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Don Lemon Tonight

House Committee Focus On Extremist Groups Communication; Steve Bannon Change His Mind; Extremist Groups Planned Well Their Protest To U.S. Capitol; Democrats Want New Leader In 2024; New Variant Causing Spike In The U.S.; Fires Engulf Yosemite National Park. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 11, 2022 - 22:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Hey, thank you, everyone for watching. Today is especially sweet, it is my birthday today, and it's my 42nd year. I'm calling it my Jackie Robinson year. So, I encourage you all to follow his logic, when he says, a life has no meaning unless it has a good impact on others. So, I challenge you are and happy birthday to me to have an impact in the best kind of way.

I'll be back on Wednesday night. DON LEMON TONIGHT starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I don't believe it. You are -- you have always been truthful, but I don't think are telling the truth about your age.

COATES: Well --

LEMON: I know that you are much, much younger, and you want people to think that -- you know, I think working at this a long time --

COATES: It gives me gravitas.

LEMON: -- I think you transpose the numbers, 24.

COATES: Let's not argue, Don. Let's not argue. Twenty-four is just fine with me.

LEMON: Laura, happy birthday to you. Thank you so much for last week.

COATES: Thank you.

LEMON: I got to spend the week with my entire family up from Louisiana. We had such a great time. We are on the water, we took boat trips, we went to the beach, we swam, we barbecued. It was so nice. And the import -- I can tell you the important family. So go home, enjoy your birthday, hug your family, be with them.

COATES: Thank you.

LEMON: And I'll see on Wednesday. You got a big now. COATES: Well, thank you so much. I'm glad you had a break. It was an honor to be on your chair. I try to keep it warm, but you do it much better. See you later.

LEMON: No, no. I don't know about that, but thank you. I'll see you later. Have a good one. Happy birthday to you.

COATES: Bye. Thank you.

LEMON: I've got to tell you about. This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. OK?

So, I'm back, and I'm happy to be back and I have a new perspective as many people have after they come from vacation. But I really do have a new perspective. And I want to get back to some of the things that I have been doing before about warning you about the trouble that our democracy is in and the importance of what is happening in Washington especially when it comes to these hearings on January 6th. OK?

This is not partisan. This is about our democracy and saving our democracy and fighting for documents to see. So, as I have said before, do not fall for the old okeydokey. You've heard me say that.

But right now, tonight, right here in the United States of America it has never been more true. Just go with me here. So don't fall for the old okeydokey. Don't fall for it when people try to tell you that what happen on January 6 is all in the past. That it's over and done. That it's not important.

Because if we don't stand up against the lies, the lies that sent a mob to storm the capitol, the lies that would've overturned our election. If we don't follow the investigation wherever the investigation leads, what is to stop it from happening again? And when it happens again, maybe they will succeed. And most likely will.

This is not about the past. It's about the future, really. And the America we want to have. The America we want to have. The one that our founding fathers wanted us to have. And what we are about to learn from tomorrow's hearing on January 6 -- of the January 6 committee maybe the biggest thing yet. That's not hyperbole.

Because the committee is saying that they are going to show how right- wing extremist groups, including the Proud Boys, and the Oath Keepers how they plotted to attack the capitol. And what committee aides say are their ties to Roger Stone, and Michael Flynn. Watch this.


REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL), JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: We are going to lay out the evidence that we've already collected about the rules of those two men as well as the violent extremists. And then it's really to the American people to decide what kind of connectivity and what culpability people in the White House, including the president, had for pulling these folks together. And what resulted on January 6th.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: So, aides are keeping the witness list for tomorrow under wraps because of security concerns, obviously. But we are learning a lot tonight about what to expect, sources telling CNN that we're going to hear from a former spokesperson who calls himself, a propagandist for the Oath Keepers. As well as one of the many people who stormed the capitol on January 6 and later pleaded guilty to entering the capitol, illegally.

And we're expecting to hear excerpts from Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone's testimony behind closed doors on Friday. Sources say he was asked about a meeting on December 18th, 2020 in the White House, a meeting including Sydney Powell, and Michael Flynn, which eventually turned into screaming matches as some Trump aides push back on Powell and Flynn's most outrageous suggestions about overturning the election and all of that stuff about the Dominion and the voting machines and all of that, all of this crazy stuff.

