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Hundreds of Thousands Still Without Power in Texas; Ted Cruz Jets to Cancun as Texans Face Power, Water Crises; Texas Mother Describes Her Family's Struggles Amid Power Outages and Coronavirus Pandemic; President Biden Speaks with Texas Governor Greg Abbott; New Study: Pfizer Vaccine is 85 Percent Effective After One Dose; Black Congressional Staffers Speak Out About Capitol Riot. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired February 18, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So, here's the breaking news, President Joe Biden speaking with Texas Governor Greg Abbott tonight about the devastating storm that damage the state's power and natural gas supplies. Hundreds of thousands of people in Texas still without power tonight, bundling up to fight off another fight of freezing cold temperatures and adding to the misery.

Around 13 million Texans are facing a water crisis. Either they don't have water due to broken pipes or lack of water pressure or they're being warned to boil water before they use it.

And Senator Ted Cruz returning to Texas tonight admitting that flying to Cancun for a long weekend while millions of his fellow Texans are suffering was a mistake.

Let's bring in now Omar Jimenez, he's live for us in Austin, Texas tonight with the very latest. Omar, good evening to you, hundreds of thousands of Texans still without power, 13 million don't have access to clean running water. The conditions are improving. I know it doesn't sound like it but what's being done to deal with this massive crisis tonight?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Don, those that have power back are maybe more thankful for it than they've ever been but those that don't are huddling together for what is going to be another night of freezing temperatures here in Texas.

Now, Governor Greg Abbott may have been a little too optimistic this afternoon saying he hoped that no location would be without power this evening. As you mentioned that number is still in the hundreds of thousands across Texas.

But what is -- what we're now learning is going to be a longer-term issue is the water. We're in a boil water notice here in Austin, and people here are being told that it is going to be a multi-day process until they get water back to a reliably safe level and so, again, they're being told to think in days instead of hours. LEMON: Yes. So, Omar, ERCOT officials are admitting today the Texas

power grid was seconds or minutes away from catastrophic failure and a complete blackout. What are you learning about it?

JIMENEZ: That's right, we heard this first from Congressman Marc Veasey who represents parts of Dallas in Fort Worth who say, he heard from an industry executive here that we were minutes away from catastrophic failure in that grid -- in this grid. And what that means is that instead of days long blackout which we're experiencing now, you're looking at potentially months long blackout or one for indeterminate amount of time.

And that's what we heard from the CEO of the Energy Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT as is known, who also said it was a 1:00 a.m. decision to start imposing blackouts to reduce the demand on the overall energy grid and that may have been the factor that led to still suffering, of course, of what we saw over the course of this past week, that can't be overlook, but they're saying that it could have been so much worse.

LEMON: Let's -- listen, Omar, as Texans were dealing with the unprecedented emergency, their Senator, the person who represents them, Ted Cruz, caught a flight to Cancun. This is what he said first.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Yesterday my daughters asked if they could take a trip with some friends and Heidi and I agreed so I flew down with them last night, dropped them off here and I'm headed back to Texas, and back to continuing to work to try to get the power on, what's happening in Texas is unacceptable and a lot of Texans are hurting.


LEMON: That was clearly a lie. Here's how his story changed just a few hours later.


CRUZ: We left yesterday. The plan had been to stay through the weekend with the family. That was the plan. I started having second thoughts almost the moment I sat down on the plane. Because on the one hand all of us who are parents have a responsibility to take care of our kids, take care of our family, that's something Texans have been doing across the state.

But I also have a responsibility that I take very seriously of fighting for the state of Texas. And frankly leaving when so many Texans were hurting didn't feel right and so I changed my return flight.


LEMON: So, and now text messages obtained by The New York Times seem to provide the real story. What do you know, what can you tell us, Omar? JIMENEZ: Yes, so the back peddling continues there where we're now

gaining insights, what was happening in private as Senator Ted Cruz's constituents are watching him leave amid a crisis in his home state. Now these are text messages obtained by the New York Times from his wife, Heidi Cruz reading that their house is freezing, as is Mrs. Cruz put it. And she proposed a getaway until Sunday, she invited others to join them at the Rich Carlton in Cancun where they had stayed many times noting even the room price this week $309 a night and that it's good security.


