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Pushback on Trump's Unsubstantiated Calls of Widespread Voter Fraud; New Details on Ohio University Attack Suspect; 14 Wildfires Forces Evacuations in Gatlinburg; Should Trump Pick Romney at Secretary of State; Trump Tweets Jail for Flag Burners. Aired 11:30- 12p ET

Aired November 29, 2016 - 11:30   ET



[11:31:10] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New pushback against Present- elect Donald Trump's continued unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud. Trump spokesman, Jason Miller, cited a study by the nonpartisan group, the Pew Charitable Trust, says evidence of Trump's claim that millions of people voted illegally. But the author of that study says the Trump team has it wrong.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's bring the primary author of that study. David Becker is the executive director and co-founder of the Center of Election Innovation and Research. He's joining us now.

David, thanks for joining us.


BOLDUAN: Thank you.

So, the Trump transition, they cited your study from 2012. When asked specifically about evidence of the serious voter fraud, what did your study find? I want to make sure everyone interprets it as you intended it.

BECKER: Yes, the study was designed to quantify the challenges that election officials have in trying to keep their voter lists up to date. This is a challenge mainly because people move in between elections. A lot of Americans move. About one in eight or one in nine Americans moves in any given year. About 30 percent of Americans move in between presidential elections. We want to try to quantify how many records were out of date. Not because anyone was committing fraud but just because they were naturally moving between states or within a state. This is something officials take seriously.

There is absolutely nothing in this report about fraud. There's no finding about fraud whatsoever. It was mainly to try to determine what could be done to improve the quality of the voter lists.

BERMAN: Let's talk about the types of fraud often alleged by Trump supporters, among others. But noncitizens voting. Have you seen huge numbers of examples of noncitizens voting? BECKER: We've seen virtually no examples of noncitizens voting. It

happens. It's above zero. But it's not much above zero. There have been election officials, both Republicans and Democrats, who have looked for this in their states, who have sought to prosecute it. They at most found a handful, maybe a dozen at the most, compared to the millions, hundreds of millions, even a billion votes that have been cast. So, it's not really much of a problem. And it's understandable why not. Why would someone who is not eligible to vote, who's a noncitizen, go to the effort of casting a ballot, presenting themselves, creating evidence about this, and then be prosecuted and potentially go to prison or be deported all for the big payoff of one ballot cast in an election where 35 million ballots were cast.

BOLDUAN: David, what about dead people still on voting rolls? That's another thing a lot of people point to, basically, identity theft, and people using dead people's names to vote. Evidence of that?

BECKER: So there is evidence that there are records from people who have died that remain on the rolls because election officials don't have the necessary information to remove them from the rolls. We're starting to fix that. There's an effort that I helped lead called the Electronic Registration Information Center, which 20 states and D.C. are now a part of. And that allows them to have much better data about voters who might have died since they last voted and allowed them to remove those names from the list.

But, again, there's no significant evidence of any of these people voting or anyone voting and the names of these individuals. It would be fairly easy to catch if it was happening.

BERMAN: So in the "no significant evidence" category, Dr. Jill Stein is looking for a recount in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. She's doing it based on largely these reports from academicians that maybe there was hacking of the voting machines. Do you see any evidence of hacking?

BECKER: There's been no evidence of hacking. It would be very, very difficult to hack into a system like anywhere in the United States, Wisconsin, in particular. Everyone votes on paper in Wisconsin. There are over 1,800 different election jurisdictions in Wisconsin. They use different technologies. None of those technologies are connected to the Internet. Someone would have to physically go into thousands of different polling places to try to hack those. We've seen no evidence of that whatsoever.

I think -- I think the challenge that election officials are facing is that they're seeing people from both sides of the ideological spectrum question the integrity of the machinery that runs our democracy. I think that has some long-term implications for the health of our democracy.

[11:35:27] BOLDUAN: It has been a big topic during this election. And now it's become the topic even post-election, after the election's been decided. People are afraid of voter fraud. People are afraid of rigged election. As someone who has studied this extensively, is there a reason for Americans to be afraid?

BECKER: People shouldn't be afraid. They should feel very confident. There are really good checks and balances in place to protect against any kind of fraud or tampering with the election results.

One of the unusual things we do see when we ask voters about this is their confidence in the election results and in the system varies depending on who they voted for. In 2004, when Bush won re-election, Republicans were confident in the results, Democrats less so. In 2008, that basically flipped.

I think we need to move beyond any particular election and just think about whether our overall democracy is healthy enough to withstand these partisan divisions, and be prepared for the fact that the candidate you voted for might lose, and that might be what happened, and that doesn't mean the system was rigged. It just means that they didn't get enough votes.

BERMAN: Sometimes people lose without there being hacked voting machines. Sometimes people lose without non-citizens voting en masse. And sometimes people lose without dead people voting en masse. It just happens.

BOLDUAN: And some people sometimes misinterpret people's studies.


And that's why we wanted to have you on, David.

Thank you so much, David.

BECKER: Thank you, both.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, several buildings burn to the ground, hundreds more at risk as wildfires rage in Tennessee. Rescue officials are working to evacuate an entire city. We'll take you there live.

