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Don Lemon Tonight
More Than 700 Pages Of Classified Documents Found At Mar-a- Lago; NY Special Election Is Getting Tighter; Prosecutor Dismissing Charges Against Atlanta Police Officers In Fatal Shooting Of Rayshard Brooks; Sheriff's Deputy Draws His Weapon And Tells Pregnant Woman To "Shut Up" During Traffic Stop; Teachers On Strike Ahead Of School Year; Schools Struggle To Hire Teachers Amid Growing Culture Wars. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired August 23, 2022 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Tonight, new details about the classified documents at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home. A letter from the National Archives revealing the former president had more than 700 pages, including some of the most sensitive information in this country, and that doesn't even include the documents from the FBI search two weeks ago.
We are also learning that the Archives told Trump's legal team back in May that they were so worried about the top-secret information in his possession that intelligence officials needed to do a damage assessment. Hard to believe a Trump ally actually released this letter.
I want to bring in now CNN's senior legal analyst Mr. Elie Honig and Carrie Cordero who is a former counsel to the U.S. assistant A.G. for national security. Good evening to both of you.
So, Elie, we now know that Trump had 700 pages of classified documents in his home. The information confirmed in this letter released by his own team, that is a lot of information. How damaging is this for team Trump?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, there are two parts of it. First of all, there is what Donald Trump and his people had in down in Mar-a-Lago. I mean, 700 pages is a heck of a lot of the highest level classified.
We're talking about, if you look at that pyramid, the top slice of that is top secret. They are at the very tippy top point of this with SCI, which is segmented, compartmented information, and with SAP, which is Special Access Program. So, the most classified of classified.
But really what this letter shows us is that Donald Trump and his team knew. They were told, you have classified documents. And even with that, still only gave over a portion and sort of forced Archives and later DOJ to fight it out.
LEMON: Carrie, I want to get your take on this because Trump says that this letter shows that the investigation is political because it mentions communications with the Biden White House, but doesn't it actually show a lot of the difference to Trump?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think the key part of this letter is whose documents are these. These documents are the property of the United States government. And so, the former president's claim to them simply isn't justified.
So, he had access to these documents when he was the president. He did not have authority for them to be transported to Mar-a-Lago. The government engaged with him for over a year trying to get them to be returned.
Some boxes were returned. But then, they obviously had information, based on interviews and other information that they gathered over the course of that year, and their dialogue with his team that they understood there to be more.
And so, these weren't his documents. And so eventually, they had to be able to obtain them. And the government had a responsibility to do a damage assessment to understand what the content was of them so that they could determine what the impact on national security would be by the fact that these documents had basically been unsecured for over a year.
LEMON: Elie, listen, Trump has been claiming that he has been so cooperative -- I'm looking at this -- so cooperative with investigators here, giving them whatever they want. Does this letter undermine that?
Because if you look at the letter, right, and all the information in there, and officials from (INAUDIBLE), a context from the team -- the Trump team after realizing that several important documents weren't handed over, and then it goes on from May of 2021 to the fall of 2021, the January of 2022, May of 2022, June of 2022, all of that.
So, he has been saying, I've been cooperating. People who have been -- you know, his supporters have been saying, well, we haven't seen any evidence that they have been asking for this information back or for these documents back. Doesn't just undermine all of that?
HONIG: I don't know how you --
LEMON: Big lie?
HONIG: -- can possibly define the word cooperative to meet what happened here. This has been going on -- Trump's team has been dragging this out since last year. The letter says, we were negotiating with you throughout 2021, until they finally started sending letters, and then subpoenas, and then a search warrant.
I mean, it is almost -- it is almost easy -- you can almost blame DOJ and the Archives for being too patient and too accommodating here. If Donald Trump was really being cooperative, the very easy way we would have known that, which is he would have turned over all the documents long ago. That has not happened. That really is not a sustainable timeline.
LEMON: Do you think, Carrie, we would've been in this position if they said, oh, listen, it was my mistake, we will send all the information back to the National Archives?
That never happened. Do you think we'd be in this position or he would be in this position now?
CORDERO: No, I think that would've been the end of it. Look, the Justice Department was not wanting, in my judgment, to have to execute a search and go to federal court and get authority to conduct a search of a former president's residence. That is not a position that this Justice Department wanted to be in.
