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At This Hour

MI Rep. Meijer Loses To Trump-Backed Candidate In GOP Primary; Strategists Eye Abortion Rights Victory In Kansas As Key Midterm Issue; Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas Ex-Trump White House Counsel Cipollone; First On CNN: Jan. 6 Texts Wiped From Phones OF Pentagon Officials. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 03, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. At this hour, voters in Kansas showed up and spoke up about abortion rights in their state. Why some are calling this an earthquake today. A new subpoena from the Justice Department. Its 2020 election investigation may be ramping up as a high-ranking Trump White House official is called before a federal grand jury.

And an incredible story. A 12-year-old choose through her body restraints to escape her kidnapper, and then leads police to a possible killer. This is what we're watching at this hour.

Thank you so much for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan. They came, they saw and they voted. Now, Tuesday's primary results are shedding new light on what voters want politicians and what strategy that politicians will need to deploy to win in November.

The biggest vote overnight was in Kansas. Voters there resoundingly defeated a constitutional amendment that likely would have invalidated the right to an abortion in that state. It's a result that is being closely watched by both parties as access to abortion services is becoming a critical issue for the midterms. But it was not the only big result last night.

In Michigan, Republican Congressman Peter Meijer, one of the 10 Republicans in the House to vote for former President Trump to be impeached. He was narrowly defeated in his primary, a primary where Democrats actually pumped big money into propping up Meijer's opponents. And it seemed to work this time. But will it backfire down the road?

Results in Missouri and Arizona are also being carefully looked at this morning. We're going to get to all of it. But let's start with Nick Valencia in Kansas on that big vote. So Nick, tell us about what you're hearing about -- tell us about the vote on abortion rights and what it means today. NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Kate. What it means is that the state constitution still protects the right to abortion here in the state of Kansas, and this result has ripple effects across the region. The state has four abortion clinics. But since Roe v. Wade was overturned, I spoke to one abortion clinic director who tells me that more than 60 percent of the patients that they've seen since Roe v. Wade was overturned, are from out of state. States that have already stripped abortion rights places like Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri.

And abortion rights advocates here were handed a huge upset win here against the value of them both amendment that coalition that was fighting to strip abortion rights protections, and the abortion rights advocates here. They felt that they were really fighting an uphill battle. Not only is this a deeply conservative state where Republican, registered Republican voters nearly outnumber Democrats that are registered by nearly a two to one margin.

But also this was put on a primary ballot where we know historically more Republicans turnout to vote, and there is a lower voter turnout. There was a high voter turnout across the state here which ended up being a huge factor in the wind for abortion rights advocates. We spoke to some voters after they exited the polls. And for some who voted, it was clearly a very personal issue.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think healthcare is a fundamental right. Not just for me, but for any person in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anybody who actually believes in the Bible knows that, you know, this is something that goes against everything.


VALENCIA: The fight here, though, is far from over value than both who drafted the language of that amendment released a statement last night, Kate, saying we will be back. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Nick, thank you so much for that.

Now, let's get to those other key races. Several states with important primaries, providing the latest test of Donald Trump's hold and power over the Republican Party. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in Missouri with a closer look.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, there is no question that the fall elections less than three months away are going to be about the 2020 elections once again. That election denialism is still coursing through the veins of this Republican Party. No better example than an Arizona.

The results of last night's elections make clear. For Secretary of State, for example, Mark Finchem. He is a Republican legislator in Arizona, one of the leading voices in denying the results of the 2020 election that Joe Biden won the state of Arizona, he is going to be the Republican nominee for the Secretary of State, the top election official.

The Republican Senate candidate in Arizona Blake Masters, someone also supported by former President Donald Trump also has raised questions and deny the results of the election. He'll be running head-to-head with Senator Mark Kelly, the Democrat. Of course, this will be one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country.

Also in Michigan last evening, Peter Meijer, a first term member of Congress was defeated by John Gibbs, another election denier.


Peter Meijer is one of 10 Republicans in the House who voted for the impeachment of Donald Trump. Clearly that cost him at the ballot. So here in Missouri is certainly an interesting race for the Republican Senate contest.

Republicans basically are breathing a sigh of relief that the Attorney General here Eric Schmitt won the Republican nomination quite easily. He defeated Eric Greitens, the former governor of this state, who resigned four years ago essentially in disgrace over a sex scandal. So Eric Schmitt will be facing Trudy Busch Valentine. She's one of the heiresses of the Anheuser-Busch fortune.

