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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Interview With Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); Pennsylvania State Lawmakers Tour Arizona "Fraudit;" Former Trump Advisers: The Former President Is More Obsessed Than Ever With The 2020 Election; Texas GOP State Lawmaker Says Wording In Voting Bill That Would Affect Black Churchgoers Was A Typo; Capitol Insurrection Emboldened QAnon Supporters; QAnon Researcher: We Are At The Beginning Of This, Not the End; Israeli Opposition Parties Strike Coalition Deal, Paving The Way For Netanyahu's Exit. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 02, 2021 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: But he did admit the fact that, you know, the vaccine development approval came under Trump. It comes as the administration has set a goal of getting 70 percent of the American population, at least partially vaccinated by July 4th.

Thanks for joining us. It's time now for "AC360."


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We begin tonight with a striking claim about one of the most controversial provisions in the bill Texas State Republicans are pushing to restrict voting, it would have limited polling hours on Sundays to after 1:00 p.m. drastically affecting the Souls to the Polls voter turnout efforts in black churches around the state.

Right now, as you know, the bill is in limbo after State House Democrats ran the clock out on it for their current legislative session. Now, some of the backers are trying to say that the whole Sunday voting hours; portion of the bill was nothing more than a typo.


TRAVIS CLARDY (R), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: Call it a scrivener's error, whatever you want to. I talked to our team yesterday, kind of regrouping of what happened. That was not intended to be reduced.

I think there was a -- you know, call it a mistake if you want to. What should have been 11 was actually printed up as one.


COOPER: That's a supporter of the bill, a Republican supporter of the bill who is calling it a typo or scrivener's error, mistake, why it took them more than three days to find that mistake and many public arguments about the mistake. In fact, supporting the 1:00 p.m. timeframe is not an answer to that question.

The very public outcry is anyone's guess exactly what's going on. Now, maybe his retreat on an especially problematic piece of it is a welcome sign. If so, it would be a lonely one, an exception to President Biden's warning just the other day that, quote, "Democracy is in peril."

While some might think that sounds overly dramatic, consider what we've seen in just the past few days. There's been incredible reporting that the defeated former President has actually been telling friends that he'll be back in office by August. We've seen a QAnon conspiracy promoting retired general former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, seemingly endorse a military coup like the one in Myanmar to make that happen and we've heard from Americans who would be just fine with a coup.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's going on America right now? The government took over and they are redoing the election. That could possibly happen here, possibly.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Would you like to see it happen?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to see it happen.




COOPER: This is not what you see in healthy democracies nor the backtracking on it. We just mentioned that that is what's going on in Texas. We'll talk about that tonight with former Texas Congressman and presidential candidate, Beto O'Rourke.

It's not normal or healthy either that the legacy of the Republican ballot audit in Arizona, never mind that it exists at all could soon spread to other states. We have new reporting there tonight as well.

We'll also look at the growing slate of QAnon candidates, believers in the big lie and more trying to win state and local office.

Joining us is Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He recently tweeted this about what retired General Michael Flynn said over the weekend, quote: "To those begging for a military coup, you will be shocked when the military arrests you under the 'and domestic' part of the oath." That's referring to the oath all service members take to defend the country against foreign and domestic enemies.

He continues, "Your fantasy will be ended quickly."

Congressman, thanks for being with us. The President just the other day said democracy is in peril, do you believe it is? REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Yes, I do. I think we have gotten lazy in

assuming that democracy will always survive. I think democracy around the globe is in a recession because when you have this advent of so much information, you don't know who to believe and that happens with, you know, this explosion of the internet and you can just find whatever news source and misinformation, it becomes really easy for people to just say, I'm going to find the one person I trust, and then everything they say I'll believe it. And well, that's the definition of authoritarianism.

And I think, you know, when you talk about things like even flirting with the idea of a coup d'etat in the United States of America, you know, I think Michael Flynn stood up there, and he wants to get applause. He is going to tell people what they want to hear, I'm sure he actually, in some cases, maybe really believes there should be a coup d'etat.

But what you're doing to people, for every leader that's elected in the Republican Party, by your silence, much less if you come out in support of that, but especially by your silence, too, you're allowing people to think that this is okay. And I think anybody that's never been in combat, you know, and I'm not going to pretend to be here, you know, being a guy on the ground in the war, I flew in the sky.

But if you get medicine from your local pharmacy, if you like to put gas in your car, you know, any of those luxuries that you have today, you like to get on the internet, all that will be gone if this government collapses, but you have people with this fetish for like an overthrow violence thing and it is being fed by leaders that just don't want to tell them the truth, because it may be harder to tell them the truth than it is to just go along with this.

COOPER: I mean, obviously, there's now this reporting from Maggie Haberman from "The Times" that the former President is telling people he expects to be reinstated as President this August, and you know, certainly a lot of people maybe listening to that will laugh at that and say, well, that's just ridiculous. But there's a lot of his supporters who believe that and would like to make it happen.


KINZINGER: Yes. A hundred percent, and, you know, look, if you -- there's a lack of trust in this country, we know that. The lack of trust in institutions like, by the way, the last institution that doesn't really have a lack of trust is the military. And people are trying very hard to change that. That's a dangerous thing when people start seeing the military as partisan.

