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Don Lemon Tonight

Trump Tried To Call Member Of White House Support Staff Talking With January 6 Committee; January 6 Committee Witnesses Underscore Threats To Democracy; Uvalde Families Furious Over Leaked Surveillance Video; Obama Scolded Ex-WH Doc Ronny Jackson In Email; Balance Of Power In Senate Could Come Down To Pennsylvania. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired July 13, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: First on CNN, sources say the former president tried to call a member of the White House support staff who is talking to the January 6 Select Committee. This staffer isn't someone who routinely spoke to Trump and was concerned about the contact, so informed their attorney.

Also, tonight, we're learning that the committee has providing the DOJ with witness transcripts related to Trump's fake elector plot. That is according to Chairman Bennie Thompson. This was, of course, central to the former president's plan to overturn the 2020 election.

Joining me now, a member of the Select Committee, Democratic Congresswoman Elaine Luria of Virginia. Thank you, congresswoman. I appreciate you joining us.

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): Thank you.

LEMON: Is there anything that you can add to our reporting tonight on this witness Donald Trump called? Why did this interaction have the committee so concerned?

LURIA: Well, Don, witness tampering is serious. It's a crime. And as Miss Cheney stated during the hearing, we passed along this information to the Department of Justice to look into it further.

We take very seriously the safety of any witnesses, anyone who comes forward to the committee, and likewise, you know, their privacy. In this case, you know, any speculation about who this person might have been and a lot of people trying to tie it together.

I mean, the committee will just say that we want to protect this witness, but we also want to hold people accountable who have potentially broken a law.

LEMON: So, Chairman Thompson is telling CNN that the DOJ has been asking for testimony from the committee related to Trump's fake elector scheme. Is there enough evidence on this one issue to lead to a criminal indictment of Trump?

LURIA: Well, the committee is not the one who is going to determine the criminal indictment. That would be the Department of Justice. So, you know, as we've said through the investigation, when we discover things, it's my personal opinion that if we discover things that indicate criminal activity, we should, we have a responsibility share those with the Department of Justice.

And as the chairman has indicated, we certainly want to work with them to facilitate investigations that they have ongoing, whether that is feasible at the point in our investigation.

LEMON: Do you have confidence in this DOJ that they're going to act, that this Department of Justice will act on the information you have uncovered?

LURIA: I have confidence in the rule of law. Those people who, you know, are appointed and serve in those positions to enforce the law. So, you know, as we move forward, I see that this investigation -- we don't have a lot of details, investigations like this go on in a way, so it's to protect the information as it's gathered.

But, you know, it's clear that this is growing, growing in size, growing in scale. If you look at seditious conspiracy, for example, the number of people involved and who have been charged with that. So, you know, I do have confidence that they're picking up the pace, and I'd like to see them continue down that path.

LEMON: Is the Capitol that noisy? What is that?


LURIA: I think they're -- maybe they're rolling something downstairs.

LEMON: All right. Got it. Let me -- can we go back to the person, the staffer that was allegedly contacted by the former president? Is the committee or is anyone doing anything to protect this person? Do you think this person is in a position now where they need to be protected? Is that of concern at all?

LURIA: All of the witnesses who come before us, their safety is of utmost concern to the committee. So, on a case by case basis, we evaluate that work with the witnesses, work with their council if they have council. Of course, we want to make sure and that is why we're not identifying who this person is.

We're not corroborating any of the reporting that you or maybe others have been doing tonight about that person's role and their job, but, you know, they need to be kept safe, and we have that as a concern.

LEMON: Congresswoman, your committee tried to connect the extremist groups who stormed the Capitol directly to Trump. But there wasn't a smoking gun there. Correct me if I'm wrong. Is there something that we can expect in the next hearing? Are we missing something?

LURIA: Well, you know, I'll tell you and I said this, you know, before we went into the most recent hearing, it's a Venn diagram. You know, you have these groups. These people are speaking to other people. We have cryptic communications between them. We have people who are, you know, from these different groups providing security to some of the people directly in the president's orbit.