And so, I view it as a last-ditch effort for them to be able to carry out the responsibilities to recover these documents after engaging with the former president and his legal team and his advisors and being unsuccessful in being able to return them.
And so, at that point, again, the documents are the property of the U.S. government. They are highly classified documents. Top-secret documents are classified by the government as causing exceptionally grave damage to the United States national security if they were to get out.
The government has an obligation to understand whether people who, other people beyond the president had access to these documents, saw these documents, did he show them to anyone? I mean, there is a whole other piece of investigation that I would imagine is still going on. And so, I think the search was a last or closer to a final step in actually having to recover them, but it didn't have to be this way.
LEMON: Yeah. And they just wanted the documents back. Maybe that's sort of the final thing here. Who knows if they will try to prosecute him or whatever it is, whatever the final outcome. I think the final outcome is that they just wanted these documents back because they were so important to national security.
For the last two weeks, Elie, Trump has been claiming that he declassified documents before bringing them to Mar-a-Lago. So, why doesn't this letter mention any of that?
HONIG: It is a good question, right? It is, again, an absence of evidence which can be telling. This whole claim that he declassified, I mean, look, the president has very broad authority to declassify, but the thing about it is you have to actually have used the authority when you were president.
And to this point, other than Donald Trump and a few of his defenders who are sort of claiming it now, there is no evidence that he actually did declassify anything back then. And also, we have to keep in mind the three laws the DOJ cited to get that search warrant. None of them require documents to ever have been classified or declassified. So, largely, it is beside the point here.
LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, Elie. Thank you, Carrie. I appreciate it.
I want to bring in now the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. Director, good evening to you. Seven hundred pages of classified material. That is a lot of documents that could potentially get into the wrong hands.
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, exactly, Don. A point, though, that I always make in this discussion is, we actually don't know yet the content of these documents. We can infer from the classification descriptions that, potentially, this could be quite damaging.
And the problem, of course, is that these documents essentially have been out of control since they left the White House. And they are not under -- have not been under any kind of secure physical arrangement and there are very exacting standards for that in the government. So, potentially, this is quite damaging.
And what I think the Intelligence Community would be looking at is an assessment of what a sophisticated adversary, meaning Russia or China, could do if, in fact, they gained access to those documents. And clearly, Mar-a-Lago has to have been a target for I suspect many foreign intelligence services. So, this is potentially quite concerning.
LEMON: The letter from the National Archives director says that officials needed to conduct assessment of the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials were stored and transported and take any necessary remedial steps.
What would an assessment like this look like? What do you think is already been completed here?
CLAPPER: Well, the -- what it would look? The process that -- and unfortunately, I went through a couple of these with Manning and Snowden, so I'm generally familiar with the process, unfortunately, and what you would look to is actually a collective effort on the part of the Intelligence Community.
And each document would have to be assessed. The leadership for that would come from the originating agency, if one can be identified. If the report is a summary that was drawn from many sources, then the elements of the Intelligence Community that contributed to that would have to participate in an assessment.
So, it can be a rather laborious, tedious process but it is important that it be done again with the view that what could a sophisticated adversary gain if, in fact, they had access to these documents.
And the concern, of course, you know, the holy grail for intelligence are sources and tradecraft, most notably if a source was a human source whose very life could be placed in jeopardy if the document were compromised.
LEMON: So, the second part of the question is, as I said, do you think this has already been completed? You said it's the laborious and you said tedious, laborious and tedious. Do you think it has been done, this damage assessment already?
CLAPPER: Well, I would guess so. I would hope the Intelligence Community would have some preliminary insight into what these documents actually are. I am guessing. I don't know if the FBI has shared the intelligence documents with the Intelligence Community. I assume they had.
And bear in mind, there could be other documents that are not intelligence-related. It could be defense documents. You know, there was one report, for example, on nuclear documents. We don't know if that's true or not. If that's the case, well, again, it could be extremely serious. So, you know, we'll just have to see how this unfolds.
LEMON: Yeah. Director, we were alerted just moments ago that President Biden ordered precisionary strikes against Iran-backed groups in Syria today. What kind of message does that send?
CLAPPER: Well, first, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. Syria is still a problem. There are terrorists there. And Iran, of course, has many nefarious activities and has supported these groups. Hezbollah of Lebanon, for example, Houthis in Yemen. They support certain groups in Syria as well. So, I think this is sending a message, certainly, to Iran and appropriately so.
LEMON: All right. Director Clapper, thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: It is primary night in America, and we've got more results coming in. The race in New York is getting tighter tonight.
I want to get right to CNN's Phil Mattingly at the magic wall for us. Hello again, Phil. You have been watching the votes come in. What's the latest in New York?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Don, we've been talking about primaries. I want to talk about a special election. Take a moment to move away from all the democratic primaries we've been paying attention to. This is a special election for Antonio Delgado, a Democratic representative in the Hudson Valley area here in the 19th district.
This is the same district as it was in 2020. A district that President Biden narrowly won over former President Donald Trump. It is a district that Donald Trump won in 2016. This is a district everyone has been watching in the wake of the Supreme Court decision or Roe v. Wade. Republicans have been very keen on Marc Molinaro, a county executive, taking in this race, going to Congress immediately. However, over the course of the last several weeks, Pat Ryan, another county executive, the Democrat, has been making major headway in internal polling.
And according to officials I've been talking to in both parties, if Pat Ryan were to win the seat tonight, win the special election, all of the data points you've been looking at in terms of have Democrats started to turn things around, have they perhaps found a crest in the red wave to some degree that a lot of people are predicting heading into the midterm elections, this would be one of the clear signals yet that something has shifted, something has changed.
We don't know how much, we don't know how long it would be, but if Pat Ryan wins this district, wins this special election, it would be a very, very big deal so much so, Don, that over the course of the last several weeks, Democrats have engaged heavily on the national level, something they haven't been doing, Republicans have as well, very, very nervous about where this is going to land.
Take a look at it right now. Pat Ryan, 4,222 votes ahead of Marc Molinaro right now, 99%, according to what we are looking at right now. Be cautious. It is a special election in a very weird time of year. We are not totally sure what turnouts are actually going to be. So, I want to throw that out there right now. People are trying to figure out where things are headed.
But if you're a Democrat and you're looking at this result, you saw what happened in Kansas with the abortion referendum, you saw special elections in Minnesota and in Nebraska where Democrats didn't win but did a lot better than I think they thought they were going to do, you tabulate those data points together and say, there might be some shift here in the wake of Roe, in the wake of any number of different things that transpired over the course of the last several weeks, couple of months.
This will be the biggest data point yet. We got a lot of time left until November, a lot of time left tonight to count these votes. However, this number right here, 4,222 votes ahead for Pat Ryan in a special election.
Everyone has been paying attention to it in Washington. Big deal, Don.
LEMON: Well, you are the numbers cruncher. You're doing a good job at it.
MATTINGLY: Hey, and you got my name right this time.
MATTINGLY: Feels like a net positive.
LEMON: It wasn't to your face. I apologized in a text. I'm sorry. It has been a long time. There was another Mattingly, but not like Phil Mattingly.
MATTINGLY: Yeah. Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Thank you, Phil. So, he was killed by a police officer in a Wendy's parking lot. And now, there has been a decision of what charges the officers who killed Rayshard Brooks will or won't be facing.
Plus, a pregnant woman cuffed at gunpoint at a traffic stop while her kids were in the car. I'm going to speak with her.
LEMON: The Georgia special prosecutor announcing today that murder and assault charges against two Atlanta police officers in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks are being dismissed.
The announcement comes two years after Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was shot and killed outside a Wendy's after he fought the two officers who tried to arrest him for DUI.
Prosecutors say that during the struggle, Brooks overpowered the officer, took a taser from one of them, and ran away. And while fleeing, he turned back and fired -- there it is highlighted -- and fired the taser. He was then shot twice.
So, joining me now is former NYPD Lieutenant Darrin Porcher and former Chicago Police Officer Dimitri Roberts. Good evening, gentlemen. Good to see both of you.
Darrin, I'm going to start with you. The special prosecutor says both officers acted within the law and were justified in their use of force. Does the evidence support this decision?
DARRIN PORCHER, FORMER NYPD OFFICER: Well, it is very difficult to make that assessment because traditionally, when you have a uniformed officer working within official capacity, one of the things that prosecutors look through is the lens of Graham versus Connor. Was this a reasonable level of force?
I think it is subjective. From the outside, looking in, I feel as if this was excessive force that was employed by the officer. However, the court system, more so specific the prosecutor, felt otherwise. Therefore, they felt that it wasn't necessary to move forward.
LEMON: I remember the story. He was asleep in the car and then there was a struggle. He ran and you saw the flash from the thing. It was in the news because it happened around time of the George Floyd incident.
Attorneys for Rayshard Brooks, Dimitri, Rayshard Brooks's family say that's wrong because they used lethal force when Brooks was running away. Do they have a point?
DIMITRI ROBERTS, FORMER CHICAGO POLICE OFFICER: Come on, Don, everybody in America knows they have a point. And we've been talking about this since what? When do we do black and white and blue in America, Don? Was that in 2016?
LEMON: Well, yeah.
ROBERTS: We've been having conversations ever since. That's like almost seven years, man. So, of course, they have a point, and the point is that, unfortunately, in this country, and today's day and age, no matter your skin color, no matter your race, creed or social economic status, if you're having an encounter with the police, it's probably not going to turn out well in today's day and age.
And I'll be the first to tell you, and I didn't think that I'm going to share this on the network tonight, but me, myself, Dimitri Roberts, almost got killed on a traffic stop about three weeks ago, four weeks ago in California. That is another story for another day, Don, but at the end of the day, we got to do something about this broken system because it is inherently dangerous for all of us.
LEMON: I want to talk about this, but man, I mean, what a cliffhanger. Let us get this out of the way and then maybe if we have time, we will discuss. I want you to hear. This is what the special prosecutor had to say about race being a factor. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER SKANDALAKIS, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Black lives do matter. I spent my entire career representing black victims of crime. And I will tell them that I understand that the encounters between police and the African-American community, at times, are very volatile.
But I'll ask him to look at the facts in this case. And this isn't one of those cases. I do understand there has to be an outreach between law enforcement and the African-American community, and I encourage that outreach to continue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Do you agree, Darrin, that this isn't one of those cases?
PORCHER: It's very difficult to make that assessment. What happened at the time, Paul Howard was the district attorney in Atlanta, he was advancing the charges against these officers in connection with the use of excessive force. I was on board with it. I deemed that it was appropriate. However, Paul Howard lost the election. So, as a result of that, we had a new district attorney that came in Atlanta, and then this was subsequently led off to an independent prosecutor.
I was okay with this being handled in the arena of the Atlanta prosecutorial network, but it didn't happen. That being said, this is what the independent prosecutor introduced. I don't agree with it, but at the end today, this is the standing order in connection with that decision.
LEMON: Dimitri, I want to play something else and talk about another story. We've been covering this disturbing video of three officers arresting a man in Arkansas over the weekend. They've all been removed from duty and they are under investigation now for this incident that I'm about to play. A reminder, though, to our viewers, this is very graphic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN (voice-over): (Bleep). This is bad. We've got to get out of here.
UNKNOWN (voice-over): Don't beat him! He needs his medicine!
UNKNOWN: Back the (bleep) up!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, Dimitri, today, a lawyer representing two of the deputies involved said that they were acting -- quote -- "exactly as trained." Every expert that we have talked to says that that response does not match their training. So, give us the facts here.
ROBERTS: Let me give you the facts, Don. Let's do something that has never been done in history. I want to release my old police records to show I have never, ever, anybody that I know that was trained to do the job the right way would have ever done that. And whoever is saying that and talking about this as a training issue or they were trained to do that, it is ridiculous.
I don't want to use any curse words on your station, but here's what I'm going to say, the same thing that I said on Jake Tapper last night, that is some bullshit, and we got to continue to move this conversation forward in a progressive direction and stop just talking about the things that don't matter.
Those are their individual actions. What we later found out, Don, is that this gentleman got maybe combative a little bit, may he has some mental health issues, and I think he spat on the officers. They were punishing him. I know punishment looks like. I was a Chicago police officer. I've seen it happen all too often.
So, now, it is time that we turn the corner and start having a real conversation about what's going on in this country with our law enforcement officers and with our citizens. And the only way we do that, Don, is by telling the truth about these things that happen and holding people accountable.
LEMON: Dimitri, Darrin, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
A pregnant woman in Florida told to shut up by a deputy who pulled his gun on her at a traffic stop. Ebony Washington is here to tell her story. She is next.
LEMON: A pregnant Florida woman pulled over by a deputy who drew his gun and told her to shut up during what appeared to be a routine traffic stop last week.
Ebony Washington was pulled over a Bradford County Sheriff's Office deputy when he suspected her of speeding, right? So, she drove to a nearby gas station, and once she parked, was handcuffed after the deputy pulled out his gun. In body cam footage obtained by CNN affiliate WJXT, she told the deputy why she hadn't pulled over sooner. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EBONY WASHINGTON, HANDCUFFED AT GUNPOINT DURING TRAFFIC STOP: The only reason why I didn't stop, I'm a married, educated woman --
JACOB DESUE, DEPUTY OFFICER, BRADFORD COUNTY: Okay.
WASHINGTON: -- with a master's degree. I swear, lord knows, I'm not doing -- I was only not because it's dark out and I have four, three kids with me. I'm pregnant and I did not want them to feel uncomfortable.
DESUE: Shut up --
WASHINGTON: Yes, sir.
DESUE: -- about the why.
WASHINGTON: Yes, sir.
DESUE: Don't care about the why.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Okay, so, Deputy Jacob Desue has not responded to CNN's request for comment. Ebony Washington joins me now. Ebony, thank you very much. Walk us through what happened when you first realized that you were being pulled over. We can see on the video that you put on your hazards, you drove to a gas station. So, tell me more about the decision not to pull over right away.
WASHINGTON: I am very familiar with the road and the road is very dark. And I knew that there was a gas station that was ahead, about an hour. And so, I just continued to drive to make sure that I was in a well-lit area, so I feel comfortable as well as my children feel comfortable.
And the process of me getting there or when I did arrive to the gas station, that's when the officer asked me to put my hands out of the window. Well, that will be the last thing that I do. He continued to threaten me and say -- you know, he has his gun.
He's not worried about anything because I was making sure that -- because of his frustration and anger that he was presenting to me, I didn't want him to feel uncomfortable with me having to put my hand back in the window to unlock my door and put my hand back in the window to take my seatbelt off. So, I wanted to make sure he was aware.
And then when he proceeded to say that, I was like, well, I was speeding, you know, so I was a little nervous and confused at that time as well as afraid because of the things he was saying to me. That is why I told my daughter to record and the other one to call their dad, my husband. So, it was very different.
LEMON: We played the clip of you explaining to the deputy why you drove to the gas station. You explained that you are married, you have a master's degree, the kids were in the car. Why did you tell him all that information?
WASHINGTON: Because, to me, he had -- I felt like he viewed me in a different light. I felt like, by the things he was saying, he was kind of trying to bait me to be outside of my character, to kind of be a little more aggressive, to maybe either resist.
And so, I felt like, maybe if I informed him of these things, that I am not, you know, maybe that type of person that he may have been used to dealing with, African-American that is more aggressive or is someone who is more outspoken. And so, I felt like if I explained to him that I am this type of person, I'm well put together woman, that he would not be so aggressive with me.
LEMON: I don't think -- is it unusual, to pull over to a well-lighted place? I mean, I've done that before. I don't stop on the side of the interstate. I pulled over to an exit and some place that has a bunch of lights. I know sometimes they may not like that, but I had an issue in Georgia, Alabama years ago where something similar happened. But you had three kids in the car. How are they doing and what were they thinking?
WASHINGTON: Well, how are they doing? They are still traumatized. My youngest daughter, there are two girls, and my son is the baby. My youngest daughter, she has bad dreams. She wants to sleep in the bed with me and her dad.
But at the time of the pullover, my oldest daughter was kind of like trying to calm me down because she could tell I was getting nervous, her words, and she was trying to make sure that I was okay. And so, she was, like, it is okay mommy, it's just a ticket, you were speeding, you know. And that's what our mindset was.
But then when they saw him pull the gun on me, that's when they started to get nervous. They started to be afraid. They didn't know what was going to happen because that was new to them, as well as myself. Because he had pulled the gun on me, we were all confused. What is going on?
And so, my daughter, my youngest, who was recording, informed that afterwards that she was nervous and she didn't know what was going to happen to me. She thought that I was about to get shot. And then when he pulled me away with the handcuff, she thought I was going to jail, she wouldn't see me anymore. So, it was very traumatic for them.
LEMON: Well, listen, to reiterate, we did reach out to Mr. Desue, the deputy in this incident, for comment, and we did not hear back. We would love to have him on and get a comment from him if he is interested.
So, Ebony, thank you. We are glad that you're okay. We appreciate you joining us, and we hope that your kids are okay.
WASHINGTON: Thank you so much.
LEMON: Thank you. Oversized classes, not functioning -- nonfunctioning heating or air conditioning, dilapidated buildings. Teachers in Ohio's largest school district demanding better working conditions, and they're going on strike to get it.
LEMON: Public school teachers in Columbus, Ohio walking the picket lines for the second day in a row, striking over low pay and what they say are dilapidated conditions in school buildings. Tomorrow is the first day of school and thousands of children will attend class online, taught by substitute teachers.
But in one hopeful move to try to end the walkout, a federal mediator is calling for both sides, the union and the Columbus Board of Education, to resume bargaining tomorrow afternoon.
More tonight from CNN's Lucy Kafanov.
UNKNOWN (voice-over): What do we want?
CROWD: A contract!
UNKNOWN (voice-over): What do we want?
LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As students across the nation head back to class, teachers in Ohio's largest district are marking themselves absent, hitting the picket lines for the first time in nearly 50 years. (On camera): The teachers union has been negotiating with the school board for months. Class was supposed to begin on Wednesday. But for now, there is still no agreement in sight.
JENNIFER ADAIR, PRESIDENT, COLUMBUS CITY SCHOOLS: School does start on Wednesday, which means our children will be online learning. We know that this is absolutely not ideal.
KAFANOV (voice-over): The school board president calling the decision to strike disappointing.
ADAIR: The board has demonstrated that it has worked hard to try to come to a resolution with CEA. And at this point, we are where we are because CEA did not determine it wanted to be a collaborative partner at the negotiation table.
KAFANOV (voice-over): But union leaders say they were left with no choice.
UNKNOWN: We have just reached a point where, you know, the conditions in the Columbus City schools are just not acceptable. COVID really kind of burned out a lot of teachers, and we are afraid that if we don't put this out in the forefront now, that we will just continue to break down our teachers and lose public education altogether.
KAFANOV (voice-over): Their demands? Smaller classes, functional heating and air conditioning, and a well-rounded curriculum that includes art, music and physical education.
For now, classes are being taught online by substitute teachers. But some parents say their kids won't be logging on.
UNKNOWN: Push, push, push.
KAFANOV (voice-over): For Kelly Freeman's (ph) son, Arthur (ph), that means missing his first day in kindergarten.
UNKNOWN: We're going to be keeping him home. We're not going to cross the picket line, virtual or not.
KAFANOV (voice-over): Others worry about how their kids will handle the challenge of learning from home.
UNKNOWN: (INAUDIBLE) that he was not going to have that interaction with his classroom.
CROWD: One, two, I got you!
KAFANOV (voice-over): Some are now seeking educational alternatives like charter schools.
UNKNOWN: We have parents calling literally every second of the day right now. Do you all have wait list? How soon can we get our children in?
KAFANOV (voice-over): While students just want life to get back to normal.
UNKNOWN: I want to just go back to the regular school year.
KAFANOV (voice-over): Schools across the U.S. are scrambling to fill vacancies brought on by a shortage of some 300,000 teachers. The education secretary this week acknowledging that teachers should be paid more.
MIGUEL CARDONA, EDUCATION SECRETARY: In the last 25 years, when you adjust for inflation, teachers have made only $29 more than they did 25 years ago. We need to do better there.
KAFANOV (voice-over): Educators report low morale and burnout exacerbated by the pandemic, (INAUDIBLE) pay, crowded classrooms, concerns about a growing number of school shootings, and changing guidance on what they are allowed to teach.
UNKNOWN: We need to actually start investing in our schools. Teachers of America are crucial to the development of our society. We really need to put that focus back on the teachers and the students because they are the ones who are going to be the citizens of tomorrow.
KAFANOV (voice-over): For now, these instructors say that the best lesson that they can teach is to strike.
(On camera): And this is just in, Don, a federal mediator overseeing contract negotiations between Columbus City schools and the teachers' union has been called for both parties to return to the bargaining table on Wednesday. That meeting is set for 1 p.m. Eastern time. But keep in mind, the two sides have met 22 times since March. They have not been able to iron out a deal. Therefore, it is not clear whether the impasse could actually come to an end tomorrow. Don?
LEMON: All right. Lucy Kafanov, thank you very much. I appreciate that. More anger over mask mandates to -- from, I should say, anger over mask mandates to critical race theory. Thousands of teachers also finding themselves caught in the middle of the culture war. Is that making the shortage even worse? We're going to discuss that. That is next.
LEMON: We have more election results tonight and you are going to hear a lot about this race over the next couple of days. CNN is projecting that Democrat Pat Ryan has won the special election in New York's 19th district, defeating Republican Marc Molinaro.
Ryan made abortion rights a focus of his campaign. But Republicans had been optimistic about flipping the district this year. This is a big democratic win in a battleground district that Biden won narrowly in 2020. What will it mean for the midterms?
Let's bring in now Mark McKinnon, who is executive producer of "The Circus." He has a new article out in "Vanity Fair." And also, Nayyera Haq, a former Obama White House special -- excuse me, senior director. Good evening to both of you. Thank you both for joining us.
Mark, before we get to this cool story, I would like to get your take on this democratic victory in this special election in the New York battleground district. Republicans thought that they could flip it. They didn't.
MARK MCKINNON, FORMER ADVISER TO GEORGE W. BUSH AND JOHN MCCAIN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF "THE CIRCUS": I think it is a big deal, Don. I think it reflects some of the polling that we've seen in the last week or two that shows that Democrats are back in the game. I mean, the historical trends for the out of party that generally do really well in off cycle elections.
So, Republicans were expected to sweep not only the House but the Senate just a few months ago, now it increasingly looks like they can hold back the Senate. And even the House could be competitive, Don. This is a race that Republicans thought they could pick up. So, this could be a real canary in the coal mine for Republicans. I'm sure it's sending a chill to the Republican National Committee right now.
LEMON: Interesting. Let's turn now to the Dallas area school district becoming the latest victim in the growing culture wars over education. The Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School Board approving a set of policies that include restricting library materials, bathroom and pronoun usage, and the teaching of critical race theory. The school board passed the policy with 4 to 3 votes. Nayyera, what we are seeing from this Dallas area school district is just the latest example of what has been really happening all across the country here. Education has become the latest proxy fight for what is a politically-divided country and teachers are really paying the price.
NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE SENIOR DIRECTOR: Teachers have always been on the frontlines of the culture wars because that is where the next generation gets trained, but it really came out in the pandemic, Don, when parents realized exactly how hard it is to get your kids educated throughout the day.
Unfortunately, teachers were not making any more money, were having to deal with the same challenges the rest of the parents were, but they were the target for all of the ire and anxiety and angst.
It's not new for public schools to be the target for a lot of the culture wars. It's been happening ever since public schools were founded, whether it was socials on one point, now it is about race and challenges. But what we are seeing, particularly with Texas, is that when parents insert themselves as the experts, teachers do not get the support they need, teachers are understaffed, overworked and underpaid. So, we are seeing teachers simply opt out, the idea of taking a job just for the greater mission when you are not getting any other benefit. Our children are suffering because of that.
LEMON: Listen, I have members of my family who are in education. They are teachers and counselors, my nieces. And we were on vacation. They had the time off and they were working on their vacation, calling the parents, talking about, you know, what they had to do to improve their scores and on and on and on.
I mean, Mark, teachers are already overloaded. Now, they are finding themselves in the crosshairs of this fight. How much of this is because there have been concerted efforts, really, by conservative groups to make schools the center stage for these culture wars?
MCKINNON: Well, to be part of it, Don, they came through COVID, which was a crushing experience for everybody, but especially teachers. I don't think there is a profession in America that is more underappreciated and more underpaid.
And the one thing that they have left is the thing that they loved to teach, what they wanted to teach, the truth. I mean, there is another example today in Texas where a book was banned about slavery by -- and the author was the guy that the school is named after.
I mean, we are going to get to a point now in some of these school districts like in Texas where they are not going to call it slavery, they are going to call it a time when we had a (INAUDIBLE) because that is just more comfortable.
HAQ: Well, Mark is not actually cracking a joke there. That is true. There's a Texas school district that wants to change the term "slavery" in textbooks to involuntary relocation.
The challenge with that, Don, is that Texas is the largest school system in the country. Textbook makers from around the country based their books on what the Texas school system wants.
So, if Texas decides to totally do away with the teaching of slavery, the entire country will suddenly not be taught the truth about history.
MCKINNON: Great point.
LEMON: It's really unbelievable. Listen, we love having you on. We love this topic. We have been covering it on this program, and we will continue to. So, thank you both. I appreciate it. I wish we have a little bit more time but we have to get the special election result.
So, thank you, and thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause for CNN's coverage of another round of primary races across the United States.