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Don Lemon Tonight

DOJ Pressuring Former Trump Cabinet Members; Text Messages Missing Leading Up To January 6; Biden Administration Passed Another Bill; Friendly Kenly Becomes Unfriendly; Recession Felt By Americans; Comedian Jon Stewart Not Mincing His Words. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired July 28, 2022 - 22:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Well, that's it for us. DON LEMON TONIGHT starts right now. Hey, Don Lemon.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Hey, Don Lemon. You know what? It's going to sound weird. You sound like my sister does that. She goes, hey, Don Lemon, how are you? And there you are and my friends from college and high school. But we're old friends. So it goes, it kind of goes with --


COATES: Well, since we're old friends, can we pool a lottery ticket together but the -- I get all the money if we win? Because family could do that.


COATES: Family would do that.

LEMON: I don't like sharing that way. So, I did pool, just so everyone knows, all the guys in the studio, did we buy a ticket?

COATES: I hear the clapping.

LEMON: Can you that?

COATES: They all buy tickets?

LEMON: Did we buy ticket? Yes! Are we going to win?


COATES: Well, now we're behind -- we didn't get that.


LEMON: Can we get a gym shot of everyone in the -- in the room. So, we all got tickets. We pooled together, everybody got in. These are all the guys here. And we are going to win $1 billion! COATES: Sorry, I'll do the Dr. Evil for you.

LEMON: Yes. So that's what I did. I miss him.

COATES: I miss him. There you go.

LEMON: One bill -- wouldn't that be great, though? It would be great if all of us could win.

COATES: Yes. If all of you won instead of me and everyone else here, we would be so happy for you.

LEMON: This is what would happen on Friday or Monday if I won. This is what would happen. Tim said, my fiance said, if we win, do you promise to quit and travel the world? And I said one of those. I would not quit, but I would travel the world. You have to -- I would be the -- I would be the -- should I say this on TV? I would be the Don Matto (Ph) of CNN. I would be here maybe on a Friday or a Monday or whatever. Not every single night.

COATES: I tell you what, I mean, for all of the fiances out there, for a lottery winner, that wedding date just got moved up.

LEMON: We're going to win, guys. Right?


LEMON: Thank you, Laura.

COATES: Good luck.

LEMON: Good luck. Thank you.

COATES: Don't forget me if you win.

LEMON: All right.

COATES: I was here.

LEMON: All right. I'll see you later.

COATES: Thanks.

LEMON: Have a good one. So, we've got to get to the news now, enough fun and games. But it's serious. I mean, the Lotto -- was it the Power Ball or the Lotto? The Lotto is like over a billion dollars, $1.1 billion here in the northeast, it is crazy. Everybody is playing. So, there you go. And there's always hope.

This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. We have some major news on the January 6th investigation. We're getting big revelations every night, but this could be a game changer. Just imagine what officials in the Trump White House who heard and saw what was going on, how far the then president was willing to go to hold on to power.

Just imagine, imagine what they could tell us. CNN exclusively reporting the Justice Department is trying to force former White House officials to testify about what the former president is trying to keep secret with his claims of executive privilege. It is the clearest sign yet that the feds are zeroing in on the former president's conduct.

So, what do those officials know that they couldn't say? We may find out. And as the justice -- the Department of Justice prepares for what -- for that epic court battle, the January 6th committee is pushing ahead with its own investigation, they're talking to more and more Trump cabinet members, and there are a lot of Trump cabinet members.

Mick Mulvaney speaking to the committee for several hours this afternoon. He was an envoy in Europe on January 6th. But the other three were right there in Trump's inner circle to the very end. And the committee wants to know more about conversations about possibly invoking the 25th amendment. Mike Pompeo says he is now in discussions with the committee. But let's not forget what Cassidy Hutchinson told the committee about discussions among cabinet members about the 25th amendment. Watch.


Mr. Pompeo reached out to have the conversation with Mr. Meadows in case he haven't had the discussions amongst cabinet secretaries. And from what I understand it was more of a, this is what I'm hearing, I want you to be aware of it, but I also think it's worth putting on your radar because you are the chief of staff. You're technically the boss of all the cabinet secretaries. And you know if the conversations progressed you should be ready to take action on this.


LEMON: And there are more Trump cabinet members who have already talked to the committee. There they are, up on your screen right now, everybody from the former acting defense secretary to former Attorney General Bill Barr, who left office before January 6th. But not before he told the then president exactly what he thought of his election lies.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was bullshit.



LEMON: He said it, right? Look, we all saw what happened on January 6th. And you know, people know what happened on January 6th unless you are just delusional, right? Because you saw it with your own eyes and heard it with your own ears, the true American carnage. We saw Trump supporting rioters, desecrating the seat of our democracy. I won't go into some details but that was some bad stuff that happened, besides the beating of police officers. There were some pretty gross things that happening, the threatening of

lawmakers, other gross things that happened. It was one of the worst attacks in this country's history. And our demo -- and the nerve of them to say USA while they are trying to overturn a free and fair election and go against the Constitution of the United States, and everything that America was built upon, to say USA, really?

And our democracy is still threatened even now. More than 18 months after the violence at the capitol. The question is, what are they going to do about it? What are we going to do about it? Are we going to stand up for our democracy or just pretend nothing has happened? What are you going to do about it? It's a pivotal moment in our history.

I want to bring in now CNN political analyst, Jonathan Martin, he is the co-author of "This Will Not pass," also senior legal analyst Elie Honig. His book is "Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutor's Code and Corrupt in the Justice Department." And our senior law enforcement analyst Andrew McCabe, he is the former FBI deputy director and he is the author of "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump."

So prolific authors and experts here and great minds. Good evening, gentlemen. I hope you played the lottery. Good luck. Now let's talk.

Andrew, I want to start with the CNN exclusive. Federal prosecutors preparing to go to court to force former Trump officials to testify about what he was saying and doing or not doing around January 6. Is this the clearest sign that the DOJ is zeroing in on the former president, or is this part of a broader investigation that just -- they just happen to have questions about the former president built into all of this?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No, Don. It's absolutely a sign that they're zeroing in on the former president. But not just on the former president. On the former president and all those folks who may have been working around him, with him, for him, advising him, and who may have played a role in this potential conspiracy to overturn the results of the election.

I think the revelation or the discovery I should say that DOJ has already started putting people in front of a criminal grand jury is the most significant development we have seen so far about the DOJ investigation.

And let's remember, DOJ doesn't have the same sort of clock ticking over its head that the committee does. The DOJ work will go on until they feel they have reached the end of it no matter how long it takes.

LEMON: Well, Andrew, the reason I asked the question the way I did is because, listen, you guys, any of you can correct me if I'm wrong. I'm just wondering, if you look at what is happening with the fake electors, right, I think that is probably maybe the major legal case here, people putting up these fake electors, which is obviously illegal. If the question surrounding that would be similar, if not the same

questions about the former president, and maybe people are reading too much into it. Am I off on that, Andrew?

MCCABE: I don't -- I don't think you are, Don. I think it's -- as we have seen with the committee testimony over the last couple of weeks, it's really hard to pull one thing, like the fake elector efforts out of this overall effort to overturn the results of election.

I see, you know, we've talked about this many times as a hub and spoke conspiracy. You can think of that in terms of the intent of this conspiracy as well. Right? We know what they were trying to do. It just so happens that they had a different kind of avenues, different layers of effort that were all pursuing that same, that same ultimate goal of overturning the election.

So, I think they're going to go after the fake elector scheme. That's one example of how they were trying to pull that off. But we will likely hear other efforts, as well.

LEMON: All right. Elie, what do you think of that? And do you think I'm wrong, off in saying, well, maybe they're asking similar questions about the fake electors that everybody is reading into it, that this is all about Trump and they're zeroing in on him.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, Andy is certainly right that this more than one scheme, this is a series of overlapping, interrelated schedules. But Don, where I think you're right and what I think is different about the news we got today is the conversations that DOJ is gearing up to go to court and fight for are conversations that specifically involve Donald Trump.

This is where Donald Trump or people around him may be claiming executive privilege. To give you one example, we know Pat Cipollone has talked to the committee. And when we saw the clips of Pat Cipollone last week, there were certain questions he was asked about his conversation that he had with Donald Trump, where he sort of looked to his lawyer and said privilege.


Well, they didn't get the answers to those questions. We didn't get the answers to those questions. But now the reporting is that DOJ is getting ready to go to court to fight to get the answers from those questions, whether it's from Pat Cipollone or Marc Short or whoever else they may bring in.

So, in that respect, Don, I think this is targeted specifically at conversations involving Donald J. Trump.

LEMON: OK. Jonathan, just a yes or no, do you agree?


LEMON: OK, OK. Good. Because I want to ask about, we're getting some significant reporting and Jonathan, I want you to respond to, because you have been breaking -- you have broken so much news about what's happening with the Trump White House and on this.

I don't know if you know about it, but I will read this to you. This is from The Washington Post. And it says that January 6th text messages missing from Trump homeland security's Wolf and Cuccinelli, OK, that's the headline here. That's from Carol Leonnig and Maria Sacchetti from The Washington Post.

Text messages from former President Donald Trump's acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf, acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli are missing for a key period leading up to the January 6th attack on the capitol, that's according to four people briefed on the matter, and internal e-mails. Again, this is just coming in. I am just getting it.


LEMON: Can you help me with this, Jonathan Martin? What say you?

MARTIN: Sure. This is important because those are two of the most senior officials in Trump's orbit who would have been directly engaged on the security measures that were or were not taken in Washington ahead of January 6th. Then they would potentially have information about what was and wasn't done ahead of the planned protest that became obviously an insurrection.

So that could be revealing, especially if they've got anything to the point of your other guests, if they have anything that sort of speaks to President Trump's mindset in that period and speaks to his intent when it comes to the Stop the Steal rally in Washington on the 6th. That could be very significant.

I would just say, Don, briefly, if you think about what's happening from two angles, the January 6th committee and the Department of Justice investigation. The picture that we're seeing coming into focus is of two probes that are getting closer and closer to the former president, in part, because of the growing cooperation of his former advisers.

Every day it seems like we hear more people in Trump's orbit, testifying before a grand jury, in the DOJ probe, or participating with the 1/6 committee and turning over more and more information and getting closer and closer to the former president.

LEMON: so that may make the question I asked you all before null and void, especially considering this news that's just in. Andrew McCabe, another quote from the article, "the Department of Homeland Security notified the agency's inspector general in late February that Wolf's and Cuccinelli's texts were lost in a reset of their government phones when they left their jobs in January 2021, in preparation for the new Biden administration, according to an internal record obtained by the project on government oversight and shared with The Washington Post." Andrew?

MCCABE: Don, I feel like I've heard this story before. It seems very familiar. This is -- this is just -- we're back in the same conundrum we were in just a few days ago with the Secret Service texts, right? Is this an intentional act of subterfuge of trying to get rid of embarrassing or uncomfortable texts that these executives don't want to get out, or is it just the height of incompetence at an agency level?

It's starting to get harder to believe it's just incompetence. Everyone knows, especially at the levels that those two men served, all of their communications are supposed to be preserved as -- under the Federal Records Act. That stuff goes directly to the National Archives. So for DHS to have just lightly (Ph) -- I don't know, erased their phones as they walked out the door is just really, really hard to believe.


MCCABE: Really hard to believe.

LEMON: Elie, I want you to respond. Let me read this and then I'll get your response. A telephone and text communications of Wolf and Cuccinelli in the days leading up to January 6th could have shed considerable light on Trump's actions and plans in the weeks before the attack on the capitol. Trump had been pressuring both men to help him claim the 2020 election results were rigged and even to seize voting swings in key swing states to try to rerun the election. Elie Honig?

HONIG: Of course, that's potentially crucial evidence, Don. These are two of the top officials, the two top officials at DHS in the days leading up to January 6th. Of course, DHS, by the way, of course includes the Secret Service.


So of course, investigators want to see this. Of course, Congress wants to see this. Of course, prosecutor will probably want to see this someday. And Andy is exactly right. This feels exactly like what we heard last week about the other missing Secret Service texts.

I'm very, very skeptical. A, given the pattern, and b, given the fact that it is known throughout DHS that you have an obligation to preserve those texts. You don't just say, well, we're getting better cell phones so everything gets tossed out. And that's that. We'll never be able to recover it.

You have legal obligations to keep those, you have ethical obligations, you have recordkeeping act obligations to keep those, and you're talking about the two highest ranking officials. I've got some serious questions about this.

LEMON: Elie, Jonathan, Andrew, thank you for helping me with the developing news and news just coming in to CNN. Thank you very much. The Washington Post reporting, you see it through the bottom of your screen, text messages for Chad Wolf, Ken Cuccinelli are missing for a key period leading up to the attack on the capitol. We're going to continue on with the developing news.

Gentlemen, again, thank you very much. And we're also going to talk about Mitch McConnell has been the dark

master of the arts of the Senate for years. Did the Democrats put a one -- put one over on him when -- to land the beleaguered Biden administration in a much-needed win? We'll discuss that. That's next.



LEMON: So, there is some good news tonight for President Biden. I know, we have not been hearing that much, right? We haven't been hearing that a lot. A big climate and economic package that's a win for Democrats heading into the midterms. But can they sell it to voters?

Joining me now CNN senior political commentator, David Axelrod. David, hello, good to see you.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hey, how are you, Don? Good to see you.

LEMON: So, listen, you know, there's been a lot of criticism as you know, over the president's ability to get things done, but when it, you know, when it all adds up, you have this new compromise bill that could be voted on as soon as next week. Plus, you have the infrastructure package, you have gun reform, COVID relief. We've talked about whether his way of governing was too outdated to work. But how does it look now to you?

AXELROD: Well, it looks good. He's quietly amassing quite a legislative record. You know, you left out the manufacturing the CHIPSs bill that was just passed that, you know, the China competitiveness bill, which is quite a significant bill.

So, he has a lot of accomplishments to herald here, assuming that this next bill gets passed. I mean, there are things that he has gotten done, the infrastructure bill, if he gets -- the gun bill, if he gets this bill passed, negotiating Medicare pharmaceutical prices, these are things that Democrats have been talking about for decades. And he was able to get it done.

So yes, he has a real body of work here that Democrats can run on in November. Now, you know, whether it obviates some of the headwinds that are being created by the economy is questioned. But without -- without question, Joe Biden has amassed a really strong legislative record here.

LEMON: The question is, simple question is, well, why is that? Why isn't he able to -- maybe it's because he hasn't sold it properly, maybe it's the media's fault. I'm not sure. I don't -- I don't know. Maybe it's the combination because he's facing this dismal approval rating.

A huge part of the part -- a huge part of the party in a new CNN poll would rather someone else to run. Is that because they haven't been able to sell these successes to the American people? Is it because he's not like the former president in every, you know, even it's like, hey, I stump my toe today and it's out on Twitter? You know what I mean?

AXELROD: Yes. And honestly, one of the reasons he was elected was because he was not like that. Look, I think it's a combination of things. One, as I mentioned the economic conditions, particularly as it relates to inflation, is significant. And that's creating a lot of headwinds for him.

I think also mistakes were made at the beginning of the administration by touting the potential for more than they were likely to get. It's better to under promise and overdeliver than overpromise and underdeliver --


LEMON: Like I said he would be transformative. And that, if you don't -- if you go anything less than that, then you are going to -- you are going to face the criticism.

AXELROD: And the -- and the result of that is that despite the fact that he's passing really -- I don't think it's too much to say historic legislation, certainly the infrastructure bill was this the negotiating for Medicare prices. This bill that they're going to pass is also financed by closing some corporate tax loopholes that have been on the target list for Democrats for decades, as well.

But they all seemed smaller because of all that chatter at the beginning, the new FDR, we're going to remake this social compact, and so on, which was never realistic, when you have a 50-50 Senate and a nearly 50-50 House.

So, in that sense, I think the administration did itself a disservice. And then there's the issue of Biden himself, who I think is very skilled and obviously knowledgeable after 36 years in the United States Senate about how to get deals done. But he isn't -- he isn't as great in front of the camera as perhaps he once was and perhaps as some others have been.

But it may be that that modesty has been one of the elements of being able to get the deal done. I mean, I was the one who said back -- back a few when the build back better thing fell apart, I wrote a piece for The New York Times saying hold on to your hats, this thing is not over. There's still potential to get something done, and here in the 11th hour, it appears that he's going to do that.

LEMON: It's just done -- and even he admits that it's not everything they wanted. Right? It's a lot less, but still there is something done here. It's interesting, because this -- the Democrats get criticized a lot for not being able to play politics, so to speak, as well as the Republicans have.


But Senate Republicans are furious, because they say that they went along with the newly passed CHIPS bill thinking Democrats would not put forward an economic bill. I mean, the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell was essentially played here. Did he finally get a taste of his own medicine, David?

AXELROD: Well, he certainly seems to be outmaneuvered here. Like, he was the one who insisted that they wouldn't move forward without the other. I don't know what representations Senator Schumer made to him, but they obviously held this bill back until that one was passed.

As you point out, I mean, McConnell is a past master at these -- at these kinds of maneuvers. Just ask Justice Garland about that. So, you know, yes, I think that the Democrats have played this well. You know, while you say it isn't everything that they wanted, that's the nature of governing.

LEMON: Right.

AXELROD: You never get everything you want, but under these circumstances, I would have to say, if they get this bill, with all the other things they have accomplished, he's gotten quite a bit.

LEMON: Yes. The question, is how do you sell that with the economy and with gas prices and the supply chain and the supply chain.

AXELROD: Yes. No, it's a task.


AXELROD: It's a task.

LEMON: Let's -- I want to talk about another before I let you go. I know that Democratic political gamble here. Nationals Democrats are pouring money into a Michigan House race in a bid to prop up really the MAGA Republican John Gibbs. Gibbs is running against Peter Meijer.

He's a Republican who voted for Trump's second impeachment. Right? So he's on the right side of history here. Democrats want Gibbs to win the primary so that they can beat him in the general. Do you really -- do you -- I don't know, what do you think of this? Do you not like it, do you like it, do you think it's a good strategy?

AXELROD: I don't -- I really don't like it, Don. And I understand the strategy, I understand the politics, same bean bag. You know, Democrats are trying to win seats in a very tough year. They think they can grab this one.

But if you hold yourself out as the party that is pro-democracy, and you have someone in Meijer who knowingly voted to impeach the president, knowing that he would put his political, his young political career in jeopardy as he has, knowing that he would incur the wrath of Trump, but he did it anyway because he thought it was his responsibility as a former military guy too, I think that probably had something to do with his thinking on this, having taken that oath.

But I just don't think it is becoming for the party that is fighting for democracy. I mean, you said earlier, what are you going to do about it when it comes to standing up for democracy? Well, he did something about it.

Now, if Democrats want -- if he's the nominee and Democrats have a candidate who is also pro-democracy but they agree with a lot of other issues, then go ahead and vote for that candidate. But let me just ask you this, Don, if Liz Cheney were in a swing district, I mean, everyone is lionizing her and I think deservedly so for what she's done.

If she were in a swing district under this principle, Democrats would be trying to lift up her pro-Trump opponent, her election denying opponent because they would say that opponent would be easier to defeat. Would that feel comfortable to you? It wouldn't feel comfortable to me. And this is no different than that.


AXELROD: So, yes, I'm not happy with what they're doing here.

LEMON: Yes. Especially considering what Liz Cheney has done for democracy and standing up for what is right.

AXELROD: Yes. Well, as Peter Meijer, you know.

LEMON: As it comes to January 6.

AXELROD: Yes, yes.

LEMON: And the antics of the former president. I always look at that and I say, Peter, I want to say major.

AXELROD: Yes, I know.


LEMON: But it's Meijer. It's (Inaudible).

AXELROD: But I live in Michigan part time, so everybody knows Meijer because it's a grocery store chain.

LEMON: Yes. Meijer is grocery store. Thank you, sir.


LEMON: Always a pleasure. I appreciate it.

AXELROD: All right. Thanks, Don.

LEMON: OK. So, this next story, yes, just you're going to want to watch. So, it's town in North Carolina. It's got the nickname friendly Kenly, right? But after the entire police department resigned following the hiring of a black town manager, some are questioning just how friendly it really is. Our reporters are on the ground there. We're going to take you there, next.



LEMON: OK, sit and watch this story. Tonight, the big problem in a small town in North Carolina. The whole police department quitting. Officers citing a stressful and hostile work environment. Although without proving examples here or providing examples here.

The mass resignation coming less than two months after a black woman was hired as town manager. All of the officers are white. Now a small community is trying to figure out what is going on.

Here's CNN's Dianne Gallagher. Watch.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A tiny town with big problems, and whispers that friendly Kenly, North Carolina, may not be living up to its nickname after the entire police department abruptly resigned, with the chief placing the blame on the new town manager.

UNKNOWN: They're not just town police, they are family.

GALLAGHER: Leaving some in the tight-knit community of roughly 1,500 concerned about safety.

UNKNOWN: We're worried about what the future holds for the town.

GALLAGHER: Others speculate there may be something more behind the police retreat.

UNKNOWN: This seemed more about power.

UNKNOWN: I feel like it's a race issue altogether.

GALLAGHER: The new town manager, Justine Jones, is black, the entire police department is white.

BRITTNEY HINNANT, KENLY RESIDENT: I don't think they support black people. I feel like they, you know, harass us a lot. I feel like they don't want a black woman over top of them. You know, basically managing them or telling them what to do.


JOY WRIGHT, KENLY BUSINESS OWNER: I think there's too much jumping to conclusions. We really don't know what's going on.

GALLAGHER: The town council held and emergency closed-door meeting Friday and released a statement this week. Saying in part, the prudent course of action is to find out what happened and not make any rash decisions. In a place like Kenly, two square miles where everybody knows your name and your business, mystery is unusual.

WRIGHT: It's just weird and for us to not have any information as to what to expect, are we going to have police? Are we going to have a town manager? GALLAGHER: CNN has obtained eight resignation letters in total. The

long-time chief of police, Josh Gibson, four full-time officers, one part-time officer, and two town clerks. The letters are similar in language and most cite stress and a hostile work environment. But the letters are short on details. No information about specific causes of stress or examples of what they call a hostile work environment.

The letters also do not point fingers at the new town manager, who has been on the job less than two months. But Gibson, the longest serving chief in town history, does in a Facebook post that has been made private and in an exclusive interview with Fox News.

JOSH GIBSON, KENLY CHIEF OF POLICE: She wrote me up for going to business and talking with businesses. She wrote me up for talking with council members that I've known for 20 years. Then she wants me to --


LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, FOX NEWS: So, she was targeting you, Josh? Josh, so you think, I'm looking --

GIBSON: Yes, ma'am.

GALLAGHER: CNN has not viewed Gibson's records and the town would not provide supporting documents when requested this week. Jones started as town manager on June 2. The town announced her hiring approved unanimously by the council, noting her 16 years experience working in, quote, "progressively responsible positions with local governments in several other states."

Now Jones told CNN that since this is a personnel matter, she can't comment on the police resignations. The town attorney tells us that he will oversee an investigation conducted by an outside firm starting next week, which is when the resignations take effect.

The Johnston County Sheriff's Office, which already serves Kenly will increase its presence in the town, since the police department will effectively be gone.


GALLAGHER: And so, according to the town's web site for the police part, there should be staffing that still includes two part-time police officers, Don. But I spoke with the town attorney. He tells me that, as far as he's aware, there simply are no more officers, once those resignations take effect next week.

I also reached to, or attempted to reach out to those who were involved in this situation. The attorney for chief Josh Gibson tells me that he will work on trying to get an interview, but noted that the chief is stepping back from interviews for a bit, because of the immense amount of stress that the situation is causing his family.

LEMON: Dianne, great reporting. I want you to stand by, because I want to discuss this more. I want to bring in now CNN legal analyst Areva Martin, who is a civil rights attorney. Good evening to you. Listen, Areva, I don't know for sure, I'm not

there, but it's one of those things that make you go -- right, situations. Right? The independent investigation starts next week. Do you think that they will really be able to get at what happened or is this going to be a he said, she said town gossip situation? What's up?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Don, we know if it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it's probably a duck. The fact that all eight of these individuals resigned at or about the same time, the fact that they all used similar language in their resignation letters, all of that is highly suspicious.

Look, I'm a civil rights attorney, I've been involved in lots of cases involving claims of hostile work environment and stressful situations. Rarely do you see someone with 21 years on the job resign, stating a hostile or toxic work environment because someone new has come into a job and has been there less than two months.

Typically, when you see claims of hostile work environment someone is talking about having worked in an environment for many, many months, if not many, many years. So, this is a highly suspicious act or actions by these individuals, and let's be clear, Don. What the chief said is that if the town gets rid of the new African American city manager, he'll return.

So, it seems like a big power play, and obviously, we cannot ignore the issue of race and the potential that that is also driving these resignations.

LEMON: It's interesting, because she hasn't been on the job for that long, and usually, if you're going to claim hostile work environment, you have to bring receipts over a period of time.

So, Dianne, the chief's last day is Tuesday of next week. What is the end game here? Is it a lawsuit? I mean, he did tell our affiliate WRAL that he would consider returning, as Areva just said, if Jones was dismissed.


GALLAGHER: Yes, so Don, I'm going to give you the kind of same answer that you don't want to hear neither does anybody in this town, we don't know. And I think they're very tired of hearing that at this point.

But look, his last day is on Tuesday. And so, he's free to do what he wants, it's his prerogative. We should say that hostile workplace allegations are serious, they should be investigated, and they are being investigated.

The town has said, though, that this independent investigation, where they're bringing in an outside firm that has no connection to anyone in the town of Kenly, to look into it, it's how they will determine how to go forward, what that means for the officers and the two town clerks who have resigned and what that potentially could mean for the town manager. And they did say it was very important to them to have this sort of

independent investigation, because of discussions of potential bias the town council hired the manager. Look, the chief has been the chief here and worked here for nearly two decades. So, there's obviously a lot of close relationships here, and there's a lot of talk here in Kenly, as well. Everybody has their feelings right now, because there is an absence of facts and real information, people are filling it in with rumors.

LEMON: Dianne, we can see you just fine with the hoodie on. Like put it on, we know it's raining. We don't want to get wet, so you're totally fine. We can see. Don't even worry about it.

Areva, let's talk about it. Is there any legal recourse here for the town and the town manager?

A. MARTIN: Well, the -- they can't prevent people from resigning. But obviously, if the employees that have resigned move forward with some of lawsuit, again, trying to suggest that they were -- or claiming that they were subjected to some kind of unusually severe actions on the part of this town manager, I think they're going to have an uphill battle as it relates to employment discrimination, lawsuit.

There's not been, based on what we know to date, Don, any kind of severe and pervasive conduct that would give rise to a viable cause of action or causes of actions for these individuals. But clearly, if the investigation shows that this town manager acted in some kind of way that was punitive or some kind of way that was inconsistent with the employment contract that she has with the city, there may be some consequences that she faces. She may be disciplined. She might be put on some kind of suspension.

But again, given the brief period of time that she has been on the job, it's pretty difficult to, you know, come up with any kind of evidence that would be compelling to suggest that she has done something outrageous in this job. Again, if it's there, this investigation should uncover it.

LEMON: Yes. We'll continue to follow it. Thank you, Areva. Thank you, Dianne. I appreciate it, especially since it's raining and you're standing there for us. I really appreciate it. We'll see you both soon. I appreciate it.

MARTIN: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: So new numbers fueling fears about a recession, but many Americans feel like we're already in one. What can you do to protect yourself from a shrinking economy? We'll talk about it, next.



LEMON: This is a question that is in everyone is like, are we in a recession, are we not in a recession? Does it matter if it's technically a recession, especially if you feel -- I mean, that's what we're talking about.

Fears of the "r" word fueled tonight by the latest economic data, GDP contracting for a second straight quarter. President Biden dismissing those fears today touting a strong jobs market and consumer spending, but a whole lot of Americans are worried about how they are going to put food on the table and gas in the tank.


UNKNOWN: I'm used to spending like, maybe $50 a week in gas. I mean, I just spent like, over 120, $130 a week in gas.

UNKNOWN: These I normally pay $2 at the most, maybe $3 something a bag, $5.50, I believe.

UNKNOWN: You got to make a decision whether or not you're going to pay your rent or go buy some food.

UNKNOWN: I don't like I have any confidence when the prices are going to go down. So, it's been -- it's been a little frustrating.


LEMON: So, let's bring in now CNN economics commentator, Catherine Rampell. Catherine, hi, how are you?


LEMON: I have so many questions for you. I have so many questions for you.


LEMON: Because I think the Fed is trying to -- it might shrink growth, which is GDP, to cool down an overheated economy. So, it's like we're in this weird place. But anyway, you can respond to that. But Biden's -- Biden officials aren't officially call thing a recession. Although the common definition of contracted GDP growth, two consecutive quarters. So, how do you see what's going on?

RAMPELL: Actually, that's a misconception. That two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth means a recession.


RAMPELL: In the United States, at the very least, a recession is determined by a special independent committee of academic economists who basically look at a broader set of economic metrics. So, they do look at GDP but they also look at job growth, consumer spending, incomes, manufacturing, industrial production, that sort of thing.

And their goal, their job essentially is to say when overall those numbers seem to be turning negative, when there seems to be a broad- based contraction in economic activity, that is when a recession is happening. And the numbers that we're seeing in this economy right now are actually mixed -- (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Wait, wait, say that again, say that again, say that last part again about when a recession is happening.

RAMPELL: So, it's when there's a broad-based contraction in the economy, as measured by a whole bunch of different data points.


RAMPELL: And right now, the economy is sending really mixed signals. So there are some numbers that look bad, GDP growth being one of them. But there are some numbers that look really good, job growth being one of them.

LEMON: Right.

RAMPELL: And so, it's really hard to sort through all of that noise and figure out what's going on right now.



RAMPELL: I think probably right now, when this committee meets, and they usually do it long after a business cycle has turned, I think most likely they will not say that this particular moment represents a recession. But the risk of recession in the year ahead have in fact risen for a whole bunch of reasons.

LEMON: OK. Got you. So, but, listen here, regardless of what the White House thinks, whatever experts think whether we're in a recession or not, we heard those everyday Americans speak, right, before I introduce you. They are hurting.


LEMON: Is there anything that can be done to reduce the impact of a possible recession on every day Americans?

RAMPELL: So, yes. Whether or not we meet this sort of pedantic definition of a recession at some -- at some level is a little bit irrelevant. People are suffering. They are worried about their finances, et cetera.

You know, the goal of the Fed is to try to cool down demand just enough to get price pressures down but not to tip us into a recession. And that's a really, really challenging task.

Historically, when they have raised rates to get demand to slow, they have accidentally killed the economy. They don't want to do that.

There are some things that the president that Congress can do to make the Fed's job a little bit easier. There's not a lot, but there are a few things that they can do. For example, they could repeal the Trump tariffs. That would have a modest effect on prices. They could get rid of some of the bottlenecks in the legal immigration system, which seem to be contributing to labor shortages right now. They could suspend some of the restrictions on maritime shipping that makes shipping of products like oil more expensive.

So, there are some things that lawmakers, the president could do to take some of that pressure off the Fed, but ultimately, interest rate hikes are unfortunately the most powerful tool available to get inflation down. And they come with this risk.

LEMON: And that's what happened. All right. Catherine, I've got to run. Thank you very much. We -- I appreciate you helping us out with this, thanks.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

LEMON: So, it is a bill that could help save lives and ease the suffering of military veterans who are exposed to toxic burn pits, but Republicans are holding it up. Jon Stewart is not happy about it.


JON STEWART, COMEDIAN, VETERANS ADVOCATE: If this is America first, then America is (muted).




LEMON: Comedian turned activist, Jon Stewart joining with veterans and some Democrats on Capitol Hill today, angrily calling out Senate Republicans for blocking a multi-billion-dollar bill aimed at helping millions of veterans who are suffering from ailments after toxic exposure from burn pits during their military service.

Now, as you're about to hear, he's got some really strong feelings. And he uses some strong language.


STEWART: Isn't this a bitch?


STEWART: Isn't this a bitch? America's heroes who fought in our wars, outside, sweating their assess off, with oxygen. Battling all kinds of ailments while these (muted) sit in the air conditioning, walled off from any of it.


LEMON: So, an earlier version of the bill passed overwhelmingly last month but Republicans now blocking it due to procedural issues. Both Democrats and Republicans say that they expect to work through their disagreements and eventually get the bill passed. But you have to admire that Jon Stewart is standing up for veterans.

We'll continue to follow. We'll tell you what happens.

So, just in tonight, more missing text messages in the days leading up to January 6th, and maybe the most dangerous part they're saying it's all part of a reset of government phones. Sound familiar?