You know, you draw this Venn diagram. How much more clear does it need to be that, you know, there was involvement and information flowing between these groups and people who had significant influence on the president and his actions and his thoughts? I mean, we heard, you know, at length about this very heated conversation that went on in the White House.


And, you know, I think all of these things tied together. We will, you know, come into more clarity when we move into the last hearing. I'll be chairing the last hearing with my colleague, Adam Kinzinger, and we'll be focusing on that 187 minutes, the time from when the president left the stage at the Ellipse until he met that Rose Garden video.

And, you know, one would think that the president is only steps away from the ability to make a statement to the nation. And, you know, during that time, I look at it as a dereliction of duty. He didn't act. He did not take action to stop the violence. And so, we will be going through that in a lot of detail in our upcoming hearing.

LEMON: Obviously, that's my next question. What new information are you -- will you present?

LURIA: Stay tuned for the hearing. There will be a lot of information, a lot more clarity about the details of the things that happened that day, the people who are working in the White House, working around the president, and even people who are advising him to do things, actions that he was not taking based off of their recent advice. So, we will go into a lot of detail about all of that.

LEMON: You said your last hearing, but we're hearing there could be others. Possibly, there could be others if it warrants. Yes, no?

LURIA: Of course. Of course, you know, and I said last week, planned a series. We really wanted to describe the trajectory, paint a full picture of the information we gathered through our investigations. So, in these series of hearings that we've planned, this is the last one that we have planned right now. But, of course, as we continue to gather more information, you know, we will certainly plan to present that to the public.

LEMON: Thank you, Congresswoman Luria, working late into the night, and others at the Capitol, we can see, are working as well. We can hear. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

LURIA: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you.

I want to bring in now former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent and former Democratic Senator Doug Jones. Good evening. Wow, much quieter for you guys. Hello.

Charlie, what does this say to you that Trump called this lower level White House staffer himself?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA REPRESENTATIVE: Well, it tells me that the former president was directly involved with trying to contact a witness and that he, from day one, he has been far too involved with this whole insurrection business.

I mean, he was directly making phone calls to people in Georgia. We saw -- you know, we talked about that many times. You know, calling Brad Raffensperger. He was directly involved with attempts to overturn this election.

Now, he appears to be attempting to influence the testimony of witnesses. And again, I don't know what the DOJ is going to do, but boy, this really smells to high heaven.

LEMON: Yeah.

DENT: That he is --

LEMON: I'm glad you said that, because that's the reaction from most people. We sit here and we go, Charlie, what do you think? People are like, man, again? This guy, this guy, like -- what?

DENT: How do you get -- I don't understand. Look, I just know -- I just use the basic smell test. Anybody else done this sort of thing?

I guarantee you the Department of Justice will be crawling up their backside and they'd be all lawyered up and they'd be, you know, probably awaiting indictment right now. But this guy, because he is a former president, just seems like he's got a lot of -- he's Teflon in many cases. We'll see if that lasts.

LEMON: Whoa, Doug? Is that no? (ph)

DOUG JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER ALABAMA SENATOR: There is no -- there was no crime committed here yet. I mean, look, it does smell to high heaven. There's no question about that. And historically, Donald Trump has always been involved in the day-to-day. He would reach out, he would do things, he talks to people.

But there was no contact with this witness. There was just an attempted phone call. So, there was no threat, there was no intimidation, but they did the right thing.

Don't get me wrong. It's smells to high heaven, as Charlie said. The committee did absolutely the right thing. They sent a very strong message that the committee takes any kind of witness tampering or attempted witness tampering very serious.

They're also sending a message to the former president and others around him that, you know what, you might want to think twice before you contact any witnesses because guess what, most of them have lawyers and are going to call the committee.

LEMON: Doug --

JONES: And number three --

LEMON: Doug, Doug --

JONES: Hang on a minute, Don. Number three, the third message is they're sending messages to witnesses who say, if you get contacted, we will take care of you, we will protect you.

LEMON: Yeah.