Add that to what we learned already. Trump and his allies knew. They knew there was no evidence the election was stolen. They knew it.



WILLIAM BARR, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were.


LEMON: He knew the plan to overturn the election was illegal.


JOHN MICHAEL LUTTIG, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: I would've laid my body across the road before I would have let the vice president overturn the 2020 election.


LEMON: And you've heard all that from the people. The protesters, they weren't armed, they weren't armed. Well, they were. And he knew the protesters were armed.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Who's to say they could march to the capitol from the ellipse?

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO White HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: Something to the effect of, take the effing mags away, they are not here to hurt me. Let them in. Let my people in. They can march to capitol after the rally is over. They can march from -- they can march from the ellipse. Take the effing mags away. Then they can march to the capitol.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: And guess what. He did nothing to stop the violence.

HUTCHINSON: I remember Pat saying something to the effect of, Mark, we need to do something more. They are literally calling for the vice president to be effing hung. And Mark had responded something to the effect of, you heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they are doing anything wrong. To which Pat said something, this is effing crazy. We need to be doing something more.


LEMON: And there is chilling new information about just how far the Oath Keepers were allegedly prepared to go. The DOJ revealing in a court filing that they had brought explosives to the Washington area around January 6th and had as so-called that list of election officials in Georgia.

Meanwhile, Steve Bannon is changing his tune, the man who said this on January 5th.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER White HOUSE ADVISOR: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.


LEMON: There you go. Now telling the committee he is willing to testify but only in a public hearing. What's that about? We'll discuss.

And if that was a stunt to delay his contempt of congressional -- of Congress, his contempt of Congress trial, I should say, it didn't work. The judge today refused to postpone his trial. We're going to learn a whole lot more about all this in just a few hours.

But I want to hear this, a quote from an op-ed, by Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell in the New York Times. He is one of the American heroes who risked their lives defending the seat of our democracy, defending it from a mob of Trump supporters who stormed the capitol, wounding Sergeant Gonell and many more of those officers and tried to stop the certification of our free and fair elections.

The title of his op-ed, I was betrayed by President Trump. And this is what he writes. He said, I believe he betrayed his oath to defend the Constitution. And it was to the detriment of me, my colleagues, and all Americans whom he was supposed to protect.

He is right. We were all betrayed by Donald Trump. Betrayed by a president who swore to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, full stop, period.

Let's bring in now CNN's senior political analysts, Nia-Malika Henderson, and former senior investigator for the January 6th select committee John Wood. So good to have both of you on. Good evening to you.

John, I'm going to start with you. You've worked very closely with the committee. How are they going to show a direct connection between these extremist groups and Trump? What kind of evidence will they lay out here?

JOHN WOOD (I), MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE: Yes. Well, it remains to be seen whether there's going to be evidence showing direct communications between any of these groups to President Trump or anybody at the White House. But I think at the very least we're going to see that President Trump exploited the existence of these groups. That he certainly knew or should have known that these groups existed and that they could easily be inflamed by his language.

And nonetheless, he went out on the ellipse in front of the White House in morning of January 6 and use extremely aggressive rhetoric that, you know, had a natural effect of leading these groups to be violent.

LEMON: John, talk me about this former Oath Keepers spokesman. He is a self-described propagandist, expected to testify tomorrow. What questions will he be able to answer and do you think he'll -- he is going to show the receipts here?

WOOD: Yes, I was not at Jason Van Tatenhove's interview with the committee. But I think it is a huge victory for the committee that they're able to have a former member, one of the domestic violence extremist groups there in person testifying about his experiences.


And so, I think it's going to be really compelling testimony. And here just how scary some of these groups are and how much they are really dividing our country.

LEMON: Nia-Malika Henderson, a source also telling CNN that we're going to hear from Stephen Ayres who pled guilty to entering the capitol illegally on the 6th. Is that a big deal? How big a deal is it, if it is.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, it is a big deal that they have someone who was there at the capitol first at the kind of rally or protest and then march to the capitol. One of those things that this committee wants to do is show that this was a mob that Trump summit. Right? And if you look at what Ayres have said so far, he has -- you know, he had a Facebook post where he's pointing to that tweet from Donald Trump where he says come to the Capitol, it's going to be wild on January 6th.

So, he drives from Ohio to be there. And in his Facebook post you can tell he's increasingly becoming radicalized in the weeks leading up to January 6th. He's using words like treason. He's using words like civil war, the idea of standing up to fight. This was an election that was stolen from Donald Trump he is saying.

So, I think this is important because it gets at what that mob was thinking and how connected they were to Donald Trump. That he in fact not only summoned them but was kind of aware of their radicalization and radicalizing them as well. And then of course we saw what happened at the capitol that day. And then they're going to try to, I think connect it to that December 18th meeting, that's the day before.

LEMON: The influence that --


LEMON: -- he had on them and what they carried on that day. Another question for you, Nia. Tomorrow we're going to hear from, hear some of the taped testimony from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone. Now sources tell CNN that he was asked extensively about December 18th. That meeting that you talked about 2020.


LEMON: Where Trump in a group of election deniers were plotting. Why is this meeting so critical to this committee?

HENDERSON: Listen, this is a wild meeting that happens in the evening of December 18th. It lasts about four hours. It moves from the Oval Office to the private residence. And you have these conspiracy theories mainly led by Sydney Powell who are saying all sorts of crazy things that, you know, centered on Dominion voting machines, that the government should seize them because votes have been changed by a foreign entity. That she should be the special counsel.

There is lots of yelling. Rudy Giuliani is on the phone listening to these meetings. You've got Cipollone who's arguing back and forth with the participants. So, there's sort of conspiracy theories versus what might be called team normal. At that point, and it's after that meeting which lasted until midnight or so. It's after that meeting that the tweet comes on December 19th where he summons people and he says it's going to be wild.

So, imagine, Cipollone was there. Cipollone was in lots of these meetings. So imagine that some of his testimony that we'll hear tomorrow on videotape will center on that meeting.

LEMON: Yes. He said, you know, it will be wild. Right? How does the committee prove, John, that this is actually motivated extremist act?

WOOD: Well, you know, I think we are going to hear from one of the former members of one of the extremist groups. I think you're going to hear, probably, a lot of videotape testimony from others. That's been one of the things that the select committee has done very effectively. It's not just had live witnesses but put together very compelling excerpts of other deposition testimony.

And so, we're going to have to hear from the witnesses themselves, particularly people who were involved in the attack on the capitol.

LEMON: You know, John, prosecutors say at least one Oath Keeper brought explosive to the D.C. area ahead of the January 6th. So, is the question whether Trump knew of the risk for violence? Is that the question?

WOOD: Well, I think it is pretty clear that he had to have known the risk of violence. He may not have known specifically of what are the domestic violent extremist groups bringing explosives to the D.C. area. But he had to be aware of the existence of these groups, that these groups who were supporting him, that members of the groups would show up on January 6.

And so, you know, he had to know that the language he used, both leading up to January 6th and in the morning of the 6 created a risk. And then, of course, what we might not hear too much about in tomorrow's hearing because we heard about from Cassidy Hutchinson. We'll hear about it probably in the last hearing which will be in primetime. Is, you know, what the president did or didn't do while the attack was going on in the capitol?

That's one of the most damning parts for President Trump, is that, according to Cassidy Hutchinson and possibly others, he did very little to stop what was happening. He was the one person in the world who could've actually have said something to try to stop the attack and he chose not to.


LEMON: I was just sitting here going over some of the names that we were discussing, Nia. Giuliani, Sydney Powell, Michael Flynn, and who else was in that sort of rogue gallery, Jenna Ellis. Like, who would take any of these people seriously? And it's amazing that the -- I guess they were telling him what he wanted to hear. But think of those people and their reputations now.

HENDERSON: That's right. You know, and sort of a conclusion of that meeting you've got team normal, essentially saying to Trump are you going to believe us, team normal that's telling you all these conspiracy theories out of their mind. Who are you going to believe?

And ultimately, Donald Trump sides with the people who are telling him what's he wants to hear. At some point I think in the meeting he says something like, you know, at least they are still fighting. At least, you know, they are giving me a chance. And the other folks, of course, are saying you don't have a chance.