But Missouri clearly a deep red state. It's been a decade since a Democrat won statewide for a U.S. Senate seat here. So Mitch McConnell, other Republicans breathing a sigh of relief that Eric Greitens did not win the primary. Of course, we know that the former president through ducked out of endorsement here, endorsing two Erics. One clearly won Eric Schmitt, and he did so without the former president's help. Kate?

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, Jeff. Thank you so much for that.

Joining me now for more on this is CNN Political Commentator Scott Jennings. He's a former campaign adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell. Also with us, CNN Political Analyst Jackie Kucinich. She's the Washington Bureau Chief for The Daily Beast. It's good to see you guys.

Jackie, let's start in Kansas. This is the first state to have abortion rights on the ballot since the Supreme Court decision. This was a big vote, and there was big voter turnout around it. Can Democrats put this on the ballot for the remaining six weeks of this campaign? I mean, does this literal vote translate to kind of like putting it on the ballot in the rest of the country?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I really think that remains to be seen. And I think it will depend on the race. The difference between this and a measure like this, an amendment like this, and a candidate is there are a lot of different issues when it comes to voting for a Democrat or Republican. With this was just a single, you know, a vote on abortion.

So there is -- there's polling on -- whether people will vote solely for, you know, if they're a Republican if they're going to vote for a Democrat, basically on abortion if they believe that abortion rights should be upheld. So, but we have seen that because of voter registration going up, because of the turnout, that you mentioned.

This could potentially help Democrats around the margin, but I think they're going to look at -- this is going to be a race-by-race situation.

BOLDUAN: What I saw in terms of turnout was that it's already dwarfed the turnout of the 2020 presidential primary. I mean, that's shows something, Scott, and Republican strategist in Kansas put it this way to the Wall Street Journal. The results tonight is a big deal.

There were no major contested Democratic primaries to drive turnout, and the amendment still failed, resoundingly, if Republicans think the issue of abortion isn't on the mind of voters, Voters. Tonight's results should put them on notice. You see that? And you think what?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, it certainly was on the minds of voters because a ton of money was spent in Kansas. I mean, this was a big money referendum fight, which you don't often see. And some of these referendums, you know, they come and go and not much is spent by either side, both sides here spent heavily so it became a marquee, you know, matchup.

I think that it's going to take some time for the equilibrium to shake out on this. I mean, there's a lot of people out there who would describe themselves as being a pro-life voter, but pro-life with exceptions. So exceptions, you know, meaning some access for say, rape then says in life of the mother. And I think the people who were opposing the amendment successfully, obviously, because of the vote totals, made it out to be a total ban. If you vote for this, it's for a total ban.

So they did a good job of scrambling, I think, some people who might have otherwise described themselves as pro-life. So I think that, ultimately, I think Jackie had a great point. This was an election about one thing in the fall, it'll be an election about many things, Biden, and inflation and other issues will be mixed in there. So I don't know that you can draw a straight line. But absolutely, you got to pay attention to the energy on it because the turnout was high.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Scott, on the other races, Donald Trump, I mean, he showed that he still has strength in the party, but how much strength do you see in the results last night?

JENNINGS: Well, he's potent, but he's not He's not omnipotent. And his word meant something in Arizona. Obviously, Blake Masters in a multi candidate primary, got about 40 percent of the vote. We saw that in some other races this year. JD Vance, obviously in Ohio is another example of that.

So his word does matter. But it's not the only word. And so we've seen him not win necessarily everywhere. But he -- I mean, look, he's a formidable guy in the governor's primary in Arizona, so about half the people wanted to go with Trump's person and about half wanted to go the other way with Robson. And I think, you know, for Arizona Republicans, this is going to be a real test in November. Are we going to have a whole campaign about looking backwards or are we going to have a campaign about looking forwards? And we're going to put it to the test and I've always been dubious that looking backwards is got to be the winner in November that it might have been in some primaries in certain places.


BOLDUAN: Jackie, on Peter Meijer's loss, there is a real reckoning that I think Democrats are going to need to face about the approach here. I mean, pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars to prop up Meijer's Republican opponent, who ended up winning, what's the lasting impact of that?

KUCINICH: You know you heard Democrats, House Democrats really upset about this. Once they heard about the fact that the Democratic campaign, Congressional Campaign Committee did put so much money into this race against someone who wasn't election denier. John Gibbs ran much of his campaign on the fact that he believed that the election was stolen and other, you know, Trump lines and hitting Peter Meijer for his impeachment vote.

