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CNN TONIGHT: Philadelphia Mayor Fed Up With Gun Violence: "I'll Be Happy" When I'm Not Mayor Anymore; Rep. Cheney: January 6 Committee Could Make Multiple Criminal Referrals, Including Of Trump; Romney: U.S. "In Denial" Over Potentially Cataclysmic Threats, Trump Return Would "Feed The Sickness". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 05, 2022 - 21:00   ET



REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): But, I think, it is very significant.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, I really appreciate your time, tonight. Thank you so much.

LOFGREN: You bet. Anytime.

COOPER: Take care.

The news continues. Want to hand things over to Kasie Hunt, and CNN TONIGHT.


KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: Anderson, thanks so much.

I am Kasie Hunt. Welcome to CNN TONIGHT.

Vice President Harris, just visited the site, of yesterday's deadly mass shooting, in Highland Park, Illinois. Earlier, she called on Congress, to renew the assault weapons ban, and protect communities, across the nation, from what she called, "The terror of gun violence."

It was another semi-automatic weapon, similar, this time, to an AR-15, used to slaughter more innocent Americans. And, this time, it happened, on America's birthday. More than 70 rounds, were fired, on an Independence Day Parade, according to police.





HUNT: And just terrifying! Terrifying!

We learned that another person, died today, from wounds, suffered, in the parade attack. And that brings the total number of dead, to seven, now. And dozens more are injured.

We also learned today that among the dead are 35-year-old and 37-year- old Irina and Kevin McCarthy. They are, or were, Aiden's parents. He is a 2-year-old boy. He was found alive, after the shooting, and was reunited, with his grandparents. But now, we know that he's an orphan. A GoFundMe page, has been created, to raise money, to support little Aiden.

So, here we are, again, in America, after Uvalde, after Buffalo. My God! It goes on and on and on. At least 319 people, in the U.S., so far, this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. And it is only July!

Only hours, after that crowd, went running, for their lives, in Highland Park, so did a crowd, of July 4 revelers, in Philadelphia, when shots rang out, injuring two police officers. Now, thankfully, they're OK.

But the Democratic mayor of that city is so fed up with gun violence that he says he can't wait until he's not in his job, anymore.


MAYOR JIM KENNEY, (D) PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA: This is a gun country. It's crazy. We're the most armed country in world history, and we're one of the least safest.

I don't enjoy Fourth of July. I don't enjoy the Democratic National Convention. I didn't enjoy the NFL Draft. I'm waiting for something bad to happen, all the time. So it's - I'll be happy, when I'm not here - when I'm not the mayor, and I can enjoy some stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're looking forward to not being Mayor?



HUNT: Just an awful reality!

The horror, in Highland Park, comes more than two weeks, after Congress did finally act, in a bipartisan fashion. They did something, about gun violence, in America. They passed the first major gun safety legislation, in decades. And yet, here we are, again.

Earlier today, Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, said that he thinks the bill that just passed, quote, "Targeted the problem," which he labeled as mental health, and young men, quote, "Inspired" to commit atrocities. He didn't mention guns.

The number two Democrat in the Senate praises the legislation. But he says, it's nowhere near enough.

And joining me now, Senate Majority Whip, Dick Durbin, He is the senior senator from Illinois, which is, of course, the latest state, now mourning, after a mass shooting. Senator, thank you, for being with us, tonight.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Glad to be here.

HUNT: You went, of course, straight to the shooting, as soon as you heard about it. You, like many Americans, were on vacation.

These are your constituents. How are they doing? How are you doing? How is this community, just the latest community, so desperately, sadly, doing, in the wake of this?

DURBIN: Kasie, they're still in shock.

Think about it. What an amazing American tradition! Fourth of July parade, with your kids, in a great little town, like Highland Park that has a reputation, for being a lot of good people, and a safest place, in the world, you can imagine.

And then what happens? Another American tradition, the horrible tradition, of mass shooting, descends on the community, and on the parade route. Sadly, now, seven people have died, and the numbers that were injured have gone up dramatically. This was all transpiring, in a matter of a few minutes. People are just trying to and still work their way through this shock.

HUNT: So Senator, pulling out the lens a little bit here. This was the Fourth of July, the day that we all celebrate America that we celebrate our freedom, and independence.

I think, a lot of people, woke up to this news, and just felt completely demoralized, like didn't we just do the thing that was supposed to prevent what happened? Didn't you, and your colleagues, in the Senate, just do that?

I mean, why did this happen? Why was what you did not enough?


DURBIN: Well, I can tell you, I supported it. I want to thank Chris Murphy, John Cornyn, Thom Tillis, Kyrsten Sinema, thanks, for putting together a bipartisan bill, the first one, in 30 years, in Washington.

Was it an improvement? Yes. But did it do enough? No. In my estimation, it didn't touch the basic issue, here. The basic issue, here, is that we are selling firearms, and weapons, to Americans, that are military-grade weapons, for killing human beings.

Listen to the doctors, carefully describe the patients, who lost their lives.

HUNT: Right.

DURBIN: And say that average person couldn't stand, even see, what happened, to them. This is not a bullet hole. Many times, this is a shredding device, which just kills people, in a gruesome awful way.

HUNT: Right.

DURBIN: It was designed for war. And we now have between 10 million and 20 million, of these AR-15s, in America.

HUNT: But what do you say to people?

I mean, I think, you can acknowledge. I mean, I have covered Capitol Hill, for long enough to know that there is little to - zero to no chance, something big is going to happen, anytime soon, beyond what you already did.

I mean, how do you look at people, and say - when you go to work every day? I mean, the Mayor of Philadelphia said, "I don't even want to be mayor anymore. I don't know what to do. There's nothing to be done."

I mean, don't you feel frustrated? I mean, what do you say to people, who just want to turn their backs on everything that you're doing, in Congress, because clearly, it doesn't seem like any of these problems can be fixed?

DURBIN: I believe in this country. And I believe that we can solve this problem, as we have many others. But it's going to take the will of the people. That's what a democracy is all about.

There's an election coming. If this is an important issue, the safety of your family, the safety of your kids, in schools, at parades, in any number of different ways, we've seen mass shooting? Then, it's time for you to look for candidates, who agree with you, and vote for them.

Show up in November. That's what a democracy is all about. You want to change America? Do it in a ballot.

HUNT: So, speaking of the ballot box, I want to show you what the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who, of course, was willing to support the reforms that you just passed, had to say about this shooting, today.

Take a look.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I think yesterday's shooting is another example of what the problem is. The problem is mental health, and these young men, who seem to be inspired to commit these atrocities. So, I think, the bill that we passed targeted the problem.


HUNT: So, he says he thinks what you've done is essentially enough.

One of the things that stuck out to me about the fact that he was willing to support it all, is exactly what you were talking about, our elections, whether or not people are voting on this issue. Clearly, his support for it was an acknowledgment that people, especially in suburban America, are willing to change their vote, on this issue. Do you think he's going to be willing to go farther? Do you think this is going to be something that is going to become so animating, that it really actually will put control of the United States Senate, on the line?

DURBIN: What Senator McConnell said is true. Mental illness, and counseling, and trauma experiences, are part of this, and have to be, and they were included in the bill that we passed.

But let's get down to the bottom line here. This madman, went up, on the roof of a building, and fired off 70 rounds, as fast as - in a matter of minutes, killing people, in every direction, and killing them, with lethal ammunition. This is the sort of thing that we got to take as part of the problem too.

Yes, I blame the gun. In this case, the military weapon that was used, turned on these people, who were just there, with their kids, celebrating the Fourth of July.

Mental illness, and those aberrant behaviors, as bad as they are, are not going to kill all of those people, and injure so many, without that gun. There is no place, for military assault weapons, in America. They belong in the hands of the military.

HUNT: So, what do you say to Mitch McConnell?

DURBIN: Open your eyes, Mitch. It's going to come to your state too, if it hasn't already.

Innocent people are going to die, because people demand the right to own military assault weapons. That just isn't consistent, with any value, in America. And I don't believe it's consistent with the Constitution.

HUNT: All right, Senator Dick Durbin, thank you very much, for your time, tonight, sir. Really appreciate it.

DURBIN: You too.

HUNT: And here to discuss, with us, tonight, former U.S. Senator, Doug Jones, former U.S. Congresswoman, Barbara Comstock, and Editorial Writer, for The New York Times, Michelle Cottle.

Thank you very much, for being with us, tonight.

Senator Durbin, tell Mitch McConnell, "Open your eyes. Take a look at what's going on." But I think, I've covered Congress long enough--


HUNT: --to know that what's done is done, for now.


HUNT: Are they going to do anything else?


JONES: No, I don't think there'll be anything, this time. We're getting too close to midterms.

And, quite frankly, the best opportunity, was the other day, when they did something, and they pulled back. There was a lot of talk. They pulled back on it. And I agree, with Dick. I mean, no - I don't want to minimize what passed, because it was historic.

HUNT: Yes.

JONES: But it could have been more. I mean, Kasie, you've recall, I did my maiden speech, on gun violence, after Parkland.

HUNT: Yes.

JONES: That was in 2018, calling for the same things, red flag laws, boyfriend loophole changes.

HUNT: Right.

JONES: We've got to do more. But I'm not optimistic.

HUNT: I mean, the thing is just like, it's just - you wake up, and you're like, "Again? I mean, again, we're doing this, again? Didn't we just do this?" I mean, how many more times, it's taken me?

Congresswoman Comstock, you are - you're a Republican. Like, of some elements, in your party, you represented a district that area. Do you think that they did enough here? Did they do too much? Would you have supported it? I mean, what are the politics for you, in this?

BARBARA COMSTOCK, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM VIRGINIA, ATTORNEY: Well, I had supported red flag laws, when I was in, kind of cracking down on, when there are illegal guns and things like that. So, my hat's off that there actually was finally an agreement, in the adults--

HUNT: Right.

COMSTOCK: --in the room. Senator Cornyn, Senator Murphy, who - they've always worked together, well. We had - I did some legislation, with them, on improving the NICS system, and things like that.

But now, with the bill, they passed, I think, states can go to work, on improving things, I think, particularly the red flag laws that can be improved, because there certainly were a lot of red flags, here.

HUNT: Right.

COMSTOCK: And, I think, if those need to be tightened, if it needs to be more aggressive on - in this case, he was a threat to his family and to others, yet he was then allowed to get a gun?