Because at this point, remember, the Electoral College has already met in all of the different states. This is official he has lost. And so, then on December 18th, you have this very, very contentious, very, very long meeting at the White House with these conspiracy theories.

Team normal, they're like how did Sydney Powell even get to the White House? And there she is talking to the president of the United States who should be worried about the transition conducting the actual business of governing in the final days of his term in office. But instead, he is talking to these conspiracy theorists about these cockamamie of theories about the 2020 election.

LEMON: We had a free and fair election, America. I'm not happy with the outcome of the election. I thought I should've won. But we are going to welcome the Biden administration. The people have spoken. What happened to those days?

Now we're living in a time where Giuliani, Sydney Powell, Jenna Ellis, and Michael Flynn are the president advisers and that's who he is taking counsel with, or the former president, I should say. There you go. Thank you both. I appreciate you. Yes, a sigh.

WOOD: Thank you.

HENDERSON: Yes. See you, Don.

LEMON: You're right.

The committee says it's focusing on extremist groups and their role on January 6. Next, I'm going to talk to a man who saw the Proud Boys in action and what he saw was violent.


NICK QUESTED, DOCUMENTARIAN: For anyone who didn't understand how violent that event was, I saw it. I documented it. And I experienced it. I heard incredibly aggressive chanting. And I shared, subsequently share that footage with the authorities.




LEMON: We are just hours away from the next January 6 committee hearing on Capitol Hill. The committee is expected to focus on the extremist groups at the capitol riot. And the ties that they may have had to the Trump orbit.

So, joining me now to discuss as promised is documentarian Nick Quested. He filmed the Proud Boys on January 6th, testified before the House select committee in June. Thanks for joining. I love your name, by the way.

QUESTED: Thanks. That's (Inaudible).

LEMON: So, listen. You are embedded with the Proud Boys as a matter of fact, right?


QUESTED: Well, I was with them. I've been following them for a while. I had spent some time with Enrique before. We were at the rallies in December.

LEMON: So, let's put up some of your video. Because this video showing them streaming towards the capitol that day. Remind everyone what it was like that morning as you follow them around D.C. What happened leading up to this violence?

QUESTED: So, we met with the Proud Boys at about 10.30 on the National Mall. And they were already walking towards the capitol. We were a little late because we had spent some time from the previous day. We were with Enrique. We picked him up from jail. We'd followed him to the meeting in the parking garage with Stewart Rhodes. And then we went to interviewing him in his hotel in Baltimore.

So, we've got there late. But you know, the Proud Boys were marching down the Mall and they were, this time they were much more organized than they had been on December the 12th. Then we, when they did assemble the thing, they walk down the Mall in a formation. But this time they're walking in much, they are much more organized.

LEMON: Did that signal anything when you saw that?

QUESTED: No. Because I thought -- it felt less suspicious because they were doing the same thing they did before. And my -- I was at--


LEMON: You said they were more organized.

QUESTED: Yes, they were walking in a straight line which on the other days they couldn't manage to do. So this time they're walking on a straight line. They had a line and they were getting, you know, they were -- everyone who wasn't with them they were asking them to leave.

LEMON: When did you get an idea that something was --

QUESTED: I really didn't have any idea that it was going to change until the barriers came down. There was a couple of little indications just a little bit before. Like I heard someone scream now let's go get these folks. But I didn't really pay any attention to it. When the barriers came down the world changed.

LEMON: Yes. Well, let's talk about what's going to happen because you said when the barriers came down the world changed. And someone who knew about that change or at least was a part of it, is that we are hearing that sources are saying that the former spokesperson for the Oath Keepers is going to testify tomorrow. What do you think they're going to get from him?

QUESTED: Well, I don't know. I think you're referring to Mr. Tatenhove. So, I don't know, I think that he could -- Mr. Tatenhove could talk about put -- you know, Mr. Rhodes's mindset and in context. And you can see potentially an increase in the ferocity of his rhetoric as time goes by.

LEMON: Do you seem him as a key figure?

QUESTED: Yes. Absolutely a key figure.

LEMON: Why so?

QUESTED: He's had some militia and he was there on January 6th. So, I mean, there has some questions that need to be answered there.

LEMON: I want to place -- play some of your documentary, because the committee also played some of your documentary footage showing the leaders of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers meeting at the garage that night on January 5th. Let's watch.


