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Don Lemon Tonight

Trump Lawyers In Talks With DOJ About January 6 Criminal Probe; WNBA Star Brittney Griner Sentenced To Nine Years In Russian Jail; Far-Right Hungarian PM Welcomed At Conservative Event In Dallas; Biden Administration Declares Monkeypox A Public Health Emergency; CNN Heroes: Raising An Autistic Son Taught A Mom Lessons That She Used To Help Thousands Of Underserved Families. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 04, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: CNN exclusive reporting tonight the Trump legal team engaging in direct communication with the Department of Justice about the January 6 criminal investigation.

The news comes after we have learned the Justice Department is getting ready for court battles with Trump officials who might try to keep their conversations with the former president out of reach of investigators.

Joining me now to discuss, Kim Wehle. She's a visiting professor of law at American University and the author of the upcoming book "How to Think Like a Lawyer," as well as CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and CNN counterterrorism analyst and former FBI senior intelligence adviser Philip Mudd. Good evening, one and all. Thanks so much.

Kim, let's see, you, let's begin with you. Okay, so, let's start with your reaction to this new reporting, first off.

KIM WEHLE, AUTHOR, VISITING PROFESSOR OF LAW AT AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, Don, I'm not really that surprised. I think Merrick Garland has made clear in speeches that he is going to follow the facts and the law as far as they take them regardless of who is involved, and he sort of nodded potentially to Donald Trump.

And the January 6 Committee hearings in a very small segment of the evidence have sort of knocked it out of the park in terms of Donald Trump's involvement and what has already been, you know, alleged as and people think convicted for serious federal crimes.

So, the fact that his lawyers are talking to the DOJ is not a big surprise. I'm expecting indictments, frankly. The idea that this is about executive privileges isn't particularly persuasive because that is controlled by Joe Biden, not Donald Trump. Donald Trump lost, even with the conservative Supreme Court, in trying to push executive privilege claims. And in the Nixon case, the court held unanimously that when it comes to grand jury investigations, executive privilege has to fall in favor of getting to the truth.

LEMON: Yeah. Ron, Pat Cipollone and his deputy, Patrick Philbin, both subpoenaed this week. Is this all about keeping the innermost circle from divulging details? What kinds of things could they tell?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, we got an idea from the January 6th testimony and even the statements that we saw. And the -- even with the limits that Pat Cipollone put on, clearly, he is in the middle of a very relevant and very potentially damaging conversations for the former president.

Don, just to take it slightly broader, I am really struck that we are getting this information right as the confirmation is coming that Kari Lake won the nomination for the Arizona governorship. That means that Republicans in Arizona, all four of their top choices, governor, attorney general, secretary of state, U.S. senator, election deniers. Michigan now, all of their top nominees, governor, secretary of state, attorney general, election deniers. Pennsylvania, the governor. Nevada.

It's very important what happens to Trump but it is also very significant that this has moved way beyond Trump and has metastasized in the party that it become a much broader and ongoing threat to democracy, whatever the Justice Department does with it.


LEMON: Why are you shaking your head, Phil?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, FORMER FBI SENIOR INTELLIGENCE ADVISER: I'm agreeing with Ron. I mean, I would never disagree with him. But I think the focus here is on the tactical issue of whether the former president and his advisers are indicted. I think the broader issue which is being lost because it is sort of complicated to follow is whether we end up in an election cycle where various people in critical states, it's not just some states, it's swing states, start to say, we don't accept the results, and therefore, this election is invalid.

I think the Trump issue is one story. I don't think -- I think the story has been overplayed so far, to be blunt. I think the bigger story is what is happening with election deniers in critical places in swing states, Don.

LEMON: What do you mean it has been overplayed? Explain that to me.

MUDD: Let me give you one or two --

LEMON: What part of the story has been overplayed?

MUDD: Well, for example, whether the president gets indicted, the former President Trump. The question is not whether he did something wrong. Let me give you one angle. If you want to say that the former president interferes with the Senate as they decided what to do with the election, you can say that his actions were inappropriate.

Give me a fact, Don, did he tell people to go to the Capitol and commit an act of violence? That is what the Department of Justice has to deal with, not with the media and the popular perception that the former president did something wrong. He did. That is not the legal question, Don.

LEMON: Okay. I just wanted you to explain that. Let me ask you this because you mentioned the president's advisers, because I had Kara Scannell on earlier, she is part of the team that had this exclusive reporting. Sources are telling CNN that Trump is asking his closest advisers and allies about whether he will be indicted. Does it sound like he is worried, though, Phil?

MUDD: Oh, absolutely. I would be worried if I were him. But there is a difference between being worried and being indicted. When I looked at the information over the past 24 hours, one of the questions, the question that is uppermost in people's minds, I think, in America would be, does this indicate that the president will be indicted?

That was not the question I had. The question I would have is, for example, if the president had a conversation with Rudy Giuliani about the election, Rudy Giuliani is already, obviously, in a lot of legal trouble, is that conversation with Rudy Giuliani covered? Is that conversation privilege?

That doesn't necessarily say yet, because I'm cautious on this, Don, that doesn't say yet that President Trump is going to be indicted. Two very different questions.

LEMON: Okay. So, listen, Kim, did you hear the former attorney general, Eric Holder, saying the opposite of what Phil is saying?

WEHLE: Yeah. I have a slightly different point of view in that. I think actually -- and I've written about this for "Politico," having studied it from a constitutional standpoint. I do think indicting Donald Trump is critical to preservation of democracy because all the other guardrails for ensuring that future presidents don't use the massive powers of their office to willy-nilly commit crimes and install themselves as dictators have fallen. So, that is important.

But I completely agree, and I have written about this as well, a book on voting on this (ph), that the cancer has spread throughout in the bowels of the electoral system and particularly given the Supreme Court and how it has granted (INAUDIBLE) in a case that could essentially hand future elections to gerrymandered, Republican legislatures, cutting everybody else including state constitutions out of the process.

This is much, much more serious than it was even on January 6. Both of these issues are very serious. I don't think one will address the other. But I do believe that an indictment of Donald Trump is critical to protection of democracy, and I think educating the public to the possibility of that is important for the Justice Department to be able to execute that because it is unthinkable to do that up until what happened on January 6. LEMON: Go ahead, Ron, jump in. I know you want to --

BROWNSTEIN: You know, one way to think about it would be that in terms of protecting democracy, indicting Trump, should they find the evidence, is necessary but not sufficient.

Obviously, it is critical to show that there are consequences for the kind of broad-reaching scheme that -- the January 6 Committee has done an incredible job of laying out. It goes far beyond the issue of whether or not he incited violence on that day, but sort of the multi- long (ph) effort to subvert the election result.

But that is -- you know, the challenge goes way beyond that. I thought Liz Cheney, in the interview that you played in the last hour, really laid this out in a way that almost no -- I think literally no other Republican has done when she said explicitly voters, including Republican voters, should not vote for election deniers --

LEMON: Uh-hmm.

BROWNSTEIN: -- should not vote for people -- that is something we have -- at least, I have not heard anyone say that inside the republican coalition as explicitly as she did.


And this is going to be on the ballot in a lot of places, as we said, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Minnesota. It's not trivial. There are a number of states where Republicans have nominated candidates who have not only looking back and saying Joe Biden didn't win, but are proposing policies that will tilt the playing field in the future to make it less likely that Democrats could win in their states.

And so, this is a real, you know, ongoing challenge. And while it may be necessary, as I said, to set a clear example of consequences with Donald Trump, no one should have any allusion that that is the end of the challenge that we face in terms of safeguarding the democracy that we have known throughout our history.

LEMON: Listen, you mentioned Liz Cheney. I want to play more. This is Kasie Hunt's interview with Liz Cheney more when she's talking about the decision the DOJ is facing. Listen.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The question for us is, are we a nation of laws? Are we a country where no one is above the law? What do the facts and the evidence show? And certainly, I've been very clear, I think he is guilty of the most serious dereliction of duty of any president in our nation's history. You had a federal judge in California say that it is more likely than not that he and John Eastman committed to crimes.

So, you know, I think that we're going to continue to follow the facts. I think the Department of Justice will do that, but they have to make decisions about prosecution. Understanding what it means if the facts and the evidence are there and they decide not to prosecute, how do we then call ourselves a nation of laws? I think that is a very serious balancing.


LEMON: Kim, she is being really, really clear, and I think the rest of the January 6 Committee is on the same page. There has been a lot of back and forth about what they expect from the DOJ.

WEHLE: Yeah, I agree completely with what Liz Cheney said, and I agree that people have to go to the ballot box in November and vote for people with integrity. In this moment, that happens to be primarily Democrats with a few old-school Republicans that still care about the Constitution and the rule of law.

Merrick Garland has so much on his shoulders, tremendous pressure from both sides, the left is pushing him for a long time for not doing anything, the right is attacking even the idea of indicting a sitting president or a former president.

But I do think that, you know, he will take it as far as it needs to go, and then the question will be, how will the American public respond to it?

I've been watching history channel about Abraham Lincoln. We have seen this moment in the past, in a different fashion, of course, but this really is a moment in American history where democracy itself, our way of life, our liberties, our freedoms, our abilities to choose our own government, to not have bullies that are there through strong-arm tactics decide the freedoms for ourselves and our children.

That is this moment, and I just hope, and I agree with Liz Cheney, I hope we all can rise to the occasion and save it for our future.

LEMON: Phil, I want to play this for you, and I will get you to respond to all of it because I know you want to jump in here. I was looking at this, looking down at my notes, trying to find the information. I want to play what Eric Holder said and to continue our discussion. Here it is. Watch.


ERIC HOLDER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL (voice-over): My guess is that by the end of this process, you're going to see indictments involving high-level people in the White House, you're going to see indictments against people outside the White House who were advising them with regard to the attempt to steal the election, and I think ultimately you're probably going to see the president, former president of the United States indicted as well.


LEMON: That is an interview in SiriusXM with Joe Madison, who is a frequent guest on the show, but go on, Phil. MUDD: Boy, this makes me extremely uncomfortable. I could not disagree with Liz Cheney more. I'm not saying whether she is right or wrong about the former president, but I do not like Democrats or Republicans telling judges and the Department of Justice whom they should prosecute.

President Trump and his advisers, including Michael Flynn, said, lock her up. Should the Department of Justice had pursued that -- I'm not saying the cases are equivalent. I'm saying I do not like the blind justice being altered by a political leader.

Let me give you one final tactical view on this, Don, and that is that if the Department of Justice, Merrick Garland, the attorney general, pursues this now, what's Donald Trump going to say? This is a political game pursued by my opponents, the deep state, including Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney to go after me. The more --

LEMON: He's going to say that regardless. He's going to say that regardless, though, Phil. I take your point, but he's going to say that regardless --

MUDD: Yeah, but don't give him ammo. Don't give him ammo. It makes it look like politics --

LEMON: I think if you don't indict him, that is ammo as well. I think -- look, if you don't indict him --

MUDD: Yes, of course, it is.

LEMON: I'm not saying you should or shouldn't. What I'm saying is that Donald Trump will take whatever happens, and he will twist it in his favor.


Am I wrong with that?

MUDD: Don't give him ammo.

LEMON: Ron, I will give you the final word.

BROWNSTEIN: Real quick. If we're really talking about a two-front struggle to preserve American democracy, one in the legal arena and these decisions that the Justice Department face, the other in the political arena as you have all these candidates trying to tilt the playing field and advanced Trump's misdirection and lies about 2020, one person really on the spot, Doug Ducey, the governor of Arizona who has defended and certified that election.

He now has an entire slate of Republican nominees who are saying he was either wrong or naive or is lying. And is he going to go out and basically say, let's give them the power to control the next election? I think the standard Liz Cheney has set really puts a spotlight on what Doug Ducey does in the next few days and weeks.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, all. I appreciate it. Phil, do you want to say something? You look like you're mad.

MUDD: I'm done, Don. I'm finished.


MUDD: Thank you.


LEMON: You're not old enough for this. Remember this (INAUDIBLE).

MUDD: I'm waiting for the Twitter trolls to come after me. Bring it on, let's go!

LEMON: Really, don't even waste your time on that. Bye-bye. (INAUDIBLE).

BROWNSTEIN: All right. That's SNL --

WEHLE: Bye, Don.

LEMON: -- in 80s or 90s or whatever. Thank you, guys. I appreciate it.

Brittney Griner's nightmare just got even worse now. The NBA star sentenced today to nine years in a Russian penal colony. Can the U.S. still make a deal to get her out?


BRITTNEY GRINER, WNBA STAR: I want to say again that I had no intent on breaking any Russian laws. I had no intent. I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime.





LEMON: Tonight, 42 seconds of silence for Brittney Griner at the Phoenix Mercury game. The WNBA star who wears number 42 was found guilty today of drug smuggling with criminal intent by a Russian court. Griner's legal team says they will appeal the nine-year sentence.

President Biden is calling the ruling unacceptable, but it is unclear if it will reignite prisoner swap talks.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen has the latest.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Brittney Griner's legal team says she was extremely shaken after a Russian court sentenced her to nine years in jail on drug charges, saying only this to our camera as she was led out of the courtroom.

UNKNOWN: Brittney, how do you feel?


PLEITGEN (voice-over): This after Griner had made an emotional appeal to the court, holding up a photo of the team she pays for in Russia, at times breaking out in tears.

GRINER: I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city of Ekat for my mistakes that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist had pleaded guilty to the charges, but said she did not intend to bring vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil to Russia where she was detained at a Moscow airport in February.

GRINER: I never meant to hurt anybody. I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population. I never meant to break any laws here. I made an honest mistake, and I hope that in your ruling, that it doesn't end my life here.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But that did not move the judge who ruled that Griner acted with criminal intent. The nine-year sentence to be served in a penal colony, tough detention and labor facilities often far away from the Russian capital.

Brittney Griner's lawyer clearly angry and disappointed and vowing to fight on.

MARIA BLAGOVOLINA, BRITTNEY GRINER'S RUSSIAN COUNSEL (through translator): We think the verdict was totally out of order. It does not correspond to what's happening and what happened. And it is totally going against the actual part of the Russian penal code.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Both the White House and the State Department condemned the verdict and the long jail sentence. The U.S. lists Brittney Griner as being wrongfully detained and says it has put what it calls a substantial offer on the table to bring both Brittney Griner and former marine Paul Whelan, who is currently serving a 16- year-jail sentence in Russia, home.

The charge d'affaires of the U.S. Embassy was inside the courtroom near Moscow and said the United States will continue to fight for Brittney Griner.

ELIZABETH ROOD, U.S. EMBASSY CHARGE D'AFFAIRES: The national security team and the entire American government remain committed to bringing Miss Griner home safely to her family, friends, and loved ones.

PLEITGEN (on camera): And Don, I spoke to Brittney Griner's lawyers after the verdict came down, and they certainly were extremely disappointed. They say they believe that none of the points that they've made really were taken into consideration by the court at all. Now, they have 10 days to file an appeal against this verdict, and they say that is exactly what they are going to do.

At the same time, of course, one of the things the defense team has always said is they said that they believe that a verdict and sentencing needed to be in place for a prisoner swap to happen, and they say they hope that that can happen very soon, Don.


LEMON: All right. Frederik Pleitgen, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

I want to 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, also helped to free Michael White and Amir Hekmati for Iran -- from Iran, I should say.

Jonathan, I appreciate you joining us. Man, wow, I mean, nine years in a penal colony. Her attorney said the average time in jail for this type of crime is five years.


But you expected her to get those nine years. Good evening and welcome, by the way. You did, did you?

JONATHAN FRANKS, CONSULTANT ON TREVOR REED'S RELEASE FROM RUSSIA: Good evening and thanks for having me back, Don. Yeah, I actually got to listen to the proceeding because it was livestreamed and translated with my phone. It did -- I understand why her attorney believe that their arguments weren't taken to account.

I actually think that they made some great arguments about the legality of the search and also, you know, in mitigation. This is effectively, you know, the cannabis equivalent of a cigarette butt. They've made her out to be Pablo Escobar. It's not fair to her. The way that they paraded her is just outrageous.

LEMON: She is going to serve out her sentence, as I said, in a penal colony. What would she be facing? What's that going to be like?

FRANKS: Depends on where she is taken and whether she has taken anywhere at all. She is famous and you never know what they are going to do. They seem to sort of make it up as they go along. I think, certainly, the condition in the penal colony will be harsher than they are in pre-detention.

LEMON: Yeah. The U.S. is currently trying to negotiate this prisoner swap with Russia, right? The deal on the table is to give Russia back the convicted arms dealer for Brittney Griner and another American currently being held, Paul Whelan. Do you think this is still on the table right now?

FRANKS: Absolutely. Getting Viktor Bout back has been a national priority of Russia since at least 2016. They actually sent officials over here who went to -- visited him and then left, you know, remarked that perhaps he would be one day traded for an American prisoner. So, they put a lot of time and effort into getting Viktor Bout back.

You know, I'm not convinced that they don't want him. I have a feeling that they are going to come around.

LEMON: Are you concerned at all, Jonathan, that Russia is using Griner as a political pawn considering their current war with Ukraine?

FRANKS: Yeah, I am. And I think part of it is that they are looking for leverage in these prisoner trade negotiations which were at the time of her arrest going nowhere at best.

So, I've often wondered if it was to leverage that. She was clearly targeted in the airport. They know who she is. And they figured she would help -- you know, taking her would help advance their objectives somehow. It's quite transparent.

LEMON: Jonathan, do you have any advice? Is there any advice or anything you would want to say to Brittney Griner's family if they are listening?

FRANKS: I would say to them, hang on, it's going to be okay. We can't ever tell families when it's going to be okay or how it's going to be okay, but there are good odds of it being okay, right?

I have sat in many living rooms with a lot of families in these times of crisis and it's heartbreaking. And, you know, you just kind of have to sit there and try very hard not to cry with them.

LEMON: Yeah. Jonathan Franks, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

FRANKS: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: A right-wing leader getting huge applause from the crowd at CPAC in Dallas. That leader? The prime minister of Hungary, and what he said may shock you, next.




LEMON: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban giving one of the opening speeches at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC in Dallas. The far-right, anti-immigration populist often compared to Trump slamming those he considers the -- quote -- "enemies of freedom." Watch.


VIKTOR ORBAN, PRIME MINISTER OF HUNGARY: Progressive liberals did not want me to be here because they knew what I will tell you, because I am here to tell you that we should unite our forces, because we Hungarians know --


ORBAN: -- because we Hungarians know how to defeat the enemies of freedom on the political battlefield.


LEMON: I want to discuss now with CNN political commentators Charlie Dent and Scott Jennings. Hello. Scott, you are smiling. I'll find out. Let me play this, and then I will figure out -- I want to find out why you are laughing.

Just last month, I need to tell you that Orban gave a speech where he told a crowd that Europeans -- quote -- "do not want to become peoples of mixed race," which prompted his own longtime aide to quit and protest, calling it Nazi propaganda. So, the question is, why is he invited to CPAC? Scott Jennings?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDNET TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, first of all, I am smiling because I'm happy to see you. I'm happy to see my friend, Charlie. So, thanks for having me on and good to be with you both tonight.

Look, I -- the right has been infatuated with this guy over the last few years, I think, mostly over immigration. I mean, he has had a pretty hardline immigration stance. As you know, that was the motivating policy item for Donald Trump when he came on the scene. So, it strikes me that that is where -- that is where the infatuation with him started.

It is not unusual in this country, I will say, for political parties to become infatuated with foreign leaders. The left was infatuated with Fidel Castro there for a few years, not so long ago. So, it's not the first time that it has happened.


I tend to look inward for my inspiration in politics. I would love for CPAC to have a bunch of panels about inflation and how we should be using inflation in the elections this fall.

But they went down this road largely, I think, because to them, he represents someone who did what Trump did, which is take a hard line on immigration and not letting people into their country.

LEMON: Charlie, I want your respond to that, but I just want to play this because I want our viewers to hear as much as possible. This was Orban's biggest applause line of the day. Watch.


ORBAN: The Hungarian state institutions are obliged to protect the Christian country of Hungary. Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. (APPLAUSE)

ORBAN: Family ties -- family ties shall be based on the marriage or the relationship between parents and children. To sum up, the mother is a woman, the father is a man, and leave our kids alone. Full stop. End of discussion.


LEMON: Let's be honest, that kind of rhetoric that LGBTQ acceptance is somehow a threat to children is more than just a dog whistle.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA REPRESENTATIVE: Don, it is. And look, Viktor Orban is illiberal, populist, nativist. He is part of a transnational movement. You call it the alternative for Germany -- in Germany, Le Pen in France, UKIP in the U.K. when they were doing Brexit, Trumpism in America, the five-star movement in Italy.

There is democratic backsliding going on in Hungary. I can't understand why CPAC would give a platform to a man like this. Yes, he is doing all of the dog whistles on immigrants, on the LGBT community and others. I'm astounded that CPAC would have illiberal populist speaking there. They might want to just change their name from CPAC to ILPAC because this is really sick that they're going down this path. As Scott said, they should be talking about other issues.

By the way, CPAC, over the years, they would have a straw poll for president, and Ron or Rand Paul would always win. Of course, that is not reflective of the country or the Republican Party for that matter. But that is where these guys are.

I think it is time that conservative leaders, you know, turn their backs and de-platform people like these. Orban is another one of these guys who also plays footsie with Vladimur Putin. This guy is more like Erdogan in Turkey than he is like any other western leader. I am hoping that the European Union at some point sets some standards for democratic values among their members because Hungary is in a bad place.

And by the way, only on Tucker Carlson's show and only at CPAC is Hungary a place where they are talking about Hungarian exceptionalism. It's a country of 10 million people. It's pretty homogenous and relatively poor. I didn't know we were trying to be like them.

LEMON: Scott, you want to respond?

JENNINGS: Yeah. The clip you played, I thought it was interesting because just the other day in Congress, we had a vote on gay marriage, and obviously, quite a few Republicans in both the House and the Senate voted for gay marriage on the floor. So, what he said is actually not a uniformed position within the Republican Party.

During the Trump years, I think the Republican Party got far more liberal, if you will, on that particular question. There are people around Donald Trump who have expressed an openness to marriage equality.

So, I thought that him bringing that up and then getting the applause was interesting, if only, because I think in the last few years, Republicans have moved far closer to the middle of the country on this.

LEMON: That's what I was going to to ask you. Why on earth would he bring it up? Why would he get such an applause? I do have to say that after overturning Roe, Justice Clarence Thomas signaled other cases could be next like same-sex marriage.

So, the question is, why is the GOP even considering what Scott just said, Charlie? Why is the GOP seemed to be harping on this? It's not going to be a winning issue.

DENT: I think we have to understand the people attending CPAC are not representative of a lot of mainstream Republicans in this country. It is true that it seems that more and more Americans, myself included, certainly accept same-sex marriage, marriage equality. Many Republicans, as Scott mentioned, have voted to support same-sex marriage.

So, again, CPAC is -- it is often a freak show. I'll be honest with you. That is a freak show, quite often. You are going to have people standing up there who are to applaud people like Viktor Orban, but I don't think it is really representative of a lot of people outside of that room within the Republican Party.

LEMON: All right, gentlemen. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

The Biden administration declaring monkeypox a public health emergency. What that means for you, that is next.



LEMON: The Biden administration officially declaring the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency. The first case in the U.S. as identified in mid-May. Since then, more than 6,600 probable or confirmed cases have been detected all across the country.

Let's bring in now epidemiologist Dr. Larry Briliant. Doctor, thank you so much. Good to see you.


Important stuff that we are talking about here. Many thinking that those more than 6,600 cases are an undercount. How bad are things looking right now? How much worse could this get?

LARRY BRILLIANT, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Nice to see you, Don. Thank you for inviting me. Well, it is certainly an undercount because it has a very long incubation period, monkeypox. It is almost two weeks. So, the cases that you see now are a fraction of those that are coming down the line. But that's not why it's so bad, I think, Don. I think if you look at the 30,000 cases that we've had in the world, they've only been -- only about three deaths in that group. So, it has low case fatality rate. And for some, it's very mild.

But it is a cousin to smallpox, and you can't tell the difference between them on electron microscope. And many of the lesions are the same and they may have had a common ancestor.

And the worry, at least for me and many of my colleagues who work in the smallpox program, is that that if you give monkeypox viruses enough opportunities to mutate and replicate and change, we are worried, even though there's a small chance that that might happen. So, that's one of the biggest issues.

LEMON: The smallpox vaccine, because people of a certain age got that as a kid, does that offer some protection still?

BRILLIANT: It does. And again, smallpox it offers almost lifelong protection. I guess around monkeypox, probably about 85% protection. But we got a better vaccine than the Dryvax that we originally use in smallpox, but it's very limited quantities and it takes two doses.

So, one of the good things about this declaration from President Biden is it begins to open up our national reserve. And there's one more declaration that could yet come which would allow the FDA to fast- track a treatment for monkeypox which has already been approved in Europe, but has not approved in the United States except under extraordinary circumstances. So, these declarations matter.

LEMON: Well, let me ask you then, because the Biden administration has gotten a lot of criticism, right, for not moving fast enough to address this crisis. The White House is pushing back on it, saying that the current outbreak evolved rapidly and uniquely. What do you think? Is that a good excuse?

BRILLIANT: You're asking an epidemiologist. For me, they should have acted when there were 10 cases.


BRILLIANT: So, I always think that they're too slow.

LEMON: So, what should they be doing then to pick up the pace?

BRILLIANT: Well, they should be making these two different declarations. They should be opening up the stockpiles of vaccine. They should really be fast-tracking the treatment. And they should begin to embark on the same methods that we used in smallpox which was called a ring vaccination, surveillance and containment.

Find every case. Find the context. Vaccinate them. Make it available easily for people to get vaccinated. And I think we have to find a way to get it for only one dose because people just don't come back for the second dose. LEMON: Let me ask you this because President Biden's rebound COVID

diagnosis. He tested positive again on Saturday after taking a five- day course of Paxlovid for the first bout of COVID. He still continues to test positive. Can you explain to us why? And let me just say this, most of the people that I know in my personal life who has had Paxlovid got rebound COVID.



LEMON: You got rebound COVID from taking Paxlovid?

BRILLIANT: I did. I had to take -- it's not really a rebound and that is really where we get into more than just semantics. I believe that the Paxlovid dosing, which was a treatment over five days, was probably adequate against the very variant that they tested it during the trials which was the Delta variant. It is simply not adequate in many people's cases with this new BA.5. It is not just not. BA.5 is able to evade both the treatment and prior infection.

So, I'm hoping that as part of this renewed interest in all of the things epidemiological, we will see a trial and maybe it's a 10-day course that is better, but we will see.

LEMON: All right. Doctor, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

BRILLIANT: Don, it is always good to see you. Thank you so.

LEMON: We will be right back.




LEMON: One in 44 American children is believed to be on the autism spectrum. But studies have shown that Black and brown children on average are diagnosed later than white children and are less likely to access critical assistance due in part to racial bias and cultural stigma.

This week's CNN hero is working to change all that. Debra Vines struggled to get support and resources when her son, Jason, was diagnosed with autism. Now, her nonprofit provides families in underserved areas outside of Chicago with the support and services of community education they need to thrive.


DEBRA VINES, CNN HERO: Being a parent of a child with autism in the 80s and the 90s was very, very challenging. The support groups that I found, I was the only Black woman there. We had a color barrier, income barrier, equity barrier, period. It was all types of barriers.

Good morning.

(Voice-over): Everything that we provide is a blueprint of what I was missing as a parent. So, we have (INAUDIBLE) support group. Kids go to the classes. We are a family. And I am very adamant about educating community because people are afraid of what they don't understand.


We want to make sure that first responders are trained in how to deal with our children.

UNKNOWN: How long is your mama doing this kind of stuff?

VINES: Because he is smiling, it makes it a little bit easier. But what if you get a hold to somebody that is not smiling and they're running around and they're fighting themselves?

(Voice-over): Advocacy is a gift. I'm good at it, and it makes me feel so good.


LEMON: A hero. to see Debra's full story and find out more about her work, including how she is educating the police in her area, go to

Thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.