JONES: We'll get DOJ involved. Now, you go ahead.

LEMON: No, right on all accounts, do you know how many lawsuits Donald Trump has been involved in? Don't you think by now that he -- if anybody would know not to try to contact a potential witness, it would be Donald Trump? Any person would know that. Any lawyer would say, do not contact a witness. I mean, it is --

JONES: And I did not say, Don, I did not say it was appropriate. I didn't say it didn't smell to high heaven. What I said was there was no contact --

LEMON: I agree. You're right. You're right.

JONES: -- and, of course, there is no context, there was no crime. Okay. But it does smell. And again, it is absolutely -- and the committee knows this -- it's absolutely why Congresswoman Cheney was, as forceful as she was, she is sending a message to all of those involved.

LEMON: Uh-hmm.

JONES: Not just a former president, but there are other people that can be making contacts as well. She's sending a message and the committee is to a lot of people. And again, it's also important to remember, she sending messages to potential witnesses. Let us know if there is an important context because we got your back and we will take it seriously.

LEMON: I've got to get your take as well, Doug, on the DOJ asking for Select Committee testimony about Trump's fake elector scheme.


Is this what Merrick Garland should be focusing on now?

JONES: I think that that's one of many things that the Department of Justice is not only should be focusing on but that probably is focusing on. Remember Don, we have talked about this. This testimony is very compelling. But it's also not testimony that in its current form can be used in a court of law.

And so, they're going to follow back up, I believe, either with a grand jury or with their own witness -- and all of these witnesses are lawyered up. So, they have to go through their lawyers. That's the DOJ protocols. That's the ethical guidelines. And so, they're going to be following up with all of this.

But I think it's a very serious charge about the fake electors and it is very widespread, and they're going to be following up on it for sure in my view.

LEMON: So, Charlie, when the hearings began, we heard about how Trump allies are going to be holding press conferences, defending him daily. That has not happened. And we are told that Trump is unhappy about that. Are Republicans quietly shifting away from Donald Trump?

DENT: The facts are very bad for president -- former President Trump. They are terrible facts. Who is going to want to go out there and defend, you know, him, you know, attempting to call witnesses or -- you know?

Who wants to go out there and then try to discredit Cassidy Hutchinson who very courageously testified and laid forth some very compelling facts and corroborated a lot of what we knew? Who wants to go out there and put their name to that? I mean, I think any member who wants to go out there and defend that kind of action is going to take a big hit on their own credibility.

I have said all along, President Trump is a diminishing political figure, a dangerous one, but he's diminishing even more because of what we are learning and what's being revealed. There is nobody on that committee defending him obviously.

So, I don't think -- I don't think any member is going to make any headway trying to defend Donald Trump right now.

LEMON: And supporters like, you know --

DENT: Yeah.

LEMON: -- the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, whatever, the shop owners, African-American women who were harassed by Trump supporters after they did what they did. So, who would want to come out? You are right. Who wants to come out and criticize those folks? Thank you. Appreciate it.

So, the threat is not over, the threat to our democracy. One of the biggest dangers may be from a violent extremist inflamed by political leaders. What we have learned from January 6th and what it will take to keep it from happening again.




LEMON: I think you should really pay attention to this next segment because this is -- as long as I've been doing this for years and years and years, this is probably one of the oddest -- you'll see why -- among the most surreal moments, I should say, I think.

The January 6 Committee not just showing the danger of our democracy -- democracy is in -- our democracy was in on January 6th, but also the danger that continues in the future.

Witnesses like former Oath Keepers spokesman Jason Van Tatenhove, who, you know, you see here right on your screen, he is on the right, warning the committee that the threat is not over, and he joins me now. He's the author of "The Propagandist: Oath Keepers and the Perils of Extremism."

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is here as well. She has advised the January 6 Committee on political violence. She is a professor of history at NYY and the author of "Lucid," a newsletter about threats to Democracy."

Thank you both for joining.

The reason is so surreal, Jason, because I never thought I would be sitting here with a member of the Oath Keepers or the Proud Boys or whoever talking about this. I want to play your testimony on January 6th, and then I want to get your response. Here are some of your testimony. Here it is.


JASON VAN TATENHOVE, FORMER OATH KEEPER SPOKESMAN: I do fear for this next election cycle because who knows what that might bring. If a president that's willing to try to instill and encourage to whip up a civil war amongst his followers using lies and deceit and snake oil and regardless of the human impact, what else is he going to do if he gets elected again? All bets are off at that point.


LEMON: I thought your testimony is very -- I thought you were very effective. Who was that message intended for?

TATENHOVE: I mean, I think it's intended for all of us. I think that we really need to take serious what's happening. I think that we are in a very perilous time. I know that I worry a lot for the world that my daughters and my granddaughters are going to inherit. And, you know, If speaking out and, you know, trying to warn what the potentials are past what we saw on January 6th, I will do that.

LEMON: You know the question that people have. What took you so long?

TATENHOVE: Well, I have actually been doing it behind the scenes for many years, for several years, anyway, helping some journalists. I didn't do it on the record because I kind of just didn't want my name associated anymore. I wanted to walk away from it. But, you know, I would point out, kind of give the scoop to the story. You know, kind of talk through who the players are with different journalists.


LEMON: So, you think that there were people there who -- obviously, you said it's your words, right? Correct me if I'm wrong. It's cult- like, right?

TATENHOVE: Yeah. I mean, it does become very cult-like.

LEMON: Do you feel that you were brainwashed?

TATENHOVE: I mean, I certainly was swept up. You know, I left around 2016 and kind of right as they were getting to the point where they were reporting people like Richard Spencer and, you know, the rise of the alt-right.

And it just got more and more extreme with each one of these standoffs that it just wasn't something I could abide. And, you know, it was something that was financially difficult for me to break away from because, you know, we were living in poverty.

LEMON: Yeah.

TATENHOVE: And -- but it just came to a point where I had to -- I couldn't do it.

LEMON: Ruth, I'm sure, you know, this rings true to you. I mean, this is what you study and this is what you talk about. The committee laid out how these far-right groups reacted to Trump's calls to stand back and stand by, and the tweet that the -- on the sixth, that it would be wild. What is to stop future political leaders from inflaming violent extremists?

RUTH BEN-GHIAT, AUTHOR, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AT NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Well, for one thing, we can't overestimate the impact of these hearings. And, you know, if we were -- many countries in the world wouldn't be able to have these hearings. And I think awareness of just how dangerous our times are and how methodically and systematically Donald Trump cultivated extremists for five years.

And, you know, it wasn't only that he signaled to establish extremists like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, but he used his rallies. I have a long list of the rallies where he had ordinary followers coming and he radicalized them by telling them that violence could have a positive value or offering to pay their legal fees if they beat up protesters and they got into trouble.

So, this was like the genie out of the bottle of this idea that violence could be therapeutic for the country, and we see what happened on January 6th.

LEMON: Jason is shaking his head in agreement with you. Why, Jason?

TATENHOVE: Well, this is something we have seen with Stewart Rhodes before, too. He was a licensed attorney. He lost his licensure because he had abandoned different clients. But he would oftentimes -- you know, he was always boasting that he was a Yale-educated attorney and he would take care of people if they got in trouble, but when it came to robber on the road, he just goes to them.

So, it is really these people that get swept up and don't know any better. You know, the victims to these social media echo chambers. And, you know, when they go off and do stupid things because they're encouraged to, because they're, you know, it's just kind of frenzy, they are the ones who pay the price. Their family pays the price.

These leaders never pay the price. They really have not been held to account yet. That's also scary.

LEMON: What do you think of that, Ruth? Is he right?

BEN-GHIAT: I think, you know -- yeah, I think that one of the benefits of the hearings is to put awareness on how radicalized the GOP has become. The January 6th happened because of radicalization already. But it wasn't in itself a highly -- it was like an accelerant. It is where -- it was like a recruiting place.