QUESTED: In footage obtained by the committee we learned that on the night of January 6th Enrique Tarrio and Stewart Rhodes met in a parking garage in Washington, D.C.


ENRIQUE TARRIO, FORMER CHAIRMAN, PROUD BOYS: There is mutual respect there. I think we are fighting the same fight. And I think that's what's important.


LEMON: Tell us what you saw and the significance of that meeting.

QUESTED: Well, I mean, there's -- everyone points to this meeting as a smoking gun and I can't quite attest to that in the same way that people hope. I think that we didn't actually hear any direct conversations about seditious conspiracy in that garage. But there is a chunk of footage when we were asked to put our cameras down. And one of my colleagues was away from us and was behind --


LEMON: Who ask you to put your cameras down?

QUESTED: Enrique. Because he was talking to one of the lawyers about the magazine charge.


QUESTED: So, there is about a minute's worth of footage where it's from behind a car when Stewart Rhodes and Enrique Tarrio are talking. And we can't use our technology to ascertain what they were saying. But in the charging documents for Tarrio it's mentioned that they were discussed -- that the capitol was discussed which we haven't able to establish.

LEMON: Not even lip readers. You can't see them.

QUESTED: I don't have lip readers.

LEMON: You don't have.

QUESTED: And I don't have the same technologically that the federal government has.

LEMON: But do you believe that they were discussing January 6th?

QUESTED: I, what I heard was their discussion of Enrique wanted to be close to his boys as he's recruit them. And that he was worried -- he wasn't worried about his communications having been breached. That's what -- that was the extent of the conversation I really heard.

LEMON: Do you remember the stand back and stand by thing from the debate. Well, the Proud Boys said that stand by, stand back about the Proud Boys. The committee has mentioned that. They've also mentioned -- mentioned the tweet where the former president talked about be there. Saying, quote, January 6 saying, "be there, we'll be wild."

You are with them at key moments. What kind of effect do you think? Do you think these statements had any kind of effect on them?

QUESTED: I mean, I think the one thing that holds the Proud Boys altogether is their Trumpism. It's the ideology that is consistent throughout all of the Proud Boys that I have talked to. So, for the president to call for people to be there and for them -- for him to say stand back and stand by is very powerful for them.

LEMON: Talk me more about that. Why? Because do you think they're listening to -- they're getting cues from him?

QUESTED: Yes. I mean, I don't know if it is a queue but like everyone the president's tweets are so well publicized that, you know, everyone is -- everyone is waiting for the next text from the president. So, if you're really -- if you're really listening for it then this is actually, you know, is this a call to action. I think that it's pretty close.

LEMON: Roger Stone and Michael Flynn.

QUESTED: Roger Stone and Michael Flynn. I have -- I can't link them to the Proud Boys directly except on December the 12th when Enrique, Nordean (Ph) and Roger were on the steps of the Marriott holding an impromptu rally.

LEMON: Meaning?

QUESTED: Meaning that there was a crowd of like a couple of hundred people. And that they were giving short speeches. So, you know, it was like a pet rally.

LEMON: Yes. Well, we're going to hear tomorrow.


LEMON: And then we'll have you back depending on what comes out of the hearings tomorrow or this week. Thank you, Nick.

QUESTED: Pleasure.

LEMON: I appreciate you. Good to see you.

QUESTED: Absolutely.

LEMON: President Biden is facing pressure from the middle of a struggling economy and a series of seismic Supreme Court rulings. Now there's some new polling that shows most Democrats don't want him on the ballot in 2024. [22:30:00]


LEMON: So almost two thirds of Democrats do not, do not want President Biden to be their nominee in 2024. Keywords, do not.

A New York Times poll finding 64 percent of Democratic primary voters would prefer someone else on the ballot. Let's dig into the new polls.

CNN's political commentator Paul Begala is here, along with Mark McKinnon, a former advisor to George W. Bush and John McCain. They may not want him -- good evening, by the way, but that may be all they have. So, let's talk about this.

Mark, you first, looking at that number just months from midterms and almost halfway through his term. It's beyond scary for this president. What do you think the conversations are like in the White House?