But yes, I mean, if you look at just all this stuff that's going on and all that misinformation that's being thrown out there. It is a really dangerous moment in this country, and people have to stand up and they have to tell people the truth.

You know, if we have a party that's sitting around saying, well, it's Antifa that actually on January 6th attacked the Capitol, but we don't want to do a January 6 Commission because it's time to move on. Or there were no, as Senator Johnson has said, there were no guns or

weapons confiscated on January 6th. Well, a couple of quick points on that. First up, there were no arrest because the police were too busy defending the Capitol, and defending lives to put somebody under arrest, read them their rights and confiscate their weapons.

But we know that at least in 300 of the cases that the F.B.I. has cited, there are at least 36 weapons, including things like bear spray, which by the way, is no joke and can kill people.

We know there were pipe bombs found. And we also know through court filings that folks in the Oathkeepers were having discussions about stashing guns outside in Virginia, so they couldn't be confiscated. So they could go out and bring them in when Trump incited the insurrection.

This is the kind of danger -- and we have so many Members of Congress and elected officials that just go along with it, put their heads down, and think it's going to go away. But if somebody like Donald Trump says something or a leader say something, or they don't say something against something totally false, there's no reason to believe that anybody is going to organically come to the truth, and it's just a few of us out who are saying this.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, you are one of the few very brave, you know, Congress people who is telling the truth on all of this and calling it as you see it. What do your fellow Members of Congress -- I mean, I don't really know how Congress works in terms of how much you talk, you know, casually with each other or if those days are kind of gone.

But I mean, do people believe what they're arguing? Or is it they're just keeping their heads down? They're going along to get along, to maintain their seat, hoping that and thinking, Well, you know what, it's not going to be that bad. It'll blow away for people. This fever will break.

KINZINGER: So you know, some people just stoke it because they can raise money on it. Marjorie Taylor Greene, some of those, right? I don't know if they actually believe it. I think the vast majority of Republican Members of Congress don't believe this garbage, this conspiracy stuff. There's probably a few that do.

I think others just determine, look -- and I understand this thought a little bit, which is like, look, my expertise, for instance, is, you know, in somebody's mind, it's healthcare, and I need to survive, so I can be here to affect healthcare policy. And, look, if you turn against the Republicans, you get kicked out of the tribe. There's a lot of people trying to kick me out of the Republican tribe, and I was here way before Donald Trump ever was.

But then when you go and vote conservative, by the way, Anderson, I am pretty conservative, I'm center right, then you have people that say, oh, we thought you were different.

Well, this isn't about policy, it is about the defense of democracy. The number of people that I've seen, say things like, Well, you know, we respect Liz Cheney, but my goodness, she's a conservative. We're done with her. Of course, she is.

The number one thing though that Republicans and Democrats have to face right now as a country, and Independents is the defense of democracy because none of the issues you're outraged about today, whether it's Dr. Seuss, or whatever, stokes, the outrage for your fundraising.

Whatever you're outraged about today, won't matter when you can't get your heart medicine, when the country has failed, and you're going to look back and say, my goodness, I got really outraged about nothing.

COOPER: Well, also, I mean, for those who are, you know, worried about who is making these arguments and where their politics is, we as a country as a functioning democracy, we need two functioning political parties, at the very least, and arguing, you know, full-throated arguments, difference of opinions, have at it, all of that is what our democracy depends on. But it's got to be based on facts. It's got to be based on, you know, on support of democracy itself.

KINZINGER: That's right. Well, think about this. It's the old -- I actually heard this recently for the first time, but I guess an old saying. They say, conservatives need liberals to pull them forward. Liberals need conservatives to hold them back sometimes. And that dance has worked well in this country.

There are some things we could have done better, of course. But what we do in politics, the whole House of Representatives that I'm familiar with was created so that you take all these passions, you distill it into a political argument, a heated political argument. Let out the steam, you take votes and people have, you know, their input.

But we have, the party has convinced 74 million Americans, many who believe it that the election was stolen, that their vote didn't count, that they were disenfranchised, and in that process, it's impossible to not expect what happened on January 6 to happen because we believe in a Republic that we have a right to be heard and to vote. And we are playing with fire and that has to stop.

And by the way, for my Republican friends out there that say what about the Democrats? Well, yes, I could be on your show and I could tell a hundred things I disagree with on Democrats. But as the Bible says, if you have plank in your own eye, why don't you take care of that before you start pointing out the speck in somebody else's.

COOPER: Congressman Kinzinger, if you could just stand by for one moment, I want to bring in CNN's Dana Bash because I understand she has some new reporting on what you've been calling dangerous behavior. Dana, what's going on?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's just reporting -- more reporting on the former President's mindset and the fact that, you know, we knew from his public statements, how much he is focused, obsessed, unhealthily obsessed with the 2020 election, and that that only continues in a very dire way.

And I'm using the word dire because those are the terms that they are being described in by some of his former aides. One former aide told me that at this point, because the former President is so singularly focused on this notion, this conspiracy that the election was stolen from him, that he is listening to quote, "the bottom of the bottom of the crazies in the barrel."

That is where he is right now. It's not that he doesn't talk to a lot of different people, some people who are trying to tell him, cut it out, focus on going forward, don't focus on the past. That is, I'm told not where he is right now.

And it's interesting, because we have to look ahead to this weekend, Anderson. The President, former President is going to have a speech for the first time in a long time at a political convention, a G.O.P. convention in North Carolina. There is a lot of agitation and concern about how far he is going to go into these conspiracies. Because yes, he has these statements that he puts out, but he doesn't have social media anymore.

COOPER: Congressman, did you anticipate the President, the former President's power remaining? Well, I mean, I'm talking about among your G.O.P. colleagues -- remaining as strong as it has been?

KINZINGER: No, I didn't. Look after January 6, I predicted that by the summer, he is persona non grata. Obviously, I'm wrong. It's pretty close to summer. But I think what happened is, you know, a few weeks after the insurrection, frankly, Kevin McCarthy went down to Mar-a- Lago. He took the paddles, the political paddles, and he resurrected Donald Trump's politics back to life.

He could have done at the bare minimum, Mitch McConnell, who is this guy you're speaking of, I've never heard of him thing and we would be moving on as a party, we'd be in that process. Instead, he's been resurrected. And, and look, it's amazing. I guess yesterday, he put out a little press release that nobody covers because it's like, you know, I guess, he put out a press release from Mar-a-Lago and nobody is listening that it happened.

But he called people like Barbara Comstock a loser, and he called me a loser. I've never lost an election. He has. He is the only loser in that mix. And we're trying to grab on to him as if he is somehow the ticket to the future. And he is instead obsessed with the fact that he lost again at something.

And instead of in his post presidency, taking on -- I don't know, some issue that he cares about, or something that we see former Presidents do, he is down there obsessing about the fact that he's a loser. I'm sorry, you're a loser, but you lost.

COOPER: You know, one of the things that you've said in past which I've really respected is that, you know, there are some things more important than holding on to a job. And, you know, as much as you want to serve, if you were asked to do something that you didn't believe in you, you would not continue down that road.

It seems like that is such an antiquated notion now. You know, I go back to General Flynn, who, you know, I talked to one of his former commanding officers yesterday, Spider Marks, who has no idea who this person is, that is on that stage in front of a QAnon audience or a lot of QAnon folks, you know, supporting a coup that I mean, what he did, he had a sterling reputation while he was in the military. And I've heard that from a number of, you know, of generals that I've talked to.

Does it -- I don't -- I don't -- I cannot wrap my mind around how a person goes from that in a very short amount of time. I don't know if they need money. I don't know if they just liked the applause and they want some sort of power down the road, but it's incomprehensible to me.


KINZINGER: Well, it is to me, too, and you know, fame, I guess, applause is really intoxicating. I mean, I've been in Congress now 11 years, and there's moments, particularly in the past, not so much recently. But you know, you get attention for something, and it feels good, people know who I am, and that's just a real moment I'm going to share with you and everybody that's on TV probably has to fight that at some point.

And then some people, though, will take that in, in a desperate attempt to get that continual, hollow reinforcement will put their oath on the line and lie to people so that they get that. They are abusing the raw and noble patriotism, as my friend Michael Wood in Texas would say, the raw and noble patriotism of Americans, you're abusing that for your own personal sake.

And listen, Anderson, we, as politicians rightly, you know, get tearful on Memorial Day. We talk about how great it is that we have people that are willing to put their lives on the line for this country. Andreas O'Keefe is a buddy of mine, he died a few years ago, I wear his name on my wrist all the time.

If people are willing, at a young age to put their life on the line for this country, and we can't put our career on the line for the same thing, what's it worth? Why are you doing it right? But if everybody just comes out and tells the truth, has differences of opinion or perspective, of course, we can fix this country. Short of that, we've got some trouble.

COOPER: What do you think it takes to break this fever? What -- I mean, there aren't many people standing up like you, and it's going to take more.

KINZINGER: Well, look,, country-one-S-T dot com. I want to focus on telling the truth, restoring conversation, the ability -- I would encourage anybody watching, if you're on the left side of the political spectrum, make a friend with somebody on the right. If you're on the right, make a friend with somebody on the left. Learn their fears, right?

You'll realize you have the same fears they do. Everybody is fearful of something. And that's what leads to our politics. That's a start. It is not going to come from Washington, though, Anderson. It's not going to come from a wake up of the political class. Because truthfully, it's kind of how it was written in the Constitution.

The political class, especially in the House reflects the passions of the people at that moment. We need people to demand better of their leaders. And I think we need to implement things like rank choice voting, to get out of this system where really 10 percent of a congressional district elects their congressional representative.

It's going to take a lot of work. We can sit back and demonize the other side only or we can actually work to solve problems. I want to solve problems. And if it cost me my election, so be it.

COOPER: The thing that worries me and you see this more, because you're out with your constituents all the time, is I felt like it used to be people have different political beliefs and arguments and stuff, but they lived next door to each other and would -- there were commonalities.

They both had kids there, they both had, you know, interests or hobbies, whatever it was that brought them together. And, you know, the politics was -- sure, it was something in the periphery, maybe, but it wasn't who they were.

It seems like now, that has become less and less and that notion of, you know, I don't know, if more people are just identifying themselves as their politics. But that just seems to be not a great way to have a society that we're all walking around as a representative of our politics. It just seems that's not what citizenry really is about.

KINZINGER: Well, it is almost the curse of being the blessed country we are, right? You have -- I mean, I know there's a lot of challenges. I am not papering over that. But you can pull out your phone, you have access to any information you want. We know we're not going to get attacked by another country. We're the leaders of the world for now.

And, so you have to be outraged about something. So there's people out there more than happy to reflect your fears at you about the other person, raise money on it, and they raise a ton of money on fears. If I put on an optimistic e-mail, I'm going to raise about a 10th of what somebody that says, you know, give me money, or Nancy Pelosi is going to destroy your family. That's the kind of stuff that has to stop and everybody has to take ownership for themselves.

I can try to just tell the truth. I can't do it alone. I need people with me.

COOPER: The other thing I don't understand and I hate to keep going back on Flynn, but it's sort of representative of a lot of what we see, which is, I understand people who have not -- you know, not ever served or been in a combat zone and just seen even as a reporter seen what happens when there is a coup or seen what happens when there's a strong man and you know, there's a fight over that strong man or there's an autocrat.

But when you've seen it up close, and particularly for service members, when you've seen it up close, that is the last thing you would want in this country, because it does not -- nobody gets out of this alive. Nobody. Nobody gets out of it intact.

KINZINGER: No, a Civil War or a coup would never lead to a stronger nation. Yes, maybe you'll get your Dr. Seuss, you know, banning the edge of scratch, but you're not going to be able to like I said, get your heart medicine.


KINZINGER: And by the way, there's not going to be a coup. And if it was, it's probably not going to be a conservative or a liberal coup, it's going to be a coup that would just basically take away your ability to do anything.

I think -- look, a lot of people, you know, imagine that a coup or an armed insurrection is just going to be like camping out with the boys. It is going to be a great time, we are drinking some PBRs. That's not true.

There's going to be death. And that death is going to be people that you love. And it's time that we get past fetishizing the violence in this. It's time that we get past fetishizing this idea of overthrowing the government and the Second Amendment encouraging us to overthrow the government.

That is reserved for times, frankly, if there is a military coup, which won't happen because no military member in the United States of America that takes their oath seriously would ever participate, but it's for that kind of stuff, not for I don't like the future of Dr. Seuss in this country.

COOPER: Congressman Kinzinger, I appreciate your time. Thank you.


COOPER: Also Dana Bash, thanks very much for joining us.

Coming up next, what our state lawmakers from Pennsylvania doing in Arizona and why is our Kyung Lah running after them. I'll ask her next.


COOPER: Given Dana Bash's new reporting on the depths the former President's obsession, I guess, you'd say with the election he lost, given that her sources are saying he is taking advice from, quote, "the bottom of the bottom of the crazies in the barrel." This next story takes on even more significance than it did just a few minutes ago.

We're talking about the so called audit of ballots in Maricopa County, and had the example of this bizarre conspiracy driven, Republican backed effort to overturn a free and fair election could be spreading.

CNN's Kyung Lah has more.


running across the Arizona's State Legislature grounds?

LAH (on camera): Senator --

LAH (voice over): I'm trying to talk to these Pennsylvania state lawmakers who avoided us and local reporters all day.


LAH (voice over): This is why they're in Phoenix, three Republican Pennsylvania lawmakers are touring the so-called audit of Maricopa County's 2020 election, a partisan effort led by the Republican- controlled Arizona Senate.

Why would these Pennsylvanians care about what's happening in Arizona? Ryan Macias, one of the nonpartisan observers for Arizona Secretary of State believes it's to spread the big lie.

RYAN MACIAS, ELECTION SECURITY EXPERT: They are probably going to be the entities that are behind a push to continue to sow doubt in Pennsylvania and to continue to fundraise around this event.

LAH (voice over): The most prominent of the Pennsylvania lawmakers, Republican State Senator, Doug Mastriano, walking here on the floor and pictured here at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, with former Pennsylvania State Representative Rick Saccone.

Mastriano reportedly helped organize a bus tour for Donald Trump supporters to travel from Pennsylvania to Washington to attend Trump's rally protesting the election results.

As rioters stormed the Capitol, Mastriano says he had already left the grounds, saying in a statement that he was not involved in any violence and peacefully followed Capitol Police orders to not cross any police lines.

But Mastriano has been supportive of bogus election fraud claims. Here he is just weeks after the November election, with Ben Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who joined lawmakers in Pennsylvania. Mastriano spoke at that State Senate election hearing that amplified baseless conspiracies of election fraud.

DOUG MASTRIANO (R), PENNSYLVANIA STATE SENATE: We are here today to try to find out what the heck happened in the election.

LAH (voice over): What happened?


LAH (voice over): Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes. There was no widespread fraud found in Pennsylvania and nearly all of Trumps lawsuits failed in the state.

MACIAS: What is happening at the Coliseum is not an audit, it is not transparent. It does not conform with election laws. It does not conform with elections process and is not conducted by elections officials.

LAH (voice over): For weeks, Ryan Macias, an expert in election technology has been monitoring this exercise. About half of the nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in 2020 have been spun, examined and photographed by a little known company called Cyber Ninjas, despite two audits conducted by the county showing no widespread election fraud.

MACIAS: The more people that see that they can benefit from this, the more likely that this is going to continue to grab a stronghold across our country.

LAH (on camera): So you don't think Pennsylvania is the end then potentially?

MACIAS: Definitely not.


COOPER: Kyung joins us from Phoenix. So you mentioned that Pennsylvania lawmakers, they avoided clearly speaking to you. Did they end up speaking to any news organizations?

LAH: Well, they did speak to one outlet on camera, but not a news organization. It is One American News Network. It peddles conspiracy theories. It is pro-Donald Trump. It is pro big lie.

And the reason we know about it is because you know, audit supporters tweeted a picture showing Mastriano talking to one of the personalities from One American News Network.

In fact, addresses what they did was they kicked out the legitimate news organizations in the pool that included a CNN camera. We did find out later that one of the print reporters in the next shift of pool reporters did manage to speak to one of the other Pennsylvania lawmakers who did tell the pool that they are looking forward to having an Arizona style audit in Pennsylvania -- Anderson.

COOPER: Kyung Lah, appreciate it.

Joining us now is Arizona's Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs, who today announced her run for governor. With us as well, her counterpart Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. So Secretary Hobbs, when you see you've got Pennsylvania state lawmakers now touring this so- called audit in your state, do you think that more and more of these audits so-called are going to start happening around the country? And if so, what does that mean?

KATIE HOBBS (D), ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: It certainly looks like people are going to try to bring this to other states and what I think is so critical for everyone to understand. And I think they do because we've been talking about this for so long. This is dangerous.

This is not an audit, it doesn't meet any standards or best practices that you would see in a post-election audit, and it's going to do nothing to determine the validity of election results. It is -- all it is going to do is continue to undermine the integrity of our elections and fuel voters' concerns, which are unfounded because this election was free and fair and accurate.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, again, there was huge voter turnout on both sides. It was a historic election and a remarkable election in how many Americans voted. The fact that they've been able to manipulate this and turn this into, you know, something that has some sort of doubt in the minds of a lot of the former President's supporters is just ludicrous and sad.


Secretary Benson, what does it send you the this Pennsylvania State Senator, who is part of this delegation turn -- touring now in Arizona, was actually at the Capitol on January 6?

JOCELYN BENSON (D) MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: What shows the connection between what happened after the 2020 election and what is continuing to escalate in new battle friends around the country in a new ways. And Anderson, I think it's really important to note, this is no longer about the former president and whether or not he's happy with the results of the election. This is about the future of our democracy. And you hear a lot of talk about efforts to right the wrongs of November.

And what that is really talking about is that actually what you just pointed out, which is that the November elections success was in the fact that more people voted than ever before extraordinary high turnout.

And we have to see the spread of misinformation as an effort, not just to, you know, placate a former candidate or former president, but to suppress the vote in the future, deter people from participating, cause people to lose faith in our democracy and disengage so that people don't turn out as in high numbers in the future.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, Secretary Hobbs, if this was just, you know, the sour grapes, and people wringing their hands and complaining about something that happened in the past, then that would be one thing. But now, you got legislatures around the country, which are trying to pass laws based on these lies.

Observers working on behalf of your office, they've seen understand a number of security flaws, procedural violations happening within this with what's going on in Maricopa County. Can you explain exactly what they're seeing?

HOBBS: Well, there's a long list of concerns that we have posted on our website, you can find it at It's exhaustive, and I don't have time to get into all of it. But just in to sum it up briefly. Problems with chain of custody of ballots, obviously, we told Maricopa County that we think their machines are unusable again, because we have no idea what they did to the voting equipment that they had possession of.

There's then security concerns, they had to pause the audit for a while because of other uses in the building in the everything was stored in a facility that isn't suitable for storage and was swamp cooled, which has issues with document preservation.

So, these are just top level, but there's a whole list if you go to our website. And then obviously the very partisan nature of what's being carried out that the folks have a partisan agenda. There's no independence here that that would qualify this as any kind of independent --


HOBBS: -- audit or anything else.

COOPER: And just some clear Secretary Hobbs, I mean, these -- the folks who are running this thing, they can announce anything they want to announce. I mean, they could say, oh, well, we found this and we found X, Y and Z. And there's no way to validate what they would say. Is that right?

HOBBS: Right. I mean, the lack of procedures that are in place are creating an atmosphere where there's a lot of errors going on, and priming it for cooking the books for exactly what you said. And nobody is going to be able to go back in and replicate what they've done, because they've destroyed the chain of custody and the ballots so much that it's not going to be replicatable. So no one can actually refute by trying to replicate the results.

COOPER: Secretary Benson, do you -- so do (INAUDIBLE) coming to Michigan?

BENSON: Yes, in part because there's been no accountability. There's been no real accountability for the politicians who are connected to January 6 then tragedy in our U.S. Capitol, there's been no accountability for politicians who continue to spread the big lie. There's been no accountability for organizations like Cyber Ninjas in the Senate, in Arizona State Senate that allowed them to come in and have access and undermine democracy in such a really pernicious way.

And that's why this is going to continue to increase, this is going to continue to escalate. And that's why we have to also keep shining a light on it and tell the truth because the effort to lie and deceive our citizens about the truth of American democracy is only going to continue and I think it's going to escalate through 2024.

COOPER: Yes. Jocelyn Benson, Katie Hobbs, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Former --

HOBBS: Thank you.

COOPER: -- congressman -- potential Texas Gubernatorial Candidate Beto O'Rourke joins us to discuss the battle for voting rights in his state of Texas and what Republicans are calling basically a typo that could potentially have depressed African-American turnout. Was it really just a mistake? Ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


COOPER: As we mentioned the time to broadcast, Texas Republicans are quickly walking back and measure in their voting restriction bill. One of the conservative editorial board of The Wall Street Journal had advised they drop calling it a quote, political mistake at minimum. The bills final language would restrict hours for early voting on Sundays when many black church goers gathered once known across the country is sold to the polls. Under the bill polls wouldn't open until 1:00 p.m.

Only now at least one state lawmaker saying that that was actually just a mistake, a drafting error or typo.


TRAVIS CLARDY (R) TEXAS STATE HOUSE: Call it a scriveners error, whatever you want to talk to. But I talked to our team yesterday, kind of regrouping of what happened. That was not intended to be reduced. I think there was a, you know, call to mistake if you want to. What should have been 11 was actually prayed up is one.


COOPER: Perspective now in voting rights in the state and elsewhere from former Texas Congressman and potential Gubernatorial Candidate Beto O'Rourke.

Congressman, first of all, I have to ask you about this alleged typo that I just mentioned, which would have limited black churches, souls to the polls events. I mean, do you buy this line?

BETO O'ROURKE (D) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't -- the excuses that, you know, they wrote in the legislation, that voting cannot begin till 1:00 p.m. And they said that was a typo, they really meant 11. That might almost be believable if there wasn't the pm that followed the one in the legislation.

So they clearly meant to eliminate souls to polls, which, as we all know, targets black voters in the state of Texas that this was a very conscious targeted effort to stop some people, including those in the disability community, young voters, black voters, and voters in big cities from being able to fully participate in upcoming elections.

COOPER: I mean, the bill was thoroughly debated. Not one Republican mentioned the typo during that debate. In fact, one Republican defended the 1:00 p.m. voting start time saying election workers want to go to church too.

O'ROURKE: It's really interesting this bill has changed over the course of legislative session, and this provision eliminating souls to polls as well as another one that's even worse, which would allow Texas to overturn elections based on allegations of fraud. Those were introduced in a 20-page addendum that was given to legislators literally hours before they were asked to vote on this.

So, this is a bill that got from -- that went from bad to much worse. And my fear is that even though Texas House Democrats bought us some time by defeating this bill on Sunday, there's going to be a special session called by Governor Abbott. And the next iteration promises to be even worse. The thing is we've got this window of time that session probably won't be called until July.


If the United States Senate can pass the voting rights bill known as the For The People Act, it would stop these provisions in Texas and Georgia and Florida, in other states that have adopted them. And it would expand access to the polling place for eligible voters. That's the direction our country needs to move in.

COOPER: When you look at the proposed restrictions beyond what we've already mentioned that, you know, anyone who drives more than two non relatives to the polls would need a signed form stating the reason their passengers required assistance, eliminating drive thru voting limiting drop off boxes.

I mean, they're, you know, it'd be one thing if there was, there were mountains of evidence over the course of many years that all of these things resulted in widespread voter fraud. But it's just the opposite all of the evidence other than the lies coming from, you know, the man in Mar-a-Lago that are now backed up by most of the GOP in Congress. There is no widespread voter fraud. I mean, I haven't seen anything that drop boxes lead to voter fraud.

O'ROURKE: It's an interesting argument, when asked the governor, the Republican legislators who wrote this legislation, with the help of the Heritage Action Fund, which is helped to write this legislation all across the country say, well, we can't cite a specific instance of voter fraud.

However, many of our constituents are concerned about it, they're concerned about it because the former president and his co- conspirators have trafficked in this big lie, alleging that there was some kind of widespread fraud in 2020. Even though Donald Trump's own Secretary of Homeland Security called the 2020 elections, the safest and most secure in the history of this country.

So, they are akin to the arsonist who wants credit now for putting out the fire that he said. And that they're saying they have to come up with these voter fraud bills to stamp out any doubt about elections that they in fact, created in the first place.

COOPER: It's one of the things too, that, you know, a lot of people thought, OK, well, the former president is gone, and you know, that things will kind of return back to normal. But given the way the congressional GOP now has decided to completely buy into the lie, and completely continue to slavishly back Trump and, you know, cater to his whims. Legislation is actually being written and actually being proposed, based on complete falsehoods. And that argument, which you mentioned, which is the, well, our constituents are concerned about this. And that just means that after every election, if people just are concerned, then we do over the election. I mean, it makes no sense.

O'ROURKE: Yes, and it would be one thing if the concern were legitimate and organic and founded on, you know, confirmed instances of election fraud. But the incidence of election fraud in Texas is lower than the incidence of Texans being struck by lightning. I think it's something like .00004% rate of voter fraud in the state.

The Republican Party, at least for those currently holding office, in the most part, are still beholden to the former president. He's still pulling their springs and calling the shots.

COOPER: Beto O'Rourke, I really appreciate it. Thank you.

O'ROURKE: Thank you.

COOPER (voice-over): Well, just ahead tonight ended up report on the adherence of the QAnon conspiracy theory that are running for in some cases winning offices in places across the country.



COOPER: By now most of us have at least a passing knowledge of the QAnon curious Republican Congresswoman from Georgia. But it's a mistake to think she's on an island in her beliefs around the country and local state and national races, QAnon supporters not only attracted attention, they've gained power and more the conspiracy theory believers are on the ballot and races this fall.

CNN's Sara Sidner tonight has an in-depth report.


TITO ORTIZ, FMR UFC FIGHTER: I'll keep speaking on Q. I'll keep speaking on the truth.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From a world champion Ultimate Fighter turns Mayor Pro Tem --

ORTIZ: Let's hand all these (INAUDIBLE). That's what I'm talking about.

SIDNER (voice-over): -- to a school board member with a curious take on climate science.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This adherence that you have to believe scientists is more of like a religious cult.

SIDNER (voice-over): To a state representative pushing a deep state conspiracy.

MARK FINCHEM, ARIZONA STATE HOUSE: There's a lot of people involved in a pedophile network and the distribution of children.

SIDNER (voice-over): QAnon conspiracy embracing candidates are now making headway in local state and national races across America.

(on-camera): Are there more candidates or fewer candidates that have latched on to the QAnon conspiracy theories?

ANGELO CARUSONE, FOUNDER & CEO, MEDIA MATTERS: There's a higher rate of candidates embracing QAnon and its tenants now than there was last cycle at least at this point.

SIDNER (voice-over): Angelo Carusone with the liberal watchdog group Media Matters tracks QAnon's political clout. He says their research shows the January 6 insurrection didn't kill the Q conspiracy. It's emboldened by broadening the movement. So far, the group says for the 2022 races 19 congressional candidates, 18 of whom are Republicans have shown support for QAnon conspiracies.

CARUSONE: We're at the beginning of this not the end.

A large reason why it has such political power is not just because QAnon adherence are very energized. And so, they're a good go to for politics, but they donate. They give money.

SIDNER (voice-over): QAnon's core outlandish tenet is President Trump is the chosen one to save America from a shadowy group of politicians, media members and Hollywood stars who run a worldwide child sex trafficking ring so they can drink the children's blood for energy.

CARUSONE: So the real threat of all of this isn't so much, you know, that it's some wacky ideas. It's that it is a call to arms.

SIDNER (voice-over): Case in point. Listen to Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem.

FINCHEM: There's a lot of people involved in a pedophile network and the distribution of children. And unfortunately, there's a whole lot of elected officials that are involved in that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well. I shouldn't be shocked at that. But that is shocking.

SIDNER (voice-over): The conservative news anchor may not have challenged him, but some of his constituents have. They were also shocked by this tweet he sent on January 6, while he was outside the Capitol showing support for the big lie, the claim the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Unlike hundreds of others, he says he never entered the building.

MANUEL GALDAMEZ, RECALL FINCHEM VOLUNTEER: I remember calling my mom who was a Salvadorian immigrant, and basically asking her like, isn't this why you left that country to come to this country? And she was like, of course, this isn't supposed to happen in the United States of America.

SIDNER (voice-over): Young Democrat Manuel Galdamez is working alongside a young Republican joining forces to help recall Finchem.

CALDEN RASMUSSEN, RECALL FINCHEM VOLUNTEER: We have a ton of people who need help, need laws passed and he's out there focusing on conspiracy theories, where it's just honestly just disgusting.


SIDNER (voice-over): But Finchem is undeterred. He's now running to become Arizona's top election official, the Secretary of State. Some voters are off all for it.

HERBERT BORBE, MARK FINCHEM SUPPORTER: The term conspiracy theory is used to ridicule some good ideas.

SIDNER (voice-over): Others dead set against it.

NATALI FIERROS BOCK, RECALL FINCHEM ORGANIZER: Somebody like Representative Mark Finchem being in charge of elections. Holding a seat like Secretary State is one of the most dangerous things that could happen to democracy.

SIDNER (voice-over): We wanted to give Finchem a chance to explain his beliefs, but our calls and e-mails weren't returned. So we waited outside the State House.

(on-camera): Mr. Finchem, can you tell me a little bit about whether or not you believe in QAnon conspiracy theories, sir?

(voice-over): Day one, he dodged us. Day two, we waited for 12 hours.

(on-camera): He's one of the last cars in the parking lot now. The security for the legislature is now driving Finchem's car away.

(voice-over): Two thousand miles away in the small Michigan town of Grand Blanc. A first-time school board member is under fire for social media posts saying things like QAnon confirmed by Trump and they can delete our social media, but they'll never break our spirit or stop what is coming. God wins. Posted over a flaming Q with we the people are pissed off in blazoned over it.