And I think that awareness is our watch word to make sure that we can do things to prevent this from festering further. I don't think a lot of people know that on the local and state level, there is a lot of intermingling and fusion between extremists and the GOP. And I really see the GOP as an extremist entity now.

So, it's not just that Oath Keepers or Proud Boys can become the militia wing or the paramilitary wing of the party, the party itself is morphing into an extremist force. And so, going forward, that's what I'm really worried about.

LEMON: Do you agree with that, Jason?

TATENHOVE: I do. I do. I think we're seeing it in Idaho. We are seeing at the Pacific Northwest where more and more candidates are running that have close ties or, you know, outright encouraged to run. You know, we have seen people like Matt Shea and others who really have a world view that I don't want to live in.

LEMON: So, what's the fix?

TATENHOVE: The fix is us, like, we've got to have these conversations, we've got to be talking about this, we've got to stop mincing words, we've got to -- you know, we've all had these conversations on our couches with our family about how crazy things have gotten, but we've got to figure it out. We can't stop.

LEMON: You say we have to stop mincing words. That means at home but also members of the news media because, you know, people want to believe that the GOP is not as bad as you guys are saying that it is. It's not morphing into what Ruth says or what you are saying, but it is true.

TATENHOVE: It is that bad. I mean, it is. It is already that bad. Look at what happened.


TATENHOVE: January 6th. There were gallows set up for one of their own.

[23:25:00] I don't understand how it gets worse than that other than we got lucky because there was incompetence at play.

My worry is, you know, what's going to happen when one of these leaders comes up that isn't as incompetent as Stewart Rhodes, you know, that is willing to go lead the charge instead of, you know, step back to where that legal line is in tow so that he is arrested?

What's going to happen when there's real leadership in that community and they are leading the charge? You know, that's -- and every time we see these events happen and there's not accountability, it emboldens these groups, they see it as a victory, and that's why we see it as a ratcheting up of, you know, from Bundy ranch to the Capitol?

We went from just a standoff to trying to start a revolution, trying to kick off a bloody revolution, right, on the steps of the Capitol.

LEMON: Thank you, Jason. Thank you, Ruth. Appreciate it. We should continue to have this conversation. Please come back. Thank you.

TATENHOVE: Absolutely.

LEMON: I appreciate what you did. Thank you.

TATENHOVE: Thank you.

LEMON: Family members of Uvalde school shooting victims blindsided by leaked video surveillance footage from the attack. Now, they are outraged by what the video shows officers doing and not doing.




LEMON: Outrage over the leak of the disturbing hallway surveillance video from the May 24th Uvalde school massacre where 19 children and two teachers were killed.

The Austin American-Statesman is defending their decision to release the video, and even though many of the families of the victims in the massacre felt that they should have seen it before the public, many are wondering why it took so long for them to see it in the first place. The video's leak follows weeks of questions about the police response to the shooting.

Joining me now, former ATF Senior Executive Scott Sweetow. Scott, thank you. Appreciate you joining us this evening. The release of this video --


LEMON: -- enraged the families because they didn't see it first. I want you to listen to this. This is Felicia Martinez, a mother of a now deceased Javier Martinez. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FELICIA MARTINEZ, MOTHER OF UVALDE VICTIM: We are suffering and I know the world is suffering, too, but these were our babies, our babies that were taken from us. So, to the person that leaked it, screw you. Screw you, and that is coming from me, Felicia Martinez. From all of us, screw you.


LEMON: Listen, it really captures what this whole investigation has been like for the families. No transparency, no answers, no respect for what they are going through.

SWEETOW: Yes, it does. It's one of the most disturbing videos I've seen in my 30-year career. And I feel for the victims. Everybody is suffering in this, and they're going to be suffering for a long, long time, unfortunately.

LEMON: Yeah. You point to this moment from the video, three minutes after the shooter entered the school, as a key moment in law enforcement's response. What do you see here?

SWEETOW: They made an attempt to do an entry. These were the first arriving officers. They had multiple long guns with them. They all had handguns, as well. So, they numbered them. And they had superior firepower.