MARK MCKINNON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think one thing about this White House is that they -- they don't, -- they don't scare easily and they know about Democrats wedding, their diapers easily. And they, that's how they won their primary. That's how they won the nomination was keeping steady and not, and tuning out, listening to the signal over the noise.

And by the way, I don't think it's surprising at all these numbers given all that Joe Biden is dealing with. But I would also say it's not surprising because in many respects, Joe Biden himself said he was a trans -- he was a transitory or a president in transition, which mean at least gave him the signal that he knows he's 80 years old, 79, 80 years old. He knows he's an old white guy in a party is demographically changing and diverse. And the future is not going to be an old white guy.


So, listen, you know, the last person to say that he is not running is going to be Joe Biden, and the second the last person, probably Jill Biden who may have to take the message to him.

But the future of the -- of the Democratic Party is not going to be Joe Biden. And I doubt that he'll be running this person.

LEMON: Listen, but there was a -- there's now, now he has the track record as president, right? Like it or not before. I mean, he was running in 2020, you know, the numbers. I mean, they weren't quite this drastic, but there were a lot of people who did not want him to run. He proved everybody wrong, Mark. I mean, you know, he pulled it out.

MCKINNON: Well, you know why he proved everything wrong, Don, because he was the guy that was not crazy. I mean, his message was, I will be calm. I may not be exciting, but I'm not crazy.

And that's, and so he came in with huge expectations where people thought it would be the next FDR. They never should have had those expectations.

LEMON: Right.

MCKINNON: He didn't have those expectations because the reason he got the nomination and the reason he won was because he was not Donald Trump. Period.

LEMON: Yes. Well, I mean, and what you're saying there is the inference is that the other one was crazy. Right. And I don't know if, if there are, you know, there are a lot of people who would agree with you and someone would disagree.

But, Paul, I want you to weigh in. Let me, before you weigh in, let me just put this to you. Ninety-four percent of Democratic primary voters under 30 want someone else to run in 2024? That's what the future of the party wants. The question is, will they get it? But you know, 94 percent of Democratic primary voters under 30. Do under 30 people show up, but go on, Paul, let you take it away.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, he's kind of like the guy in that old country song. If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. You know, Russia, invades, Ukraine, inflation spikes, Supreme Court throws out 50 years of women's right to choose. There's a new coronavirus BA.5 variant, monkeypox.

So, I mean, the guy has had pretty rotten string of luck. But this problem with young people is especially acute and you're right to, to signal it. In the election, Biden's strongest age cohort was 18 to 30- year-olds.


BEGALA: The young -- youngest voters were his strongest at 60 percent. I just saw poll recently where he was at 25. That is in part because some of the other leaders of his party are undermining him and undermining him with younger voters. They're -- they're attacking him instead of attacking Republicans. And it's an enormous problem.

You know, he's got this huge, broad coalition. Some of the people they're all in the same boat, but some of the people in the boat with him are punching holes in it and then complaining that Biden is getting him wet.

LEMON: But Paul, here's the thing, you know, every, like I said, I did these, I pointed out the under 30 voters. The people who show up to the polls are, you know, my mom's age, quite frankly, my age, right. I call them the church hat ladies. The more moderate part of the Democratic Party, the people who don't necessarily want free tuition for everyone --

BEGALA: Right.

LEMON: -- or who aren't extremists -- extremely left. Those are the people who show up to the polls. So are -- might these numbers -- I don't, look, I don't know. You know, this is a poll, it's a snapshot in time, but might these numbers be a skew? BEGALA: Well, yeas I'll tell you what's most important number in

there, that at least if I were in the White House, I'd be looking at. It's that despite all of that he's still beating Trump.


BEGALA: In the same polls that show him like at 33 percent approval and all these Democrats say he is still beating Donald Trump. And McKinnon is exactly right. And it pains me to say it because I love they're asking, but --


LEMON: But it's a --

BEGALA: -- he's exactly right.

LEMON: -- it is within a margin of error, but Mark, you're shaking your head up and down. And when I ask people who are the people who show up to the polls, like I said, like my mom, they say, you know what? I don't care. I'd vote for him again. And --

BEGALA: Absolutely.

LEMON: -- they don't want the other.