So, obviously the slap in the face is to the hundreds of thousands and to millions that are under a boil water notice or at least having water issues, someone who should have been their leader is leaving them amid this crisis, and it is a luxury that his constituents, at least many of them don't have, those that are huddling together tonight, those that are figuring out how they are going to be boil water. Those that are dealing with what is none other than a failure of infrastructure here in the state of Texas.

LEMON: Omar Jimenez, thank you very much, I appreciate your reporting, sir, be safe out there.

Listen. I want to bring in Douglas Brinkley now, he has been without water and power in Austin, Texas for days. So, Douglas, we see the candles again and the flashlight behind you. First of all, it's good to see you. I hope you're holding up well and I know it's below freezing in Austin tonight.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes, we're holding up well and my family, the water's been off for just days and this whole boiled water scenario is very real. Our power had been off all day about two hours ago the power came on and it was a lot of cheers, people in our neighborhood walking out, and getting to see lights and then it went back down again.

So there's still rolling blackouts going on right now but the whole state is in a sense of real crisis, Don, that roads of Austin have not been plowed properly. Most businesses are shut because people can't go anywhere so you've got to look for the one lone pizza place that might be open to serve utility workers or the one grocery store, when you get there there's nothing left on the shelves.

LEMON: Boy. I've got to ask you, because as a historian, right, you look at what politicians are doing in the now. And comparing it to other -- the previous acts that a politician have done. So, I've got to get your take. On Senator Ted Cruz's Marie Antoinette moment. What was he thinking?

BRINKLEY: He was thinking about Ted Cruz. He was thinking about his own hide. And I found it very funny that he's wearing a Texas flag around his mouth, and he's trying to go a little incognito but the press saw him at the airport but he always talks about the Alamo as being Texas. So, even if you take, Don, the John Wayne version of the Alamo with

Davey Crockett and Col. Travis, Jim Buey and the line on the sand in Texas that you don't leave when dire circumstances arrive, Ted Cruz, if he were at the Alamo, Davey Crockett would have been going where's, Ted, we can't find him, the answer would have been he's flown off to Cancun. It's a horrific look for a politician when the big freeze is going on here and people are suffering for him looking to parlay it into a resort vacation in Cancun.

LEMON: Do you think he's going to face any real consequences for this failure, or do you think Texas is going to forgive and forget?

BRINKLEY: You know, the dirty secret in Texas is Ted Cruz isn't very popular. I know you wouldn't believe that, he gets reelected, unlike Greg Abbott the Governor is. Since we talked last night, Don, I was proud of Abbott for at least admitting and taking some personal responsibility but on ERGO -- I'm sorry, ERCOT is not going to be -- you know, the electric council here is going to be under a lot of trouble this year, because all of their generators have frozen.

They should have been winterized and they weren't. And it's going -- the blame's going to go around the state because now we've got water, sanitation, you know, people dying because they don't have electricity that needed different types of, you know, of things to keep them going. They needed the energy. Fires. Things happen when you have a big manmade disaster. This wasn't a winter disaster. This was done by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas who is dysfunctional during the crisis.

LEMON: I want to get your take on this, and folks at home look at your screen, I don't think you can see it unless you're watching on your phone, Douglas, but today we saw people waiting in line at a Houston park to fill up water buckets or water from a spigot while the NASA Perseverance rover traveled nearly 300 million miles to Mars, how can we land on Mars and we can see the lights, you know, on the running water in Texas, right, we can see the lights on and the water running, we can't see the lights on and the water running in Texas.

BRINKLEY: Because the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, is about Texas, it's about grid, it's about taking shortcuts. It's about not providing infrastructure. It's about not winterizing generators. Going to Mars, you have the jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena. You've got NASA. And they are -- the federal government invests in it. Texas is this weird only state that controls all of its energy, doesn't do energy sharing.


I think the Electric Reliability Council of Texas is going to have a lot of lawsuits, you're going to have trial lawyers galore. Looking at this. And, you know, even companies should be able to get hazard pay, people that are working at a grocery store or something that are weathering horrific conditions just to keep these cities humming.

LEMON: Well, Douglas, listen, there's so much in there, because, OK, they're not on the national grid, which is, you know, that's -- do that but then you get this. But they could have winterized all of that because there are wind turbines in places that are a lot colder than Texas. They're running just fine. You know, the natural gas and oil in other places that are -- that gets a lot colder than Texas, all running just fine.

BRINKLEY: Thank you, Don, for saying that. That's the key. What they do in Texas is they shortcut people. They're making a gamble while people are making rich and the people of this council we are talking about, who knows where they're at? They're not even in state. This is just like a cartel making money and they short circuit the people. They do that by saying, what's the odds of a winter storm? Once every 20, 50 years, screw it, let's not put the extra money into winterizing.

But, you know what, we're living in the age of climate change, and these kind of winter storms are more frequent. So, it's a real recklessness of, you know, of the company and the utilities and at least Governor Abbott has spoken out and said, yes, it's really rotten. And Ted Cruz gets to be the fool of the moment with his, you know, Cancun junket.

LEMON: Yes. If we just looked, you know, in proximity, look at Canada, Canada gets a lot colder than Texas, look at the northeast, look at where we are right now, yes we do get the electricity goes out sometimes when there's a storm but nothing like what we're seeing right now. That is just unheard of.

BRINKLEY: Because the fossil fuel industry is that strong. It really is a Texas cartel. They like natural gas, they like petroleum, they make it hard on other alternatives. But yes, they do much better in the north, New Jersey does better with their electricity through winter storms. Texas is just out to lunch right now.

LEMON: Thank you, Douglas, be safe. We wish you well, hope the power comes back on. Thank you very much.

BRINKLEY: OK, thanks.

LEMON: I want to check back in now with Sylvia Cerda Salinas, a Texas mother of five, three children with special needs, right who has been devastated by the Texas power outages and she joins us now. It's so good to see you, last night we were by phone and now I get to see you and your beautiful family. Thank you so much.

So, when we spoke last night on the show about how hard the situation is, hitting your family and one of our viewers reached out to help today. So tell us about that.

SYLVIA CERDA SALINAS, TEXAS RESIDENT: Well first of all I want to say thank you to everybody. We've just had an overwhelming response from all over the world. All your viewers, we had a viewer, Mr. Raymond Boyd, reached out and he was able to use his diamond membership and pull some strings and he got us into a hotel. The light has not been back on at the house. It came on for three minutes, and then it powered back down. But there's a smile on our face tonight because we're sleeping warm,

and we just want to say thank you to everybody who's reached out to us. We've had -- I can't even tell you, we've had from Canada to Virgin Islands to California and New York, everywhere.

LEMON: I'm so happy, I'm really relieved that you and your family -- I didn't know how to react last night because I'm sitting here talking to you, and, you know, as people at home. I want to do something, I don't know what to do but I'm glad that just through this platform that I'm sharing, that people got to hear your story and you got to safety in a hotel. But last night must have been incredibly difficult.

SALINAS: It was horrible. It was horrible. We went to bed. I went to bed in tears. It was -- I mean, we just didn't know where we stood and what the next day held for us. But we woke up in the morning, and we woke up to a knock at the door and somebody delivered chick-fillet breakfast to us. It's crazy because there's people from all over the world, and all over the U.S. outside of Texas and inside that are -- that are reaching out to us and helping us.

And it's really a bummer when you see your own Senator, you see Ted Cruz. And I heard him, I saw him in an interview, and he quoted, he said I was just trying to be a good dad. But, you know, in this moment it felt like our dad ditched us and left us to fight on our own.

LEMON: Wow. So, I think it's really cute that your kids keep looking over at the TV to see themselves. Hi, kids. When you look back over. Listen, I know you lost multiple boxes of your children's insulin due to power outages. Do you have what you need now?


SALINAS: We do. We do. The local diabetes association reached out to us and they're helping us work with our insurance company so that we can get it reimbursed because it's a disaster. So, we're on the right track. And it's -- thanks to you and thanks to the viewers and to humanity. It's just been -- it's overwhelming. And I think -- I haven't smiled in a few days, but I -- everyone put a smile on our faces.

LEMON: That -- that's great. Do you have any idea when you're going to be able to get your power back and then back into your home?

SALINAS: I'm hoping tomorrow because I've been in communication with our neighbors and it's been going in and out. So it's out right now but we're hoping that tomorrow, we're hoping.


Thank you, thank you, thank you so much, Sylvia. Thanks, kids!

SALINAS: Thank you.

UNKNOWN: Thank you. Thank you, everyone.

UNKNOWN: Thank you. LEMON: It's so nice to meet you. Stay warm. And I hope you get lots of

meals and you can go look at yourself on TV right now. All right, you guys be well.

SALINAS: Thank you, Don Lemon, and god bless everyone out there.

LEMON: Thank you so much. Did you hear that? We felt like our dad left us. President Joe Biden speaking to the Governor of Texas tonight, what will that call mean for hundreds of thousands of people who are suffering?



LEMON: So, we just have some breaking news here tonight that President Joe Biden has spoken with Texas Governor Greg Abbott tonight about the devastating storms that the situation that's happening in Texas. Biden telling the Governor that the federal government will work hand in hand with state and local authorities in Texas to get relief to the people who need it.

Again, this is news just in to CNN. So, a White House correspondent, John Harwood, he joins us. CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro joins us as well. It's good to see both of you. Listen, it's good that they're coordinating, and they are working together, because folks there really need the help. John, what can you tell us about this phone call between the president and the Governor?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Joe Biden doing as president what Americans expect their presidents to do. Nothing extraordinary. He earlier today his aides said they had sent generators down, 60 generators to help public facilities power themselves, they're sending water, they're sending blankets. They're preparing to send diesel fuel as well, the president's approved the state of emergency.

Tonight, he talked to Governor Abbott, extended the sympathy of the administration and the American people to what Texans are going thru. And said he was going to try to mobilize additional federal agencies to help Governor Abbott today, asked for the declaration of a major disaster which would unlock long-term aid, recovery aid for Texans.

So, this is -- it's not an extraordinary gesture by the president, this is what presidents do to lead in times of crisis, and that's what President Biden did.

LEMON: Ana, I want to ask you about Ted Cruz. Because I know you are furious. People in Texas are freezing. He goes to Cancun, bending himself into pretzels to explain it. Go, what do you think?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he is a piss poor excuse for a public servant. The word is public servant. It is not spring breaker. And for an elected official to abandon his state while millions of his constituents are freezing, are sleeping in their cars, are melting snow to flush their toilets, are burning their furniture in order to keep warm is the height of irresponsibility, of hubris, arrogance. I mean, I jus -- I can -- I run out of words to describe what I think Ted Cruz did.

And then to come back and blame it on his daughters. I mean, doesn't he have like a dog he can blame for eating his homework? He's got to blame it on his two little kids, a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old, who said dad, let's go to Cancun? I mean, come on. You know, it's an insult to his constituents and, look, why -- we all know he's not an electrical engineer, we all know he's not going to fix the electrical grid but you're from Louisiana, I'm from Florida.

When there are a catastrophe of this nature, natural disasters, you want to see your local, your state and federal government working in tandem. You want to see your federal officials there, present, caring, showing solidarity, transmitting the message to the federal government of what they need. You want to see people like Chef Jose Andres and world central kitchen and the many organizations heading that are headed down to Texas to help the people in need.

What you don't want to see is your Senator jetting off to a nice warm, you know, five-star hotel in, you know, Mexico, in the middle of a pandemic. I mean, look, what can I tell you? I apologize to Mexico. We didn't send our best people.



NAVARRO: Maybe this might be a good time to build that wall.

LEMON: So, John, listen, in all seriousness, though, CNN is learning that some of Cruz's senior aides didn't know that he went to Mexico until the pictures start to show up on social media. He's trying to spin it like he felt bad about leaving but he has blamed other politicians.

You know, Ana talked about the hypocrisy, like Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Chris Christie for vacationing in times of crisis. Does he take the American people for complete idiots, for fools here?


HARWOOD: Well, you know, Don, it's not the kind of thing that you would brag to your aides about, especially if the aides lived in Texas and were going through what the other constituents would go through, you might sort of try to slip out unnoticed.

Look, ever since Ted Cruz came to Washington in the Senate his Republican colleagues recognized when he cast himself as the one who was going to bring down Obamacare and cast the Republicans who knew that couldn't be done, and said so, as weaklings, they knew that he was the purest kind of political opportunist.

He is going to take shots at people when he can, whether it's his own colleagues, or whether it's the mayor of Austin, who's a Democrat who went to Mexico earlier this year, during the pandemic, when people weren't supposed to travel and of course Ted Cruz took a shot at him.

He's taking a shot at you know, President Obama for having played golf or Chris Christie for having gone to the beach. A politician like Ted Cruz takes whatever he can use against his opponent and in terms of his own behavior does what he can get away with. He was not counting on getting photographed and people learning what he did but now he's gotten busted.

