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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
TV Anchors: White House Threatened Us With Tabloid Hit Piece; New Outrage From Republicans Over Trump's Vicious Tweets; Growing Number of States Defying Trump Over Voter Fraud Probe, Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 30, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:07] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: OutFront next. Did the Trump White House try to blackmail two television anchors? This has the President cozy ties with the national inquirer raising hard questions tonight.
And breaking news, more states revolting, rejecting calls from Trump's election fraud panel to turn over voters' personal information. Plus, a congressman is calling for a medical examination of the President, asking is he physically and mentally up to the job. That idea gaining steam among Democrats tonight. Let's go OutFront.
Good evening. I'm Jim Sciutto in tonight for Erin Burnett in OutFront tonight. Shocking claims of a tabloid hit story. The new Trump tweet scandal launch to another level tonight. The subjects of the President disparaging and widely condemn tweets alleged that they were threatened by top people inside the White House.
MSNBC Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski say that they were encouraged to apologize to the President for their coverage of him. In return, they say, Trump would get a nasty story about them to go away. The alleged story, a tabloid hit job. Trump himself appears to acknowledge some of this, but insists that's not how it went down at all. He tweeted, and I'm quoting now, "Watched low-rated Morning Joe for the first time in a long time. Fake news. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show."
Now, we should know that Trump is friends with the tabloid's publisher. The paper said today that there was no threat at least on its part. But tonight, there are series questions that could cause trouble for a president who was already on the ropes with embarrassed members of his own party. Is this a case of blackmail? Did Trump issue a threat to gain more favorable media coverage? Has he created yet another problem for himself politically and should the President of the United States be investigated for this?
Let's go out front with Jim Acosta. He's at the White House. Jim, is the White House rejecting these new allegations?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPODENT: Well, Jim, I did talk to one White House official who said that Joe Scarborough did speak with the President son-in-law Jared Kushner about this National Enquirer article in question, but the source said that Kushner told Scarborough to talk to the President, which does raise the question why would the President of the United States have any sway with the National Enquirer over a story regarding Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski? This source did go on to say that there was no offer of a quid pro quo from Kushner to Scarborough. In other words, killing the inquired story in exchange for softer coverage of the President.
Now, when asked about one of these news articles that they're detailing the saga, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, during one of these off camera briefings today, she said she had not talked to the President about it. That was the only question on this subject, Jim, because the briefing today only lasted 16 minutes. The President was asked later on in the afternoon whether he regretted these tweets. He acknowledged the question in the room, but he did not answer it. Jim?
SCIUTTO: Yet another briefing that also wasn't televised. Jim Acosta at the White House.
ACOSTA: That's right.
SCIUTTO: All of this leading to new scrutiny for President Trump's ties to the National Enquirer and its publisher. Brian Stelter, out front tonight.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPODENT (voice-over): President Trump beats the press daily.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fake news. Fake news. Fake, fake news. Fake news, folks. A lot of fake.
STELTER (voice-over): But he had some powerful friends in the media. Now, two of his former pals --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald.
STELTER (voice-over): -- are turning on him. Accusing the White House of threatening them. Saying president Trump yielded this super market tabloid like a weapon. The accusation highlights Trump's long- time back scratching relationship with the National Enquirer.
TRUMP: I've always said, why didn't the National Enquirer get the Pulitzer Prize for Edwards.
STELTER (voice-over): Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski say it all went down in the spring when White House aids called.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MORNING JOE HOST, MSNBC: We got a call that, hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys. And they said, if you call the President up and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story. STELTER (voice-over): A White House official says the TV stars have the story mixed up. And it was really Scarborough calling Jared Kushner seeking help, trying to kill the Enquirer story. Scarborough says he has the text messages to prove that they pressured him to grovel to Trump.
Then Enquirer went ahead in early June and published this story about the newly engaged couple's previously marriages, but not before allegedly harassing their families.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MORNING JOE HOST, MSNBC: They were calling my children. They were calling close friends.
SCARBOROUGH: (INAUDIBLE) with the National Enquirer.
STELTER (voice-over): In a statement to CNN, the tabloid denied calling her kids and said it didn't know anything about the White House connection.
[19:05:05] The President has a long history with David Pecker, the CEO of the tabloid's parent company. Remember, it endorsed the President during the 2016 campaign. Their first endorsement of a candidate in 90 years. And it repeatedly went after Trump's rivals.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The President of the United States has a bully pulpit unlike anybody else. He plants in David Pecker's National Enquirer, a lie about me.
STELTER (voice-over): Years ago, Trump even said Pecker should run "Time Magazine."
