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Don Lemon Tonight

DOJ is Set to Respond to Trump's Team Request; President Biden Delivers Blunt Message to MAGA Republicans; Democrat Candidates Keep Distance with President Biden; Mississippi in Dire Need of Potable Drinking Water. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 30, 2022 - 22:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right, that's it for us tonight. I'm Victor Blackwell. Be sure to join Alisyn Camerota and me on "CNN NEWSROOM" tomorrow at 2 p.m. Eastern. I'll be back here tomorrow night at nine. DON LEMON TONIGHT starts right now. Hi, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: I want to chat because I know we're waiting.


LEMON: We're always waiting for something, right.


LEMON: Waiting on the DOJ, waiting, waiting, waiting.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we've been waiting, now we've got two hours until this deadline. I asked Sharon, why do they wait to the very last minute to --


LEMON: Because they want to -- they want to uproot our lives. They want to ruin our -- they want to ruin our schedules.

BLACKWELL: They are ruining it.

LEMON: We should -- the night that the former president got COVID, he waited till I signed off to send out a note confirming he had COVID. But guess what, I went right back on the air.

BLACKWELL: Put your glasses right back on, and sat down.

LEMON: You know the breaking news specs when you see the --


BLACKWELL: You got it, the breaking news glasses.

LEMON: Thank you, Victor, I'll see you later. BLACKWELL: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Have a good night. See you tomorrow.


And it won't be long now, because it's got to happen before midnight, any minute now we're expecting the DOJ's response to team Trump's request for a special master to drop. And this is not just some routine paperwork, I mean, you're going to get a lot here. It's going to be a doozy, so you want to stay tuned.

Again, it's supposed to happen before midnight, so it should happen within the hours that we're on now. The Justice Department got special permission from the judge to submit an extra-long response, up to 40 pages, twice as long as a usual 20-page lemon.

The DOJ saying that they need to quote, "adequately address the legal and factual issues raised by Trump's filings." What's in those 40 something pages? We should know soon. But those factual issues, it sounds, certainly sounds intriguing, doesn't it?

So, let's remember, this is all about Trump's plea for a special master, a third-party attorney to look over the documents seized in the search of Mar-a-Lago three weeks ago, including 11 sets of classified material, some marked top secret, which should have never been there in the first place.

So, the big question is, why is he gone to so much trouble to take these documents and keep them under wraps? Why? Well, once upon a time, he sure seems to care about protecting classified information.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In my administration, I'm going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information.


LEMON: So, you've got to -- listen, it took so long for them to do all of this, right? So, this is out of Trump's playbook, right, delay, delay, delay. That, as President Joe Biden, in a fiery speech in Pennsylvania, defending the FBI in the face of increasing threats following the Mar-a-Lago search. And doubles down, condemning what he calls MAGA Republicans who claimed to be the party of law on order, but called the January 6th insurrectionists patriots.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Let me say this to my MAGA Republican friends in Congress, don't tell me you support law enforcement if you won't condemn what happened to on the 6th.

(APPLAUSE) BIDEN: Don't tell me. You're either on the side of a mob, or the side of the police. You can't be pro-law enforcement, and pro-insurrection. You cannot be a party of law and order and call the people who attacked the police on January 6th patriots. You can't do it.


LEMON: I can't say that he's wrong there. I'm going to get right to CNN political correspondent Sara Murray, CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig, and CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.

And again, as we wait on all of this, good evening, everyone, we're waiting on these papers to drop. And so, we will continue on until it happens. It should happen at any moment now. We'll definitely know, hopefully before midnight. It was promised before midnight, correct?


LEMON: So, we should know soon.

Hi, Sara, I'm going to start with you. The DOJ is -- the DOJ is to address legal and factual issues in this 40 -- this 40-page filing. What can you tell us about it, do you know anything?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, we are all waiting to see, as you said that there is a midnight deadline. But you know, the fact they asked for these additional pages, they said they want to address legal and factual issues that the Trump team brought up in their filing, tells you, you know, that they do want to give their sort of robust version of events.

You know, in the Trump filing, team Trump argued that the former president was very cooperative, they essentially, you know are talking about how this search at Mar-a-Lago was over the top. So, we would expect the Justice Department to sort of lay out why the search was necessary, lay out some of what we have learned before about how, you know, the former president wasn't fully cooperative, he wasn't fully forthcoming in returning these documents.


And of course, even at the end of this, we are still not going to know the answer to whether or not there's going to be a special master, that's why he's going to continue, Don, in the next few days.

LEMON: All right. So, Elie, let's bring you in, a lot of criticism over Trump's legal filing, asking for a special master. What kind of a detail do you think that we can expect from the DOJ's response?

HONIG: Well, they certainly are going to have plenty of pages to do it. It is unusual, by the way, to ask for double the page limit, that's something I never did in my 14 years as a prosecutor.

LEMON: What's the reason for that, you think? HONIG: Because they have a lot to say. I mean, you don't do that

lightly. Right? It's rare to ask for that 20 pages, it's quite a bit. The main thing that's different about this filing, is that this is the first time we're hearing from DOJ after the search was done. Because we saw the affidavit, we saw the search warrant itself, we saw the receipt from property.

That's all stuff that was done before the search. That's all stuff that they did to get permission to do the search. So, we've not heard from DOJ in a robust way since the search has happened. So, I think they probably have a lot on their chest. I think there's a lot of things that Trump has said attacking DOJ, attacking the FBI, perhaps mischaracterizing the nature of the documents that they want to set the record straight on.

LEMON: So, they probably want to dispute some of that, right, as he said, they're trying to set the record straight.


LEMON: I mean, the DOJ could push back on the claim from Trump's allies that the president, the former president was cooperating. Because if you look at, again, I have to show this timeline that I have here.


LEMON: This is a timeline of, like, all the interactions and all the times that they try to get the documents or get Trump to cooperate and he did not.

AVLON: Right.

LEMON: And his team did not.

AVLON: Right.

LEMON: But yet his team and his representatives who go on television will say, well, the president has been cooperating, the former president has been cooperating. I saw no need for this raid. That is all a bunch of B.S.

AVLON: Yes, it's a lie.

LEMON: So, the DOJ will probably want to fight back.


LEMON: Push back on that.

AVLON: Look, setting the record straight is a perpetual process when you're dealing with Donald Trump because the impulse to lie or lie on his behalf is almost overwhelming. And we saw that over and over again in the argument that, you know, he was being totally cooperative. And we know he wasn't. We know that --

LEMON: That's right.

AVLON: -- they're right. So, let's call it what it is. Donald Trump's instincts, his political instincts as it translates to tactics and strategy are always deny, delay, deflect, project. And this is all a denial game right now, right? This is, he denied, now he's trying to delay. He said maybe, look, I'm go to throw whatever I can and see what sticks to the wall to slow this process down because it might benefit me politically because he's nervous. He seems to be scared. You look at the post he's been putting up lately, they are -- they are unhinged.

LEMON: Yes, but nothing --

AVLON: Even by his stance.

LEMON: Yes, we're going to talk about that, because I think it's -- what was it, his 60 times in a 12-hour span. But here's the thing. It is unhinged and he has -- but nothing that has come from -- he keeps demanding information, and demanding information. And every time the information comes out, it's not helpful to him.

HONIG: Yes, the defenses that we've heard so far to me have backfired largely, if anything. I mean, one of the defenses that we've heard is, this was timed out intentionally by DOJ and the FBI to land it as closely as possible to midterms. They said, what took you so long, DOJ and FBI? You know how they could have solved that?

LEMON: Right.

HONIG: By not taking the documents in the first place, or by turning them over last year when they were first asked.

LEMON: Last year.

HINIG: Look, delay is certainly part of the strategy here, maybe the predominant strategy here, I think by the Trump team. Generally speaking, prosecutors hate delay. I was always trying to get to the jury as soon as possible, trying to get an indictment, trying to get to a jury as soon as possible.

And generally speaking, it's better for people who are being investigated maybe become defendants someday, to try to delay, drag it out, see how things happen. And that's particularly acute here, where you have the political dynamics overlaying this potential announcement of a candidacy.

LEMON: And what about this whole, the claim of executive privilege? So how do you think the DOJ is going to respond to that?

HONIG: I think the DOH is going to give the back of the hand. I think they are going to argue tonight that there is no merit to it, and therefore we don't need a special master. I think Trump disagrees though.

LEMON: Sara, Trump's legal team will have a day to respond to this DOJ filing. What are we expecting? MURRAY: Well, Don, you'll be thrilled to know that they have an 8

p.m. deadline on Wednesday. So, we won't be waiting until midnight for the Trump team to respond. We look at their filing by 8 p.m., according to the judge.

Look, we expect that they are going to continue to push for the special master. You know, we know from some earlier filings from the Justice Department that they have already start digging through these materials. They've already set up a filter team. They've already identified some materials that, you know, could contain potentially, attorney-client privilege information.

But we've also heard publicly and privately from the Trump team that they don't feel like they can trust the Justice Department. They believe this was is an over -- overly politicized, you know, investigation. And they want the special master, this independent party. And so, we don't believe that they are going to back off from that.

And of course, we don't expect a resolution to this tomorrow. The judge has set a hearing for this on Thursday. So, like I said, this is going to be a fight that is going to continue playing out over the next couple days, albeit not quite as late tomorrow night.

LEMON: John, if the judge says -- let's say the judge rules in favor of the special master for Trump. It may delay this whole thing. Do you think an independent arbiter could work in the DOJ's favor by shutting down accusations of politics?


AVLON: It could, but it won't stop the Trump team from making that accusation anyway.

LEMON: From trying.

AVLON: Right. I mean, look, it's a question of if a special master is adopted by this judge, a Trump appointee, by the way who's been playing down the middle, the question will be, are there any constraints on the time? Especially given the fact that it appears that the DOJ has already gone through many of these documents, you know, the horse is kind of out of the barn on this one.

So, so, you know, in a rational world, that that would actually give added credibility. But, you know, that would be the triumph of hope over experience when you're dealing with the Trump team.

HONIG: I think part of what DOJ is going to do is say judge, if you do put a special master, and let's put strict time limits on it.


HONIG: They should not set us back six months. Let's get this done in a month or so.

AVLON: Yes. LEMON: I mean, every time, right, there's some sort of delay or whatever. Look -- anyways.

AVLON: I mean, that's part of the strategy.

LEMON: It is.

AVLON: That's it.

LEMON: You know, Merrick Garland came out, I know Barack who then said, no one is above the law.

HONIG: Well, but let me say this. I mean, every one fights.



HONIG: But everyone fights. Let's be fair here.

LEMON: Not like this.

HONIG: Everyone who is --


LEMON: Elie Honig, former federal prosecutor, if you had done this, where would you be now?

HONIG: I would be fighting just as hard as Donald Trump is fighting.

LEMON: Yes, but would -- wouldn't you have been something what have happened to you there would have been some repercussions by now?

HONIG: Yes, I mean, it's different, because I wouldn't have any, the only way I could've gotten to those documents would have been breaking into the White House. I mean, there's -- there are factual distinctions here. But look, we should not hold it against somebody because they fight like mad against the DOJ.


LEMON: That's not -- that's not what I'm saying.

HONIG: You're allowed to fight against DOJ.

LEMON: No, you're right about that, everyone deserves --


LEMON: -- a defense and all that. I get that.

HONIG: Of course.

LEMON: Innocent until proven guilty.

AVLON: Of course.

LEMON: But the fact is we are arguing over whether he is guilty or not. Of course, he is, he took the documents. Now we are talking about just how bad the documents are, how top, top secret they are. Not that he did something wrong.

HONIG: I'm not going to -- I can't sign on to that, because as a prosecutor, I know that you had the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. And that you can't just take a bunch of newspaper articles when we've not even seen the articles and declare someone is guilty.


LEMON: So, there are no top secret documents found?


HONIG: Well, there certainly were.

LEMON: OK. Were they're documents --


HONIG: You have to acknowledge an intent.

LEMON: Were documents taken from the White House --


LEMON: -- that were not supposed to be taken, that was supposed to be in --


HONIG: Yes, but here -- but --

LEMON: -- in the (Inaudible) of the National Archives.

HONIG: Yes, but do we have proof that Donald Trump himself saw those documents and what was in them, had intent to violate the law as opposed to just disorder or as opposed to just --


LEMON: Yes, but you have to prove that in court, I know that it's a process.

HONIG: Right.

LEMON: But the fact is there was an act that happened.

HONIG: Right.

LEMON: So, whether it's Donald Trump or someone in the White House, they were in his possession. AVLON: And we --


HONIG: That is not shown knowledge or intent. Yes.

AVLON: And we know that some documents were handed over, and others were held on.

HONIG: Yes, yes.

AVLON: Look, here's the parallel that Don is looking for --


LEMON: Sara, you can jump in anytime.

AVLON: Yes, I apologize, Sara. But I'm going to make this --


LEMON: She was like, I'm going to let you all have this.

MURRAY: I'm just watching them fight it out.

AVLON: But here's the basic deal, look, equal justice under law --


AVLON: -- innocent until proven guilty, all that is true. But if you went to a SCIF and took a top-secret document out with you, and said something like Sandy Berger, and walked out with documents, you would be in a totally different -- you would be in a totally different situation. You would be in a world of legal hurt.

LEMON: Yes. I think he got into a SCIF--

HONIG: Yes, I agree.

LEMON: If someone in your employ, where does the bucks talk?

HONIG: I agree with that.

LEMON: Someone -- hold on, hold on.


LEMON: Someone in your employ, where does the buck stops?

HONIG: I don't employ anybody.

LEMON: OK. But someone who's in your employ where does the buck stop?

HONIG: Yes, but somebody who work for me went in and got it.

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: Yes. The buck stops with who?

HONIG: If that person knew what they were doing or if I -- if I --

LEMON: The buck stops with who?

HONIG: Whoever you can show, knew it was in those documents and had the intent to --

LEMON: Elie, Elie.

HONIG: I'm not -- I'm not being pretending. I'm telling you what how --


MURRAY: I mean, do you think the big difference this time around is that Donald Trump is the former president. And we are talking, Don, about how --


LEMON: Say again, say again, Sara. I cut you off.

MURRAY: -- he is managed to --

LEMON: Someone is talking. Say again.

MURRAY: Yes. The big difference this time around is Donald Trump is a former president. So, when you're talking about how again and again, he has sort of managed to evade the judicial system, a lot of the stuff was stuff that was happening when he was a sitting president when he had protections. When he had the ability to have all these documents, to see all these documents, to, you know, how these documents in his possession.

We are now talking about a different playing field. We are talking about someone who is a former president, but still believes he is entitled to a lot of the same privileges that he had when he was president. And I think that is why we have seen allies around Donald Trump so much more nervous this time around, and pressing him to bring on real attorneys this time around, because they didn't feel that he was fully grasping the kind of legal exposure he could have.

LEMON: Sara Murray, thank you.

HONIG: I think she's on my side.

LEMON: No, I don't think. She explained it better than us dudes sitting here --

AVLON: By a lot.

LEMON: By a lot.

HONIG: By a lot. LEMON: Very succinctly and smartly and intelligently. Sara, thank you. I don't think she is on your side.

All right, everybody, stick around. Again, listen, we're sitting around and waiting on these documents to drop at any moment, we're waiting for the DOJ's response to teams Trump plea for a special master. That could come at any moment now.


Our team of reporters, legal experts, standing by to go through it all for you. We're going to report the news for you as soon as we get it.

And up next, President Joe Biden's message today in the wake of Lindsey Graham's riots in the streets remark.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: No one expects politics to be a pattycake. Sometimes it gets mean as hell. But the idea, you turn on a television, and see senior senators and congressman saying if such and such happens, there will be blood in the street. Where the hell are we?



LEMON: OK, so, the DOJ's response to team Trump's request for a special master expected at any minute now. We will carry it for you live. That, as President Joe Biden takes on what he calls MAGA Republicans in a campaign speech today in Pennsylvania. The president also calling for a ban on assault weapons.

I want to talk more about the speech with CNN political commentators Alice Stewart and Ashley Allison, and also Tara Palmeri who is a senior political correspondent for Puck.

So glad to have all of you on. Good evening to you.


So, Tara, I'm going to start with you. The president went after what he calls MAGA Republicans again, this time for not supporting law enforcement in the wake of January 6th, a clear strategy from Biden. What do you think is behind this?

TARA PALMERI, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, PUCK NEWS: I think that Biden is doing what a lot of his allies have long wanted him to do. They want him to draw a contrast between himself and the Republican Party. It's not a natural place for Biden to lean. He likes to be the uniter. He likes to be the consoler. He likes to be the consensus builder.

He is, after all, a centrist Democrat. But they are saying, no, if you are getting all out there and you are going to campaign for midterm elections you have to hit them. You have to draw a contrast and you have shown them as extremist because that's exactly what they do. They are painting the left of the party as extremist and you have to show that there are extremists in the Republican side of the party.

So, he is out there on a more offensive stance and I think he wasn't able to break through before. And it's an election year.

LEMON: He is breaking through now.

PALMERI: He is breaking through now.


LEMON: He is getting news coverage and there's controversy surrounding it. But also, sometimes that's the way you break through is a little bit of controversy and you say things that maybe people -- it may hurt some folks' ears, like what we have been discussing.


LEMON: But he is talking about the MAGA Republicans. Now he went after -- he went after Lindsey Graham for saying that they are going to be riots in the streets if Trump is prosecuted. Was Graham wrong to say that and was Biden right to go after him?

STEWART: Graham should not have said that. Look, there will be people that are frustrated. Trump's base, his supporters, think that this DOJ and FBI probe and search of Mar-a-Lago is prosecutorial overreach. And they are disappointed with it and they are very frustrated. But for Lindsey Graham to say that, I think was inappropriate.

Here is my thing with President Biden's speech today. Talk about him pushing or leaning in -- he did that last week when he called Republicans fascist. Today he goes on over and over calling Republicans MAGA Republicans and talking about how Republicans are not a party of law and order.

LEMON: But there are --

STEWART: Here's a --

LEMON: Aren't they -- why is that offensive to be called a MAGA Republican? Are they not MAGA Republican?

STEWART: He is referring to MAGA Republicans as the extreme far right fringe of the Republican Party.

LEMON: Are they not?

STEWART: Not the majority of Republicans are not. Majority --


LEMON: I know. But he's making it -- I just want to be clear here, Alice. Because, honestly, he is making a distinction between Republicans. He called out sensible Republicans, he gives them their credit. But then he -- the MAGA Republicans are the people who believe that the election lies, who make excuses for the people at the capitol. Who, you know, are saying nasty things about people and are going along with the histrionics of this former president.

Why is it -- what's wrong with being called a MAGA Republican? Because that's what MAGA Republicans are doing.

STEWART: When he makes the distinction that there is the difference between those, the extreme part of the party and the rational Republicans, which I consider myself one, that doesn't buy into all of that.

And here's the thing that I think was, from a political standpoint, as we were talking earlier, there is a great speech of the Democrat to identify crime and be tough on crime, but the problem is, when you poll Americans, the Ipsos/ABC poll shows that more Americans, when they were asked who they trust to addressed crime more, more people trust Republicans to fight crime. More -- and less people trust Democrats in order to fight crime -- and Joe Biden is low in the polls. And so, he is clearly leaning into an issue that Republicans have the upper hand on.

LEMON: But isn't that the hypocrisy that he is pointing out, Alice? Ashely, Ashley Allison, isn't that the hypocrisy he's pointing out because the Republicans are supposed to be the law-and-order party, but yet they make excuses for what happened on January 6. And then you have Lindsey Graham saying there are going to be riots if Trump is prosecuted.

Now listen, you know, just in conversation I said that, but he did something wrong. I mean, Trump did something wrong by allowing the papers to go out of, when we are talking about whatever, when we are talking about guilty or not or whatever, that's to a court of law. But he did do something wrong. The papers were in his possession.


LEMON: OK. So, when it comes to Joe Biden and pointing out, isn't he pointing out the hypocrisy of Republicans by saying we're the part of law and order, yet we make excuses for our own when they beat up law enforcement?

ALLISON: Absolutely, you can't have it both ways, just to the earlier point. You can't say Donald Trump is a threat to our democracy, January 6th should not have happened, this is what the president was saying today, and then, say don't call out MAGA Republicans. That is who they -- that is what they stand for. And they are not running from it.

They are proudly denying the election, they did it in their primary, so stay by their truth. But they don't want to, because they know voters don't actually want that to -- they don't want to elect people.

And the hypocrisy on law enforcement is, police officers died at the capitol. Died. And you still have people who actually hold elected office who won't condemn January 6th. And then you have people of your party saying defund the FBI. And everyone is cricket silent. No one is calling it out.

STEWART: Well, if we are going to --


LEMON: Hang on, hang on, hang on a second. Go on. Go on.

STEWART: If we want to talk about hypocrisy, let's talk about hypocrisy about the Democrats who did say defund the police. Let's talk about --


ALLISON: Joe Biden never said defund the police.

STEWART: I'm talking about the Democrats, let's talk about Vice President Kamala Harris.


LEMON: But Alice, Alice, hold on, that's not hypocrisy. Because the people who said defund the police, those who said defund the police were called out on saying defund the police. Joe Biden said I never said defunding the police. They were Democrats, sensible Democrats or Democrats who didn't believe in defund the police said, this was never part of the Democratic platform.

There are extremists in the Democratic Party who were called out, and whether you want to call them progressives or whatever, but they don't find anything wrong with being called progressive. Why would MAGA Republicans find anything wrong with being called MAGA Republicans if that's what they are?

ALLISON: And people who have said defund the police stand by their word, and still believe that. Now that has never been Joe Biden's position, I know, because I join that campaign the week after George Floyd was murdered in the streets of our country. And we saw the outcry.

He ran for president in the moment of the largest uprising, racial uprising in our country's history has ever seen. And it took a lot of courage for him to stand by his policy belief. Now, I don't totally agree with the way the president is approaching police reform. But he said over and over, he talked to the Floyd family, he talked to people and said I believe we need to reform policing, but I do not believe in defund the police.

LEMON: But there's --

ALLISON: He is not being hypocritical on that.

LEMON: But there's also something I think you'll agree with Alice and we'll talk about this after this. Whether him saying, you know, this semi-fascism comment, whether he realized that was a gaffe or maybe he's sticking by it, I don't know. Or that he should be more careful with his language, because he is not saying that anymore. We have a lot to discuss as we wait on the -- wait on the information

from the DOJ as it regards the special master. Don't go anywhere, we'll be right back.



LEMON: President Biden's trip to Pennsylvania today is the first of three he is making there over the next week. He is going to deliver a primetime address in Philadelphia on Thursday, and visit Pittsburgh on Monday, that's Labor Day. And it's easy to see what he is focusing on Pennsylvania weeks before the midterm elections. It's a key battleground state.

CNN's John King at the magic wall for us. John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, what makes this fascinating is the president today is in a place on the map that will teach us a ton come election night, 10 weeks from today when we are counting the votes. Where is the president's event here in Wilkes- Barre, Pennsylvania, you see all the red around Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

This is the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden narrowly won Pennsylvania by 81,000 votes. But let's look at this particular county, right here, Wilkes-Barre is in Luzerne County, that is Trump county. You see President Trump carrying this county actually quite convincingly two years ago. He carried it back in 2016 when he won Pennsylvania over Secretary Clinton as well.

So, this is one way to look at the map and say this is Trump country, why is the president there? But Pennsylvania is incredibly complicated. And the commonwealth has some new races this year. Let's look at it from the House perspective, you see blue all of a sudden.

The president is in the district today of Democrat Matt Cartwright. Cartwright won narrowly two years ago. He's running for re-election again. Democrats are trying to keep the House. This is one of the seats we will see, can Democrats defy history?

So, it's a Democratic congressional district, but again, if you go back to that presidential race two years ago, one of those districts Donald Trump carried, yet is represented by a Democrat in Congress. So, what does that make it? It makes it, as Pennsylvania picks candidates for governor this year, as Pennsylvania picks a senator this year, as Matt Cartwright tries to win reelection again this year.

And a tough year for Democrats, Don, the president today in one those battlegrounds within a battleground, trying convince Democratic voters to turn out, trying to convince independent to stick with the Democrats. And if he can, trying to convince a few Republicans right here in what can be a red part of the state, but is a struggle part of the state to come his way. Don?

LEMON: All right, John king, thank you very much. The stakes in Pennsylvania are incredibly high. Will the Democrats be able to pick up a critical Senate seat? Well, I've got the experts back with me, there they are. Raring to go, after the break.



LEMON: So, back now with me, CNN political commentators Alice Stewart and Ashley Allison, also Tara Palmeri, the senior political correspondent at the Puck.

And any minute now I need to tell you that we are waiting a filing from DOJ responding the Trump's request for a special master following the search of his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Meanwhile, President Biden making a midterm campaign blitz all across the battleground state of Pennsylvania. OK, so, back now, let's talk about this. Alice, I said we were going to talk about this. The president did not go as far as he did in that fund-raiser last week, right, likening MAGA Republican philosophy to semi-fascism.

Do you think he has to be careful with his words, because do you think this is going to stick? And is he focusing too much on the MAGA wing of the GOP?

STEWART: He has to be more careful than to call half of the country fascist. Because, again, he campaigned on and he won and gave an acceptance speech on being the great unifier and lowering the temperature and let's take a big, deep breath and I will bring this country together and kumbaya. And here he is, being extremely disparaging to many people in this country.

Tomorrow night, or Thursday night, he's going to have another speech talking about bringing the country together. I will be interested to see what kind of rhetoric he uses for half of the country. But this is classic Joe Biden. When people don't agree with his policies or his administration or his efforts, he resorts to name-calling and attacking and it's just not the way to go, given the fact he is the man that promised to unify this country.

LEMON: OK. Listen, let's move on now and talk, because we've, you know, beaten a dead horse here.

ALLISON: I disagree.

LEMON: I know.

ALLISON: I disagree.

STEWART: That says it all right there. She says it all.

LEMON: I knew you were going to disagree.

ALLISON: I just can't. I mean.

LEMON: Ashley, go ahead. ALLISON: But we'll move on.

LEMON: But I want to move on. Say it, please.

ALLISON: Joe Biden did not call half of America fascist. He said that it goes beyond Trump and it was a philosophy. And it is. And I say to you, Alice --


LEMON: What we're seeing now is the beginning of the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy -- it's not just Trump, it's the entire philosophy that underpins that I'm going to say it's like semi- fascism. So.

ALLISON: So, if you don't think -- if you think the 2020 election is accurate, if you think that we should treat -- teach a comprehensive history of our country, then he wasn't referring to you, because you don't believe in that philosophy.


ALLISON: But we have to call things out.

STEWART: Well, this is gone on record.

LEMON: Tara?


STEWART: I will just go on, record Democrat Maggie Hassan from New Hampshire said that he spoke to disparagingly, he painted all Republicans with a broad brush. That is a Democrat who herself had problems with what he said.

LEMON: OK, so let's move. So, Tara, John laid out the importance of the Pennsylvania midterm elections at the magic wall just moments ago. Democrats have a chance to win the Senate seat and the governor's office, and the governor's office there. Is this why Pennsylvania is the center of political universe right now, do you think?

PALMERI: Absolutely. Right now, we've got an incumbent, Republican and an incumbent Democrat, two senators, split in Pennsylvania. Biden won Pennsylvania by one point. Trump fought that and said that, you know, that he actually believed he won Pennsylvania and called for a recount. It's an incredibly important state. The legislature there at the state level is Republican, so if you have a Republican governor, I mean, anything goes.

And Mastriano, Doug Mastriano who is running is calling for a pretty extreme anti-abortion, I guess policy. And so, yes, this really matters. Look, the thing that I find to be interesting is that Joe Biden has three trips to Pennsylvania, right, over five or six days. It makes sense. It's his natural constituency, these towns are labor towns. He's the son of Scranton. Maybe it helps with some turnout. But none of these candidates want to -- want to campaign with him. They will be at the same parade with him in Pittsburg. And you know, Fetterman says, OK, I will talk about marijuana policy, but they're not really asking him to come in and stomp --


LEMON: Are they treating him, as my mom would say with a long handle spoon?

PALMERI: Exactly.

LEMON: Is that what is happening?

PALEMRI: Pretty much.

ALLISON: I think Pennsylvania is really diverse state. Right? So, you have Pittsburgh who is part of the steel mill country, you know, very close to Ohio, which also has a contested Senate race. So, I think some of that media will go over into those markets.

Then you have the middle of Pennsylvania, which is rural. And I think it's interesting that he picked Wilkes-Barre to go to talk about guns, to say, like, I believe in the second amendment but let's talk about banning assault rifles. And then Philadelphia, where there is a large urban and black population where you're going to need to drive our turnout.

So, I think it's really strategic. Also, he is talking about using Philly the backdrop of independents, in our democracy to talk about the soul of the country. So, I think it's more of what they are doing.

LEMON: So, Philadelphia actually has four syllables instead of five. I used to live there. It's Philadelphia.

ALLISON: Philadelphia.

PALMERI: Philly.


LEMON: That's in order.

STEWART: It does say --


LEMON: Let me ask you before you get -- is that -- is it -- are they actually -- is that a smart thing for them to do to sort of distance themselves from the current president who has actually over the last couple of weeks have been getting a lot done? If, I think if you asked, you know, back in 2000 during the whole Clinton thing and if you asked the Democrats if they should have distance themselves from Clinton, they would have to tell you -- they would tell you they should not have done that, that that was a bad strategy.

ALLISON: Yes, I don't -- (CROSSTALK)

LEMON: That his vice president distancing himself is what caused him to lose.


ALLISON: I don't think that they are distancing themselves. Look, if a candidate doesn't want people to come, they will say, please, stay out of my state. I think what they are doing, though, is all these candidates need to really keep these races local. This is about people having conversations at their kitchen table. They don't want to nationalize this race and I have been saying that for a really long time.

And I think it goes across the map. Like people want to know that their senator or their governor is going to represent them and not be a big Washington figure.

LEMON: Go ahead, Alice.

STEWART: The bottom line is, the Real Clear Politics average shows Joe Biden's approval rating at around 42 percent, 42 percent. That's not good. While it is an uptick from weeks and months in the past, it's still not good.

Fetterman was not there today. He did not show up at this event today. That is a clear indication he wants to distance himself from the president. He is expected to be at one of the other events. But when you are not there when the president of the United States comes in, that sends a resounding message.

And you know, whether or not that is politically strategic for Fetterman's campaign, we will see. Right now, he is up by about five points in his race and whether or not that will continue. I think, it's going to hurt him tremendously, since he announced today, he is not going to --


LEMON: That was my next question --

STEWART: -- participate in a debate with Dr. Oz, that's going to be real telling. In his last 10 weeks moving to the general election, if he's not going to get on that debate stage, that is going to cost him.

LEMON: Do you -- do you think that's going to hurt him not being in this debate with Dr. Oz?

PALMERI: I do think so and I think that his health, obviously really does matter. And while the Oz campaign has been tactless in how they have attacked him for it, I think ultimately at the end of the day it's a gamble for a lot of voters, because they don't know what kind of health condition he is in. He has done a remarkable job doing a digital campaign, paid advertisements. He has done very limit --


LEMON: But how long can you do that without --

PALMERI: Exactly. I think you have to, eventually. The voters want to see you. They want to see you debate. But you know, he's not the only person running for office who doesn't debate right now.


LEMON: But is it, I'm sure, and I think they've been dipping it, you know, they've been sort of dipping their toe in the water to criticize Fetterman for his health condition, right, to sort of use it, to capitalize on it. But they've got to be really careful with that

STEWART: Absolutely. I mean, look, there are plenty of reasons to go after Fetterman on policy and his record. You don't have to go after his health. And the key thing moving forward, he has run a tremendous digital and video campaign, which is fine. But come Labor Day weekend, it is off to the races through the election. And he needs to get out there and gripping --

ALLISON: I mean, I think that the Oz campaign did more than dip their toe in the water, they made a pretty big splash and distasteful about talking about eating vegetables to Fetterman. I think --


LEMON: Well, that was his campaign representative who that said that, right?


LEMON: And the he said, but yes. You would've thought they would've learned their lesson.

ALLISON: Lesson. But I still think I hope Fetterman can get back -- I hope his health is stable. I hope maybe they would have a doctor come out and talk to them about it so to reassure voters. But he does need to get on the campaign trail if he can.

LEMON: Thank you, all.

STEWART: Thank you.

LEMON: I love this conversation, this is great. Thank you. This is the way people talk at home, don't you think?

STEWART: Exactly.


STEWART: Around the table.

LEMON: Right? They're civilized but challenging.

PALMERI: Yes, exactly. LEMON: And there is food -- and there is no food to throw, so we're good.

STEWART: Exactly. Or no wineglasses.

ALLISON: No ketchup to throw up against the wall.

LEMON: A major water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, more than 180,000 residents now without enough water to drink, flush toilets, or even brush their teeth.

And the deadline for the DOJ filing in the Mar-a-Lago case, just a little more than an hour away. Our reporters, our experts standing by on this very busy news night, so stay with us.



LEMON: One hundred eighty thousand people in Mississippi's capital city are without clean drinking water right now. No drinking water means no brushing your teeth, no cooking, no bathing, no dishwashing, no flushing your toilet, no water to fight fires, no school. Residents today lined up for hours to get water. That is, until they ran out.

So, joining me now, Mississippi's State Senator David Blount, he is vice chairman of Mississippi Senate Democratic Caucus.

Senator, so happy that you're here. So sorry that you are dealing with this. The city's main water treatment facility began failing on Monday, and officials are blaming flooding and long-standing water system problems. But just how bad are things right now?

DAVID BLOUNT, MISSISSIPPI STATE SENATOR: Well, the immediate problem is a problem of water pressure. And that is there are homes and schools and businesses in town that have literally no water at all, so they can't flush the toilet, and they can't do anything that involves -- there is no water coming out of the pipe at all.

That's the immediate crisis. We are now in our fifth week of a boil water noticed. Where people, prior to a few days ago, were able to get water in their homes, but they weren't allowed to drink it, or they weren't -- they're told not to drink it until after the water had been boiled because the water is not safe to drink.

So, the first thing we've got to do is restore pressure, and then we've got to make sure that the water that comes on the faucet is safe to drink.

LEMON: Listen, the National Guard has been called in to help, but water is a basic necessity for life. What else needs to be done to get people clean water there?

BLOUNT: Well, as I said, the first short term solution is pressure. The next solution is to make sure that the water is safe to drink. And then the long-term solution is to invest the money that's required, money that was sent to Mississippi by President Biden and the American Rescue Plan, to fix the overall water and sewer system here in Jackson, so we don't have this problem again.

LEMON: I want to talk to you about that. But let me just get to some immediate answer to this question. Do you have any sort of timeline for when people can expect to have clean water? I mean, if the systems have such long-standing problems, it's not going to be a quick fix.

BLOUNT: That's right. We -- we are hopeful that we can avoid catastrophe this week and by the end of the week. We are told that if a major pump is replaced, we can solve the pressure issue and get past the immediate crisis. Then, the focus will be on whether we can get water that is safe to drink. We don't know the answer to that yet.

The health department and the city, and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency are there right now. That will be the next thing, to make sure that we fix, but the immediate problem is pressure.

LEMON: All right, let's talk about what you mentioned which I promise to get to. And that is the president, President Biden's infrastructure bill. It allocates $75 million for clean water across Mississippi, that includes 30 million to service water lines and to replace lead pipes, with another 19 million for safe drinking water investments. So, do you think that's going to help?

BLOUNT: It will help. And we're grateful to the president. In addition to that, the legislature earlier this year, appropriated $450 million of American Rescue Plan money to cities that will be available to all cities of the state. Jackson needs to be at the front of the line for that money, and that money could be as much as $90 million in state and local funds on top of the money you just mentioned. But even that is not going to be enough.

So, we are already talking to our congressman, we're talking to the president, the governor after the original amount of money has been expanded, we are going to have to our entire system to fix these problems once and for all.

LEMON: Senator Blount, Jackson's public works director was reassigned to a new position on Monday. I mean, as you mentioned, there's been a boil water notice since late July.


LEMON: People say problems have existed for years. How did things get so bad?

BLOUNT: It's a combination of factors, to be honest with you. There have been a lot of problems in management, in staffing, the state has not stepped up when the state could have stepped up. But that situation is different now.

Again, for the first time in history, Mississippi has a lot of money in the bank, money that came to the state through the American Rescue Plan. Mississippi has $2.5 billion in the bank to fix problems just like this. [22:55:04]

And so, what we have got to do, those of us who live here, those of us who are Democrats, we are going to reach across the aisle to our Republican friends and try to fix this once and for all. It's going to be a major undertaking. We're going to be looking to Washington.

And now that the state has some money, we are going to have a partnership with the city, and we need a comprehensive solution.

LEMON: Let's hope everyone can get together and fix it, because there's obviously urgent need, it's a dire situation right now. Thank you, Senator Blount.

BLOUNT: It is, I'm tired of boiling by water.

LEMON: Yes, I'm sure. I'm sure you are. Right? Thank you, sir. I appreciate you joining us.

BLOUNT: Thank you for having me.

LEMON: At any moment now, we're expecting the DOJ to file a response to Trump's bid for a special master to oversee documents seized at Mar-a-Lago. What we can expect, next.



LEMON: All right. Hello, everyone. We are standing by for the Justice Department to respond to Trump's request for a special master to review documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.