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Don Lemon Tonight

Rep. Adam Kinzinger Fear for His Family's Safety; Senator Cornyn Booed by His Own Party; January 6th Committee features More Evidence; Gay GOP Member Wants to Remain a Conservative; Missouri GOP Candidate Posted Disturbing Ad; Senate Don't Need Violent Senators. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 20, 2022 - 22:00   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Sara Sidner, thank you very much. I appreciate that. A big show to get to and I'm going to do it right now.

This is Don Lemon Tonight.

And this is, I can't tell you how important this is. OK? So pay attention to me please. And this isn't something that we can both sides. The truth is, what we as a country moving forward, will we continue to operate in truth, or are we going to continue to be the place where the truth matters? Or will we fall to the lies? Will we succumb to the biggest lie of them all? You know the one I'm talking about. That is the lie of a stolen election, of election fraud.

That's the significance of what tomorrow is all about and it is not hyperbole. It's not hyperbolic to say that the January 6th hearings that are just hours away, by the way, and what comes out of them will be an indication of whether we can keep our very fragile democracy right now. It is hanging by a thread or not, whether we can keep it or not.

Are you paying attention? You should, because tomorrow we will listen to testimony live from three Republicans who know exactly how far the former president was willing to go to try to overturn our free and fair election.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.


LEMON: It's outrageous. And everyone knows it. This is not just about what happened about more than a year ago. It's about what's happening right now. And it is scary. And it is dangerous. It is hateful and it can cost lives. They did on January 6th, right?

The Republican Party, the state of Texas and its official party platform is now claiming that Joe Biden was not legitimately elected. That is a lie. And we have seen with our own eyes just how dangerous that lie is. We saw it. With our own eyes were on January 6th when rioters stormed the seat of our democracy.

We're seeing it now with this awful letter from Adam Kinzinger. He says that he got it in the mail, threatening to execute him, his wife and their baby.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I don't worry, but now that I have a wife and kids, of course, it's a little different. There are people that -- there is violence in the future. I'm going to tell you, and until we get a grip on telling people the truth, we can't expect any differently.


LEMON: We are also seeing it with leading candidates for the GOP Senate nomination in Missouri. Eric Greitens releasing a video of him playing, acting, play acting, hunting rhinos. The right's favorite insult for what they call Republicans in name only.

This is -- it is -- look, it is so awful. And it is so dangerous and frightening that we are not showing you the video. Maybe we should. I don't know. But it is, it's terrible. We are not going to play into his hands. But calling for some members of his own party to be hunted? It's worse than a sick joke. It's, as I said, it's dangerous.

But lies are baked in to the GOP right now. That is just the truth. It's not just the election lies. Texas Republicans also rebuking and booing one of their own, Senator John Cornyn, for working on bipartisan gun legislation, that in a state that just buried 19 little kids and two teachers. Shot to death in their classrooms.

Those are Republicans booing Republicans. Those are Republicans, according to Adam Kinzinger, threatening to kill him, to harm him and his family.

So, they are calling for the repeal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, dangerous. The landmark legislation that protects the rights of vote for people who look like me, and people who fought and died for that right, people who look like me.


They are referring to homosexuality again and their official party platform as, and I'm quoting here, "an abnormal lifestyle choice," an abnormal lifestyle choice. What do we -- are we heading back to the 50s here? I'm here to tell you, there is nothing abnormal about being who you are and loving who you are, and being who God need you to be. And all this is why we are -- where we are today. This is why we are

today. With a minority party bowing to the extremes, the extremes of the party who will resort to violence to get what they want, which is power.

So, I will bring in now CNN senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, CNN senior legal analyst, Jennifer Rodgers. I appreciate you joining us. Thank you very much. Good evening to you.

Evan, you start first. Another big day on Capitol Hill tomorrow, the January 6 committee says that we're going to hear evidence that Trump had direct involvement in those fake, that fake elector scheme. Tell us more about what we can expect?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Don. I think what the committee very importantly is going to try to do tomorrow is to connect the pressure campaign that these officials in the state of Georgia in Arizona, personally withstood from the former president and his allies, and how that goes from not only trying to obviously send these fake electors that would've kept the former president in power, but also how that perpetuated this idea that there was widespread fraud, which brought those crowds to the capitol on January 6th and led to the violence.

That's the connection they're trying to make. They're trying to pull all of this together, and again, bring it right to the former president and the fact that he was personally involved, not only in that phone call that he made that you played a part of to the Georgia state officials, but also that he called and try to pressure people and the White House officials tried to pressure people in Arizona to try to do the same.

LEMON: Jennifer Rodgers, how do you think that the committee will show this was a widespread coordinated plot? Do you think they'll be able to do that, to make that case?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I hope so, Don. This is a piece of the puzzle that we haven't heard that much about publicly, the fraudulent slates of electors. So, there are a lot of people here. There are multiple people in seven different states who sent in these fake slates of electors.

So, I'm hoping the committee has spoken to a lot of those people and we'll hear from a lot of them, because they are going to want to know, not only what did you do and how did you get organized, how did you get together? What was said amongst you, the seven or ten or how many of them the faked electors there were, but also who told you to do that? Who's coordinating it.

I mean, it's obviously not a coincidence that seven groups of people in seven different states that Joe Biden won and that Donald Trump wanted to flip at the same thing at the same time. So, the question is who was pulling those strings?

And interesting too, Don, I think that DOJ who we know is already investigating this part of the scheme might look to make some cooperating witnesses here. Because these folks, these people who signed on to these fake slates of electors, they're prominent in their community. Some of them are public officials themselves. They don't want to go to prison. And this was a pretty clearly illegal scheme, even when you just take it into isolation. So, I think DOJ has a real opportunity here to bring some of those people and to get at the higher ups who are really running the show.

LEMON: So, clearly, illegal scheme, you said even if you take it in isolation, so what does that -- what does mean for everything else that's going to happen? How do you take that into account and then, you know, bring it around to well, what the president did and what others around him did and what other lawmakers may have done that may be clearly illegal as well? Do you understand my question, Jennifer?

RODGERS: Yes, I mean listen, you have a potentially illegal scheme happening in at least five of these seven states. Two of the states had hedging language, that makes it not so clear. But you have a scheme that involves certainly these electors who signed this false form that they sent to the federal government, and the people who asked them to do it, knowing that it was false.

Then you start to say OK, but we have course know that this is just one of those multi problem plans that President Trump and his supporters had to keep him in power. So, then you're saying, OK, it could be a stand-alone crime. Probably in five of these seven states and on a federal level, but then you're also looking at it being one piece of this broader conspiracy that the select committee is making the case for.

So, I think they can go at it in these couple of different ways and DOJ, we know is investigating the isolated piece, and I hope is also fitting it into the broader puzzle in the bigger investigation.

LEMON: Also, Jennifer, let me just get your take on Arizona Republican Rusty Bauer. He is scheduled to testify. He said that Trump asked him to directly replace the electors in the state and that he refused.


He said that he wasn't going to do anything illegal. What will testimony that Trump was directly involved mean for Trump?

RODGERS: Well, it really depends what it is. So, you really have to hear the language there, but if the testimony is, he said to me I want you to replace this slate of electors and I said, Mr. President, I'm sorry I can't do that, it's illegal. And he said I want you to do it anyway. Then you're talking about knowledge on behalf of the former president, that he was asking for something illegal.

And that would be huge, obviously, when you're looking at potentially charging him, but of course you really do have to parse exactly what was said to see what that language is and what charges it might support.

LEMON: Evan, let's talk about how low this has gone, and how dangerous it has gone. And quite frankly, some of the lawmakers around the country now and election workers are dealing with many journalists dealt with over the Trump administration -- these death threats from people. You know, sending, you know, pipe bombs are threatening to different news stations and threatening to kill reporters and what have you, and now election workers are dealing with the same crap.

We're also getting to hear from a Georgia election worker who received death threats after false election fraud allegations. Talk to me about with this is about?

PEREZ: Right. Well, Don, I think, look, we've heard some of the stories of some of these other officials. We've not heard from this -- you know, at this level. And I think this is actually one of the most important parts of this. And this is, her name is Wandrea ArShaye 'Shaye' Moss. And she submitted a testimony. We have some of her testimony. I'll read you just a part of it.

But importantly, what she was accused of was being part of this big fake scheme that Trump went on television to talk about. And I'll read you just a part of what she says. She says I have to live with these lies every single day. Before December 2020 I was never scared of people knowing my name. She goes on to talk about the threats that she and her family, her son, her grandmother, Don, have faced as a result of being accused falsely of being part of the vote fraud scheme.

And I'll you just another part of it where she says, I didn't realize how much I loved my job until it was taken away from me by a few people who decided that their lie was more important than my life. I think that was an incredibly powerful words from somebody, again, these are people -- these are people we depend on to run our elections around the country.

They are facing these types of threats. Simply because of this falsehood that has been propagated by the former president, by some of the supporters. And to this day, right? These are the people who are suffering the consequences, not only powerful people like Adam Kinzinger and some of the state officials that have the protection of the state police. These are like, you know, average folks who are on the front lines, and run our elections every year, you know, every couple of years. They are the ones who are n bearing the brunt of this.

LEMON: You are right. Those are powerful words. They've decided that their lies were more important than my life. I don't know if you could put it any better than that.

Thank you, Jennifer. Thank you, Evan. I appreciate that.

Joining me now is a former U.S. senator and former defense secretary William Cohen. Thank you, Secretary. I appreciate you joining us. I mean, that really hit home, to hear that election worker say that. I mean, we are teetering by a thread. Will this, what comes out of these hearings. I think it's really important to show the direction of this country. Am I wrong with that?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We have become a very violent country when you have extreme rhetoric, when you have violent rhetoric, inevitably that leads to acts of violence. And so, we are seeing this take place on a regular basis now. I think we have to ask ourselves as a country, where are we going?

You cannot go to a city council meeting, a school board meeting, a legislature meeting. The governor office can't go, the Supreme Court of the United States, a justice recently was threatened with his life and with his family.

So, when do we start saying enough and nor more? And I mean not only political leadership. I don't know why every Republican in the Senate is not standing up and condemning that ad that you have refused rightly to run. Why are they not condemning that and saying, this is way over the top? This is violent. You are encouraging violence?

And then I want to ask the corporate leaders of this country. Why are you pouring money into the candidacies of people who are threatening and undermining the institution of this country? So, we --


LEMON: Can you say that one more time please. Can you please say that again? Because I think that is the crux of it. There are too many people who are falling -- it is about -- it is about money for the corporations. It is about power for the politicians. Ultimately, it's about money and power. Please, speak on that, Secretary.

COHEN: Yes. Well, we just heard, we saw that example of that video of this running and then a request who wants to join in the hunt. Send money. Buy a permit. And so, it's a fundraising activity.


What we have to ask is the corporate leaders of this country who now are treated as individual citizens -- they have a right to vote, so to speak, according to the Supreme Court. We have to ask the corporate leaders, you are putting money, thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaigns on candidates who do not represent the best of this country, who promote violence, who promote lies and dishonesty, and dishonorable activity.

You have to be held accountable, so when people see that companies are contributing to these candidates, we ought to respond at the pocket book level. They have to vote with their, with their feet and with their pocketbooks and move away from those companies. Make them pay a penalty, because they are in fact voting to put people in power who write laws which advantage them to the great detriment of the health, wealth, and safety of the American people.

LEMON: You know, the former president's team tried to steal the election. What is to stop that from happening again?

COHEN: The only thing that will stop that from happening is the American people. We many of us knew from the beginning that Mr. Trump was unfit for that office. That he demonstrated it time and time again. And now he's doing it in our -- in our faces once more. Doubling down, tripling down, quadrupling down.

To say, I am going to change the way this country functions. I don't believe in the rule of law. I believe in the power of ruling, and that's what is happening to the Republican Party. It's not the party of Lincoln. It's more like the party of Putin, namely that one person gets to change the institutions and tells people what the laws are going to be, because he is going to write those laws.

So, I am -- I'm surprised that not more Republicans are willing to step forward. They were quick to step forward as they should have when a threat was made against the Supreme Court justice and his family. They were quick to call that we got to protect them.

Well, yes, speak up now when you have members in your own party who were carrying out ads that are designed to inflame the politics of this country. Can you imagine if that was a black man with a shotgun with all of those shells loaded by his side in the gun? Walk into a house saying I'm going to kill some Republicans, because I disagree with their policies?

How long do you think before the Secret Service or the FBI would break down his door? Now it's not just a matter of free speech. They're saying well, first amendment rights. No harm done. No. There was harm being done when we allowed that to take place without condemnation.

So, I think we have an obligation, everybody, Republicans and Democrats, whether it happens on the left with Antifa. Anybody who advocates violence ought to be disqualified from office. I think that is incumbent on us, the American people to see that that happens.

LEMON: Secretary Cohen, thank you, h sir. I appreciate what you said and I appreciate your time.

COHEN: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Thank you.

COHEN: All right.

LEMON: Up next, he was an out-game member of the committee that wrote the hateful Texas GOP platform. This is what he says.


JASON VAUGHN, PLATFORM COMMITTEE MEMBER, TEXAS GOP: This is meant to be insulting language. It does nothing for policy. It does nothing to move us forward. It's -- and honestly, it's a little insulting to drop this on this body right after you say, we don't have a lot of time to discuss it.


LEMON: He's going to join me live. Next.



LEMON: So, I want you to listen to this interview. I think that you are -- you will learn a lot. And I think it's important to hear the next voice that we are going to have on. He's a member of the Republican Party. He's a gay Republican as a matter of fact from Texas.

The Republican Party of Texas moving further to the extreme right at this convention this weekend. The party approving resolutions for its platform that dig in on the big lie that then President Trump won the 2020 election. He did not. Among the approved measures the Texas GOP falsely says that President Joe Biden was not legitimately elected.

The platform condemns any second amendment restrictions and rebukes the 10-GOP senators backing the bipartisan gun bill in Washington, even after the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. There's anti- gay language also included in the platform. The party declaring homosexuality as, quote, "abnormal and abnormal lifestyle choice." There is also a call to repeal the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

So, let's talk to the Republican who was at the convention who disagrees with some of the approved measures. Joining me now is Jason Vaughan, a member of the platform committee for the Republican Party of Texas. Jason, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

VAUGHN: I'm happy to be here. And I am glad after the convention was over. I saw you were celebrating Juneteenth yesterday, and I'm glad to be coming to you from the home of Emancipation Park here in Houston.

LEMON: Thank you very much. So, listen, let's get to it. The Texas GOP says that Biden, President Biden was not legitimately elected. We know that is not true. Do you believe that Joe Biden is the legitimately elected President of the United States?

VAUGHN: I know that I was very much against this resolution. Here's my challenge. There is some shady things in my opinion that happened with the election. Here in Harris County, just in this last election, there were 10,000 ballots lost. But I think this continuing Stop the Steal language that the Republicans have been pushing in many places has -- is going to discourage our members, our voters from going out to vote. Why vote if the election was stolen?

So, there's actually the last sentence in there that says if you believe it was stolen, go work harder. Go do the work and actually get more people out to vote. That's the important thing --


LEMON: I appreciate that. I appreciate that, Jason, but my question was do you believe that Joe Biden is the legitimately elected President of the United States?

VAUGHN: Based on the evidence I have, yes.

LEMON: OK. Thank you for answering that. Because even the former Attorney General Bill Barr, Trump's own attorney general called the fraud claims B.S., and he said this in the --



LEMON: -- we saw his testimony in the January 6th committee. I want to watch this just to reiterate this and then we'll move on to talk about other things. But watch this.




LEMON: He is -- was the top-ranking Republican, one of the top- ranking Republicans and advisers to the former president of the United States. That he also agrees that it was B.S. So, you agree that Joe Biden was legitimately elected president of the United States and you have seen no evidence that there was enough voter fraud to overturn the election?

VAUGHN: Enough voter fraud, being the key phrase, yes. There were definitely shenanigans. There are things going on. And I think the part of what we have to discuss is that since 2016 we have lost a lot of faith in the institutions. You saw that Democrats were claiming Russia helped Trump steal the election even back then. So, neither side actually trusts our election process. That's a problem. We have to have faith in our --


LEMON: But Jason, that's just not true. That's not the same thing. To say -- to question some election that there's -- listen, there's, you know, anomalies in every single election. So, to put Democrats and Republicans in the same level


VAUGHN: But this was --

LEMON: -- with this -- it's just -- it's just not true.

VAUGHN: Again, for years they did say that Russia had helped Trump steal the election. So, I don't know why we're so surprised that Republicans doubt this election. Now I don't --


LEMON: Jason, here. Jason, let me just give you some facts and then I'll let you respond.

VAUGHN: All right.

LEMON: U.S. intelligence, U.S. intelligence agencies found that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Trump. That's U.S. intelligence agencies. A 2020 bipartisan Senate report also found that Russia interfered with and try to influence the election, and Democrats in no way went to the lengths that Republicans did by spreading election lies, by having an insurrection at the capitol. Democrats did not attack the capitol. Do you see what I'm getting out? It is not the same thing.

VAUGHN: I am not saying it's the same. I'm saying that we have distrust on both sides, and we have to start figuring out. We have to have faith in our institutions that we are going to restore that.


LEMON: But you understand that distrust that one side --

VAUGHN: And you can't just the one party --

LEMON: Hold on. You understand that one side the distrust is based on actual facts? On the other side, the distrust is not based in reality and the reason that there is distrust is because the person at the top spread, helped to spread, lit the match to ignite the distrust?

VAUGHN: Again, I'm in Harris County. We've had massive election issues. And so, to say there was nothing to say that people should distrust the election is crazy. I will absolutely say I do not believe the election was stolen. I will say that I believe there is. But I will not say that there was nothing to distrust.

LEMON: OK. Fair enough, Jason. Thank you. OK, so listen, the platform also included a section calling homosexuality an abnormal lifestyle chores -- choice.


LEMON: You are an out gay committee member. You voted against it including that, right?


LEMON: And you called it disrespectful. So why did the Texas GOP approve this plank for the platform?

VAUGHN: I think there got to be a lot of confusion on the floor. If you look at the way the body voted versus the way the committee voted, it was -- the committee was very close. It was 17 to 14 if we were to flip two votes that would not have gone in there.

And there's, look, I understand my party does not believe in gay marriage. That's a policy issue we can debate. The problem with this language was it was insulting, and it is distracted from so many other planks that I do care about.

If you listen to the debate on the floor of the convention, you will see that right after this was passed, this abnormal gay guy got up to the mic and actually was able to spin the rules and put an extremely important information on the plank on protecting fragile children. Making sure they have home care, community-based care.

And that's something that the Republican should be talking about, uniting under. There are 275 planks and the other ones -- the only ones we are talking about four of them that are complete and utter distractions that make, for most of them, I disagree with.

LEMON: OK. I ask you this. And listen, I'm caveat because I don't -- this is a legitimate question, I'm not saying that you cannot be a gay Republican. So, the question would be is if you are gay man, they're calling you abnormal, then why are you a member of the Republican Party?

VAUGHN: I'm a member because there's -- I'm not -- I get this question a lot. First, let me say, I'm not a member of the Republican Party because I want to be liked. I'm a member of the Republican Party because I want to get stuff done. And that's one of the closest places to do it.

I absolutely believe in Harvey Milk's philosophy of the more gay people they know, the more likely they are to change.


I show up time and time again. And there's a lot of -- there is 80, 95 percent of the policies, that I care about. I was out on the platform committee. You understand? There is one in 31 people that are making up those platforms. There is one in 30 -- in the entire state, I was unanimously elected again.

The chairman of the party, Matt Rinaldi, is a close friend of mine. The vice chair is a close friend. I know all of these people. I go in there. Now, yes, do we disagree on policy? Do we have some very heated rhetoric? Do I think this was a dumb, idiotic move that distracts us from issues like property tax and bail reform?


LEMON: It's also hateful, Jason. It's also hateful.

VAUGHN: It was.

LEMON: To say to call someone abnormal is hateful.

VAUGHN: It was. And you heard me call it out. You heard me, you played it earlier. You heard me call this out. It was hateful, it was disrespectful, it should've never happened. It did not go through the subcommittee. It did not come up from one of our other conventions. It did not go through the temporary committee. It was thrown in at the last minute.

And here's the challenge we face. There is a lot of Republicans that did not want to feel like they were softening the language with everything going on, with all of the drag kids -- drag shows for kids and all the other stuff, they do not want to feel like we're in any way softening that. Now I disagree with that. I am passionately -- I am a proud gay man. I

am openly out. I am against -- and I am against all of those things. I do not think there should be sexual drag shows for children. And I think those are hurting a lot of those things, but I think that's part of what they are reacting to and we have to balance this out. There is balance. We don't have to go -- we don't have to be reactive to everything. This was a hateful, inappropriate move and I really disagree with it.

LEMON: Well, Jason, listen, I think it's important part of your answers what you said that you -- you want to, I think you said you want to -- look, I don't want to put words in your mouth.

VAUGHN: Thank you.

LEMON: That you want to be able to bring about change within your own party. And I think it's important. That's why, for similar reasons, I think it's important for you to be on here. Because I would like to understand, to get to understand why you are a member of the Republican Party and why you are doing what you are doing. So, that said, --


VAUGHN: Can I give you one --


VAUGHN: Can I give you one clear reason?

LEMON: Sure.

VAUGHN: Monday night, a week ago, honestly right around now, it's been almost exactly a week. My neighbor a couple doors down in my current apartment complex, nine years old. Nine. Shot in the head. Domestic -- domestic disturbance. The man was out on five felony, five bonds, one of them at least felony bons.

It's insane what's happening with the Democrat judges here in Harris County. Now I know that's not everywhere. I can only speak to what I know here. That is a shameful situation. And I will never vote for one of them. Yes, they hate me. But I am alive and I do not want to die.

LEMON: I understand what you're saying. Listen, yes, but there are people who will say, why don't you join the Democratic Party to try to change the Democrats to have, you know, judges who well be more in favor of stronger policing? Because that's kind of what you are saying. That the reason that you are a member of the Republican Party is because you want to change minds and hearts. Well, why don't you go on the Democratic side and try to change minds and heart -- I'm just saying, and I'm not saying that you should do it.

VAUGHN: I understand.

LEMON: But it's the same logic. You understand what I'm saying? You can do it in either party and you actually maybe you might have more of a chance to, in the Democratic Party for people who don't think that you are abnormal.

VAUGHN: Well, I've got about -- I've got about a 10 to 15 percent agreement with Democrats on certain issues, right of that. Look, I've got -- I can either -- I can change the 10 percent for Republicans or I can change the 90 percent for Democrats. There is a big difference there in what I would actually need to change. And look, I'm a proud, pro-life man. I -- that is one of my passions. I believe in lower property taxes. I believe in bail reform. I believe that there are so many things --


LEMON: That's why you are conservative.

VAUGHN: That's so private.

LEMON: And that, those -- I understand that. Yes, I get that. The other part, you know, many people just don't get it. And look, as long as you'll come here and you'll be honest with me and you will tell me the truth and you're not an election denier, you're not going to tell me that it's not raining outside when it is, and I'll have you on and we can debate the issues. But if you're going to come on and you are not going to live in reality, I'm not going to -- I don't think it's -- I don't think we should be giving you a platform --


VAUGHN: I understand that. I'm a very nuanced person, which is not always great for media and politics.


VAUGHN: So, but I appreciate you having me on for that.

LEMON: Jason, thank you. And please come back. Be well. Good luck. OK? Thank you.

VAUGHN: Thank you so much, Don.

LEMON: CNN political commentator Scott Jennings is here, so is Washington Post columnist Max Boot. And I've to ask, what is the move like this in Texas mean for Republicans all across the country? We're going to talk about that right after this.



LEMON: So, Trump's election lie is becoming an official part of the Texas GOP platform. There is much to discuss now with CNN's political commentator Scott Jennings, and Washington Post columnist Max Boot.

Gentlemen, good evening. Good to see both of you.

Max, fist, give me your reaction from what you just heard from Jason Vaughn. MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think this

is the insanity that you are seeing sweep across the Republican Party. You know, you might say that the state of Texas is kind of like America, only more so -- and I would say the Republican Party in Texas is like the Republican Party in the rest of the country only more so.


I mean, they're not only rejecting the outcome of the 2020 election, which unfortunately is a very widespread Republican position these days, but there are also rejecting the 1965 Voting Rights Act. They're rejecting homosexuality as a, quote, unquote, "abnormal lifestyle."

They booed Senator John Cornyn for entertaining even a very mild bipartisan measure dealing with gun safety. Representative Dan Crenshaw was accosted and abused by Texas Republicans over the weekend who were calling him eye patch McCain.

I mean, this is just one insanity after another. But unfortunately, I feel like this is where the Republican Party is headed. And this is kind of a snapshot and time of a party that is becoming increasingly extremist, increasingly racist, authoritarian, divorced from reality, and frankly, flirting with violence. It's a very, very scary picture of what a party that I once belonged to has now become.

LEMON: You know, Scott, this isn't coming from, you know, just a few extreme voices. I mean, the lie about the election. Trump's lie, the big lie, it's about to become the official platform of the Texas GOP. That's pretty dangerous.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, if you've seen any polling in the Republican primaries this year, which I have, you wouldn't be surprised. I mean, it is a majority opinion of rank- and-file Republicans that at a minimum they think what your previous guest thought which was, at a minimum, some kind of shenanigans.

And so, you get people saying that. It's become -- it's become doctrine era in the party. I mean, obviously it's one of Trump's motivating issues. I mean, if he runs for reelection, this is going to be his platform. Relitigating 2020. So, I wasn't surprised they did it. This platform is ridiculous. And it's obviously a bunch of cranks and crack pock got together ahead of festerous and airing grievances this weekend. It's better for this party to look forward and it's better for this party to be focused on forward-looking issues. They chose not to do that. And it's unfortunate.

LEMON: Scott, Mac, stay with me. We've got a lot to talk about. This video was posted by a Republican candidate where he brandishes a gun. He tells his supporters to hunt rhinos. We are just showing you a free ze frame of it because it's really just outrageous. We're going to talk about that next.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: So, you've got to pay attention to this one, all right?

Missouri's former governor, current Republican Senate candidate calling on voters to take down members of his own party. Eric Greitens campaign ads shows him holding what appears to be a long gun while he talks about hunting rhinos or Republicans in name only.

It also shows him barging into a house with a tactical unit, and the ad ends with this message. Rhino hunting permit. No bagging limit. No tagging limit. It's also worth noting that Greitens is facing allegations of sexual misconduct, child abuse and blackmail, but he denies them.

Scott Jennings and Max Boot are back with me. OK, so, I'm going to get, would do you guys think about this? Max, Greitens is a top contender in the Senate race. Would he have put out this ad if he didn't think that it was a winning message?

BOOT: Clearly, he does think it's a winning message. And he knows the formula, which was to say something outrageous and horrific. Then get blow back from the mainstream world from the media, from Democrats, and then he becomes a hero to the MAGA hordes by claiming that they're trying to censor him, and he is a brave speaker of the truth.

It is this tedious carnival act, but it's a dangerous act. Because what Greitens is doing is he is encouraging violence. We already have more gun violence than any other country in the world. We have more guns than any other country in the world.

Republicans are preventing us from passing any kind of sensible legislation. We can't ban assault weapons. We can't impose even a 21- year-old age limit to buy assault weapons, but on top of that Republicans have made a fetish of guns. They have this gun called, or almost every single Republican campaign ad these days has to have a gun in it.

And of course, and that loses its shock value. And so, Greitens is taking it up another notch by actually miming this act of killing his Republican opponents, whoever they are, but sadly, what I see is that the mainstream Republican Party, to the extent that there is a mainstream is cowed by the gun lobby. They are cowed by the gun nuts. They will not stay up to the insiders of patriot and violence.

And that is ultimately more (Inaudible) than you can certainly have extremists in very bad people like Eric Greitens or the people who are writing the Texas party platform, but the fundamental problem is there are no grown-ups stuff in the Republican Party who will stand up for moderation and decency.

LEMON: You know, Scott, the Missouri Fraternal order of Police is denouncing that Greitens ad, but we haven't heard anything from the RNC or Republican leadership. Why aren't they condemning this and making it, you know, that clear that violence will not be tolerated?

JENNINGS: Yes, I don't know. I do know this, that the Republican leadership at large is freaked out about the possibility that Greitens will become the nominee in Missouri. There is widespread belief that if he gets the nomination, which by the way, it's possible because they're so many candidates that he could give the nomination with a low number votes.

If he gets that, the Senate race goes on the board. And we -- and if we nominate Greitens in Missouri, Republicans will get what they deserve. Which is a race that we could easily lose, because we will have nominated someone who is not worthy of our party's nomination. He is not worthy of the seat in the United States Senate. And we've got to stop him.

So, this is one of those races, Don. It's not unlike the 2016 Republican primary for president where fragmentation helps the candidate who does the most extreme things and he's doing the most extreme things.

LEMON: Scott --

JENNINGS: It's bad for the party.


LEMON: Let me ask you before I let you go. You're a smart man. And I said, I said, you know, why aren't they saying anything? I mean, your -- why don't you think they're saying anything, even though if you don't -- if you're not sure. You haven't heard from them but you must have some idea.

JENNINGS: Well, I think there's a question of strategy in this race, to be honest with you, Don. Because I think what Max said is not incorrect, that candidates like this do the sorts of things in an effort to elicit pushback from media, or pushback from the so-called party leaders or establishment. And then they use that as evidence, you know, that hey, the swamp is coming to get me.

So, I think when things like this happen, everybody hesitates because they don't want to make it worse. And so that's part of what I think is going on. Overall, in Missouri, there's a massive effort of way of people trying to figure out how to stop Greitens from getting this nomination with 30 percent of the vote. That's what's happening and nobody wants to mess up the plan to try to get this thing for somebody else.

LEMON: Scott and Max, thank you very much. I appreciate it. We're going to talk about high gas prices in the White House knows it. What Joe Biden is saying he's going to do about it? That's next.



LEMON: Well, tonight gas prices dropping ever so slightly after climbing to record high levels. Triple A reports that as of today the national average price of a gallon of gas stands at $4.98. That's down three pennies a gallon from last week. The White House is desperate to get gas prices down. President Biden considering a federal gas tax holiday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)


UNKNOWN: How soon can we expect a decision?

BIDEN: I hope I have a decision based on data I'm looking for by the end of the week.


LEMON: The federal gas taxes just over 18 cents a gallon. Suspending it temporarily could give drivers a break at the pump, but President Biden cannot take action unilaterally. He would need Congress to go along with it.

Another public hearing. This time three Republicans are testifying in front of the January 6th committee and all of America.