MCKINNON: Well, let's, I mean, as Paul just said, Don, the good news for not just Joe Biden, but the Democratic Party is that an incumbent president who, as, as Paul said, had a terrible string of bad luck and inherited, you know, as bad a plate as anybody's ever gotten as president. But that's, you know, that's what you get when you take the big share.


MCKINNON: But it is as bad as it gets. It's hard to imagine it being any worse for Joe Biden and the party than it is right now. And yet, as Paul said, he still beats Donald Trump. And by the way, not just Donald Trump, but almost all Republican comers, Kamala Harris beats Ron DeSantis. The great white, you know, the great white out of Florida for the Republican Party. He is beat by the vice president, who's underwater in the poll.

And so, you know, listen, I think we just, there's this broad narrative that Joe Biden is, you know, having all these problems and doing so terrible. And the reality is that, yes, it's pretty tough, but you weigh that all out and they still got a better hand than the Republicans do.

LEMON: Hey, listen, I got to go. Sorry. But look, you know, you guys know who I said it would be, you know, just to run for president. I'm not talking about any particular time is one of my colleagues here at CNN is Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans. I mean, --

BEGALA: I love that guy. LEMON: Democrats love him. Black people love him. You should walk

down the street with him in Louisiana or in New Orleans. And it's like, it reminds -- it reminds me of Clinton, right? That -- that whole era of Democrats. But name some names for me. What, who you got?


BEGALA: God, I love Mitch. I don't want to get, I don't want to get the business of naming names. I tell you one name, the strategist that Biden needs most I'd love if he could get --


LEMON: But I asked you to name names, Paul.

BEGALA: No, no, sir. I'm not. Because that's just undermines Biden. I just complained that the Democrats are undermining their own president. Right?


LEMON: I'm not saying -- I'm just saying in the future. Let's not say -- let's just say not 2024, but beyond.

BEGALA: Look, I love Mitch. I know him. I love him. He's he does have he's one of the few people I would say he's got the Clinton level talent, but you can't bypass, you can't ignore the vice president of the United States.

I can't think of a vice president who sought their party's nomination didn't get it, but it's all moot. Biden is going to run and Republicans are going to nominate Trump and Biden is going to win.

LEMON: OK. Mark, last word. You going to name names. Are you going to name some names?


MCKINNON: I don't that Trump is going to get the nominations.

LEMON: Wait, wait, start over because I stepped on you. Say again?


MCKINNON: I don't think -- I don't think Biden is going to run and I don't think Trump will get the nomination. So, we'll have a brand-new field on both sides.


LEMON: Are you going to name some names? On both sides.

MCKINNON: I will say this, when I did Mitch Landrieu's first campaign for mayor and it's probably the only election he ever lost. So, I'm not (Inaudible) probably.

LEMON: So, who's going to get the nomination? Ron DeSantis and who else, if you, and if you don't think Biden is going to run.

MCKINNON: Listen, I did bring DeSantis (Inaudible) 700-pound Republican Party, Don, but he may wield in the -- when he gets on the national stage. He has such a tight, tight circle that he doesn't like to expand. I think Glenn Youngkin who is much more optimistic Reagan- esque kind of message.

LEMON: And on the Democratic side? Mark?

MCKINNON: Yes, I'd say that I think Ron DeSantis is a 700-pound gorilla.

LEMON: No, on the Democratic side.

MCKINNON: And I'd looked at Glenn Youngkin who is a much more Reagan that kind of character.

LEMON: OK. Alrighty. Thank you both. That was fascinating. Mark your calendars, everyone. Mark McKinnon with the prediction Biden won't run and Trump won't get the nomination.

OK. So COVID case is surging across the U.S. as a new Omicron sub variant takes hold. Now we're learning U.S. officials are urgently working on a plan to allow all adults to get a second booster.



LEMON: OK, so blanketed in red, that's the coronavirus community transmission map from the CDC that shows much of the U.S. in high transmission areas. This is a part -- in part, I should say, due to the new BA.5 Omicron variant, the most transmissible yet, which is now the dominant strain in this country.

The new variant is able to partially escape the immunity provided by the vaccine or prior infections. That, as a study shows that due to the prevalence of at-home testing, the U.S. is undercounting the number of COVID cases. That is a very good point. I know a lot of people who test at home and they don't really give it to officials.

CNN now -- who's joining me now, CNN medical analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner. Doctor, thank you. Am I right? A lot of people test at home. They don't really report it. Correct?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes. Right now, we're -- we're reporting about a 100,000 cases per day. The Institute for health metrics at University of Washington estimates that perhaps the real number of cases is seven times that.


REINER: So, probably somewhere around 700,000 people are getting infected every day, Don.

LEMON: Yes. That's the thing. I mean, it seems like everyone I talk to has either just had COVID, knows someone who does have COVID. And if you look at that map, let's put it up again. It shows how the whole country is in red. And that's just the cases that we know about since I said a lot of people aren't testing what is going on with this new variant doctor?

REINER: Well, it's about as contagious as measles, and it has the most immuration of any variant we've seen and, you know, while sort of, a lot of people claim victory in February and municipalities drop their mitigation mask mandates. The virus kept mutating and it mutated and it mutated. And now there's BA.5 and our vaccines aren't really very good with preventing you from getting infected.

Thankfully and luckily, they're still really good at preventing you from getting super sick or needing to be hospitalized or even dying. So, our vaccines have really held for that, but they haven't really held very well now for infection. And if you have not had COVID in the past, and you go into a crowded place now you are likely to come out with BA.5.

LEMON: Wow. So, right now they're working on this plan to allow second COVID boosters for adults. You know, that fourth shot, but considering how evasive this variant is to the vaccine and prior infection, how much do you think it's going to -- that fourth shot will help.

REINER: Yes, what -- well, what I think it will do and I think what we know it will do is help prevent serious illness. What we're really trying to do is prevent people from being hospitalized. And over the last month, hospitalizations have increased, basically doubled over the last month. And over the last couple of weeks, we've seen deaths start to creep up as well.

And although we're nowhere near where we were, you know, back in December or January, still about 300 people are dying it every day, about 2,000 people a week. And adding the ability to, to sort of boost antibodies in people under the age of 50 who have not yet gotten a second booster should help that group prevent serious illness and hospitalization or death. So, I think it's a good idea.


In the fall we'll see-- we'll probably see a new version of the vaccine which includes protection against BA.5. But that won't be here until the fall probably.

LEMON: Well, that was my next question given away my age because I've already had four shots.


LEMON: I've had two boosters, right? So, I'm over 52.

REINER: Me too.

LEMON: So, are we going to get a fifth shot? We're going to have to have a fifth shot. REINER: Yes, probably.


REINER: You know, I wouldn't get so wrapped up on the number of shots, you know, going in need.

LEMON: I don't really care as long as it helps. I'm just asking. I mean --


REINER: Right, exactly. So those of us who get -- who get a flu shot every year, get a flu shot every year. And you know, what I tell my patients is that even though the flu vaccine may not prevent you from getting influenza every year, it will prevent you from dying. And that's what we are telling and need to tell the population.

REINER: So, if you need a COVID shot every year to prevent you from getting, seriously ill and make this virus more like a seasonal flu or a cold, then that's what we'll do.

LEMON: Thank you, doctor. I appreciate it. See you soon.

REINER: My pleasure.

LEMON: Be safe.

Firefighters in California battling to contain a raging wildfire in Yosemite, and they're doing everything they can to save the park's famous sequoias.



LEMON: You got to look at the video that would -- look at that. Tonight, hundreds of firefighters in Yosemite National Park's Mariposa Grove, working feverishly to save more than 500 giant sequoias from a raging wildfire. Officials say that Washburn fire doubled in size over the weekend to more than 2,300 acres, but firefighters are hopeful the giant trees can be saved.

The wildfire is now 22 percent contained. Crews are trying to steer it away from the trees, from the trees by setting controlled backed fires. They say that prescribed burns and a program to clear out brush are helping battle the blaze.

Now they've also installed a sprinkler system, the damp in the ground near a Sequoia known as grizzly giant. There's grizzly giant. Look at that. Grizzly giant stands at 209 feet tall. Firefighters also say that giants sequoias are naturally fire resistant, which is why some of them are believed to have stood in Yosemite for more than 2,000 years,

The January 6th committee looking to connect the dots between extremist groups and people in Trump's orbit. We're going to tell you what to expect in tomorrow's hearing, next.