And unfortunately, when they took -- they took fire on contact, they fled. And that, I think, really set the tone for what followed for the next 70-plus minutes.

LEMON: Nineteen minutes after the shooter entered the school, we see officers here with tactical shields, long guns. You said that they outnumbered them. They have the equipment. So, what should have happened at that point?

SWEETOW: Don, I think one of the things that's going to come out of this, obviously, is that incident command completely and utterly failed. The officers that were there certainly would have been willing, they had training, they had the firepower, but for whatever reason, they did not feel that they had the ability to go in.

I've heard that there was talk about command confusion, but that's really going to be a pale excuse when you have all of these kids being shot and they knew that this was happening and for some reason did not go in.

LEMON: Yeah. Scott Sweetow, thank you. I appreciate you joining us and your perspective. Thanks so much.

SWEETOW: Thank you.

LEMON: During the 2020 election, the former president, Barack Obama, sending a scathing email to his White House doctor, Ronny Jackson, who had criticized then candidate Biden. We are going to tell you all about it. That's next.




LEMON: Tonight, we are learning about an email sent by the former president, Barack Obama, reprimanding his former White House physician, Ronny Jackson, who was also the personal doctor for George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

Obama wrote the email during the 2020 campaign between Trump and Joe Biden, scolding Jackson for tweeting criticism of Biden's cognitive health.

Here's part of Obama's email. He said, I have made a point of not commenting on your service in my successor's administration and have always spoken highly of you in public and private. You always served me and my family well, and I have considered you not only a fine doctor and service member but also a friend.

That's why I have to express my disappointment at the cheap shot you took at Joe Biden via Twitter. It was unprofessional and beneath the office that you once held. It was also disrespectful to me and the many friends you had in our administration.

You are the personal physician to the president of the United States as well as an admiral in the U.S. Navy. I expect better, and I hope upon reflection that you will expect more of yourself in the future.


Now, Obama acted after Jackson re-tweeted a video of Biden along with this message, remember the cognitive test that I gave Donald Trump? The one he aced! Sounds like somebody else might need some testing done! Scary!

Let's discuss now. CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner is here, and political commentator David Swerdlick, senior staff editor at "New York Times Opinion." Good to see both of you. David, there's a lot of trolling in politics.


LEMON: Why do you think Obama felt the need to respond?

SWERDLICK: I think he was trying to do the right thing. But I think, Don, in this case, President Obama miscalculated for two reasons. One reason is that no matter his intentions, it comes across as if he is saying, please, don't pick on my friend.

LEMON: Uh-hmm.

SWERDLICK: President Biden, then Vice President Biden, can defend himself. He defended himself by winning that election. Now that this letter is out, it kind of makes him look a little bit weaker than Obama was interceding (ph) on his behalf.

The other miscalculation, Don, is that President Obama in that letter, again, despite his intention, got away from what made him so successful in politics. When he was running for president, they called him everything but a child of God. What did he do? Brushed his shoulders off.

LEMON: Brushed his shoulder.

SWERDLICK: When they said, hey, where is your flag pin? He didn't give a sermon. He just put on the flag pin. He never came off. And I think in that way, he got away from what helped him win two decisive presidential victories. But on the merits, he's obviously right.

LEMON: Yeah.

SWERDLICK: Congressman Jackson, that tweet was grimy. He was pandering to try and win an election.

LEMON: And he also gave him a selling point for his book because --


LEMON: -- right?

SWERDLICK: Exactly. Now, he is going to dine out on this letter for the rest of his career.

LEMON: There you go. Yeah. Don't give him oxygen.

So, Dr. Reiner, Jackson's comments were public, Obama's were not until Jackson wrote about it in his book. Why do you think President Obama reached out to him via email and said something about a doctor-patient relationship possibly?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, he was betrayed -- I think the former president felt betrayed. Ronny Jackson did something that is almost unheard of amongst White House physicians. I've had the honor of knowing several.

Look, when you are the physician for the president of the United States, you are in charge with the president's life, and the president puts his trust in you. And you also become part of the administration. I think the former president felt betrayed.

