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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
House Approves Jan, 6 Commission, 252-17; Interview With Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY); NY Attorney General Joining Manhattan D.A. In Criminal Investigation Of Trump Organization; Trump Allies Seeking To Import Arizona Recount To Other States, Including Georgia; Rocket Fire From Gaza, Israeli Airstrikes Mark 11th Day Of Fighting; Georgia Voters Reacted To GOP Congressman Who Compared Riots To A "Normal Tourist Visit". Aired 8-9p ET
Aired May 19, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's something that the President is not just kind of have to deal with now, it is something he is going to have to deal with on this issue for the entirety of his time in office.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Yes, that's a huge shift, you know, for someone you know like him who has spent a career viewing Israel from a different lens.
Thank you very much, Phil Mattingly.
And thanks to all of you for joining us, Anderson starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, the House just passed legislation establishing a 9/11 style commission to investigate the attack on the Capitol. It got just 35 Republican votes and now goes on to the Senate where it needs the support of 10 Republicans to survive.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will not be one of those Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy voted no on the bill tonight in the House and went so far to lobby senators on it earlier today.
It seems both of them got the message from the man who incited the rioters themselves, the former President's statement late last night reads, quote: "Republicans in the House and Senate should not approve the Democrat trap of the January 6th Commission.
It is just more partisan unfairness, and unless the murders, riots and fire bombings in Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle, Chicago, and New York are also going to be studied, this discussion should be ended immediately. Republicans must get tougher and much smarter and stop being used by the radical left. Hopefully Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy are listening."
Well, they were. It was a call in response just over 12 hours after the former President sent out that statement, I guess. McConnell said he would opposed the commission if it made it to the Senate. So today, and tonight we witness two grown adults elected officials in
positions of true power and responsibility, bending to the whims of a twice impeached defeated former one-term President and now golf course greeter and wedding crasher, who could be a big step closer to criminal indictment and we'll have more on that shortly.
Again, he is not just the one responsible for inciting the mob on January 6th or for spreading the big lie for months about the election. He is the one, not so long ago who Leaders McConnell and McCarthy blamed out loud in public.
So before we get into tonight's House vote with the limited Republican support for it, its slim prospects in the Senate and each leader's role in resisting it. Here's a very quick reminder of what they sounded like when they were simply telling the truth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the President and other powerful people.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The President bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, the top Republicans in the Senate and House back in January that's what they said. Tonight, they are leading the charge against the legislation that passed the House this evening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: After careful consideration, I've made a decision to oppose the House Democrats slanted and unbalanced proposal for another Commission to study the events of January the 6th. As everybody surely knows, I repeatedly made my views about the events of January 6th very clear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, he said law enforcement and existing committees already have the investigation well in hand, a commission he said is simply not needed. He might just as well have said, check your local cable listings and good luck and as you consider all of that, take this in. It is new video released today of the thing that neither Senator McConnell nor Leader McCarthy want to learn more about.
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]
COOPER: According to the F.B.I., one of the suspects in this video hitting officers with a tactical baton that he picked up. In a separate video also released today, another suspect is seen punching officers wearing a glove with metal knuckles.
So is getting to the roots of that less important now to Senator McConnell than procedural wrangling? Is it less important now to McConnell -- is it less important now to Leader McCarthy than avoiding testimony or sucking up to the former President or being House Speaker someday?
Is taking a closer look at the worst single attack on democracy since the Civil War less important now to Leader McConnell than whatever maneuvering he has in mind? Can it be that they are all more scared now of the former President than they were back then of the mob? It could be.
Consider Congressman Greg Pence, Republican of Indiana and yes, brother of Mike Pence.
[VIDEO CLIP PLAYS]
COOPER: So that was the mob attacking the Capitol chanting "Hang Mike Pence."
Congressman Pence's brother might have been killed. Tonight, Greg Pence, the congressman voted against this commission. He said in the statement, quote: "Hanging Judge Nancy Pelosi is hell bent on pushing her version of partisan justice, complete with a handpicked jury that will carry out her predetermine political execution of Donald Trump."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol Police with lead pipes across the head, and we can't get bipartisanship. What else has to happen in this country?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What else, indeed? That was Congressman Tim Ryan.
In a moment, another lawmaker who voted yes on H.R. 3233, but first, CNN's Ryan Nobles with new reporting and how the vote went down, as well as all the maneuvering behind the scenes. So, what did you learn?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This really played out exactly the way we thought it was going to, Anderson, 35 Republicans, which was right around the number that many Republican leaders were telling us to expect, voted yes, for this bill.
