition surgeries, the legislatures in many of these states want to make sure that these decisions are made after a child is a minor. And when they are older and better able to make such an important, life altering decision. And with regard to the --


LEMON: But these kids would need the consent of their parents any way. I mean, it just seems like they are making laws for no reason.

STEWART: But they --


NAVARRO: Listen, I know you and I know you're a decent person. This is indefensible. And listen, we just saw this week where 31 white supremacists were arrested in Idaho wanting to go attack and riot at a pride parade. Why a pride parade?


Because Republicans have been preying and using this issue, this anti- LGBTQ issue to spread fear mongering. To, you know, to promote this idea that gays want to prey on their children and turn them into transgenders or something it is so ridiculous.

Don Lemon can tell you, he was groomed to be straight his entire life. Nobody grooms anybody to be gay or to be straight. It comes from nature. And so, it is -- it is repulsive to me that Republicans are using and manufacturing a culture war in order to drive people to the polls through fear for, you know, now they are coming for your children. They're not coming for your children.


NAVARRO: Nobody is coming for your children.


LEMON: Let Alice respond.

STEWART: Clearly, what happened with the gay pride parade out in Idaho is reprehensible. That should not have happened. They should --


NAVARRO: But why did it happen, Alice?

STEWART: Well because there are people that are filled with hate and specifically against the members of the gay community and it's reprehensible. I don't know how much more plainly I can say that. That should not have happened and they need to be held accountable. But again, --


NAVARRO: Alice, it happened because Republicans have been -- have been going on this hammering this anti-LGBTQ message now for months. They've been using -- listen, we've seen this before, Alice. You and I are both Republicans. We saw it during the Bush campaign in 2004 where it was used as a very effective wedge issue to drive people to the polls through fears. It is the exact same play book. That's why, white supremacists are going to a pride parade. Because we are feeding this into their brains. And it's got to stop.

STEWART: It's completely wrong to paint Republican Party and Republicans in general with the same rush. These people are certainly outliers, they are filled with hate, and they are not reflective of the Republican Party.

If I can get back to the laws we are referring to, these are not quote, "MAGA legislatures" across the country that are acting indiscriminately and posing these laws. They are representing the will of the people of their states, the parents of their state, who have been very vocal and very clear that the parents want to have a say in how -- in how their children are raised. And if their children want to have these types of gender reassignment surgery, we absolutely support them. But do so --


LEMON: But Alice, you are focusing -- you're focusing in on trans issue that our small part. And it's not even mention in the things that I discussed. You're focusing in on trans issues. But these go beyond, we're talking about the LGBTQ plus community as a whole. And you are taking a subset of something that's happening and focusing on those laws. Of course, parents should be able to have say over -- say over what

happens to their children. But they have that say anyways. They don't need laws put into place to ensure that they have a say. They have. They are the parents of the kids. And the kids can't do it unless the parents say so when they're minors. So, these laws are superfluous.

STEWART: That's not true. Don, that's simply not true.


STEWART: And look, kids can -- kids can get these medical procedures done if there are -- these laws were not in place. This is being done. Minor children --


LEMON: But banning -- what is banning books have to do with it. What is don't say gay bill have to do with trans issues. What does, you now, discussing -- not being able to discuss materials or LGBTQ issues in public schools. What does that have to do with trans issues?

I think what you're talking about something that is extreme and again is a small part of the LGBTQ plus issues. Trans people make up a very small pop -- very smart part of our population. The laws that would affect trans people is a very small part of be population.

Gay people in general, lesbians, bisexuals, gays make up a much larger percentage of the population than trans people. And these laws are being put into place to prohibit a group of people and then you come on and focus on a very small group of people that this is affecting. And parents who already have a say in what their kids can, what can and cannot happen to their children.

STEWART: Don, I'm addressing the laws that you asked me about. And when we're talking about the don't say gay measure in Florida, this is something that make sure that this type of education, this type of literature, this type of curriculum is age-appropriate. I don't think it's appropriate for kindergarteners through third graders to be exposed to this type of education.


NAVARRO: They're not. Alice, they're not.

STEWART: That's the --


LEMON: I don't think anyone thinks that.

NAVARRO: Listen, I know -- I know. And I'm from Florida. Right? I live in Miami. I know LGBTQ teachers who are terrified for anybody to find out what their identity is because they are afraid of being fired.

[22:50:01] I know LGBTQ families who are afraid that their children will be targeted and marginalized. This is indefensible. This is targeting a group for political gain and using them as political pawns. This is not a real problem. It is yet again another manufactured culture war for political purposes.


NAVARRO: And if you are getting your medical advice from Ted Cruz or Ron DeSantis or Marco Rubio, you've got a real problem because you should be getting it from your doctors and your pediatrician.

LEMON: Alice, I'll give you the last word.

STEWART: Look, again, I think it's really important to understand these legislators are making these laws and imposing this legislation because they are representing the will of the people.

The legislators in Florida have heard from the parents across the state, and a lot of times what we're hearing is parents are speaking out. They are requesting laws to be changed in their states, and these Republican legislators are doing just that. And this is what makes this country great is when we have laws that are passed at the state level closer to the people, are more representative of the people --


NAVARRO: Come on, Alice.

STEWART: -- as oppose to --


LEMON: OK. Listen, listen, listen --

NAVARRO: Targeting a specific group does not make this --

LEMON: I think that --

NAVARRO: -- and these legislators are not responding to their constituents. They're doing this for political gain and they are ignorant. You know, my state legislator in Florida --


LEMON: I've got -- I've got to go.

NAVARRO: -- went on the floor and said that they could turn, you know, that being gay could be a temporary thing. That is the epitome of ignorance.

LEMON: We'll be right back. I've got to go. Thanks.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: So new tonight Dr. Anthony Fauci testing positive for COVID-

19. He is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and has been the leading voice in fighting the pandemic over the last two years.

In a statement the institute says that Fauci who is 81 years old, has mild symptoms and has been boosted twice, and he is being treated with the anti -- anti-viral medication Paxlovid. Now Dr. Fauci is President Biden's chief medical advisor and we're told that he has not had any close contact with the president or other senior officials. We'll keep you updated on that.

Next, the January 6th committee releasing video showing a man threatening lawmakers one day after a congressman gave him a tour of the capitol. George Conway and Doug Jones are after this.