Mr. Jackson has shown himself to be a consummate opportunist. He carried favor with President Obama so he could become promoted to admiral. He then gave that famous press conference during the Trump administration in 2018, when he basically called the former president, Trump, basically an Adonis who can live to 200.


REINER: That got him nominated -- that got him nominated to become VA secretary. And then -- and then in 2020, you know, he attacked Mr. Biden, which basically got the former president, Trump, to support his candidacy for Congress.

So, he has shown himself willing to basically do what he has to do to achieve his goal, you know, regardless of what the ethics are. And I think the former president, Obama, was deeply offended by it.

LEMON: This has played out -- this all played out in February of 2020. There were plenty of Democrats still in the field to become the Democratic nominee for president. Was this about Ronny Jackson doing a solid for his latest patient, Donald Trump? That's for you, David.

SWERDLICK: Yeah -- no, I think it was. Just like Dr. Reiner said, he knew that running for Congress, he wanted to have the support of then President Trump. He knew that President Trump and a lot of people -- that they share in their political base like this sort of owning the (INAUDIBLE) style.

LEMON: He's an opportunist as Dr. Reiner just said.

SWERDLICK: Yeah, opportunist, right. And it is an easy -- and it is an easy target. I also -- I don't want to dip into your lane, Dr. Reiner, but correct me if I'm wrong, I don't think physicians of which Congressman Jackson is and a former flag officer are not supposed to even have the appearance of diagnosing someone from afar on anything like their cognition.

It is just -- it is not appropriate for a doctor to do. Add on that he was the White House physician when Biden was vice president.

LEMON: Do you want to respond to that, doctor?

REINER: That's absolutely right. I think he mischaracterized himself as having some sort of insight knowledge about Vice President Biden when in fact I don't think he ever examined on Mr. Biden when he was in office.


And even more recently, he has characterized himself that way with former Vice President Cheney when he basically asserted that he was in a position of caring for the former vice president but still felt the need to speak out against Liz Cheney.

So, he has shown himself willing to say basically anything. Look, this past November, he called Omicron basically a democratic, you know, midterm election trick. So, he has shown himself, you know, willing basically to throw away any ethnic that he might have had when he was a physician in order to achieve some sort of political goal.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, look, this has been the era of the opportunists and the grifters and there are a lot of them out there. Thank you very much. I appreciate it, both of you.

SWERDLICK: Thanks, Don. LEMON: The midterms are looming and the balance of power in the Senate could come down to the race in Pennsylvania. Speaking of what I just said, so, where are the candidates?




LEMON: It is one of the most hotly contested races in the midterms and it could determine who controls the Senate. I'm talking about Pennsylvania. That's where a Democratic nominee, John Fetterman, is going head to head with his Republican challenger, Dr. Mehmet Oz.

But Fetterman is still recovering after a major health scare before the primaries and Oz is facing questions about spending his time in New Jersey and not capitalizing on his opponent's absence.

Here is CNN's Jeff Zeleny.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been two months since John Fetterman hit the campaign trail in Pennsylvania, for an election now less than four months away, a race with Mehmet Oz that could determine the balance of power in the Senate.

Fetterman is still slowly emerging from a near deadly setback, a stroke and heart condition that sent him to the hospital on May 13th. Four days later, he swept to an easy democratic primary victory.

UNKNOWN: John is going to be back on his feet in no time.


ZELENY (voice-over): But ever since, he has been sidelined and fighting to recover. A surprise visit with Democratic volunteers last weekend, seen here in this edited campaign video, showed both the promise of his return and the serious steps still ahead in his rehabilitation.

JOHN FETTERMAN, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA: We will be back on the trail soon! We are almost at 100%. So --


ZELENY (voice-over): His speech is halting yet stronger, aides say, than a month ago.

FETTERMAN: Almost towards the end of my life, you know, and it has totally changed my life since then.

ZELENY (voice-over): His surprise appearance at the Pittsburgh campaign office brought a smile and sense of relief to Janice Gladden, who was sitting only a few feet away during Fetterman's brief stop.