Among them the 10 that voted to impeach the former President the second time around, a good number of members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which is a bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats that try and find common ground on some issues. But this was really an effort by the House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy to try and keep as many Republicans as possible for voting for this measure.
The Republican leaders were sitting in the back of the chamber, carefully watching the vote board to see how many of these Republicans they were ultimately going to lose.
You know, 35 is a pretty big number. Now, there are more than 200 House Republicans -- well, it may not seem that big, but this is definitely the biggest break we've seen from House leadership in this version of the Republican Congress.
I don't know what it tells us about the future, Anderson, but it is clear there's at least a couple of dozen House Republicans that are willing to buck leadership on something they think is important.
COOPER: So Kevin McCarthy made his opposition clear leading up to it. What was he doing behind the scenes?
NOBLES: You know, his maneuvering on all of this has been peculiar to say the least. Initially, the number two ranking House Republicans, Steve Scalise said that they were not going to whip the vote at all, meaning they weren't going to encourage or lean on their members to vote one way or another.
Then late this week, they put out an e-mail to members saying that we don't want you to vote for this and then make sure you tell us if you do plan to vote for it. And then McCarthy himself we are told, was making phone calls to some of these Republicans that he thought was going to break away from the general Republican conference, doing everything he possibly could right up until the last minute to keep that number down.
It could have been more, Anderson, that we -- the sense we were getting that there were as many as 50 Republicans that might have voted yes, if not for McCarthy's efforts. So he was successful on one end, but still 35 Republicans ended voting yes.
COOPER: So it goes to the Senate now. What's going to happen there in terms of Republican support?
NOBLES: Yes, it's demonstrably more difficult now for this bill to pass because of Mitch McConnell's decision this morning to come out against the bill. Remember, in the Senate, it's a much different ballgame, because you're going to need at least 10 Republican votes in order to pass this bill.
And there's even some Republicans that you would expect to maybe be in favor of this that are wavering. Maine's Susan Collins, for instance, saying that she doesn't like the bill in its current form. She would be someone that the Democrats would desperately need to vote yes in order to get it over the finish line.
The big question, I think, Anderson is: will there be some sort of negotiation between Republicans and Democrats next week to try and fine tune the bill to get those 10 Republicans over the finish line? It really seems unlikely at this point, because Mitch McConnell controls the game here. He has made it clear he does not want this to move forward, so it seems unlikely it's going to happen.
But we do know this, there will be a vote and Chuck Schumer has already begun the process to bring the bill to the Senate floor as soon as next week.
COOPER: Ryan Nobles, appreciate it. Thanks. Joining us now Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, Democrat of New York, a
member of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Congresswoman Rice, thanks for being with us. What do you make of the level of support from your Republican colleagues on this vote? We're just going to show their names up on the screen, particularly in light of how the G.O.P. leadership tried to marshal opposition. Is 35 about what you expected?
REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D-NY): Yes, I was hoping that it was going to be more. You know, I've spoken to a lot of my colleagues who believe that we had to take this step to set up a commission and what I don't understand, Anderson is, Rodney Davis in the days immediately after January 6th, a Republican from Illinois, he put out a bill almost identical to the one that we voted on today that had 30 Republicans signing on to it.
So I don't know what happened between that time in late January, and now other than Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, other Republicans have heard from Donald Trump and they have decided that it's not worth their political career to be on the wrong side of Donald Trump. And that's why Kevin McCarthy after deputizing John Katko, who is the Ranking Member on Homeland Security to make this deal and get these things that we need in order to support this Commission.
He deputized Katko to do it and Katko delivered. They wanted equal number of Democrats and Republicans. That's what they got. They wanted subpoena power, equal subpoena power, and that's what they got.
I don't know why McCarthy pulled away the support, other than he is just, you know, a mealy-mouth -- a guy who is, you know, clearly more interested in measuring the draperies in the Speaker's Office and caring more about his own political future than protecting our democracy.
RICE: We were able to do this in a bipartisan way after the worst terrorist attack in this country's history after 9/11. Democrats and Republicans came together because they saw how important it was.
We could have done that in the immediate aftermath of January 6th, Anderson. I thought that that Republicans were going to once and for all throw Donald Trump into the trash heap of history and go take the Republican Party in a different direction, but they decided to go with Donald Trump.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, they are all in on the former President. What's so remarkable, too, is it is not just Kevin McCarthy, who, you know, is desperate to become, you know, a more powerful figure in Washington and stay in the good graces of the former President. It's a number -- it is all these Congress people, Republican Congress people who are rewriting the history of what occurred.
I mean, you know, claiming that these were just, you know, like, it was like peaceful tourists walking through taking pictures in Statuary Hall, the very people who were, you know, helping trying to barricade the doors that that they wouldn't be killed by rioters.
RICE: Yes, I mean, there are no words for Representative Clyde and the gaslighting that he was doing to the American people who watched this insurrection in real time, and all of us who lived through it in the Capitol.
I have never in my life did I believe that I would see a political party in this country, stand for absolutely nothing but one person, incredibly flawed human being, a man-child who has never learned how to lose, and they are carrying on and allowing him to continue his temper tantrum.
And so, you have a Republican Party, Anderson, that at this critical time when we're trying to come out from this pandemic and survive this insurrection, who literally stand for nothing but their own political futures. I never thought I would see the day -- never, but this is where we are.
COOPER: Well, it's also -- I mean, it's scary for anybody who cares about democracy in a functioning democracy, because we need two parties that are living in a fact-based world and have different ideas and can argue about stuff.
And, you know, it can be as tough as folks want it to be, but they have to, at least, you know, have a common sense of what is true and what is not true.
RICE: No, I mean, that doesn't exist right now. My hope is that it will sometime in the future, I think it's really important to focus.
Let's just talk about one -- you know, one of the people who voted no, again, let's go back to Kevin McCarthy. His father was in law enforcement. Just a week ago, Leader McCarthy was out there in his bike shorts on a bike backing the blue with a bunch of Capitol Police officers saying "We've got your back, we're going to ride our bikes to the Lincoln Memorial and protect our democracy. And thank you for saving our lives."
And then he has the audacity to go on the floor today and say to all of those men in blue, all of those Capitol Police officers, yes, not so much. I really don't have your back.
That's just disgusting. I mean, that was -- I don't know what how -- what kind of doublespeak, what kind of --
I don't even know what to call that other than just rank personal, you know, ambition. There's no other word for it. But I do hope, because there were 35 people who were brave enough to do the right thing for this country so we could have a commission, figure out what happened on January 6th so that we never find ourselves here again, just like we did in 9/11.
And guess what, we've never had a 9/11 style attack since that commission came out with their report. And it's sad to me that the majority of Republicans couldn't do it today, but I am choosing to celebrate the 35 Republicans who could. COOPER: Yes, Congresswoman Rice, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
RICE: Thank you.
COOPER: We want to get perspective now from CNN political analyst, "New York Times" Washington correspondent, Maggie Haberman. Should anyone, Maggie, be surprised that Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell today did what the former President last night called on them to do? I mean, essentially derail prospects of a commission actually being established?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, Anderson, they should not be, although, I will say I think this is what they were going to do before Trump put out that statement. I think that it is problematic for them that Trump puts out this statement and they continue to go ahead and do something that is clearly what he wants, whether that was their goal or not.
In the case of McCarthy, I certainly think it was. I don't think Mitch McConnell's goal is to protect Donald Trump, but I do think that that is the net effect in terms of what he did today.
COOPER: I mean, all these talks about how Kevin McCarthy doesn't want to have to testify about his phone call with then President Trump in January 6th. McCarthy said that he wasn't concerned about being subpoenaed to testify, but he clearly does not want to anger the former President or the Republican base who supports the former President.
Is it clear to you to what extent the former President could try to make McCarthy's life difficult if he didn't run interference on this commission? If he didn't continue to kowtow to him?
HABERMAN: So, I would say a couple things, Anderson, even if Kevin McCarthy continues to be in lockstep with Donald Trump on the issue of what happened on January 6th and people talking about it, that still doesn't guarantee that Donald Trump is not going to win.
COOPER: Of course.
HABERMAN: If the Republicans take back the House, that he doesn't want Kevin McCarthy to be Speaker. Now, I mean, most people think that McCarthy is the overwhelming favorite. There is no guarantee either of that, or the fact that one could count on Donald Trump telling them, yes, I'll be with you.
I do think that Donald Trump is aware that Kevin McCarthy wants to be Speaker and that was a clear topic of their first meeting at Mar-a- Lago a couple of months ago after the uprising at the Capitol. And Kevin McCarthy is thinking, he needs to beware not just Trump, Anderson, but as you say, the bulk of Republican voters are.
If you look at it, there was a CBS poll just in recent days that show that a majority of Republicans, self-identified Republicans, were happy with what happened to Congresswoman Liz Cheney. That tells you a lot about where this party's voters are and McCarthy has made his bet, he wants to stay in power.
COOPER: So can you explain the hold or partial hold or whatever it is that the former President has on Mitch McConnell? I mean, he is 79 years old. He is not up for reelection until 2026. What happened to Mitch McConnell who condemned the former President for provoking and feeding the January 6 mob lies?
HABERMAN: I don't think that this is a personal hold that Trump has on McConnell. I think this is more a hold that McConnell's Caucus has on McConnell and I think what McConnell wants is to stay Majority Leader.
Anderson, I think these things are a chain reaction. Essentially, he has senators who feel for whatever reason, rightly or wrongly, that they need to not cross Donald Trump in order to maintain their seats. Some of them are of in 2022. It's a map that is seen as more favorable for Democrats.
So I think this is McConnell reflecting the wishes of his caucus, and therefore, what will keep McConnell in leadership because I think that has been a concern of McConnell's all day long. But again, the net effect is the person who benefits is Donald Trump.
COOPER: There's also fundraising, you have people like Marjorie Taylor Greene who raise big amounts off the big lie, the more money they are able to raise, the louder they become in this kind of feedback loop of conspiracy theories and gaslighting that still persists in the former President's orbit. How much of an incentive is that to keep this all up?
HABERMAN: I certainly -- I think you've hit on a really important point. I think that they do see the Republicans who are engaging in continuing to spread these lies and falsehoods about the election and about now, what happened on January 6th, including, you know, one congressman who claimed that it was -- if you looked at it in any other setting, it would look like tourists. That congressman was photographed barricading the door of the chamber.
COOPER: Yes. Congressman Clyde.
HABERMAN: Yes. So I mean, if you look at what they see is the incentive structure, it is the low dollar and again, this is not condoning this. It's just is what it is. It is the low dollar fundraising base of the party and that low dollar fundraising base tends to be reflective of what former President Trump says.
The party is in a very similar position, Anderson it was in in 2015, where leaders had to decide whether they were -- how they were going to handle Donald Trump, condemned him over and over, ignored him, go along with him, and you know, folks like McConnell that made the bet that Trump is going to fade over time, because he's not in the presidency anymore. He's not on Twitter, and that has made a big difference.
But in the conservative media ecosystem, Trump is still pretty front and center and therefore, someone that they're paying attention to.
COOPER: Yes. Maggie Haberman, appreciate it as always. Thank you.
Next, how the former President's life just got more complicated now that he is facing a criminal investigation by the State of New York.
And later, Republicans on both sides, perhaps the most egregious manifestation of the big election lie, the so-called Arizona audit, plus the possibility other states could join the sham.
COOPER: The former President was wailing today like a man who just saw the New York civil investigation of him sprout a criminal aspect as well. More on that shortly as well as just how deep in the soup he might be. But first, the very latest from CNN's Kara Scannell who broke the story late last night. So what is the -- what's happening here?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Anderson, we have some new reporting tonight from my colleague, myself and Sonia Moghe, where we have learned that the New York Attorney General's Office has launched a criminal investigation into Allen Weisselberg, the Chief Financial Officer of the Trump Organization.
Now, this investigation is focused on him personally. It's a tax investigation, sources tell us and this has been run by a small unit within the A.G.'s office that has special authority and limited jurisdiction on criminal matters, but one of those is taxes.
Now this investigation has been underway for some time. It stemmed in part from information that the office had received from his former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg. She has been cooperating with investigators. And this is just you know another pressure point that is being leveled on to Allen Weisselberg.
Prosecutors have wanted him to cooperate in the other investigation into the Trump Organization, and now here is another vulnerability, something that prosecutors like to do, it is to find a vulnerability and push people to see if they will flip and cooperate.
And if they were to get Weisselberg's cooperation and he has been with the Trump Organization for 40 years. He is one of the most loyal people to former President Donald Trump. So it would be a big coup for them.
But it's important to note that Allen Weisselberg has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but in a sign of how seriously he is taking this investigation, he recently hired a criminal defense attorney who specializes in tax investigations as a member of his team. Now both that new lawyer and his former lawyer or his other lawyer have declined to comment on this.
[20:25:00] COOPER: So how does this specifically relate to the news that we
learned last night that the New York Attorney General is joining the District Attorney's criminal inquiry into the Trump Organization?
SCANNELL: Right, so the news last night was that the New York Attorney General is joining the Trump -- the DA's investigation into the Trump Organization. This is looking at the company and potentially the executives at that company, which could include Donald Trump.
Now, that's distinct from Letitia James's investigation into Allen Weisselberg because that is looking at him personally. But the key matter here is that, you know, this is all building blocks where they're looking to put pressure on Weisselberg and see if he will cooperate, which ultimately gets to the Trump Organization and the former President.
COOPER: Kara, stick around. I want to bring in CNN's senior legal analyst and former Federal prosecutor Elie Honig, also Trump biographer and Bloomberg opinion senior columnist, Timothy O'Brien.
Tim, first of all, I just want to get your response to what we just heard from Kara, do you think there's any chance the Trump Organization's CFO, Allen Weisselberg would actually turn on the former President? I mean, I know his son works for the organization. I think they were looking to his son as well, at one point, what do you think?
TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: You know, if I was making odds on it, Anderson, I would say there's a much better than 50 percent chance he flips. The only tethers that Donald Trump has around loyalties with people, it's really money.
When you move away from his children, and really immediate family and even their exceptions, even in those cases, loyalty is a one way street in the Trump Landia AND everyone who lives and works there understands that.
He has compensated Allen Weisselberg handsomely for decades now. But if Allen Weisselberg has to choose between taking a bullet metaphorically for Donald Trump, and going to prison or remaining free, I have very little doubt that he is going to choose to remain free. And I think he has to know very well that that's exactly what Trump would do if he was in the same position.
So I think this is a seismic development because it potentially indicates the unraveling of loyalties and support within Trump's inner circle. And I think any senior employees of that company, and possibly his own children have to begin lawyering up now to defend their own interests around this and that's a huge development.
COOPER: Elie, I mean, can prosecutors, I mean just look -- launch criminal tax investigations into someone like Allen Weisselberg without some legitimate reason? I mean it can they just do it because they want to pressure him like see what's there -- to see if there's any material to pressure him to flip on Trump? ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: No Anderson, prosecutors need
what we call predication to start any investigation, which means you need some facts, some good faith basis to start any criminal investigation. And it's really interesting to hear Tim's analysis here because if they can flip Allen Weisselberg and that's a big if, this can be a game changer.
If I'm prosecuting this case, my attention would go laser like right to Allen Weisselberg, because one, you can develop leverage. If you can build a viable criminal case on him that will give him reason to cooperate. Allen Weisselberg is not going to cooperate against the Trump's out of the goodness of his heart. He needs a reason. There is no better reason than facing prison time and he has access.
People who know the Trump Organization have said publicly that he is the guy who knows everything. Michael Cohen has said publicly, he knew where every penny went. So he is the guy I'd be looking at if I was prosecuting this case.
COOPER: So Kara, the New York Attorney General Letitia James ran on the promise of prosecuting the Trump Organization. New York District Attorney Cy Vance is about to retire. They're up against the clock on statute of limitations. Do you have a sense of a timetable and if and when prosecutors are actually going to try to make a move?
SCANNELL: Well, Anderson, I think there are those two factors at play, both the statute of limitations, which for most of New York State felonies is five years unless they can prove there was an ongoing conspiracy. But there is this wrinkle in New York law, which says that they can potentially add time to the clock for a period of time that someone is continuously out of the state.
And of course, Trump was in the White House in Washington for four years. So they have that that they can work with. But also there's Vance, right? His term expires at the end of the year. He is not running for re-election.
He's put a lot of effort into this investigation. He brought in a former prosecutor recently to help boost the investigation. He also went to the Supreme Court twice to try to fight and win ultimately to get access to Trump's taxes.
So my hunch would be that he would try to decide whether or not there is a case to bring here before he leaves office.
COOPER: Tim, the former President responded to this news that there is now a criminal investigation, calling it a witch hunt saying in part, quote: "There is nothing more corrupt than an investigation that is in desperate search of a crime."
I mean, you know, look for all his decades in the public eye, the former President has never actually come up against anything like this. Do you think he understands the situation he is in?
[20:30:10] O'BRIEN: I do, I think, you know, in whatever hundreds of words were
involved in his statement today that can be boiled down to just two, I'm worried. And I think he is profoundly worried. You know, Donald Trump will be 75 years old next month, he spent the better part of 55 years, avoiding the consequences of his own actions, thumbing its nose at social conventions, convention, acting, irrationally, and ignoring norms of sort of basic human decency, and, of course, thumbing his nose at the law.
O'BRIEN: And this is the first time in that long stretch of time, that he's facing a criminal investigation that he can't exercise any control around.
COOPER: And Elie, just finally, what is this any of the New York's Attorney General team is joining the Manhattan D.A.s investigation? I mean, how much do prosecutors have to have in order to expand investigation from civil to criminal?
HONIG: Yes, you have to have some reason Anderson, that's not a decision you just make on a whim. The New York AG has been looking at this case for a long time. It appears to me they found something, they found something that upped the ante that up the stakes for them.
And I'll tell you, it happens all the time as a prosecutor, that something that started as a civil investigation, a civil lawsuit, you find something in there and you say, whoa, this is next level stuff we need to make this a criminal investigation.
COOPER: Elie Honig, appreciate it, Tim O'Brien, Kara Scannell, thanks.
(voice-over): Just ahead, another casualty of the former president's big lie the sham audit going down in Arizona has created a major split in the state Republican Party. And new report and how voters and officials are handling and divide. When we continue.
COOPER: Allies of former president and key swing states, including Georgia are now seeking to perform the same kind of sham audit underway in Arizona. That out of effort has produced a major split among Republicans. It's got a personal particularly after those GOP officials supporting the effort claimed that a key voter database had been deleted. A claim that was amplified then by the former president but then later proven to be not true by Republican officials oppose the recount.
Kyung Lah is back in Arizona for us tonight with a look at the latest chapter in this very bizarre story.
STEPHEN RICHER, RECORDER, MARICOPA COUNTY: Feeding ballots through his chickens --
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you're wondering what chickens have to do with ballots, you're as bewildered as the Maricopa County Recorder and Board Supervisor. But chickens have everything to do with the conspiracies swirling around Arizona's votes in the 2020 election.
RICHER: I mean, you'd have to be an imbecile to not be aware that lots of people have doubts about the election.
BILL GATES, VICE CHAIR, MARICOPA BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: The people are questioning the democracy. They're questioning whether their vote is counted.
LAH (voice-over): Both lifelong Republicans, Bill Gates and Stephen Richer say the war within their party is fact versus fantasy. The battleground is here, a third audit of Maricopa County's approximately 2.1 million ballots. But this review is unlike the others in just about every other way, including that it's being run by the Republican controlled Arizona Senate and its little known contractor Cyber Ninjas.
Over the last few weeks, we've seen them have to move all the ballots to make way for scheduled high school graduations. They say they've counted about 500,000 so far since they started late last month. During the count, workers have used UV lights on ballots, chasing a QAnon conspiracy about a secret watermark, cameras, hunting for bamboo fibers and ballots supposedly proving they were flown in from Asia. This unorthodox review has been backed by Arizona Republican senators.
GATES: There's this blood thirstiness that's going on in our party right now that that I don't understand. But we have to stop it. This is tearing it the foundations of democracy to act in this way, to treat one another this way.
RICHER: But I think it's a proxy word for this playing out on the national level. So I guess yes, we are the experiment and democracy here in Arizona.
LAH (on-camera): Are you guys the Petri dish for what's going to be the playbook?
RICHER: Oh, yes.
GATES: Yes. Yes, absolutely. I'm very concerned about that. I mean, we now see the videos from other states where they're demanding an Arizona style audit. We have drawn a line in the sand because the fight was brought to us. And now that it has been, I think it is incumbent upon us to raise our voices.
LAH (voice-over): They're battling the Republican controlled Senate and its president Karen Fann was continued to defend the partisan audit.
KAREN FANN, ARIZONA SENATE PRESIDENT: I've had other senators and senate presidents and speakers from other states that have contacted me this is what's going to lay the groundwork as to, you know, what is the future of how do we audit our elections if need be.
LAH (on-camera): All the doors are locked? You can't even get in?
(voice-over): We've asked six times for an interview with Senator Fann. She has avoided nearly all media.
(on-camera): We're just trying to see if we could chat with Senator Fann.
(voice-over): We can't get to this public officials office store.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best option is contact our office directly, see what her schedule is and see (INAUDIBLE).
LAH (voice-over): Meanwhile, these voters despite the previous two audits that found no widespread fraud, remain hungry for results they're convinced will be revealed.
(on-camera): Do you think Donald Trump won the election?
DONALD BROWN, REPUBLICAN VOTER: Yes, I do. I -- we do.
JOHN LISAC, REPUBLICAN VOTER: Do it to him.
LAH (on-camera): And when you say do it to him, what do you mean?
LISAC: I want an answer. I feel that we, as a general public deserve an answer what's going on down there.
LAH (voice-over): But this table believes the war inside the GOP will expedite the demographic and political change in Arizona, a once red state now a battleground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think it's going to help the Democrats.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think it's crazy, you know. I mean, you know, how can people still be questioning this election? What are they -- you can't fix stupid, I guess.
COOPER: Kyung Lah joins us now from Phoenix. So the ballots are going to be moved again this weekend. But in the meantime, hearing something about swamp coolers in the building behind you where the ballots are being stored?
LAH: Yes, I actually had to Google what that is because I had not heard of it. I don't know very much about cooling but the reason why we're talking about cooling is because this building is not recommended for usage by the Arizona State Fairgrounds, because it's just too hot here in Arizona during the summer. Remember, we're talking about paper ballots.
So swamp coolers are being used to keep that space cool, but that introduces humidity again, paper ballots that are sensitive, certainly one of the number of things that the observers here have serious questions about and this count will continue though, Anderson.
The ballots are scheduled to move back into the Coliseum this weekend, when all the high school graduations are over and resume as far as an audit on Monday. Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Kyung Lah, appreciate it. Thanks.
(voice-over): Still come. We're now into the 11th day -- 11th day of brutal fighting between Israel and Hamas with hopes for possible ceasefire. The latest and bloodshed in the pursuit of peace in just a moment.
COOPER: With more breaking news. Now rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets marked the 11th day of fighting, however Hamas officials tell CNN a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza is quote, imminent, possibly within 24 hours they said. So far, no comment from Israeli officials on that.
According to figures from Palestinian Ministry of Health, 227 Palestinians have died from airstrikes including 64 children. Israeli officials report that 12 Israelis have died so far from attacks by militants.
Ben Wedeman joins us now from Jerusalem. What's the latest we know about this rocket fire?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we had heard from the Israeli defense officials that in the final phases they expected to intensify strikes against Gaza, just before a ceasefire, and that seems to be the case.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): This phone call is critical. In Khan Younis Gaza, 52-year-old Nehada Tawil (ph) hears he must evacuate on the other end of the line is rarely security warns his neighborhood will soon be the target of an airstrike. Soon after residents watches a ball of fire and smoke consumes the neighborhood. Looking on their homes reduced to rubble.
This behind me reflects their humanity, demolishing homes, terrifying children and the elderly says this resident after his home was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike. He's one of at least 72,000 people the UN says have been displaced in the violence.
The Israeli Air Force says it launched several strikes on what it says were Hamas targets, Wednesday, including what they called a weapons depot of Gaza militants in Khan Younis. And an alleged command and control centre in Rafah. It marks the 10th day of conflict, in which more than 200 have been
killed in Gaza. More than 60 of them children says Gaza's Health Ministry. Reports emerged Wednesday that 11 of the young ones were being treated for trauma before Israeli strikes and in their lives.
As concerns over the humanitarian toll mount calls for de-escalation grow ever louder, U.S. president calling on Israel to find a path to ceasefire, but Israel's leader vows the offensive against Gaza militants will continue in his words as long as necessary.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): Four rockets were launched from Lebanon into Israeli territory Wednesday, sending sirens wailing and towns near the Israeli-Lebanese border. On Israel's southern coast, a fresh rocket barrage hit the city of Ashdod, Israelis running for cover as Gaza militants unleashed new attacks. If a ceasefire comes, it can't come soon enough.
COOPER: And Ben, I mean there's the possibility of a ceasefire seem realistic at this point?
WEDEMAN: Yes, it does. I think what's interesting about this conflict is that it's really been on fast forward compared to, for instance, the seven weeks of the 2014 conflict. Clearly Israel doesn't want to go into a ground in Persian send troops into Gaza, because that could easily result in high civilian casualties in Gaza itself, and among the Israeli military itself.
So I think both sides have reached that critical threshold of pain. And I think the end is possibly near. Anderson.
COOPER: Ben Wedeman, appreciate it. Thank you.
I'm joined now by our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. What's the feeling inside the White House on the likelihood of a ceasefire?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think they're hopeful but being realistic. I mean, remember seven days ago that President Biden told reporters that he was hoping this would be over sooner rather than later. And here we are now on the 10th day of violence, stretching into of course, what Ben just laid out there. And so, it's really been unpredictable for them. They are they have not been sure where this is going to go.
But I do think you're starting to see President Biden's patients were thin. And that's why he had that pretty aggressive phone call with the Prime Minister earlier today saying that he wanted to see significant de-escalation on the path to that ceasefire, not explicitly calling for one, of course, as the White House has avoided doing so.
And so, I think that was really using a lot of the leverage that they've had, because so far Anderson, they had resisted going to that using that language about a ceasefire. And I think really realizing really the pressure that he was facing.
That is what led to that phone call today and what it seemed like from these public comments from Netanyahu that this operation was going to continue. And I think that's really they know all of that pressure building up is what led to that fourth phone call that they had earlier this morning.
COOPER: Obviously, Biden is the President has known Prime Minister Netanyahu for many years, not just when he was vice president, he was also obviously the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So I mean, are they on the same page and who's he's talking to on the Palestinian side?
COLLINS: I think what's new for Netanyahu is that he is now dealing with a president where he doesn't have the son-in-law of the president as a major ally in the West Wing, which is, of course, what he had in Jared Kushner during the Trump administration.
And so, that's what they're dealing with now, where he is dealing with someone who's definitely has a favorable stance toward Israel. Biden does obviously he has had that for decades. But I think it's more of a situation where he's facing these rifts in his party now, Biden is with these Democrats and the growing criticism of how he's dealing with this.
But I think even on an international level, because look at what's happening with the United Nations. That is a program that of course, you saw President Biden's that he wanted to restore the United States as a standing in and now they are incredibly frustrated with how the United States is referencing toward Israel during all of this. So I think there's a lot of pressure facing the White House over how to navigate this and of course, what's to come when that ceasefire does eventually happen.
COOPER: Yes. Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. Thanks.
Coming up next, 35 Republicans joining the vote to establish that independent commission tonight.
(voice-over): Will take you to the District of Georgia Republican congressman Andrew Clyde, you see him right there, helping to barricade the doors, the House chamber against the rioters on January 6, to ask him about his constituents about that and his (INAUDIBLE) --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): There was no insurrection and to call in an insurrection, in my opinion, visible face line. Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Without House vote tonight in favor of an independent commission investigate the January 6 riots who vote this, we reported included just 35 Republicans. It's important to once again take note of what one GOP member said just the other day about that infamous day. It bears repeating, it doesn't diminish the upside-down nature of what we referenced earlier in the program what Georgia Representative Andrew Clyde had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLYDE: There was no insurrection and to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold faced line. Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walk through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos and pictures. You know, if you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January the 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That guy, here he is the same congressman on that day January 6 helping at least he helped along with others at a barrier to a barricaded themselves in the House chamber trying to protect it against some of those very same people he now calls tourists.
We asked our Gary Tuchman to head to Clyde's district in Georgia to hear what voters are thinking about what he said.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Georgia's ninth congressional district in the northeastern part of the states is one of the most conservative districts in the country. This past November, Andrew Clyde won his first term in Congress with 79% of the vote. So he's popular here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever he says is 100% for me.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But what did Clyde supporters think about his comments regarding the Capitol insurrection, looking like a normal tourist visit. And the photos of him that have surfaced, one of them barricaded in the House door during the attack. Another with his mouth open in the midst of the danger.
(on-camera): Let me ask you this. OK, I'm going to show you this picture. This picture shows Congressman Clyde helping to barricade the door to keep people out of the chambers, the mob in the U.S. House of Representatives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): That doesn't look like a tourist visit doesn't?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sure it doesn't.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): And that's a tourist visit from hell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. He does is -- he does his job really good.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): But when he says as a tourist visiting, you see him here, helping to barricade the door, doesn't look like he's telling the truth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Yes.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): What do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think you're right on that.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): So this is Congressman Clyde, let me show you a close up with his mouth open --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And running away.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): -- was all going on, not right away. But he's either yelling or scared or both. We keep we can't tell for sure. And now he's saying though, that there was no insurrection. It was like a normal tourist visit. You voted for him? Does that disappoint you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. Yes. But, you know, it's everybody -- as far as humanity goes, people are constantly counterintuitive relative to what they say and what they do.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): But do you think he's doing this for political gain that he doesn't want to anger the former president United States who still has a lot of influence, and he's not being honest, and honorable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would say that anybody in politics is apt to do the same thing.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): This woman still likes Clyde and supports him, but --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't the slightest idea why politicians say what they say.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): But you agree that maybe he shouldn't -- he's a little misleading with how he said it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He shouldn't say that.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Not with the tourist visit?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): We talked with quite a few Clyde voters who say they're disappointed in him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't -- not agree with him at all.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): And no supporter was more disappointed than this man.
(on-camera): Congressman Clyde said there was no insurrection, that it was a tourist visit. Do you agree with him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's bullshit baloney. That's not true.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): So you disagree with the Congressman?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): And you voted for him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, unfortunately.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But most of the Clyde voters we talked to are willing to cut him a break. What happened this past November is one of the reasons why.
(on-camera): It was dangerous people were killed. People were hurt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): Does that bother you that he's calling it a tourist visit?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, let's that says opinion.
TUCHMAN (on-camera): He doesn't bother you that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, there's a lot of other things that bother me like the results of the election.
COOPER: And Gary Tuchman joins us now from Gainesville, Georgia. Did anyone you talk with agree with Congressman Clyde's words that what happened in the Capitol was a normal tourist visit?
TUCHMAN: We talked to a lot of Republicans today Anderson and precisely zero told me that a normal tourist visit was a good way to explain what happened on January 6. That being subtle, a lot of people still believe in various conspiracy theories about that day.
A lot of people are still sympathetic to Donald Trump in regards to his role about that day. But it does seem that most of the people we talked to do not feel that saying that it was a tourist visit was a good thing to say I think was a bit strange. [21:00:16]
COOPER: Gary Tuchman, appreciate it. We appreciated all those folks who talk to you.
News continues. Let's hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris.