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Don Lemon Tonight

The January 6 Committee Investigation Continues; Justice Department Looking At Trump's Actions In 1/6 Criminal Probe; CNN Polls Shows GOP Is Still Trump's Party; Biden Administration Offers Convicted Russian Arms Dealer In Exchange For Griner And Whelan; Robb Elementary School Principal Speaks Out. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired July 27, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Tonight, big developments in the investigations into the January 6th insurrection. Both the Department of Justice and the January 6 Committee engaging key witnesses and seeking new testimony, including a possible committee deposition of Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as soon as this week.

CNN's Ryan Nobles has all the details from Washington.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Department of Justice investigation into the events that led to January 6th is expanding at a rapid pace.

ALYSSA FARAH, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: I am aware of other White House officials who have been reached out to by DOJ and are planning to cooperate.

NOBLES (voice-over): Former White House staffer Alyssa Farah telling CNN that DOJ has reached out to more former officials in the Trump White House beyond just Marc Short and Greg Jacob, two top aides to former Vice President Mike Pence.

CNN now learning that Cassidy Hutchinson, a former Trump aide to Trump's chief of staff, is just the latest official from the last administration to start cooperating with the DOJ's criminal investigators.

FARAH: I think DOJ is keeping an eye on who is coming before January 6th and who may have helpful information.

NOBLES (voice-over): The news comes at the same time sources tell "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" that federal investigators have asked questions specifically about Donald Trump's actions, suggesting their probe is getting closer to the former president himself, all while a separate state level investigation is looking at Trump and election interference in Georgia.

NORM EISEN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE CZECH REPUBLIC: You see a pincer's movement on Donald Trump and perhaps this will be the occasion in which he cannot dodge criminal liability.

NOBLES (voice-over): The public posture of the DOJ is welcome news to members of the January 6 Committee who have been publicly pleading with federal prosecutors to take an action.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): That encourages me or it solidifies the understanding I have always operated with, which is that the Department of Justice has a vast arsenal of resources at their disposal. These are extremely confident effective lawyers. They know what they are doing.

NOBLES (voice-over): However, there is no question the political calendar and impending presidential announcement by Trump could complicate their plans, and Trump continues to show no sign he is backing down.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now we have the January 6th on Select Committee of political hacks and thugs.

NOBLES (voice-over): But Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged that nothing, including political pressure, will impede their investigation.

MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We will hold accountable anyone who is criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the transfer -- legitimate lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next.

NOBLES (on camera): And Don, there is no doubt that the Department of Justice is expanding their investigation. But we shouldn't take that to mean that the January 6 Select Committee is wrapping things up. In fact, they're moving full speed ahead.

I am told that they have begun engaging with the former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, that he could sit for a closed-door deposition as soon as this week, and it comes as the committee is increasingly interested in members of former president Donald Trump's cabinet, and in particular, the conversations related to the 25th Amendment in the wake of the January 6th Capitol riot.

It is expected that in addition to people like Pompeo, there will be more cabinet officials that the committee calls before them. Don?


LEMON: All right, Ryan, thank you very much.

I want to talk more about that with CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig and CNN political commentator Scott Jennings. All right, that was a juicy report, gentlemen. Good evening to you.

Mr. Jennings, let us start with you. Liz Cheney on CNN said that the committee wanted to engage with former cabinet officials. And look, they may speak to Pompeo as soon as this week. They want to know about the conversations surrounding the 25th Amendment. Why is that important, do you think?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDNET TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, obviously, if the president's cabinet was having conversations of that serious -- you know, the nature of which were that serious, the idea that the president could discharge his duties, obviously, they would've had information in theory that would be of interest to this committee around this topic.

So, I'm not surprised they want to talk about it. I mean, it was always hard for me to tell at the time, you know, was this just rumor mongering that was going on or how serious, you know, were these conversations about the 25th Amendment? So, I guess that's one thing we will learn here, which is just how deeply these talks went and how close it ever really came to happening.


LEMON: Well, these 25th Amendment conversations, Elie, happened after the 6th and could speak to ex-president's state of mind in that time, in those days. What do you want to know?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly could speak to the cabinet's perception of Donald Trump's state of mind. I don't think it tells much about what was actually in Donald Trump's mind. The 25th Amendment is remarkably drastic to even be considered. I think the question -- Scott hit the nail on the head -- how far did these conversations go? Was it just sort of chatter out there in the ether? Was it something where there was a more concentrated focused conversation?

Let us remember, Cassidy Hutchinson testified that as far as she knew, then Secretary Pompeo had talked with Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, Cassidy Hutchinson's boss, about potentially rallying

up some of the cabinet members.

Now, Pompeo has denied this. So, it will be interesting to see where this goes. Again, the 25th Amendment is designed to remove a -- temporarily remove power from a president who is incapacitated. So, that's how dramatic that particular amendment is.

LEMON: Elie, we now know of three former White House officials cooperating with the DOJ. We have Greg Jacob, we have Marc Short and Cassidy Hutchinson. Pair that with "The Washington Post" reporting that prosecutors have been asking very specific questions about Trump. Does that tell you anything about the direction of this investigation?

HONIG: I think those are in a sense one in the same development because if you're going to question Marc Short or Cassidy Hutchinson, you are naturally going to be asking them about Donald Trump and Mark Meadows and everyone in the White House.

But, yes, Don, I mean, I think there has been a sea change in what we know about DOJ's investigation because if you think back a month ago, all we knew was that they had done search warrants on John Eastman and Jeffrey Clark and we knew that they had served some subpoenas on the electors, but there was nobody inside the White House. There were no staffers, no deputies.

Now, we know of three just in the last 24 hours or so, and it would not at all surprise me to see some of the other folks who testified in the January 6 Committee start popping up in the grand jury in the next few days as well.

LEMON: Scott, as you know, Alyssa Farah Griffin, who is now a CNN contributor, worked in the White House. She had resigned before then but she knows other former Trump White House officials that the DOJ who has reached out to. That is not the January 6 Committee. So, do you think the former -- do you think that former Trump officials will be more likely to engage with investigators and spill everything or much of what they know?

JENNINGS: I think when federal investigators call you, federal -- you get drugged (ph) before a grand jury, you better tell the truth. I mean, that's number one.

Number two, I mean, there's no reason not to cooperate here. I'm sure they all have lawyers and I'm sure -- I'm' sure -- unless they have done something wrong, I'm sure their lawyers are telling that. So, Elie would be more qualified to comment on that than me.

The one thing about this knowledge now that we know this investigation is real, that we know a grand jury is looking, that we know they are specifically looking at Trump, if he does not get indicted, and I have heard a lot of prosecutors say they don't expect him to or it is a stretch, if he does not get indicted now that we know he was looked at, he is going to claim exoneration.

And so, I think for all the people out there who are still hoping that Donald Trump gets charged with a crime, if it doesn't happen, you know, Don, how he's going to use this, how this is going to boomerang, how he is going to use it in the run up to the campaign. So, I think -- I think -- that's something I'm looking at here. How long all this is going to take --

LEMON: I think, Scott, he's going to use it anyway, either way. If they do it or they don't, he's going to use it. He is going to say, they didn't have enough, they tried to get me and they couldn't. And then if they do and they don't, he will say, they didn't have enough, they tried to get me and they couldn't. I think he's going to spin it either way.

So, I don't think that matters. I think whoever is -- if they have enough and they think they should prosecute him or whatever, charge him, then they should do it. There is a saying with that, but I won't say it here.

So, Elie --

(LAUGHTER) LEMON: It's -- get off the pot. Elie, let's dig into the importance of John Eastman. Okay? You talked about him just a moment ago. He was a key player in the fake elector plot. There was this testimony by RNC Chairman Ronna McDaniel.


UNKNOWN: What did the president say when he called you?

RONNA ROMNEY MCDANIEL, CHAIRWOMAN, RNC: Essentially, he turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the things. I think more just helping them reach out and assemble them. My understanding is that the campaign did take the lead, and we just were helping them in that role.


LEMON: So, Elie, does the DOJ have to determine if this scheme was at Trump's direction or that Eastman is operating on his own?

HONIG: So, John Eastman, first of all, is one of the crucial drivers here. He is the attorney who has good credentials on paper.


However, he came up with this absurd legal theory that essentially Pence could throw out whatever votes he wanted to, and seemingly was the only sentient lawyer who seemed to think that that was a reasonable legal theory.

In fact, there's testimony that Eastman himself admitted that he knew that theory would lose 9-0 in the Supreme Court and would never fly. So, the question, Don, I think you're getting at is, how much do they have to show about Donald Trump's knowledge of that?

I think that piece of testimony we just saw from Ronna McDaniel, I think that's really the one and best piece of testimony and it is not a slam dunk that Donald Trump was made directly aware of this plot and really its illegality.

So, I think prosecutors are going to be focused on that piece of testimony. If you are prosecuting or investigating, you're looking for more. Is there other evidence that Trump was aware of this plot and was aware of its illegality?

LEMON: There's nothing to do with calling Georgia and all of the other things? You don't think that goes sort of --

HONIG: No, that matters as well, but I think in terms of -- yeah, I think that matters as well. I think this is really -- what we have here is not one unified conspiracy. I think the way prosecutors ought to approach this is somewhat the way the January 6 Committee presented it, which is you have a bunch of separate but overlapping and similarly motivated conspiracies to pressure Mike Pence, to call Brad Raffensperger or pressure state legislators, to try to take over DOJ.

I think the proof on Donald Trump is stronger as to some of those than others. The call to Raffensperger being the most direct proof. We have him on tape for an hour browbeating the sky. But I think on the other side of it, I think his involvement with the Eastman piece that we just heard is on the thinner side of evidence.

LEMON: Eleven thousand, seven hundred and eighty votes.

HONIG: Right.

LEMON: Something like that. Thank you both. I appreciate it.

So, we have heard Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger standing up for the truth on the January 6th hearings, but their party seems determined to turn a blind eye to everything we have seen. Are they MAGA or die?




LEMON: So, growing anxiety among top Republicans, including Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell that the former president may seek the party's nomination in 2024. And despite all the bombshells coming out of the January 6th hearings, the GOP is still the party of Trump.

Take a look. This is CNN's latest polling. Forty-four percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters want him at the top of the ticket in 2024.

Let's discuss. Peter Wehner is here. He is the former adviser to President George W. Bush and the author of "The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump." Also, with me, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon, who is making faces as I'm reading those -- what are you thinking? What are thinking? Hi, Peter. Good evening, by the way, to you.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, it's an honor to be on with Peter.

LEMON: Yeah.

AVLON: But, look, I mean, that number, what's striking to me is it's down to 44%. I mean, you've got to put this in perspective. I know that seems bonkers to folks who have been paying close attention to the January 6 hearing, but he has gone from a super majority in the Republican Party to 44% to be the next nominee. His support is eroded. That's the news in that poll.

LEMON: Do you agree with that, Peter?


LEMON: Because I think this is a snapshot in time. I think the closer it gets to something actually happening like the midterms or if he declares, I think that number will go up. But go on, Peter, sorry, do you agree with what he said?

WEHNER: Yeah, I do. I mean, it is a snapshot in time, polls always are. There is a trend actually over the last month or two that shows that his strength with the party is weakening (INAUDIBLE) focus groups with people who have been completely pro-Trump. And since the January 6 Committee and the findings, there has been some weakening.

What I would say, though, is that Trump was starting from extremely strong point with the Republican Party. He has the ability to lose support and still win the nomination. A lot can unfold but he is the dominant figure in the Republican Party. And for my perspective, it's not just Trump who is a threat, but the party itself has been completely Trumpified (ph), magafied (ph), if you will.

And so, so there are a lot of mini-Trumps running around and they are dangerous, too.

LEMON: Yeah, right on, Peter. So, listen, during the 1/6 hearings, John, we saw two Republicans, representatives Kinzinger and Cheney, stand up for the truth. They hit Trump hard. But the truth is, though, they are sort of the fringe of their own party right now, right? We keep talking about the fringes -- I mean --

AVLON: They are the honorable outliers.


AVLON: Right? I mean --

LEMON: I don't mean on a negative way, but they are outliers. That's a better way of putting it.

AVLON: They are, yeah. And the Trump crew is the establishment --

LEMON: Right.

AVLON: -- as crazy is that may seem. They are -- you know, look, we have seen a lot of times in our politics where one man with courage can make a majority over time. They are outliers right now but they are putting their credibility, their conscience on telling the truth and defending democracy. And over time, that will be the winning bet. In the short run, they're taking political heat and real loses for it, and that, I think, highlights the --

LEMON: There are people who -- people who don't want to believe that this is where the party is going, that the establishment of the party is kind of, as Peter said, that mini-Trumps that are running around. And every time you say something about the party or anyone says something about the party is critical, they go, what about Liz Cheney? What about Adam Kinzinger? It's almost like (INAUDIBLE) emails mentality about those two because they are a very small minority.

AVLON: Yeah, whataboutism muscle has gotten --


AVLON: -- overused in recent years.


Look, people like Pete Wehner, people like Liz Cheney, people like Adam Kinzinger, honorable, genuinely conservative, genuinely Christian people who are not -- who are not conservative populist, embracing nationalism, Donald Trump and the whole, you know, no nothing impulse that goes with that, where you've got to deny what you see, those folks are on the outside right now.

LEMON: Yeah.

AVLON: But I do think -- and look, the key part about any color, any extremist group is, they have to hunt for (INAUDIBLE). They call out the people who have the courage to break with the pack because those people represent the greatest threat to their group cohesion (ph), and that's the dynamic we are seeing right now.

LEMON: Peter, I have your "New York Times" op-ed that you wrote. It is about Elise Stefanik which shows that -- clearly where the GOP wants to be. Some of what -- as someone who worked with George W. Bush, as someone who worked with George W. Bush administration -- I have to get my mouth to work --


LEMON: -- but she made the switch to proud MAGA Republican, and she is not looking back. She is the future of the GOP, not Kinzinger or Cheney.

WEHNER: She is in the short term, there's no question about it. I mean, she is number three Republican. She replaced Liz as the number three Republican. She is on the shortlist, I imagine, for Trump VP. That is a tragedy for the Republican Party, but she embodies it.

You know, John Kennedy said there's a reason profiles in courage has a slim volume. There are just not that many people that are willing to stand up with courage if there is a cost to standing up for courage.

I don't know whether -- what Liz is doing and what Adam is doing is going to win in the short, medium or long term. I do know this: In the end, all we can be is faithful to what we believe is right and true and good. You can't make your actions conditioned on success. You can only do what you think is the right thing to do. They are doing the right thing and history will bear them out --


WEHNER: -- that they did the right thing and they should be praised for that.

LEMON: Yeah, they are doing the right thing.

AVLON: And I think one thing that Peter's column makes a very clear point is, there's a cynical careerism --


AVLON: -- behind a lot of this stuff. It is people who felt that the wind was blowing in a certain direction and they abandoned all their alleged beliefs at one point because they thought it was the best way to get ahead. It is how corrupting the piper partisan (ph) economy actually is.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, we are seeing this sort of -- I don't know if it is weird or brilliant. Well, it is weird. I don't know if it is brilliant or the dumbest thing, Democratic Party thumbing MAGA Republicans --

AVLON: Yeah.

LEMON: -- in hopes that they are going to win the primary and the thinking is that Democrats will have an easier time beating MAGA Republicans in the general election. Is it a smart move, John? What do you think?

AVLON: I think it is incredibly cynical and hypocritical. I teed off on this the other day on reality check particularly because -- when they bought $400 ad buy against Peter Mehner (ph).

Here is a guy who is an army veteran, rising star in the party, represents Gerald Ford's old district, somebody who voted to impeach Donald Trump, someone who voted to not -- to certify the election, someone who voted for the gun reform bill, somebody who voted to protect same-sex marriages.

And these are folks, one week out, the DCCC going to take $400,000 ad buy against to build up a name ID of his opponents?

LEMON: Yeah.

AVLON: Come on now.

LEMON: Peter, last word?

WEHNER: Yeah, I completely agree with John. It may work in some races and may not. And if you let a MAGA Trump Republican win, that is really bad for the country.

But it is cynical. Look, there is enough cynicism going on with politics now. You don't need people to add to it. Politics can be a noble profession. And when you get people and they're acting this way, the way the MAGA Republicans are, it looks like a disgrace, and that is not good for a country because politics matters.

AVLON: That's right.

LEMON: Fascinating conversation. I encourage you to read Peter's piece in "The New York Times." What in the world happened to Elise Stefanik? It explains what's going on. That kind of explains what is going on in the Republican Party right now. Thank you, gentlemen. Appreciate it.

AVLON: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: A CNN exclusive, the Biden ministration offering a prisoner swap to Russia in an effort to free Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. All the details, next.




LEMON: A major development tonight in the effort to bring detained Americans home. CNN can exclusively report the Biden administration has made an offer to Vladimir Putin that would send a convicted Russian arms dealer back to Moscow in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner and former marine Paul Whelan.

CNN's Kylie Atwood broke the story for us, and she joins us now. Kylie, hello to you. What are you learning about this offer from the Biden administration to the Russians?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well, significant, Don, that we're learning that Viktor Bout, this convicted arms dealer, is part of the proposal that the Biden administration has put forward to try and secure the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner.

Now, Bout is an infamous guy. He has carried out a number of really, really significant crimes. He is known around the world for decades. He was smuggling arms into countries that are active war zones, places like Afghanistan and South America, in the Middle East. So, this is someone that the Russians have had their eye on. The Kremlin has made it clear through Russian state media that they want him back.

And so, it is significant that the Biden administration is now willing and has put him on the table. But we are told the Department of Justice officials were opposed to putting him forth. It was President Biden who supported putting him on the table which eventually overrode their objections.

Now, the secretary of state, Tony Blinken, said today that there was a significant offer that the Biden administration put forth. He did not get into the details. But we are told by a senior administration official that the Russians essentially have not engaged in a substantial way on this offer.


That could be one of the reasons that the Biden administration is now coming up and publicly saying that they have put forth this offer. The secretary of state is planning to speak with the Russian foreign minister about this in the coming days. That will be the first phone call between these top diplomats since Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year.

LEMON: Kylie, this news is coming on the same day that Brittney Griner had another hearing in Russia. How does her trial play into this potential deal, it at all?

ATWOOD: Yeah, well, U.S. officials are watching that incredibly closely. They're not watching it so much for what the sentencing is because Russia's judicial system has a 99% conviction rate. So, they do expect there is going to be some sort of conviction here.

What they are watching for is when that conviction, when that sentencing actually comes because U.S. officials have told me that they don't expect that Russia would actually carry out any prisoner swap before there is sentencing in the Griner case.

Of course, we learned some incredibly harrowing details in that testimony today, that Brittney Griner provided in the Russian court about the significant situation surrounding her arrest in that Russian Moscow airport.

And she talked about the fact that she wasn't read any rights, that she was confused at times, signing documents she didn't know what she was signing, and had to use Google translate at times to really understand the situation that she was in.

LEMON: Kylie, thank you. I appreciate it.

So, let us bring in now Jonathan Franks. He was a consultant on the case of Trevor Reed, who was released from Russia in a prisoner swap earlier this year. He also helped to free Michael White and Amir Hekmati from Iran. Jonathan, thank you. We appreciate you joining us to help give some perspective to this. Do you think Putin will agree to this trade?

JONATHAN FRANKS, CONSULTANT ON TREVOR REED CASE, PRESIDENT OF LUCID STRATEGIES: I think he will, Don, and thanks for having me. The reason I think he will is that ever since one of their officials came over here in 2016, this has been a highly public priority of his.

LEMON: Yeah. These negotiations are usually done behind the scenes, as you know. Is it a smart strategy for the Biden administration to be telling the public that they made an offer?

FRANKS: I don't know if it's smart or not. For the life of me, I have no idea why they did this. I feel like I have to cheer it, though, because for years, I have been campaigning for them to be more bold in public and it does seem that the president put Mr. Bout on the table, and that's what I have been campaigning for. So, you know, even though I don't understand why they did it, I feel like I should support it.

LEMON: Your former client, Trevor Reed, spoke to my colleague here at CNN, Jake Tapper, earlier. Here is what he said about the potential trade.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TREVOR REED, FORMER MARINE RELEASED FROM RUSSIA: I'm extremely optimistic about it. I think that's a good possibility. And I think that, you know, if the Russians are not stupid, they will take that offer. And, you know, I am hoping that they are not that too stupid, but we will see.


LEMON: Do you think Trevor Reed's prisoner exchange helped push the Biden administration to make this offer?

FRANKS: No question, Don. I think Trevor's parents protesting in Dallas and then again in front of the White House, in fact, protesting their way into the Oval Office, had a lot to do with it, right? I think we have also (INAUDIBLE). We have been campaigning for this trade since last fall. So, I think we saw it from the ground under it.

And the way I see it, you know, we are getting far more time off of our prisoners than Russians are getting off of theirs. We have to send Mr. Bout back in 2028, whether we like him or not. And we may as well get something in the deal.

LEMON: You know, Brittney Griner was in court today. You say she is a character in a perverse play that Putin is orchestrating. Tell me about that. What is he trying to accomplish?

FRANKS: It's hard to say. You know, he has a history of thinking LGBTQ people are seemingly like objects to be fogged at which is horrendous. We know he is a misogynist. I am not sure where he stands on issues of race. It just seems like he is parading her.

You are showing that video now. I think -- in her first day in court, they had like seven guards and a police dog. I don't understand why that was necessary to get Ms. Griner in. I think they are parading her and it's absolutely outrageous.

LEMON: In the past, Jonathan, the U.S. government has claimed prisoner swaps only incentivized country to detain Americans. We have seen multiple trades within the past few years. What do you think has changed?

FRANKS: So, people far smarter than me, Don, have said that doing these trades is not incentivizing, you know, more hostage taking. There is no correlation. What incentivizes more hostage taking is our stubborn unwillingness to impose any consequences on the hostage takers.


In order to fix the problem, we got to cause pain for these people and those they love.

LEMON: Thank you, Jonathan, I appreciate it.

FRANKS: Thanks, Don. LEMON: CNN exclusively speaking with the principal of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, the school where 19 children and two teachers were shot to death by a gunman. What she tells us, next.




LEMON: The principal of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas speaking out exclusively to CNN in the aftermath of a mass shooting that killed 19 children and two of their teachers.

Mandy Gutierrez, who has been put on paid leave, pending an investigation, says she stands by her actions on that fateful day and that she followed her training. She also says that accusation she was lax about school security are unfair and inaccurate.

More tonight from CNN's Rosa Flores.


MANDY GUTIERREZ, PRINCIPAL, ROBB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: When I was calling Chief Arredondo, I heard three shots, the initial three shots.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The principal of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde breaking her silence and answering questions about allegations of lax security at the school.

GUTIERREZ: I believe that I did my job to the best of my abilities.

FLORES (voice-over): While law enforcement's handling of that ill- fated day has seen the most scrutiny up to now, the families of the victims --

UNKNOWN: They don't give a damn about our children or us.

FLORES (voice-over): Turning their calls for accountability towards the school administration, including the principal who says she was suspended with pay this week, pending a performance review relating to campus security. Last school year was her first year as principal.

UNKNOWN: Every -- starting at that school at Robb, that principal needs to be gone. All of the school board needs to be gone.

GUTIERREZ: I believe they are entitled to their opinion. I followed the training that I was provided with to the best of my abilities.

FLORES (voice-over): The Texas House Investigative Committee report revealed that Robb Elementary had a culture of noncompliance with safety policies requiring doors to be kept locked, which turned out to be fatal.

Gutierrez responding to that criticism --

(On camera): Was there a culture of noncompliance at Robb Elementary?

GUTIERREZ: Absolutely not. Any time that an alert went out, every single teacher on that campus took it to mean it could be a potential escalating situation. And so, everybody follows protocol.

FLORES (on camera): So, you disagree with the findings of the Texas House Investigative report?

GUTIERREZ: I disagree.

FLORES (on camera): According to the Texas House Investigative report, a coach that was somewhere on school property saw the gunman jumped this fence. She used her radio to report it. The principal heard the call and tried to initiate a lockdown using a software application, but the wi-fi was bad and she did not use the school intercom.

GUTIERREZ: They could potentially magnify a situation.

FLORES (on camera): That's the door that the gunman used to enter the school. According to the report, the door was unlocked. Had the door been locked, as the policy required, it would have likely slowed down the gunman.

(Voice-over): Instead, surveillance video showed the gunman walked into the building through an unlocked door.

(On camera): Why was that door unlocked that day?

GUTIERREZ: I am not sure why that door was unlocked.

FLORES (on camera): So, that door was normally locked during the day?

GUTIERREZ: Always locked.

FLORES (on camera): Always?


FLORES (voice-over): Then walked into a classroom, which was likely unlocked, according to the report. The report also states that the principal, teachers, and even many fourth-grade students widely knew of the problem with the lock to room 111. But no one place a work order to repair the lock, not the principle, not anyone else. Gutierrez disputes that account.

GUTIERREZ: What I know for a fact is that the door to room 111 did, in fact, locked.

FLORES (on camera): It did?

GUTIERREZ: The teacher has to use the key to enter.

FLORES (on camera): So, somehow, the report says that it was likely unlocked. So, somehow, it could have been unlocked on that today.

GUTIERREZ: It's possible.

FLORES (voice-over): Some of the families of the victims say, any safety lapses were inexcusable.

FLORES (voice-over): What do you tell her?

UNKNOWN: We failed our children. You failed our children.

GUTIERREZ: I am very close to my staff and my students and many of their families. It's an unimaginable pain to know that we don't have those individuals with us anymore and that those families are missing their loved ones every single day.

FLORES (on camera): The Texas House Investigative Committee standing by their report. The chairman issuing a statement to CNN, saying that that is based on testimony from multiple individuals, from multiple agencies.

As for the school district, a spokesperson did respond to our request for comment but said that they are too swamped to answer questions. Don?


LEMON: Rosa, thank you very much.

Up next, W. Kamau Bell taking on a different kind of issue in this week's episode of "United Shades of America."


I love saying it that way. He is taking on climate crisis. There he is. We will talk right after the break.


LEMON: So, this week on an all-new episode of "United Shades of America," W. Kamau Bell visits wildfire-stricken Northern California to find out why these catastrophic fires are happening and what, if anything, that we can do to prevent them. Here is a preview.


UNKNOWN: They found that the economic impact of the health effects of the lowered air quality was just as high as all of the destruction of structures, literally things burning down.


W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST: Wow, yeah. So, my perception in the time that I have been here is that that the wildfires are affecting the biggest swath (ph) of California.

UNKNOWN: Yeah, basically like 10 times more areas burning per year now than there was in the 70s or 80s.

BELL: Why is that?

UNKNOWN: So, you know, there are two things. The climate change issue, you know, that is a global problem and it's going to continue to get warmer. And in the west, that means drier and more conducive to fires. But also, we have huge buildup of fuels because of fire suppression.


LEMON: So, joining us now, the host of "United Shades of America," W. Kamau Bell. He is also the director of the Emmy-nominated series "We Need to Talk About Cosby" and the new "New York Times" bestselling coauthor of "Do the Work," an antiracist activity book which is available now. Good evening, sir. Welcome to the club, by the way.

BELL: Yeah, happy to be part of the bestselling club.

LEMON: "The New York Times" bestselling club. Hey, listen, you know I love your show, I love you, and this climate crisis is a huge thing. We just did a report in the 10:00 hour here Eastern on cattle farmers and what they are facing as it comes to, you know, the climate crisis.

This issue right now, the crisis, California is one of the places that is experiencing the worst of it. What made you want to take on this issue on your show?

BELL: I mean, this was a home game, I live in Northern California. And even though my -- luckily, my home and my family haven't been threatened by the wildfire. We have been threatened by the toxic air that comes off of the wildfires.

LEMON: Uh-hmm.

BELL: I was here in that September 2020 red sky day (ph). Only people in Northern California can understand how crazy that was. So, it felt like a way to learn more about my state and where I live and how we can continue to live here under these circumstances.

LEMON: We know that climate change is a factor in making these wildfires worse, but what else is contributing to this problem, do you think?

BELL: You know, it's interesting, I talked to a lot of people about what contributes to the problems. Some of it is land management issues. Forty-six percent of California is owned by the federal government. So, it is about like the federal government actually doing a better job of land management.

Some of it is actually about corporate greed. PG&E has been responsible for more than one devastating wildfire in California because they had faulty equipment. And then some of it is about the fact that, like, interestingly enough, Smokey the Bear (ph) did too good of job of telling people to put out fires. We have to understand that wildfires are part of California. Fire is part of California. It is about how we prepare to make sure that the whole landscape doesn't burn up when a fire breaks out.

LEMON: Well, speaking of it, you spoke with firefighters and wildfire victims. What do they tell you about the impact of these fires?

BELL: I mean, you know, it's one thing when your house burns down and then the other thing to try to get the insurance money to pay it off. It's all about, can you afford to rebuild?

I heard about Paradise, California where people were waiting for the insurance payments to come in but they were told they couldn't live on trailers in their land because it looks bad. So, you couldn't live on the land where you had had your home and the trailer because it looks bad. So, you had -- while you wait for the insurance to come in.

And it is also about the money that people make off of the wildfires to like clean up the town, clean up the areas. None of that money goes back to the towns. So, it is all extracted (ph).

LEMON: There is an old saying, fight fire with fire. You found out that really is one of the best ways to try to prevent major wildfires.

BELL: Yeah, I got to light fires which the thing my mom always told me not to do when I was home by myself as a kid. I got to go out into the forest and do a little bit of -- there is this private land, let me be clear, and Cal fire was there, there are lots of people there to watch, but I got to set some fires because it is the way to, like, burn the brush back, so that if a fire does happen, there is not as much loose brush on the ground.

LEMON: What do you think about the other changes? Other changes needed to make to -- that we need to make to try to prevent the kind of catastrophic wildfires that have been on the rise.

BELL: Yeah. I mean, we spent a lot of time talking to native folks and native firefighters, indigenous firefighters, Danny Manning from Maidu tribe of California, to talk about like how native folks in this land knew how to deal with the fire and how to treat the fire and how to control the fire. A lot of this is also about letting the people who have this land actually share their knowledge with us and listening to them.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, I just remember taking the trip of PCH (ph) and going into towns into Northern California and some of the towns were shut down, parts of the roads were blocked because there have been fires there recently. Unless you live there, you don't really understand it because you don't experience it.

Thank you, W. Kamau Bell. Congratulations on the book and on the show. Good to see you. All right?

BELL: Good to be seen.

LEMON: Thank you, sir. Be sure to tune in to the all-new episode of "United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell," airs Sunday, 10:00 p.m., only here on CNN.

And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues. [23:55:00]


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We begin with breaking news in the January 6 investigation, the latest in a string of major developments on the subject throughout the day. CNN has learned from multiple sources that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could sit down for a deposition with the House Select Committee as soon as this weekend.

And we've seen more indications today that the other investigation, the Justice Department's criminal probe, has progressed farther than previously thought.

Earlier today, CNN learned that the Justice Department obtained a second warrant for that man, right-wing attorney John Eastman's cell phone, this one permitting them to actually look at the contents of the cell phone. Eastman, as you know, is the one who cooked at the dubious legal rationale for overturning the election.