LUCAS HARTWELL, GRAND BLANC HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE: I think she was elected because she refused to genuinely expose what she believes in.

SIDNER (voice-over): As a high school student and first time voter, Lucas Hartwell did his homework and discovered Amy Facchinello now deleted post.

HARTWELL: If we cannot have an education system that is run by people who care about the truth. What is education? It's hard to follow what she really does believe. It's hard to separate truth from fiction.

SIDNER (voice-over): He and others want her to resign. But some of his high school friends and their parents support her 100%.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's a conservative, so they're attacking her.

SIDNER (on-camera): Do you think this is purely along political lines not have anything to do with QAnon?


A.J. SMITH, GRAND BLANC HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Well, I think personally, QAnon, parts of it are real. I mean, people say just conspiracy, but some of it's pretty real. So if it's ridiculous, obviously, but mo -- I think that is a real thing that we should be concerned about.

SIDNER (on-camera): One of the things there's pedophilia, they're saying children are being, do you believe that?

SMITH: Yes, I do. I believe that there are some, I think there's some pedophilia going on back, down there.

SIDNER (voice-over): We wanted to ask Facchinello what she believed, she did not respond to our requests for an interview. But she was at the school board meeting.

(on-camera): Do you believe in the QAnon theories that you've posted?

AMY FACCHINELLO, GRAND BLANC SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: No. (INAUDIBLE) I've posted. I've posted where we go one way go while basically they're complaining about false narrative. And I think it's the false narrative to try to cancel Trump supporters.

SIDNER (on-camera): You posted some of the things that you have the big Q that was burning on fire, and it says we are pissed. Was that something that you believed in when you posted it?

FACCHINELLO: I don't even remember that tweet.

SIDNER (on-camera): There are several others. And there's also things about science that you don't believe in human caused climate change. Is that also true?

FACCHINELLO: I believe that science is a method and it's not a belief system. And that this adherence that you have to believe scientists is more of like a religious cult.

ORTIZ: You don't mask the health, you mask the sick.

SIDNER (voice-over): In Huntington Beach, California. It is the science surrounding COVID that has been called a conspiracy by the man elected Mayor Pro Tem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you thinking that COVID-19 was a little bit of a conspiracy theory?


SIDNER (voice-over): That's former UFC champion, Tito Ortiz. A Trump supporter Ortiz is like many of the candidates we followed, getting widespread support for being a political disrupter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He seemed to me to be somebody who I thought might mix things up for us and change things around. I knew that he was a conservative voice and I prefer that personally.

ORTIZ: I'm not wearing a mask --

SIDNER (voice-over): He is mixing things up. By spending lots of time spewing and posting conspiracy theories.

ORTIZ: We say this right plandemic or pandemic.

SIDNER (voice-over): And less time dealing and policy and council business. His critics, both Democrat and Republican say.

MIKE POSEY, REPUBLICAN CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Well, the first day when he was sworn in, he referred to the pandemic as a plandemic. And that sort of set the tone --

SIDNER (voice-over): Plandemic, the conspiracy theories circulating that the government plans the current pandemic. He also refused to wear a mask at council meetings at the height of the deadly pandemic in California, nor did he want his children to wear masks to school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The boys are not going to wear their masks today. Let's see what they say.

GINA CLAYTON TARVIN, TEACHER, SCHOOL BOARD TRUSTEE: He started pushing conspiracies. I mean, really outlandish kind of accusations that, you know, kids were being abused by our public school system just because we were mandating that kids wear masks in school to attend school.


SIDNER (voice-over): It all came to a head just this week at the first in person council meeting since January.

ORTIZ: From day one, I was sworn in and I was met with hostility and judgment.

SIDNER (voice-over): After just five months on the city council Tito Ortiz resigned effective immediately.

ORTIZ: As a recently attacks against me have moved to involve my family. I now feel their safety is in danger. To put it simply, this job isn't working for me.


SIDNER: And we tried to talk to Tito Ortiz both via e-mail he refused then after that city council meeting, and we tried to ask him about his QAnon conspiracy theories and also about the safety issue because we should mention Anderson that it was him and his girlfriend who posted full face their children on social media, forcing them into the middle of this debate, sending them to school without mask during the mask mandate, during some of the times when honestly, the whole state was suffering, dealing with high deaths from COVID he had nothing to say. Anderson.

COOPER: Sara Sidner, I appreciate the report. Thank you. (voice-over): Up next we have breaking news from overseas when Israeli political earthquake means for the longest serving Prime Minister in the country's history. Benjamin Netanyahu when we continue.


COOPER: It's breaking news tonight from Israel. A coalition of Israeli political parties including leaders from a centrist party in the head of a right-wing party who have agreed to form a new government, paving the way for the removal of the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the country's longest serving leader.

Replacing him will be Naftali Bennett, the head of a small right wing party in the kingmaker and coalition talks is expected to serve for two years of a four-year term, Yair Lapid, leader of a centrist party will become Foreign Minister until the two exchange rolls halfway through that term. And the arrangement has to pass a vote of confidence in the Israeli parliament.


That's it for us tonight. The news continues. Let's hand over Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris.