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Don Lemon Tonight

Biden Delivers Stark Warning About the Dangers of Putin's Nuke Threats; DOJ Insists to Trump's Attorneys that He Return All Docs Marked Classified; CNN Poll: Kelly Holding Narrow Lead Over Masters and No Clear Leader in NV Race Between Cortez Masto and Laxalt. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired October 06, 2022 - 23:00   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. has warned Moscow directly behind the scene. Officials say what they would do if that were to occur. The president's point here is there is not half measure. Any time, any move in this direction would set up an escalatory ladder that just simply would not end, leading to Armageddon. It's a warning. A blunt one, a vivid one, but a very, very clear warning about the stakes and the dangers here.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: General, I want to bring you in because, as Phil said, I don't think there is any such thing as the ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon. I mean, are we right to qualify this as startling? Is this terrifying to hear? But -- is it a real possibility as well?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It certainly is, Don. A lot of people have been concerned about this from the very beginning of this conflict.

Let me tell you, the last time I observed a Russian exercise in Moscow, outside of Moscow, they had a tendency in their exercises, their training events, to always end their training events with a nuclear index, end of exercise. It is something they practice, and it is something they are very comfortable with. Now, they have never used them for real other than in tests.

So, this is something, and I think it's why the Biden administration, rightfully so, in my view, has had this concern on the back of their minds since the beginning of this conflict.

LEMON: Susan Glasser, the president also said here he is -- he says, I'm trying to figure out what is Putin's offramp. What is he trying to way out here? Where does he find himself in a position that he does not only lose face but lose significant power within Russia? That's the president's quote. Putin has backed himself into a corner. So, how does he get out of it?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yeah, I think that is one of the words, when I hear offramp and American officials talking about Putin, because again and again and again, Putin has shown over the last two decades that he is heedless, largely, of American efforts to guide him in any direction, and offramps are not appreciated.

One thing is that here we are just a few months into Putin's war in Ukraine and in a way, one of the horrific consequences that we have already normalized, talk about nuclear war. Putin's nuclear saber rattling has had the effect, has produced a response from the president of the United States in which we are essentially routinely now talking about what would have been unthinkable just a year ago. So, I think that's one problem.

The other thing is, does Putin feel encouraged that despite his reverses on the battlefield, his nuclear blackmail has, in fact, encouraged the United States to possibly be more open to seeking a settlement? So, that is one worry and one risk for President Biden in talking about this. But, again, we are really in uncharted territory here, Don, it seems to me. Just a year ago, can you imagine even having this conversation?

LEMON: Right at all. I man, right on. Not at all we could even imagine it. But look at the turn of events over the last year. Max, why do you think the president is speaking so freely about the use of nuclear weapons?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think what he was trying to do, Don, was to try to deter Putin. I think what he was trying to signal is that even if Putin were to use only -- quote, unquote -- "only a tactical nuclear weapon," that it could still escalate into a strategic nuclear exchange and a major nuclear war. I think he was trying -- I suspect he was trying to signal Putin about the dangers of tactical nuclear use.

But there is a danger in turn in doing what and saying what Biden said because remember, what Putin is trying to do is he is trying to scare us. He is trying to make up for the major reversals that his ground forces are suffering in Ukraine as we speak. He is trying to terrify us that unless we stop supporting Ukraine, he might go nuclear.

And so, I think there is a thin between deterring Putin and amplifying his threats, and I'm not sure that it's helpful to talk about nuclear Armageddon or the Cuban missile crisis. I think, you know, we need to make clear that we will not be deterred, that we will stay the course, and that there will be unacceptable consequences for him for any use of nuclear weapons. We should not amplify those threats and thereby do his bidding for him.

LEMON: So, to be clear, you are not a fan of the language the president use?

BOOT: I understand what the president is trying to do. I'm not sure that some of the inflammatory language was helpful. But again, as Susan said, we are in uncharted territory, so I don't think anybody has necessarily the right playbook for dealing with the situation.

LEMON: Understood. General, another quote from the president. He says, speaking about Putin, he says, he is not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is you might say significantly underperforming.

So, explain just how bad things have gotten for Russia on the battlefield.

HERTLING: They are bad.


HERTLING: They are extremely bad. Exceedingly bad, Don. I can't emphasize it enough. Putin has failed in every strategic operational and tactical objective he has set for himself over the last seven months in every phase of this operation. And I believe we are entering phase four. He has not been successful in any of those phases.

Ukraine's army and their military and their political body with President Zelenskyy has done masterful work and brilliantly executed this campaign with the help of NATO and the United States.

So, yes, the mobilization, as I have talked about multiple times, is not going well and it will not go well. He cannot get 200,000 forces, soldiers on the battlefield as a reinforcing force. He doesn't have the capability to lead them, to train them, to mobilize them, to prepare them, and even to equip them to get them to reinforce the force that currently is losing on the battlefield.

And they're going to reinforce a force with extremely low morale, extremely poor leadership, and a force that hasn't accomplished any of their objectives, as I said earlier.

So, yes, Putin is in a very bad place right now. So, the decision- making -- I mean, we can kind of war game and exercise what might happen with nuclear weapons. I disagree with Max. I think it was prudent for the president to say this. I know.

I have been in a lot of conferences lately and every time I am at a conference or a dinner, somebody says, do you think the Russians are going to use -- do you think Putin is going to use a nuke? You don't know because he's a lunatic, and he is losing very badly. So, you have to prepare for the worst. That's what a prudent leader does.

LEMON: Listen, I think -- and that is the discussion. There are people who agree with what the president said or how he said it, and those who won't. And speaking of that, Phil, if the White House would come out and walk this back, they have not, it would not be the first time that this has happened. No discussion from the White House about, even an explanation, or trying to clarify further what the president said tonight?

MATTINGLY: Officials I've spoken to over the last couple of hours said there was not going to be any follow-up statement, there was not going to be any walk back. They don't see, necessarily, that the president's comments and their public positions from the State Department, in the White House podium, and the Pentagon over the course of the last several weeks are necessarily mutually exclusive.

I think while this is a different strategy rhetorically than we have seen from his top administration officials, I think they understand that --

LEMON: Even from the secretary of defense.

MATTINGLY: Even from the secretary of state, even from secretary of state, even from national security advisor. One, he is the president of the United States. And two, I think what I have picked up, in speaking to folks tonight, is this kind of idea that this is something that is very much on the mind of the president and his team every single day.

They are constantly thinking about scenarios when it comes to Ukraine and what might happen next. There is no worse or more dire scenario than this. It is natural that they will be thinking about it. That speech Friday from President Putin really set that off. We are at almost 60-year anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis. Here is a very big difference between that moment and this moment.

Khrushchev was very cognizant of the idea of mutually assured destruction. I think there is a real question right now if President Putin is, particularly when his forces are doing so poorly on the ground. I think that kind of weighs on the president's mind and his team.

LEMON: Susan Glasser, this reminds me of how the Biden administration was revealing information about Putin's plans ahead of the invasion. Is the president trying to unnerve Putin here or make sure that he is held responsible if something does happen? Is this that, I told you so, or is it a signal to Putin to, you know, knock it off?

GLASSER: Well, certainly it is a signal to Putin to knock it off. Whether it is received as such, Don, I think, is really the question. Certainly, it's pretty hard to sleep at night well when the president of the United States is warning about Armageddon.

LEMON: Right.

GLASSER: You know, I have to say that. But, you know, look, right now, Putin is in a very dangerous position, and the history of him in power suggests that when he has faced (INAUDIBLE) is actually when Putin is at his most dangerous.

He has tendency to escalate. He has (INAUDIBLE) lines in the past that other world leaders have been loathed to do so. He has used, in fact, you know, banned nerve agents to try to assassinate regime opponents outside the country. In other countries, he has ordered assassinations. He has been willing to use unconventional weapons when conventional weapons failed him in the past.

And so, I think the risk factor has gone way up as Putin has destabilized his own country from within with this disastrous mobilization order that sent hundreds of thousands of Russians fleeing the country. I think that, you know, this is really probably the greatest crisis of his entire two decades in office.

[23:10:00] GLASSER: To me, the fear is that that would lead him towards inevitable escalation and this is where tactical nuclear weapons being part of the Russian military doctrine makes it particularly concerning.

LEMON: Thank you all. I appreciate it.

BOOT: Don, if I could just jump in quickly.

LEMON: Sure.

BOOT: I think what Susan is saying is right, but we also need to be very worried about -- wary of the other scenario. We do want to be in a scenario where Putin is losing the war, he threatens nuclear weapons use, all of a sudden, we back off, and he gets to keep a good chunk of Ukraine because that would send a horrific message not only to Putin, which is that his threats payoff, but it will send that message to China, to North Korea, to Iran, to every country around the world.

All you have to do to get the U.S. to back off is a threat to nuclear weapons use. We can't allow that message to be sent either. So, we have to have that middle course, that steady course of what avoiding escalation, but making clear we are not going to cower before his nuclear saber rattling.

LEMON: I think we have a military general here who should respond to that. What do you think of that, general Hertling?

HERTLING: Yeah, I think that, to a degree, is absolutely right. But one other thing that I keep saying, Don, when you're a military commander, when you're on the battlefield, the thought is always in your mind, first of all, how to I succeed? But also, the other thought, to counter that is, what is the worst that can happen?

And I think President Biden and his administration has been crystal clear on saying that they are not going to back off in terms of the support of Ukraine, and they are doing that extremely well, but they also have to understand the dangers and they have to plan for any considerations that might be part of a scenario that could occur.

LEMON: Thank you, all. Appreciate it. Does the former president still have classified documents at Mar-a-Lago? That's what the DOJ believes. What's it going to take to get them back?




LEMON: Tonight, a source tells CNN the DOJ has been demanding in recent weeks that the former president return any classified documents he still has, making clear they don't believe he returned -- he has returned everything that he took from the White House.

Let's discuss now. CNN political analyst Alex Burns is here. He is the co-author of "This Will Not Pass." Also, national security attorney, Bradley Moss, is here. And former federal prosecutor Jim Walden joins us as well. Good evening, gentlemen.

Jim, I'm going to start with you, your reaction to this new reporting in what we can expect next from the Justice Department.

JIM WALDEN, FORMER FEDERAL PRESECUTOR: Donald Trump is bleeding to death from a thousand cuts. I mean, the idea that he would continue to have these documents at Mar-a-Lago and other places is really astounding, but who can put anything past him? But this is exactly why the special master process -- despite the fact that Judge Dearie, the special master, is a fantastic choice, it should never have been in the first place.

There are 11,000 documents that are sitting there in a database that could tell the DOJ exactly how many other classified documents are missing, how they got there, where they might be stored, and they can't do anything because they're sitting in a database, unreviewed (ph).

This is the exact reason that a special master in these circumstances are almost unheard of, and that is a problem for the DOJ, but it is more importantly a problem for our national security.

LEMON: Bradley, will the DOJ even put out this kind of demand if they didn't know Trump still had classified documents in his possession? How do you think that they know? Could it be a source within Mar-a- Lago?

BRADLEY MOSS, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: It could be a source. It could be based off witness interviews. But more likely than anything, it must be coming (ph) from NARA, from the National Archives, because remember, when the administration comes to an end, they're supposed to be boxing up all the stuff, they're supposed to be shipping everything under the Presidential Records Act to NARA. It is like a grocery list. You check off each little thing, this box or this type of document.

NARA had a pretty good sense of what it was supposed to receive, what it has received now through these various efforts to recover them, and what it still doesn't have. So, they've got a pretty good sense here of what is still missing, what could be potentially located, you know, in other agencies it might have just been disposed of, but more likely, what remains in some Trump property, what he remains in control of.

That's why DOJ is pushing on this, that they've got this big sense, you've got more and you're just not telling us about it.

LEMON: Alex, Trump has been told over and over and over again for well over a year now to return classified documents that he took from the White House. What is this say that he still is not complying?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Don, it certainly says that the former president is not taking a particularly cautious view of his own legal exposure in this situation, that the Justice Department and other government entities have pushed him and his attorneys over and over now to either return documents or to certify or to attest that they have returned all the documents.

The fact that the we are still having this conversation now about whether all the documents have in fact been returned shows that Donald Trump is -- no big surprise here, but playing it pretty fast and loose.

And Don, I do think it bears a sort of stepping back from specifics of this report this evening and just sort of taking in the bigger picture of this, that he still, for all intents and purposes, the head of one of America's two major political parties, a likely candidate, and as we are speaking tonight, likely nominee of one of those two parties, and he has this legal sort of (INAUDIBLE) hanging over his head that he still seems not to be taking completely seriously.

It's an unprecedented political situation and obviously an unprecedented legal situation.

LEMON: Jim, I also -- I want to get your take on the former Oath Keeper testifying that the far-right group leader, the far-right groups leader, was in touch with the Secret Service in 2020.


LEMON: How big of a deal is that?

WALDEN: I think it's a huge deal. I mean, Don, everybody is looking for the holy grail. What is the connection between Donald Trump and the insurrectionists? And you see the pieces starting to come together. They were communicating over a channel.

The Oath Keepers swore that they're friends of Stone. You have this new testimony about this person that Rhodes was trying to get in touch with to pass a message to Trump. You have the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys protecting Roger Stone. And most importantly, now you have them in touch with the Secret Service.

And then what happens? Right after the breach, I think, when Stone realized that president had not declared an insurrection, martial law, he realized that the gig was up and he fled out of D.C. as fast as he could because -- that's why the documentary film members were there. It was his alibi.

So, I think that this is great fodder for the upcoming January 6 Committee. I think it's really going to tell the story of the connection, the pipeline, between the insurrectionists and Trump.

LEMON: The Secret Service says that they don't have enough information to know if there was contact between Stewart Rhodes and an agent. But occasionally, agents will make a contact with protest groups for situational awareness. Does that add up to you?

MOSS: Here's the thing. It could. Not to throw cold water on everything we just heard, but the one problem we've got here is that we are talking about a group of individuals, whether it is Roger Stone or Stewart Rhodes, Oath Keepers, who talk a lot. They talk a big game. We haven't seen the connecting pieces yet. It might be there. Whether it's in the text messages that some of them were recovered from the Secret Service, they were turned over to the January 6 Committee, we will see what comes of that with the next hearing, or if it's in some of those messages we will never see, that were disposed of.

We haven't seen the connection here. We've seen a lot of talk. We've seen a lot of people talking about what they say they had connections to, what they say they could pull off. We haven't seen that link yet. That's what I am waiting to see, if the committee can bring some more clarity on next week.

LEMON: Alex, we're talking about an agency that erased text messages from January 6 and the day before after oversight officials asked for them. That is according to a watchdog. I mean, is this just a coincidence?

BURNS: Well, Don, to echo the previous point, this is a sort of major credibility, sort of tug of war problem that we have here on all sides of this account, because on the one hand, you have these folks on the far-right. I think anybody who covered people on the political fringe knows that they do have a habit of talking a really big game about their plans and their connections. You know, we go to see whether there is really hard evidence to substantiate the most disturbing links that have been suggested here.

On the other side, you have a government agency that has been opaque at best, being responsive to some of the big questions that are in play in this case. And so, it's really hard to know precisely what to make of this, but certainly from the outside and with that veil of uncertainty over this, it certainly doesn't seem like anything --

LEMON: Alex, Jim, Bradley, thank you all. I appreciate it.

A new CNN poll showing Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly with a narrow lead over GOP opponent Blake Masters. And tonight, they face off in their first debate. Hear what they are saying, next.




LEMON: Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly and Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters facing off tonight in their first debate. This is as new CNN poll shows Kelly holding a narrow lead over Masters, 51% to 45%. But that same polling also suggests that the underlying political climate in the state favors the GOP with 44% of voters saying that the country will be better off if Republicans are in control of Congress compared to 38% who say the country will be worse off.

I want to bring in now CNN's national correspondent Kyung Lah, along with CNN senior data reporter "data" Harry, Harry "data" Enten. So, good evening to both of you. Kyung, I'm going to start with you. You're in Phoenix. So, talk to us about some of the big moments from tonight's debate.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One of the key themes that, really, we saw right out of the gate, Don, is something that really is -- really borne out of some of what we're seeing in the CNN poll.

You have an incumbent here that is feeling the drag of this party. So, he is seeking to distance himself, not just from his party, but President Joe Biden as well. The Republican challenger, Blake Masters, really going after him again and again on the issues of the economy as well as immigration. Take a listen.


BLAKE MASTERS, ARIZONA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Joe Biden is spending like a drunken sailor, and at every single opportunity, Mark Kelly just says yes.

SEN. MARK KELLY (D-AR): I've been strong on border security. I've stood up to Democrats when they're wrong on this issue.

UNKNOWN: It sounds like --

KELLY: Including, by the way --


KELLY: -- including the president. When the president decided he was going to do something dumb on this and change the rules, you know, that would create a bigger crisis, you know, I told him he was wrong.


LAH: So, creating some daylight there, some serious daylight between him and the president, and really making a play there, Don, for the middle, and really focusing on those undecided voters that he's hoping to win over to vote for the incumbent once again, Don.

LEMON: All right. Let's hear now from Harry Enten. Harry, we got this new polling in two key battleground states to talk about, Nevada and Arizona.


LEMON: Let's start with Arizona. Right now, Senator Kelly has this narrow lead over Blake Masters. So, walk us through that and what's going on in that race.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Sure, I mean, look, if you look at Arizona, right, our poll has Mark Kelly up by six. They have been, in fact, four polls conducted basically over the last 10 days from various media organizations. They all find that Mark Kelly is ahead by anywhere from 3 to 6 points. So, I do think that lead is real.

I think the interesting thing about Arizona, you know, our polls show that Joe Biden's approval rating is well below 50%, but what our poll also showed was that Mark Kelly's net favorability rating, his favorable, minus his unfavorable, was in the positive territory. Look at Blake Masters on the other hand. His net favorability rating was underwater. His unfavorable rating was larger than his favorable rating.

I think this is something that we've seen across the entire U.S. Senate map this year where you have a strong environment for Republicans, but they're basically screwing it up by nominating these candidates who are, simply put, not very well liked by the electorate.

LEMON: Here's the thing, Kyung. Blake Masters is trying to moderate. He is moderating now. He needs to win over independents. Did you see any signs of that tonight?

LAH: We saw two very big signs, two very key moments. One of them is that Masters really dodged the question, just simply refusing to answer the question about what happened to his website. After he won the primary, suddenly, some of the extreme abortion language that was on his website suddenly disappeared, and he just didn't want to answer that.

Instead, he stuck to the language that he is with a 15-week abortion limit. That is something that Lindsey Graham has put forward, and he says he does support that. But he wouldn't go anywhere to where he was pre-primary, where he was much more extreme, wanted to present pro- life from the moment of conception.

And then we also saw him really moderating on the issue of democracy. This is a candidate in the republican primary who put out an ad that said -- quote -- "I believe Trump won in 2020." But when directly asked by the moderator, do you believe this election was stolen when it comes to vote counting, as well as the election, the way the election is processed, he says, I don't see any evidence of that. So, a dramatic change there.

LEMON: Wow! Okay.

ENTEN: Whatever works, right?


ENTEN: You're trying to win a race, I guess.

LEMON: I mean, will the real Blake Masters, please, stand up? I mean --

ENTEN: To tell the truth, I love (INAUDIBLE).


LEMON: Harry, in Nevada, there's no clear leader in the Senate race. The GOP candidate, Adam Laxalt, has 48%of the vote, while Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto has 36%. How do you expect this race to shape up heading into next month?

ENTEN: You know, again, I like looking at a lot of polls. Our poll has Laxalt up within the margin of error. That's basically where most of the polls have this race, Republican Laxalt with the slight lead. So, you know, this might be surprising to some given that Nevada has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate '08, '12, '16, '20.

But I will note, in '12, the margin was less than it was than '08, in '16, the margin was less than it was in '12, and in '20, the democratic margin, presidential margin, Joe Biden won Nevada by less of a margin than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. It was by only a little bit more than two percentage points.

So, it wouldn't be shocking to me if Laxalt won. But here's the thing that I think is important, Don. Look, at the end of the day, it's the road to 50 seats, eight? It's the road to 50 seats.

So, there's essentially -- these six races that I'm looking at, Democrats need to win four of the six. And you can see, they're trailing in Nevada right now, but they're leading in New Hampshire, they're leading in Arizona, they're leading in Pennsylvania, they're leading in Georgia where, obviously, we have a whole slew of things going on there.

But if they win the states where they're headed right now, they could lose in Nevada and in Wisconsin, and it wouldn't matter, they would still get to that 50 seats and maintain a majority with Kamala Harris. Obviously, it is a tie-breaking vote.

LEMON: Wow. Guess what? We're going to know soon.

ENTEN: That's true.


ENTEN: Time marches forward. Having gone backwards, at least, as I've been live.

LEMON: Thank you very much. I appreciate it, both of you.

President Biden pardoning all federal marijuana possession convictions, freeing thousands from prison. This story was the talk of the day. We are going to have the details next.

But first, I want to tell you about Stanley Tucci's all new season of "Searching for Italy." He is continuing his extraordinary journey through Italy, exploring the people, the places, and the cuisine that make each region of the country unique. Here's a preview.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): Stanley Tucci is back in Italy. And there are more surprises to be found.

STANLEY TUCCI, ACTOR AND FILMMAKER: I've never seen anything quite like it.

Oh, there you go, dad. It's your family home.

A million different flavors.


TUCCI: I'm not answering that question.

Man, incredible.



TUCCI: Wow, wow, wow. The food is amazing.

Look at that.

Come on, that -- is amazing.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy." New season premieres Sunday at 9:00 on CNN.

TUCCI: You can stop filming. We are just going to eat.






LEMON: President Joe Biden taking the first major steps toward decriminalizing marijuana. Today, he fulfilled a campaign pledge to erase prior federal possession convictions and starting the process of potentially loosening federal classification of the drug.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. It's already legal in many states. Criminal records for marijuana possession have led to needless barriers to employment, to housing, to educational opportunities. That's before you address the racial disparities around who suffers the consequences.


LEMON: The president pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession, a move that will affect thousands of Americans,

Joining me now, CNN political commentator Ashley Allison. Also, back with us, Alice Stewart. She is a CNN political commentator. Okay, so, welcome back, Alice. Hello, Ashley, welcome to the program. What do you think? This is a big deal and a campaign promise that he's delivering on.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I am so excited to hear Joe Biden delivering on his campaign process promise. This is not only good politics but this is good policy not just for Democrats but for Republicans. I mean, Donald Trump actually signed one of his few bipartisan bills with this on criminal justice reform.

Right now, we live in a country where people are literally sitting behind bars for a simple marijuana possession while others can sell it in many states from dispensaries and make millions in one year. And so, people elected Joe Biden to deliver on this promise.

Right now, 37 states literally, you can buy marijuana for medical use. And that is not democratic governor states. That's states like Alabama and Arkansas. In 19 states, there is literally the ability to buy marijuana for recreational use, what they call adult use or nonmedical use. Those are states like Arizona, Montana, South Dakota, also with republican governors.

So, he also -- when he did this today, he didn't just do it for the federal government. Because we know that most people actually are incarcerated at the state prison level, he made a call to states to actually do the same thing.

And so, there is so much opportunity to remove people who are necessarily behind bars, spending taxpayer dollars for simple possession of marijuana when the system just hasn't caught up to where our laws are now and where the authority of American people are on this issue.

LEMON: So, Alice, 60% of Americans say pot should be legal for medical and recreational use. Another 31% say it should be legal for just medical use. That's all most really all of Americans. You don't agree with that?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't. Look, I'm fine with this for medical use, if that's the intended purpose. Having family members that would have avail themselves of that, I think that's fine. But I also happen to think that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to bigger things.

There's a real problem with this in that the -- just the large-scale, across the board pardoning of people for this. It is clearly -- what we are seeing is an election year ploy to gain votes.

I'm glad my friend actually mentioned the state of Arkansas. I checked with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and he has a real problem with this because part of what the president has done is he has asked state governors to follow suit and issuing pardons for these criminals.

Governor Hutchinson does not approve of this and doesn't plan to do so because he looks at this as simply waving the flag on policies that will help save lives that are impacted by --

LEMON: There are Republicans, though, who agree. Nancy Mace, Congresswoman Nancy Mace supports Biden's move, saying that it's a great first step. There are Republicans who support this. Also, there are people who are sitting in jail for minor marijuana possession, and there are people who are making millions of dollars on selling marijuana now.

STEWART: In terms of governors doing this at the state level, and I understand Mace seeing this differently from Congress, but Governor Hutchinson, like other governors that I have seen responses from, he has a problem with the blanket policy of issuing these pardons.

He has done countless pardons in this level but they need to be done in a case by case basis. Also, it should be done with people that have shown a pattern of law-abiding activity in order to gain this privilege, and that is not the case here. That's the problem --

LEMON: If it's legal, then, how can it be legal in one place and -- but go on. I'm sorry. Go ahead. Go ahead, Ashley.


ALLISON: I remember, in 2016, actually inviting Governor Hutchinson to sit down across with President Biden to talk about criminal justice reform and how this actually disproportionately impacted Black and brown people, because now you have a system where people are incarcerated for laws that are no longer on the books in his very own state.

So, is it fair for those people who can now make money in his state? It is one of the states that is allowed to sell medical marijuana, maybe some of those were selling marijuana on that day for medical use. We just need to bring this up. This is why President Biden did not eliminate all drug use but simple possession.

Now, it's one step to reform our criminal justice system. But I think right now what we are seeing is that there is an unjust system, and people are sitting behind bars while other people are making money on the same thing. Most of those people are Black and brown.

LEMON: That was my point. How are you going to say to someone, I'm going to arrest you for a joint or whatever, whatever you're carrying, and then someone else, go ahead, you can make millions of dollars? I'm not saying it should or shouldn't be. I actually personally think that alcohol is worse than marijuana. It is more of a gateway drug and it is more addictive and causes more problems in people's lives.

But listen, who am I to say? I just say it is, as you say, it's not uniformed across the board, and you can't tell one person, you can't smoke it or you can't possess it, and then another person goes ahead and make a fortune on it. The two just don't compute. Thank you both.

STEWART: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: I appreciate it. Thank you, Ashley. Thank you, Alice.

Tonight, in the aftermath of hurricane Ian, some of the residents of Florida's predominantly Black neighborhoods are saying that they are being neglected by the state. CNN has the story. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



LEMON: The death toll from hurricane Ian in Florida is rising as rescuers comb through the rubble. The massive storm claiming at least 126 lives in the state. And as a recovery and relief experts expand, residents of some majority Black communities in Southwest Florida feel they are being left behind.

More tonight from CNN's Randi Kaye.


SHARDA WILLIAMS, RIVER BANK RESIDENT: This is how high the water got. You can see it's going all the way across there.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sharda Williams rode out the storm at home with her family in the river park neighborhood of Naples.

WILLIAMS: There was not one dry spot.

KAYE (voice-over): Sharda says the water from the Gordon River rose so fast and flooded her home in this historically Black community. She showed me how the water came up above the fence outback and covered the dock. In the middle of the storm, she and others waited through deep water to get to higher ground at this nearby 7-Eleven, all the while terrified there were alligators or snakes in the water.

WILLIAMS: It was scary. Walking and not knowing -- it was scary. It was very scary. I never want to go through that again. Never. It's heartbreaking.

KAYE (voice-over): Two hours later, she says police and fire rescue pick them up at 7-Eleven and dropped them at Coastland Center Mall nearby. She said they were soaked and left without any blankets or supplies.

WILLIAMS: I would think they would've brought some type of blankets or something being that we all are wet. The water and wind are blowing like crazy, hitting stuff.

KAYE (on camera): Do you feel like this community was sort of forgotten during the storm?


KAYE (voice-over): Multiple residents here in River Park, which is right on the water, told us they didn't receive notification to evacuate their homes. But the city of Naples told us, the day before the storm, they ordered a mandatory evacuation, which included this community, telling us in a statement, they reached out to thousands of residents. The notice was sent via email, code red, press release to all media outlets and neighborhoods, fire rescue app, and social media. The city says first responders did not go door to door in any neighborhood in the city of Naples.

Curtis Williams lives across the street from Sharda. His house flooded and nearly everything he owns was destroyed.

CURTIS WILLIAMS, RIVER BANK RESIDENT: Not one city employee, police or whatever, came through the neighborhood before the floodwater and say it was a mandatory evacuation. Not one.

KAYE (voice-over): He says they easily could've driven through the neighborhood with a bullhorn, telling people to leave.

Twenty-one-year-old Trinity Williams, Sharda's cousin, says the floodwater came up to her chest. She's furious by what she calls lack of action from officials and emergency responders.

TRINITY WILLIAMS, RIVER PARK RESIDENT: You see people yelling at the 7-Eleven. People swimming at the water. And they came, they seen, and they left. They came, they seen, and they left.

KAYE (voice-over): The city tells us their fire station one flooded during the storm and stopped responding. Also, that their first responders were trapped in areas throughout the city as waters rose quickly. The city told us they sent a high-water rescue vehicle to this community and drove three loads of residents to higher ground at the Coastline Center Mall. As numerous people in the area were trapped, the goal was to get everyone to safety and high ground, the statement said.

UNKNOWN: Excuse me.

KAYE (voice-over): And after the storm --

(On camera): Did search and rescue teams come?

S. WILLIAMS: No. I have not seen them. The fire trucks came bringing food and stuff, but not as far as trying to get people out or make sure that homes and stuff were okay. None of that.

KAYE (on camera): Don, the city tells me that they are providing food and water to the River Park community and also helping pick up debris.


KAYE (on camera): But as far as those shelters go, the local NAACP says that there are shelters, but they're simply too far away from this community for many people to get to before the storm because they just don't have the means of transportation.

As far as rebuilding, many in that community do not have flood insurance and they've lost everything. That young woman, Trinity, 21 years old, who we spoke with, she lost all of her clothes and she still has to go back to work, so she has to figure that out. And 64-year-old Curtis, who we spoke with, he is going to be sleeping on an air mattress, he told me, and rebuilding his home from the inside while staying there. He is going to fix all of the damage from the inside while sleeping on that air mattress. Don?


LEMON: Randi Kaye, thanks. And thanks for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.