SCIUTTO: And Brian Stelter is with me now, also OutFront CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan, former communications director for the Ted Cruz campaign, Alice Stewart, and former Obama White House ethics czar, Ambassador Norman Eisen. We should also note that he is involved in a lawsuit against President Trump over receiving payments from foreign governments. Norm, let me start with you. In your view, does this look like blackmail?
AMBASSADOR. NORMAN EISEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR UNDER PRES. OBAMA: Well, Jim, it does. It depends of course on whose version of the facts you believe. And then there is an additional issue about whether it's legally actionable. But, however, you slice it, it's not right for a president of the United States to behave this way, even if you accept the story as he tells it.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, and so many of these questions come down to that. They're partly political questions as much as legal questions. But Paul since you are a lawyer and I have you here with me. I have the U.S. code 18872 extortion by officers and employees of the United States, "Whoever, being officer, or employee of the U.S. to be assuming an act as such under color or pretense of office or employment commits or attempts an act of extortion shall be fined or imprisoned for three years." I mean, you look at that code. You are a lawyer. If you had a case like this brought before you, would you think there is a case here?
PAUL CALLAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: No, I wouldn't think there's a case. And there are a couple of problems with the case. Extortion as we understand that is normally -- you think of it in terms of like a mob shake down. Let's say, if you don't pay me the big, I'm going to burn down your store. It's a threat of harm coming to you in the future.
Now, this gets a lot more subtle because this is not that the President will hurt Scarborough. This is he will not make a phone call to stop one of his friends from hurting Scarborough.
SCIUTTO: That's not exactly a giant intellectual leap there.
CALLAN: It's not a giant --
SCIUTTO: They're good friends. I think the --
CALLAN: Well, this is why there are lawyers in the world.
CALLAN: Because this is a very technical legal defense. That is probably enough to shield him. And there's a second thing that shields him as well. Under that statute you have to be acting in your capacity as president. And we know that the publisher of the National Enquirer is an old time friend of President Trump, well, before he became president. And a prosecutor would have to prove that he, peck, backed off on the story or would have backed off on the story because Trump was president as opposed to because Trump was a good friend. And how would you prove that?
SCIUTTO: Well, it's even remarkable we're just having discussion about the possibility of extortion. Alice, the National Enquirer published multiple negative stories about Trump's opponents during the campaign, including, here are few of them, the false allegation that Ted Cruz's father was involved in the Kennedy assassination, best that happened. That Cruz was having multiple extramarital affairs which he denied and Ben Carson left a sponge in a patient's brain, which Carson said was not accurate. I mean, just incredible collection of stories there.
Trump and the publisher have been friends for decades as Paul noted. Do you think that there is, when we look at that history there, an agenda at the Enquirer to help the President and hurt his opponents?, do you think there is an agenda to help the president and hurt his opponents?
ALICE STEWART, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN: Well, based on my knowledge and just the information that we have at hand and the headlines that you showed, as Brian indicated, the National Enquirer did endorse President Trump for president. He has hailed his friend David Pecker to be the CEO of "Time Magazine" and says that National Enquirer should receive a Pulitzer for the coverage of certain new stories. And in turn, we have the National Enquirer to, as you saw, several negative stories about Ted Cruz that are absolutely preposterous and not true. And the source of one of those stories, the five affair story, the single source named in that story was Roger Stone, a former advisor for President Trump. And when asked about this on the campaign trail, then candidate Trump didn't criticize the National Enquirer for doing so. He had simply said the National Enquirer have been right about stories in the past. So, make of it what you will. Those are the facts as they are. But the key take away from that is the National Enquirer has a history of writing negative stories about many candidates. Donald Trump was never one of them.
SCIUTTO: Well, I'm glad you said not just negative but also preposterous stories. Let's be frank. Many of them. I should note to our viewers that we did reach out to Roger Stone's lawyers for comments on the story you did not comment on it.
But Brian, you laid out just a lot of the history here in their piece and used the word weapon, weaponizing information, in effect. The National Enquirer weaponizing it against Trump's opponents, is that the nature of this relationship? I mean, do you think that's not accidental, that's an intentional relationship?
[19:10:11] STELTER: Yes. And this is a story about how Trump world works and how Trump's relationship with the media are not all negative. He has positive relationships with the Breitbart with some opinion hosts of Fox News and with the National Enquirer. Pecker was reportedly as recently as this week calling our colleague Jeffrey Toobin interested in "Time Magazine." We mentioned that in the piece that there is talk now about trying to take over time into people times.
SCIUTTO: And why is it so important to him, remind something about the cover.
