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Barr's Testimony on Capitol Hill; Right-Wing Media Reality Check; Twitter Temporarily Bans Trump Jr.; Marlins Season on Hold. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired July 29, 2020 - 06:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: House Democrats clashing with Attorney General Bill Barr at this long-awaited and contentious hearing.


REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Is it ever appropriate, sir, for the president to solicit or accept foreign assistance in an election?

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It depends what kind of assistance.

CICILLINE: Is it ever appropriate for the president or presidential candidate to accept or solicit foreign assistance of any kind in his or her election?

BARR: No, it's not appropriate.


CAMEROTA: And joining us now, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, he's a former federal professor. Also with us, "Early Start" anchor Laura Jarrett. She covered the Justice Department for CNN.

OK, I know you both watched this very closely.

Elie, you say that you found some of his answers and explanations implausible, such as?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, well, such as the one we just saw.

Look -- look at all the things either Bill Barr either did not know or claimed he did not know, right? He's the attorney general of the United States and he can't give a straight answer to a straightforward question about whether it's OK to take foreign assistance in an election.

By the way, that's a crime. He also claimed he didn't know if the president had the power to move the date of the election. The answer, by the way, is, no, it's in the Constitution. Only Congress can do that. He said he hadn't seen President Trump's tweets about Michael Flynn and Roger Stone. It just so happened that those were the two cases he intervened on. He said he didn't even understand what an arrest is when there was talk about how protesters were being put in vans and questioned. He said, I'm not even sure that's an arrest.

So whether he's faking it or he's incompetent, either way, to me, was a big problem that I think really hurt his credibility.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That pause was crazy when Cicilline asked him about foreign assistance to elections. What's the pause there? What could you possibly be wondering?

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, first Cicilline didn't say "foreign." He didn't explicitly say "foreign." And so Barr was acting as though, like, assistance of volunteers? I mean he was acting as though he didn't know that that was what Cicilline meant.

BERMAN: Yes, that's giving -- that's giving the attorney general a lot of credit there. That -- that pause was loaded.

Laura Jarrett, you covered the Justice Department for years. I imagine were you still walking the halls this morning, you would get word from aides to William Barr that they thought he did well.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Oh, absolutely, because he presents this image of the bulldog that the president wants, right? This is -- this is -- it's -- it's a spectacle, obviously, for the president and -- and his allies who want to see a strong pushback.


This is what they always wanted in Attorney General Jeff Sessions and what they didn't get, especially when it comes to Russia.

But I think the overall pictures, taking a step back on yesterday, it was really about the even-handed administration of justice. And what you saw that is coming up in both the context of the racial justice protests, but also this whole conversation of how Barr has put his thumb on the scale for the president's friends and longtime allies, including Roger Stone and also the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

And Barr's whole argument is, well, I haven't treated them differently. Stone's an old man. The sentence was unfair. And so he says, look, I haven't actually prosecuted any of the president's enemies. That can't be the bar. That can't be where we are right now, that he hasn't actually prosecuted Obama, Biden, Clinton. But that seems to be his best argument.

CAMEROTA: Elie, Attorney General Barr said that he is not a fact totem for the president, his words, but you heard -- what you heard him talking about, you say he is a parrot for the president. you think he does parrot President Trump's propaganda.

HONIG: Yes, Alisyn, honestly, throughout the day yesterday, I kept finding myself thinking, this is the attorney general of the United States, for real? I mean it -- he didn't sound like any of the AGs I served under, Republican or Democrat, he sounded more like the White House spokesperson or campaign manager. I mean his big theme, as Laura said is, I'm 100 percent independent. I don't do politics.

I mean, who's he kidding? Are we to believe that out of the 60,000 plus cases DOJ handles in a year, he just happened to settle upon two close advisers of the president, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, to intervene? I mean what a cosmic coincidence.

Also, his rhetoric. He was parroting Trump's talking points. The bogus Russia-gate scandal, a point of view that's already been thoroughly disproven, that's a political talking point. He blamed -- he went out of his way to blame the Obama administration for the Covid response. This is not how a prosecutor talks. That's how a political operative talks.

