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Operative Behind Plans To Seize Voting Machines Briefed Meadow; Far-Right Nationalist To Become Italy's First Female Prime Minister; Biden To Announce New Rules For Airline Fee Transparency. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 26, 2022 - 11:30   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Text messages obtained by CNN reveal that an operative in the push to overturn the 2020 election briefed the former White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, about his attempts to gain access to voting systems in key battleground states. CNN's Zachary Cohen joins us now live in Washington with this new CNN reporting. Zach, good morning, walk us through the details of what is in these text messages.

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, good morning, Boris. So essentially, what we have here is a man named Phil Waldron, who was kind of behind some of the most extreme proposals for overturning the election. He's sending messages -- text messages directly to Trump's then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, which is pretty remarkable if you think about it.

Waldron has kind of emerged as sort of this fringe character, but you know, these texts really underscore how someone who was really pushing these bold extreme ideas, really, things that have never been seen before, and it could -- was in direct communication with Trump's top adviser.

Now, if you look at this text message Waldron sent to Meadows on December 23, 2020, which remember, that's when the Trump allies were getting sort of most urgent in their search for an example or any evidence of voter fraud.

They ultimately didn't find anything that was enough to convince people to overturn the election but Waldron makes a query. He says, look, we -- he's about accessing voting machines. He says the Arizona court, a judge didn't allow you know a lawsuit to go through. That was all about demanding access to voting machines.

And he said, look, we're going to focus on Georgia next, but at the end of our day, calls Arizona the lead domino. And makes clear that look that was the first priority, the first and the most important step and that would lead to other states. So it's really remarkable the direct contact here between Meadows and Waldron.

SANCHEZ: Zachary Cohen, thanks so much for the reporting. Let's expand the conversation out with CNN Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, good morning. How significant are those messages linking Meadows to this effort to obtain voting machines in Arizona?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Boris. I think it's incredibly significant as Zach was just laying out there in his great reporting. The reality is that the fact that this went to Mark Meadows, who you have to, remember at the time was just steps away from the Oval Office and we've learned a lot about Mark Meadows.

You and I covered the White House together, the Trump administration, we know that Mark Meadows, he executed wishes for the president. Mark Meadows is not the type of Chief of Staff to usually go rogue or to usually do something on his own.


So that is potentially why investigators are interested in his involvement in this because of course the entire investigation about these election machines and fake electors, etcetera, are to know what the president knew and what he didn't know, what he acted on, and what he didn't act on. So that is why this is important because it really for the first time takes us you know really only steps from a perhaps in the Oval Office. So it's incredibly significant.

SANCHEZ: You know, Jeff, let's talk about the January 6 committee.


SANCHEZ: The next public hearing is on Wednesday. Here's Congressman Adam Schiff talking to CNN about what to expect.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA): I think it'll be potentially more sweeping than some of the other hearings. But it too will be in a very thematic, it will tell the story about a key element of Donald Trump's plot to overturn the election and the public will certainly learn things that hasn't seen before, but it will also understand the information it already has in a different context by seeing how it relates to other elements of this plot.


SANCHEZ: More sweeping than some of the other hearings. Obviously, the big question is whether the committee is going to make a criminal referral of former President Trump to the Justice Department. Schiff says that would have to be a unanimous referral. Do you think that's likely to happen?

ZELENY: I think we'll have to see what this next hearing brings. But look, the committee has been very unified, has been essentially in lockstep. Of course, they're all like-minded. And they're all perhaps behind this you know investigation from the beginning. So we'll just have to see if they make a unanimous determination or not. I would not be surprised if they would. It seems that everyone is, you know, working together and on the same page.

But I think in terms of what the hearing is going to bring, he was very clear there, it's going to be sweeping, it's going to really be the last chapter if you will, this is likely the last public hearing before the election. Not necessarily there could always schedule one in October, but it's likely the last one. And really going to go into the fact long beyond the insurrection at the -- at the Capitol, but really look at the actual plot to overturn the election and the president's and his top advisors' role in it.

So, I think you know every one of these hearings, we've learned so much, and they present this detail in such a compelling passion with all the testimony, etcetera. So this one, of course, is going to be the same, certainly no different.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Let's talk about testimony potentially, from Trump or Pence, the committee didn't get any.

ZELENY: Right.

SANCHEZ: And committee member Zoe Lofgren spoke about that. Let's listen to what you had to say.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN, (D-CA): If we were trying to get into a subpoena fight with either the former vice president or the former president, that litigation could not be concluded during the life of this Congress. And I think the former president has made clear that he has no intention of coming in. So while we'd like to hear from both of them, I'm not expecting that we necessarily will.


SANCHEZ: Big picture, Jeff, what does it mean for the committee that they didn't get testimony, not just from the former president, but also the former vice president, Mike Pence, who many thought might actually speak up?

ZELENY: Look, I think at the end of the day, it's really remarkable how much testimony they did get. I think if we would have been sitting here earlier this year, the idea that the former president and former vice president would have testified, really no one was expecting that or predicting that.


ZELENY: Potentially, Mike Pence you know had the opportunity to but they've learned so much information just because of all of the people directly around them. So I'm not sure it matters at the end of the day. If you hear directly from the former vice president, he, of course, would be much more helpful and cooperative than the former president.

But that was never an expectation here. So I do not think that this committee's work is going to be you know, incomplete in any way because there has not been testimony from Trump and Pence.

And again, the clock is running here. Six weeks from tomorrow is the midterm election time. So really, after that, there's -- you know there's not much time to wait for a court fight over who's going to testify or not.


ZELENY: So that is what's driving this.

SANCHEZ: Right. And, Jeff, quickly, I want to look further into the future than even the midterm elections.


SANCHEZ: There's a new poll from ABC News and The Washington Post. It shows just 35 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents want Joe Biden to run in 2024. 56 percent of the Party want them to pick someone else. And look at this. Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, they're split roughly half and half over whether Donald Trump should be the 2024 nominee, it seems like neither party is that excited about their front-runner, Jeff.

ZELENY: Yes, it certainly does. And that's really going to set up an explosive 2023, which leads into 2024 are both of the president and former president going to run or not. As for the Democratic number, there's no question that so many Democrats I speak to as I travel around the country, they are not necessarily sold on a Biden candidacy, but they always say if he runs, they're likely to support him. We'll see if anyone steps up to challenge him. But it certainly is a sign that the next year in the years to come will be very, very interesting, Boris.


SANCHEZ: No shortage of news. Jeff Zeleny, appreciate you being with us to walk us through it. Thanks.

ZELENY: You bet.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, Italy is poised to elect its first female prime minister who could also be its most far-right leader since Benito Mussolini, a live report from Rome next.


SANCHEZ: Some new developments on the COVID pandemic to share with you. Pfizer is announcing today that it's seeking emergency use authorization for its updated COVID booster for young kids. Pfizer and BioNTech want the FDA to greenlight its updated booster for kids ages five through 11.

The 10-milligram booster targets the original Coronavirus strain as well as the Omicron variant. Pfizer's request coming just days after Moderna asked the FDA to authorize this Omicron-specific booster for adolescents 12 to 17 and for kids ages, six to 11. We want to focus on Europe now because Italy's ultra-conservative party is claiming victory, setting the stage for Italy to have its first female prime minister. Giorgia Meloni would also be Italy's most far-right leader since World War II. Let's go to Rome now and CNN's Barbie Nadeau. And, Barbie, Giorgia Meloni's party, it finds its roots in Benito Mussolini and that fascist era of Italy's history.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. You know, I mean, Italy has always had a struggle of coming to terms with its fascist past. You know, just a couple of blocks from here, there's a giant ovilus with Mussolini's name on it. It's regularly cleaned. The other places in the world, they're tearing down those monuments.

But Giorgia Meloni says despite the fact that her early career in politics was part of a Neo-fascist party, fascism and -- fascism is dead in Italy, she says. And so while they're to the far right, while they embrace a lot of the very conservative traditional policy platforms that a lot of people consider part of the alt-right in other parts of the world, she says there's nothing to worry about.

Now her coalition is anchored by Matteo Salvini, who's a Donald Trump- loving anti-immigration Italy's first politician, and by Silvio Berlusconi, the three-time leader of this country who is often considered to be a bit of a political caricature. But she one clearly and the majority that she has is going to allow her to govern this country. And that's something we haven't really seen here in a country where governments seem to fall all the time, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Barbie Nadeau, live from Rome thank you so much.

Meantime, in the UK, the British pound is plunging to a record low against the U.S. dollar as markets are reacting to the UK's biggest tax cuts in 50 years. CNN's Anna Stewart is live for us in London with the details. Anna, not a lot of confidence for markets and these tax cuts.

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: No, exactly that. There's a huge credibility gap here. So on Friday, the new government launched a huge fiscal plan. It involves the biggest tax cuts for 50 years and a huge spending plan to try and freeze energy prices for households for businesses. And literally today, investors are looking at thinking actually we don't know whether the level of borrowing this government will need is really sustainable.

So we have seen huge moves on the pound, hitting a low we hadn't seen since 1985. So worse than the Brexit vote, worse than a financial crisis even worse than Black Wednesday in 1992. It sunk to $1.03 in the Asian session earlier today. And I would say the U.S. dollar is strong. So that is the other half of this story.

Boris, just in the last 10 minutes, I want to show you what the pound is doing now because it is actually sinking once again. It was at around $1.08 about an hour ago for my last report, but in the last 10 minutes, the Bank of England has made an announcement. They have said that they are going to monitor developments and they tweeted to say the MPC, which is their rate-setting committee, will not hesitate to change interest rates by as much as needed to return inflation to the 2 percent target sustainably in the medium term. Inflation right now is just shy of 10 percent.

This is not what markets were hoping for. Lots of economists today pointed to the fact that surely the Bank of England, given its huge announcement on Friday, given the huge market reaction we've seen would act and pass hike rates as an emergency measure as soon as today. That is not the case. So this situation with the pound could get worse, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Not dissimilar to how the Federal Reserve in the United States is trying to fight inflation by hiking up interest rates. We'll see what they do. Anna Steward from London, thank you so much.

Coming up, we're just hours away from NASA attempting to crash a spacecraft into an asteroid. It's not a movie, it's real life. We'll tell you all about it next.



SANCHEZ: So the Biden administration will soon announce new rules that would require airlines and travel companies to disclose all fees up front. CNN's Pete Muntean is live in Washington with more. Pete, this comes amid a year of a lot of headaches for the travel industry and a lot of people want to know where their money's going.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: You know, a lot of fees have just become background noise for us flying on the airlines, Boris. But now the administration wants airlines to essentially say up front, the cost of things that would typically be free, times have changed back when tickets were not really being charged extra -- folks were not being charged extra for things like selecting a seat on board a plane, selecting a seat that has no extra legroom, even though you're charged extra, sitting with your child.

We all know the carry-on and check bag fees, those have become standard now. But really, the administration says this is all added up $700 million in total. That's what airlines have charged in 2021 for all of these fees altogether.

The administration really just looked at score points here after a really bad summer of airline cancellations. We saw 55,000 in total in the U.S. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. And now the administration has also told airlines that they must rewrite their policies for what you are owed in the case of a cancellation or delay.

In some cases, airlines have done away with the fees that they charge you if you cancel your flight but the big tip here, Boris, until these policies change, don't book that dreaded basic economy ticket. You never know what airlines are going to sneak in.

SANCHEZ: We're always happy to pay the Pete Muntean fee to get you on. Thanks so much, and good morning, Pete, great to have you on.

MUNTEAN: Thank you, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Now in a first-of-its-kind defense test that is truly out of this world, NASA plans to deliberately crash a spacecraft into an asteroid. CNN's Kristin Fisher joins us now live with a detail -- with the details. Kristin, we've seen this movie before.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE & DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but now, NASA is actually going to test it for the very first time. And instead of bringing in Bruce Willis or Ben Affleck, they're going to be using a spacecraft called DART which is sort -- short for the Double Asteroid Redirection Test. And what we're going to see tonight -- and, Boris, we are actually going to see it live. There are cameras beaming back live images that are mounted onto this spacecraft.


So we're going to see it as it smashes into this asteroid called Dimorphos at a speed of about four miles per second or 4000 -- up 14,000 miles per hour. So that's NASA's first challenge, right? They've got to find this asteroid and slam this refrigerator-sized spacecraft into an asteroid that's about the size of one of the big pyramids in Egypt. And then the real test is, are they able to achieve the goal of pushing this asteroid, Dimorphos, very slightly off course?

And we're not going to know if they're able to do that for a few weeks after the test. But Boris, if they are, if it's possible that they do, do that, then it means that if a killer asteroid wherever coming towards Earth in the future, they could potentially save all of humankind, all creatures on planet Earth with this technology.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Kristin Fisher, I hope it works. Thanks so much, Kristin.

FISHER: Me too.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much for sharing part of your morning with us, I'm Boris Sanchez. Kate Bolduan is back tomorrow. And "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts in just a few minutes.