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CNN TONIGHT: Trump Lawyers Trying To Block Aides From Sharing Info With Federal Grand Jury In Secret Court Fight; Republican Rival Tudor Dixon Makes Light Of Plot To Kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer; DeSantis Rewrites History Of Anti-Slavery Movement. Aired 9- 10p ET
Aired September 23, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: News continues. Let's hand it over to Sara Sidner, and CNN TONIGHT.
SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT: Anderson Cooper, thank you. And have a great weekend.
COOPER: You too.
SIDNER: I'm Sara Sidner. And this is CNN TONIGHT.
Amid all the legal peril, mounting for former President Donald Trump, this week, first on CNN, new information, about a new drama, playing out in court, you haven't heard about, until now.
A secret fight, between Donald Trump's lawyers, and the Justice Department, over its intensifying January 6 investigation. Under grand jury secrecy rules, this dispute is under seal.
But we have learned the ex-President's team was in D.C. Federal Court, Thursday, trying to block, a federal grand jury, from gathering information, from former top Trump aides, about his attempts, to overturn the 2020 election. It's the most aggressive step, perhaps, taken by Donald Trump, to assert executive and attorney-client privileges, to keep witnesses, from cooperating with that investigation.
How this fight is resolved could determine whether the firewall, around Donald Trump, falls, opening the floodgates, about what aides and lawyers, were telling him, on and around January 6, and what decisions he was making.
This comes as the January 6 committee is about to hold its first public hearing, in more than two months. That's going to happen, next Wednesday. It could be the final hearing, before the panel releases its final report. And, of course, the suspense, is building, about what its endgame will be. Will the committee formally recommend, a criminal prosecution, of Donald Trump, to the DOJ, in connection with a Capitol attack? That remains a possibility.
In the classified documents case, the Trump team, has until next Friday, to present proof, to a Special Master that would backup allegations that the FBI planted evidence, when agents searched his home.
And he now faces, a criminal lawsuit, for fraud, in New York, filed, this week, by a State Attorney General. This is a civil lawsuit, not criminal, excuse me, who believes that Donald Trump committed crimes, while trying to enrich himself, through alleged financial schemes. While she is going after him, civilly, she has also referred her findings, to the DOJ and the IRS.
At a rally, tonight, Donald Trump, tried to garner sympathy, from his supporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's never been a president that's gone through the crap that I'm going through, left and right.
The document hoax, we have a document hoax.
Attorney General, New York State, "Every single day, I'm suing him, I'm going to sue him! And then, I'm going to go home, and I'm going to be so happy, because I sued him."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: All righty, then. For more, on where all this could lead, we turn to CNN Political Commentator, Van Jones; former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Tom Dupree; and CNN Political Commentator, Scott Jennings, back for more.
Welcome, gentlemen. Thank you for being here.
OK, I want to start with you, Van. You listen to what you've just heard. Does it work? Because, to be fair, the pulling, from people, who support him, has not come down. In fact, in some cases, it's gone up.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Listen, he has a hard core base of supporters that no matter what he does, they're with him. If he said, the moon was made out of blue yogurt, they'd go get a spoon! They don't care. And they love that they love the whole thing.
I think which - and then, of course, the people on our side, who are progressives and Democrats that don't like him.
I think what you got to look at is the people, in the middle, the middle, the small, how do they feel about all this stuff? And, I think, it starts to get lumped in with the overall just disgust, and frustration, with all the nonsense in the system. And it begins to, I think, erode his ability, to win a general election, if he ever gets the nomination, again.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: I think Van is right about that, by the way.
JENNINGS: If you look at some of the polling nationally that's come out lately? You can just see him dropping a few points, every time, losing to Joe Biden. And, I suspect, this is where some Republican will come at him, in the 2024 primaries, like, "Look, I appreciate everything you did. But we can't afford to lose to Joe Biden again."
I also think Van's right about his core supporters. And I also think this. He's been in turmoil, ever since he started. When we've done, a lot of years now, of the "Walls are closing in, on Donald Trump."
JENNINGS: And he's constantly in turmoil, but never been indicted. It's, he'd been impeached and acquitted twice. I mean, it never quite gotten there. And until somebody gets there, on him, I don't think his supporters, are going to regard, any of this, as anything other than what he calls it, which is a witch-hunt.
And I'll just say one other thing, and I'm interested, in their opinion, on this, and yours.
The entrance of Tish James, into this, I think, gives Trump a little hook, to hang on to, about the partisan nature of it. I suspect Merrick Garland is not a huge fan of the fact that they have a very partisan prosecutor, involved in, what I think, he's trying to keep as a very non-partisan process.