We'll be right back.


[11:41:15] BOLDUAN: New details this morning about the man behind yesterday's attack at Ohio State University. Police say the suspect, a Somali born student of Ohio State, appears to have posted on Facebook shortly before going on his attack, plowing his car into a crowd and then get out and attacking and stabbing people with a butcher knife.

BERMAN: CNN's Rosa Flores is live in Columbus.

Rosa, what are you learning right now about this suspect?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Kate, we're learning from authorities that Abdul Razak Ali Artan is actually from a minority sect in Somali. He moved to Pakistan in 2007 as a refugee and then to the United States in 2014. Now, he has been here since then. He's a student attending here at university with some of the students that he actually attacked.

We're also learning more from an article that was posted in the university. The student newspaper dug up their archives to bring this interview with him to light. In that interview, he speaks about being afraid, as a Muslim, here in this university, being scared of praying because of how Muslims are portrayed in the media.

Now authorities are looking at a Facebook message that he posted about the time of the attack. I want to read you an excerpt of this. This is what investigators are looking into and using to try to determine a motive. It says, quote, "My brothers and sisters, I am sick and tired of seeing my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters being killed and tortured everywhere."

So, John and Kate, this is what investigators are sifting through, in trying to figure out a motive here. They're not ruling out terrorism but they haven't determined a motive yet.

BOLDUAN: Rosa, what more are we now learning about that young officer who stopped this attacker, who ended up on the scene and shot and killed him?

FLORES: You know, he attended this university, Kate, and we're learning from another article that was printed by the student newspaper that he was actually an engineering student here before going into public safety. But because he was working as a student in the Public Safety Division here, he got inspired to go into police work. And so he's a young man, 28 years old. His name is Alan Horujko (ph). And he was at the right place at the right time -- I'm seeing activity behind me, I'm not sure what's exactly is going on.

Again, this police officer, in the right place at the right time. And from what we learned from authorities, within two minutes of the attack, he shot and killed the attacker, and probably saved a lot of live you.

BOLDUAN: Rosa, thanks so much for the update. We really appreciate it. We're watching that.

Also this. Terrifying images out of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Look at this.




BOLDUAN: Oh, my god. More than 1,300 people have been forced to evacuate this popular vacation area as emergency crews are struggling to contain 14 wildfires now. The mayor of the city of Gatlinburg says half of his city has been impacted. More than 100 buildings damaged or destroyed.

BERMAN: CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is live for us now in Gatlinburg.

Jennifer, give us a sense of the situation now.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, John, it is still very touch and go. A lot of people are here, just waiting, waiting for direction, to see if they can go back to their homes. Not sure what they will find. A lot of people left with simply the shirts on their backs. Some of them were able to get their pets out. Others were forced to leave their pets behind because they had to get out so quickly. The fires were just surrounding these neighborhoods. Homes. We've heard stories of people just plowing straight through the flames to try to get to safety because they were completely surrounded. We talk to another couple who are from out of town. They went out to dinner, couldn't return to the cabin they rented, so they have no idea if their dogs that are there are alive or not. Look behind me. This is just -- get a sense of what's going on. This is one -- we still have a couple hundred people just waiting for answers. We know that most of the historical downtown is intact. That is good news. But as you said earlier, at least half of Gatlinburg has been impacted by these fire, guys.

[11:45:51] BERMAN: All right, Jennifer Gray for us in Gatlinburg, keep us posted, as those fires, they struggle to get them contained. Thanks, Jennifer.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the President-elect Donald Trump taking on flag burning this morning. Saying on Twitter, "If you burn the flag, you should go to jail for a year or lose your citizenship." Back and forth now about what Donald Trump says on Twitter, ahead.


[11:50:22] BOLDUAN: The president-elect announcing plans for a thank you tour kicking off this week. Donald Trump's first stop, Thursday night in Cincinnati.

BERMAN: But before then, he has a dinner date. Meal time with Mitt. That would be Mitt Romney, who, to the chagrin of some Trump supporters, extreme chagrin, Romney is said to be a candidate for secretary of state.

Let's talk more about this with CNN political commentator, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, Angela Rye; and New York State Republican official and Donald Trump supporter, John Jay LaValle.

John Jay, I'll start with you, because I'm asking all Trump supporters right now, where do you stand on Mitt Romney? Would you like to see Donald Trump pick Mitt Romney to be secretary of state?

JOHN JAY LAVALLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTAOR: It's not what I would like to see.


BERMAN: I'm asking your opinion. LAVALLE: No.

BOLDUAN: Kellyanne Conway --


LAVALLE: I think this shows a lot about Donald Trump's character. A lot of people thought he should completely dismiss Mitt Romney. But Donald Trump is the kind of person to look at the qualifications of the individual and he will pick the right people to serve in the particular positions. Mitt Romney has a lot of great qualities. He could be a tremendous secretary of state. So, I think there's a lot of credit that goes to Donald Trump, where most people would just dismiss him, because they said something bad about them. He sees the quality and what, perhaps, Mitt Romney could bring to his administration to do what's best --


BERMAN: You acknowledge that a lot more positive than, say, Kellyanne Conway or Newt Gingrich or Mike Huckabee have said?

LAVALLE: I've been a diehard Trump supporter from day one. I am not happy to hear individuals, especially Republicans, attacking Donald Trump. It was very counterproductive. That being said, the election is over. It's now time to govern. And I fully support whatever Donald Trump decides, because I know he's going to make a decision that's going to allow his administration to be the best it can for the American people, and that's what his job is and what he will do.

BOLDUAN: As a Democrat, where are you on Mitt Romney as secretary of state?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, Mitt Romney feels like Bernie Sanders to me right now.



RYE: When you look at --


RYE: -- look at who is in the cabinet. So, please --



RYE: The analogy is clear that you have a president-elect that nominated people who scare me to death. And this is the one person who so far seems fairly normal of who he's nominated. Many of the people who they've nominated concern me. Even Reince. I'm concerned about him saying the GOP needed an autopsy report after they lost 2012 with Mitt Romney and coming in to support this. It's very puzzling. I don' know where his moral barometer is. It's scary. So, Mitt Romney sounds great to me.

It's really important for Donald Trump to demonstrate he can have people around him who tell him no, don't tell him everything he wants to hear, are not all yes people, and a big Amen Corner. Very important for him to have people who have opposing views and slightly more moderate.

LAVALLE: If you know Donald Trump, he's going to --

RYE: I don't.

LAVALLE: -- support individuals who have opposing views. At the end of the day, that's what you're going to do to get to the best answer. How he ran his business, how he ran his campaign, and will run this country, delivering the best for the American people. The choices, cabinet choices, have been stellar. He's really done a very good job of putting together cabinet. And those spots that are left, I'm very encouraged --


BERMAN: -- saying very nice things about Mitt Romney.


RYE: He's not saying --


LAVALLE: Like I said, Donald Trump, it says a lot about his character. That should be the real story, the fact not --


RYE: -- Kellyanne Conway, not only is quintessential professional, would she really go out and bad-mouth Mitt Romney and her principles? No. Come on.


LAVALLE: I love Kellyanne.


BOLDUAN: According to reporting out now, she did go to Donald Trump and offer her private advice, and he said -- and asked, can I go out and say publicly? He said, yes.

And that's to your point of --



BOLDUAN: -- his is different. He lets -- he's OK with it kind of airing out in public. RYE: And but -- oh, but he's upset they did it. That was yesterday.

This is today.

LAVALLE: What we have to understand that we do not have a career politician as our president.


BERMAN: Along those lines, can I get to one quick point? I don't time to play the sound, but Donald Trump today tweeted he wants flag burners severely punished, thrown in jail, speculated or loss of citizenship. A lot of Republicans, including Kevin McCarthy, said, I'm a First Amendment guy and don't want to see that criminalized.

[11:55:13] LAVALLE: I have a different opinion. I'm certainly a First Amendment guy but there's some things that are sacred. It doesn't sit well with me, individuals, who are going to burn or desecrate our flag. It's a tremendous symbol of our country. I think there should be tremendous pride. And it's a disgrace. Yeah, it's a problem. It's all part of - it's like the dumbing down of America. Everything goes nowadays. No. I wear the flag.


BERMAN: We've got 10 seconds, Angela.

LAVALLE: I salute the flag and always will.

RYE: As quickly as I can, exactly the reason this is scary to me. This is in the Constitution. The fact we're saying the dumbing down of America, it absolutely is --


LAVALLE: The Supreme Court at one point --


RYE: Please. Just saying that's the dummying down of America to forget that actually is to be protected.

BERMAN: All right, guys, thank you very much --

LAVALLE: The Supreme Court --

BERMAN: You guys are the smartening up of America. Great to have you here.

John and Angela, appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: You're welcome, America. You're smarter.

Angela, John, thank you.

We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: It is Giving Tuesday. We want to show you how to help this year's top-10 "CNN Heroes" continue their important work.

Anderson Cooper has more.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, A.C. 360: I'm Anderson Cooper. Each of this year's top-10 "CNN Heroes" proves that one person really can me a difference. This year, we're making it easy to support their great work. Go to and click donate beneath any top-10 hero to make a direct contribution to that hero's fund-raiser. You'll receive an e-mail confirming your donation, which is tax deductible in the United States. No matter how small, it can make big difference to continue their life-changing work. CNN is proud to celebrate all of these everyday people changing the world. And through December 31st, to offer this simple way to support their causes. Donate from your laptop, tablet or phone. Go to Your donation in any amount will help them help others. Thanks.


BERMAN: Thank you, Anderson, for that.

Join us for "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" live this Sunday, December 11th.

And thank you all so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

BOLDUAN: NEWSROOM with Brianna Keilar starts right now.

[12:00:01] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Brianna Keilar.

We are 52 days before Donald Trump is sworn in as president. And he's taken a major step towards keeping one of his major campaign promises, to appeal Obamacare. And in the --