JANICE GLADDEN, DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER: It was great to see. He was -- you know, he just looked so vibrant like he really came through out of those difficult health problems.

ZELENY (on camera): Have you've been wondering how he has been doing?

GLADDEN: Yes. Yes, I have. Yes, I have.

ZELENY (voice-over): While Oz is taking to capitalize on his celebrity as a TV doctor, some Republicans worry whether he's taking proper advantage of Fetterman's absence. His TV ads have gone dark since winning a hard-fought primary in May, leaving the airwaves to his Democratic rival.

FETTERMAN: Pennsylvania is our home, and it's worth fighting for.

ZELENY (voice-over): From afar, Fetterman is badgering Oz for recently moving to Pennsylvania after living in New Jersey for more than three decades, flying a welcome home banner over the Jersey shore.

MEHMET OZ, PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm here to speak truth to power.

ZELENY (voice-over): He also blasted Oz for filming a video from his New Jersey mansion, an assertion Oz did not deny. Republicans meanwhile are deploying a "missing person" poster of Fetterman, also arguing he's too extreme for Pennsylvania.

The last time Fetterman appeared at a campaign event was May 12th. His wife, Gisele, told us she noticed something was seriously wrong the next morning.

GISELE FETTERMAN, WIFE OF JOHN FETTERMAN: He came back to the car, was talking to me, and for one second, his mouth moved in an unnatural way. Immediately, that second, I rushed him to the hospital.

ZELENY (voice-over): He left the hospital nine days later with a defibrillator implanted in his chest to recover at home in Braddock just outside Pittsburgh.

Summer Lee, a Democratic state representative who is running for Congress, said she often sees Fetterman out walking as he continues to recover.

SUMMER LEE, PENNSYLVANIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Obviously, the sooner we can he can get him back on the trail, the better. But if we can get him back ready to go for the long haul, you know, after Labor Day, I think that he is going to be good shape, and I think that we are going to be better for that patience.


ZELENY: And it was exactly two months ago tonight, Don, that Fetterman was hospitalized and really no one knew his prognosis at the time. They said that he would be out soon. Of course, since then, we have learned so much more about his recovery.

There are still many questions remaining, and one of them is, when he will return to the campaign trail? His aides say he is growing in strength. He said that himself, when he had dropped by that campaign office here on Saturday. But there are still many questions.

Yet at the same time, Dr. Oz simply has not been campaigning here to fill that void all that much over the last two months. So, Don, less than four months before election day, one of the closest most important Senate races in the country is filled with many questions on both sides.


LEMON: Yeah. Right on. Jeff, so, Fetterman is running a really unconventional campaign while recovering. He is known for his straight talk and he's even mocking Oz with online memes. Is that resonating voters there?

ZELENY: Look, he definitely is out of sight but not out of mind. He's been tweeting nearly constantly or his staff has, usually several times a day, going after Oz, in particular, but also going after issues of the day. Here's just one example. Take a look at this message he sent out earlier today.


Obviously, given the news of inflation, of importance to every voter we spoke to here in Pennsylvania, this is what Fetterman said. He said inflation hit another 40-year high, working families are paying more almost everywhere, I see it every time I go to Aldi's or Giant Eagle, things are way too expensive.

So, of course, he is trying to push back on the fact that it's his party that is in power. He, of course, is running as a Democrat, you know, who would preserve that democratic majority in the Senate should he win and others win as well. So, he is trying to make himself certainly front and center in the campaign and push back against his own party as well.

But Don, the open question hanging over all of this race is, when will he be able to come back to the campaign? Will he be able to debate in an engaging way with Oz?

One other date on the calendar here is August 15th. That is the last date he can withdraw and another candidate could be replaced on the ballot. His aides say that is not going to happen, but that still is one last sort of hurdle here, if you will, before this race fully becomes (INAUDIBLE) in the fall. Don?

LEMON: All right. We'll be watching. You will be reporting. Thank you, Jeff Zeleny. Appreciate that.

And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.