SIDNER: You won't get my opinion. But I will ask the opinion of our guests, here.
Tom, I do want to ask you, there are so many legal issues, piling up. Let's put politics aside. How can you juggle all these things? I mean, where is this headed?
TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, PARTNER, GIBSON, DUNN & CRUTCHER: It's complicated! I mean, you need a scorecard, to map out the daily legal developments.
Look, I think, Donald Trump, right now, is in his element, that he hasn't been indicted. He's fending off multiple attacks from different prosecutors. I think, from the public perception, it may be difficult, for the public, to distinguish, frankly, between a lot of these different cases. And Donald Trump is doing what he loves to do, which is to attack the prosecutors, which is try to turn the table. We saw it with Bob Mueller. Now, we're seeing with Tish James. This is where he likes to be.
I'm not sure he likes to be indicted, if that's ultimately where we go. But, at this stage of the game, I think, it's fair to say, we saw from the rally, tonight, he's in his element.
SIDNER: So, there is the element of money, here. Why hasn't, and I'll ask this to you, Scott, why hasn't Donald Trump gone ahead and said he's going to run, if you think he is going to run? Is there a reason for that?
JENNINGS: Well, I mean, there are some campaign finance implications, to saying. Just like Joe Biden, the other night, said he was, wasn't quite ready to say, he was running.
JENNINGS: Because, there are campaign finance implications, to declaring your candidacy, for president. I suspect that's top of mind.
But, I'm sure, some of these things, also, weigh on his mind too. And, I mean, anyone waking up every day, with all this stuff, hanging over their head? I mean, I'm sure it's anxiety-inducing and stressful, and it does maybe cause you to think twice.
I do expect him to run. And obviously, the polls show he's the most likely person, to be the Republican nominee. But, I suspect, it has most to do, with just the implications, of declaring your candidacy, more than anything.
SIDNER: We have perhaps the last January 6 committee hearing that it may be coming up, maybe the last, coming up on Wednesday. I want you to listen to Jamie Raskin, who gave a tiny preview, if you will, of what we might hear, what more we might hear.
And then, Van, I'm going to have you respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): He's someone who, I think, saw where things were going.
And there were clearly people, who understood--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
RASKIN: --the preparations that were taking place. And if you think you almost knock over the government in the United States, spontaneously, then you haven't been paying close attention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: So, he is talking about Roger Stone, there. But there have been a lot of people, who have spoken. We're expecting to hear, from more, potentially hearing more depositions. Has this damaged Donald Trump, and his potential run, in any way, in your opinion?
JONES: I think, it goes back to what we were talking about earlier. I think, not for his core base. I think his core base feels that he's being persecuted, and this sort of himself - "Donald Trump is the righteous victim, being persecuted, on your behalf." That resonates with his base.
I think, again, Democrats will look at that, and say, like, "Jeez, this is a party that's supposed to be for law and order? Embracing lawlessness is supposed to be for personal responsibility? He's taking no responsibility for anything? This just looks like the ultimate hypocrisy."
The reason that it hurts him, is because you have some reasonable Republicans, who just want a pathway to victory. And all of these become pebbles, on the path, become stones, in the shoe, of anybody, who's running with that kind of baggage. And they will begin, possibly, to look for other champions.
And so, the problem for him, is when its primary season, does a DeSantis or anyone else say, as was said earlier, "You can't get there with this much baggage. Let someone else, with the same politics, get there without the baggage."
And every time when these things happens, I guarantee you, at least one more Republican, joins the camp of "I need a new champion." And all you need is a few of them, to have a very competitive primary.
SIDNER: Can I ask you about, legally speaking, how likely might it be that there are charges, eventually, because of January 6? And then, after what Letitia James, has sort of laid out, in her civil suit, about potential money, fraud and IRS fraud?
DUPREE: Yes. On the Tish James front, my sense is, I don't think that is too likely, to result in criminal charges, for the reason that the federal prosecutors have been looking at this, the New York D.A. has been looking at this. Presumably, they have most, if not all of the evidence that Tish James already had. They chose, at least for now, to pass on it. So, I don't see that.
On the Mar-a-Lago incident? That, to me, seems more likely, to possibly result in a criminal charge, at the end of the day. But there too, it's not clear to me that Merrick Garland ultimately would say, "I'm going to take the momentous historic step of indicting a former president."
Is it possible he indict someone else in the chain? Possibly one of the lawyers, who signed the declarations, or who was engaged, in the back-and-forth, with the Justice Department? Maybe. That might be a likelier scenario.
But it, needless to say, it would be a momentous historic event, for Merrick Garland, and presumably President Biden, to make the decision, to pull the trigger, and indict a former President of the United States.
SIDNER: One last question. When it comes to that? There have been a lot of people, who have gone to jail, around Donald Trump. At what point does that start to stop, and people start to say, "All right, enough!"
SIDNER: Or never?
JENNINGS: Well, I think, for the hardcore Trump base, never. But I think it's about 50-50. If you look at the polling, there's about half the Republicans that want him again, and half that don't.
The problem, for the rest of the Republicans that don't want him, is they're all fragmented, among a whole bunch of different people. It's exactly how he got the nomination in 2016. He got 45 percent of the vote, in the Republican primary.
So, he's never really been a majority-maker, in terms of general or primary elections. And he wouldn't be necessarily, in this case, either. So, the fragmentation protects him, as well as the base, which is, as Van said, unshakable.
SIDNER: All right, we will be right back, gentlemen.
Tom Dupree, thank you so much.
Van and Scott are going to stick with me.
We've seen a lot of low blows in politics, especially now, with the midterms, fast-approaching. But did a candidate for governor, go too low, today, by making light, of a plot, to kidnap her opponent? What she's telling CNN, coming up next.
SIDNER: Today, the Dow Jones plunged to its lowest level, since 2020, ending yet another dismal week, for the markets, as fears grow, about a potential recession. Inflation remains, a key concern, for Americans, with the price of groceries, and other goods, remaining stubbornly high.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy zeroed in on these economic concerns, today, as he unveiled the Republican Party's legislative agenda, with just two weeks to go, until the midterm elections. Listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): As we went across this country, listening? We heard the same thing, kitchen table, to dining room table, to inside the factory. Can I afford it? Can I afford to fill up my tank? Can I afford the food, the milk? Can I find baby formula?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Van Jones and Scott Jennings are back with me.
We're also joined by David Swerdlick, CNN Political Commentator, and Senior Staff Editor, at the New York Times Opinion Section.
That's a lot of jobs for you. Good for you!
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, SENIOR STAFF EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES OPINION: Yes!
SIDNER: Good for you!
Van, you just heard there.
SIDNER: Is the old adage still true? Does it still hold true, even in these times, that "It's the economy, stupid!"
JONES: Yes. Look, it sure would have. I mean, that's where things were, just a few months ago. This was going to be a referendum on the Biden economy. "You want more inflation? Vote for Biden!"
And then, you had the decision, to take abortion away, from American women. And it changed everything. And then, Joe Biden started winning. And he started showing, "Hey, I can pass bills that can help you, when it comes to gun safety. I can pass bills that can help you, when it comes to the climate. I can do something to help you with student loans." And suddenly, now it's a choice.
Used to be - used to say, "Hey, both parties are all the same. Doesn't matter. It's Tweedledum versus Tweedledumber. Who cares?" You can't say that now. These are two very different parties, with two very different agendas. And, I think, it is now a choice election, not a referendum election.
So, it used to be "The economy, stupid!" I think, it is now the economy plus the whole concern, about the direction of the country. This is more like a general election, in terms of people's sense, of what's at stake, than a midterm election.
SIDNER: In a midterm election.
What are you - what is your take on that? Because, the Republicans have talked about inflation, crime, and the sort of, I don't know, if you want to call it the sort of war of words, over what's happening in schools, right? Some of these things have come up.
Who is going to grasp the public's need - who's going to be able to fulfill the needs of the public, right now?
JENNINGS: Yes, I mean, it's - the Republican argument's really, cost of living, quality of life.
JENNINGS: I mean, the Dow is below 30,000. I hope nobody looked at their 401(k)s today because, you know?
JONES: It was rough.
SIDNER: It was rough.
JENNINGS: Goodness! Mortgage rates are high. Inflation is still at a 40-year high, despite the President's poo-pooing all that.
And so, if you're a Republican candidate, and if you're Kevin McCarthy, these are the issues, on which people would trust the Republicans, more than they would trust the Democrats. As Van pointed out, Democrats are trying to emphasize issues, where they're more trusted.
I just think there are more economically-focused voters, in the country. I think it's a bigger bucket of voters, to get, than the abortion voters. In fact, in the NBC News poll, this past Sunday, it was about 60-40 people caring more about cost of living positions, versus abortion positions. And so, I think, it's smart, for the Republicans, to focus on this.
JENNINGS: But ultimately, it boils down to two things, cost of living, quality of life.
SIDNER: We just had a picture up there, to show people kind of where Americans are.
I want to let you listen to President Biden, on the role of women, and how important, the role of women, could be, in the midterms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I don't believe the MAGA Republicans have a clue about the power of American women.
(AUDIENCE CHEERS & APPLAUSE)
BIDEN: Let me tell you something. They're about to find out.
(AUDIENCE CHEERS & APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: You're about to find out.
Can we put those numbers back up, on what Americans, are really concerned about? OK. Inflation, 30 percent. Abortion, a close second. And then, you've got health care, January 6 that is usually lumped in with democracy, and what's happening.
David, I'm curious about looking at that, and then hearing, from President Biden, about the role of women. How big do you think that role will be?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, SENIOR STAFF EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES OPINION: Sara, people are concerned about all those issues. I also think they're concerned about whether the President or the Opposition passes the two hands on the wheel test, right? Who has a plan, for where they want to take the country, even if they haven't solved every single problem?
Something like the Dow, if it continues to dip toward 20,000, President Biden has a problem. If it kind of corrects, after the market prices in these interest rate hikes? He's probably OK.
When Biden is talking about the role of women, I think, he's talking a lot about what happened, in the last election. Where the parties split a lot, was white women, with college degrees, in the suburbs. They broke for Biden, because they had had enough of Trump.
But if they have now had enough of Biden, then you're going to maybe see some of those voters. And those are some of the key voters, between those 45-yard lines, the persuadables that could hurt Democrats, if Biden and Democrats don't stay on this.
SIDNER: OK. Let's go to Michigan now, where the governor there, Governor Gretchen Whitmer is up for reelection. Both, her opponent, Tudor Dixon, and Donald Trump Jr., repeatedly joked, today, about the 2020 kidnapping plot, against her.
I was there, when all of this went down. And it really terrified, a lot of people, in politics, in general. People were getting death threats. And then, to see this happen, and then, what happened, later on, January 6?
This was a moment, where a lot of people thought it was bad taste. Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUDOR DIXON, (R) MICHIGAN GOVERNOR NOMINEE: The sad thing is that Gretchen will tie your hands, put a gun, to your head, and ask, if you're ready to talk. For someone, so worried about being kidnapped, Gretchen Whitmer sure is good at taking business hostage, and holding it for ransom.
(AUDIENCE CHEERS & APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Scott, is this a good idea, to say something like that? JENNINGS: No. I mean? No. This campaign is flailing, to some degree. If you look at the polling averages, she's down 10 points to 12 points. Whitmer constantly floats in the 50 percent to 52 percent range. So, I think, they're losing.
And, I think, sometimes, when people, are losing in campaigns, they resort to bad instincts. And they start to try to do what they think is throwing the ball down the field. But sometimes, when you throw it down the field, and you're down a couple of touchdowns, it gets intercepted.
JENNINGS: And that's what's happening, right here. So, this is not smart. And, by the way, it's also not germane. I mean, these things aren't really germane, to the core issues, we were just talking about.
JENNINGS: I mean, if you wanted to remain focused on, pocketbook issues, that'd be one thing. But I don't think this kind of sort of towel-snapping is going to resonate with most persuadables.
SIDNER: Can I quickly turn to something that's happened? There's a new Super PAC that Trump has, meant to support Republicans, and to support Republican candidates that support Donald Trump.
What do you make of this? And should Democrats be worried, about something like this? Because money does help push ideas, or at least push candidates forward.
JONES: Well, first of all, Trump has a big pile of money, himself, he's not using, to help anybody. So, part of what's happening is his allies, will have to put together money, to do what he should be doing himself.
It's amazing, how loyal, his base is, to him, and how much loyalty, he expects, from other politicians. But he doesn't return that loyalty, very often. He's sitting on a big pile of cash, himself.
But you asked a different question, which is should Democrats be worried? I think, absolutely. There's something happening in our politics. And I put it back, on the Supreme Court, letting all this money come into politics.
But really, the money primary, is sometimes as big or more important than any other primary. And so, you're going to open up the floodgates, for money, on - and you got, now, we talk about Russia, and oligarchy there. We have billionaires on both sides that just pour wheelbarrows of cash, into our system. I don't think that's good.
But I don't think Democrats should take anything for granted. I think it's very, very concerning. I was happy that Trump was sitting on all that cash. But apparently, his friends are not that happy. They're going to try and fix it. JENNINGS: Yes, I think, if I may, I think it's smart for him to finally get in the game, because he was getting a ton of criticism, from Republicans, for hoarding all this money. They're going to put some of it in.
And I'll just say, I know the people running it. Long history, of running very successful independent expenditure operations, and campaigns. So, I would expect them, candidly, to be engaged, in the States, where Trump was heavily-engaged, in the primary, and sort of determinative, getting people the nomination.
Some of those folks are the ones struggling the most, with campaign financing, right now. So, for him, to ride in here, and try to help out? Smart politics for him, could be good for those Republican candidates.
SWERDLICK: I think part of this is that Republicans may be a little bit - a little bit of this, is that Republicans are caught off-guard.
2021, the White House, Democrats didn't have a story to tell. Now, Democrats have a story to tell. CHIPS, burn pits, getting Justice Jackson confirmed. They got the budget--
SIDNER: Infrastructure bill.
SWERDLICK: --with Senator Manchin, finally.
SWERDLICK: And, I think, now they realize, they need more money, and more juice, to try and flip the Congress.
SIDNER: OK. Everyone, stay here, don't run away.
We are a nation divided, over so many issues, including the freedom to read. On this Banned Books Week, our next guest will put a spotlight, on what's being challenged, in American schools, bookstores, and libraries, in growing numbers. He's the Author of a Pulitzer Prize- winning novel that's taken center stage, in this cultural battle. That's next.
SIDNER: Libraries, across the country, are marking Banned Books Week, a campaign started, by activists, to celebrate the freedom to read. It's also meant to draw attention, to the effort, to ban books, across the United States of America that recently accelerated.
Over just the past year, more than 2,500 books were banned. Those bans were enacted, in 32 States, with Texas and Florida leading the nation. The result? More than 1,600 titles, have been pulled, from school shelves, many that highlight themes of race and LGBTQ issues.
The most-frequently challenged book, this year, was Maia Kobabe's "Gender Queer," a graphic novel about coming out as non-binary. Others include Toni Morrison's "Beloved" and "The Bluest Eye," classics like "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "The Catcher in the Rye," as well as "Maus," a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel, about the Holocaust. It depicts Jews, as mice, and cats, as Nazis.
Joining me now, is the Author of "Maus," Art Spiegelman.
Thank you so much, for joining the program, Art.
ART SPIEGELMAN, AUTHOR, "MAUS": Well, thanks for having me, Sara.
SIDNER: There are so many books that have been banned, at a record rate. And we're in the 21st Century. Why is this happening, in your estimation?
SPIEGELMAN: Well, this particular round, has a lot to do, with, first of all, the ever-heating up polarization of America. And therefore, both sides seem to be involved, in yanking books, out of people's hands, somehow.
And I think just, like the subject of the book, "Maus," I just feel that there's a autocracy in the air, there's fights, to remove freedoms, not to grant them, by at least 40-plus percent of America, supporting such notions. And it doesn't seem like it's going to end, anytime soon.
SIDNER: What is this going to mean for the future of - everyone likes to talk about freedom of speech. What is this going to mean, for the future of America, if more and more books are banned? Some of them classics, some of them - where the "Beloved" was the reason, why I started loving to read.
SPIEGELMAN: I hear you.
Well, what will it mean? It'll probably mean better sales, for those books, until they start killing the authors, rather than just snatching the books away, from readers.
Because, there's a spectrum, on all this. The book banning, I experienced was actually like, my shrewd marketers, in Tennessee, decided to yank it from the curriculum. And it was announced pretty much, the day before Holocaust Remembrance Day, back earlier this year.
And, as a result, my book has shot up, to the top of the bestseller lists, again. And I didn't need the favor, although it was kind of the Tennessee School Board, to do it, because book's been doing just fine, over the last 40 years.
SIDNER: What is it about your book, you think that had a school, and a school district, decide to strip it, from the curriculum?
SPIEGELMAN: I think it's a good question. I've been kind of chewing on it. Because, in a way, I think I've just been like, a drive-by shooting, I'm just like cannon fodder, in the culture war, because most of the books that are being banned, like the ones you mentioned, have to do with race and gender.
And, as somebody, on the school board, one of the 10 people, who hadn't read the book, but unanimously decided to ban "Maus?" One of them was being very defensive, and said, "Don't get me wrong. I love the Holocaust!"
But what - so, what they were complaining about was what they called a nude woman, which I got really upset by, because most of the characters are my sympathy (ph) bit about my mother's suicide, which had been done, several years earlier, quite a few years earlier, and inserted into the book, had my mother's naked corpse, in a bathtub, after she had slashed her wrists, in that bathtub. And it's a rather chaste picture. So, a naked corpse is a better description than a nude woman.
But I think the real reason it was banned is my book is about the mudslide toward fascism, and autocracy, and defying authority. I defy my father's authority, my mother's authority, as a young person. There's a wrestling match, in our households, when I was growing up.
And even though the story is really specific, it couldn't be more specific, trying as hard as I could, to re-inhabit my father's experiences, through a series of interviews, where we talk about what happened to him. And yet, as you mentioned, basically, the characters are all wearing cat masks, mouse masks, dog masks, pig masks, to represent the different groups. And, on that level, it's mythic.
So, even though, I was as accurate, as I could be, about the specifics, of the story, that was, what I was trying to re-inhabit, and understand - get to understand my father a bit better, since we just didn't get along well.
But the construct deals with all othering, not just Jews. And I think that's why it's useful in schools. The fact that it's told from, even though, I must interrupt myself and say, I never meant this for kids.
SPIEGELMAN: The whole point of working on this 13-year-old book was to make a demonstrable proof that comics can be for grown-ups. I can't complain, because it's been written out, between middle school, and graduate school, quite a lot, over these years.
And sometimes, I meet rather dopey grad school students, who don't get it, and lots of middle school kids, who do. It's not the same, as the banning, you were talking about, when they're yanking things--
SPIEGELMAN: --out of libraries, putting teachers and librarians under fire, often with personal fines attached, their jobs at risk. They're really heroic. And--
SIDNER: Are you worried? Are you worried? SPIEGELMAN: --what I thought was yanked out of a curriculum.
SIDNER: You made a comment about taking out the authors, which was surprising. But are you worried about escalation of this?
SPIEGELMAN: In general, yes. I mean, look what happened to Salman Rushdie, which was a bunch of other religious fanatics, deciding to punish people, for what they write, and greed (ph).
SIDNER: Yes, yes, he was stabbed, multiple times.
SPIEGELMAN: So, on that level, of course, I'm worried.
SIDNER: And he's still recovering.
SPIEGELMAN: And hate crimes are way up. Like, I live near Chinatown.
SPIEGELMAN: And the Chinese community is under threat, the Hispanic community is under threat. Us Jews, tend to be honorary Whites, for the moment, even though I think that confused Whoopi Goldberg, for a minute or two. But nevertheless, it's--
SIDNER: But there's been quite a bit of anti-Semitism that has--
SPIEGELMAN: --it's general.
SIDNER: --gone up, gender, race, yes.
SPIEGELMAN: Well that's been on the rise, as well, yes.
SIDNER: Yes. Yes. Art Spiegelman?
SPIEGELMAN: And - but, I mean, gender and race seems to be where the focus is.
SIDNER: Yes. Art, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much, for coming on.
And we're going to talk more about culture wars, in our schools, just ahead, including Governor Ron DeSantis, unapologetically, leading the changes, in Florida. But a history lesson, he offered, this week, was a work in fiction.
Plus, the confrontation, between a Florida teacher, and a student, over the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, that teacher is out of the classroom.
SIDNER: With school boards, and conservative groups, pushing for book bans, in record numbers, we can't overlook the role of state leaders, who are shaping what children learn, in school. Just this week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, addressed his, quote, "Stop Woke Act," which restricts race-based conversations, in businesses, and in school, and offered this up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It was the American Revolution that caused people to question slavery. No one had questioned it, before we decided, as Americans that, we are endowed, by our creator, with unalienable rights, and that we are all created equal. Then, that birth abolition movements. So, you can't teach history that's being used to pursue an ideological agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Back with me, Van Jones, David Swerdlick, and Scott Jennings.
JONES: Sorry, I'm sorry, go ahead.
SIDNER: I had the same reaction! Slavery didn't end, and technically till 1865. 1776? That's almost a - I mean?
JONES: Well, first of all, you reveal a lot, when you're speaking, about stuff you don't know anything about.
So, he says, nobody questioned slavery until? You know who questioned it? The enslaved people.
SIDNER: The slaves.
JONES: The enslaved people questioned it, the whole time. And that's the thing. It's like, you have a worldview, that so centers and so privileges a particular ideological agenda, a particular set of people that you say things that are just patently ridiculous.
And he's a governor of a state. And there are kids in that state of all colors, all faiths, all hues. And he has to do a better job of representing all of them. That's - and also, the reality is, kids aren't stupid. I've got a couple of them. You try to get them to believe something?
SIDNER: That's right.
JONES: Try to get them to believe something? They push back. They fight back. They think they have their own points of view.
The idea that if you present an idea, to a kid, the kid is just going to swallow it whole? It's just not true. It's not true about kids. It's not true about human beings. But what's dangerous is when you don't let young people discuss the world around them. And you give them no prompt and no cues. And so, I understand. He's concerned that there are some people, here, who are anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-White, anti - those people are a problem. But the way you deal with those things, is that you talk about it. When you don't talk about it, you're not able to address it.
I was very offended. And yes, I'm very - I try to put up with a bunch of stuff. But for him to say that nobody--
JONES: --criticized slavery, until the slaveholding American Fathers - Founding Fathers, decided to raise it, and not all of them did, disqualifies 200 years, of African people, who were enslaved, criticizing it the whole time.
SIDNER: Who have been railing against it.
The state has banned - I think, it's the second highest number of banned books, in the state. Is this a winning tactic, I mean, if you will? This is just strictly, politically.
JENNINGS: I think what you're seeing some Republican office-holders respond to, is the concern, they're hearing from some parents, about some certain kinds of topics, materials, books, whatever you want to call it, being introduced, to their children, and they don't agree with it.
I mean, at its core, you have parents who don't want very, very young children being talked to about, say, sexualized material, by people, other than them. And so, I think that's at the root of the tactic. Whether it goes too far, in certain instances?
JENNINGS: And whether people are able to discern between, who can handle what? I mean, I think that's the debate we're going to have. But?
JONES: You see a difference between the sexualized material, the gender conversation, multiple genders, et cetera, versus American history, slavery?
JONES: I just wonder how you see it.
JENNINGS: Oh, yes. And, I think, in this debate, and in this conversation, all these things get lumped together.
JENNINGS: And so - but there's no doubt, Republican officials, office- holders are hearing, daily, from parents, who have grown quite concerned, about this. So they're, as a technical matter, they're responding to that. And, I've just, I've got a few of them myself.
And I've talked to a lot of parents at schools. And one of the core things I hear from parents is, "Why are the schools spending so much time on topics that aren't sort of the core learning curriculum that that I grew up with?" That's what they're responding to.
SIDNER: Ideological differences (ph).
JENNINGS: And let me tell you, it is a rising sentiment, in the Republican Party. And I expect it will be a major topic--
JENNINGS: --over the next two, four days (ph).
SIDNER: It's definitely a rising sentiment. But it also has been pushed.
SIDNER: I mean, there's no doubt that this has been something, I think, we heard it, from a couple of different sort of leaders, in the Republican Party, who purposely targeted school boards, in particular, and said, "This is the next bastion, of where our fight needs to go."
So, what do you think about using schools, as a political battleground?
SWERDLICK: Yes. You're exactly right, Sara. At some point, Republicans decided that making the whole country, the town, in the movie, "Footloose," was going to be a political winner.
And so far, it has won in some places. It worked for Governor Youngkin, in Virginia, last year, caught Democrats off-guard. And, I think, until it doesn't work, and especially for someone, like Governor DeSantis, who wants to be president, they're going to keep doing it.
I agree with Scott, that parents do sometimes say, look, at the elementary school level, we should focus on reading, writing, arithmetic. Maybe it's not the time, to focus on social justice issues, if that's what they think, is going on. I don't think that's always really what they think is what's going on.
On the other hand, once you get to middle school, high school, to Van's point, we had slavery, and segregation, in this country. We had Japanese internment, and the Zoot Suit Riots--
SWERDLICK: --in the World War II era. These things happen. We fought a Civil War, over slavery. To shield students, at a certain age, from those facts, from those realities, who benefited, who suffered, what happened, how we got where we are now, is not educating kids. And I think that's message has gotten lost in this whole debate.
SIDNER: I want to ask you about this video that has gone viral. It's a TikTok video, of a teacher, telling a student, to stand up, I think, for the Pledge Allegiance. Let's watch it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll defend my country till the very end. Then go back to - where are you from? Mexico? Where? Guatemala? Where?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was born here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were born here? And you won't stand up for the flag?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: So, he - the teacher says, "Where are you from? Why won't you stand up for the flag?" But then, he starts asking him where he's from. You can hear kind of a student kind of giggling in the background.
The school district had a statement saying that the teacher no longer has contact with students. It's in Manatee County, in Florida, strongly condemning "Any language, or behavior that degrades, humiliates or insults" students.
And the concern was that he was trying to say that the student was from somewhere else, or wasn't American. What are your thoughts? I'll start with you, Scott. What are your thoughts on that?
JENNINGS: I think that if teachers want to address something, with a student, regarding any kind of behavior that they don't like, or some disagreement, they're having in the classroom? It's best to do that in private. And it's best to do that in a respectful manner.
SIDNER: So not to shame them--
SIDNER: --in sort of in front of other students?
JENNINGS: Yes. I mean, look, I understand why he was relieved.
JENNINGS: Because anytime you start to talk to people like that, A, that's bad. But B, when you start to do it in front of others? Makes it even worse. And so--
SIDNER: Right. And--
JENNINGS: And so, look, I was raised to stand, for the Pledge of Allegiance. And--
SIDNER: Yes. I think we all are for it.
JENNINGS: And I certainly would.
JENNINGS: But, again, I just think the interactions, between teachers, and students, in front of other people? I mean, kids are vulnerable. They're nervous. And they're easily, I mean, it's embarrassing, to be called out by an adult, like that, in a setting like that. So, I think, handling things, privately, and thinking through, your interaction, carefully--
JENNINGS: --is vital.
SIDNER: All right. Van Jones, David Swerdlick, Scott Jennings, thank you guys, so much.
And we will be right back.
SIDNER: It's one of the most complex and controversial health mysteries, in years. And it's impacted hundreds of American diplomats, and service members, across the entire globe.
It's called Havana Syndrome, after being first reported, in Havana, Cuba, in 2016. Since then, official after official have reported the same symptoms, including concussion-like injuries, like vertigo, headaches and brain fog.
Last month, the CIA started compensating agents, who suffered traumatic brain injuries, as a result of this syndrome. But so far, there have been no clear answers as to why this is happening.
Our very own, and very fabulous. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, traveled to Havana, to investigate, for a new CNN Special Report.
And Sanjay, you are joining us now.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Sara.
SIDNER: This is so interesting to me. I'm - I cannot wait.
GUPTA: It's been so fascinating, and perplexing, at the same time.
GUPTA: Because, you have these people, who had these constellation of symptoms, came on suddenly, sudden neurological symptoms. And the question is what was causing that?
One possible answer, came from the National Academy of Medicine - Sciences that said, this could have been a directed energy, using microwave energy, potentially directing that energy, at someone's brain. And then that got me wondering, are there technologies that actually do that?
There's a gentleman, James Giordano. He's a neuroscientist, does a lot of things with national defense. We talked to him about this. And he thinks the answer is yes, the technologies exists, and they are being used.
Here's a little preview of our conversation.
GUPTA: I went to Cuba, and I spent time talking to scientists. And they wholeheartedly, uniformly believe that there were no attacks. And they say, there is no evidence at all that these happened.
JAMES GIORDANO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR BIODEFENSE RESEARCH: I solidly disagree with that.
GUPTA: Could they have done this, in a country, and the country not know about?
GIORDANO: Yes, I have no doubt. No doubt at all.
The equipment could be assembled on site. The components could be brought into the country, piecemeal?
GUPTA: How big would this weapon potentially be?
GIORDANO: The device itself would be about the size of this bench, or perhaps a little smaller.
GUPTA: And how far away, would it need to be, or could it be, to actually deliver this energy?
GIORDANO: Dozens of meters.
The reality is that these devices exist. The science and technology is real, and they represent weaponizeable entities.
GUPTA: I got to tell you, Sara, before going into reporting on this, I was pretty skeptical. I did not know about directed-energy weapons. I did not know how they could potentially cause these sorts of impacts, on the brain. I thought it was science fiction, frankly.
But, I think, what I've learned, and this is pretty clear, these technologies do exist. They've existed for a long time. And, over the past few decades, they've gotten more precise, they've gotten better, in terms of actually being able to cause, these types of injuries, in individuals.
SIDNER: Can you tell us what types of devices are capable of transferring this type of? Is it a microwave that--
SIDNER: --sort of hits you, sort of?
GUPTA: Well, so, if you think about the energy, of what they call the electromagnetic spectrum? You got everything, from sound waves, to microwaves.
What James Giordano was sort of describing was something that might not be that big. In the past, it may have been something that had to be carried in a vehicle. But it could be much smaller now, something the size of, he said that park bench.
SIDNER: Park bench.
GUPTA: But even smaller than that.
But again, these devices exist. Nobody doubts that. But using them, in this way? There's no signature, there's no footprint to this. And that's what's made it so confusing.
SIDNER: What I really find interesting is that you're a journalist and a doctor?
SIDNER: A brain surgeon.
SIDNER: So, you do all the things. And even you went into this, really skeptical. Have you come out of it, not skeptical any more that this is possible, and this is happening, to people?
GUPTA: I think this is very possible. And, I think, at least for some of those patients, in Havana. Because there was concerns about these attacks all over the world.
SIDNER: Yes, yes.
GUPTA: Austria and China and Russia. And those are less, less clear.
But, I think, for at least around two dozen people, in Havana, who had a very similar constellation of symptoms, who didn't even know about each other, when they first started talking about their symptoms? I think it's pretty clear something objectively happened to them.
SIDNER: It's terrifying! Sanjay Gupta, I am so glad you did this. And thank you for coming on.
GUPTA: Of course.
SIDNER: CNN Special Report, "IMMACULATE CONCUSSION: THE TRUTH BEHIND HAVANA SYNDROME," premieres, this Sunday, at 8 PM.
Just did a quick change, and we'll be right back.
SIDNER: Thank you, for hanging out, with me, all week. It's been a real pleasure.
"DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.