STELTER: Yes, exactly. Pecker is growing in stature, buying up magazines, creating more of a media empire and it makes you wonder how much is happening behind the scenes. We don't know. You know, I spoke with the source in the National Enquirer today who said this relationship is being overstated. Pecker and Trump are not all that close. But certainly when you look at the coverage, you can see a pro-Trump tilt to the coverage. There is no denying that.
SCIUTTO: As is preposterous as some of those stories are, they took up air time. I mean --
STELTER: That's right.
SCIUTTO: -- the Ted-Cruz story during the campaign.
STELTER: That's right.
SCIUTTO: And it was interesting. Alice, I just want to ask you this because some of these questions, you know -- OK, let's say there is no legal case and frankly let's grant that it is difficult to bring one of these about. I mean, these are essentially political questions, right? What is the political damage? Will there be political consequences for this kind of thing. What is your view? STEWART: In my view at this stage of the game, I think there has been so much emphasis or news coverage on Trump tweets. What we're talking about now, I view this as super inside baseball. I think certainly the "Morning Joe" fans are really engaged in this. They were never Trump supporters to begin with. But for the majority of people across this country what we're talking about now I think is pretty much quite noise. And this is not going to influence them one way or another. The key is for the President and Republicans in Congress to keep their eye on the prize, get some legislative accomplishments done and I don't see this specific story having a huge political impact on the President.
STELTER: Can I ask the case (INAUDIBLE) doesn't matter. We've seen the President and his aids try to neuter or silence critical voices in the press. This is one of the most interesting examples yet because it involves Scarborough who was his friend is now not. I think we're seeing our cases the President not wanting to hear criticism and this was pretty blatant.
SCIUTTO: And we should also note that a lot of Republicans have come out to call him out for these comments. Let me thank the panel. Out Front next, more Republicans ripping into Trump. Is his agenda in serious danger? And breaking news, revolting, more states tonight saying no way, refusing to hand over voter information for Trump's voter fraud investigation.
Plus, the women around Donald Trump. Why are they defending his vicious tweets?
[19:16:33] SCIUTTO: Tonight, more Republicans slamming the President, saying that his tweets about a female anchor are distracting from their legislative agenda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It is damaging his presidency. It is -- the fact that we're talking about it right now, rather than talking about the merits and demerits of what might come next on health care goes to the very heart of the way which he's hurting himself with these different, you know, 140 character rants on Twitter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: And, yet, the President threw another wrench in the health care debate today again tweeting, "If Republican senators are unable to pass what they are working on, they should immediately repeal and then replace at a later date." Sara Murray is out front tonight near Bedminster, New Jersey. That's where the President is spending the weekend. Sara, Republicans not happy about this latest tweet from the President, even though this one is actually on the topic they wanted him to tweet about.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly does throw a wrench into the plan that Republicans were proceeding with. Obviously they're preparing to take a difficult vote on health care. And the goal was to do repeal and replace at the same time. In fact, this was the goal because days after he was elected, President Trump said these things would happen near simultaneously. But today he threw a wrench in those plans, suggesting that if this bill, this Republican health care bill cannot pass the Senate, then maybe they should move forward with repealing Obamacare and replacing it later down the line.
Now today, the White House insisted the President's thinking on the subject really hasn't changed. Here's what Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President hasn't changed his thinking at all. I mean, he's campaigned on talked about since he was elected repealing and replacing Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Now, the White House may be insisting the plan hasn't changed, but officials who were working on this on Capitol Hill say this really does equate to throwing a hand grenade into this process. It was difficult enough for them to get the votes they needed to pass it through the Senate. They can only lose a slim margin of senators and the worry is that the notion that there is a back up plan that there is a plan B could send in particular conservatives to their corner and send the signal. So they don't actually need to negotiate on this health care plan. There might be something they like better coming down the pipeline. So while conservatives have been waiting for the President to weigh in on this issue, to give some air cover this maybe is not what leadership was hoping for. Jim?
SCIUTTO: Sara Murray there with the President Virginia, in New Jersey rather. Out front tonight Van Jones, Former Special Advisor to Obama and Jeffrey Lord, Trump supporter, former Reagan White House Political Director. Jeff, if I could start with you, you're hearing this from a lot of Republicans. Is the President making it harder for his own party to get this health bill over the finish line?
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think so. I really do think this is part of the negotiating process. I mean, I've seen this at close hand when I worked on Capitol Hill and in the White House. There is a lot of going back and forth. A lot of phone calls, a lot of public statements, a lot of statements that say, hey, when they really mean C, D or E. This is just part of that process. So I mean -- to me this is proceeding and I would suspect the President is making phone calls even though he's on, you know, 4th of July holiday.
SCIUTTO: Van, do you buy that argument from Jeff?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. Good try. Good try. I think that Trump should put out a new edition of his book, it should be called "The Art of Blowing the Deal." Not "The Art of the Deal", "The Art of Blowing of the Deal." You do not do this if you are in a serious negotiating posture.
[19:20:12] He took this off the table. He put his troops to work on one direction and then with no warning, based on a tweet, reversed his direction. What he's done? He's now destroyed the leverage of the people who were trying to get this thing done away that he said with no head's up. That is called blowing the deal. Now can you -- he may find some way to get out of it, but you can't -- you cannot pretend that this is a good way to do business and it is not a normal way to do business when presidents are trying to get major legislation done.
SCIUTTO: Jeffrey, let me ask that question that Van refers to. I mean, if you are for instance trying to get conservatives on with this health care bill and you tell them listen, let's just repeal it all now. We'll talk about something later, you know, what's their incentive to give a little ground say on their hard line position to some of the more moderate require -- I'm trying to understand your argument for saying that's going to help the negotiation along rather than hurt it.
LORD: Well, what I'm saying is that Donald Trump is a master negotiator. I mean, he like Ronald Reagan was a negotiator. Reagan was the screen actor skilled president and negotiator and Donald Trump has certainly made a career out of this. So I think he knows in his bones how to do this. He knows when to throw the carrot out, when to withdraw the carrot, when to bring the stick out, et cetera. So he will apply them alternately as he feels sufficient to get to his objective.
SCIUTTO: Then that's a generous view of the President's negotiating so far as president. I mean, did you see evidence of that where he's successfully used those skills from the White House?
JONES: What Jeffrey is pointing out is the great hope that the Trump supporters had in him. And some of them are still trying to hold on to those hopes and they tend to maybe rearrange all the facts in their minds to fit that narrative. But if you're just looking at it honestly and objectively, listen, I give the President credit and get beat up for when he does stuff that's good. But I was going to tell you right now, this ain't good. This is not the way to do it.
LORD: Well, you know, Van -- I mean, the old sports saying that it ain't over until it's over. It ain't over.
JONES: It's not over, but I'm going to tell you right now, if your assignment from the President of the United States was to go into this incredibly difficult environment and to get a deal that would let you repeal and replace at the same time, the one thing you do not want is for the President to suddenly say, and never mind we could do another away. Because what that means is the people that you had gotten to the table and you were trying to get a concession from, they have an incentive now to hold off. They say, wait, why should I give you anything if I sit on my hands this thing could blow up and I get everything I want the day after tomorrow. This is not the way you do negotiators when you are dealing with the kind of stuff you deal with in Congress. Maybe a real estate deal, these tricks and stunts are cool but not for the U.S. Congress. SCIUTTO: Now let me ask you this. So, Van, I don't want Jeff thought on this. So health care gets stalled this week. But let's be honest, this week you had two major pieces of immigration legislation, case law, restrictive new immigration law and also you had the putting into effect a modified travel ban, but the Trump Travel ban that's been debated for months and months is now in operation. It's the law of the United States of America. Are we missing those steps -- those fulfillment I should say of his campaign promises?
JONES: Yes, we are. And part of the thing is we talk about the distraction, the Republicans' feeling distracted. I think you could also say the Democrats are distracted by some of these crazy tweets and the Mika thing because to your point of the attack on sanctuary cities is a very big deal in the real world. He also rolled out an energy policy this week that environmentalists might have had complaints about. But Democrats are spending a lot more time talking about tweets and policy as well.
Maybe it all washes out for him, but I would say Democrats, let's stay focussed on policy and Republicans. Don't pretend that this crazy stuff from the President is actually helping anybody. He wants to be able to be a normal president and be successful. This is not the path forward.
SCIUTTO: So Jeffrey Lord, your dream. You get the final word.
LORD: Jim, the travel ban is a great example of this. They rolled it out and it immediately wound up in court. And they fought it through court and now they finally got it settled. They got what they wanted.
JONES: They got part of what they want.\
LORD: That's the American system that work here. There are always going to be roadblocks and this is what Congress is all about. It happens all the time. You have to have a steady vision, stay focus, you sometimes have to zig and zag to get there but you do get it done.
SCIUTTO: Jeffrey Lord, Van Jones, Happy Fourth to both of you.
LORD: Happy Fourth.
JONES: Same to you, my friend.
SCIUTTO: Out front next, breaking news, a growing list of states snubbing the White House over Trump's voter fraud probe. My next guest calling the President's effort, quote, sinister. And Ivanka Trump says that she wants to empower women. So why is she silent about her father's vicious tweets targeting a woman?
[19:28:33] SCIUTTO: Breaking news tonight, state after state, 27 and counting are defying the White House over Trump's voter fraud commission. The administration investigating Trump's unfounded claims of wide-spread voter fraud and is asking states to turn over among other things personal data on individual voters. Things like dates of birth, political, voting history, social security information and information regarding felony convictions.
Tom Foreman is now out front with more tonight. So, Tom, the White House says that the information they're asking for is, quote, publically available but that's not true, is it?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, not according to the Secretaries of State for many of these states which have said, look, we have specific statutes in these states that say we cannot release all these information. Some of this is not available to the general public, certainly not in a way that can be made public, which is what the White House has said they are going to do with this information. So, no, it's not public information in the sense that anybody could just get it and you get it by calling the Secretary of State's Office.
Many of the Secretary State are very concerned about privacy. Others are concerned about the basic motivation behind this and the whole idea that this is about voter fraud because many of them say that's simply a myth. There is no broad base voter fraud, Jim?
SCIUTTO: We should remind our viewers that this investigation, it really started with the President's unfounded claim right after the election, the 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally. Illegal votes cast in the 2016 election. A lot of folks have looked into this, Tom Foreman, is there any evidence to back up even a fraction of that claim?
FOREMAN: No. There is no evidence from any credible source or study at this point to say that there has been any kind of widespread voter fraud in this country. Absolutely not enough to justify the president's claim that he actually won the popular vote instead of Hillary Clinton -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: There is your answer there. It couldn't be clearer from Tom Foreman. Thanks very much.
OUTFRONT tonight is CNN contributor, Jason Kander. He's the former Missouri secretary of state and founder of Let America Vote, that is a voting rights advocacy group. And Rick Santorum, he's CNN senior political commentator. He's former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, also a presidential candidate.
Senator, I want to start with you because what's notable about these 27 states who were refusing this White House request is that many of them are, in fact, Republican-led states. Mississippi's Republican secretary of state released a statement saying in very strong terms that he's not going to comply. He's going to tell the president's commission, quote, go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.
Is this request from the commission a fair request in your view?
RICK SANTORUM (R), CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think a lot of people are concerned about this Social Security number that even the last four digits. That's certainly privacy information and certainly raises concerns I think from a lot of privacy advocates, including obviously, a lot of those are Republicans. So --
SCIUTTO: How about voting history, too, though? Why would that be --
SANTORUM: Well, voting history (VIDEO GAP) you can usually check voting history. I mean, campaigns use voting history all the time. We use it, you know, for super voters. So, that doesn't concern me so much.
But the one thing that jumped out to me was Social Security, the last four digits of Social Security. Maybe they could amend it. I understand why they're doing it. They're trying to find out whether, you know, how many illegals are registered to vote and whether they're voting in election.
And, you know, to the previous report that there is no evidence of voter fraud, I mean, that's just ridiculous. There's all sorts of studies been done about noncitizens signing up to vote. In California, it's easy. You get driver's license in California, you can easily sign up.
SCIUTTO: But to be fair, Senator, you're aware of this, the president said three to five million votes.
SANTORUM: Yes, I'm not --
SCIUTTO: And I'll just quote one of the studies from the Brennan Center.
SANTORUM: I get it.
SCIUTTO: It was point -- I can't count the zeros beyond the decimal point, but it's 0.0002 percent where it's been substantiated of illegal voters.
SANTORUM: Well, look, the bottom line is there has never been really good studies. I mean, Jason was the secretary of state. I'd ask this question of Jason, did you ever really test to see whether people could vote illegally? Did you ever send people in your office and send them into voting places and see if they could vote under dead people?
I can tell you, the city of New York did, and they found out 97 percent of the people that tried to vote illegally were able to vote illegally. So, I don't think it's done very much. I don't think people check.
SCIUTTO: Ninety-seven percent of what figure. But, Jason --
SANTORUM: Sixty-three people went in, 63. Dead people or felons who couldn't vote, and 97 percent were allowed to vote, and one of the two that weren't allowed to vote was because --
JASON KANDER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'd be happy to answer the senator's question --
SANTORUM: -- is the son of the person who was checking them in.
SCIUTTO: Well, Senator, let's Jason answer. He's got a fair amount of experience here. What's your response?
KANDER: Yes. Well, I conducted more elections investigations than any secretary of state in the history of my state, and there has never been a case of voter impersonation fraud in the history of the state of Missouri. In fact, statistically, you are more likely to be struck by lightening as an American than you are to commit voter impersonation fraud.
The purpose of this request from Secretary Kobach, the purpose of this commission or at least the purpose of this most recent request, honestly, is to figure out who you voted for, so they could determine whether or not to push you off the voter rolls. That's what's really happening. There is no good explanation at all for instance for why they would request your political party as part of this information.
What's happening here is that this all started with the biggest lie that a sitting president has ever told and now, in order to try to validate that, try and justify that insane action, they are taking insane action after insane action.
You mentioned the Mississippi secretary of state in his comment. You know, he came to Missouri in 2012 and campaigned alongside Secretary Kobach against me. This is not a liberal we're talking about. And this is a person who is saying under no circumstances are you going to get this kind of information about my voters.
SCIUTTO: Senator, what is your response? It's a convincing argument.
SANTORUM: Well, my response is that, you know, Jason said he investigated it. I asked the question. He didn't answer it.
Did you ever send people and try to get people to vote, you know, impersonate people? Did you ever run a scam investigation to see how easy it was to do it, or did you simply investigate what reports were of potential voter fraud?
There is a big difference. And the fact is, I'm not aware of anybody doing any kind of real testing of the system to see how easy it is to do it.
KANDER: You are, actually you are, because that's (VIDEO GAP) where millions of dollars in taxpayer money was spent in order to find a handful of cases of voter fraud, proving absolutely nothing, done by Secretary Kobach, who I would point out, by the way, is the one who issued this request.
[19:35:03] And in a hilarious and ironic turn, in his capacity as secretary of Kansas is now refusing to fully comply with his own request in his capacity as the leader of what I refer to as the voter suppression committee to re-elect the president, because that's what all this is really about.
SCIUTTO: Senator, we just put up the results of the Kansas. So 1.7 million Kansas voters, they studied in over two years, they found nine voter fraud convictions. I can't do the math of how low a percentage that is, but that's quite a tiny number, isn't it?
SANTORUM: Yes, I just keep coming back to -- Jason, you have done a great job of avoiding my question. But the fact is trying to find voter --
KANDER: Did I send people to pretend, did I send people in to break the law, Senator? No, I did not. I did not send people in to break the law.
SANTORUM: There are all sorts of -- investigators do this all the time. That's called sting operations. Don't tell me breaking the law. You know better than that, Jason. Sting operations --
KANDER: No, actually voter impersonation fraud is what you're asking about. No, I did not do that.
SANTORUM: I am asking whether you've ever conducted a sting operation, or anybody, any secretary of state has conducted a sting operation, and the answer is no. But the ones that have actually found it very easy to do.
So, you're suggesting, well, just because it is easy to do doesn't mean that people are actually doing it, which means you believe in our honor system in America. I believe in a system that prevents fraud and makes sure we don't have fraud, not trusting people's honor they're not going to break the law.
SCIUTTO: Final word, Jason.
KANDER: Sure. All right. Well, let's start with the fact if they really wanted to do with this commission was make it so you could make sure there was nobody registered to vote in multiple states, for instance, what they would do is they would have a national website that allows you to do voter registration at the national level, so that it would be impossible. But they're not going to do that.
And the reason they're not going to do that is because they are not interested in having more people registered to vote. The entire purpose of this commission is voter suppression, is to make it harder for folks to vote when those folks have a nasty habit of not voting Republicans.
SCIUTTO: Folks, we're going to have to leave it there. Senator Santorum, Jason Kander, thanks very much. It's a tough issue and we're glad to hear you duke it out.
OUTFRONT next, Ivanka Trump says she supports women. But why is she silent about her father's tweets targeting women?
And new support tonight for a congressman's plan to test whether Trump, and listen to this, is mentally fit for the job. That lawmaker is our guest tonight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[19:40:54] SCIUTTO: Defending the indefensible. Senior advisor Kellyanne Conway tried to explain Trump's attacks on a female anchor and why she isn't condemning them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SENIOR ADVISOR: I didn't say I endorsed his attacks. I never said that, George. What I said was I endorse his ability to fight back when he is attacked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Walking something of a fine line there. Jason Carroll is OUTFRONT tonight with more.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While the administration looks toward trying to turn the page on the debate over the president and his comments about women, three women close to the president have stood by him. The first lady, senior White House advisor Kellyanne Conway and his daughter Ivanka.
IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: Policies that allow women with children to drive should not be novelties. They should be the norm.
CARROLL: Ivanka Trump perhaps the most vocal member of the administration, promoting and empowering women noticeably silent on her father's latest tweet about MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, a tweet lawmakers on both sides of the aisle viewed as sexist.
This silence from a woman whose Twitter bio reads in part, wife, mother, sister, daughter, entrepreneur and advocate for the education and empowerment of women and girls.
Ivanka Trump in the past has stridently defended her father's treatment of women. This past April, Trump was met with boos when she explained her reasoning to a women's panel in Berlin.
IVANKA TRUMP: He's been a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive in the new reality of --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You hear the reaction from the audience, so I need to address one more point. Some attitudes towards women your father has publically displayed in former times might leave one questioning whether he is such an empowerer for women. What's your comment on that?
IVANKA TRUMP: I think the thousands of women who have worked with and for my father for decades when he was in the private sector are a testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women.
CARROLL: White House advisor Kellyanne Conway on the other hand publicly defended the president's latest tweets.
CONWAY: Large parts of the media are covering personal insults about the president, this invective, and really denying America's women their rightful knowledge on what he's doing for them on --
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Well, the president hasn't come out with a plan. But that's decides the point right now.
CONWAY: You were not be talking about jobs. You keep interpreting me, George. And fairly to the American people, particularly women who tune into these shows to get information about what's going on for them.
CARROLL: And then there is the first lady, who through a spokeswoman, defended her husband: As the first lady has stated in the past when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.
That reaction surprised critics who expected a different response from someone who has made cyber bullying a signature priority and one who says she calls out the president for tweeting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he does something that you think crossed a line, will you tell him?
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY: Yes, I tell him all the time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the time?
MELANIA TRUMP: All the time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And does he listen?
MELANIA TRUMP: I think he hears me. But he will do what he wants to do in the end.
CARROLL: For Ivanka Trump, her silence comes after her own observation about the, quote, viciousness in politics.
IVANKA TRUMP: It is hard. And there is a level of viciousness that I was not expecting. I was not expecting the intensity of this experience.
CARROLL: So, Jim, officially, still a question mark whether or not the first lady or Ivanka Trump for that matter privately expressed any sort of displeasure over the president's tweets. But without question, one point is clear going forward, it is not just the president's credibility at stake when it comes to his stance on women's issues. It is the first lady's credibility and Ivanka Trump's credibility as well -- Jim.
[19:45:01] SCIUTTO: Much of the country as well. Jason Carroll, thanks very much.
OUTFRONT next, is Trump mentally fit to be president? That is a growing question among some Democrats on Capitol Hill. One congressman leading that charge will join me next.
And health care for rural America now in jeopardy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there is a Medicaid cut, it is going to be bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How bad?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: New tonight, growing Democratic support for one congressman's bill that could potentially oust President Trump from office. Democrat Jamie Raskin looking to create a commission to determine whether the president is physically, mentally able to do the job. He's using the 25th Amendment as his justification.
And I'm just going to read from part of the 25th Amendment so you understand how it works. It says, the president is -- if the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of office, the vice president shall assume the powers and duties of the office as acting president.
Congressman Raskin is OUTFRONT with us. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee.
So, the 25th Amendment as you read it there, sets, understandably, quite a high bar. Why do you believe, and what evidence do you see to justify exercising the 25th Amendment with President Trump?
[19:50:06] REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, it's not up to me or any other member of Congress. All we're doing is following through on what the 25th Amendment, which is that the vice president of the United States and a majority of the cabinet can review the fitness of the president, or the vice president of the United States and a majority of a body to be set up by the Congress.
And the Congress has not set that body up yet. The 25th Amendment is 50 years old. This is the 50th anniversary of it. And so, all this legislation does is to set up a permanent body, not just for this presidency, but for all presidencies to come in order to discharge the responsibilities of the body under the 25th Amendment.
SCIUTTO: You cite it's 50 years old. It was enacted as we understand it after John F. Kennedy's assassination to create a process if the president is incapacitated.
But as you mentioned there, the way it's set up, a majority of the cabinet appointed by the president, they would presumably support the president and you have Republicans controlling both houses of Congress.
What are your actual chances of getting such a commission established in the current political environment?
RASKIN: Well, I think we've got a constitutional responsibility to do it, again not just for the Trump presidency but every presidency to come. The Constitution contemplates the possibility of a temporary disability, and the 25th Amendment has been invoked several times, including when Ronald Reagan went under surgery, when George W. Bush underwent surgery and power was temporarily handed off to the vice president.
But this is a provision, Section 4, which has not been fully implemented yet, and it's time for us to implement it because the physical health of the president and the mental health of the president is something of fundamental importance to the national security of the country, and the continuing effectiveness of the government.
So I think, you know, some of the current events have concentrated our mind on the problem. But we need to set this up as a matter of institutional responsibility as Congress.
SCIUTTO: There are those -- I mean, even among Democrats who look at an effort like this and say, listen, we've got to focus on the next election. We've got to focus on beating President Trump in 2020 or trying to gain back the Senate or the House in 2018.
How do you answer that criticism? Why this effort as opposed to a focus on the normal political process we call elections?
RASKIN: Well, I agree with that. I've got a great project called Democracy Summer, where we have 60 college and high school students who are learning how to do political organizing and becoming young political leaders and we sent them down to Georgia and they're organizing in Virginia. So, we're doing that, too.
But I think this is a matter of fundamental national security and -- which is why the framers of the 25th Amendment put it in. We've got to make sure that we have a president who is able faithfully to discharge the duties of office. And again, this is not just for one president, it's for all of the presidents.
And I think it's something we can come together on in a bipartisan way. The provisions of the 25th Amendment make sure there are bipartisan checks. Nothing happens without the vice president. And ultimately, if the president resists and says that he or she is fit when these bodies say that he or she is not, it goes back to Congress and you would require a 2/3 vote to override a presidential decision to defy a finding by the vice president and majority of the cabinet or the congressional body that he or she is no longer able to discharge his or her duties.
SCIUTTO: And there is -- you know, there is quite a high bar there, two-thirds vote in both houses.
Congressman Raskin, thanks very much for taking the time.
RASKIN: The pleasure is mine, Jim. Thank you. SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, life and death at stake in rural America in
the battle over health care. We have tonight a special report.
[19:56:48] SCIUTTO: Tonight, as President Trump is pushing to repeal Obamacare now and replace it later, new Congressional Budget Office numbers show the Senate bill would cut Medicaid spending more dramatically than thought. Without that capital, more rural hospitals would be shut down. And for many Americans, that means life or death.
Nick Valencia is OUTFRONT.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here in Richland, Georgia, just two hours south of Atlanta, it's a different world from the big city. Access to basic services including a hospital, is not a guarantee.
DR. ALLURI RAJU, RICHLAND'S ONLY DOCTOR: I'm the only physician in 30 mile radius.
VALENCIA: Dr. Alluri Raju has been the only doctor in town since the nearest hospital, Stewart Webster Hospital, shut down in 2013. Nearly 100 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. And now, hundreds more are at risk.
To add insult to injury, the facility was shuttered with little warning.
RAJU: They gave us a notice on Monday. And we closed it to patients, the hospital out by Friday.
VALENCIA (on camera): What was that like?
RAJU: It was very devastating and very sad.
VALENCIA (voice-over): Dr. Raju, who was the chief of staff at the hospital, is now in high demand.
RAJU: I see about 20 to 25 patients a day.
VALENCIA (on camera): And you're the only doctor here.
RAJU: I work full time Monday through Friday.
VALENCIA (voice-over): Raju says most of his patients are elderly and that 95 percent of his patients are now on Medicare or Medicaid. Under the new health care Senate bill, these subsidies would shrivel, putting the only doctor in town at risk of closing, too.
RAJU: If there is a Medicaid cut, it's going to really impact.
VALENCIA (on camera): How bad?
RAJU: Very bad.
VALENCIA (voice-over): With the nearest hospital now at least a 45- minute drive away, residents of Richland live in a medical desert.
It makes the jobs of Ed Lynch and his small crew of EMTs even harder. His two ambulances service an area larger than Los Angeles that receive an average of 1,200 calls her year.
ED LYNCH, STEWART COUNTY FIRE & EMS CHIEF: They can be hung up at the hospital three, four hours before they get a bed. (INAUDIBLE) call, we can go hours without coverage.
VALENCIA: Since the hospital shut down, they've become mobile emergency rooms.
LYNCH: Rural Georgia is dying. There used to be hospitals littering the whole state.
VALENCIA: It's more than just an inconvenience for Richland resident Anna Laura Barrett. With no hospital close by and Dr. Raju unavailable, she had to call an ambulance when she caught the flu.
ANNA LAURA BARRETT, RICHLAND, GEORGIA RESIDENT: It would have been so much easier to get fluids right here, which is what I needed, but it took all night long.
VALENCIA: But without a hospital, others who have suffered from something more serious haven't been so lucky.
LYNCH: I can remember having to ventilate something, I've seen people I know all my life die. We can't save everybody, but it's nice to save the ones that we can.
VALENCIA (on camera): Rural residents are in a public health crisis. Small town hospitals like this one are closing all across America, but especially in the Southeast. Here in Georgia, the state has identified up to 50 other small-town hospitals that are in danger of closing their doors -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: Thank you, Nick.
And thanks for joining us tonight. I'm Jim Sciutto.
"AC360" starts right now.