So this really was, I mean, just as single or maybe dueling issues, as you can get. And yet, Democrats were the -- the campaign committee was clearly looking at, you know, trying to prop up who they believe is the weaker candidate. Now, could this backfire? Absolutely, it could backfire. And then they ended up funding someone who they believe is a detriment to democracy.

But you're also -- if this isn't the only place, this has happened. We've seen it in Pennsylvania, in several other races where, you know, OK, fine, you think that you boosted the weaker candidate, but you might not have, you might have caught the car here.

BOLDUAN: I mean, you play the odds, but you still -- there's still a risk of it. Scott, I want your take on it.


BOLDUAN: I guess so. Here's a quote that stuck with me from last week. Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton talking to Paul Kane of The Washington Post, and here's what he said. "I think Peter is exactly the kind of Republican we want to have around. But at the end of the day, we have to win the majority and that is the bigger concern."

Politics is dirty -- politics being dirty is not breaking news. But, hmm.

JENNINGS: I mean, you know, your question to me earlier was about Trump's power in the Republican Party. There's obviously some voters who can't quit Trump, but I'll tell you who else can't quit Trump, it's the Democratic Party. They can't quit Trump.

And this Michigan race, the stakes were so low. I mean, look, let's be honest, this is the difference between a 30-seat Republican majority and a 28-seat Republican majority. I mean, that's how I see it. The stakes were low, if they put this guy in any way.

I mean, what does this portend for 2024? Are we going to see Democrats making the value judgment that Donald Trump's the weakest Republican presidential nominee so they try to prop him up? We saw a little bit of that in 2016. I mean, if you're going to make that decision in this Meijer-Gibbs race, and in several of these governor's races they've meddled in, including Arizona, what's stopping them from saying it again?

So, to me, it really hollows out the whole argument against Trump's a threat to democracy when you put so much money. This guy in Michigan had nothing, he had nothing until the Democrats showed up and put them over the top. So wasn't necessarily Trump there. It was the Democrats that are propping up people who are propping up Trump. So you tell me, is it good strategy? I don't know. But it seems immoral given the rhetoric.

BOLDUAN: And since morality is definitely always right on the surface with politics, let's just leave it there. It's good to see you guys. Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, the Justice Department wants to hear from Trump's White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. He now faces a subpoena to appear before the grand jury. The latest sign that the DOJ's 2020 election investigation is continuing to heat up.



BOLDUAN: Big moves on two fronts in the 2020 election investigation. Former Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone now subpoenaed by a federal grand jury as part of the Justice Department's investigation into efforts to overturn Joe Biden's victory. Cipollone was in the West Wing with Trump as the January 6 riot unfolded.

And also first reported on CNN, court filings show the Defense Department wipe the phones of top Pentagon officials in the Trump administration, deleting a potential trove of text messages related to the insurrection.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz is live in Washington. She's tracking all of this for us at this hour. Katelyn, what does all this mean?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Kate, there is a lot of investigative activity going on right now. That's what this means to begin with. But let's start with the Justice Department probe, this criminal investigation into January 6, a very serious thing being conducted by a grand jury in Washington. And we do now know that that grand jury has subpoenaed Pat Cipollone, the former White House Counsel at the end of the Trump administration.

Now he's the highest-ranking official in the Trump White House that we know of at this time to have received this sort of inquiry in this criminal investigation. And he really is at the top of a pyramid of people that the Justice Department is seeking information from to try not just to recreate what was happening in the West Wing, but also what was said. And we do expect him to potentially claim executive privilege not be willing to share necessarily exactly what Donald Trump was saying to him.

But we also know the Justice Department is gearing up for a potential court fight so they can figure out what was said by Donald Trump himself, what was happening in those key moments on January 6. So that's the Justice Department investigation. But we also know that this pursuit of information from top people in the Trump administration, that's important to the House Select Committee too, in their own investigation of January 6, which is still ongoing.

And at this time, we are learning that they cannot get text messages from the top leadership at the Department of Defense and at the Department of Homeland Security. Because when the Trump administration officials left their posts, they turned in their phones and those phones, the data was wiped from them. That came just a few weeks after the House Select Committee also learned that Secret Service agent text messages around January 6 were lost as well in a data migration.


Here's how Representative Adam Kinzinger from that House Select Committee put it all together this morning on CNN's New Day.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Almost more interested in why we didn't know, then even why these messages were deleted, although, of course, we're quite interested in that is, you know, we've made it clear what we were interested in reading particular with the Secret Service. We knew that there were texts we needed to see. And you know, we find out the inspector general knew months prior to -- even when he told us he knew about missing texts. I don't necessarily know if this is some massive cover up, it certainly stinks to high heaven.


POLANTZ: So clearly, this is an avenue for further investigation for the House Select Committee to pursue. But we also know that Democrats in Congress as well as others are calling for the Justice Department to look into these missing text messages as well. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Katelyn, thank you.

Joining me now for more on this is CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig. Elie, you say that Pat Cipollone is essential to DOJ getting the full picture here. Why is that?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Kate, he's in all the rooms that matter. We learn from Pat Cipollone's own testimony in front of the committee and from the testimony of others, that essentially every time Donald Trump was being pitched on one of these ridiculous ideas, let's seize voting machines, let's pressure the vice president to throw out electoral votes. Pat Cipollone is in the room. And generally speaking, he's pushing back. He's explaining to Donald Trump why we can't do that, why there is no evidence of fraud, why we can't lean on the vice president. So he's going to be a crucial witness.

And Kate, this shows me that there's been a real change in the focus of DOJ's investigation. Just in the last couple of weeks, we've learned that DOJ is now inside the White House. Last week, we learned they were speaking to key staffers for Vice President Mike Pence. And now we're talking about the White House Counsel. So this is a big change in the investigation.

BOLDUAN: The fact that it's Cipollone, Trump's White House Counsel. Does this -- does it confirm the Justice Department must be looking directly at Donald Trump?

HONIG: Well, let's take Merrick Garland at his word. What does he always say? He says we don't investigate people, we investigate crimes. And I think what's clear now is that DOJ certainly is investigating not just the actual physical attack on the Capitol on January 6, of course, they're investigating that they've charged hundreds of people, but also the schemes, the plots, potentially the conspiracies that preceded this. I think that much is clear.

And again, I'm willing to take Merrick Garland at his word, they're going to get all the facts about each of those schemes, and then decide, does any of this make out a case for criminality against any of the individuals.

BOLDUAN: So what kind of privilege issues are there going to be up against with Cipollone?

HONIG: So this could get complicated. If you remember, when Pat Cipollone testified in front of the committee, he just declined to answer certain questions about his conversations with the president. There was those video clips of his deposition where he was asked what did you say to the president. He would sort of pause Cipollone and look at his own lawyer and then say, privilege and not answer and the committee just moved on.

So DOJ has a choice to make. Are they going to just accept those invocations of executive privilege and take what they can get for Pat Cipollone? Or is DOJ going to take Pat Cipollone and Donald Trump to court? And say, we want it all we, want your conversations with Donald Trump. We don't believe they're protected by executive privilege.

If DOJ does that, the upside is they get those key conversations if they win. But the downside is, that takes time. We've seen those kinds of fights take over a year, although we've also seen those fights earlier in the National Archives case take only a couple of months. So they have to strike the right balance here. But the reporting that we had last week is they are gearing up for that fight.

BOLDUAN: So then on this new reporting, that text messages were lost from the phones of top Trump DOD officials. No one's -- there's no suggestion right now that this was done by these officials themselves, but someone did once they turn their phones in. What do you see here?

HONIG: Well, I certainly see mass organizational incompetence. And I think the repeated excuse of sort of the shrug of the shoulders and the oh, well, what are you going to do? We wiped our phones, we deleted things. Oops, our bad. I think those are starting to hold less and less water.

Look, I worked in the Department of Justice. I understand sometimes there are technological snafus. But you're talking about two of the most technologically advanced agencies here, the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security who knew, who had to know, and this is the point Representative Kinzinger was just making in that clip.

Of course, these texts were going to be crucial. They related to January 6, and yet the excuse -- the explanations that we're getting so far as well, we got better phones. And so the old ones, we just sort of tossed them. It didn't save anything.

I mean, that would have gotten me in trouble back in my Justice Department days with the department and potentially with a judge as well. So I think Congress has done a good job of identifying these problems they need to dig in and it could well be time for DOJ to start asking questions as well.

BOLDUAN: Interesting. It's good to see you, Elie. Thank you very much.

Coming up for us, Nancy Pelosi. She leaves time Taiwan as China launches military drills around the island.


The very latest on her trip. That's next.


BOLDUAN: At this hour, China staging military drills off Taiwan's Coast following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has controversial visit to Taipei.