BERMAN: I want to play one more exchange between David Cicilline, the congressman from Rhode Island and the attorney general. I do think, by the way, although we're past this, that Cicilline did say "foreign assistance" the very first time he asked as well.

CAMEROTA: I have the transcript right here.

BERMAN: Let's play it. Let's play it. let's play it.

CAMEROTA: Let's play it. Let's play it.


REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Do you think it's ever appropriate to use tear gas on peaceful protesters, yes or no?

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, the problem in these things sometimes occur because it's hard to separate people who may --

CICILLINE: Mr. Barr, my question is very specific, do you think it is ever appropriate to use tear gas on peaceful protesters, yes or no?

BARR: It is -- it is -- it is appropriate to use tear gas when it's indicated to disperse --

CICILLINE: On peaceful protesters?

BARR: To disperse an unlawful assembly.


BARR: And sometimes, unfortunately, peaceful protesters are affected by that.



BERMAN: Let's stick on this one, Laura, because that's the one we played. What do you make of that?

JARRETT: Look, he's a -- he's a lawyer. He's going to hedge.

The problem I think is -- is more that it gets to the -- he seems to have a misunderstanding of who these protesters are and why they're there. He, like the president, is depicting it as if this was just a bunch of anarchists running all over Portland, when, in fact, you see walls of military veteran, walls of moms who are there demonstrating in the name of free speech.

He also is sort of pointing to Black Lives Matter and saying, well, why aren't you looking at so-called black-on-black crime as if that's the issue when it's a complete non-sequitur, it's completely irrelevant, and pointing to evidence that doesn't even -- he doesn't even explain how it disproportionately affects black people when it comes to being killed by the police.

CAMEROTA: I think the point that we can all agree on is that he is a parser extraordinaire. And he parses even the simplest of terms. Even the questions that everybody else kind of understands on their face, he insists on parsing.

Laura, Elie, thank you both very much for all of that analysis.

HONIG: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: Coming up, voters who supported President Trump in 2016 weigh in on whether they think he will accept the November election results.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So when this election occurs and if it's not -- the result isn't in his favor, I don't think the man's going to leave. And that scares me.


CAMEROTA: OK, you will hear why some of them now say they regret their vote.

BERMAN: So, some of the most mainstream Republicans now pushing the most out-there conspiracy theories. How far out there? We have two words for you this morning, demon sperm. A must-see "Reality Check" is next.



BERMAN: So, over the break we checked some videotape and, Alisyn Camerota?

CAMEROTA: You were right. I was wrong. In my defense, my transcript omitted the word "foreign." But you were right, John Berman, I owe you one.

BERMAN: The important thing isn't that. The important thing is, is the attorney general was asked if it was ever appropriate to accept foreign assistance in an election and he paused and he said, depends what kind of assistance. That's what's important!

CAMEROTA: That's the priority, I would say.

BERMAN: Be that as it may.

So, these used to be fringe conspiracy theories, I'm talking about QAnon, mask causes coronavirus, alien DNA demon sperm. Now, at least a few of them, are actual talking points for some in the right-wing media.

John Avlon explains, we should have seen this coming.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I keep a souvenir coin from a long-gone Republican convention. It shows Lincoln and Eisenhower and Richard Nixon over the word "integrity," updated to include Donald Trump. And you've got a political version of the descent of man. But the same decline applies to conservative media, from William F. Buckley, to Rush Limbaugh, to Fox News, to a cornucopia of cranks. And just this over the past few days, a Breitbart video gets taken down for spreading misinformation, unproven cures for Covid-19, but not before being amplified by the first family, while Russian-backed sites are also spreading Covid dis-info.


Sinclair backs off a baseless conspiracy theory about Dr. Fauci, who's also facing attacks from the Trump White House. And, of course, the QAnon conspiracy theory.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, Q can do some crazy stuff with the pizza stuff and the WayFair stuff, but they've also uncovered a lot of great stuff when it comes to Epstein and when it comes to the deep state.


AVLON: OK, to be clear, QAnon has uncovered no great stuff. But these are just a few recent examples of a deeper problem. The descent of large swaths of conservative media into outright quackery, part of a fear-based feedback loop pushed by President Trump. It's a pattern he embraced with the racist birther conspiracy theory, part of a chorus of right-wing media insinuations from Glenn Beck and others that the first black president was actually a secret Muslim Marxist resulting in a stunning and sad 43 percent of Republicans who believe that Barack Obama actually was Muslim according to a 2015 poll.

And this was before we had a president who promoted fringe figures and conspiracy theories from the Oval Office. While his team has been dolling out opposition research on Dr. Fauci, Trump has been retweeting doctors who believe in, get this, alien DNA, demon sperm, and Hydroxychloroquine.

This is a descent into disinformation and the cause of confirmation bias. And it wasn't always this bad. Look, conservatives long aimed to correct implicit liberal bias with explicit bias, Fausti (ph) and Bargin (ph) to be sure. But William F. Buckley felt an obligation to keep the crazies out of the conservative movement, condemning the conspiracy theorist John Birch Society, for example. But when his "National Review" tried to stand up to Donald Trump, they found themselves steamrolled by the RNC while other principle to conservatives were purged and founded new outlets like "The Bulwark and "The Dispatch."

What's left is the inmates running the asylum. The president listening to opinions on Fox News more closely than his own intelligence briefing. But it's an extension of the same problem, polarization for profit. Keeping people addicted to anger and fear and anxiety, pulling towards the extremes and away from shared reality.

Meanwhile, Fox's own lawyers have argued in court that its viewers don't expect the facts from prime-time opinion shows like Tucker Carlson's, offering a variation of the same excuse Alex Jones' lawyers floated during his trial.

But their viewers believe this stuff. For conservative media, it's a cynical business model. In politics, it's dividing to conquer. But this isn't a matter of left versus right anymore. It's fact versus fiction. As Eric Hoffer (ph) once wrote, every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.

And that's your "Reality Check."

CAMEROTA: Our thanks to John Avlon.

The lawyers say it's all a performance, the viewers think it's real.

Twitter temporarily banned Donald Trump Jr. for tweeting a video of that doctor making false claims about coronavirus cures and wearing masks. The president's son tried defending his misinformation last night.


DONALD TRUMP JR., EVP, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: When I posted that video, I didn't say, well, this is the gospel. I said, wow, this is a must-watch because it seems very contrary to the narrative that they've been force feeding us for a little while.


CAMEROTA: "The narrative" known as truth.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joins us now with more.

So what happened?


Yes, Don Trump Jr. there getting a 12-hour suspension from Twitter. He's not allowed to tweet to all of his followers for 12 hours yesterday and Twitter is asking him to remove that tweet. They say that the video, of course, broke its Covid misinformation policies, as you heard there. Don Jr. says it actually proves that there is an anti-conservative bias in Silicon Valley.

It's also worth pointing out that his dad, the president of the United States, also tweeted this video, but because of Twitter's confusing rules, there was no action taken against that.

Now, this all comes today on the day of an historic hearing, an anti- trust hearing in Washington where the CEOs of some of the world's biggest tech companies, FaceBook, Apple, Amazon, and Google will be testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on anti-trust.

But this will -- this will go far beyond -- this will go far beyond mergers and acquisitions and really get to if these companies have too much power, whether it's about speech, whether it's about the roll they're playing in the election.

The CEOs of FaceBook, Apple, and Google have testified before, but this will be the first time Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man, will appear before Congress. Possibly the company with the biggest microscope on them today, of course, will be FaceBook and Mark Zuckerberg, particularly with their role in misinformation and hate. We know there's an ongoing ad boycott from some of the world's biggest brands. And possibly pushing back against Chinese competitors like TikTok. Mark Zuckerberg said in his testimony, which CNN obtained overnight, that FaceBook is proudly an American company.


CAMEROTA: That will be a very interesting hearing to watch, Donie. Thank you very much for previewing it.

So tempers boiling over at last night's Dodgers/Astros game as the MLB grapples with coronavirus.


Could this behavior doom the baseball season? We discuss it, next.


BERMAN: This morning, the Miami Marlins' season is on hold after reports that four more players tested positive for coronavirus. Major League Baseball postponed Miami's next six games after the Washington Nationals voted not to travel to Miami this weekend.

Joining us now, CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan. She's a sports columnist for "USA Today."

As of now this outbreak, as bad as it is, and it's awful, seems contained to the Miami Marlins. We don't see examples yet of the teams they were playing, any players testing positive. That said, Christine, I want to skip to the big question here, the season that started, will it finish? CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: John, I would say, I'll give

you a straight answer, I would say the odds are no.


I hope I'm wrong. I would love to be wrong. Obviously I love baseball, I love this escape as much as you and so many people and fans out there. But if you -- if there's another outbreak -- right now we have, of course, just -- it's basically the east coast, right, because we're talking Miami, this is Philadelphia, Washington's involved, Yankees were involved losing a couple of games, not being able to play them. If this hits the West Coast, if it -- if it spikes up in the Midwest, then I think one more, maybe two more of these and the season is done. And I hate the doomsday thing, but you've got to be realistic in the midst of a pandemic.

CAMEROTA: Christine, is part of the problem what we saw at the Dodgers/Astros game? So let's play a clip of this video. And you see some taunting. You see it escalating. Some yelling. And then I think we're going to get -- then you see this, which is not a socially distant fight.

BRENNAN: No, Alisyn. And this, to me, is a metaphor for exactly what we're talking about. These are baseball players being baseball players. This would look normal last year, the year before, the year before that. It goes back to 2017 and the -- and the Dodgers believing the Astros stole the World Series from them because of the cheating scandal that was a big deal back then and was exposed a year or two afterwards. So there's bad blood between the two teams.

But look at what we saw there. There's no social distancing, obviously. There are no masks. People are yelling at each other. People are being held back and pushed back. Everything that should not be happening in the midst of a pandemic is happening. And I think that goes to show you exactly what the problem is, that baseball players being baseball players just cannot happen in the midst of this pandemic and yet there it was on display for all of us to see.

BERMAN: Look, Dusty Baker, the manager, who's in his 70s, has had a litany of health issues. He was wearing a mask when he was arguing with the umpire, but you see Dusty Baker that close to anybody and you get nervous.

As we're talking about sports, Christine, and I am an avowed New England Patriots fan, but this isn't about the Patriots per say, but six of their players have announced they're opting out of the season, including, you know, Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung, two central players here. They're leaving a lot of money on the table, $8 million in Dont'a Hightower's case. Football hasn't really started yet. What does this tell you about how players may feel about this?

BRENNAN: John, if the players have the money to sit out the season, I think we'll see more of this. Those players who are financially stable, they're not rookies, they're not, you know, in their first couple years, they're not there for a cup of coffee, those guys will stay. Those guys will stick around because this is their one chance. But for the -- for the players who are financially stable and don't

have to worry about it, they will not play.

And this is still July as -- to your point. So as they're watching baseball -- everyone's watching everyone. I talked to a college football leader, a source and a friend of someone I know and trust last week, and he said that college football is watching what's going on with the professionals. And as they continue to have the mistakes, the missteps, the problems in professional sports, especially Major League Baseball, that is all trickling down to the college game as well. They're looking for guidance from the professionals and instead they're seeing chaos.

CAMEROTA: Christine Brennan, thank you very much. Always great to talk to you.

BRENNAN: Sure thing. You too, thanks.

BERMAN: NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At that briefing, we saw the president defend his retweet of that woman saying that she's a doctor and claiming that masks do not work.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She said that she's had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients. I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attorney General Bill Barr on the hot seat, facing the House Judiciary Committee for the first time in his tenure.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): You have aided and abetted the worst failings of the president.

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: He expects me to exercise my independent judgment to make whatever call I think is right. And that is precisely what I've done.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

And we begin with the deadliest day this summer. More than 1,200 people died in America yesterday from coronavirus. The nationwide average of daily fatalities is now above 1,000 for the first time since May. Twenty-nine states are reporting increases in deaths. These grim numbers have President Trump feeling slighted. He said so in the briefing room last night, lamenting the fact that top doctors Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx have high approval ratings higher than his. Maybe it's because he is propping up a doctor and endorsing her theories, but they're conspiracy theories about having sex with demons while you're asleep and other bizarre things. The president abruptly left the briefing room when questioned about that doctor by CNN's Kaitlan Collins.


The president also claimed much of the country.