I know, in Virginia, after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, when there were mental health issues there? It was Governor Kaine, and a Republican legislature that - I think, it was Republican then, I wasn't there yet. But came together to improve those, to crack down on it, beforehand, so you never get the gun.

HUNT: Right.

COMSTOCK: So, I do think there's going to be more opportunities. And, I think, because those Republicans work together, you have the core of a group that hopefully will consider, as they get more information, on how this bill is working, where they need to do additional things that they can agree on.

HUNT: Yes. Well, Michelle Cottle?

COMSTOCK: It's tough.

HUNT: I mean, you've argued like this is all - we need to go much further. I mean, when you listen to Dick Durbin, talk about it?

And then, and this is the thing that gets me, right? We've obviously, for privacy reasons, never seen pictures, of those children, who were slaughtered, in Uvalde. We haven't seen direct pictures of the wounds that all these doctors have been describing.

But when you hear them talk about it, when it's not just - it's not as though, remember, the one doctor talking after Uvalde, saying, "It used to be I could - I could sew the holes up, when I saw the bullet wounds. But now, there's nothing to sew."

I mean, how do we, like, I just, I don't - I don't want to throw my hands up, and say, "I'm out." But I'm like, this goes, to where the Mayor was, in saying like, what good is any of it?

MICHELLE COTTLE, EDITORIAL WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Look, you do have to fight the impulse, to just throw your hands up, and surrender. That is always the problem, here.

The people, who are willing to go to the mattresses, and fight, even the most sensible gun laws are never going to give up. They're always going to be out there, fighting the fight. So, the people, who want commonsense safety laws, you have to stay in there.

And you - the sad reality of politics, especially in Congress, is that it tends to be these incremental baby steps. Anything that introduces more friction into the free crazy flow--

HUNT: You know this.

JONES: Oh, yes.

COTTLE: --of guns--


COTTLE: --is a good thing. But also, the other reality is that it is going to wind up being the states that have to take even more action because-- COMSTOCK: Well, because Florida did this. When Rick Scott was governor?

COTTLE: Exactly.

COMSTOCK: They went further than the bill that was passed. And so, I think, other states, if you're in another state, you can say, "Look what Florida did. Let's do more, like Florida," and then go--

COTTLE: But when it came time--

COMSTOCK: Well, but now they have--

COTTLE: --when it came to them discussing on the federal level?


COTTLE: Both of the Florida senators--

COMSTOCK: But there's money and there's things here that--

COTTLE: --won't complain--

COMSTOCK: --state legislators, who can get things passed faster--

JONES: Yes, but look?

COMSTOCK: --on the state basis, too.

JONES: Let's - let's--

COMSTOCK: To really make a difference.

JONES: Let's be candid. We don't see a lot of profiles in courage, politically, in anywhere--

HUNT: That's a very gentle way to put it there.

JONES: Yes. It is. And I'm talking about state legislature - look, this is - we focus so much, on talking about changing the laws. And that's important. I mean, clearly, I was a prosecutor. I understand. We've got to do something, with the laws.

But the fact of the matter is, and I think the Mayor really captured it, this is a culture. This is something that goes beyond that.

If we want to get things changed? It's got to come from people. It's got to come from gun owners, gun owners, like me, who have a number of guns. I hunt. I shoot. I've done it all my life. That say, enough is enough, and start demanding, that these public officials--


COMSTOCK: I think you could also have - and there's what, 93 U.S. Attorneys offices, all around the country. We had a terrorism task force, after 9/11. What kind of task forces can we have in each of those offices that now aggressively use this law, this new bill, but then also that the states can then also frame rules--

JONES: Right. And we need to--

COMSTOCK: --in changing--

JONES: --we need to confirm the ATF Director, Steve Dettelbach. We need to confirm him. But also--

HUNT: That agency hasn't had a leader, in years.

JONES: Yes. Hadn't had - seven years, without a confirmed leader.

COMSTOCK: Director.

JONES: And we need to get Senator Cotton, to kind of release the hold on presidentially-appointed U.S. attorneys (ph).

COTTLE: It would also help, if you'd stop having members of Congress, just turn this into a crazy culture war issue--

JONES: Absolutely.

HUNT: Well--

COTTLE: --where you have been posing, with their automatic weapons for Christmas cards--

HUNT: And I think - I think a lot of that--

COMSTOCK: Do not support those candidates, who do that.

COTTLE: --and nutjobs.

HUNT: A lot of that, right, is--


COTTLE: Things like that.

HUNT: --they're running for president, right? And they're talking about - and this is what I want to ask you, Senator. I mean, you talk about law-abiding gun owners. And I know many.


HUNT: I completely understand, where you're coming from. But there is a culture, around these assault weapons that is distinctly different, and much darker, much scarier, much driven, much more driven, by the Internet.

Why are Republicans, in Congress, so afraid of these people?

JONES: Well?

HUNT: They're not the majority of gun owners.

JONES: No, they're not. I agree with it. They're not. But they - it has been built up. They are afraid of primaries. That's the thing.

You see it all the time, in Alabama. You're absolute - it was the most disgusting group of commercials, I have ever seen, with people, with their guns, judges, with their guns, running for the Alabama Supreme Court, shooting a gun, talking about liberals, wouldn't let her put somebody under the--

HUNT: Who were they running against, again, in Alabama, anyway?

JONES: Yes, that's a different story.

HUNT: But that aside, I take your point, there.

JONES: But it's good. But Dick Durbin made an interesting point, though. And it's - because it's not always just the gun. It is the ammunition. That's what's causing a lot of the problems that we see here. It is the mega stock, clips that they have--

HUNT: Stocks? Oh, sorry--


JONES: Not the bump stocks, but the clips.

HUNT: Yes, the clips.

JONES: And have 30 rounds, to where that guy likely could round off 30 things, popping - pop one out, pop another one in.

HUNT: Right.

JONES: There's a lot of things that you can do without infringing on people's Second Amendment that I think could make a difference.

HUNT: That would save lives.

JONES: That would save lives.

HUNT: Oh, yes.

JONES: Absolutely save lives.

HUNT: All right, Doug, Barbara, Michelle, please stick around. We have a lot more, to talk about, tonight.

There are big developments, in the criminal investigation, into Donald Trump's alleged election meddling, in Georgia. A U.S. Senator, take a guess who, among others, in the Trump inner circle, were subpoenaed.

Who, why, and what it all might lead to? When CNN TONIGHT returns.



HUNT: The January 6th committee has announced its next hearing. It's set now, for next Tuesday, July 12.

Sources close to the investigation tells CNN that one witness that we could soon hear from, is Sarah Matthews. She's Trump's former Deputy Press Secretary. She resigned from her position, in the hours, after the January 6 attack.

The scrutiny, on Trump's efforts, to overturn the 2020 election, is also growing, at the state level. In Georgia, a special grand jury, has now subpoenaed key members, of Trump's inner circle.

Among them? Trump's former attorney, Rudy Giuliani, South Carolina senator, Lindsey Graham, and several former legal advisers, for the Trump campaign, including John Eastman, who, of course, laid the groundwork for a fake electoral scheme. Jenna Ellis, who has previously pushed debunked election fraud claims.

And Cleta Mitchell, who sat in on Trump's infamous call, with Georgia's Secretary of State, where, of course, he asked him to find 11,780 votes, so that he could win the state.

The other two people subpoenaed, are also Trump attorneys.

Doug Jones and Barbara Comstock are back with me. I also want to welcome Jim Schultz, to our conversation.

You guys are all lawyers. Two of you, Republican lawyers. Thank you for being here.

Let me start - God, I don't even know where to start! But Senator Jones, let me start with you, on Lindsey Graham, being subpoenaed, here, at the state level.

I mean, I thought that was pretty interesting, partly because I had a number of conversations, with Senator Graham, in this - during this period of time. Most of them were off the record. I'm very interested to see what comes out, on the record, in this.

I mean, how unusual is this? Does he have any special protections, as a senator? What do you think they want from him?

JONES: Yes, I don't think he has any special protections. He's not on the floor. He was making a phone call. There were phone calls, if I recall correctly, made.

And I think part of this grand jury is simply the District Attorney's efforts, to get people under oath, if they - if she can do that, get them under oath, get them locked in. People tend to change their testimony, people tend to change their stories, as we've seen about--

HUNT: It's funny how that threat of a felony charge--

JONES: Yes, so.

HUNT: --can hang over you--

JONES: I think that-- HUNT: --when you lie.

JONES: --under-oath testimony is important. And I think just getting the entire story, what conversation he had? He has no privileges. He has no protections that way. He may challenge the subpoena, somehow. But, I think, it's part of the overall getting the bigger picture.

HUNT: Yes. Jim Schultz, I mean, what's your view, on this round of subpoenas, and where the Georgia investigation stands? I mean, it's kind of running parallel to what we're seeing here in Washington.

JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I've said it all well, I think the biggest liability for Donald Trump is the Georgia, and the Fulton County investigation that's ongoing, this special grand jury investigation. And now, it's reaching closer and closer to his inner circle.

And as it relates to Senator Graham? I think they're going to know, what he said, the conversations he had with former President Trump, before he made that phone call. They're wondering what prompted the phone call, who else he talked to, what was the purpose for it. They're going to have a lot of questions for him, and he's going to have to answer them, under oath, unless he fights subpoena, and successfully beats that.

But, I think, you're going to expect same thing, with Rudy Giuliani. But you're - clearly, they're looking at some type of a conspiracy racketeering, election fraud case, and they're looking at kind of across state borders. They're trying to use what happened, in other states, to build their case, in Georgia.

HUNT: It's really interesting.

Congresswoman Comstock, expanding - or bringing us back here, to Washington, we expect to hear from Sarah Matthews. I mean, you've been in Republican politics, a long time.

Sarah Matthews, if we hear from her? There was a pretty interesting tweet from her that I think we can show everyone that she put up about Cassidy Hutchinson, essentially saying that Cassidy Hutchinson was brave, and that anybody downplaying her role, is trying to discredit her, because they're scared.

There are a lot of young women, stepping up here. What does it say to you that Sarah Matthews maybe the next witness?


COMSTOCK: Well, I think, you've seen, with this committee, the women are leading, from Liz Cheney. I also would like to point out that Adam Kinzinger has too, as a Republican.

HUNT: Of course.

COMSTOCK: People, who were doing this, to a great threat. And he's getting threats against his family. But, I think, Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony was very impressive.

And now, you're going to have someone, who is in the middle of the press office, who worked with Kayleigh McEnany, was her deputy, who probably, on that day, and the days, leading into that, was all in the middle of this.

Remember, we have all those texts, from Mark Meadows, back and forth, to Fox News, when Sean Hannity's saying, "Hey, the Counsel's Office is going to quit. You can't do this." Sean Hannity and Kayleigh McEnany were talking and texting, during that time.

Well, probably I would imagine Sara Maxwell (ph), in addition to being able to confirm--

HUNT: Matthews.

COMSTOCK: --Matthews - I mean, and able to confirm a lot of the information that Cassidy Hutchinson testified to, is going to be able to give additional information, about what was going on, in a lot of detail.

And, I think, this is coming together very well, and very seriously. Because, I know, when I was, in my previous life, I was a counsel on a committee.

HUNT: Yes.

COMSTOCK: We did do referrals. And the documentation that we got sometimes is a little ahead of the Justice Department, but it was, and sometimes different from what the Justice Department got.

But now, you're seeing the Justice Department, also pick up the ball, and they're doing things.

HUNT: Right.

COMSTOCK: And it's coming together well. And it's not going to just be he said, or she said, she said. It's going to be a lot of documentary records. And MVP goes to--

HUNT: Under oath.

COMSTOCK: --Mark Meadows, who, in real-time, you see, all of those texts that went on that confirm really what these women, will tell you.

HUNT: Texts from Mark Meadows, it's like the name of a bad play, or something like that!

You mentioned Liz Cheney. And we're talking criminal referrals. I want to show everyone, what she said, over the weekend. Because, of course, the big question is whether the January 6th committee is going to make a criminal referral, to the Department of Justice, at the conclusion of their hearings.

Take a look.


JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So, the committee will or will not make a criminal referral? Because that's--

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We'll make a decision, as a committee, about it.

KARL: So, it's possible, there will be a criminal referral?


The Justice Department doesn't have to wait for the committee to make a criminal referral. And there could be more than one criminal referral.


HUNT: So, Jim, what do you - what is your take on this? I mean, clearly, there's some division, in the committee, about whether or not to make this referral.

But, quite frankly, I mean, we're going to hear more about the Proud Boys, the extremist groups, those connections, perhaps to the White House. If they can prove that, how do they not?

SCHULTZ: No, I think they're just holding back, at this point. They're not going to show their hand as to what they're going to do. They're going to present a report, and they'll likely make a criminal referral. And, I think, that's very likely, if not 100 percent, that they're going to make a criminal referral.

I think, at this point in time, they haven't turned documents, over to the Justice Department. They're going to - they're going to make--

HUNT: And why do you think that is?

SCHULTZ: --they're going to - because they want to make their own report. They've done their own investigation. They want to complete.

They want to turn over a thorough investigation, all at one time, over to the Justice Department, give their report, to the American people, and then make whatever referrals they feel are appropriate, which the Justice Department, can take up or not. It's up to them.

HUNT: Do you think they should?

COMSTOCK: Oh, I definitely think they should make a - both a referral. But I also think there should be - I think, there's, I mean, there's evidence there, for an indictment.

And a trial would have Republican witnesses, Trump Republicans, testifying, against Donald Trump, with an expansive documentary record, and texts, in real-time, from the Election Day, and before--

HUNT: Right.

COMSTOCK: --all the way through to January 20th--

HUNT: What do you think?

JONES: I'm going with a different view.

HUNT: Yes. That's--

JONES: One, I don't think they're - they don't - I don't think they need to. I think the Justice Department is moving. I think they're looking at every aspect, of this, right now.

There's no real authority to do it. It would just be the committee's feeling compelled to do it. And quite frankly, we are already seeing this, the pushback, from Republicans, across the country. I say, pushback. There's a lot of crickets out there too. Nobody is - there's a lot of people--

COMSTOCK: Nobody - nobody is--

JONES: --talking about this.

COMSTOCK: --contradicting her.

JONES: Correct.

COMSTOCK: Their whole defense team is just there.

JONES: But if this committee starts making a referral, against Donald Trump, particularly, I think, they will be accused of being more partisan. When they do not have to use a legislative body?

HUNT: Right.

JONES: They're going to put the evidence out there. Jim's right, they're going to do a report. They're going to connect the dots. But the pieces of the puzzle together, however, analogy, you want to look at it, the Justice Department is doing their job. And I think they put that report out. They can make conclusions that can come to these conclusions.

HUNT: Sure.

JONES: But let the Justice Department do their job.

HUNT: Right. Well, there's a lot of - it's potentially politically explosive, for them to do something like this.

JONES: Yes. No question.

HUNT: And there's potentially some risks there.

JONES: No question.

HUNT: All right. Jim, thank you so much for being with us tonight. Really appreciate your insights.

SCHULTZ: Thank you.

HUNT: Barbara, and Doug, please stick around with us.

Ahead here, a dark window, into what it is like to be a Republican member of the January 6th committee.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope you naturally die as quickly as (BLEEP) possible you (BLEEP) piece of shit.



HUNT: Congressman Adam Kinzinger shares a slice, just a slice, of the violent threats that he's been getting. They are incredibly hard to listen to. But they are so important to hear.

We're going to shine a light, next.


HUNT: The ugly violent threats, against Republican members, who sit on the January 6th committee, seem to only be getting uglier.

Today, Congressman Adam Kinzinger shared just a few, of the recent calls and voicemails that his office received, including one that threatened his wife, and his newborn baby.

We will not be playing the entire three-minute clip, for you. You can find it on Twitter. But it is important that you hear some of the level of vitriol that these members are facing, simply for standing up to Donald Trump.

And we want to give you a warning, what you're about to hear, is extraordinarily graphic, and very disturbing.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess I can't say a whole lot more other than I hope you naturally die as quickly as (BLEEP) possible, you (BLEEP) piece of shit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You backstabbing son of a bitch, going against Trump, you know, y'all mother (BLEEP) are sitting up there lying like a damn dog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going to get your wife, going to get your kids. We're going to get to you. Coming to your house, son. Going to get you and Liz Cheney. Going to get you two little (BLEEP) suckers. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HUNT: This is, of course, not the first time that Adam Kinzinger has received violent threats. It's just last month that he received a letter, at his home, threatening to execute him, and his family.

The very same online platforms that helped fuel the lies that led to the insurrection, are also, in many instances, fueling this dangerous rhetoric.

A new analysis, shared with CNN, by the non-profit, Advance Democracy, showed that many users, on these right-wing platforms, are openly calling, for Liz Cheney, to be executed.

One post, on Trump's Truth Social platform, referenced Cheney with the hashtag #MGGA, as in #MakeGuillotinesGreatAgain. That's where we are.

And if there is any doubt that political violence, and threats, have become the new normal? Consider this. Threats against members of Congress are up 144 percent, from where they were, five years ago. Capitol Police investigated nearly 10,000 cases, last year, alone.

It is prompting grave warnings, like this.


REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Somebody is going to get hurt. Somebody's going to get killed.

The kind of garbage that is getting left on Adam Kinzinger's voicemail is a complete betrayal, of generations of people, who have fought, for the civility, and the understanding, and the fellow feeling, without which our democracy is over.


HUNT: Whatever happens, we can't say that we weren't warned.

Mitt Romney, another Republican, who often speaks out, on behalf of democracy, has a warning, for all of us. He thinks, we are a nation, in deep denial, and that we're dismissing threats that could prove cataclysmic.

We'll go deeper tonight, when CNN TONIGHT, returns.



HUNT: So, all in all, if there is a theme, tonight, it's that Americans are fed up. Tired of mass shootings, more than tired, angry over election lies, worried, in many cases, about their constitutional rights.

We showed you the numbers. Most Americans say that we are on the wrong track, as in like 90 percent of Americans. They distrust our institutions. It's a problem.

So, what are our leaders doing?

Senator Mitt Romney says that we're in denial. In his new Op-Ed in, "The Atlantic," he bemoans the dismissal of potentially cataclysmic threats. He names inflation, and climate change, among other things.

And he writes, quote, "President Joe Biden is a genuinely good man, but he has yet been unable to break through our national malady of denial, deceit, and distrust. A return of Donald Trump would feed the sickness, probably rendering it incurable."

Doug Jones, Barbara Comstock, and Michelle Cottle, are back with me.

As a former Romney campaign reporter that language is extraordinarily Mitt Romney, in that Op-Ed.

But Senator Jones, I mean, he says, OK, Joe Biden is a good man. But everyone's unhappy. The country is going in the wrong direction. People are unhappy for a lot of different reasons. But it's a pretty universal feeling.

JONES: Right.

HUNT: You're very close to Joe Biden. I know that you are, basically an eternal supporter of his. But some of these quotes, are pretty tough, against him.

I mean, we had, one Democrat told CNN that the presidency is rudderless. There are concerns about basic management, in the White House. And, quite frankly, that potentially opens up a path for Donald Trump, to return.

JONES: Sure.

HUNT: I mean, how do you prevent that?

JONES: Well, I don't know, if you can. But I will tell, Democrats, I'm tired of listening to that kind of crowd. I mean, look, this--

HUNT: But well then how do we fix it?

JONES: Well, some people need to understand, at least in the Democratic Party, that if they want to have any success, in the midterms, if they want to have any success, in 2024, this President has got to have some success.

And he has had some success. He has created a lot of jobs. We've got issues with inflation. But he's got a plan. The only plan that I have seen to counter that is Rick Scott's plan, to tax people under $50,000 - that making $50,000 or less. He's got our Allies at the table.

HUNT: I think he finally removed that after some--



HUNT: --from Mitch McConnell.

JONES: Then he has no plan.

HUNT: But it took a minute.

JONES: Then he - then he has no plan.

And the fact is, it was interesting, the other day, I saw a political article, about the abortion issue, and Republicans, writing, the dog that caught the car.

And a former member of Congress, Republican member of Congress, was quoted, as saying that, "We had everything going for us. Gasoline was at $5 a gallon. Inflation was at all the high. It was all going our way. And then the abortion."

What that tells you is that, that so many people sitting up there, on that Hill--

HUNT: Right.

JONES: --don't care about the American people. They care about the politics of it. And that's frightening.

HUNT: Well, I mean, Barbara Comstock, you're a Republican. I don't imagine you--

COMSTOCK: And a former Romney staffer. So, I'm very proud--

HUNT: Exactly.

COMSTOCK: --to see the elder statesman, actually playing a grownup role, which is really what he's talking about. We need to have more grownups here, which is what they did with the gun bill, and a compromise. And what we need to do with so many of these issues, where people just want to have an issue to run on?


COMSTOCK: And the consultants want to spend the money on it. But they don't want to have a solution. So, I think, what he's calling for is to have people, who will be more oriented towards solutions, instead of this performative--

HUNT: So, does that mean him?

COMSTOCK: No, I think, he's playing the elder statesman role. I do not think that we need or should or will have Donald Trump, or Joe Biden, on the ticket, in 2024. I think it's time for a new generation of leadership to have new voices that get--

HUNT: Sure.

COMSTOCK: --we move past all of this. HUNT: But realistically? I mean, realistically?


COMSTOCK: I think, realistically, not - both of them are very unpopular. And this idea that we're - I mean, nothing would depress America more, I think, than to have a rerun of the 2020 election. We have plenty of people, out there, in both parties that could come up, with a lot more ideas than these two.

HUNT: But?

COMSTOCK: Their time is up. They need to move on. Give them the ring, and send them home, and give us new leadership.

HUNT: But Michelle Cottle, I mean, realistically, that's like - not likely to happen. I mean, we likely are going to face Joe Biden, potentially have Joe Biden - just straight-up rematch, in 2024. I mean, Trump is talking about running again already.

The President's team seems to spend an awful lot of time, with all due respect--

COMSTOCK: Well they want to spend--

HUNT: --Doug Jones.

COMSTOCK: --they want to - well--

HUNT: Talking about how he's running again.


COMSTOCK: --want to spend his money, you know?

HUNT: Right, right.

COMSTOCK: And so, he has that money. But, I think, Ron DeSantis, is already coming up and--

HUNT: And sitting on $100 million - $111 million.


COMSTOCK: Exactly.

JONES: Jeb Bush did too. Jeb Bush had a $100 million, at this point, too.


JONES: To staying.

COTTLE: Everybody's trying to be so careful with Trump. You don't want to get him upset. I mean, Ron DeSantis is trying to be very delicate, as he's approaching 2024, because you don't want to draw fire. COMSTOCK: But he's not asking for an endorsement.

HUNT: Right.

COMSTOCK: So, that's what it's actually--

COTTLE: It's - he's actually already raising money--


COMSTOCK: "Hey, nice to see you, dude. I don't need you."


COTTLE: --accommodating - Trump donors, or kind of feeling their way, toward DeSantis. I mean, Trump's not going to cede the stage gracefully. Somebody's going to have to find a way, to make clear that his moment is over. But you can't expect him, to come to this kind of realization, on his own. The man lacks that kind of self-awareness, I guess.


COMSTOCK: Well, and but also, I think, you're not going to have someone, in a leader, in either party, who waits around, and is holding someone else's coat. You're going to have to get in there, and stand on your own two feet.

And people want a leader that isn't waiting for approval, from Donald Trump, or for some other person, but will just come in and say, "I have a vision for this country, and I need to get us out of this morass."

HUNT: Well, if there is someone--


COMSTOCK: These two are not the ones to do it.

HUNT: --that they're going to lose to Donald Trump, right? They're going to just straight-up--


COTTLE: I think--

JONES: Maybe in the Republican primary.

HUNT: That's what I mean, in the Republican primary.

JONES: Not in the general election.

HUNT: I don't mean in the general election.

Look, this is a great conversation. Stick around. We're going to continue, with this conversation, because we've got a lot more, up on the other side, with these three, when CNN TONIGHT continues next.



HUNT: Mitt Romney told me, a few months ago, pretty bluntly that he was not planning on running for president, in 2024.

But Liz Cheney is playing it coy.


CHENEY: I haven't made a decision about that yet. And I'm obviously very focused on my reelection. I'm very focused on the January 6th committee. I'm very focused on my obligations to do the job that I have now. And I'll make a decision, about 2024, down the road.


HUNT: All right, back with me now, Doug Jones, Barbara Comstock, and Michelle Cottle.

Barbara Comstock, what do you make of that answer?

COMSTOCK: Well, I think Liz's future is bright. I think she's going to be vindicated. And, I think, if she makes that choice, I mean, I'd be happy to support her on that.

But, I think, the important thing now is that Donald Trump is getting in the rearview mirror. You already have Ron DeSantis, clearly running for president. A lot of other people lining up.

And, I think, he is going to - there's going to be enough Republicans that just sort of click over a little bit, even if they don't go so far as to support an anti-Trump person, but just someone, who doesn't talk about Trump, or bend the knee for Trump, I think, there's going to be a wide variety of choices. And Donald Trump will not get the nomination.

HUNT: Right.

COMSTOCK: Because he's lost the House, lost the Senate.

HUNT: So, I got to push back - I got to push back on--

COMSTOCK: Lost Georgia. He's a sore loser.

HUNT: Fair enough. Fair enough. But here's the thing.

COMSTOCK: Loser. Put a nail on the forehead (ph).

HUNT: If there are too many people, in the Republican primary, right? This is what happened, last time-- COMSTOCK: They'll split the Trump vote.

HUNT: I don't buy that.


HUNT: I mean, Trump has a chunk of the party, right? It's like 30 percent.

JONES: And he's not in the rearview mirror, in Alabama, or Pennsylvania--

COMSTOCK: Oh, his candidate, Lord Mo Brooks, got blown away, in Alabama--


JONES: No, no, no.

HUNT: --picture.

JONES: He flipped that.

HUNT: Yes.

JONES: And everybody was just "Trump, Trump, Trump," in Alabama. Look at what happened in Pennsylvania. I don't think he's in the rearview mirror.



COTTLE: He's not in the rearview mirror, yet. That's wishful thinking--


COTTLE: --at this point.

JONES: Right.

COTTLE: The base is still enamored of him.


COTTLE: And Trumpism is still strong. So, even if you have candidates, who aren't Trump, you'll have candidates, who are running on Trumpism, as well.

HUNT: So, this is--

COMSTOCK: So, Republicans understand, there's enough of them that will never vote for him, right, who, if--

HUNT: Sure. COMSTOCK: He only had 47 percent. Let's just take 5 percent off that, you're down to 42 percent--

HUNT: But if he beats them one at a time--

COMSTOCK: --he can't win. So, if he--

HUNT: --in a Republican primary, like he did, in 2016--

COMSTOCK: Well then you pick a loser, who will lose again.

HUNT: OK, fine.


HUNT: But if he is--

COMSTOCK: Which is a dumb thing to do.

HUNT: --if he is the Republican nominee, and say he runs again? I mean, who knows, who he ends up running against? If it's Joe Biden or someone else?

Doug Jones, what does Liz Cheney do? I mean, she told me, when she lost her leader - the day she lost her leadership post, she told me she'd be willing to do whatever it took, to prevent Donald Trump, from getting back into the Oval Office.

COMSTOCK: There's a lot of us, like that.

HUNT: And there is a very serious risk, if he is the Republican nominee again, that he actually wins, despite all of the potential headwinds.

JONES: Sure.

HUNT: So, what does, or should, a Liz Cheney do, in that situation?

JONES: Well, first of all--

HUNT: Does she run as an Independent?

JONES: I think she's got to win. I think, she's - it's going to tell a lot what happens in Wyoming.

HUNT: I think she's - I think they think they're going to lose.

JONES: That may very well be. She would not go out as a loser. Donald Trump is a loser. And she could parlay that.

I think - I agree. I think she's got a future. I'm just not so sure that it's in 2022 or 2024. I think it's going to take, frankly, I think, it's going to take a lot longer, for this MAGA faction--

COMSTOCK: But the other problem is that Trump would just be one term. And so, when you have a damaged Joe Biden-- JONES: But - no, but - but--

COMSTOCK: --if he stays on the ticket, why not pick a Republican, who can be two terms, instead of a sore loser--


COTTLE: I mean, we should note, Barbara, he's just going to come in, and lift that whole two-term limit.


COTTLE: It's - he's not worried about that.

JONES: But we're not--

COTTLE: Trump's going to do that.

JONES: --we're not talking about just Donald Trump. Let me tell you this. The MAGA faction of that party is bigger than Donald Trump, right now. You look what happened in Pennsylvania.

HUNT: Yes.

JONES: You look what happened around, in other states.

COMSTOCK: But what if - what if they lose the governorship, in Pennsylvania?

JONES: It's bigger than him.

COMSTOCK: What if they - that's another thing. When Trump candidates start losing winnable races? That's also going to be a factor--

JONES: Then--

COMSTOCK: --in what happens in general election (ph).

JONES: --then all of us - then what will have happened is that Democrats have - had convinced people, Independents and moderate Republicans, that this democracy is more important than your party.

COMSTOCK: It's important than that. And--

JONES: And--


COMSTOCK: And there's a lot of us who feel that way--

JONES: Exactly.

COMSTOCK: --which is why Donald Trump is a sore loser, as--

HUNT: Are there enough like--

COMSTOCK: --on the ticket.

HUNT: Are there enough--


COMSTOCK: Well he already lost.

HUNT: There are - but what I'm saying is there are so many--

COMSTOCK: So, he's never won a majority.

HUNT: --egos, in the Republican Party. What happened in 2016 was that the egos could not get out of the way to actually - I mean, Scott Walker got up there, and said, "Hey, guys. Look what's happening. Get out of the race." And nobody did.

COTTLE: But nobody thought it was possible in 2016. I mean, the man was a joke. He's still kind of a joke. He's just a dangerous joker, who was the--

HUNT: He was President of the United States.


COMSTOCK: A sore loser, a dangerous joke, now.

COTTLE: --President of the United States. I mean, no one thought - he didn't even think he was going to win in 2016.

JONES: Right.

COTTLE: So, everybody sat home, and like, "I'm not going to get involved." Now, they know just how ugly and dangerous it can get.


COTTLE: So, I don't think you run into quite the same problem.

HUNT: I think - I think, the real risk here is that the people that we need to be voting, are tuning out, of our political process, right now. They are the people, who see--

COMSTOCK: Well nothing would turn them out more--

HUNT: --what's gone on--

COMSTOCK: --for Donald Trump got the highest - I mean?

HUNT: Yes, no, I agree. I agree.

COMSTOCK: You got more people--


HUNT: Unfortunately, we're about out of time here. But this is going to be one of the key things, I think, going forward. Doug Jones, Barbara Comstock, Michelle Cottle, thank you all very much, for our conversation, tonight.

We'll be right back.


HUNT: That's going to do it for us, tonight. Thank you for being with us.

"DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts, right now, with Laura Coates, filling in for Don.

Hi, Laura?