NAVARRO: Which is even more stupid, John, because he spends a hell of a lot of time on social media, trolling people like Seth Rogan and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. So, somebody who's at Twitter savvy as Ted Cruz should know better. And look, I've met Ted Cruz several times. My (inaudible) poodle knows more Spanish than he does.

So, if he's be going to Mexico, you know, I should teach him a few words, like -- (inaudible), means lie. Hipokrita, means hypocrite. Coward -- (inaudible), and I could go on and on and teach him a few more choice words in Spanish that might come in handy for when he goes on for one night to drop off his children with a bad fit for a, you know, cheek.

LEMON: Thank you both, I appreciate it.

Next, brutal winter storms battering the country, and disrupting the COVID vaccine effort, what will it take to get back on track?

Plus, black Congressional staffers coming out from behind the representatives they work for to tell the country about the trauma of the insurrection. I'm going to speak with them next.




LEMON: A real world study of 7,000 health care workers published in The Lancet finding that the Pfizer vaccine reduced symptomatic COVID infection by 85 percent after just one dose, and separate analysis of Pfizer's FDA documents finding the vaccine to be over 90 percent effective after one dose. That is according to a letter by the Canadian researchers published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Joining me now is CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner. Doctor, good to see you again. Thank you so much for joining. So, let's talk about this research. It is printed in two high profile medical journals. Seeming to show that one dose of the Pfizer vaccine could provide a very high level of efficacy, 85 percent to 90 percent. Actually, you know, that's -- I think it sounds pretty good, but I want to know what you think.

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yeah, it is very good. So, the way to think about it is this. When you compare to arms in a trial, the vaccine, the people who actually got vaccine and then people who got placebo, you include all the events from the time they got the shots until the evaluation time point. But the vaccine doesn't work immediately. So if you exclude the cases that crop up in the vaccine arm before the vaccine is known to be effective, which is about 10 to 14 days, and then you look at events that follow that, it turns out that that single dose, once the antibodies are formed, it is very effective.

In the Canadian analysis, it is about 94 percent effective after just one dose. And the Israeli study of 7,000 health care workers shows almost exactly the same thing after one dose given in the real world. So what this means is that the Pfizer vaccine is really good after a single dose.

We don't know how long or how durable that benefit is without the booster. And we certainly don't know how effective that is against the variants without a booster. But it does suggest that for several weeks, you get a very effective prevention of illness from a single dose.

Some people are suggesting that maybe we can increase the number of people who are getting a jumpstart on immunity by just giving first doses for four or five, six weeks, not worrying so much about the timing of the second dose. It's food for thought. I've had a vaccine scientist at FDA suggest the same thing to me.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

REINER: Don't worry so much about the timing of the second dose. You know, for now we need to concentrate on getting the doses that are available in. We still need to give second doses. But again, I think it's an interesting prospect for getting more people vaccinated quickly.

LEMON: I want to ask you about the weather conditions happening, causing really -- it is brutal temperature, brutal weather causing serious disruptions to vaccine efforts in dozens of states all across the country. How badly could this hurt the COVID vaccine timeline because we are -- it's a race against time with these variants out there?

REINER: Well, it's going to push things back a little bit.


REINER: But these weather delays are inevitable. The good news is that when the weather is really bad, people stay home. And when people stay home, the rate of infection remains pretty low. So I'm not worried about these temporary delays in getting vaccine out based on weather.

However, in a place like Texas where there's been serious infrastructure damage, we need to know whether their vaccine effort is going to require federal help, whether the federal government needs to build field vaccination centers and bring in generators and freezers there to get them back online because their infrastructure has been very grievously damaged by water from ruptured pipes, et cetera.

So if Texas needs help, they should ask for it. Federal government and FEMA and the military, if necessary, should be there to set up field vaccination centers.

LEMON: Thank you, doctor. See you soon.

REINER: My pleasure.

LEMON: The Capitol insurrection was terrifying. But for Black people on the Hill who watched confederate flags and symbols of white supremacy paraded through the Capitol, the riot had a whole other level to it. Black congressional staffers are speaking out right here next.




LEMON: So, this is new tonight, six Capitol police officers have been suspended, another 29 under investigation for their alleged actions in the January 6th riot, that according to a spokesperson for the Capitol police.

The insurrection we saw that day was a national trauma, right? But for those who were at the Capitol facing the mob that day, it's personal. As rioters marched with white supremacist symbols, Black Congress members and staffers watched in horror as hate broke into the halls of Congress.

So, joining me now, three staffers who were there that day, and that is Mike McQuerry, communications director for delegate Stacey Plaskett, Remmington Belford, communications director for Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, and Jabir A. McKnight, the former communications director for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. I am so glad to have all of you gentlemen on. Thank you so much for joining.

Mr. McQuerry, I am going to start with you. So, tell me about what you went through that day and what you've been feeling ever since.

MICHAEL MCQUERRY, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR DELEGATE STACEY PLASKETT: Mr. Lemon, thank you for having us on tonight. We know this platform is very therapeutic for both of us, all of us that have been through that. January 5th was --

LEMON: Sixth.

MCQUERRY: -- the founding day of my fraternity, so I was happy that day. On January 6th, I ended up going to work, and I was not expecting an insurrection. I was going there to witness history with the congresswoman I work for, Stacey Plaskett, and coming to find out that we had an insurrection that happened at our job.

I didn't go to work that day expecting an insurrection. I expected going in to see the ballots that, you know, the United States people voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be certified.

LEMON: Yeah. MCQUERRY: Not an insurrection.

LEMON: Yeah.

MCQUERRY: So, it was a very emotional day at that time, but it was like night and day.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, I thought you got the date wrong, but you said January 5th was the anniversary of your fraternity, right, and then the next day, right, because you were celebrating, and then you went through this and then there you go, the folks going into the Capitol there.

Remmington, you lived your life trying to avoid violence and racist encounters, yet this has arrived right at the Capitol, right at the place where you work.

REMMINGTON BELFORD, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR REP. YVETTE CLARKE: Yeah. Mr. Lemon, I want to echo what Mike said. I am so honored to be on with you and share this story. Let me just say that that was the most egregious display of sycophantic and solipsistic behavior that I have ever encountered.

And I'm from the south. You know there's a specific type of people when they're incensed, you avoid them because the danger that's associated with their ignorance knows no bounds. And because of that, seeing those types of people lay siege to the seat of our democracy brought a unique fear and created a unique disposition because like i -- you couldn't really go anywhere and then you also thought the Capitol was the most fortified place in America, if not the world.

And so it was a day full of conundrums, and I definitely pray and hope that we never have to experience that again.

LEMON: Jabir, there was -- I would imagine, considering with the folks, the paraphernalia they had, the confederate battle flags, the Camp Auschwitz t-shirts and all of that, there was certain vulnerability. I'm sure every member of Congress and their staffers were feeling vulnerable. But it must have been a specific vulnerability and a specific feeling, especially for Black staffers there, considering the racist attitudes that were storming that Capitol.

JABIR A. MCKNIGHT, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE: Absolutely, Don. Thank you so much for having us on to share our piece on this infamous day. It was egregious. But one thing I want to say is the writing was on the wall for this. Throughout the tenure of the former President Donald J. Trump, he has been race baiting and instigating matters such as this since he was in office and even before when he was campaigning.


MCKNIGHT: When we look at Charleston, when we look at Charlottesville, when we look at the Black Lives Matter protests, the peaceful protests that happened on the Capitol grounds, his disposition, his demeanor was always pushing for something this egregious.

When we look at -- when we look at Michigan, where there were plots to kidnap the governor, these were all set-ups, precursors to what we dealt with and it was extremely vulnerable because these were people that had a particular view of the African-American community.

LEMON: What do you think of them, Jabir, the comparison to Black Lives Matter protests and this? You hear certain people saying, well, you know, there was rioting, and the rioting and the protests, not the same things. What do you think of that comparison? Is that upsetting to you? Do you think it's a fair comparison?

MCKNIGHT: It's not upsetting to me. It's more of the same. This is what we expect as a deflection. It's a group of people that don't want to be held accountable for their actions. It's upsetting, but it's not shocking, it's not surprising. Throughout our history and up until this point, I mean, what else should we expect? This is what we've seen over and over and over and over again.

LEMON: Mm-hmm. Mike, what is it like going back to work in the Capitol?

MCQUERRY: It's -- you've got to take it day by day. I mean, we're now living, working in a fortress. When I would go to work, it was -- you know, I get off the metro, I'm right there on my door, I can go in. Now, I have to show my ID two or three times to get in and I'm walking around with military that -- their hand is on the trigger.

I have a friend who's in the military and I came home the other day and I was like, wow, they have their hands on the trigger and he explained that to me. But I didn't get that.

But we're living in a fortress. The place I worked at before January 6th I thought was the safest place in the world and it's the safest place in the world now because we've got 10,000 military protecting us. It shouldn't be like that. We've got to take it day by day because we got to push through. We got to work. That's our job. That's what we're here for.

LEMON: Remmington, talk to me about the sense of trust. Has that been shattered since the insurrection? Are people on the hill now suspicious of each other, even colleagues?

BELFORD: I'll tell you that that's definitely -- the trust has been violated. I had Republican friends and friends who, you know, worked for members who had alternative beliefs. But now I choose not to make communication with them.

A lot of the members are experiencing trauma because of the support that their colleagues let -- gave to the insurrectionists. I think that it's a unique dynamic that's been created now. I'm very cautious, very skeptical of, you know, people who may have alternative disposition.

You never know what they're capable of. You never know when someone is planning an additional insurrection or something similar. You never know when your life will be put in immediate danger again and so definitely keeping our wits about us and it's truly changed the dynamic of Capitol Hill.

LEMON: Mm-hmm. There are many heroic stories of law enforcement who defended the Capitol and the people in it. But it is troubling that dozens of officers are now being investigated for their alleged roles in the riot. Does this change how you view the officers who were in D.C., and the Capitol, to protect people, Jabir?


MCQUERRY: Don, let me --

LEMON: Go ahead, Mike.

MCQUERRY: Let me speak to Don --

LEMON: Go ahead, Mike.

MCQUERRY: -- before --

LEMON: Yeah, go ahead.

MCQUERRY: I'm sort of -- I'm kind of OG when it comes to it because I brought these two brothers into this realm that we're in, and I kind of feel like sometimes a little responsible because they didn't ask to be into that. Jabir got his job with Sheila Jackson Lee because I work for her before and so did Remmington.

And these brothers didn't expect that and we expected the Capitol police to protect not only the members of Congress but staff, too. And these brothers didn't -- they weren't privy. They just knew they were coming to do a job.

And so to see -- we -- you never know who is who in this country and definitely on Capitol Hill. It just kind of to show that, you know, these Capitol police, they were there, but we kind of -- I'm not going to say -- I'm speaking for myself, not for who I work for, but you can't trust anybody sometimes on Capitol Hill. You don't know who is who. That's just the way it is.

LEMON: Jabir?

MCKNIGHT: Do you mind if I jump in here?

LEMON: Yeah, go for it.

MCKNIGHT: It adds an extra level of stress, especially as a Black staffer. Many of us have come from inner city environments where we've seen, you know, co-conspirators maybe being police officers, you see police brutality.


MCKNIGHT: And as you're advancing your life not only for yourself but for your family and you move to D.C., you know, as a young staffer, and what we expect to be one of the most fortified places in the world, and you're dealing with more of the same, that is -- it's traumatic.

LEMON: Well, I want to thank you, gentlemen, for joining. I loved hearing your story. I wish we could have met under better circumstances. But continue on to do what you do and just thank you so much. I appreciate it.

MCQUERRY: Don, Don, we want to say collectively, thank you for letting us talk because this is therapeutic for us to talk to at least another brother about what we're kind of going through because we don't get to do this all the time.

LEMON: Yeah.

MCQUERRY: And you -- you know, you wanted to be a part of our story and amplifying it, we thank you, brother. Anything you need from us, let us know. OK?

LEMON: All right. Thank you, Mike. Thank you, Jabir. All right. Thank you, Remmington.

BELFORD: Thank you.

LEMON: Jabir A, Remmington F and Michael J, they told me before, use the middle initials, give some respect. Thank you, gentlemen. I really appreciate it. We will be right back.

BELFORD: I appreciate you.





LEMON: So the conversation I just had with those congressional staffers brings up a lot of tough topics. It can be hard for some to have these conversations.

But you know, I wrote something that I think I know can help. It is my new book. It is called "This is the Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism." It is coming out in just a few weeks. You can pre-order now anywhere you get books. I just got my first copy in the mail today, and I forgot to bring it in. I would hold it up. I'm so excited. I'm actually reading it now because I got the hard copy in my hands. Thank you. Go order it. It will help with these conversations.

Thanks, everyone, for watching. Our coverage continues.